Archives for August 2010

A weekend of walks

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Derek Brockway Derek Brockway | 14:32 UK time, Tuesday, 31 August 2010

I hope you all had a good bank holiday weekend. I spent it in Snowdonia, staying in Betws y Coed with friends.

On Saturday we climbed the Moelwyns from Tanygrisiau near Blaenau Ffestiniog. The weather was actually worse than I thought it would be with persistent showers and I now understand why Blaenau Ffestiniog is known as the wettest town in Wales!

Thankfully, the cloud lifted as we reached the summit and we were able to see Cnicht and the Lleyn Peninsula in the distance.

This is a great walk with plenty of history and plant life and much quieter than other, more popular walks in the area.

On Sunday we had an easier day and opted for a coastal walk from Nefyn to Porth Dinllaen on the Lleyn Peninsula, stopping off for a drink at the Ty Coch Inn.

The sea was rough with a strong north-westerly wind and despite the sunshine it felt chilly in the wind.

On the way, I popped into the National Coastwatch station at Porth Dinllaen who do a great job keeping an eye on the waters around Caernarfon Bay and the drive back to Betws y Coed through the Nantlle Valley was absolutely stunning.

Finally, on Monday we did a short walk around Llyn Crafnant above Trefriw in glorious sunshine and then it was off to Llandudno for a quick bite to eat and walk on the prom before heading home down the A470 - taking diversions through Bala, Llangynog, the Tanat Valley and Llandrindod Wells.

I'd love to hear what you got up to over Bank Holidday, so let me know if you've discovered any great Welsh walks I don't yet know about.

Derek 

Cast your vote into a river

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Martin Aaron Martin Aaron | 09:49 UK time, Tuesday, 31 August 2010

The Our Rivers campaign was launched last year to campaign for clean, healthy rivers across England and Wales and not long after - a Government report found that 74% of rivers were failing to meet European environmental targets.

The report found that just 5% of rivers in England and Wales were in pristine condition. The rest face a variety of pressures including; run off pollution from fertilisers and poorly designed urban drainage.

Other issues included invasive riverbank species such as signal crayfish and American mink and low water levels caused by over abstraction - the removal of too much water for irrigation treatment and drinking water purposes.

Some of you may remember the blog I wrote back in February concerning the Environment Agency Wales and the Welsh Assembly Government's ambitious plans to improve all waterways in Wales by 2015.

The River Taff in the heart of Cardiff by Gale:
river_taff.jpg

This summer saw thousands of fish being rescued as many of our rivers dropped to exceptionally low levels thanks in part to a hot, dry start to the summer.

Around 2,000 fish including gudgeon, trout, eels, rudd and chubb were rescued after becoming trapped by low levels of water feeding into the River Taff in Cardiff.

Now is your chance to get involved!

The Our Rivers Campaign which includes the RSPB, WWF-UK, the Angling Trust and the Salmon and Trout Association is calling on people in Wales to take part by going online and voting for their 'best' and 'worst' river in England and Wales.

To cast your vote, visit the Our River campaign website. Voting ends on 31 October 2010.

August bank holiday weather

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Derek Brockway Derek Brockway | 10:00 UK time, Friday, 27 August 2010

Here's my weather prediction for the bank holiday weekend:

Saturday should have some sunshine with the best of this occurring in the south and east.

It will be mostly dry but a few showers are likely in parts of the north and west.

Top temperatures 15 to 20 Celsius, with a light to moderate west to north westerly breeze.

Sunday will be cloudier as a weakening cold front moves south - bringing some patchy rain and showers but will be followed by clearer skies.

It will be breezy with a moderate to fresh, west to north westerly breeze and feel cool with temperatures reaching around 15 to 20 Celsius.

Monday looks the best day for a picnic or a BBQ and will be fine and dry with a good deal of sunshine. The winds will be lighter and northerly so feeling a little warmer.

The air over us will be via the Arctic so it should be nice and clear! If you're out walking on the coast or in the hills with your camera, please send in your photos and don't forget the suncream!

There are lots of things going on this weekend:

Clynderwen YFC are holding their annual show at Clynderwen on Saturday.

Blaenau Ffestiniog - Wales' wettest town, will hold its first ever Gwyl y Glaw (Festival of Rain) this weekend.

Lots of outdoors events are planned included a rain dance and luckily a few showers are likely!

Aberaeron Festival of Rugby 7's starts on 26 August and runs until Sunday, 29 August at Aberaeron RFC so plenty of rugby for both young and old.

Next week it looks like high pressure will bring a few days of dry and settled weather for a change.

The nights will be chilly but it will be becoming warmer in the daytime. The fine weather may however have broken down by the weekend.

Hwyl a fflag

Derek

Brighter skies

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Derek Brockway Derek Brockway | 11:59 UK time, Thursday, 26 August 2010

Much of Mid and South Wales had another good soaking recently. Some torrential downpours with flooding in places.  
 
At Tyn y Waun in the top of the Rhondda Valley, over 63mm of rain fell in the last twenty four hours, about 2.5 inches. The wettest day of the year at this location so far!
 
Meanwhile most of North Wales has escaped but its been far from warm with a cool north-easterly breeze. 
 
In fact at Velindre near Brecon yesterday, it was the coldest August day since 1972 with a maximum temperature of only 13.5 Celsius, 56 Fahrenheit.
 
Thankfully, I think we've seen the worst of the rain for a while...
 
Parts of South and East Wales will be damp today and tonight with light rain and drizzle but tomorrow the weather will improve across Wales.

The trough of low pressure responsible for the recent deluge will move away, allowing brighter skies in the north to spread further south across the country.
 
As for the bank holiday weekend, (the last one of the year) - well it's not a completely dry picture, which won't come as much of a surprise, but it's not looking too bad.

More on that tomorrow!

Derek

Crackdown on camelids

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Martin Aaron Martin Aaron | 11:08 UK time, Thursday, 26 August 2010

The Welsh Assembly Government have announced proposals to tackle TB found in other wildlife in Wales.

Rural Affairs Minister Elin Jones has launched a consultation on a draft legislative order to control TB in camelids, goats and deer. 

What's a camelid I hear you cry? Take a look at the wikipedia page for a full explanation.

Elin Jones said: "Camelids, goats and deer as well as cattle and badgers are susceptible to catching and spreading TB".

"Our aim is to eradicate Bovine TB from Wales and we are committed to tackling all sources of infection, in both domesticated animals and wildlife, to do that".

Find out more about this story on the WAG website.

