Beautiful plume

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This tiny moth was a lovely surprise from last week’s wildflower searching. I only managed a couple of quick shots before it flew into the vegetation but they were good enough for my friendly local moth expert to identify this as a Beautiful plume (Amblyptilia acanthadactyla), which George also told me is ‘One of the few plumes that overwinters as an adult’. Beautiful, indeed!

221207 Beautiful plume

Rafting Cormorants

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I’ve seen this behaviour by the Cormorants in Cardiff Bay many times. A few birds gather on the water, then more and more fly in from their various roosting spots to join in. Moving forward together across the water, each bird dives repeatedly.

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I assumed the Cormorants were either driving or following a school of fish below the water, and this would seem to be confirmed by a research paper I found online, which discusses a different species of Cormorant living around the Arabian peninsula. Here’s what they have reported:

… data suggest that the benefits of group foraging outweigh the costs of intense aggregation in this seabird. Prey detection and information transmission are facilitated in large groups. Once discovered, shoaling prey are concentrated under the effect of the multitude. Fish school cohesiveness is then disorganized by continuous attacks of diving birds to facilitate prey capture.

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Leafmines: Bucculatrix ulmella

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This new-to-me species was the result of a recent session turning over Oak leaves to see what might be lurking beneath. I didn’t actually find the leafmines for this creature but rather, on adjacent trees, two empty cocoons – the tiny moths (pictured on the UK Moths website) that were metamorphosing inside had already hatched and flown (you can see part of the pupal case poking out of one cocoon). The ribbing on the cocoon points to this being one of Bucculatrix genus of moths and the fact that these were on Oak gives a positive identification of Bucculatrix ulmella (don’t be fooled by the specific name ulmella, which would appear to indicate the larvae feed on Elm – the species has apparently been misnamed).

221205 Bucculatrix ulmella

 

Winter 50

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First, a confession. I actually made the first two of these grids of wildflowers for last Sunday’s Wildflower Hour on social media. But, when I checked again over the last couple of days, all of last week’s flowers bar one were still in bloom, so I’ve simply modified them as necessary to accommodate this week’s finds.

221204 pinks x12

So, in this first grid of flowers in the pink-purple range, I removed a Field scabious flower that’s now turned to mush and replaced it with the first Sweet violet flower I’ve spotted. The flowers are: Creeping thistle, Sweet violet, Hemp agrimony, Herb Robert, Ivy-leaved toadflax, Knapweed, Meadow crane’s-bill, Purple toadflax, Red clover, Red valerian, Tufted vetch, and Winter heliotrope.

221204 white x16

This second grid, of (mostly) white flowers, has a whole new row at the bottom with this week’s extra finds. These are: Bitter-cress, Bramble, Bladder campion, White campion, Daisy, Large bindweed, Mayweed, Oxeye daisy, Shepherd’s-purse, Traveller’s-joy, Wild carrot, Yarrow, Barren strawberry, Black nightshade, Common fumitory, and Hogweed.

221204 yellows x20

The third grid, of yellow and green flowers, is totally new. These flowers are: Bristly oxtongue, Common toadflax, Creeping buttercup, Dandelion, Evening primrose, Gorse, Groundsel, Hoary mustard, Meadow vetchling, Prickly sow-thistle, Ragwort, Sea radish, Creeping cinquefoil, Meadow buttercup, Nipplewort, Yellow-wort, Sun spurge, Smooth sow-thistle, Yellow corydalis, and Petty spurge.

221204 extras x2

And, today, I’ve discovered two extra flowers, which it’s easiest to just add here at the end on their own. They are Narrow-leaved ragwort, a new plant for me, and Blue fleabane. It’s both wonderful, and a little alarming, to see so many (50!) wildflowers still in bloom at the beginning of winter but, with very cold weather forecast for later this week, I think numbers will soon quickly diminish. I’m enjoying this feast of colour while I can, and I hope you do too.

Curlew calling

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Any day is a good day when you hear a Curlew calling in the thick mist and see first one bird, distantly on the beach, and then another eight, grazing on the grass of the playing fields, all at the seaside town of Sully, just a short bus ride from home. Unfortunately, local dog walkers show little respect for these red-listed birds and frequently disturb them when they’re trying to feed, both on the beach and on the grass. That is how I managed to get a flight shot, but I’d much rather not have got the photo if that meant the birds were left in peace. I glared at a few people, I can tell you!

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If you’ve never heard a Curlew call, there’s a short video on John Lawton’s YouTube channel that shows Curlews sleeping and preening and occasionally calling.

Earthtongues

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Well, these were a surprise sighting from the beginning of today’s walk. They were growing on a road verge, next to a block of flats, in an area now called Penarth Marina but which was once Penarth Port, a huge area of working dockland.

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This seems a bizarre place for earthtongues to be growing – the First Nature website explains that this species, which I’m fairly sure is Geoglossum cookeanum, is found ‘mainly in mossy, sandy grassland, often in dune slacks or on the edges of coastal pine forests’.

221202 earthtongues (2)

A bat’s demise

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This is the sad tale of a bat that ventured out during the daytime only to be snaffled by a Magpie. I initially noticed something tiny flying around low to the water in Cardiff Bay but wasn’t sure what it was until it flew up and clung to a nearby concrete wall. Bat!

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Sadly, at the very moment I was taking some photos of it, a Magpie swooped down from above and grabbed the tiny beastie, carrying it up to the ledge above. The Magpie shook its prize a little, perhaps confused by what it had captured, then carried the bat into the nearby bushes. A Carrion crow followed the Magpie very shortly afterwards and, judging by the Magpie’s subsequent shrieking, I suspect the crow carried off the prize.

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Speaking to Amy, a local bat expert, it seems this individual was a species of Pipistrelle, which Amy thought looked underweight. That, plus the fact that it was flying during the day, means the bat was probably ill or injured, so its demise, though very unfortunate, may well have been inevitable.

A Kittiwake comes to town

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Though they can sometimes be seen by keen birders using ‘scopes to watch birds passing along the coast, Kittwakes only rarely visit Cardiff Bay. So, when I heard early last Thursday morning that this one was hanging out near the Barrage locks, I went for a look. And I was lucky – though the bird was sitting on one of the dolphins when I arrived, it flew off and disappeared soon afterwards. It was blowing a gale, which may be why the bird had come in to the Bay, for a rest from the fierce winds, and having to tackle those strong winds is also my excuse for my photos not being sharp – it was difficult keeping myself from being blown about, let alone the camera. Still, it was a beautiful little bird, a lovely sighting, and a late tick for my 2022 patch birding list.

221129 kittiwake

Leafmines: Stigmella obliquella

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As part of my continuing search for the leafmines of the moth Phyllocnistis saligna, I spent part of a recent walk checking the narrow-leaved willows in a Cardiff Park. Though most of the leaves had already fallen, I noticed a lot of leaves with ‘green islands‘, a likely sign of a leafminer but probably not the one I was looking for and, indeed, not one I was familiar with. I took some photos and posted a selection that evening on Twitter.

221128 Stigmella obliquella (1)

Leafminerman Rob Edmunds, of the superb British Leafminers website, quickly identified them as the ‘very variable’ work of the larvae of the moth Stigmella obliquella, also known as the Willow pygmy, a rather cute micro moth with an orange top knot. You can find out more about the leafmines on the British Leafminers website, and see the adult moth on the UK Moths website; just click on the links.

221128 Stigmella obliquella (2)