NH Reports and Sightings 2020

Feb ---Weasel in garden, frogspawn and tadpoles RogerJ
Feb. Frogspawn Old Hall. VM and JC
16/3. Chiffchaff heard. TJ &RogerJ
approx 9/3/Pair of red kites over Llysworney.

29/3---The sightings have come in thick and fast.It is difficult to keep up. They are being circulated amongst consenting members by email. Here is a sample from the last couple of weeks. Some of the identification has been a collaborative effort, and there has been lots of input with queries , suggestions and answers. Apologies to anyone whose contribution has been omitted.
Insects--Peacock, Brimstone, Small tortoiseshell, comma butterflies. Mosquito/gnat larvae.
Flora---Wood anemone, Early Dog Violet, Giant horsetail, cowslips.
Avifauna--Greenfinches, Bullfinch, Nuthatches, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Coaltit, Redwing, Kingfisher, the Buzzard without a tail.
Mammals---Bat flying at midday ( presumed unwell) and at dusk. * AN OTTER SEEN AT 8AM WITH A FISH IN THE THAW !!!
Other---Hedgehog droppings and owl pellets.

What will the next couple of weeks bring?

In the meantime, there are some photos of the findings. "Murder in the Limes" featuring the Female Sparrowhawk and her kill ( ? a jackdaw ) was passed on from Roger Barwick who took the photo in the Limes, Cowbridge. Roger is a U3A member but is not a member of the NH group, so it won't be eligible for the photo competition, regrettably.
Upcoming challenges will be to top the Otter sighting, match the sparrowhawk photo, see the first swallows, and will anyone hear a cuckoo this year while we are confined to our patch?

5th April 2020---Contributions continue to flow, and even flood in.
First bluebell, albeit Spanish . Stitchwort.
Scarlet elf cap fungus.
Scarlet Tiger caterpillars, and Small White butterflies.
Many bird sightings and photos.Robin , goldfinch, meadow pipit and skylark and stonechat. Less common --a snipe, a green sandpiper and even a photo of a yellow hammer. There have been several sightings of a sparrowhawk , empty eggshells (? pigeon) and a family of mallard ducklings on the Arthur John Nature Reserve.
There have been some very impressive photos and even videos from a trail camera featuring the antics of a hedgehog squeezing through a cage to get at some food and a field mouse being hotly pursued by another determined mouse.



5th March 2020
WILDLIFE OF THE GALAPAGOS ISLANDS. A presentation by Val Monaghan
What with hospital appointments, holidays, funerals and even work there were a number of apologies for this meeting, but the thirteen of us who attended had a wonderful time while Val showed us pictures from her trip she took with Steve ,some years ago, explaining various features as she did so. These relatively young, volcanic Galápagos Islands lie roughly 600 miles west of Ecuador in the Pacific Ocean , straddling the equator but bathed by the cooling Humboldt current. The archipelago was visited by Darwin in 1835 and described in his Voyage of the Beagle, and his observations set the stage for the development of the theory of evolution by natural selection later described in his Origin of the Species .
Starting in Baltra , the week's cruise took in the islands of Española, Floreana, Isabela, Santa Cruz, Fernandina, Genovesa and Bartolome and along the way a total of 29 species of wildlife , including 4 species of reptile and 19 species of birds were seen. What the islands lack in numbers of species they make up for in the accessibility of the wildlife which have not learned to fear humans. We heard and saw how the mocking birds approach visitors to beg or steal water as there is very little fresh water on the islands. Val also described how a bull sea lion came nose to nose with Steve while they were snorkelling, which must have been somewhat alarming for Steve at least ,as these beasts are huge and can weigh about 250 kg. Fortunately they are oblivious to humans , their main preoccupation being to guard their harem from other bulls. Many of the females had pups, and one was clearly newly born as the placenta was lying nearby. Nothing goes to waste --the birds were squabbling over the welcome addition to their diet.
We saw Giant Tortoises after which the islands are named, and featuring the late great Lonesome George . There were many boobies too---their name also coming from the Spanish," bobo " meaning clown ---blue footed, red-footed and masked. Quite a few of them had chicks. The waved albatross also had chicks. There were flightless cormorants , and Galápagos penguins, and among the non-endemics two species of the pirate birds the Magnificent and the Great Frigate birds and the spectacular red-billed tropic bird.
Described as the most quintessentially Galapagean animal, the endemic marine iguana was abundant, and sometimes well camouflaged against the rock lava. This large black lizard completely dwarfs its cousin the lava lizard--which was very obvious in one of the photos showing them both.
Several of the members had already visited the islands and were able to contribute there experiences to the discussion at the end. Those who have not yet been will no doubt have been inspired to go and give their much needed support to the local tourist economy at the same time. Val was warmly thanked for her excellent presentation.

Sat 29 Feb 2020
Immature black swan walking up Middlegate Court from direction of Town Hall.See photo. Captured (eventually) and released in Arthur John's Nature Reserve.

6th February 2020
FORAGING FOR FUNGI---AND STAYING ALIVE. A presentation by Dave Evans
This was the first full group meeting of the year, held as usual in Llanblethian Church Hall where 18 of us , including 3 new members, listened to Dave Evans, another member, give a highly instructive and entertaining talk full of helpful hints and cautionary tales.
There are well over 4,000 species of fungi in the UK and there are edible ones available every month of the year, but first of all we were introduced to the ones that definitely should be avoided. There is often a clue in the name---Death Cap,Funeral Ball and the innocent sounding Brown Roll Rim which looks like a commercially grown button mushroom but contains 2 toxins, only one of which is destroyed by cooking. We were warned not to listen to old wives' tales to identify non-poisonous species---they are inaccurate and wholly unreliable. Always cook the mushroom and avoid any whose identity is not 100% certain. Experts occasionally get it wrong and mis -identification can result in death or life-changing illness---Dave quoted Nicholas Evans (no relation) who wrote The Horse Whisperer, and how he and his family ate poisonous mushrooms having mistaken them for Chanterelles---and suffered kidney failure as a result and he consequently needed a renal transplant. There are many pitfalls to identification. eg the Deadly Webcap may only exhibit a web on a younger specimen, and other helpful features may wash off in the rain.
Not all the species are difficult to recognise. There is a Cauliflower Fungus which grows at the base of coniferous trees, and a common woodland species called Hedgehog Fungus ( aka Urchin of the Woods)best cooked without the spines, the Giant Puffball and the Common Puffball , not to be confused with the Common Earthball of course, which should be avoided.The bracket fungi such as Dryad's saddle ( Dryad =oak tree nymph) can be tough but it is possible to dry it and then use the powder to make a stock. The Grey Oyster mushroom is a carnivorous organism which digests nematode worms, Jelly Ear is usually found on elder, and the Beefsteak Fungus is mainly found on oak. Most of the fungi discussed were Basidiomycetes , or spore droppers. The edible ,and familiar Scarlet Elf Cup belongs to the spore shooters, or Ascomycetes.
Some mushrooms are hallucinogenic, and it is assumed that Lewis Carroll had partaken of Fly Agaric which is known to cause incorrect perception of size for his inspiration for Alice's Adventures in Wonderland .
The presentation was packed with information but unfortunately there are no golden rules to follow so to embark on any foraging it would be best to take and expert, lots of books and look very carefully at all the features of every specimen.
There were plenty of questions for the speaker which is an indication of the great interest which the subject aroused.
Dave was duly thanked for his excellent talk.