Southern Marsh Orchids

Southern Marsh Orchids

Tuesday 29 October 2013

Great Burnet in Cardiff

I was surprised to see this flowering plant of Great Burnet Sanguisorba officinalis growing by the Taff Trail in Gabalfa, Cardiff at the weekend. I've walked and cycled past this spot countless times over the last few years and never noticed the plant before - my guess is that it has been there all along but that the flower heads are usually mown off before it has chance to flower. Perhaps the mild autumn this year has encouraged a late flowering and enabled it to escape the council strimmers?


The Flora of Glamorgan (1994) says that this species occurs on damp grasslands, river banks and cliff ledges, and is common in the uplands but very local in the Vale. Cardiff isn't mentioned, but the distribution map does show an isolated post-1960 dot in the 5x5km square to the south of Gabalfa.

There's no evidence of it having been planted and I assume it is a relic of the floodplain grassland flora which occurred here in the past. Meadowsweet and Pignut occur nearby and are perhaps also survivors from a time when this area was less urban.

Late butterflies

Tony Messenger reports (via Richard Smith) that there were 8 species of butterfly at Lavernock Point on Friday 25th October - an impressive total for the time of year (I've only seen Red Admirals of late). The highlight was 3 Clouded Yellows, one of which was a female of the pale Helice form.

Apparently the first Clouded Yellow seen at Lavernock this year was on 2nd August, and singletons have been seen most weeks since. This species has certainly had a good year - I saw one in Monmouthshire in August and several on Gower in September.

Clouded Yellow at Forest Farm
(photo: 'Bob Fleming's Wildlife Garden')

Monday 21 October 2013

Biodiversity offsetting

This article on the invertebrate charity Buglife's approach to Biodiversity offsetting on the Woodland Trusts blog is well worth a read if you have a moment.  See As are the other articles on the blog.

In a nutshell, it is a new approach that would allow a developer to go ahead with a scheme provided they paid into a central fund that would be used to compensate for the loss of habitat by enhancing or recreating habitat elsewhere.  That's a simple summary of a very complex situation, for example ancient woodland by it's very nature cannot be recreated, (which Defra have recognised apparently) but some brownfield sites potentially could be.  I can see advantages and disadvantages, and as it is one of the big new things Defra are promoting (along with the Ecosystem Services concept) it's worth keeping abreast of it. 

It's also worth noting that the Vale Council's Draft LDP identifies a number of brownfield sites for development, notably quite large areas of land in Barry Docks.

Sunday 20 October 2013

Linyphia triangularis

Money spiders are a species-rich and difficult group that I've never tackled seriously, but Linyphia triangularis is one of the few readily identifiable species, being quite large (for a money spider) and having a distinctive tuning fork mark on the carapace.

I found a female on our garden Olive bush today, resting upside down in a horizontal web. Apparently the species is ubiquitous on stiff-leaved bushes, so the Olive is probably an ideal plant for it.

I didn't get a photo but there are some good ones on the Eurospiders website. Mine was a dark specimen very similar to the second one illustrated.

Bloody-nosed Beetle

A breezy but pleasant stroll in the afternoon sunshine along the coast at Gileston turned up this very distinctive beetle lurking under a stone.  
 Bloody-nosed Beetle (Timarcha tenebricosa)

It is a Bloody-nosed Beetle, one of the largest of the Leaf Beetles (Chrysomelid) beetles in the UK; this one was just a little short of an inch long.  It is apparently quite common, although I have not seen many before, but it does seem to have a strongly coastal distribution in Wales at least.  The larvae feed on Bedstraws and Cleavers

Like many insects it not only uses its strong exoskeleton for defence, but also has chemical weapons in its arsenal.  The common name is a bit of a hint here!  If you gently breathe on the beetle it instantaneously triggers the production of a red irritant liquid from the mouthparts which you can clearly see in the pic below.

Saturday 19 October 2013

Any ideas?

                                This 1cm long pupa was found on the underside of
                                a Beech leaf in Dunraven gardens yesterday. There
                                were a few Harlequin ladybirds in the ice tower also.

