Little egret

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I don’t walk around Cardiff Bay often during the summer months as I dislike the crowds and the clutter of event equipment, choke on the smell of the herbicides the Council uses to kill off the real wildflowers to create artificial ‘wildflower meadows’, and fear for the safety of the birds when blasted by jetboating thrill seekers. Fortunately, the coming of the cooler weather brings some relief from much of that human activity and so I begin again to explore the Bay.

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And, on my very first walk along the Barrage in some time, I got lucky: a Little egret was standing in amongst the crowd of gulls on one of the floating platforms by the locks. At one point the gulls chased off the intruder but, after a short circuit of the Barrage, it and they returned to the platforms. Little egrets are relatively common birds in Britain now but are not seen often in Cardiff Bay, so this was a very welcome 2021 patch tick for me.

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The last Small copper

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As I walk slowly along a narrow footpath between tall stands of meadowsweet and willowherbs, thistles and fleabane, I catch, out of the corner of my eye, a fleeting flash of orange, and quickly turn my head towards it, follow it, try desperately not to lose sight of it. I’m in luck. It settles, turns, opens its wings. And I don’t know whether to be overjoyed to see this most unexpected, glistening Small copper or saddened at the thought that this will, in all probability, be my last Small copper sighting of the year.

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Leafmines: Phyllonorycter coryli

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For those of you who are new to leafmines, here’s one that’s appearing on leaves right about now, is common in Britain and easy to identify.

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These blisters on Hazel leaves are made by the larvae of the perfectly named Nut leaf blister moth (Phyllonorycter coryli) – you can see what the adult moth looks like on the UK Moths website. In fact, if you’re sharp-eyed, you may have noticed these blisters in July, as this little moth has two broods each year. You can get more details and see more images on the excellent British Leafminers website.

Fruits

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This was @wildflower_hour’s tweet announcing this week’s #WildflowerHour challenge:

Samaras, siliques, nuts, drupes, berries, hips and capsules, how many different types of wild fruit can you find? That’s the challenge this week for #WildflowerHour. Share your pics this Sunday 8-9pm using the hashtag #fruits.

I’m saving my samaras, siliques, nuts and capsules for another day but here are my drupes, berries and hips: an assortment of Black bryony, Bramble, Buckthorn, Crab apple, Dewberry, Red-osier dogwood (with vivid red stems and white fruit) and Common dogwood, Guelder rose, Hawthorn, the hips of Japanese rose (these grow wild at the local country park) and Dog-rose, Sloe, Whitebeam, Woody nightshade and Yew.

Migrating Reed warbler

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As is often the case with this little brown bird, I heard it before I saw it, not the song but the short nasal ‘churring’ call these warblers make to keep in touch with each other deep within the reed beds.

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Luckily for me, as this particularly Reed warbler foraged its way along the brook, I could follow its movement by the bending and shaking of reed stems, and when it occasionally ventured out to the edge of the reeds, I was able to grab some images.

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Small though it is – around 13cm in length, the Reed warbler (Acrocephalus scirpaceus) migrates from Britain to over-winter in sub-Saharan Africa, so this little bird has quite the journey ahead of it.

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Chicken-of-the-woods

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This glorious cascade of brackets was a delightful surprise during a recent woodland meander.

This is the wonderfully named Chicken-of-the-woods (Laetiporus sulphurous), which apparently tastes like chicken, hence the name. However, as Pat O’Reilly writes in Fascinated by Fungi: ‘Young caps taste rather like chicken; old ones taste more like the wood!’ and ‘Never eat Chicken of the Woods gathered from Yews’ because, of course, almost every part of the Yew is poisonous.

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I’ve only seen these bright yellow-and-orange brackets growing on Oak, though they can also be found on Beech and Sweet chestnut as well as Yew. They are large, growing up to 40cm across, with a velvety upper surface and pores below.

Return of the Great tits

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It’s so lovely to see the little birds out and about again, recovered from the strain of raising at least one, probably more, brood(s) of chicks, and looking spick and span in their newly moulted plumage.

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When I was bimbling about in the woods last week, I was visited by a number of Great tits, checking out what I was doing, looking for any insects I might have disturbed. It was a delight!

Where the warmth is

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Butterflies are smart!

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The Speckled wood may be a woodland butterfly, able to cope without as much sunshine as most butterflies need, but it still needs some heat. And, when the sun’s not shining, the warmest places in this area of local woodland are where the rides were recently cut and the grass clippings are beginning to decompose. I found seven Speckled woods in one very small area, all taking advantage of the heat of the rotting process.

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