This gallery contains 14 photos.
Here are some random photos from a short wildlife holiday in the West of Scotland; we stayed at Ardnamurchan Bunkhouse and went on various walks and drives in the area. Having recorded our wildlife sightings it transpired that, even as a small group (8 + guide), we saw 100 species of birds and 13 of mammals. The latter included three types of deer, bats, otters, pine martens, dolphins, seals and porpoises; we were also lucky enough to spot some raptors including golden eagle, white-tailed eagle, sparrow hawk and buzzard. Unfortunately, since most natural wildlife is usually seen at a distance and, as I only had a small compact camera with me, my photos are largely of scenery and more stationary subjects! These photos are in random order…. hover over any image to read its description and click on an image to see it in its proper size.
It would be fair to say that I haven’t posted anything here for a very long time, but I haven’t sold my camera – I just took an allotment and anyone who has one of these knows that they absorb time like blotting paper soaks up ink!
Just to prove that I’ve still noticed the world around me, below are some of the huge variety of species that I’ve seen our allotment site; there also birds, slow worms, frogs, newts, foxes aplenty and even a couple of stoats. I’d never realised what a wildlife haven an urban space could provide but now I look for, photograph and even, occasionally, report lots of the things that I see 🙂 Scroll over each image for its description.
We moved house at the end of 2012. The garden was overgrown with far too much lawn for my liking but, worse than that…. no pond! If you want wildlife, you need water. So, in March we dug a shallow hole, 6ft across and allowing for four inches of water and a deeper central section.
We put builder’s sand in the base, covered it with fleece and finally a butyl liner weighed down with some stones The ‘pond’ was left to fill naturally with rainwater (not difficult in Wales!) and later I tucked the liner under the turf and created a bog garden on one side, where water had naturally overflowed.
At the beginning of May we had an old tree cut down so I put a couple of the branches into the pond to create a natural way for animals to climb in and out. Sacking round the edges provided purchase for grass and other plants to take root and cobbles gave shelter to little creatures. We put in some oxygenating weed and a few plants, bought or foraged from other ponds; it started to look a little like a pond! And then they came…..
Damsel flies, hover flies, alder flies – even a dragonfly or two. By July the pond was crawling with life. Whirligig beetles, pond skaters, backswimmers, water boatmen, diving beetles and snails, not to mention a myriad of little creatures like daphnia and cyclops, which I could just make out if I lay on the grass and stared into the water. I did a lot of that!
Finally, the biggest excitement of all, at the end of July and for a couple of months thereafter, the big guns had arrived… I spotted no less than eight different individuals, sometimes more than one at a time. It was the biggest seal of approval that a new pond could have. Now I am patiently waiting, hoping to see them again in a month or so – the nursery is all ready 🙂
Today I joined a group of enthusiasts led by Sinead Lynch of Bumblebee Conservation. It was an overcast day as we walked amongst rough grassland stopping to catch or photograph the many bumblebees flying and feeding on the Himalayan balsam, knapweed and other flowering plants. Of course, there were lots of other interesting creatures apart from bees inclduing a particularly high number of large orb weavers amongst the long grass many of which seemed to be trapping small crickets and grasshoppers. We spotted red-tailed bumblebees, cuckoo bees and a huge queen who evaded photographic ‘capture’!
It’s not all about birds at Llanelli WWT Centre. This weekend, I spent a few hours walking around in the blazing sunshine, just admiring the site. The coincidence of the nearby air show at Swansea and the likelihood that herds of people had gone to the seaside meant that we were almost alone, which was lovely. We saw some lapwings and loads of wading birds but, most of all, we enjoyed seeing the butterflies, dragon flies and damsels. Perhaps not so much the twin lobed deer fly which gave a very painful bite to an unsuspecting ankle!
Last weekend, I attended an interesting course on amphibian and reptile ecology and conservation. The first day we spent learning how to identify and differentiate between the various species and between genders of the same animal. Apparently there are no, or very few, common newts in South Wales, where I live, which saves a lot of trouble when it comes to identifying a small newt in my pond as it must be a Lissotriton helveticus, the palmate newt. Did you know that frogs prefer to spawn in shallow, temporary ponds whilst toads like deeper, permanent ponds? I didn’t. I’ll never be able to confuse a grass snake with an adder if I come across these species and I’ll know not to pick up a frog or toad with dry hands as it damages them. If I see a snake basking in the sun, I won’t disturb it because it’s either warming itself or digesting a recent meal. I could go on…. 🙂
After the morning’s lecture, we went for a walk around the conservation area and looked under and near artificial refuges (sheets of black corrugated bitumen roofing on top of which reptiles can bask and under which they can shelter). In the space of a couple of hours, we saw grass snakes, slow worms, a lizard and an adder plus a great crested newt. The grass snakes were particularly interesting as we had a graphic, and rather smelly, example of their first defence mechanism i.e. the snake defecates on its aggressor, and the last ditch ‘playing dead’ behaviour. Here are some photos; I couldn’t ‘shoot’ the adder for fear of disturbing it unnecessarily.
Today a friend and I walked into Bute Park to photograph and monitor any wild flowers along the river path; we have decided to do this regularly to see how the woodland changes through the year and gauge the impact that Himalayan Balsam may have on other plants. The weather was the best so far this year and the birds were singing all over the place. When we weren’t looking down, we looked up and spotted a heron, two goldfinches, two siskins, two chaffinches, some long-tailed tits and a sweet little goldcrest. As for the flowers, they are beginning to show, particularly the crocuses and daffodils of course, but also the wild garlic, celandines and dog’s mercury. The bees were out in force too, collecting pollen amongst the crocuses whilst the sun shone.
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.