An autumnal feel

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Derek Brockway Derek Brockway | 15:22 UK time, Tuesday, 24 August 2010

It feels more like autumn than summer today...

A fresh to strong, westerly wind is making it feel cool with temperatures only reaching between 14 to 18 Celsius.

The wind is near gale force on some exposed coasts and hills with a gust of 50 mph being recorded at Aberdaron on the Lleyn Peninsula.

The wind will lighten tonight but more trouble is brewing over the ocean. The view from space shows a mass of cloud out over the Atlantic.

It's all tied to an area of low pressure which is moving towards Southern Britain; steered by the jet stream which has moved further south.

The low pressure will bring another dose of heavy rain tomorrow and the Met Office has issued a weather advisory for Mid and South Wales.

30 to 50 mm of rain (1 to 2 inches) is possible with a risk of localised flooding and poor travelling conditions so do take care on the roads.

The rain will clear on Thursday leaving a much, drier, brighter day with the wind easing and Friday should have some sunny spells with scattered showers.

As for the bank holiday weekend - I am cautiously optimistic at the moment based on the latest charts.

I wouldn't rule out the odd shower but on the whole there will be a good deal of dry weather. The nights will feel cooler but it should be pleasant when the sun is out.

The Great Tour

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Martin Aaron Martin Aaron | 13:24 UK time, Tuesday, 24 August 2010

I must confess, I knew absolutely nothing about this amazing endurance event that is currently taking place in our great nation until I spotted it on the WAG website. Such is the power of the web.

The Great Tour began life on 3 July, 2010 and consists of cyclists from the worlds of sport, celebrity, charity, politics, science and arts all getting saddle sore together in the name of charity.

Their aim is to circumnavigate the British coast by bike - all 6,600 kilometres of it or as I prefer - 10,621 and a bit miles. And all done in just 64 days!

I've no idea where the current fad of using kilometres for sporting events came from? Especially when you consider that we all drive around in mph along roads measured in miles?

But I've probably just answered my own question - kilometres can be nicely rounded off and look better on promotional material?

Anyway rant over...it's an incredible journey and the riders are currently on stage 53 of 64 - travelling between Pembroke and Pendine.

On Wednesday they're cycling from Pendine to Mumbles followed on Thursday by a quick jaunt from Mumbles to Cardiff.

The tour leaves Wales on Friday as the riders cycle from Cardiff to Congresbury, which (after a quick Google search) I discovered is near Weston-Super Mare.

Keep an eye out for the 40 or so cyclists plus friends and give them plenty of room out there on the roads as it's very windy with strong gusts!

Gull


Surviving Dragon's Den

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Martin Aaron Martin Aaron | 10:53 UK time, Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Last night many of you will have watched in disbelief as Letitia Valentine and Alex Lewis from Swansea got an absolute pasting from those dastardly dragons in BBC One's Dragon's Den.

You can watch the ill fated pitch for yourselves on the Dragon's Den website.

It seemed as if nothing they could say could dig them out of the hole they'd accidentally dug for themselves and slipped into!

But luckily one dragon - Deborah Meaden, overcame the 'entrepreneurial red mist' long enough to invest in their venture - Surviva Jak - a foil coat designed to keep people warm.

I've a feeling their website will be busy today...

More on this story over on News online.

Wetlands photo exhibition

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Martin Aaron Martin Aaron | 14:00 UK time, Monday, 23 August 2010

A new photographic exhibition is running until the end of October at the Newport Wetlands Centre entitled - Photo Fantastic at the Wetlands Exhibition. The exhibition showcases the last decade in the reserves' history.

Iolo Williams and friends enjoying the reedbeds. Image courtesy of RSPB:

iolo_families.jpg

The reserve is home to a wide variety of birds and mammals and attracts many migrant visitors in winter and summer time. These include avocet, black-tailed godwit, shoveller and bittern as well as the resident otter, water shrew, brown hare and polecats.

Avocet with chicks down at the saline lagoons. Image courtesy of RSPB:
avocet.jpg

Over the last ten years a whole range of new habitats have established themselves across the site - ranging from grazed pastures and hedgerows to ditches (known locally as reens) as well as saline lagoons and the largest area of reedbeds in South Wales.

The centre is open daily from 9am - 5pm so why pop along to the photo exhibition and then have a go at spotting the animals for yourselves!

RSPB Newport Wetlands Centre

Gull

Calm before the storm

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Derek Brockway Derek Brockway | 13:09 UK time, Monday, 23 August 2010

I hope you all managed to dodge some of the heavy rain, thunder and flooding over the weekend but at least Sunday was nicer and Anglesey residents even enjoyed twelve hours of sunshine!

But it all changed again today as an active trough delivered some heavy downpours to us this morning. Thankfully, the weather is improving again now with some sunshine and a few showers.

Tuesday will be breezy with sunny intervals and showers with a westerly wind making it feel cool and reaching gale force strength over the hills and mountains.

During the evening, the wind will lighten but trouble is brewing out in the Atlantic.

A deepening area of low pressure is heading our way but there is some uncertainty about the exact track it will take.

Wednesday should start off dry but turn wet during the afternoon as low pressure moves closer.

The wind and surf will be picking up as well and surf forecasters are predicting waves of up to 3 metres plus (in the open ocean) for the south and west coasts on Thusday. The surf at the beach should be around five to six feet high, according to Gull who is planning to be out surfing them, so take care if you're heading to the coast and don't paddle out if you're unsure.

Thursday will be windy with showers and strong to gale force winds as well.

Thursday's weather chart from the Met Office:

low_derek.jpg

Friday should be less windy with some sunshine and a few showers.

At the moment, the bank holiday weekend looks mixed and rather cool with north-westerly winds but there will be some sunshine.

Hopefully Monday will turn out fine thanks to high pressure pushing in.

I'll keep you posted but in the meantime try to avoid the showers!

Derek

Sealed with a kiss

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Martin Aaron Martin Aaron | 09:18 UK time, Monday, 23 August 2010

Diver and regular contributor to our Flickr group - Nick Robertson-Brown has been out diving and taking photographs again off the North Wales coast.

Nick had a recent encounter with some common seals, including one curious individual who swam so close; he licked the camera housing!

Seals are curious, fun loving creatures and sometimes they just can't help themselves...

Checking out Nick's flippers:
seal_flipper.jpg

We get both grey and common or harbour seals off the Welsh coast and during a brief, long range encounter from the shore - it can be a bit tricky to tell them apart.

The general rule of thumb is that common seals are cuter looking and more dog like with rounder faces and v-shaped nostrils. 

