294/366 Goldeneye


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No, I’m not blogging about a James Bond film, though our recent visitor to Cosmeston Lakes Country Park is almost as exotic, and certainly as handsome as any of the many James Bonds. This is a drake Goldeneye (Bucephala clangula), a diving duck that’s a little smaller than a Mallard.

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This drake was first picked up by our best local birder last Friday evening so I strode along to the lakes early Saturday morning and had distant views of it on the west lake. The Goldeneye appeared to have left Saturday afternoon, as another local birder couldn’t find it, but I was back at Cosmeston early Sunday, sitting quietly on a bench next to the east lake, when Mr Goldeneye popped out from the vegetation right in front of me and I was able to get these closer photos of him.

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Though Goldeneye are known to spend their winters in small groups on reservoirs and inland lakes, and in sheltered coastal bays, they are not a common sight in my part of south Wales, so it has been a treat to have the chance to see this stunning bird.

293/366 Stigmella aceris


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I’ve been hunting for leaf mines in recent days, the mines made by the larvae of the micro moth Stigmella aceris, which can be found at this time of year on the leaves of Norway and Field maples. Unfortunately, I haven’t made any finds of my own but my Twitter pal Gareth had the honour of finding the first mines in the Vale of Glamorgan last week so I went and checked out his find site to get a look at the mines for myself.

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According to the UK Moths website, this moth was classified as rare until 40 years ago, when it began increasing its range ‘dramatically’. It can now be found throughout central and southern England, and also in south Wales – it was found for the first time in Cardiff in November 2019.

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I’ve never seen the adult moth, which has the common name of Scarce maple pigmy – and probably never will – but you can see a photo of it on the British Lepidoptera weebly site here.

And now I’m heading out to check more Maple trees before their leaves all fall and turn to mush …

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291/366 Back for the winter


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It was wonderful yesterday to see that Goosanders are now returning to Cardiff Bay after their breeding season. I’m not exactly sure where these birds would have spent their busy summer months as, according to recent copies of the Eastern Glamorgan Bird Report, they haven’t been recorded breeding locally for many years.

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Goosanders can often be seen in the Bay over the winter and, yesterday, three birds were fishing in the River Ely where it flows in to Cardiff Bay.

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There were two females and this handsome bird, which I think is a male in eclipse plumage, i.e. transitioning from summer to winter colours. I took a little video of it preening, if you want to take a look.

(Apologies for the spot in the video – it’s inside my camera, rather than on the lens, but I haven’t been able to take my camera to be cleaned because of our lockdown restrictions.)

290/366 A host of hawkers


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You might think, as I certainly did, that the much cooler overnight temperatures we’re now experiencing here in south Wales would mean an end to the hawking flights of dragonflies over our fields and along our hedgerows but I was rather dramatically proved wrong during yesterday’s meander around Cosmeston Lakes Country Park. I didn’t spot just one or two Migrant hawkers but seven (!), the most I’ve seen in one day ever. These are three of them, two of the males and the solitary female. A delight of dragonflies!

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288/366 Little Japanese umbrella


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I didn’t know until I read the entry for the Pleated inkcap (Parasola plicatilis) on the First Nature website that this fungus is also known as the Little Japanese umbrella but it’s easy to see how its delicate pleated structure would suggest the comparison. These little beauties are a one-day wonder and you have to be up early to appreciate them at their best. Here, we have photos looking directly down at the cap, a side shot, and then looking up from ground level at the underside of the cap. A perfect tiny parasol!

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287/366 Utterly charming


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I almost always hear Goldfinches before I see them. Their seemingly constant twittering and tinkling always makes me smile, and their bright bursts of yellow and red plumage brighten even the greyest of days. It’s easy to see why these cheeky little chatterers are collectively called a charm.

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I’ve been trying to sneak up on feeding Goldfinches for the past couple of weeks but they are always very alert and flit off quickly to the nearest bush or tree when they hear or see me approaching.

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Yesterday, I could hear them along the woodland ride in front of me and had a slight bend and some bushes to hide behind, so I finally managed to get some half decent photos.

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As you can see, their sharp, pointy beaks are perfect for poking into tight, narrow spaces, and this small charm of Goldfinches were feasting well, picking the seeds out of the Teasel seedheads. What a delight it was to watch them.

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286/266 Still blooming


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Botanically speaking, I’ve been a bit preoccupied in the past few weeks with the structural shapes of seedheads and the autumn bounty of fruit, so yesterday, during a walk across farm fields and along woodland rides, I thought I’d record how many wildflowers I could find in bloom. Turns out, there are still rather a lot, including Agrimony, Bramble, Broad-leaved willowherb, Creeping buttercup, Creeping thistle, a Dandelion species, Hedge woundwort, Hemp agrimony, Herb Robert, Knapweed, Meadow vetchling, Ragwort, Red campion, Red clover, White clover and Yarrow.