Saturday, 30 August 2008

Seeing the Changes 136

Bistort (Polygonum bistorta) in flower at Llangennith. Lots of Common blue (Polyommatus icarus) activity in the dunes. In Loughor, visited by a Willow beauty (Peribatoides rhomboidaria). Spotted interesting fungus in Bynea.

Friday, 29 August 2008

Seeing the Changes 135

A strange flower in Bynea, possibly Wall germander (Teucrium chamaedrys), growing from a pathment crack. Home to an ancient-looking Bristletail (Dilta hibernica).

Thursday, 28 August 2008

Go West, Young Cow?

The report ( that some German and Czech scientists have used more than 8500 images of cattle and deer herds from Google Earth to reveal that the animals (whether grazing or resting) generally orientated themselves along the north-south axis is intriguing. It suggests that such cattle (in addition to pigeons) can detect the Earth's electromagnetic field. Why they do this appears less certain but it could be simply related to prevailing wind direction (i.e. not true field detection?) although the fact that the phenomenon appeared in a range of geographical locations possibly rules this out. One thing is certain, if you get lost in a fog without a compass, you could do worse than take your directions from cattle encountered in fields.

Sunday, 24 August 2008

Seeing the Changes 134

The rain and lack of sunshine has forced a Viviparous lizard (Lacerta vivipara) into basking mode in Bynea in the tiny breaks between clouds. Also a lot of Large white (Pieris brassicae) butterfly activity in limited sunshine. In Loughor, the 'old man's beard' component of Traveller's joy (Clematis vitalba) was in evidence. But it is a 'romantic' time for the Great black slug (Arion ater).

Friday, 22 August 2008

Seeing the Changes 133

Visited, in Loughor, by a Pale oak beauty moth (Hypomecis punctinalis).

Wednesday, 20 August 2008

Frog on the Tyne?

News that the frog with a 'northern accent' is to get special UK protection ( is interesting. The Pool frog (Pelophylax lessonae) existed in recent times in the UK in 2 East Anglian sites ( but was driven to extinction there in 1995 (a captive frog lasted until 1999) but is part of the biota of Norway and Sweden. There were reports that other populations had been established in the UK and in August 2005 around 50 frogs (they unusually bask in the sun) and 100 tadpoles (they are quite large) from Sweden were 'reintroduced' in a Norfolk location. It is largely the progeny of these animals and their habitats that are receiving the enhanced protection. They are not exactly 'northern' at present and it is still debatable whether they are truly a UK species. Having said that, it is nice to have another frog species 'on board'.

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

The End of the Christmas Tree?

Pine wilt is caused by the Pinewood nematode (Bursaphelenchus xylophilus) that blocks the xylem vessels of the tree killing it ( This condition was originally found in North American locations but, in the 1970's, it reached Japan where it decimated their pine forests, There have now been reports that the agent reached Portugal in 1999 and wiped out almost 350,000 trees in only 2 years ( The nematode is apparently transmitted in the respiratory system of a flying beetle and people think this species reached Europe in a wooden packing case. The two pine species that are most susceptible are the Maritime pine (Pinus pinaster) that makes up most of Europe's South-west forests (and is used to generate anti-oxidant treatments) and the Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris), the good old Christmas tree! Scientists apparently regard the UK as currently too cold to import the disease here.

Saturday, 16 August 2008

Seeing the Changes 132

Enormous amounts of continuous rain but the bedraggled Sea aster (Aster tripolium) was in flower in Bynea. A soaked Bumble bee in that location was symptomatic of the difficulties experienced by insects this year. Later in Loughor, there was at least a visit by a Canary-shouldered thorn (Ennomos alniaria) moth.

Friday, 15 August 2008

'Australisation' of Regent Park Zoo's Polar Bear Enclosure

The report that the former Polar bear enclosure at Regent Park's zoo has been transformed in to an Australian plain with emus and wallabies to "highlight the effects of climate change" is a smidge disingenuous. This may well be a useful thing to do with a redundant enclosure but it may more strongly reflect the difficulties of keeping these rather solitary bears in captivity (they are very prone to showing stereotypies). It looks as if the bear is not going to find a home even as its northern environments disappear.

