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Garden Bioblitz 1st June 2014

We decided to take part in the Garden BioBlitz this weekend and so, on Sunday afternoon with camera in hand, we took a two hour jaunt around the garden to see what we could see. Aside from all the usual birds that chomp away on the feeders, we spotted quite a few other garden visitors; most are welcome but a couple perhaps not so much if you are trying to grow vegetables! Here are a few of the sightings… hope I have the Latin names right!

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Searching for Spring

It has been raining for weeks now and our garden is so saturated that it is out of bounds, unless we decide to create a mud bath. In a search for some hope of spring, we braved the elements and went for a long walk in Forest Farm. Despite drizzly beginnings, the weather brightened occasionally and, as there was a rugby match on in town, the bird hides were deserted. We were treated to the sight of a beautiful female kingfisher; I tried to capture a photo by holding my compact camera lens up to the eyepiece of my binoculars. The result is less than impressive but at least I know what the bird is supposed to look like! We also had an unparalleled view of a green woodpecker plus various blue tits, great tits, chaffinches, grey wagtails and a little goldcrest. Seeing snowdrops and a primrose made it feel as though we were at least heading in the right direction.

Japanese Butterbur March 2013

Yesterday, as I was walking along the banks of the River Taff towards Cardiff, I spotted some Common Butterburs (Petasites hybridus) flowering by the water; these plants are easily recognisable by their waxy pink flowers and large rounded leaves. But right next to them were hundreds of smaller plants; they looked similar, but not the same, and have since been identified as Japanese Butterbur (Petasites japonica). I reported the sighting to SEWBReC who confirmed the species identification and told me that the last time these plants were seen in the Llandaff area was back in 1983!  I counted more than five hundred individuals and there were probably at least as many more again pushing their way through a thick mulch of dead Japanese knotweed stalks.

Small IS beautiful: Lichens in Bute Park

It was a very chilly day in Cardiff yesterday but, ignoring the temptation to stay indoors, I went instead to Bute Park to meet Alan Orange who works as the Curator of Lichens at the National Museum of Wales. After a comprehensive, illustrated slideshow, we trooped outside and didn’t have to walk too far before finding our first lichen. These composite organisms, part fungus part alga, cover many of the trees in Bute and can look yellow, green or grey to the naked eye. I’d not given lichens as much attention as they clearly deserve because, apart from being fascinating, some are really beautiful when examined through a hand lens or the eye of a camera. Here are photographs of some of the specimens that we saw; I’ve done my best to label them accurately but, if there any inaccuracies then, as always, I’m happy to be corrected! Here’s a Wiki on the subject.

Treegazing in Bute Park

Tony Titchen in Bute Park

I spent this afternoon, in the company of at least a couple of dozen other people, being led around Bute Park by a dendrologist of some repute, Tony Titchen. Tony told us that in Bute we have one of the best tree collections in the whole of the United Kingdom with a record number of ‘Champions’; these are the tallest or broadest trees of their kind in the UK and likely to be the oldest too!

Although it was a rather cold and wet day, the mood of our group remained bright as we squelched our way from tree to tree learning interesting facts about each specimen. Although Tony’s knowledge was encyclopaedic, he pitched his presentation just right for those us us who were not nearly so knowledgeable and he held our attention from beginning to end. By the time we got back to our starting point, my hands were so cold I could barely hold my camera, although they proved more adept at holding a hot cup of coffee. Here are a few of the many photos I took – I’ve done my best to remember the names but, as usual, there are some as yet unidentified species in amongst the ones labelled. Also, I couldn’t resist slipping in another couple of fungi photos for good measure.

Glamorgan Canal Local Nature Reserve: Whitchurch, Cardiff

Today, a friend and I went to visit the bird hides at Forest Farm – we had hoped to spot a kingfisher or two but the Rangers were hard at work around the water’s edge, cutting reeds and coppicing trees. Their presence, and the sound of chainsaws, meant that we would be unlikely to see kingfishers and so instead we went for a walk along the nearby Glamorganshire Canal, through the wildlife reserve. Apart from a few garden birds, a couple of herons, some mallards and moorhens, we saw no other wildlife. However, having had our appetite whetted on the recent fungi walk at Bute Park, we started noticing that there were some entirely different specimens in this habitat and these provided a target for my camera. It was a beautiful morning, the weather dry and mild; leaves falling from the trees like ticker tape and the earth had a damp, nutty, autumnal smell. A wonderful place to visit.

Fungal Foray: Bute Park in autumn

I’m off to Bute Park tomorrow to learn about the role of fungi in our world, take a walk and see how many we spot. To get me in the swing of things, we went to the park last Sunday (14th October) to see what we could see. After three hours of very damp foraging these are the best specimens we could find. Although I am interested in seeing fungal fruit bodies I can name very few so, if you know any of them, perhaps you could tell me? Failing that I’ll just have to fill the names in over time. The last five photos were taken on the day – we saw the same species as we had seen previously but also these new ones. The guided walk, with expert Olly Carter, lasted three hours but the time flew by and we all had a great time.

Flying beauties of Bute Park

Poplar Hawk-moth (Laothoe populi)

Yesterday I had a very enjoyable morning watching George from Butterfly Conservation open three moth traps set the night before in Bute Park. This Poplar Hawk-moth sat obligingly on my hand whilst I took a photo. These are some more of the many beauties that I saw…

Swallow-tailed moth

Not a great shot but taken in the doorway one evening at the beginning of August. This is a Swallow-tailed Moth (Ourapteryx sambucaria) which, whilst not rare, is not often seen as it has such a short season and, like many moths, is more active at night.

Swallow-tailed moth.

Bug hunting amongst the nettles.

Yesterday, we went bug-hunting amongst stinging nettles and other plants bordering a field behind Llandaff Cathedral. The weather was mainly overcast with occasional brief bursts of sunshine and a brisk breeze. These are just a few of the beasts that we spotted in an hour or two before succumbing to the desire for coffee and cake.