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Gwent Uplands

Another unbelievable sunny day today, perfect for Reptiles and it would seem Butterflies too with Brimstone, Peacock, Red-Admiral, Large White and Small Tortoiseshell all on the wing. I spent most of my time today in search for an Adder but still can’t find one. I think I need to change the method, try and approach it a little differently. Either that, or focus on a new sight instead, maybe somewhere that’s a little less vast.

I only got the camera out once after spotting what I first thought to be a Cuckoo, but luckily it landed on a post and it turned out to be a beautiful Male Merlin! My first adult Male bird and my first on my local moorland. I’ve only seen Merlin a hand full of times, but they’ve all been distant, hunting on the wing or perched a mile off, so it was nice to get one full frame in the scope in beautiful sunshine. A single Peregrine was hunting low to the moors too, flushing all the Skylarks but no catch this time.

In other news, I may have secured a deal with a new distributer for my photography prints. This company offers much better prices than my current dealer which means I can bring down my sale price to something a little more competitive. It also allows me to sell a lot more stuff, like Pillows, T-Shirts, Mugs, Hats, Beanbags, Prints, Canvas’, phone cases and much more. There is a catch however and I’m not sure whether I’ll get around it but the dealer is based in the US / EU. This wouldn’t be an issue but with Brexit coming up, this option may not work out for me as there’s no telling yet if we’ll continue to have free import charges from the EU to the UK. I very much doubt that will be the case, so this might all be a complete waste of time.

Either way the company offer great free mockups and I’ve updated my canvas’ in my store so you can see the difference. Check it out

Also, if you missed Sundays blog, I’m now offering some design services for new local businesses. Read more about it via my new Design Page

Finally Found Frogs!

When is the last time you saw a pond full of Frogs? not just a little bit of Frogspawn in the corner? Well for me, it’s been a long time. Torfaen just doesn’t seem to have as many as we used to. Not sure why. It could be predation, climate, or we’re just going thru a couple bad years in general for amphibians.
Maybe it’s because they’re getting earlier each year and I’m just missing the activity?
The latter certainly would make sense as you could have swore it was spring today in Blaenserchan. 20+ Frogs with a substantial amount of Frogspawn already. I’ve been after a good close up shot of a Frog in the water for a while and it was a bonus to get them with the spawn in-shot. The first pic is now one of my all-time personal favourites, partly because it took a lot of patience to get it. My back is certainly feeling it after being on the floor for so long. The issue with this particular pond is, it’s located in the upper altitude of Blaenserchan, so they just weren’t used to people. All it would take is for me to scratch my nose and they would all disappear in the depths for 20 minutes at a time. Either way it was worth it.

I assume the fungi above is Candle-snuff Fungi that’s gone over but i’m not entirely sure. They didn’t seem rounded enough to be Dead Moll’s Finger’.

It was only the other day that I set out to the Forest of Dean to witness the iconic Goshawk display that happens this time of year. Even with the breath taking view of Symonds Yat that overlooks the forest, you’d be lucky to come across a Goshawk perched up. So you can imagine my excitement to stumbled across one today on my way home from Blaenserchan. A bit distant even at 600mm and I didn’t have my scope with me to enjoy it but I was happy to spot it. I was looking for Great Grey Shrike at this point and the white belly of this Goshawk just stood out to me from a mile.



Typical wet and windy weekend but still went out with the camera regardless. I love looking for signs of spring and there were plenty today even in the rain. I visited Llandegfedd, one of my favourite locations. The Great Crested Grebes have already got their spring plumage with crests getting larger every day and some are already displaying to each other.

Great Crested Grebes Courtship

Wild Primrose is flowering in the surrounding meadows, along with our native wild Daffodil which is becoming harder and harder to find in the southern parts of Wales.. I see plenty of them on the way to work in Brecon however. 

Wild Primrose

Another pre-spring sign can be found in the wintering Wildfowl that are hanging around, much like these Teal that are all squabbling over a single female, most of which are already moving north. Short video below shows them displaying to the female.

Saw my first batch of Frogspawn up the British also and with it, a Grey Heron! Haven't seen a Heron on this patch before and certainly wasn't expecting to flush one while walking through a Gorse patch. 


With new development on the cards for 'The British', its unknown at present, just how much we will retain of the wild reclaimed slag-heaps, that are proving to be great for wildlife! Who would have thought that are scarred post-industrial history would give birth to such a hospitable habitat, not just for our bird population but our Invertebrates, Flora and even our Bryophyte moss species. The site is currently used mostly by Dog Walkers and Off-road vehicles like quad bikes and scramblers, so weekends are a no go if you want to see Birds, but plants thankfully don't move and the un-touched areas of the slag-heaps are reclaimed by many species of Grass, and in this case Bryophyte, as shown in the picture below that shows a cluster of both Reindeer Moss - cladonia impexa and I think the start of Silky Wall Feather-moss - homalothecium sericeum which as its name suggests, prefers wall / rock environments, but in this case, the Coal is acting as a good alternative.  

Reindeer Moss - cladonia impexa & Silky Wall Feather-moss - homalothecium sericeum

Frozen Frogspawn

With night temperatures dipping below freezing, our wildlife has to brace that extra bit harder. It's times like this that the feeding station becomes vital for a birds night survival, but what happens to the Frogs that have already began laying eggs? Well, as you can see, they do freeze if caught up in the top surface of the water. It's likely that the lower portion will still survive but this top layer, despite thawing later on that day, looks like it has been predated on too. 

Not sure what insect this is but it was walking on the ice with no care in the world.

Feeding station today had lots of activity, including a large female Sparrowhawk that for a minute looked like it was going to go for the male Pheasant but opted to carry on fly through. Even my heart was beating fast at that point! Can't image what the Blue Tits were feeling!. 

In other news, a record number of Water Rail at Green Pool today with 5 running around and 'sharming' like crazy. I wished I had my recording gear at hand at that point but perhaps I'll try that tomorrow evening in the hope they give off another good performance. Unfortunately, these Water Rail are pretty shy and were only visible when running between reed beds.