Friday, 16 June 2017

Day 16 - The Ringed Ouzel - 30 Days Wild

Day 16: Star Species
Ringed Ouzel (Turdus torquatus)

An interesting day today. We ventured up to the Brecon Beacons National Park to a wonderful Nature Reserve called Craig Cerrig Gleisiad.

We knew Ring Ouzel have been sighted there, it even says on the information board at the entrance of the reserve, but we've never ever seen one here...until today. 

The start of the walk with a information sign...
...Ring Ouzels!

We made our way to the reserve and were dwarfed by the overpowering steep crags. This fascinating landscape is the result of the Ice Age 20,000 years ago and over time the ice carved the 150m cliffs we see today. 

Despite the reserve's tough, mountainous setting it has an array of wildlife. Over 500 plants can be found here and 80 different birds including; Peregrine Falcons, Kestrels, Red Gouse and of course the Ring Ouzels. In addition to the plants and birds, you will find many species of fungi, insects, amphibian and reptile species. 

The step crags of Craig Cerrig Gleisiad
Green Tiger Beetle
Red Tailed Bumblebee (I think)

We explored deeper into the reserve and noticed a large bird perched on a cliff in the distance, we couldn't really work out what it was, so we checked the pic on the camera's screen and noticed another bird on the right of the pic...we couldn't believe it, a Ring Ouzel! We saw with our own eyes the Ring Ouzel was join by another one and attacked the bird on the left until they eventually chased it off. 

Here is the pic, you can see the large bird on the left (which is in fact a buzzard) and to the right you can see a small black bird (the Ringed Ouzel) with the distinctive white collar

After all the excitement and no other sighting of  the Ouzels we decided to call it a day. Walking back to the car we spotted a fox and watched as  Pen Y Fan disappeared behind hill fog. 

Pen Y Fan behind the clouds
Red Fox

Want to see Craig Cerrig Gleisiad in the snow?

Thursday, 15 June 2017

Day 15 - The Kingfisher - 30 Days Wild

Day 15: Star Species
Kingfisher (Alcedo atthis)

Without doubt, one of my favourite bird is the kingfisher. I haven't seen many in my life and it was only last year I saw my first one. A spectacular, colourful little bird that is so charming to see and I get so excited when I get a glimpse of one.

Recently on Facebook I noticed there had been a few spotted in a lovely little place called 'Forest Farm' in Whitechurch, Cardiff. A great place and a haven to wildlife with some really good bird hides. We got comfortable in one of the hides and waited; whilst waiting we meet a lot of lovely people all eager to to get a glimpse of this beautiful bird.

A few other birds made an appearance, including a grey heron, green woodpecker and moorhens:

Grey Heron
Adult moorhen
Juvenile Moorhen

It must have been well over an hour before we got our reward, my partner Dan spotted it in the back of the pond. It was quite hard to see at first, with the orange breast blending into the reeds. But as soon as he started flying, with that striking blue, there was no way you could miss him.

The beautiful kingfisher at Forest Farm

Unfortunately, he was only around for about a minute and never returned when we were there. We didn't mind, we saw him and that was enough to make us smile!

I will definitely make Forest Farm one of my 'go to' birding places, it's great! Here are some of the other treats we saw:

Closeup of a Magpie from one of the hides
Great Tit

Not far from the education building we discovered this little patch of wild flowers; isn't beautiful? I would much rather see flowers like this than a well mowed lawn :)

Red tailed bumble bee collecting pollen from a cornflower.

Interesting Facts about Kingfishers:
  • Kingfishers nest in burrows in the river bank.
  • The kingfisher's feathers are not actually that colourful; the brilliant blue of the kingfisher’s back feathers are not the result of pigment, but the result of light striking specially modified layers of feather cells.
  • In Victorian times, many kingfishers were shot and stuffed to put in glass cases, while their feathers were widely used to adorn hats.

Sunday, 11 June 2017

Day 11 - The Goldfinch - 30 Days Wild 2017

Day 11: Star Species
Goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis)

Today I went searching for the bee orchid on the River Tawe, Swansea; I have seen it there, around this time, for the last few years. Unfortunately I couldn't find one this year but I was treated to a few goldfinches who were enjoying snacking on a dandelion. 

Such a beautiful bird, I was so inspired by it's colours I just had to paint it when I got home.

My watercolour painting of a goldfinch

More about them - The Goldfinch is without doubt one of the most beautiful finches in the UK. Quite small, with strikingly colours of red, white and black on the head, golden brown body and bright yellow wing bars.

Male and female birds are similar except that the male's red face extends slightly behind the eye. Juveniles are generally a dull brown with darker streaking on the body, and lack the red, black and white markings on the head.

A Juvenile goldfinch
Goldfinch eating the seeds of a dandelion

The goldfinch is primarily a vegetarian, feeding on seeds, thistles and teasels; but they will also take small insects such as aphidsIn the winter, they are regular garden visitors and enjoy niger seeds. They group together to form flocks of up to about 40 birds, occasionally more and a flock of Goldfinches is called a charm.

