Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Seeing the Changes 367

In Loughor, Common fumitory (Fumaria officinalis) and Smooth sow-thistle (Sonchus oleraceus) were both in flower. Spotted a 7-spot ladybird (Coccinella 7-punctata) in Bynea.

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Seeing the Changes 366

I noted that the greenfly (Aphis spp) arrived with the openning of the leaves on my Silver birch tree. Also in Loughor, spotted the Ribwort plantain (Plantago lanceolata).

Monday, 28 March 2011

Seeing the Changes 365

Dovesfoot cranesbill (Geranium molle) was in flower in Bynea.

Upper Crust Vipers?

There is a report of a 'first genetic investigation' of the UK's Adders (Vipera berus) with the suggestion that populations might be becoming 'too inbred' and consequently prone to abnormalities ( ). The study sounds interesting but Britain's only poisonous snake has other problems such as a general public antipathy to the animal (the only species that has elicited a quote for me in 'Private Eye' -when the natural progeny of 'pregnant' snakes, removed from the Gower, were returned to their mother's location with allegedly 'dire consequences' for tourism). I have also locally come across harmless Slow worms (not even a snake) hacked to death with a spade on the basis they were 'clearly lethal vipers'. The adder is an adaptable animal with an extraordinary geographical range (Southern Europe to almost the Arctic Circle) facilitated by its 'live birth' reproductive mode. It generates its poison largely to help it predate mouse and rat populations (it would otherwise have no chance of dealing with such prey). The bite is painful but rarely fatal in humans (who are only bitten by accident when the snake feels itself threatened and cannot flee). There is an additional question about whether 'inbreeding' (poor genetic variability) is always detrimental. For example, local populations of House mouse (Mus musculus) can show as little genetic variability as highly inbred laboratory strains and they reproduce very efficiently.

Sunday, 27 March 2011

Saturday, 26 March 2011

Little 'Volcanoes'?

A series of small volcanoes appeared in my lawn in Loughor. The culprits were revealed to be Tawny mining bees (Andrena fulva).

Thursday, 24 March 2011

Seeing the Changes 363

The sunshine brought out the first male Brimstone butterfly (Gonepteryx rhamni) of the year in Loughor. We were also joined by a Shoulder stripe moth (Anticlea badiata).

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Seeing the Changes 362

In Loughor, noted an almost black, alien Landhopper (Architalitrus dorrieni) bouncing around the garden. Odd how these animals have survived since being introduced to South Wales with tree ferns in Victorian times!

Birder's Bonus 91

The hot, spring weather in Loughor resulted in lots of activity in the Birch tree by a Long-tailed tit (Aegithalos caudatus).

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Does It Add Up?

More than 24000 Adders, Grass snakes, Common lizards and Slow worms have been reportedly transported by van from a site in Essex where the £1.5bn London Gateway Container Port is being built to a now 'full' reserve in Wiltshire ( ). This actually seems a very odd thing to do as the introductions are very likely to alter the dynamics of the local Wiltshire populations of the reptiles and their prey.

Knut- Case Shut!

News has been received that Berlin Zoo's popular Polar bear Knut has died ( ) at just over 4 years of age (as opposed to the 30 years they can live in captivity). The original fuss about the bear concerned the alledged plan to euthanize him on the basis of his being seriously under-weight. His 'cuteness' led to a campaign to 'save him' and he became an international 'star'. Strangely, the bear died shortly after his Elvis Presley playing keeper died of a heart attack after being banned from 'playing' with Knut, as the bear was deemed too large for safety considerations. The episode has stimulated a renewed debate about the appropriateness of keeping Polar bears in captivity (although melting of the polar ice cap might result in that being the only place they could survive). One negative factor might have been Knut's being housed with 3 females. Polar bears are generally solitary unless they are engaged in breeding.

STOP PRESS The bear apparently drowned after 'fitting' from encephalitis. The claim is that there were no signs of 'stress' but that is difficult to rule out entirely.

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Seeing the Changes 361

Visited in Loughor by a Great oak beauty (Boarmia roboraria) moth.

Saturday, 19 March 2011

Seeing the Changes 360

At Oxwich, there was an early appearance of a Sweet violet (Viola odorata). There was also quite a lot of Yellow meadow ant (Lasius flavus) activity.

Friday, 18 March 2011

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Seeing the Changes 358

In Swansea, Common whitlow-grass (Erophila verna) and Red dead-nettle (Lamium purpureum) were both in flower.

Monday, 14 March 2011

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Saturday, 12 March 2011

Seeing the Changes 355

In Gorseinon, the Field horsetail (Equisetum arvense) was shooting. In Bynea, the Willow was coming into leaf and, in Penclacwydd, Blackthorn (Prunus spinosa) flowers were in bud.

Friday, 11 March 2011

Packing 'Em In!

There was a weird occurrence in King Harbor at Redondo Beach in California ( ) when a giant school of sardines entered the location and died (apparently of suffocation by exhausting the oxygen in the water). A local fire fighter (they do more in the US) speculated that the fish had entered the harbour in an attempt to avoid the high winds in the area but the effects of the wind do not penetrate very far into the depths. They could equally have been attempting to escape predators (such as cetaceans). One might even think they anticipated the tsunami!

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Seeing the Changes 354

In Loughor, there was the first appearance of Spring squill (Scilla verna). Garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata) was in flower in Swansea.

Monday, 7 March 2011

Seeing the Changes 353

In Loughor, the first of the Ivy-leaved toadflax (Cymbalaria muralis) was in flower. It must be a warm wall!

Sunday, 6 March 2011

Seeing the Changes 352

Seems a bit spring-like (in spite of night frosts). In Bynea, they are 'carrying out urgent repairs' to the cycle track until 20th April. It will be interesting to see the effects on vegetation. Spotted a Bumble bee (Bombus terrestris) flying there. In Loughor, the Horse chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum) is coming into leaf and the Cherry (Prunus spp) into flower. We were also visited by an early pug moth (Eupithecia spp).

Where's the Beef?

  Industry 'experts' are claiming that the 'use-by dates' on red meat should be extended (