What can I say? Sometimes I get very angry at the human race!
When I see violets, I always think of my nana Johno, my mother’s mother. She always had violets growing in her garden and would often pick a few to bring inside so she could enjoy their sweet scent. I spotted these particular violets on my way to Cosmeston this morning, growing wild on a grassy bank. I wasn’t able to smell them but I’m fairly sure these are Sweet violets (Viola odorata), which, as well as the traditional purple colour, can also be found in this pretty white variation.
With Storm Freya blasting us today, I only managed an hour’s stomp between rain bands but even that was difficult, trying to walk back up the hill from the marina into a 25mph head wind. My head was down, which was probably how I spotted these lovely bands of moss on top of a brick wall. It was interesting how the moss was only growing in strips where the mortar butted up against the terracotta bricks, not on the mortar or the bricks themselves. It sure looked pretty covered in rain drops.
First I noticed the frass (that’s pooh, to most of us). Then I thought ‘Something fairly big must be in these Alexanders’ flower heads somewhere’. And, sure enough, with a little gentle pulling aside of leaves and flowers, I found the frass creator, very well camouflaged by its light green colouring. And then I thought, ‘There might be more’. And, sure enough, I found three caterpillars on three different plants, and frass on several more plants. These are the larvae of the Angle Shades moth (Phlogophora meticulosa). I thought it seemed rather early for them but my local Butterfly Conservation expert George tells me you can find them pretty much any time of year.
These are Chinese geese, I think, a breed of domestic goose, but they have escaped from whoever owned them and have taken to hanging out with a large flock of Mute swans that live on the banks of the River Taff in central Cardiff. People regularly feed the birds in this area, so the geese and swans are joined by Mallards, big groups of Feral pigeons and scavenging gulls.
Apparently, Chinese geese have been domesticated for their eggs and their meat, and the knob above their beaks is larger in ganders, so the white goose must be a male and the three brown birds females.
As their name suggests, the Turnstones that frequent the stony embankments around Cardiff Bay spend their time turning over loose stones, looking for the tiny insects, molluscs and crustaceans they like to eat. And it’s that stone-turning that has led to some of their regional vernacular names: stanepecker, in Shetland, and stone raw, in Armagh. I also rather like ebb pecker, another from Shetland, and tangle picker, from Norfolk. I haven’t been able to find a Welsh name for this bird so if there is one and you know it, please do let me know.
p.s. Thanks to my friend Ceri, I can now tell you the Welsh name for Turnstone is Cwtiad y Traeth, which translates as Beach plover (Traeth means beach and Cwtiad is plover).
I’m not sure whether this male Wren’s posturing was a threat display – ‘This is my territory. Enter at your own risk!’ – or whether he was trying to impress the other Wren that was dotting about in the tree nearby – ‘Look at me! I’m a big healthy tough male and I’d make a good mate.’ He sure was giving it his all though – it always amazes me how much sound can be produced by such a small bird.
For the second day in a row, places in north Wales have posted record high winter temperatures and, though a chilly breeze has kept things a bit cooler here in the south, it’s still much warmer than it should be. And these unseasonable highs have been responsible for the early awakening of much insect life. On today’s wander I spotted several hoverflies and bumblebees, a Brimstone butterfly flew past my house earlier, and the cherry tree outside my window has been buzzing with bees all day. It’s wonderful to see all these critters out and about again but it’s also a worry as winter’s probably not finished with us yet.
Plenty of sunshine in recent days means lots of light and warmth, which means the Common frogs (Rana temporaria) have been doing their thing in the pond at Lavernock Nature Reserve, and there are now huge clumps of spawn. Some of the little black dots already look to be developing, though, apparently, only 1 in 50 of these eggs will grow to frog-hood. I’ll be keeping an eye on them whenever I pass through this way.
As the thick fog began to lift from the lakes at Cosmeston this morning, I caught sight of these two Mute swans engaged in their delightful slow-motion courtship dance, gracefully moving their necks from one side to the other and confirming their connection with quiet grunts and hissing sounds. I didn’t quite capture their necks making the classic heart shape but it was a delight to watch them.