Swimming in for a closer look:
seal.jpg

Grey seals on the other hand have flatter foreheads and wider nostrils and generally look a bit tougher!

I've had both types surface alongside me whilst I've been out surfing and the big bull, grey seals definitely appear more menacing - especially the dark black ones with large heads.

This seal definitely isn't camera shy and plants a big kiss on Nick's camera housing:
seal_closeup.jpg

The other big difference between the two seal species is the pupping season. Common seals are a bit smarter in that they give birth to their young during the summer months when there's plenty of food available and generally calmer, warmer seas.

Phil Ray took this shot of a grey seal off Strumble Head recently which illustrates well, the difference in nostril and face shape:
grey_seal.jpg

Grey seals however are a tough bunch and give birth to their young in autumn from September through to December so their pups are literally thrown in at the deep end during the start of our winter storms.

You're more likely to sea common seals closer to man too, in areas such as harbours - hence their other name - harbour seal. Greys on the other hand prefer the relative safety and sanctuary of our rugged cliffs and coves but you'll also find common seals sharing the rock space here too.

We must be doing something right in this country though, as roughly half of the world's population of both grey and common seals are found right here in the British Isles - so that's something we can be proud of.

Find out more about seals on the BBC Wildlife Finder

Surfing helps with autistim

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Martin Aaron Martin Aaron | 09:17 UK time, Saturday, 21 August 2010

Nice story on BBC News Online by Tom Singleton about how surfing lessons are helping local autistic kids on Gower.

Thunderbolt and lightening

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Derek Brockway Derek Brockway | 15:34 UK time, Friday, 20 August 2010

Some places have had a good soaking recently with thunderstorms, flooding and power cuts.

Ray Garner who runs a weather station in Llanfynydd, Carmarthenshire recorded 35.6mm of rain, about 1.5 inches.

Heavy rain is not unusual at this time of year. In fact August is the wettest month of the summer in Wales with 106.0mm, just over 4 inches, on average.

The worst is over for the time being but we're not out of the woods yet as far as heavy rain is concerned.

Further spells of rain are expected over the weekend - some of which could be heavy with localised flooding.

It will also feel muggy at times with high levels of humidity. However, it won't be a total washout.

The rain should clear, leaving Sunday much drier and brighter with some sunshine and just the odd shower.

It will feel fresher on Sunday though with a westerly breeze and top temperatures between 16 and 20 Celsius.

Next week will bring a mixture of sunshine and showers with temperatures no better than average and some cooler nights.

So, the hot summer which some amateur forecasters predicted hasn't materialised. June was lovely but apart from a few good days - July and August have been disappointing.

Hopefully September will bring us something better, so keep your fingers crossed.

If you're going to the Green Man Festival - take wellies and a snorkel!

Summer soaker

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Derek Brockway Derek Brockway | 16:23 UK time, Thursday, 19 August 2010

I'm afraid most of Wales is in for a soaking over the next 24 to 36 hours and the Met Office has even issued a weather advisory for heavy rain.

Most of us are in for a soaking tonight and tomorrow and again on Saturday.

The rain will be heaviest on higher ground in the south and west and in North West Wales with 70 to 100 mm possible in the next 48 hours.

That's three to four inches of rain! So there's a real risk of localised flooding.

The rain will be accompanied by fresh to strong winds south to south-westerly winds as well as extensive low cloud, mist and hill fog so travelling conditions will be treacherous.

The reason for the unsettled weather is the jet stream, which is further south than it should be, and that is steering an area of deep low pressure in from the Atlantic.

Latest weather chart for Friday:

aug2010chart.jpg

Sadly it's not the best weather for the Green Man festival which starts tomorrow at Glan Usk Park estate near Crickhowell. There will be some rain I'm afraid and it will feel muggy with a light breeze. Find out more about the history of this festival on BBC Wales Music.

Tomorrow night South Wales can expect a little rain and drizzle but elsewhere it will be dry for a time with the wind easing.

On Saturday it looks like the rain will return - some of it heavy although North Wales may be dry and bright.

The rain should clear on Sunday leaving much drier and brighter conditions. There will however be some sunshine with a few showers in the north west where it will feel fresher.

So if you're planning a trip to the beach this weekend - Sunday looks like the best day but before that, we're in for a dose of wet and windy weather.

Derek 

Another step closer

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Martin Aaron Martin Aaron | 09:58 UK time, Thursday, 19 August 2010

Environment Minister, Jane Davidson opened another section of the coastal footpath recently, linking Pendine with the Pembrokeshire border.

The extra four and a half miles of path means it's now possible to walk from Pendine in Carmarthenshire to Borth in Ceredigion.

Last month the minister opened a new boardwalk for walkers, wheel chair users and pushchair enthusiasts (myself included) in Porthcawl which runs between Rest Bay and Pink Bay.

A new 27 mile section of path was also opened earlier in July between Prestatyn and Llandudno.

This all part of the Welsh Assembly Government's commitment to creating a footpath right around the coastline of Wales by 2012.

Once complete, the Wales Coast Path will stretch around 850 miles of coastline - from Flintshire in North East Wales to Monmouthshire in the South East.

As well as improving sections of existing coastal path, work is also being done to develop new sections and promote places of interest along the way.

Pembrokeshire County Show

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Derek Brockway Derek Brockway | 15:58 UK time, Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Yesterday I went to the Pembrokeshire County Show in Haverfordwest and met loads of people at the BBC Wales stand.

It was a damp morning but thankfully the weather cheered-up quite nicely during the afternoon.

After lunch, two members of the Pembrokeshire Young Farmers Club - Rosalind and Tania, interviewed me in front of a large crowd.

They gave me a good grilling and asked me plenty of questions about my life as a weather forecaster.

One of the questions was "what would I be if I wasn't a meteorologist?"

My answer, which surprised them...was that I would have become an electrician!

When I was young I nearly electrocuted my mother after tampering with the plug on her washing machine but later as a teenager, I made amends by re-wiring the lighting circuit in the whole house.

There were some heavy showers in Pembrokeshire this morning but these cleared away leaving a much drier and brighter afternoon.

If you're going to the show tomorrow -take an umbrella. The morning and early afternoon will be largely dry but thickening cloud and rain is expected to arrive by mid to late afternoon.

Temperatures in Withybush will rise to around 17 Celsius with the south to south-westerly breeze turning south-easterly during the evening.

Derek

Dragons and damsels

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Martin Aaron Martin Aaron | 13:11 UK time, Wednesday, 18 August 2010

The height of summer is an excellent time of year for spotting dragonflies and damselflies.

