2 May 2013

The more you look the more you see

Ardd Fotaneg · Botanic Garden

A few years ago a student gathered together the Garden species data that had been collected over the years and put them into a spread sheet.  This data represented both ‘proper’ surveys and observations made by individuals on an essentially ad hoc basis.  Some areas are more complete than others but it is obvious from just looking at the bird section that there is much to do.  Thus, we can add Kingfisher, Red Kite, Long-tailed Tit, Raven, Canada Geese, Wheatear, Barn Owl and Tufted Duck to the list already.  And in the mammal section there is no mention of Fox, Fallow Deer, Polecat, Hare, Weasel, Stoat or any Voles

But as we wandered around a small section of the Garden on yet another dry day – and sunny, almost warm – it soon becomes apparent how much there is to see and record.  These walks can only act as pointers to where to look and what to look for.  And the more eyes and ears there are the better.  This week there were seven of us and we set out along the path towards the North Lodge.  This is where Jan and Keith have set up some Dormouse tubes and it was almost exciting to find that one of them had the beginnings of a nest.  It could be Dormouse or Wood Mouse – we shall see. Nearby and slightly puzzling was a tree covered with ivy with lots of berries.  Why, during such a long, hard winter, had these been ignored by the birds?

The previous day Bruce and I had seen the first male Orange Tip near Spring Woods and we saw another couple of white butterflies along this stretch and into the meadow.  Possible a female Orange Tip – they don’t have the orange tip and look rather like a Small White.  The other butterfly was almost certainly a Large White.

Moving into the meadow and down towards the huge fallen beech where we found the TurkeyTails and other fungi, we made another discovery.  A huge Hornets nest and one of the communication radios that the Garden uses!  This would appear to be the site where a young lad had been stung last summer – and dropped the radio whilst escaping.  The photo doesn’t give a true sense of the size of the nest.  Each cell is probably around a centimetre or more wide and the whole must be more than 40 centimetres.

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Perhaps the most noticeable feature of this walk, especially at the start, was the sheer volume and variety of bird song.  And just beyond the beech trunk we heard a Whitethroat, a summer visitor with an interesting scratchy song which John proceeded to play on his Android phone.  The live bird responded so we knew we had correctly identified it.  Apparently a similar thing had happened the previous week when a Blackcap was subjected to the same provocation and flew around madly trying to find the intruder.  So, if you think you know what bird you are hearing, play it on your phone and see if it responds!

And on the ground, Spiders.  Little ones, scurrying around which we eventually managed to capture and photograph.  Unfortunately none of us are expert enough to identify them.  Suggestions have been Wolf Spider, Nursery Web Spider and Grass Spider.  They were small, no more than a couple of centimetres.  So if anyone has any suggestions let us know.

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Down by the entrance to Waun Las we stopped for quite a while watching a solitary Grey Wagtail bobbing and flitting around after insects.  We suspect that it’s mate was on a nest in the bank.  And up in the trees we saw nest box 305 being used by a pair of Blue Tits and another box was being utilised by Great Tits.  No sign of the Dipper this week, but the Willow Warblers were still around.

And of course, everywhere we went we were beginning to see the Spring flowers really blooming.  Dandelions and Lesser Celandine everywhere, Stichwort and Ladies Smock and a stunning display of Wood Anemones in the Welsh Country Walk wood.  The beautiful Devil’s Matchstick lichen was on the big oak stump in the middle of the meadow and usually only grows between one and three centimetres in height.  All lichens are actually two organisms working together: a fungus and an algae in a symbiotic relationship.

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Back into the Great Glasshouse to see how the House Sparrows are doing.  Lots of activity to and from the ivy banks where they have their nests.  Then on to the restaurant for tea and lunch.

Thanks to John James for his photos and if any volunteer or member is interested in joining us, or even starting something similar on a different day, then send an email to Colin Miles – also if you see or photograph anything exciting in the Garden.  If you click on any of the images in these blogs, or anywhere else you will see a larger picture.