Interesting Facts:
  • In Victorian Britain goldfinches were trapped in large numbers to be used as a cage bird; this  caused the population to crash.
  • The collective name for goldfinches is called a charm - 'A charm of goldfinches' .
  • Many UK goldfinches migrate as far south as Spain. 

Saturday, 10 June 2017

Day 10 - The Mute Swan - 30 Days Wild 2017

Day 10: Star Species
Mute Swan (Cygnus olor)

Today we popped down to one of our local man-made lakes in Swansea - Fendrod. I had a bag of swan and duck feed in the car so thought I would see what waterfowl was there. There was quite a selection of breeds; mallard, coots, sparrows, swallows and a lot of mute swans.

What magnificent birds there are. Unfortunately, this time I couldn't see any cygnets. Last year there were quite a few little ones, including a few hitching a lift on mum's back...

Cygnets on the back of mum last year on Fendrod Lake

More about them - Mute swans are a familiar and impressive sight in Britain, often found on ponds and rivers in parks and other urban areas.

The mute swan is one of Britain's largest and heaviest waterbirds. Mostly white with a long S-shaped neck, and an orange bill. They have a wingspan of up to 2.4 metres, which can be intimidating when the males are threatened by intruders and protect their territory. They strike an aggressive pose with wings arched over they back, before charging at them and chasing them off.

The population in the UK has increased recently, perhaps due to better protection of this species. Locally there were a regular pair of swans that breed every year on the banks of the canal. Unfortunately, something happened this year and the pair vacated the nest whilst there were eggs there. No one really knew what had happened and it's sad we will not see cygnets on the canal this year. Below are some pictures of them from last year...

Interesting Facts:
  • Throughout history, the Swan has been featured in many Russian ballets and fairy tales including Swan Lake and The Ugly Duckling.
  • By tradition, all mute swans belong to the monarch; the Queen has a prerogative over all swans in England and Wales. 
  • Aristotle and Socrates believed that swans singing was heightened as death approaches, giving rise to the idea of the swan song.

Friday, 9 June 2017

Day 9 - The Rabbit - 30 Days Wild 2017

Day 9: Star Species
Wild Rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus)

This evening it finally stopped raining so we decided to stop by my local SSSi reserve; Crymlyn Burrows. I absolutely love this place, which is situated next to a very busy A road. Once you are there, amongst an array of unusual plants, mammals and birds, the traffic seems like miles away.

In the short time we were there we spotted: fox, green woodpeckers, long tailed tit, chaffinches and lots of rabbits. 

More about them - The rabbit are one of the UK's most commonest and most widespread mammals. They live in burrows, otherwise know as a warren. It can be found in a number of different habitats: grassland, cultivated land, woodland, farm land and coastal cliffs - infact anywhere it can breed and find food.

Wild rabbits live in large colonies and up to 200 individuals can be in one warren. They only live for approximately 18 months in the wild but can breed throughout the year. They can produce around 7 young each time and one  pair of rabbits can produce up to 1000 rabbits within a year.

Rabbits have many predators; stoat, fox, birds of prey and of course man. Their long ears are adapted for detecting nearby predators.

Skomer Island - I have been to Skomer Island in Pembrokeshire many times and the rabbits on the island always interest me. In the 13th Century rabbits were brought to the island where it was used as warren knowing the rabbits could not escape. Today, the burrows are shared between rabbits, puffins and the manx shearwater.

A pair of rabbits on Skomer Island

Interesting Facts:
  • Rabbits are not native to Britain; the Normans brought them here in the 12th century from Spain and South-West France. They were mainly used for fur and meat, but many escaped into the wild, eventually becoming one of our Nations' most common mammals. 
  • Rabbits re-swallow up to 80% of their faeces to use their food more efficiently (yuk!)

Thursday, 8 June 2017

Day 8 - The Shieldbug - 30 Days Wild 2017

Day 8: Star Species
Green Shield Bug (Palomena prasina)

This time every year my garden is full of these lovely bugs; they spent most of the time mating in bushes throughout the garden. I love watching them (that sounds odd, sorry) and taking pics of them, they are also fascinating creatures. 

More about them - Coming soon...

Shieldbug eggs

Interesting Facts:
  • It is often called the Green Stink Bug - it produces a foul smelling liquid when in danger and only has a few natural enemies.
  • They mate by contacting their rears together .
  • It's hard to tell the difference between the males and females
  • In Mexico they are eaten both live and cooked - their pungent odour gives a dish an aromatic flavour. (yuk!)

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Day 7 - My artwork - 30 Days Wild 2017

Day 7: A Blue Tit painting

Today is my sister's birthday; so I decided to paint her a picture of a blue tit. It is inspired by the fledglings in the garden and also the ones on Springwatch.

My artwork - I love painting and frequently get inspired from what I have seen in the natural world. My preferred medium is watercolour and pen; I love the way the colours blend into each other and get excited when happy mistakes happen.

Below are a few of my other pieces: