Monday, 30 May 2011

Beautiful Birds (27): Pied Flycatcher in South Wales

It was, as ever, a real privilege to watch this beautiful bird tending its young. We didn't see the chicks, but we watched both parents flying back and forth with tender morsels.

Previous Pied Flycatcher post

Saturday, 28 May 2011

Wild Flowers (3): 2011 count update

Having spotted my first clump of Sea Campion this season, a further wild flower sighting today - this time of the unmissable Fox-and-cubs aka Hawkweed - has brought me to the halfway mark of my previous total (way back in the late 1960s!).

As some of you regular readers may know, I took part in an ongoing wild flower count one summer term, back in the 1960s, when I was at junior school in Kent, UK. Each pupil had to find as many species of wild flowers as possible. We recorded our finds after every weekend, and attempted to learn the names of ten new species for a test each Friday.

During the course of the term, I noted a total of 144 species, including a few garden escapes. Perhaps inevitably, we picked one or two Daisies and Buttercups along the way, but we soon learned that some plants were rare, and that e.g. the sight alone of an Orchid was more than sufficient for our purposes.

I thought it would be interesting to note the wild flowers I see this year. I used The Concise British Flora in Colour by W. Keble Martin when I was at school. Once again, I will be happy to include any plant featured in that book.

The list to date is as follows (and - just to underline this - I have no intention of picking these flowers!) ... I shall add flower names as I come across new species. I don't intend to post a photo of every 'find', but I will add the occasional picture, and I plan to include livelinks when there is a photo available.

  1. Snowdrop (South Wales, location A) - January
  2. Primrose (ditto) - January
  3. Cowslip (ditto) - April
  4. Daisy (South Wales, location P) - 26 February
  5. Dandelion (garden!) - April
  6. Wild Garlic (South Wales, location A) - April
  7. Bluebell (ditto) - April
  8. Wood Anemone (ditto) - April
  9. Wood Sorrel (ditto) - April
  10. Ivy-leaved Toadflax (ditto) - April
  11. Herb Robert (ditto) - April
  12. Pink Campion (ditto) - April
  13. Solomon's Seal (ditto) - April
  14. Cow Parsley (lanes, South Wales) - April
  15. Wild Arum (South Wales, location A) - April
  16. Cuckoo Flower | Lady's Smock | Cardamine pratensis (South Wales, location W) - April
  17. Coltsfoot (South Wales, location A) - April
  18. Speedwell (South Wales, location A) - April 
  19. Violet (South Wales, location A) - April
  20. Poppy (South Wales, location A) - April 
  21. Dog's Mercury (South Wales, location A) - April
  22. Snakeshead Fritillary (South Wales, location A) - April
  23. Horsetail (South Wales, location W) - 21 April 
  24. Lesser Celandine (Yorkshire, location M) - April
  25. Wild Wallflower (Yorkshire, location S) - April
  26. Marsh Marigold (South Wales, location A, D1) - April
  27. Early Purple Vetch (South Wales, location A, D1) - April
  28. Gorse (South Wales, Gower lanes; Yorkshire coast) - April
  29. Yellow Pimpernel (South Wales, location D1) - 25 April
  30. Buttercup  (South Wales, location D1) - 25 April
  31. Early Purple Orchid (South Wales, location A) - April
  32. Yellow Flag  (South Wales, location W) - 31 April
  33. Groundsel (South East Wales, location C) - 2 May
  34. Dove's Foot Cranesbill (South East Wales, location C) - 2 May
  35. Red Valerian  (South East Wales, location C) - 2 May
  36. Yellow Trefoil (South East Wales, location C) - 2 May
  37. Ramping Fumitory | Fumaria capreolata (South East Wales, location C) - 2 May
  38. Red Clover (South Wales, location A) - May
  39. White Clover (South Wales, location A) - May
  40. Wild Strawberry (South Wales, location A) - May
  41. Chickweed (South Wales, location A) - May
  42. Goosegrass (South Wales, location A) - May 
  43. Bugle (South Wales, location A) - May 
  44. Common Cinquefoil (South Wales, location A) - May  
  45. Early Wintercress (South Wales, location A) - May  
  46. Ox Eye Daisy (South Wales, M4) - May  
  47. Sorrel (Worcester) - May  
  48. Pink Valerian (Worcester) - May  
  49. White Valerian (Worcester) - May  
  50. Dog Rose (Worcester) - May   ......................................................... First Fifty!
  51. Common Comfrey | Symphytum officinale (Worcester) - May   
  52. Field Bindweed | Convolvulus arvensis (Worcester) - May   
  53. Shepherd's Purse (Peterborough) - May   
  54. White Dead Nettle | Lamium album (Peterborough) - May
  55. Purple Dead Nettle (Peterborough) - May  
  56. Alkanet (Herefordhshire, location C) - May 
  57. Yellow Cinquefoil (Herefordshire, location C) - May  
  58. Welsh Poppy | Meconopsis cambrica (South Wales, location A) - May  
  59. Teasel (South Wales, location W) - 19 May 2011
  60. Purple Loosestrife (South Wales, location W) - 19 May 2011
  61. Woody Nightshade (South Wales, location W) - 19 May 2011
  62. Ragwort (Worcester) - May 2011
  63. Bird's Foot Trefoil (South Wales, location T) - 19 May 2011
  64. Common Vetch (South Wales, location W) - 19 May 2011
  65. Ragged Robin (South Wales, location W) - 19 May 2011 
  66. Blackberry (South Wales, location D2) - 22 May 2011
  67. Burdock (South Wales, location D2) - 22 May 2011
  68. Common Hemp Nettle (South Wales, location D1) - 22 May 2011
  69. Periwinkle (South Wales, location W) - 24 May 2011 
  70. Lesser Stitchwort (South Wales, location W) - 24 May 2011 
  71. Sea Campion (South Wales, location T) - 28 May 2011 
  72. Fox-and-cubs | Hawkweed (South Wales, location A) - 28 May 2011 .... Halfway to previous total
  73. Purple Toadflax (South Wales, location J) - 29 May 2011
  74. Scarlet Pimpernel (South Wales, location A) - 20 June 2011

Have you spotted any interesting wild flowers in your neck of the woods recently?

Butterflies and Moths (17): Blue Butterfly

I love the way in which this female Common Blue butterfly is marked with complementary shades of blue and orange. Not only does the butterfly have a line of symmetry running from head (antennae) to tail, but it also exhibits two colours at opposite ends of the colour wheel (see also here), giving maximum aesthetic impact for the eye of the beholder. This photograph was taken at WWT Llanelli last week before the rain set in!

Friday, 27 May 2011

Eye-catching Insects (6): Iridescent Beetle

Thick-legged Flower Beetle ~ Oedemera nobilis

I was struck by the iridescence of this beetle, scuttling its way across an Ox-eye Daisy. I wonder what pigment colour it really is, once you 'remove' or 'ignore' the iridescence. I saw several of these insects last week at WWT Llanelli. The males have particularly thick femora or thighs.

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Odonata (6):WWT Llanelli ... again

There was rather a different selection of Damselflies from my previous visit some days ago. In terms of colour, there were blues and greens but no reds on this occasion. Shades of grey and brown seemed quite commonplace. I am attempting to identify the creatures, but am still feeling very much a Damselfly novice! As ever, any help on this front would be appreciated!


?Azure Damselfly (male)

Damselfly (female)

Damselfly (female)


Four-spotted Chaser


In situ

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Going Green (1): RSPB Green Day

Emerald Damselfly, Lestes sponsa

Friday this week is earmarked as a GREEN day by the West Country branch of the RSPB. The day will highlight the Love Nature Week (28 May - 5 June 2011) and people will be encouraged to wear something green.

