Southern Marsh Orchids

Southern Marsh Orchids

Sunday 31 August 2014

salmon at Radyr Weir

Out walking in the sunshine this afternoon and happened across the salmon leaping at Radyr Weir. Truly one of nature's wondrous events! Stayed for approx half hour watching as the salmon tried to negotiate the weir. Of the twenty or so that we saw make the attempt very few succeeded to continue the journey up-river, and we watched one struggling to maintain position half way up the weir only to be drift back down to try again.

I managed to grab a few photographs but they are a bit blurred!.


Thursday 28 August 2014

Garden visitors

Not a lot in the moth trap on Tuesday night but a number of interesting visitors in the garden.

Lots of spiders around, but this one caught the eye. I suspect it is a Walnut Orb Weaver and the white markings made it look quite sinister in the torchlight. it scurried away into the fencing when the flashlight hit it!

This ichneumon wasp was wandering around at the back of the garage and when photographing that I noticed the mating flies on the window frame. These don't look like the regular houseflies but show some similarities.

Tuesday 26 August 2014

A green-fruited Elder at Llantrisant

I actually spotted this last year, but thought it was worth a quick post now for its curiosity value!

All fruits of Elder (Sambucus nigra) of course start off green, but the ones on this bush at Llantrisant stay that way as they ripen, before shrivelling and/or going mouldy.
Fruits of the green-fruited Elder...
...and for comparison unripe fruits of the ordinary black-fruited Elder.
It seems to be uncommon (it's the first time I've come across it in 15 years of botanising), but must be easy to overlook – Stace (edition 3) says the fruits of Elder are “sometimes" greenish-yellow.

This taxon was previously referred to as a variety (going under various epithets including viridis, chlorocarpa, virescens and leucocarpa), but is now demoted to a mere form (viridis). As well as the colour of the ripe fruits, I think their translucent look helps to distinguish them from unripe fruits of normal elderberries. In the photo you can also see that the fruit-stalks aren't as strongly red-coloured.
And the taste test? They’re not bad, actually!

Cardiff coastal path

Two of the 28 spikes of Autumn Lady's Tresses found today along the Cardiff coastal path near the Water Treatment Works. This is the first time I've found them on the eastern side of the heliport. This is the only area where this species is known from in the Cardiff UA [per database].
Photo from iPhone. 

Sunday 24 August 2014

A Tiny Gem

Wandering around the forest above my house, this afternoon, I came across two of these little beauties, scurrying across the ride in one of the more open, heathy areas. The first one quickly disappeared into the vegetation, but this one was far more obliging, allowing me to get some decent photos.

Sermylassa halensis

A beautiful and distinctive, if diminutive, being only around 5-6mm long, Sermylassa halensis, has as its larval food plant, various members of the Bedstraw family, so in the case of the two I saw, they would be using Heath Bedstraw, which is quite common up there.There don't seem to be many records of it in Glamorgan, at least on MapMate.

I also photographed this wasp. I haven't been able to identify it, but it makes a nice photo nonetheless.

Saturday 23 August 2014

Marsh Frits and Cranberry

There seems to be something of a welcome revival with Marsh Frits on the NE side of Tonyrefail, with no less than 38 larval webs counted by Ben Williams and I yesterday. So it sounds like the dozen or so adults seen in June must have either been very busy or we somehow missed the peak activity. Also Cranberry is much in evidence along the sphagnum filled ditches and berries should be fully ripened next month. We're trying to find some way of getting cattle to graze some of the ranker parts to hopefully avoid worst of winter grass fires.

Wednesday 20 August 2014

Scorpion Fly in the house - take 2

hi Dave

Couldn't see an option to add an image in a 'reply' so ....

Looked at my other images for a clearer view of the genital capsule. This was the best I had and it does look as though the hypovalves match those of Panorpa cognata. Thanks for the pointer.


Monday 18 August 2014

Scorpion Fly in the house

Having seen my first ever Scorpion Fly last week, one flew into the kitchen on Saturday ... male this time! Easy to see how they got their name.


