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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.


Cattle Egret

'Patching' is so important and there is nobody that's more committed to a single patch than Craig Constance. He really does put a lot of time and effort into birding Llandegfedd and as a result, he has found some great birds over the years. Yesterday evening was another classic example as we were just about to meet up after my shift and he finds a Cattle Egret right opposite the visitors centre, much to my approval, as I've never seen one before!. They are usually winter visitors to the Uk but breeding records are increasing yearly, this year even breeding at the popular RSPB site - Hamm Wall Nature Reserve. Llandegfedd is a perfect breeding site for Cattle Egrets with plenty of mature trees around the outskirts of the water to nest in but also plenty of farmed fields for Cattle Egrets to feed. As the name suggests, Cattle Egrets are closely associated with Cattle, in that they prefer to be feeding at the feet of cattle as they disturb insects off the ground. They are native to places like Asia, Africa and Southern Europe and you may have seen them in Nature documentaries on TV, feeding around the feet of Elephants and larger cattle. Here their feeding methods remain largely the same, only they feed around Cows, Horses and Sheep. 

In other news, the resident Osprey is still present, seen only early hours and late evening. I would recommend making an early appearance for best chance of seeing it fishing (between 5-7am, or late evening between 7-9). 

Back on track

Back to work and back on track! I think it goes to show I lucky I am when the place I spend my days off at, is also the place I work. Llandegfedd will always be a special place for me and this weekend it revealed some more of its secrets, this time in the form of a lovely Butterfly called a Purple Hairstreak. I've heard they were present but never seen them for myself till today. I didn't get anything great photography wise to show you, as they remain high up in Oak tree canopies, not to mention they are pretty darn small so even a bigger lens than my own wouldn't quite cut it. Other notable species this weekend - Green Sandpiper, Common Sandpiper, Little Ringed Plover, Kingfisher, Reed Warbler, Reed Bunting, Little Egret, Spotted Flycatcher, Common Scoter and the today ended with a Juvi Cuckoo. 

Garden Pond

Earlier this year, Jodie and I decided to put a pond in the front Garden and committing ourselves to having a 'wildlife friendly' garden. It was so easy to put in, just bought a plastic pre-moulded pond, dug the hole and popped it in. Adding a water source to your Garden can increase the bio-diversity so much, inviting not only water dwelling creatures like Frogs, Toads and Newts but also giving the insect life a source of water to drink on those hot days. We already have lots of life in the pond, with most of our Tadpoles fully formed and hopping around the Garden in Frog form. I haven't really managed to venture that far from the house the last two weeks so today I concentrated on the pond and in doing so, found two Toads enjoying the new features.  

Garden Pond

Garden Pond

Garden Toad

Garden Toad

Fake Toad? 

Fake Toad? 

Patching in Sunlight

Between showers we had some beautiful light today. Some would say it was even too bright at times but personally it was nice to see a bit of blue in the sky. Below, the first picture is of 'Wall Screw-moss' which is pretty common and as the name suggests, likes walls. Check your Garden wall and you may have some yourself. I took a picture of them because the morning sun lit them up beautifully and as the sun was so low in the sky, half of the wall was still in shadow, giving the image a two toned vibe. Below that is Goosander, one of two on the South Sebastopol stretch of canal. A notable sized flock of Redpoll was also feeding in the tree tops along the canal and in the wet woodland. 

Wood Warbler Valley

If there was 1 thing I would have to pick that was special about my old patch, this would certainly be it. When I first discovered Wood Warbler on an old tramway track, I couldn't believe what I was hearing. I knew what a Wood Warbler sounded like because it was the theme entry music to BBC Springwatch in 2009. Since then I've fallen in love with that sound! It's infectious and it brings the woodland alive with a burst of energy from high above in the canopy.  

These birds are expert insect finders and you'll often see them with small caterpillars, flies and other tree dwelling invertebrates. I even caught 1 male bird today with a fly on its lower mandible while singing... Eating with its mouth open.. how rude.