Seeing these small, colourful insects darting around rivers and ponds, it's hard to imagine that in prehistoric times, some of them would have had wingspans of up to 70cm in length - double the length of that ruler on your desk!

Dragonflies and damselflies belong to an order of insects known as 'Odonata' from the Greek word for tooth. This refers to the fact that they have teeth on their lower mandibles for grasping and crushing food with - like many other insects!

To the untrained eye they can look pretty similar in appearance, especially in flight but there are a few easy ways to tell them apart.

Damsels are small, delicate looking insects and weak flyers - often resting and always with their wings folded back.

Dragonflies on the other hand are stockier built, stronger fliers and not afraid to move further away from water sources. Unlike damselflies they rest with their wings open, like aeroplanes.

Andrew from our Wales Nature Flickr group spotted this broad bodied chaser dragonfly in Bryn Bach Park, Tredegar:
broad_bodied.jpg

But whatever your preference both come in a startling array of colours and are a photographers dream as they'll happily sit and rest for a few minutes in the sun whilst you get your shots.

If you're a member of our Flickr group then take a look at our collection of damsels and dragonfly pictures. They come in all shapes and sizes!

Keith Moseley snapped this large red damselfly at Coed y Bwynydd, north of Usk:
large_red_keith.jpg

If this blog has wet your appetite and you'd like to know more about these fascinating creatures - then you're in luck.

The Newport Wetlands Centre are offering a guided dragonfly and damselfly walk on Wednesday, 25 August at 1.30pm.

During the walk you'll have an opportunity to go pond dipping and catch dragonfly nymphs.

These strange creatures live in water for up to three years before emerging as flying adults and only live for a few weeks in order to mate.

There's a nice guide to spotting and identifying key species here.

Gull

Disposable nature

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Martin Aaron Martin Aaron | 10:45 UK time, Tuesday, 17 August 2010

It seems as if this story comes around every summer...littering at our beauty spots and beaches.

Countryside rangers on Gower are becoming increasingly frustrated by the amount of litter they are finding at some of the areas most pristine beauty spots.

The recent good weather is largely to blame as more and more people venture out with disposable BBQ's and picnics to the coast.

Three Cliffs Bay, Oxwich Bay, Port Eynon, Whiteford Sands and Llangennith Beach are all recent problem areas where large amounts of litter have been found.

Joint patrols including National Trust staff are now on the look out for illegal campers.

It doesn't just effect Gower though. This is happening all over Wales in a variety of habitats - ranging from our inner city parks and rivers to woodlands and coastal areas.

People and I'm loathed to blame teenagers but generally 'younger people' gather in large groups to enjoy an evening sunset, BBQ and a drink but rarely leave behind just their footprints.

It's not just the youngsters responsible though as in amongst the cider and beer bottles, wardens are finding vintage bottles of wine and champagne.

Three Cliffs Bay, Gower by Terry Winter:
three_cliffs.jpg

It's as if the darkness hides not only their actions but also their conscience as they litter at will.

Some occasionally make an effort to clear up - pushing it all into a neat big pile in the corner of a car park for someone else to clear it up but at secluded bays, it can often take weeks before it's discovered.

People just don't seem to think about their actions any more.

Last summer I watched in disbelief as two families drove their cars out of the protected marram grass/ sand dunes at the north end of Freshwater West beach in Pembrokeshire.

Had they been arriving I would have said something but they'd already packed up and were trying to leave.

Unfortunately for them they got both cars stuck and damaged in the process - dinging both front bumpers in holes, so I felt justice had been served in that particular instance. Instant karma does occasionally happen.

Last month, I came across a large number of old fires which had been lit on small grassy outcrops along the coast between Rest Bay and Pink Bay in Porthcawl.

It's a pretty, pebbled area overlooking the Bristol Channel where grass is scarce at the best of times.

Not only was the earth scorched black and scattered with half burnt logs everywhere - the area was also littered with disposable BBQ's, smashed cider bottles and dozens of partly burnt beer cans.

It was almost as if they moved from one spot to the next, finding a new clean area to camp in each time with no consideration for the carnage they left behind.

Keep Wales Tidy, beach poster:
litter_poster.jpg
People and I'm loathed to blame teenagers but generally 'younger people' gather in large groups to enjoy an evening sunset, BBQ and a drink but rarely leave behind just their footprints.

It's as if the darkness hides not only their actions but also their conscience as they litter at will.

Some occasionally make an effort to clear up - pushing it all into a neat big pile in the corner of a car park, (for someone else to clear up) but at secluded bays, it can often take weeks before it's discovered.

People just don't seem to think about their actions any more.

I've often wondered about people's thought processes. Do they think fairies come down each night and clear up after them or that beer cans are biodegradable and simply dissolve during periods of heavy rain?

It's a real shame that people nowadays have so little respect for nature and their surrounding landscape. I know I sound like an old man ranting, but I never did this as a youngster and I don't see what has changed?

You drive to the beach with your food and drink and you drive home again, so why is it so hard to take your litter home with you when you leave?

I'd love to hear your thoughts on this issue and what could be done to ease the problem.

Perhaps a more up to date TV campaign is needed or more posters put in place? Perhaps we need to make it easier for people to report littering offences and to fine people, quickly and effectively?

Drink cans remain unmoved on a beach for 200 years, plastic bottles for 500 years and glass bottles for over 1000 years, so perhaps people need to be made more aware of these facts?

It's a shame that we have to have organisations like Keep Wales Tidy, the National Trust and all the various volunteer and green groups who tirelessly clean up after us. But can you imagine the state of our beaches if they weren't out there collecting the rubbish?

Create you own litter campaign

Tidy Wales Week is happening from 20-26 September, 2010.

The emerald isle

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Derek Brockway Derek Brockway | 15:24 UK time, Monday, 16 August 2010

I'm just back from an amazing week in Ireland - Donegal to be precise. I stayed in Ballycastle for a couple of nights and visited the Giant's Causeway - one of nature's natural wonders.

The next day I took my life in my hands and crossed the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge which is great fun so long as you aren't afraid of heights...

Then I hopped on a ferry over to Raithlin Island and did a short walk there. It's a great place to go if you like bird watching and I was lucky enough to see a few seals there as well.

After that it was on to Donegal and Letterkenny where I stayed in a wonderful B&B - Hillcrest which is run by professional chef, Martin Anderson. Martin was a great host and cooked up a hearty breakfast for us each day.

He also made wonderful scones and gave us a few to put in our rucksacks - one of which gave me a much needed energy boost and enabled me to summit Mount Errigal which is Donegal's highest and best known mountain. The views from the top are amazing on a clear day.