Friday 18 October 2013

Hawthorn Shieldbug

I've not seen many Shieldbugs this year, the only others being a single Bishop's Mitre and a few Green Shieldbugs.  I spotted this one in the garden yesterday, funnily enough not far from a Hawthorn hedge.

Hawthorn Shield Bug (Acanthosoma haemorrhoidale)
They are unremarkable creatures from a distance, but as with many insects if they are seen close-up the texture and colours can be stunning.  Hawthorn Shieldbugs can be separated from the similar looking Birch Shieldbug (Elasthomus interstinctus)  by their larger size, and the fact that the 'shoulders' (the pronotum) stick out much further.

Unlike many other insect groups, many shieldbugs are easily identifiable without specialist equipment and keys though a x10 hand lens is sometimes useful.  The laminated fold-out AIDGAP Guide to the Shieldbugs of the British Isles produced by the FSC is a good place to start at a very modest cost if you are interested!

This is a reasonably common species I believe, although there are comparatively few records from Wales on the NBN Gateway:
Distribution of Acanthosoma haemorrhoidale in the UK according to records accessible through the NBN Gateway
Hawthorn Shieldbug

Source: NBN Gateway

Sunday 13 October 2013

Odiellus spinosus

Odiellus spinosus is Britain's largest harvestman.  The body of females can be up to 11mm long, although there are smaller-bodied species with much longer legs.  The specimen in the photo below was in my garden a few days ago.
Odiellus spinosus

Close-up of the trident

It is quite a distinctive species (for a harvestman!); the best pointers for id are the overall size, the sharply truncated saddle (the darker band running along the dorsal surface of the body), presence of the spiny armature and most distinctively the prominent forward pointing trident on the anterior of the body.

The distribution of O spinosus is strongly skewed to the SE of England.  I am aware of other recent records in Glamorgan, so it may be expanding its range.  It would be interesting to hear if readers of this blog find new records of this relatively distinctive species in Glamorgan.

Source: Spider Recording Scheme/British Arachnological Society (2012) Website and on-line database facility

It was life Jim, but not as we know it!

A different sort of natural history, but this is a photo of an Icthyosaur tooth that I found back in the summer.  It was poking out of a chunk of Jurassic limestone (Blue Lias formation) on Rhoose Point which gives it a hard to comprehend age of between 195 and 200 million years.

At that point in time the rock in which is embedded would have been somewhat nearer the equator under a warm tropical sea.  Europe and North America were joined forming the continent of Laurasia.  The earliest mammals were evolving on land.

The detail visible on the tooth is quite remarkable, it is possible to see different patterns of wear on the striations on opposite sides of the tooth, and internally the enamel is clearly differentiated from the core of the tooth, together with what looks like a perfectly circular nerve canal.

Saturday 12 October 2013

Another Slime Mould

A week ago, today, while doing a thrush survey near Mountain Ash, I had to climb up through a beech plantation and was stunned by the number and variety of the fungi growing there, most of which I couldn't identify, but forming a dull grey patch on a rotting log was a beautiful slime mould, with translucent white tentacle-like growths. I'm pretty sure it is a Ceratiomyxa and may be C. fruticulosa, but I'm not 100% certain.

Ceratiomyxa fruticulosa?

Fungi etc.

I spent an enjoyable couple of hours down at Coed Y Bedw on thursday - plenty of amazing fungi about. I admit to knowing next to nothing about fungi but they're certainly pretty abundant at the moment. I believe this one is stag's horn fungus Xylaria hypoxylon?
I don't know whether I'd describe the next one as attractive or not but it's certainly striking. Not technically a fungus but a myxomycete or slime mold. I think it is Fuligo septica or charmingly known as dog's vomit slime mold...
There were also plenty of the more 'traditional' toadstool-type fungi but I don't know the name of this one - can anyone point me in the right direction please? It was frequent at Coed Y Bedw:

Friday 11 October 2013

Ta da!

Thanks for your patience.  After a quick bit of research it looks like I need to add people as 'authors' before you will be able to add posts.  To do that I will need an email address from you, the one you use to log into Google blogger.

 If you want to send me an address I will be very happy to add you to the list.  I will treat it with confidentiality.  Can you send them on to me at amantell20(at)gmail(dot)com please?

Apologies once again for any frustration this has caused.



