Kittiwakes

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I realised today, when looking through my folder of photos for prepping blogs, that I have a couple of birds from my trip to Northumberland back in May that I haven’t yet blogged about. So, let’s put that right.

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I actually saw – and heard – my first Kittiwakes in Scotland, in Dunbar, where the birds nest on cliffs right on the edge of the town’s harbour. It’s a precarious site but that doesn’t bother these noisy birds, who seem constantly to remind you of their name with their onomatopoeic call.

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I next saw Kittiwakes when we sailed out to the Farne Islands. Once again, they were perched on impossibly small ledges of rock, sharing these spots on the tall craggy cliffs with Guillemots and Razorbills and Cormorants.

On the Farnes, I managed to get a much closer look at these beautiful gulls. Something about their face makes them look softer and more gentle than their Herring gull cousins – perhaps it’s their smaller, less savage-looking beak.

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Kittiwakes only come to the Farnes during the summer months to breed. Once their young are fledged, they’ll all head back to the Atlantic to spend the winter, dipping down into the deep waters for fish and shrimps to eat, then soaring high above the ocean waves.

Here’s lookin’ at you back, Skippy!

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I know I’ve already posted a lot of Large skipper (Lycaena dispar) butterfly photos over the past couple of months but I just can’t help myself.

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They are so adorable, especially the males when they’re posing.

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Of course, I do know they’re not actually posing – it’s more likely that they’re holding a territory and are trying to look intimidating to scare me off.

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Or perhaps they’re just as curious about me as I am about them?

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Well, here’s lookin’ at you back, Skippy!

Horse chestnut leafminer

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You may well have noticed that many (most?) of the Horse chestnut trees around you are starting to look a bit manky. Their leaves have become covered in white and brown blotches.

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Those blotches are actually leaf mines, home to the larvae of Cameraria ohridella, the Horse chestnut leaf-mining moth (the brown blobs in the mines). According to the UK moths website

This species was discovered near Macedonia in 1985, and since then has spread rapidly to other countries in Europe. It was first discovered in Britain at Wimbledon in south-west London in 2002, but possibly had arrived the previous year, as it was quite plentiful. It is thought that the species may be expanding partially due to accidental transportation by man, either by road or rail. It has now been found quite extensively in the south-east of England.

 

Obviously, since that website entry was written, the moths have now spread from south-east England to south Wales and, indeed, to parts much further north. You’re mostly likely to see the blotches between June and September and, though you might not like the look of them, they’re not thought to inflict any permanent damage on the tree because, of course, the leaves are shed in the autumn anyway.

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The Spotted longhorns

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I’ve been seeing quite a few of these handsome mini-beasties recently, the Spotted longhorn beetles (Rutpela maculata).

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Though the pattern of their black-and-yellow markings can vary a bit, they’re really quite unmistakeable.

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They’re large beetles and look quite fierce, but they’re harmless.

Spotted longhorns are most often found feasting on the pollen of the umbellifer and other flowers that grow in hedgerows and alongside woodland paths.

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Their larvae overwinter in rotten wood, then emerge as adults in late Spring, so these lovely longhorns can be seen from May through till around the end of August.

Some recent moths

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Though they seem to have disappeared now, the Burnet companions (Euclidia glyphica) were out in force at Cosmeston for about six weeks, from the last day of May until early July.

180716 1 Burnet companion

The Common purple & gold (Pyrausta purpuralis) is a tiny but very colourful moth – a rich maroon-purple base with pretty gold markings.

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With a thin red line running horizontally from one wing tip to the other, it’s easy to see how the Blood-vein (Timandra comae) got its name.

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Glyphipterix thrasonella (no common name) is another very small moth, as you can tell from its size relative to my fingers, and is another with attractive markings, this time bright light blue on a gold base.

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In Bute Park recently I spotted two different species of moth. The first was this tiny micro on Hogweed, an Orange-spot piercer (Pammene aurana).

