23 Jun 2013

Pollinating Insects, Orchid Counting and Bats

Ardd Fotaneg · Botanic Garden

This week we were pleased to welcome students, Lee, Chris, Shania and Sian from Swansea Metropolitan University, a new Garden Volunteer, Hannah Jones, and a student from Aberyswyth University, Simon Jones.  The previous Friday Howard, Michael and Simon had started on the Butterfly Orchid count.  But they had found so many that they had run out of sticks to mark out the counting areas.  So the plan today was to split up with Howard and Michael in charge of the count, together with Hannah, Simon, Lee and Shania.  And the rest of us, myself, Jan, Chris and Sian heading for the Double-Walled Garden, the slate beds and meadow below the Great Glasshouse.  John, our intrepid photographer, joined both groups and you can see the results below.

Some plant species are daylight dependent, some temperature dependent. Butterfly Orchids definitely seem to fall into the first category and we had found a lot of them on the top Hay meadow in Waun Las last month. Indeed the hope was that we could also count them after finishing with the meadow.  However, there were so many in this meadow – 233 and still counting – that this didn’t happen and there are plans to continue the meadow count this Saturday.

Other Orchids that were noted, both in that meadow and in the one below the Great Glasshouse, are the Common Spotted and the Southern Marsh.  The latter is amazingly abundant this year on the main road along the verge near the roundabout leading to the National Wetlands Centre in Llanelli and we expect a lot more in the Garden.

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Three years ago at a Bumblebee day in the Garden we found a solitary Tree Bumblebee, the first time it had been found this far west.  But despite careful searching since then, especially in the Slate beds – it liked the blue Geraniums – none had been spotted – until today in the Double-Walled Garden. Unfortunately we were not able to get a photo and when John and I went back to search for it later we couldn’t find it.  Nevertheless it was very pleasing see a much greater number of pollinating insects, especially the Honeybees, Bumblebees and Hoverflies and lots of Early Bumblebees, Buff-tail, White-tail, Red-tail, the Common Carder and maybe the Garden.  The previous week both here and elsewhere they had all been noticeable by their scarcity and most of them were probably new-brood workers.  It was fascinating to see the different coloured pollen collected by them, depending on their preferred flowers. As for the Honey bees there are now 6 hives active in the Bee Corner.  The moth in the photo is the Common White Wave.

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Along the paths above the slate beds there were many wild flowers, and a few garden escapees like the Irises.  Common Bistort was still much in evidence and a few Common Spotted and Marsh Orchids.  Many more have since sprouted, even on the grassy mounds surrounding the Great Glasshouse itself.  And it was great to see the Common Blue Butterflies, both male and female.  Last year I didn’t see any.

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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. And if you click on the Wildlife Walks heading on the left-hand side under News you will see a list of the last 10 Wildlife Walk blogs.

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A postscript to this walk is provided by the Bat Count, which took place after the midsummer concert on Sat 22nd June.  Last year it had to be abandoned as it was  pouring with rain and the Science students did it later by themselves.  This year, although cool and windy, the rain held off.  So, just after 9.30pm together with two of our Science students I stood outside the corner of the Stable block where the bats emerged and waited.  If it had been warmer they would no doubt have been very eager to get out, but not tonight.  However, it is a maternity roost and the mothers can’t afford not to feed, so after a bit of chat, picked up by our bat detector, they started to emerge.

Staring up at a hole and waiting like this is not that easy, blink, turn away and you miss a bat.  So we were pleased to be joined by Janice Jones, from Swansea Astronomical Society who, last year had introduced us to a member of the band, Richard Crompton, who is best described as ‘Mr. Bat Wales’.  Janice took the bat detector and went off to wander around the Garden to see what other bats she could find and Richard joined us as soon as the concert finished.  He had some of the latest equipment and was able to record the echo location of one of the bats as it emerged.  Definitely a Common Pipistrelle, as we had expected.  And around the Garden Janice almost certainly detected Daubenton bats skimming over the lakes and possibly some Soprano Pipistrelles in the Double-Walled Garden.

This year the bats numbered just 61, way down on previous counts.  This may well reflect the cold weather and late Spring, though it is always possible that they have moved elsewhere.  Richard is hoping to come back, if not this year then next, and do a proper bat evening around the Garden, with recording equipment and nets to catch and identify them.  Something to look forward to.