I also cycled to Malin Head, and popped into the weather station there and had a chat with the local observer. Malin Head is a very exposed spot so it was a bit breezy and I had to peddle hard against the wind to reach my destination!

Malin Head is one of the few places in Europe where you can still hear corncrake and is also a top spot for watching migratory seabirds from such as auks, gannets, skuas and shearwaters.

In WWII it was a top secret base used by the British to monitor German U-Boat activity in the North Alantic.

Finally, it was onto Belfast and Newcastle where I climbed Slieve Donard - the highest peak in the Mourne Mountain Range. The weather was perfect and although chilly on the top I could see for miles.

Back in Wales today and the weather is fine and warm but there is rain on the way tonight.

Tomorrow, I'm heading west to the Pembrokeshire County Show so pop along to the BBC Wales stand and say hello!

You can have a go at presenting the News and Weather and I will be there from 3pm to meet members of the Pembrokeshire Young Farmers and answer some of their questions.

Pudsey Bear is also coming along as well as the Welsh celebrity chef - Angela Gray.

The forecast for Haverfordwest tomorrow is for a cloudy, damp start but it should become dry and brighter in the afternoon.

Wednesday will be breezy with sunny intervals and showers and Thursday should start off bright but will have rain later.

Marsh fritillary flying back

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Martin Aaron Martin Aaron | 14:37 UK time, Monday, 16 August 2010

This rare butterfly appears to be fighting back in parts of Wales where it's had something of a stronghold in recent years. After some good weather, the butterfly has been spotted at a few new sites in Camarthenshire.

The decline of this pretty orange chequered butterfly is mainly down to the loss of flowery meadows and in particular the wonderfully named, devils-bit scabious - the only plant that marsh fritillary caterpillars will feed on.

For the last six years, Butterfly Conservation and the Countryside Council for Wales have been running the Mynydd Mawr project, aimed at protecting and enhancing marsh fritillary habitats in Carmarthenshire.

Low volume grazing is particularly important to the butterflies as they like tussocky, damp grasslands with plenty of devil's-bit scabious.

A marsh fritillary butterfly by Mike Turtle:
marsh_fritillary.jpg

Sheep tend to over graze the land, making the grass too short and eating wild flowers but cattle and horses play a vital role in keeping the fields butterfly friendly.

The marsh fritillary butterfly lays its eggs in sheltered pockets between taller grasses, which provide the warm conditions in which the eggs and caterpillars can develop quickly.

Despite seventy eight hectares of land being brought in and sympathetically managed, numbers of the butterfly have remained low due to poor weather.

This spring's dry spell however has brought the butterflies out in force across Carmarthenshire and they've been spotted in new areas which is excellent news for the species.

See a marsh fritillary in our butterfly picture gallery.

Find out about how climate change is effecting butterflies.

Meteoric rise

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Martin Aaron Martin Aaron | 09:57 UK time, Monday, 16 August 2010

Unless you've been living on the moon recently, you'll have heard about the recent Perseid meteor showers streaking across our night skies.

Many of you battled with freezing cold temperatures and stiff necks from staring into space for hours on end, but most came away feeling satisfied, having seen a few meteors.

Malcolm Harvey reported spectacular scenes over Southerndown beach where he saw "a couple of belters!" whilst Tony Evans spent an hour and a half lying down in a dark field, miles from anywhere watching meteors and lightening over head.

I wrote a little blog about it last week and laid down a photographic challenge on our Flickr group to all the photographers out there to try and capture this annual event.

We've had a few attempts submitted but one particularly nice capture came in from 'Virtual Tony 2000' who set up a series of long exposure shots on the cliffs above Penarth.

Sixty six shots later and a meteor decided to play ball. You can see it streaking right through the middle of the star trails in this stunning shot:

perseid_meteor.jpg

We also had this lovely landscape shot taken over Penmon Lighthouse, Anglesey from Kev Lewis. If you look carefully you can see a meteor towards the top right of the frame, flying from left to right:

perseid_meteor1.jpg

If you've got any meteor shots you'd like to share, feel free to submit them to our Flickr group or you can e-mail them to me at wales.nature@bbc.co.uk.

Thanks

Gull

A real cliff hanger

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Martin Aaron Martin Aaron | 09:16 UK time, Friday, 13 August 2010

For fans of the BBC programme Coast, you'll be pleased to know that Gower is being featured again shortly, when the remarkable walled sea cave known as Culver Hole puts in an appearance.

Believed to date from the 13th or 14th century, Culver Hole is sealed off by a sixty foot high stone wall, that resembles something out of an Indiana Jones film set.

Culver Hole. Image courtesy of the National Trust:
culver_hole.jpgPeppered with a few windows, the internal wall face is honeycombed with around thirty tiers of rectangular nesting boxes which would have been home to hundreds of medieval pigeons.

Pigeons were an important source of food providing meat and fresh eggs during hard times.

Head Warden on Gower Sian Siân Musgrave said: "Stories about smugglers using it and secret passages abound."

"It is also said to have been a castle at some stage, but the nesting boxes appear integral to its whole structure, so in reality it was always a pigeon house."

Culver Hole as seen from a boat. Image by Adie at Frames Photography:
culver_adie.jpg Legend has it that there used to be secret tunnel connecting it with the nearby salt house at Port Eynon for smuggling purposes and that carrier pigeons were also used to send messages between smugglers.

The word "culver" derives from the Old English word "culfre", meaning pigeon or dove. With its ability to breed all year round and its quick regeneration, pigeons provided a plentiful source of red meat - given the necessary shelter and food.

As a result, large dovecotes became quite commonplace in the Middle Ages.

A steeplejack was employed to carry out work in 2008 to repair the remains of the top window and wave damage done to the bottom of the structure and most of the work had to be done between tides due to the tricky location.

Culver Hole is within a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and is a Scheduled Ancient Monument.

Over the years, I've spent a lot of time surfing the reefs in this area and had no idea this was tucked away in the cliff face, so will definitely take a look next time I'm down there.

Coast will be broadcast on BBC Two at 6.30pm on Saturday, 14 August or you can catch up via the BBC i-Player.

You can find out more about Culver Hole using the following external links:

www.explore-gower.co.uk

www.the-gower.com/beaches

www.smuggling.co.uk

Gull

Meteors over Wales tonight

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Martin Aaron Martin Aaron | 13:58 UK time, Thursday, 12 August 2010

It's Perseids meteor shower time again folks and experts are predicting that this year could be quite spectacular - possibly the best since 2007.

