Southern Marsh Orchids

Southern Marsh Orchids

Saturday 25 January 2014

Spiders again

I was in the grounds of Llandaff cathedral this morning, and as the temperature was relatively warm for the time of year, I thought I would have a look for spiders.  Primarily I wanted to have a look for Segestria florentina, a species which favours port towns and is increasing its range, but has not yet been seen as far west as Cardiff .  I didn't find Segestria unfortunately, but there were several of this species, Amaurobius similis, both adult males and females.
Amaurobius similis
Both A similis and S florentina often make their homes in holes in crumbling mortar making churches and churchyard walls a good place to look for them.  Their retreats are silk-lined tubes and in the case of A similis have a scruffy layer of cribellate silk radiating out from them in the immediate vicinity of the entrance.  This silk often contains the remains of previous meals which can give an idea of what they are feeding on.  The silk is used by the spider to warn them of an approaching meal as the strands are pulled and plucked by unwary insects.  Because they inhabit silk-lined tubes, some creativity is needed to lure them out into the daylight to find out which species you have.  A tuning fork is very effective in simulating the vibrations of an insect, as is an electric toothbrush apparently though I have not tried the latter.  The tuning fork elicits a lightning-fast and aggressive feeding response from the spider so it's probably good advice to keep fingers out of the way! 

There was a TV crew filming in the Cathedral this morning and I can tell you with some certainty that  kneeling next to a wall holding a tuning fork gets some very curious looks!

 A similis is a very common species, as can be seen from the Spider Recording Scheme map below.  Although there are few records from Glamorgan, I would be very surprised if this species is not quite common and widely distributed here too.

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

Friday 24 January 2014

S.E Wales Joint Recorders' Forum and 10th Anniversary.

I would think that most readers of this site are aware of this, but Just in case.

This year marks the SEWBReC's tenth anniversary and to mark this, they are holding a joint Glamorgan/Gwent recorders' forum and tenth anniversary celebration on Saturday 22nd February, at the Soar Centre, in Pen-y-Graig, Rhondda. There will be a full range of talks on various aspects of great Welsh wildlife and there will be free lunch and a celebratory cake.
Booking is required

Thursday 23 January 2014

Odonata Records 2013

Request from Mike Powell CR VC41. Could all observers with outstanding records for Dragonflies/Damselflies 2013, please forward their records asap to Mike. Please see VC41 Dragons Blog for contact details - Link on sidebar. Thank you.

Sunday 19 January 2014

Thursday 16 January 2014


As a follow up to my post about Morlais quarries, I have now identified the rust fungus that was so abundant on the leaves of Salad Burnet (Sanguisorba minor). It is Phragmidium sanguisorbae, but as to its status, this NBN dot map gives an idea, but as with all these under recorded organisms I doubt if it gives a particularly accurate idea of its true status. As always with these things, I suppose it is common where the host plant grows.

Tuesday 14 January 2014

Glamorgan Botany Group excursions

A report on the Glam Bot Group's five excursions made during 2013 is available on the BSBI website at the following link:

To my shame I failed to attend any of the meetings this year, though I fully intend to rectify this in 2014.


Thursday 9 January 2014

Distinctive Lichen

With a bit of reasonably dry weather today, I took the opportunity to pay a visit to the old limestone quarries below Morlais quarries, just north of Merthyr Tydfil. I was there a couple of weeks ago, but that time I was with Mike Hogan, visiting a cave to count hibernating moths. This time I wanted to check on a distinctive and relatively uncommon, foliose lichen called Peltigera leucophlebia. I first found it growing there several years ago and as it is the only site I know for it in

Glamorgan, I like to keep an eye on it. It is quite a large, leafy lichen; bright green, with pale undersides to the thallus and those tell-tale blackish, raised cephalodia. P. leucophlebia is only to be found in calcareous situations and there is a very similar Peltigera: P. britannica, which is only found in acid situations in uplands. The cephalodia of P. britannica can be easily scratched off, leaving a pale scar, but those of P. leucophlebia cannot be easily removed.
Although the quarries are quite extensive, this lichen only grows in parts of the upper tiers of the middle and upper branches of the quarries, usually amongst slightly taller vegetation on the areas that are less grazed by sheep. I was encouraged to find it to be even more abundant on some areas I haven't checked before.

