20 Feb 2015

Amphibians and Reptiles

Colin Miles

Feb 10th 2015. Cloudy, cold and misty. As followers of Iolo Williams’ Great Welsh Parks programmes will have seen, one useful method of discovering what Reptiles and Amphibians there are around is to lay down corrugated tin sheets, or similar pieces of equipment. So as some of the outer sheds of the old Waun Las Farm buildings are due to come down anyway, we decided that we would try to salvage some of their corrugated tin sheets from that. But first we needed to actually look at what was there.

So to start with we all headed towards the entrance to Waun Las Farm, which is where we made our first discovery that day – in Llyn Canol. Namely the presence of Shoveller Ducks, two males and one female. Teal, Moorhens, Mallards, Little Grebe and Coots were also present.

At this stage we split up, some of us into Waun Las and the rest back into the Garden to observe the birds and any else they could find.

Huw had already indicated that some of the sheeting had been dislodged by last months gales. Inspecting these we decided that they weren’t really suitable – too mangled. We wanted the flat sheets still standing – but that needed equipment to remove and also to cut as they are too large.

The other big question is where to put these sheets? There are many other parts of Waun Las farm there are plenty of places to put our tin sheets, forthwith known as Refugia, provided that they are kept out of the way of the Sheep, Cattle and Public. Meanwhile, the rest of the gang were monitoring the bird activity of which the biggest mystery happened after lunch as we came across this large, very fluffy feather on the floor under the Education Bat entrance. It looks extremely Owl-like, but is far too large for any of our native Owls. Was it left over from an Eagle Owl at the Birds of Prey demonstrations, or perhaps an escapee from a ladies hat?

Feb 10th: Anne’s list of birds seen around The Gardens – Robins (lots of!), Dunnock, Blackbirds, Song Thrush, Wren, Bullfinch – male, Great Tits, Blue Tits, Willow Tit, Marsh Tit, Pied Wagtail, Nuthatch, Jay, Raven, Sparrowhawk, Shoveler – 2 male 1 female, Teal, Little Grebe. Tufted Duck – 1 male, Canada Geese – 13 flying over, Mallard, Coot, Moorhen (lot).

Feb 16th: Not a Monday but Chris, John and myself had agreed to meet up and start demolishing and cutting up our Refugia, which we did very successfully – 22 sheets in all. And gained a very admiring flock of Sheep on the way.

Feb 17th: Again we split up with John, Chris, myself and Michael driving up to Farm buildings, later joined by Keith. Separating out 10 of the smaller Refugia, these were loaded into the car and we drove around to various places in the Garden, John numbering them using a red spray can. And as before the rest of the gang monitored the birds, this time attempting to count them. The differences in the 3 reports I then received bears testament to how difficult this can sometimes be! In addition, at the end of the morning, when Chris and I were driving down the back lane we saw a large bird slowly flapping it’s wings which we have not been able to identify. Definitely not a Red Kite as we saw one soon after and this bird seemed much larger!

Finally, it being a Tuesday the weather was fine and sunny, at least until we had finished, and the warmth of the sun perhaps explains the presence of a Hover Fly so early in the season. A final comment – Frog Spawn in the Great Glasshouse pool, or rather to the side of it out of reach of the fish. Will they survive?

Feb 17th: Weather sunny, slight breeze. The counts below are a combination of those recorded by Julian, Jan, Hazel and Anne.
On and around LLYN CANOL: Song thrush (singing), Mistle thrush (singing),Chaffinch (singing), Carrion crows 2, Robin 4, Blackbird (male), Jackdaw 1, Little Grebe 1, Shoveller (2 pairs), Moorhen 10, Teal 15, Great tit (singing), Mallard 6 drakes, Magpie (pair), Grey wagtail, Blackbird (female , bathing ), Grey Wagtail, Nuthatch, Siskin, Raven, Bullfinch, 3 Chaffinch, Dunnock, 3 Wren

In WAUN LAS 17 Jackdaw, 3 Carrion Crow, 2 Magpie, 1 Raven.

On and around LLYN UCHAF: Willow tit, Bullfinch (pair ), Nuthatch 1, Wren 3, Moorhen 10, Dunnock (singing), Buzzard 6 (calling and soaring overhead), Canada goose 6, Coot 1, Little grebe 1, Blue tit 1, Teal (pair ), 3 pairs Mallards + 1 Drake, Chaffinch, 2 Carrion Crows, Blackbird on bridge, Willow Tit

By STREAM AT MAIN GATE: Wren 1, Mallard (pair ), Goldcrest, Red Kite (overhead), 2 Wood Pigeons

BACK OF PLANT SALES: Goldfinch 2, Siskin 1, Meadow Pipit , Wood pigeon.

In DOUBLE WALLED GARDEN: 1 Crow, 4 Chaffinch, 1 House Sparrow, 1 Blackbird

In and around WALLACE GARDEN: 4 Chaffinch, 1 singing, 2 Robins, 1 singing, 1 Crow

Many thanks as always to John and Peter for their splendid photos. And if any volunteer or member wants to join us please send an email to Jane Down– you DON’T have to be an expert in anything, just interested. 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 Survey blogs. If you find an injured bird, hedgehog or other wild animal and want help and advice then phone the Gower Bird hospital. on 01792 371630.