The meteor shower is caused by debris from the comet Swift-Tuttle and is so named because the meteors appear to fly out of the constellation - Perseus.

Clear skies and just a slither of crescent shaped moon visible (current phase is waxing crescent) in the night sky, will mean there's very little light pollution (unless you happen to live in a large town or city).

In which case - head for your nearest patch of countryside, well away from street lights. I knew there was a reason why they'd all been switched off! ;)

The meteor shower will peak over the next forty eight hours and we should have clear skies in South and West Wales. In rural areas you could even witness up to a hundred meteors per hour, so have your binoculars at the ready.

When and where to watch?

Tonight from around eleven pm and into the early hours of Friday morning will be the best time to see the meteor shower.

The National Trust has named Penbryn beach in Ceredigion as one of the best places in Britain to watch the meteors from (Grid reference: SN295521).

Sit facing north east and look up at an angle of around 45 degrees and wait...

Get involved

This year you can 'tweet' your meteor sightings from around the world providing you have a Twitter account..

Tweet the following hashtag #meteorwatch, your postcode, your country and meteor count (optional) and your sightings will be pulled into an interactive Google map.

For any photographers out there, we'd love to see your pictures so why not submit them to our Flickr group?

The meteor shower is explained in more detail on BBC News.

I hope you see something!

Gull

Gulls see red

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Martin Aaron Martin Aaron | 10:48 UK time, Thursday, 12 August 2010

We're all familiar with the plight of many of our native and migratory birds but the most recent RSPB 'red list' certainly makes for an interesting read. The last one was published in 2002 and a total of 246 species have been reviewed since then.

Nearly a quarter of some of our most familiar birds are in real trouble due to loss of habitat and changes in farming methods, as well as the way our houses are now constructed - making it harder for species such as sparrows and swift to build their nests.

Kestrels, lapwings, house sparrows and even starlings have been widely reported in the press over the years but scrolling down the list I was amazed to see that herring gulls were also included?

It's the one species I've also considered to be fairly common and I'm sure I'm not alone!

I see them everywhere. I open my window in the morning and I see and hear the seagulls swooping low, squabbling over food parcels in the skies above Porthcawl.

I arrive at work in Cardiff and am literally surrounded by gulls. They line the roof tops here at BBC Wales and the student accommodation next door, and there are nests and young chicks everywhere.

In fact, you see more gulls in urban scenarios than at the sea side these days - testament to their ability to adapt and exploit situations to their advantage - moving closer to our rubbish dumps and fast food outlets for easy meals.

A herring gull by Keith O'Brian:
herring_gull_keithobrian.jpg

So, how and when does a common species like the herring gull become endangered? Well, the red list criteria consists of a number of different factors which include:

  • Globally threatened.
  • Historical population decline in UK during 1800-1995.
  • Severe (at least 50%) decline in UK breeding population over last 25 years, or longer-term period (the entire period used for assessments since the first BoCC review, starting in 1969).
  • Severe (at least 50%) contraction of UK breeding range over last 25 years, or the longer-term period.
  • Globally threatened, historical population decline during 1800-1995, severe decline (at least 50%) in the UK breeding population over the last 25 years.
There's an interesting read on the RSPB website about how all this list data is collected and crunched to give us the red, amber and green lists.

Even though numbers of herring gulls have declined over the same period the number of nests in inland towns and cities has shot up from 3,000 to 20,000, so it would appear to most of us that these birds are thriving but in actual fact they are not.

If you read the species guide for herring gull on the RSPB website, you'll see that they have "suffered moderate decline over the past 25 years and over half of their UK breeding population is confined to fewer than ten sites".

Something to think about, next time you have your chips stolen from under your nose or you're being mobbed by a vengeful gull during nesting season.

Some species such as the artic skua have literally jumped from green to red in under a decade.

It will be interesting to see what stats the next survey throws up and if herring gulls are making a come back. It's hard to imagine our kids growing up and not knowing what a starling or sparrow looks like, let alone a sea gull? The seaside just wouldn't be the same.

In the meantime, relax and unwind to the gentle sound of a herring gull colony on the BBC Wildlife Finder.

Endangered Gull





Fancy some voluntary work?

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Martin Aaron Martin Aaron | 10:20 UK time, Wednesday, 11 August 2010

The National Trust is offering two volunteer 'taster days' this summer at Carneddau and Glyderau. Due to the nature of the work, numbers have been limited to twenty people per session.

The first event will be held on Thursday, 12 August at Dyffryn Mymbyr near Capel Curig between 9.30am - 4pm. All participants must be over fourteen years old and accompanied by an
adult.

The group will set off from Dyffryn Mymbyr lay-by (located on the A4086 -
grid reference SH695571).

Gloves and tools will be provided but you will need to bring your own rucksack with waterproof clothing, sun cream,
wellies, long trousers and a packed lunch.

The work will involve some ditch-blocking in order to help raise the water level in this rare habitat to decrease the loss of carbon and peat from the ditches. This will in turn provide a better habitat for flora and fauna to develop.

Participants for the second event - footpath maintenance at Cwm Idwal must be over eighteen.

Views over Cwm Idwal:
cwm_idwal.jpg

The event will be held on Friday, 3 September, between 9.30am - 4pm, working on the maintenance of some of Cwm Idwal's network of footpaths, meeting at Ogwen Cottage Car Park (grid reference SH649604).

Learn about the myths and legends, geology, flora and fauna of Cwm Idwal, whilst helping to maintain the footpaths.

Gloves and tools will be supplied but you'll need to bring your own rucksack with waterproof clothing, sun cream, steel toe capped boots, long trousers and a packed lunch.

For more information about these events, or other volunteering opportunities within the National Trust, please contact Sarah Worth at sarah.worth@nationaltrust.org.uk or 01766 510127.

National Trust bids £3m for Llyn coastline

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Martin Aaron Martin Aaron | 11:54 UK time, Tuesday, 10 August 2010

The National Trust has bid £3m for a stretch of coastline in Llyn, Gwynedd.

It is believed that the organisation wants to buy the one-kilometre stretch in Llyn to protect it from developers. It has launched an appeal to fund the acquisition.

"This is a true jewel in our national coastline - a home to a fragile community that depends on the sea for its very existence as well as a delicate ecosystem of rare plant and wildlife," National Trust warden for Aberdaron, Paul Lewis, told the Daily Post.

"It's a place that's been at grave risk of inappropriate development, and we want to purchase and protect [it] forever."