The Early Bird?

The recent RSPB report on the State of UK Birds Survey ( apparently suggests that birds ,such as the Chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs) and the European robin (Erithacus rubecula), are laying eggs about a week earlier than in the 1960s is intriguing. Similar patterns are said to be evident in Blue (Cyanistes caeruleus) and Great (Parus major) tits. Again, it may be a bit of a leap to relate this to climate change but locally it is said by CCW that Pied flycatcher young in Welsh oak woodlands are emerging in spring before the necessary insect food (caterpillars) is available. It has also been reported that migratory birds are having to travel further in find appropriate conditions.

Seeing the Changes 131

Visited by a Bordered beauty moth (Epione repandaria) in Loughor. In Gorseinon, the Hazel (Corylus avellana) is in nut.

Wednesday, 13 August 2008

Seeing the Changes 130

At the NWCW, the acorns are appearing on Pedunculate oak (Quercus robur). Lots of insect activity between the showers including Red admiral butterfly (Vanessa atalanta) and the Hoverfly (Volucella bombylans) on Hemp agrimony as well as Yellow dungfly (Scatophagia stercoraria) on Fleabane. An Ichneumon (Ichneumon suspiciosus) prowled the vegetation.

Monday, 11 August 2008

Flying a Kite!

Dutch researchers have suggested that kites may be an effective way of generating electricity for homes ( It might be problematic when the wind doesn't blow but the amounts generated sound quite impressive. We could have overwhelmed the National Grid in the last few days.

Sunday, 10 August 2008

Seeing the Changes 129

The strong winds and torrential rains of the last 24 hours have created conditions that appear much more typical of autumn than mid-August! In spite of that, visited by a Scalloped oak (Crocallis elinguaria) moth in Loughor. In Bynea, the yellow Ragwort was joined by Golden samphire (Inula crithmoides) and Blue fleabane (Erigeron acer) was ready to disperse. Alder (Alnus glutinosa) had both male and female elements. Later that day, visited by a Small phoenix moth (Ecliptopera silaceata).

Friday, 8 August 2008

Wind in the Willows- a Footnote!

Also at the Penclacwydd Wetlands, the sad demise of mole (Talpa europea) was noted. His friend Ratty (the Water vole Arvicola terrestris) seems, however, to be thriving in that location.

Come In Number Seven!

In addition to the dragonflies noted in 'Seeing the Changes 128' at the NWCW, the Swansea crew also noted, captured, marked and fitted tags to Southern hawker (Aeshna cyanea) and Emperor (Anax imperator) dragonflies in a trial to see if they could be tracked using harmonic radar. It's amazing what one can do with technology.

Seeing the Changes 128

In Loughor, Japanese knotweed (Reynoutria japonica) was in flower and the Rowan or Mountain ash (Sorbus aucuparia) in berry. At the National Wetland Centre Wales (Penclacwydd), saw, in addition to the usual suspects, Red admiral (Vanessa atalanta), Comma (Polygonia c-album), Brimstone (Gonepteryx rhamni) and Green-veined white (Artogeia napi) butterflies. Also lots of mating Common darter (Sympetrum striolatum) and Black-tailed skimmer (Orthretrum cancellatum) dragonflies as well as Common blue (Enallagma cyathigerum), Blue-tailed (Ischnura elegans) and White-legged (Platycnemis penniper) damselflies. The Horse-fly Tabanus sudeticus and the ladybird Thea 22-punctata were also in evidence. Branched bur-reed (Sparganum erectum) and Yellow loosestrife (Lysimachia vulgaris) were also very evident.

Seeing the Changes 1470

Traveller's joy ( Clematis vitalba ) in flower in Loughor.