Insects of the zigzag path


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For day 23 of #30DaysWild, as it’s National Insect Week, I went seeking insects along one my local trails, the zigzag path that runs from upper Penarth down to the marina. This was once a heavily wooded hillside but now has a concrete path that gives pedestrians and cyclists easy access up and down the steep hill. Of course, people sometimes want a more direct route and you can see that the frequent stomping of feet has worn alternate paths down the hillside.

180623 zigzag path

Though it looks quite grassy in this photo from a couple of weeks ago, the hillside is now a mass of self-sown native wildflowers and today it was alive with insects, from bees and hoverflies to butterflies, beetles and damselflies. This is a perfect site for wildflowers to grow – it is steep so difficult and presumably expensive to mow, and its steepness means it can’t be safely used by children playing (though, with a covering of snow, it is perfect for sledging!).

Though the local council usually strim this slope to death, utterly destroying the wildflowers and the wildlife, they have recently – and rather ironically – ploughed up a small flat area and dumped upon it soil seeded with wildflowers. That might sound hopeful, a positive action, but the ploughed area has not been maintained and, though I may be wrong, I doubt whether the wildflowers were locally sourced. I wonder too why the council would go to the expense of ploughing up perfectly good local wildflowers to plant others – do they think wildflowers should only be of the type they prescribe and only grow within a prescribed rectangular area? Surely they misunderstand the very essence of WILDflowers.

This blog post, then, is partly a celebration of the amazing variety of insects that enjoy the wildflowers that grow naturally around the zigzag path and partly a plea to the council not to kill those wildflowers and their pollinators but instead to celebrate and foster this wonderfully biodiverse area of Penarth.



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I had never seen any Fritillary butterflies until today, so, on day 22 of #30DaysWild, I’ve had a very exciting afternoon seeing my very first High Browns, Dark Greens and Small Pearl-bordereds. These butterflies were very fast fliers and didn’t settle long so I didn’t get many shots, and didn’t manage any of the High Browns. Below are three different Dark Green Fritillaries and one Small Pearl-bordered … plus a few other butterflies we saw.

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Small pearl-bordered fritillary

I did manage to get reasonable images of some of the many lovely little Small heath butterflies, the one Six-spot burnet moth we saw, and, my favourite, this cute Large skipper. ‘Twas a grand day!

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Small heath butterfly

180622 6-spot burnet

Six-spot burnet moth

180622 Large skipper

Large skipper butterfly

The secretive Reed warbler


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For day 21 of #30DaysWild and as a solstice treat, I went for a visit to the Wildlife Trust’s Parc Slip Nature Reserve. It was a lovely sunny day and I walked far and wide, seeing lots of wildlife and wildflowers, but the highlight came as I was sitting on a park bench in a distant part of the reserve eating my lunch.

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I could hear what I thought were Reed warblers (Acrocephalus scirpaceus), dotting about in the reeds and bushes growing along a nearby stream, and could see the undergrowth moving as they gradually came nearer.

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These are often very shy birds and I’ve never managed very clear photos of them so I waited to see if they would pop up.

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And my patience was eventually rewarded with these fleeting views of two of a family of four Reed warblers – still not great shots but I’m happy with them.

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The bug called Grypo


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180620 Grypocoris stysi (1)

On day 20 of #30DaysWild, I went looking for plant bugs – it is National Insect Week after all – and I found newly opened umbellifer flower heads fairly swarming with the unmistakeable plant bug, Grypocoris stysi. Look for them during June and July, mostly feasting on the pollen of umbellifer and nettle flowers, though they’re also quite partial to the occasional aphid. There are over 10,000 species of plant / leaf / grass bugs, but little Grypo’s distinctive markings mean it’s one that’s easy to identify.

Fat thighs are cool!


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Not only is this day 19 of #30DaysWild, but today is also the second day of National Insect Week. To celebrate, here is one of my favourite British insects, the Swollen-thighed Beetle (Oedemera nobilis). I see these little guys on almost every type of flower at this time of year  – this one’s on a Common spotted-orchid – and they always make me smile. It’s the male beetles that have those fat thighs – I haven’t been able to find out why, so if you know, please do tell.

180619 Swollen-thigh beetle

Ringlet no.1


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Today, on day 18 of #30DaysWild, I walked along the coastal path to Lavernock Nature Reserve, intending to do some sea-watching – and I did – I watched the sea for over an hour. I saw a couple of gulls and a lot of waves and a couple of large container ships heading up and down the channel. Of course, that was not what I was hoping to see. Over the past few days, there have been reports of large numbers of Manx shearwaters flying back and forth, as well as the occasional Storm petrel, Arctic skua, Gannets, Guillemots, Fulmars, etc. Today there were none – well, maybe 2 or 3 birds a long long long way out – but none that I could see with my bins.

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Luckily for me, though, I bumped into Alan, a fellow birder, who’s also a fan of butterflies and dragonflies – many of us birders are – and he very kindly showed me a Ringlet butterfly he’d just spotted. It was the first I’d seen in 2018 and, once I’d finished staring at the sea, I wandered around Lavernock and found another – or, possibly, the same one – plus a few other butterflies. So, I may not have bagged a new bird for my year list but I did bag a new butterfly (metaphorically speaking, of course).