The National Trust plans to create a visitor centre to promote the area, in addition to protecting its rare flora and fauna. Five per cent of the UK's population of chough is found in Llyn.

Two new nest boxes for barn owls

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Martin Aaron Martin Aaron | 10:53 UK time, Tuesday, 10 August 2010

The Forestry Commission and the RSPB have linked up to give barn owls in Wales a hand (wing?).

barn_owl_446.jpg

With the species in decline across the UK for the last 15 years, due to the reduction of suitable derelict buildings for nesting, it is hoped that two new boxes will give the owls a boost.

Forestry Commission Wales-managed sites at Lake Vyrnwy and Breidden Hill (near Llandrinio) were identified in consultation with the RSPB, and the special nestboxes were constructed by volunteers.

Mike Whitley of the Forestry Commission Wales told the Western Mail,"Barn owls will use woodland edges and other clearings in and around woodlands to hunt for their prey and we've had sightings of barn owls at both Lake Vyrnwy and Breidden Hill.

"We hope that, by providing additional nesting opportunities, these new boxes will help conserve these wonderful birds."

New boating scheme to protect Cardigan bottlenoses

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Martin Aaron Martin Aaron | 10:33 UK time, Tuesday, 10 August 2010

As one of the very few UK locations with significant numbers of bottlenose dolphins, there's a new scheme coming for Cardigan Bay to ensure that healthy population continues.

bottlenose_dolphin.jpg

A recreational boating plan is being investigated to ensure the marine mammals are not disturbed by fast-moving seacraft. With around 130 bottlenoses in the waters between Cardigan and the Dyfi Estuary, it is hoped that the code of conduct and new speed restrictions will maintain what is Europe's largest bottlenose populations.

Another element of the plan calls for kayakers and coasteerers to avoid sea caves during the seal pupping season.

Talking to the Western Mail, Ben Sampson of Ceredigion council's conservation team said, "Almost everyone I talk to at sea cares deeply about the marine environment and the wonderful wildlife we have in the seas. There is sometimes a lack of awareness of what to do when people encounter dolphins amd other wildlife at sea, but there is a strong desire to do the right thing.

"The code of conduct is all about providing that information, ensuring that generations to come can enjoy these spectacular animals."

Sampson talked about the public supposition that dolphins like boats. Faster boats make more noise, which they may find disturbing. "Dolphins may choose to approach a boat, but it must be their choice - never try to approach or follow a dolphin."

There is now an eight-knot speed zone from Cardigan Island to Cribach Bay and the existing speed zone has been extended from New Quay to Llangrannog. Also, sea caves are out of bounds from August to October.

New information panels are up at all launch sites in Ceredigion.

Kids getting wild with nature in Wales

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Martin Aaron Martin Aaron | 13:29 UK time, Monday, 9 August 2010

Remember when you were a kid and summer holidays were a litany of grazed knees and grass stains?

It's probably over-egged in the media, but certainly children are less likely these days to develop an awareness and familiarity with the great outdoors.

The National Trust are aiming to arrest a little of that decline with a series of events for young people and their families this summer, with one in Gwynedd on Wednesday 18 August. Wild Child will be held at Craflwyn near Beddgelert.

Sioned Jones, the Youth Involvement Officer of the National Trust in Snowdonia said:
"Our Wild Child day at Craflwyn is all about getting children to discover the fun to be had outside. It would be great to help them to develop a relationship with wildlife and nature, through playing, exploring and experiencing the simple pleasures to be had outside the house.

"The activities on offer will include collecting and creating a feast of wild food, building a bird or bat box, woodcraft activity and orienteering. There will also be rug making, creature building and our legendary matchbox challenge."

Llyr Huws Gruffydd, the National Trust's Wales Communications Officer, said, "The aim of the National Trust's Wild Child campaign is to help children and young people really connect with nature and wildlife.

"From den building to pond dipping, bug hunts to bat watching, there will be wild events for everyone this summer at National Trust properties across Wales."

Use the National Trust's event finder for more information.

James McLaren
Gull, your usual blogger, is away at the moment.

Last day at the Eisteddfod

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Derek Brockway Derek Brockway | 12:41 UK time, Friday, 6 August 2010

Today is my last day at the National Eisteddfod and the week has flown by. The weather has been a bit up and down but I've really enjoyed it, meeting lots of people and I've been able to practise my Welsh. I've learnt a few new words and phrases which I am sure will come in handy.

Sian Lloyd and I popped into the BBC stand yesterday and had our photo taken with visitors from all over Wales. We also had our photo taken on the Doctor Who set. I was the Doctor and Sian was my beautiful assistant!

I feel like jumping in the Tardis today and flying off somewhere warm and sunny because the weather in Ebbw Vale is damp and breezy with a sticky drizzle and the cloud is sitting on the hills of Blaenau Gwent.

Tomorrow will be a little better but not great for August. Plenty of cloud with a few showers although by evening it should be dry. Temperatures on the cool side, only 16 Celsius, with a moderate west to north-westerly breeze.

Sunday the best day of the weekend. Much drier and brighter across Wales with broken cloud and sunshine and with lighter winds it will feel warmer. Top temperatures 17 to 22 Celsius, warmest in the southeast.

On Monday rain and showers are expected. Tuesday and Wednesday breezy with sunny intervals and scattered showers. And then the good news, the signs are summer will return later in the week when high pressure will take control of our weather, bringing more settled conditions and warming-up as well. And about time too !

Have a great weekend
Derek

Derek's steaming!

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Derek Brockway Derek Brockway | 08:30 UK time, Friday, 6 August 2010

It's full steam ahead at the National Eisteddfod in Ebbw Vale! On Wednesday I had a ride on a steam engine from the Blaenavon Heritage Railway. They have laid a special track, 200 feet long, behind the Science and Technology pavilion! Of course, steams engines used to help run the old steelworks on the site of this year's Eisteddfod. The weather here today has been cool but at least it's been dry with a little sunshine at times. Tomorrow it's all change again, though, with some rain and drizzle although some drier spells are likely in the afternoon. On Saturday will bring some rain or showers but turning drier and brighter later. Sunday the best day of the weekend. Generally dry. Some bright or sunny spells and with lighter winds feeling warmer. Cymerwch ofal / take care Derek

Weather on the Maes - Thursday and Friday

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Derek Brockway Derek Brockway | 15:23 UK time, Wednesday, 4 August 2010

The weather hasn't been the best today at the National Eisteddfod with a few blustery showers but tomorrow will be better so you could always visit the beach. Yes there is a beach right on the Maes here in Ebbw Vale!