While there I also came across this local crustose lichen: Gyalecta jenensis, which has distinctive orange centred apothecia. It is often found in growing along cracks and fissures in the vertical faces of the limestone and commonly colonises mosses already growing there.

Gyalecta jenensis, probably on what was formerly a small clump of

Caught in the act of colonising a moss

This rust fungus was quite abundant on the Salad Burnett up there. When I get the chance, I'll drag the microscope out and identify it.

Monday 6 January 2014

Another spider

I picked up another spider a few days ago.  This one was living amongst the strandline debris on the beach immediately in front of Aberthaw power station.  An unusual habitat for a spider!

It turned out to be the Linyphiid or Money spider Halorates reprobus.  It is an interesting species in that Britain is the centre of the population; apparently there are relatively few records from continental Europe.  In Britain it is widespread around the coast but thinly distributed.  The Spider Recording Scheme data suggests few previous records of this species from Glamorgan:

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

It is a relatively small spider at approx 3mm long.  Too small in fact for my camera to get a reasonable pic of it.  If anyone wants to have a look there are some pics here.  

It will be interesting to see if the population at Aberthaw is still there in a few months time after the storms have finished lashing the coast!

Friday 3 January 2014

Coconut Surprise

Having mentioned the coconut I found washed up at Kenfig two or three years ago, I hope you don't mind me posting some photos of it here. Before setting sail for these shores it seems to have spent some time on the ground, where it got bored into by creatures unknown and the husk may have started decaying.

Note the small holes. 

Viewed from the base, through a hole in the husk can be seen the
nut, with a Serpulid worm tube.

The nut seen through the three holes at the top of the husk.

I believe all the above features qualify this as a true ocean traveller.

Thursday 2 January 2014

Tegenaria agrestis

Whilst out on the obligatory Boxing Day stroll I spotted a spider from the Tegenaria family that was lurking under a stone in a nearby abandoned quarry.  There are about 10 species of Tegenaria found in Britain, and they include the big scary hairy House Spiders that seem very fond of arachnophobes in the autumn when they move indoors to escape the inclement weather.  They are quite distinctive looking as a groups, but like many spiders are impossible to separate on the basis of pattern or colour.  It is necessary to look at the male palps or the female epigyne under a microscope.

This one was not one of the commoner species such as the familiar House Spider, but Tegenaria agrestis.

It was first recorded in Britain in 1949 and prefers disturbed brownfield habitats.  It is a widespread European species and has a wide but patchy distribution across  much of England but there are comparatively few records from Wales.  Glamorgan records are restricted to a couple of sites to the West of VC41.  It is thought to spread along railway lines, using the track-side ballast as an ideal habitat.  Sure enough, the abandoned quarry south of Rhoose village is less than a hundred metres from the Aberdare to Bridgend line that services Aberthaw power station.  It is quite likely to be present in other areas of suitable habitat along the railway corridor I guess.

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

Wednesday 1 January 2014


While out for a couple of hours yesterday afternoon, I was rooting about in the damp woodland bordering a long disused railway line, at the top of my village (Cwmbach), looking for things to photograph. I'd gone there to get a better photo of this specimen of the beautiful blue, resupinate fungus Pulchericium caeruleum (Terana caerulea) but found the stem it was on had been blown down into a stream and the fungus was in a very poor state.

Robbed of that particular opportunity, I went for a general forage and while examining one of the old wooden railway fence posts I noticed these tiny Springtails.

Entomobrya multifasciata
Dicyrtomina saundersi

Using a simple online key to Dutch  Springtails,   I have tentatively identified them as Entomobrya multifasciata and the globular springtail Dicyrtomina saundersi, which was on a nearby bramble leaf. They were minute and extremely difficult to photograph, pushing the abilities of my macro set up a little beyond its limits. I find Springails fascinating and there aren't too many of them, so it is possible to identify most of them.