Thursday 10 October 2013

Posting on this blog

Dear all,

Apologies to anyone who has tried to add posts to this blog but has found they are unable to.  I'm not sure why that is happening, but I will look into it over the weekend and hopefully sort the problem out.  I thought I had set the access controls to allow anyone to post but obviously that hasn't worked properly.  If anyone has any words of wisdom on what might be wrong please add a comment below or email me on amantell20(at)gmail(dot)com. 
This is me.  Only I'm better looking.
 I will pop another post up once things are working as they should.


Monday 7 October 2013

Geotrupes stercorarius. Ermmm, no it isn't!

Stop Press! - thanks go to Steve Bolchover for looking at these photos for me and identifying this beetle as Geotrupes spiniger rather than G stecorarius, and also to George for querying the id originally.  However spiniger does appear to be significantly less frequently recorded in Glamorgan with only two previous records in Mapmate, and none on the NBN Gateway.

Another large beetle arrived in the moth trap last night, Geotrupes stercorarius, commonly known as a Dor Beetle.  There are 29 previous records of this species from Glamorgan (in Mapmate).  The only other one I have seen was funnily enough on the 6th of October 2012.

They are big, solid beetles that always seem very dozy.  It seems hard to imagine that they have enough energy to get airborne, yet nonetheless they do.  The notched and widened legs are used for burying underneath piles of dung where they create a tunnel and a larder for egg laying.

Like many beetles they often infested with small troops of mites.  I'm not sure if these are parasitic or harmless.  If anyone knows do please tell me!

Sunday 6 October 2013

Colletes hederae at Barry Island

I was at Barry Island today and noticed the colony of the 'Ivy bee', Colletes hederae, which I found here last year, is going strong, with plenty of adults active around burrows in the sandy soil at the back of the promenade.
Colletes hederae
Colletes hederae burrows
This bee only colonised Britain in 2001, but has already spread across much of southern England. Ian Tew has found it on Gower and at Porthcawl, see:
Apart from the colony at Barry there are no other known colonies in Wales to the east of Porthcawl, but there must be others out there. It is unusual for a solitary bee in being active so late in the year, as it specialises in taking pollen from Ivy flowers. It is also quite large and with obvious stripes on the abdomen, and hence is quite easy to recognise. BWARS have a mapping scheme for this species which includes a distribution map:

They would be delighted to receive any further Welsh records.

Migrant moth influx

We've recently see a large influx of moths into the UK from continental Europe.  The best County sightings are here and here, in the west of Glamorgan.  We've also had some in the east of the County, and last night this Vestal Moth arrived in my garden.

The colours of Vestal moths are influenced by the temperature at which the larvae developed.  Larvae from hot areas are brighter in colour with a strong pink or red cross-line on the wing.  Duller colours and a faded looking brown cross-line mean cooler temperatures so it is likely this individual came from further north in Europe.

Radar studies have shown that some Lepidoptera like Painted Lady butterflies and Silver Y moths migrate into the British Isles each year as temperatures warm up in the summer, and then move south again as autumn arrives.  It is likely that smaller species are simply caught up in turbulent air currents and can be carried very long distances. 

Necrodes littoralis

If you run a moth trap you will know that other taxa are regularly attracted to lights as well as moths.  Caddis/Dipteran flies and wasps are all common visitors.  Barry Stewart has recently found a RDBK hemipteran bug in the west of the County (see here), and I found a less rare but nonetheless interesting species in my trap recently, the Shore Burying Beetle (Necrodes littoralis).  There are about 35 historic county records for this species all but two of which are from moth traps.
Necrodes littoralis - Rhoose Point 4/10/13
It is a species which favours coastal locations although it is sometimes found inland.  They apparently favour larger carcasses than the similar looking Sexton Beetle (Nicrophorus humator) which buries smaller carcasses.  The strongly ribbed elytra with a raised kink at two thirds and the absence of clubbed antennae easily differentiate Necrodes littoralis from Nicrophorus humator.

Because of their unsavoury feeding habits you are advised to take care if you ever handle one.  They also give off a rather malodorous stench!