I popped along there earlier to check it out. You can build sandcastles, play volleyball or just relax in a deck-chair and dream of a heatwave! There is also entertainment for the kids, Punch and Judy and face painting as well.

The umbrellas have been up today but the worst of the showers have passed. Tonight there will be some gaps in the clouds so you may be lucky and see an aurora of green and red lights in the sky caused by a solar flare.

If you're coming to the Eisteddfod tomorrow, it should be dry with a little sunshine at times but Friday doesn't looks too good. Low pressure will bring another dose of rain and drizzle. Drier on Saturday with the odd shower.

Cofion Cynnes
Derek

Weather on the Maes

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Derek Brockway Derek Brockway | 15:13 UK time, Tuesday, 3 August 2010

I'm in Blaenau Gwent this week working at the National Eisteddfod in Ebbw Vale. Yesterday was dry on the Maes with some sunshine but it's a different story today with light rain and drizzle or 'glaw man' in Welsh.

Mind you, as I write this, the sun has started to break through the clouds with a much drier afternoon and evening in prospect.

Yesterday, I met the choir from Only Boys Aloud who are a friendly bunch. They sang for us at the end of Wales Today news in the evening. I'm sure they have a bright future ahead of them and I wish them well.

A family from Swansea taught me a new Welsh word this morning. Hawddamor which is an old Welsh term for 'welcome' or 'greetings'. Perhaps I will use it at the start of my late evening weather bulletin?!

If you're coming to the National Eisteddfod over the next few days, here is my forecast:

Wednesday early rain then drier and brighter with the chance of a shower. Breezy.

Thursday breezy but apart from the odd light shower it should be dry.

Friday turning wet with some heavy rain.

Saturday breezy with a mixture of bright intervals and showers.

Top temperatures 16 or 17 Celsius. Dropping down 10 to 13 Celsius at night.

Pob Hwyl
Derek

Sex in the garden?

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Martin Aaron Martin Aaron | 12:46 UK time, Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Aberglasney sure know how to attract attention. 'Sex in the garden!' they bellow, advertising their forthcoming event about plants' reproductive cycles like Carry On Up The Sporophyte.

But all this has a fascinating, and little-known, point. The way that plants reproduce is a mystery to many, and the Carmathenshire garden's director of operations Graham Rankin is keen to expose more about the secret life of plants in his care. Graham will take visitors through the mysteries of plant reproduction on 5 September, with tickets available through the garden's website.

We caught up with Graham to find out about his passion for this area of plant life and what people can expect from the event.

"The honest reason for doing this is frustration. Having spent thousands of pounds and countless hours buying the most beautiful plants available, most garden visitors appreciate the overall colour that flowers produce, but I doubt that more than 5% of visitors really take the trouble of stopping to admire their individual intricate beauty or fragrance and marvel at the fascinating ways they have evolved over millions of years to reproduce themselves. I have never been asked by a visitor how a certain plant reproduces, but I am sure if they knew they would find it fascinating.

"Many flowering plants produce highly visible inflorescences, which is one reason why we grow them, but some plants produce flowers that are highly inconspicuous or not visible at all without careful observation, but are still valuable in the garden.

"The pollination of flowers by wind, insect and bird will be covered and the evolutionary development of each, from primitive grasses and magnolias to the advanced animal-like mimicry of orchids. Other plants will include Ficus carica (the fig) and Aristolochia gigantea - the 'Duthchman's Pipe'.

aberglasney-aristolochia.jpg
Aristolochia gigantea

"I'll also be taking a look at the garden's plants in flower and discussing their reproduction methods. This will include the pollination of fruit trees and how to hybridise plants to create new cultivars. We'll also take a close look at a few plants in greater detail, two of which will be a Cypripedium (Lady Slipper Orchid) and a Phalaenopsis (Moth Orchid) both of which will be dissected to reveal their 'reproductive secrets'."

So if plant reproduction is right up your alley, you could do a lot worse than stroll through one of west Wales' most beautiful gardens in the company of Graham and some amazing species of flora.

James McLaren

Grasshoppers and crickets

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Martin Aaron Martin Aaron | 11:56 UK time, Tuesday, 3 August 2010

We had an email into the wales.nature@bbc.co.uk inbox this morning from our regular contributor Mike Davies, who asked us whether this insect is a grasshopper or a cricket.

grasshopper_mike_davies.jpg

(By the way, I'm James McLaren, covering for our usual blogger Gull)

Well, insects are as confusing, if not more so, than Little Brown Jobs, the annoying birds who look identical and can only be told apart by their songs. So I got in touch with the National Museum of Wales in Cardiff and spoke to entymological expert John Deeming.

"The main difference to look for is in the length of the antennae," he explains. "Grasshoppers have short antennae, sometimes only as long as their head. Crickets have much longer ones, sometimes longer than the length of their whole body.

"There are two types of cricket, the Gryllidae, known as 'true crickets' which look quite like grasshoppers, and the Tettigoniidae which are known as 'bush crickets'. If you really want to see the differences, search on the web for images of Acrididae, the grasshoppers, Gryllidae and Tettigoniide.

"I'm afraid colours are no help in identifying a grasshopper from a cricket!"

So there we go then, Mike's insect is a grasshopper, with its short antennae. Hope that helps all us budding entymologists.

Grasshoppers and crickets

Post categories:

Martin Aaron Martin Aaron | 11:56 UK time, Tuesday, 3 August 2010

We had an email into the wales.nature@bbc.co.uk inbox this morning from our regular contributor Mike Davies, who asked us whether this insect is a grasshopper or a cricket.

grasshopper_mike_davies.jpg

(By the way, I'm James McLaren, covering for our usual blogger Gull)

Well, insects are as confusing, if not more so, than Little Brown Jobs, the annoying birds who look identical and can only be told apart by their songs. So I got in touch with the National Museum of Wales in Cardiff and spoke to entymological expert John Deeming.

"The main difference to look for is in the length of the antennae," he explains. "Grasshoppers have short antennae, sometimes only as long as their head. Crickets have much longer ones, sometimes longer than the length of their whole body.

"There are two types of cricket, the Gryllidae, known as 'true crickets' which look quite like grasshoppers, and the Tettigoniidae which are known as 'bush crickets'. If you really want to see the differences, search on the web for images of Acrididae, the grasshoppers, Gryllidae and Tettigoniide.

"I'm afraid colours are no help in identifying a grasshopper from a cricket!"

So there we go then, Mike's insect is a grasshopper, with its short antennae. Hope that helps all us budding entymologists.

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