Round and about the place

Winter has set into place in mid-Wales, with some heavy frosts providing some slightly scary commutes (mainly getting out of a very icy driveway!) and even the first snows being reported (and then remaining in place on the very tops of those looming hills).

On one of these oh-so-frosty-and-blimey-it’s-cold(!) days, I headed over to Pant-y-dwr for their Christmas Fayre with a stall for work. It was lovely to meet local people and chat about local wildlife and nature reserves, with a small quiz to test their ID skills. Naturally, I included some moths – two of my favourites, the Canary-shouldered Thorn (which can be seen in this blog post) and the Hummingbird Hawk-Moth (which can be seen in this blog post). A number of people were surprised that they could be moths, after all, moths are viewed as stereotypically being brown, dull and boring! So I have converted a few more people to my Moth Appreciation cause!

To drive there, I went through Gilfach Reserve (what a fab commute hey!). As previously mentioned, it was very frosty! I absolutely had to stop the car and take a few photos because it was just stunning! There is something about frost and nature that is just fantastic. Wait, erase that … nature is always fantastic, no matter the weather!

Later on, I joined the volunteer work party at one of the reserves – Llanbwychllan Lake (which I have previously visited, you can read about my visit here). They were cutting down trees in order to help the wetland grass area – it was very boggy (since I’ve just said wetland, that’s kind of obvious) so I got to wear my fantastic wellies that I got when I was with Dorset Wildlife Trust, they’re so comfy and warm! Due to so much being cut down, a lot of the wood was being burnt in bonfires, which my inner pyromaniac was loving! Fire is just so entrancing, and there is something magical about the wood being burnt.

Oooh, pretty fire

Oooh, pretty fire

As I write, I’m back in London, and have visited my local park. I’m not going to lie, it’s nothing special (as far as I’ve found out anyway) but it is lovely there, and I’ll pretty much always approve of big green spaces that are used by local people. There are a group of ring-necked parakeets living there, and boy do they make a racket sometimes! I didn’t manage to get a decent photo, but the photo below gives you the gist of what one looks like. I also saw a decent sized flock of goldfinches, plenty of starlings, magpies and crows, and very excitingly – a great spotted woodpecker! Although I didn’t get a photo of it (grr!). My dog helped me out with finding wildlife, obligingly picking up a stick that had some interesting slimy stuff on it. Naturally, I photographed it and tweeted it – current suggestion is a Crystal Brain Fungus (thanks Sean Foote and Ryan Clark!).

On a slightly related note, my Caymanian relatives have also found some interesting wildlife recently – one photo of which was put on Facebook and I was tagged because it was of two moths, and everyone knows how much I love moths! Their photos reminded me of some of the wildlife I had seen when visiting them, and I thought I would add in a butterfly photo of mine from Grand Cayman.

And to end, an urban sunset photo.Sunset across the roofs of London

 

PS – My writing is been spreading out from this blog, including this recent post on the A Focus On Nature blog, where I wrote about Chesil Beach and Gilfach. There is a post every day during the Advent period by members of AFON, on the theme of their favourite reserve / patch. I couldn’t decide, so went for both places!

PS #2 – I’m thinking of doing another species / taxon group profile blog post soon, do let me know what you would like me to write about! Perhaps a certain moth? Or maybe a group such as newts or dragonflies?

There’s a snake in my boot!

I lied, there wasn’t a snake in my boot this week … but snakes did feature, so I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to use this quote from such an epic film (Toy Story in case you didn’t know, but you should know because Toy Story is amazing and everyone has seen it!).

Before the snakes, there were birds. Lots of birds. I was doing a BTO (British Trust for Ornithology) course at the Kingcombe Meadows Nature Reserve, and it was fab to go out into the countryside with someone who could identify all the birds we could see and hear. The latter is particularly difficult most of the time as although some birds are very distinctive in their call or song, there are many that sound fairly similar. Plus, many have a variety of calls or song, and some birds mimic other species (I’m looking at you Great Tit!).

Blackcap hiding behind branches

Blackcap hiding behind branches

All in all, there were: Great Tit, Blue Tit, Long-tailed Tit, House Sparrow, Chiff Chaff, Swallow, House Martin, Whitethroat, Blackcap, Wren, Goldcrest, Garden Warbler, Blackbird, Robin, Dunnock, Treecreeper, Buzzard and Rook. Another walk after the course had finished saw me adding Greater-spotted Woodpecker, Yellowhammer and Bullfinch to the list.

Bullfinch

Bullfinch

I love this photo of a cheeky female House Sparrow in the chicken feed trough at Kingcombe

I love this photo of a cheeky female House Sparrow in the chicken feed trough at Kingcombe

Reptilian training took place on Upton Heath Nature Reserve with the traineeship manager, and smooth snake / sand lizard licence holder, Steve Davis. It was an epic day – Common Lizard, Sand Lizard, Slow Worm and Smooth Snake were seen, and we got to handle the latter! I was quite nervous because … well, it’s a snake! I was afraid it might bite  me, but I was also really nervous about stressing it out or dropping it. Luckily none of that happened, and instead we all marvelled over how cute they are!

Smooth snake, not too sure about having its photo taken!

Smooth snake, not too sure about having its photo taken!

Male sand lizard soaking up some rays

Male sand lizard soaking up some rays

I also saw some lovely moths (naturally!) including the Common Heath moth of whom I saw both a male and a female! In addition, there were lots of lovely birds about – Stonechat, Linnet, Tree Pipit, Cuckoo and Dartford Warbler.

Common Heath moth (male)

Common Heath moth (male)

Common Heath moth (female)

Common Heath moth (female)

The second half of the week saw me back at the Chesil Beach Centre, but I was soon whisked away to do a quick search for a rare moth – the Least Owlet, whose only UK distribution is on Chesil Beach! We were looking for the larvae of this caterpillar, who are quite pedantic about their habitat, so it wasn’t too hard to find them once I got my eye into it.

The Least Owlet Moth larvae (just below the shell and leaf)

The Least Owlet Moth larvae (just below the shell and leaf)

Following this mini expedition, I headed out on another one – a wildflower walk on Chesil Beach with Angela Thomas, the assistant warden for the Fleet Nature Reserve. There are many flowers out on the beach, and they are stunning. A couple of of my favourites are Sea Campion (white) and Thrift (pink), and you can see why – it’s gorgeous!

Sea Campion and Thrift with the Chesil Centre in the background

Sea Campion and Thrift with the Chesil Centre in the background

Naturally we saw a variety of other wildlife out on the beach, from birds (Linnet, Skylark, Wheatear, Herring Gull, Little Tern), to beetles and moths (I’m finding that there are moths everywhere if you look for them!).

Wheatear

Wheatear

Yellow Belle moth

Yellow Belle moth

So a very packed week, and I’ve not even included everything – I’ve seen a number of other moths (Muslin, Shuttle-shaped Dart, Cinnabar and some micros whose names I can’t remember!), startled a hedgehog in the garden and seen a number of butterflies (they’re not as interesting as moths though).