Friday 8 August 2014

Spotted crane fly at Forest Farm

Lunchtime stroll around Forest Farm today and stumbled across these - almost stepped on the crane fly!
Having never seen one of these before, I have been scanning images on the internet and now assume it to be a Spotted Crane fly.

Further down the path I spotted this, which following the same process as above I assume to be a Scorpion Fly. It flew away before I had a chance to grab any other shots.

I would be grateful for confirmation of these IDs. Amazing what you can find when you're not looking for them!


Thursday 7 August 2014


I have a few plum trees in my garden, which are especially susceptible to very heavy aphid infestations, and this year seems worse than usual.  They don't seem to affect the yield of fruit very much so I am pretty tolerant and make no effort to get rid of them.  If you have a passing interest in insects, one of the benefits of having such trees is that it attracts lots of insects.  Lots and lots of insects!

Many are attracted to the sticky honeydew waste product exudate from the aphids, which is so abundant that it has coated the leaves with a whitish sheen.

Ants, social wasps, parasitic wasps, Blue-bottles, Green-bottles, flesh flies, Sawflies and Hovers (amongst others!) are almost falling over each other to hoover up sugar from the surface of the leaves.

Other insects are attracted to the aphids themselves as a food source rather than the nectar, and home in on the smell of the aphids and the chemical defences that the tree employs in order to protect itself.  Two-spot and Harlequin Ladybirds are wandering across the leaves, leisurely munching through their quarry, and egg-laying as they go.
Harlequin Ladybird larva
A couple of weeks ago there were many, possibly hundreds of the migrant hoverflies Episyrphus balteatus and few Scaeva pyrastri buzzing around the tree for a few days, but they disappeared almost overnight, presumably leaving behind eggs.  A quick look at a leaf under the microscope (see below) shows how densely the aphids have colonised the leaves. If you look closely you will also see several yellowy-orange waxy looking larvae which were feeding enthusiastically on aphids.

I wonder if these are the larvae of E balteatus at the beginning of their life-cycle?  I'll have to wait to find out because I can't find any early life-cycle pics of the larvae.

The most abundant insects right now are probably social wasps, possibly Vespula vulgaris or Vespula germanica.  These species are predated upon in the nest by one of the largest UK hoverflies, Volucella zonaria, which is expanding its range in the UK.  I took the specimen in the pic below yesterday.  There are not many records from Wales, although I suspect it is likely to be pretty widespread along the warmer and drier coastal corridor. See: zonaria is a spectacularly large hornet mimic, (about an inch long) and by coincidence one was feeding on the tree yesterday.  I've photo'd it alongside an Eristalsis pertinax, which I'd normally consider one of the larger hovers to give you an idea of the size.

V zonaria and Eristalsis pertinax
Also present (that I managed to get a reasonable photo of!) was the solitary wasp Ectemnius sp.  At least I think that's what it is!

Ectemnius sp
And this parasitic wasp, which looks like a Pimpla sp.  If anyone knows what it is I'd be grateful to hear!

And here's a Scaeva Pyrastri from today (Friday).  The thorax is shiny enough to reflect the background of you look closely!

Friday 1 August 2014


Yesterday (31 July) I snatched an hour from work to visit Blaencanaid forest ponds, S.West of Methyr Tydfil. There wasn't much about, apart from a few Willow Warblers and Chiff Chaffs calling from the scrub.
A stunningly fresh Painted Lady was a nice surprise, as was the hoverfly Scaeva pyrastri.

Inspecting the flowers of some Angelica which was growing alongside the forest ride, I notices a large weevil on a Rosebay Willowherb flower stem and clambering up the embankment to get a closer look, I could see it was distinctively marked. I believe it to be Hylobius abietis, a species that feeds within dying pine and spruce trees, which would explain its presence up there.

I had hoped to look for some dragonflies, but time ran out and rain was sweeping in rapidly from the S.West.