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Orange-tip Butterfly

The British

What a place! Can't believe they want to build houses here.. Had some great birds on the british, with Red Grouse, Reed Bunting, Redstart, Wheatear, Cuckoo, Wood Warbler and a Ringed Whinchat that appears to be one of Steven Smiths birds from Blaenavon. Whinchats are fresh in from Africa at the moment so it will be interesting to see if this particular Bird will carry on moving back to its breeding grounds from which it was born, or whether it will hold a new territory nearby. Either way, what a great success story. If we can possible catch the  bird or get a better photo of the ring, we will be able to find out exactly how old this bird is. 

Towards the evening I stopped off at Llandegfedd, just before we were hit by a hail storm, only to find lots of Orange-tips pairing up. <3 Love is in the air. 

Forest Farm

Our Leopard Gecko 'Maze' had to undergo surgery yesterday in Cardiff to remove undeveloped eggs, having suffered from a disease called Follicular Stasis. Happy to report that the surgery went well and she's now in recovery which may take some time. Unfortunately Lizards, Gecko's and pretty much anything with scales, don't quite heal as well as mammals so she'l need the stitches out and will need a lot of monitoring over the next 6 weeks. I'll keep you updated in future blogs on her progress. 

Maze

While Maze was awaiting surgery, I had a lot of hours to kill, so rather than travel all the home, I had a day in Cardiff. Lucky I brought my camera with me as I didn't end up picking Maze up till 8pm. I spent a few hours at Forest Farm, a cherished nature reserve that many people love due to its very tame wildlife. This is a fantastic spot with 3 hides setup slightly different and offering completely different species to observe. Kingfishers are usually very obliging but they are currently breeding so use the ponds less at this time of year. Plenty of other visitors to keep me occupied with a Heron fishing for 3 hours straight, picking out small fish. Lots of baby Rabbits emerged from the hedgerows too and the cuteness levels hit the roof. Many people feed the animals at FF so I had lots of Grey Squirrels popping their heads into the hide wanting food and I had both a Robin and Great Tit feeding out of my hand, even though I didn't have anything to offer them. (Mistake of the day). Also at FF I heard a Grasshopper Warbler! A first for me! And as far as I know, possibly a first for FF? I'll have to find that out. I had an Early Mining Bee, totally high on pollen and could barely fly it was that loaded up - This gave me opportunity to snap quite a few photos, though I wished I had a macro lens, I did as best as I could with my 100-400mk ii. 

My favourite image of the day though had to be the Feral Pigeon. A bird that many people disregard in their birding life as they are extremely Common and found in places most birders try to get far away from. Personally though, I love them! They bring meaning to what would otherwise be a concrete, lifeless wasteland. And how beautiful are they?! I'm colourblind and even I can see how beautiful those colours are, if only absent in the Reds. I'll leave you to enjoy the rest of the photos. Nobody has probably read this far anyway and if you did, I appreciate your time. 

Wondering

Beech Tree Sapling 

Hope everyone is enjoying their easter break? I don't have too much to share with you today other than a few mysteries / firsts. This plant was a complete mystery plant for me at first. I even had to 'phone a friend' (Mike Kilner) who told me straight away what it was and it was not what I was expecting! I thought it was the start of Moonwort type of plant initially but turns out its just a Beech Tree Sapling.. Learn something new everyday! 

Bloody-nosed Beetle Larvae

Another species that stumped me was this Beetle Larvae. I knew it was one of our larger beetle species and looking at the general form / shape of this Larvae, I would have put money on it being an Oil Beetle, but turns out its the more common (but equally as interesting) Bloody-nosed Beetle. 

Other notables were my first local breeding pair of Crossbill (!!), my first Orange-tip Butterflies of the year and 3 Common Sandpipers at Llandegfedd. Not rare birds, but it's always nice to get waders at Llandegfedd, especially in this day and age.

Llandegfedd, good and bad news

Looks like a Bee but is in-fact a fly, hence the name 'Beefly'. They are fairly common in early spring and frequent visitors to Gardens so well worth looking out for these as they perch themselves on warm plantation late in the evening to warm up. They like to hover and may even hover long enough for you to get a photograph in flight which I have managed in the past. This species is called a 'Dark-edged Beefly' which is easily identifiable by the dark edges on the outer wings. As you can see, they are great pollinators with this subject below covered in pollen. 

With temperatures rising this Spring we're starting to see lots of emerging insects, including several species of lepidoptera. Llandegfedd is a good spot for Butterflies in spring and summer due to its ancient mature meadows that provide a good variety of plant life to support them right up as far as October/November and as early as February/March. If you know anything about Butterflies though, some require very specific plants to survive and only emerge during the periods of which those plants exist. 1 species comes to mind which can be found in small numbers already at Llandegfedd and that is the Orange-tip Butterfly. Below is a picture of a Comma Butterfly which was posing rather well for me but below that is the food plant of the Orange-tip Butterfly, the plant is called 'Ladies Smock' but also known as the Cuckoo Flower. 

More of these plants are starting to flower so we should start to see clouds of Orang-tips for the next couple weeks before they start dying off. 

There is another plant that grows on the banks of Llandegfedd that is a very specialist plant and only grows in ancient diverse meadows and particularly likes sandy soil and that is the Adders-tongue Fern. Till today, I'd never actually managed to find these plants but now I've found one, I'm starting to see them everywhere at Llandegfedd. They are beautifully delicate looking and so easy to mistake for a random leaf in a field. Having these present shows that we have good healthy numbers of Spotted-Orchids in the northern meadows of Llandegfedd and in a few weeks, you'll see that for your own eyes. It's a shame however that Welsh Water and the people sat behind their desk jotting down numbers don't see the importance of these Wild Flower Meadows because they've recently signed up for a running and biking event which includes churning up these priceless meadows that won't recover once overly-disturbed. Signs of 'buffering' are already prevalent since the opening of the site in April 2015 which has seen many of the paths expanding into the meadows getting wider and wider as time goes on and thousands more people walk thru an un-marked, un-protected  Wild Flower Meadow. 

Some good news after that depressing last chapter.. This Reed Warbler has been coming back for as many years as I've been visiting Llandegfedd. How do I know this? well, despite it having a leg ring, I can actually tell by its song. Reed Warblers are known for their ability to Mimic and the way in which they use this mimicry is very individualistic, to the point where you can learn an individuals phrasing. Even with a song as complicated as a Reed Warbler (fast and trilly) you can pick out key features with a musically trained ear (which I'm lucky to have). The same can be said about my local Blackbird which I know has been present for many years because he has learned to mimic the sound of my next-door neighbours whistling and using this tune regularly in his song phrasing. 

This Reed Warbler however does have a Ring so it will be interesting to find out whether my theory is true. Confirmation of this will be to find out if this Bird was ringed at Llandegfedd. I'll keep you up to date if I find out any news on this. 

I'll leave you with something a little cuter but slightly sad in story. A mother Mallard abandoned her 7 chicks after being flushed in the car park while leading her chicks to the water. In doing so she then got pestered by 3 male Mallards that chased her far away from her chicks and rather than staying together they all split up into the woods. Theres no guaranty that any of them will survive but I did manage to catch 3 and bring them back to the waters edge where Mum will have a better chance of finding them. I know Mallards are common but I hope they did survive. They were very tempting to take home... but this is nature and sometimes it's better to just let things unfold, despite the bad outcome for the chicks.