Monday, 23 May 2011

Odonata (5): Beautiful Demoiselles and other Damselflies, Llandeilo

The weather was unpromising, but we had a few patches here and there of watery sunshine. There were far fewer Damselflies about than on our previous visit, but this may have been due to the blustery conditions.

We recalled seeing a Beautiful Demoiselle on the nettles a year ago, and wondered whether one might appear. We did not have to wait long before a male caught our eye, with his iridescent wings  ...

Beautiful Demoiselle (male) Calopteryx virgo

I failed to catch a photo with the wings outstretched ...

Just as we were preparing to head back to the car, our eyes alighted on this magnificent, shiny creature ... a female Beautiful Demoiselle. She flitted between the Rhododendron and the fronds of bracken.

This male Blue-tailed Damselfly perched on some new woodwork.

The Stinging Nettles were alive with Green Nettle Weevils (Phyllobius viridiaeris).

The Cardinal Beetle preferred the Hawthorn. 

I found an interesting post about the Cardinal Beetle here; and although this one was seen in Wales, it is of the red-headed variety. 
  • Previous Beautiful Demoiselle post (and bit on iridescence), showing that I saw my first one last year on 12 June 2010.
  • You can see David's Demoiselle photos (May 2011) here (male, wings outstretched) and here (female), at his Swansea Bay View blog.

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Eye-catching Insects (4): Hoverfly and Beetles at WWT Llanelli

Helophilus on Dog rose
 It is not easy to tell whether the face is yellow, but the mid tibiae do seem to be.

Green Nettle Weevil (Phyllobius viridiaeris) ... on nettles


I have not been able to identify these beetles (above and below). I wonder if both are Soldier Beetles, of some kind ... The 'bulges' on the top one seem to make it particularly hard to identify.

Butterflies and Moths (16): Blue Butterfly and Green-veined White

My long quest to see my first Swallowtail in the wild drew to a happy conclusion last September in the southern Peloponnese in Greece, but when it comes to personal 'favourites', blue butterflies are hard to beat. In my experience, they can be very fluttery and hard to photograph, but this one was most obliging, and paused to rest long enough at WWT Llanelli for me to take these photos.

It was not until I came home that I noticed the web and the eaten leaf on the left of the lower photograph.

So why do I particularly like blue butterflies? Well, blue is a favourite colour ... and 'Blue-Butterfly Day' by Robert Frost is a poem that particularly appeals.

The blue butterfly (query Holly or Small Blue) may not have chosen a blue flower, but this Green-veined White below looked particularly beautiful against Ox-eye daisy. 

Thursday, 19 May 2011

Odonata (4): Largely Damselflies and Dragonflies, WWT Llanelli

News update ... my sincere thanks to Mark Hipkin (see his Comment below) for his help with identification. I have revised my post accordingly, so please look out for the 'update' signs as you read! 

A familiar sight at this time of year at WWT Llanelli ...
Update: above ... Azure Damselfly (mating pair)
Update: Common Blue Damselfly - female (great camouflage).

I love the detail of the wing ...
Update: above and below - Azure Damselfly ... mating pair

Male Scorpion Fly Panorpa communis
You will see a Scorpion Fly here (if you scroll down).

Large Red Damselfly

Dragonfly detail ... [Update: Four Spotted Chaser]

Update: Four Spotted Chaser ...

,,, coming in to land.

Update: above and below - male Hairy Dragonfly ...

Do take a look at ...
I am a novice when it comes to Odonata identification, so any information on (or correction of!) my ID attempts etc. would be appreciated ...

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Odonata (3): Damselflies at WWT Llanelli

The environment is dotted with Yellow Flags, which are enjoyed by Damselflies and bees alike ...

I particularly like the reflection here.

All tangled up!

The colour purple ...

Query Blue-tailed Damselfly

Not quite sure what is going on here! No wings, so perhaps this is a nymph ...