Friday 4 October 2013

Zygiella x-notata

This little chap (or lady I should say) goes by the rather wonderful name of Zygiella x-notata.  It is pretty widespread in the UK apart from the far north, and will be familiar to some people as the spider that sits in the corner of window frames.  It is a highly synanthropic (associated with human environments) species.  If you have a look at the corners of your own windows, the is a very good chance that you will have several of these making a good living in their chosen habitat.

This is an example of the silken spinning that the spider uses as a refuge and sits in to wait for prey:

It lays its egg sacs wrapped in yellow silk on hard surfaces in the autumn, and the spiderlings will hatch out in the spring.  If you look closely there is a spider in there too!

Zygiella x-notata egg sacs

 The spider recording scheme shows few records for Glamorgan, but I have seen these in a number of locations including Cardiff, Barry and Rhoose, so I am pretty confident they are in fact quite widely distributed.

Source: Spider Recording Scheme/British Arachnological Society (2012) Website and on-line database facility

Thursday 3 October 2013

Vale Council LDP

The Vale Council have just released the latest version of their Local Development Plan.  The LDP is a critical planning document that sets out a range of policies and the locations of major developments for years to come.  I've had a quick look and picked up that the Vision and Objectives set out in the report make no mention of biodiversity (unless I've missed it!).  It also promotes development of a number of brownfield sites and I wonder how well understood they are from an ecological point of view, as such sites often support a plethora of rare invertebrates. 

If anyone is interested in commenting, there are drop-in sessions organised as follows:

  • Monday 7 October (Paget Rooms, Penarth)
  • Thursday 10 October (Dock offices, Barry)
  • Monday 14 October (Lesser Hall, Town Hall, Cowbridge)
  • Tuesday 15 October (Old School, Llantwit Major)
  • Tuesday 22 October (Gathering Place, St. Athan) 
The report itself is at

 It is also important to note that this is apparently an 'informal' consultation; the official public consultation will not begin until after it has been through various committees within the Council, probably later this month or early next.

Wednesday 2 October 2013

Nelima gothica in Barry

I found a Harvestman which turned out to be Nelima Gothica in the garden of the house I am renovating in Barry.  According to Hillyard's excellent Synopsis of Harvestmen it appears to have a preference for the coast.The easiest diagnostic feature for this species are the rows of black spicules and spines running front to back along each side of the top of the ocularium.
Poss Nelima gothica
Credit:David Blackledge

According to both the Spider Recording Scheme and the NBN Gateway there are few records of this species from Glamorgan.  Like many other arachnids it is likely to be under-recorded; I also found it in my garden at home in 2012.

Acknowledgement: Spider Recording Scheme/British Arachnological Society (2012) Website and on-line database facility
Permalink: Link

Tuesday 1 October 2013

Vale Council biodiversity seminar on 10th Oct

I spotted in the Barry Gem last week that the Vale Council will be holding a seminar on Biodiversity in the Council Chamber, Civic Offices on Holton Rd in Barry on 10th Oct.  Apparently the RSPB, SWWWT and the the Council's ecologists will be attending.  I don't think I will be able to make it, but just wanted to flag this up in case anyone else is interested. 

It would be good to show a bit of support for this kind of initiative!

Places are limited, but you can reserve a seat by emailing

Small Coppers on the banks of the Ogmore

And I'm not referring to diminutive policemen!

A report in from Mike Clark of good numbers of Small Copper flying at Portobello House on the banks of the Rover Ogmore. 30 counted in less than 2 hours, with evidence of mating

Thanks Mike!

Lizard bonanza

While out for a stroll at Lanlay Meadows, Peterston-super-Ely, at the weekend Liz and I were most surprised to come across 16 Common Lizards in a short stretch of tall field margin vegetation. We counted 9 in a 5 metre stretch, mostly basking on dead leaves and some quite high off the ground, like this one:
Then about 20 metres further along the path there were 7 basking on a wooden bench (6 in the photo below and one further along the bench).

Interestingly all appeared to be juveniles, probably from last year, except for the single adult in the photo above.We didn't see any of this year's juveniles, which would still be very small and black at this time of year.

Although it was warm and sunny they allowed us to approach very closely and showed little inclination to scarper as they usually do. The whole spectacle reminded me of being on Madeira where there are lizards everywhere - I've never seen anything like it in this country.