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The supporting cast consisted of Large skippers, Common blues and a Small white.

Birding at Bargoed & Cefn Gelligaer


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I was out birding again on day 17 of #30DaysWild, once again with Glamorgan Bird Club, this time to Cefn Gelligaer and the Bargoed uplands. And what a wonderful day it was, in spite of the light rain that set in after lunch (though that does mean I don’t have a lot of photos). One of our club members, Lee, guided us around his local patch and it was a real bonus tapping in to his local knowledge.

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This is ‘big sky’ country, with a long history of human settlement, from the era of Megalithic chambered tombs through the years of Roman road-building to the coal mining of 19th and early 20th centuries. There are ancient trees, superbly crafted dry-stone walls, old droving roads and narrow green lanes.

As well as the 42 bird species we saw – a very respectable list, given the conditions – we also had a weasel checking us out, before streaking across the lane behind us, and I saw my first Welsh mountain ponies, very handsome little beasts with quite oddly shaped heads.

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Lee kindly gave us each a brochure for a walking trail that includes many of the local historical features so I will definitely be heading back for another look.

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Spot the Stonechat

Here’s our bird list: Carrion crow, Mistle thrush, Lesser black-backed gull, Pheasant, Robin, Skylark, Wren, Starling, Woodpigeon, Jackdaw, Chaffinch, Goldfinch, Meadow pipit, Swallow, Willow warbler, Great tit, Great spotted woodpecker, Swift, Blackbird, Herring gull, Dunnock, Pied wagtail, Buzzard, Curlew, Red kite, Green woodpecker, Song thrush, Stonechat, Stock dove, Tree pipit, Redstart, Coal tit, Blackcap, Nuthatch, Long-tailed tit, Cuckoo, Blue tit, Linnet, Reed bunting, Whinchat, Magpie, and House sparrow.

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Swallows swooping over the fields

Birding at Kenfig


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For day 16 of #30DaysWild I joined my fellow Glamorgan Bird Club members for their monthly wander around Kenfig National Nature Reserve. It started grey and later rained a little, so conditions weren’t ideal for birding and, in the leafy fullness of summer, birds can often be difficult to spot anyway.

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The plus side of this for me is that I get to practise my listening skills as I gradually learn to recognise more and more bird songs and calls. And, fortunately, Ceri had brought his ’scope along, so we could all take a look at those birds that were distant specks on the tree-tops.

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The highlight for me was this Sparrowhawk that Rob spotted sitting on the shore of Kenfig Pool.

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Though its origin is unknown and so it might not be a wild bird, the Pink-footed goose was still a nice addition to the Canada and Greylag geese on the pool.

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And you know I can’t resist the young ones: these are just a couple of today’s Cootlets.

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Considering the conditions and the time of year, I reckon we did pretty well to spot and/or hear a total of 47 species. As I don’t have eyes in the back of my head, my personal list was 43: Collared dove, Woodpigeon, Starling, Blackbird, Wren, Dunnock, Swift, Lesser black-backed gull, Willow warbler, Greenfinch, Blackcap, Carrion crow, Magpie, Goldfinch, Chiffchaff, House sparrow, Song thrush, Skylark, Whitethroat, Robin, Stonechat, Linnet, Herring gull, Great tit, Buzzard, Raven, Lapwing, Sand martin, Coot, Mallard, Canada goose, Sparrowhawk, Greylag goose, Mute swan, Pink-footed goose Grey heron, Pied wagtail, Reed warbler, Chaffinch, Herring gull, Cormorant, Great crested grebe, Blue tit.

Ely embankment revisited


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My regular followers will remember that, over the winter months, when there were more birds around, I posted a regular monthly roundup of the action along the embankment where the River Ely flows in to Cardiff Bay. Today, for day 15 of #30DaysWild, I thought I’d take another look. Here’s what I found …

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The embankment is a riot of colour, with both native wildflowers and garden escapees in full bloom.

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Two Linnets were foraging on flower seeds but were very skittish.

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Loving these Oxeye daisies.

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A juvenile Pied wagtail was feeding near the waterline.

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A flock of 7 Feral pigeons was also foraging amongst the flowers

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This Mallard had found a sunny spot for a snooze.

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23 Mute swans were floating up the river, many taking the opportunity to preen as they went.

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9 Coots were congregating at the water’s edge.

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I saw my first Small tortoiseshell butterfly of the year.

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Looking back up the river as an Aquabus shows sightseers the river. The black hulk is a new apartment block.

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And finally, a Carrion crow was prospecting for tasty morsels.



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Sometimes, when all the news seems to be full of doom and gloom, it’s nice to have something in our lives to make us smile. So, on day 14 of #30DaysWild, I went looking for cute babies ’cause they always make me smile – not human babies but baby birds. First, I found these three gorgeous little Canada goose goslings with their parents by the east lake at Cosmeston Lakes Country Park.

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And then, at the dipping pond, I spent a very enjoyable half hour watching the many Moorhen babies feeding, swimming, and preening. I hope they make you smile as well.