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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!


Llantwit Major on a sunny spring day

On Saturday we went westward to the town of Llantwit Major, just fifty minutes away on the Valley Lines train. The weather was unbelievably warm and sunny and there were quite a few people taking advantage. I had an ‘artistic attack’ on the beach and tried to capture some shots of the beautiful shaped cobbles, shells and driftwood but, before long, I reverted to type when I spotted some bloody-nosed beetles on the cliff path. Watching courting butterflies and being dive bombed by the occasional bumblebee showed me that, at last, spring has truly sprung.

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.

Green Dock Leaf Beetle Larvae

These larvae are of a rather pretty, iridescent green beetle. The green dock beetle’s breeding season is from March to October when the female lays over 1,000 eggs in clusters on the underside of the food plant’s leaves. The eggs are oval and cream to yellow in colour, turning orange prior to hatching 3-6 days later. After three instars, the larvae pupate in a burrow about 2cm underground and the adult emerges 6-9 days later. The larvae feed exclusively on dock leaves or green sorrel.

Field Scabious, Bute Park

Field Scabious (Knautia arvensis). Bute Park, July 2008

Llandaff churchyard

Rosebay Willowherb (Epilobium angustifolium). Llandaff, July 2011

Cemeteries make great wildlife habitats and the old part of Llandaff Cathedral’s churchyard is no exception. A frequent haunt of jays, squirrels and songbirds, it is wonderfully rambly and overgrown.

Last summer, the rosebay willowherb covered several graves with a pink profusion of flowers. Maybe its a pest, I don’t know, but I love it anyway!

Queen Bumblebee

Queen Bumblebee (Bombus spp). May 2012

This bee was lying on her back in a shady area of Bute Park. Assuming that she was too cold to fly, we moved her into the sunshine and watched as she recovered her energy by ‘shivering’. She walked about and cleaned her legs and wings, so we left her to go about her business.

Spring flowers in Bute Park III

This is the last selection of flowers and insects seen on a walk in Bute Park and surrounding woodland in early May 2012

Spring flowers in Bute Park II

More photographs taken in the wooded area within Bute Park; May 2012.

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