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I didn’t have to try hard to see the second moth as it fluttered down from a tree on to the earth in front of me. This is a Riband wave (Idaea aversata).

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And, while we’re on the subject of Riband waves, here’s another but this is the banded form – note how the area between the two lines on its wings has been ‘coloured in’.

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Last but certainly not least is this stunning Scarlet tiger (Callimorpha dominula), which was sitting on the grassy path in front of me during a recent meander around Lavernock Nature Reserve.

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Ratty’s back

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Well, the truth is Ratty probably never went away. Water voles might disappear from sight during the cold months of winter but they don’t actually hibernate – they simply burrow deeper underground to keep warm, and they spend a lot of time sleeping, which means they don’t need to snack too often from the larder they stock in autumn, full of bulbs, roots and tubers. They also bung up the entrance to their burrows with a mix of vegetation and mud, which helps keep the heat inside.

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Come the Spring, they emerge and spend more time out and about, though it’s only in the past month or so that I’ve seen them again at Cosmeston. That may just be the timing of my visits, though the few I’ve seen have also seemed a bit less confident about being out and about than last year’s Water voles, possibly because some idiot people have let their dogs jump into the dipping pond, an area where they are obviously forbidden.

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It’s probably impossible to tell how many of last year’s release of 100 Water voles have survived the winter but another 40-odd were released a few weeks back to supplement the local population.

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People love to watch them, young and old alike, so let’s hope we can all enjoy them chewing away at the vegetation for the days, weeks, months to come.

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One smart critter

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The Swollen-thighed beetle (Oedemera nobilis) is very easy going when it comes to what nectar or pollen it eats. Judging by the number of different flowers I’ve seen it on, my conclusion is that it will slurp and snack almost anywhere, and this would seem to be a very good tactic for its future survival because the more specific the dietary requirements of an insect, the greater the chance it will suffer from changes to its environment and food plants. Being a generalist makes the Swollen-thighed beetle one smart critter!

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More crane’s-bills and a stork’s-bill

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It’s Floral Friday so I thought we’d take a look at a few more of the beautiful Crane’s-bill family and one of their cousins, a Stork’s-bill. I think you’ll agree that they’re all rather lovely.

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Cut-Leaved Cranesbill (Geranium dissectum)

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Meadow Crane’s-bill (Geranium pratense)

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Pencilled crane’s-bill (Geranium versicolor)

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Common stork’s bill (Erodium cicutarium)

Birding at Peterston & Pendoylan Moors

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Yesterday I enjoyed another wonderful, if rather hot day’s birding with my friends from the Glamorgan Bird Club, this time wandering a trail alongside the River Ely near Peterston-super-Ely and Pendoylan.

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On the way there, my friend John and I had incredibly close views of three Red kites and more of these magnificent birds of prey were gliding overhead during our walk.

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We saw Stock doves (one pictured above) sitting obligingly close to Woodpigeons so we could see the differences in the two species.

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A Red fox was spotted trotting along in a distant field, its lunch in its mouth.

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A large herd of large cows moved reluctantly away from the river so we could pass by. You’d have to be crazy to mess with this lady, who was keeping a steady eye on us in case we ventured too close to her calves.

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The fifteen participants … well, fourteen really, as I was taking the photo.

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The meandering River Ely was running low due to the recent drought conditions here in south Wales.

As well as birds, we also saw lots of butterflies, including these: Cinnabar caterpillars, Comma, Green-veined white, Meadow brown, Peacock, and more Small tortoiseshell than I’ve ever seen in one day before.

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The highlight of the day for me was watching these Sand martins hawking for food over the fields and then returning to their burrows in the river bank to feed their hungry young. Magic!

Wild word: fasciated

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Fasciated: Adjective; (Botany) Showing abnormal fusion of parts or organs, resulting in a flattened ribbon-like structure (Oxford Dictionary).

The thistle in my photo is an example; instead of developing in the circular shape that is usual for this plant, the flower has, for some unknown reason, become distorted into a flattened and elongated, almost oblong shape.

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