Archives for September 2010

Wet weather and fungi

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Martin Aaron Martin Aaron | 08:47 UK time, Thursday, 30 September 2010

We're in for a bit of a soaking shortly as low pressure winds up in the Atlantic.

It's great news for all the surfers in Wales though as we're in for some big waves and offshore winds over the next few days, with more unsettled weather arriving next week.

Apologies if you don't surf. My advice - invest in a large umbrella or stay indoors ;)

Hopefully we'll have a bit of sunshine in between though and the winds are expected to lighten for Saturday.

One man's pain is another man's pleasure I guess...which leads me nicely on to golf.

I really hope the Ryder Cup gets under way before the stormy weather arrives as it would be a real shame if the event was a wash out, so fingers crossed it all goes smoothly.

Take a look at our Ryder Cup website for some alternative perspectives on the tournament.

One species however that is enjoying the milder, wetter weather is fungi - and they are absolutely everywhere at the moment!

Mike Warburton sent in this lovely shot of a fly agaric mushroom to our Flickr group:

 

A fly agaric fungi by Mike Warburton

I've put together a fungi gallery featuring some of the more amazing looking mushrooms and fungi that have been submitted to our Flickr group.

I'll add more soon, so don't despair if yours hasn't been featured yet. I've had to be quite picky as there are so many fungi images to choose from so keep them coming and remember - I can only use landscape style shots in the gallery (horizontal rather than vertical).

Thanks

Gull

Rhys to the Rescue

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Martin Aaron Martin Aaron | 09:00 UK time, Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Wednesday, September 29 at 7.30pm on BBC One Wales.

Yes, Dr Jones is back - it's a series, so he'll keep coming back for a few weeks yet! ;)

I hope you saw the first episode last week - I did and thoroughly enjoyed it - not at all what I was expecting.

I had no idea for instance that baby adders pack as much venom in their bite as the adult snakes which is very handy to know.

I saw a baby adder in the summer - slithering across a busy beach car park and almost picked it up to carry it to safety. Luckily I just watched it instead and allowed it to find its own way across.

Anyway, onto this week's episode:

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles may have been all the rage in the 1990s but they sparked a craze for the real thing - leading to hundreds of terrapins being bought and subsequently dumped when their owners grew tired of them.

Rhys and PC Mark Goulding with a boa constrictor:

Rhys and local police with an escaped boa constrictor

Rhys demonstrates just how much of a problem they are at Roath Park Lake in Cardiff, where discarded terrapins are causing havoc amongst the local wildlife, but he quickly discovers how hard they are to catch!

Terrapins are not the only animals that irresponsible owners are taking on; only to dump or release into the wild when they grow too large or unmanageable.

Rhys also has his hands full with a terrified bosc monitor lizard suspected of being bullied by a larger beast, who has even ripped off some of its digits, making it difficult for the poor lizard to climb and dig.

Rhys, who hails from Cardiff, reckons zoos and wildlife parks are full to the brim with former escapees and he's already taken home several specimens who would otherwise have been put down.

If you miss an episode you can always watch again on the BBCi-Player.

Gull

Lapland comes to Kenfig

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Martin Aaron Martin Aaron | 10:58 UK time, Monday, 27 September 2010

Forget Santa - it's far too early to be talking about **** and I've promised myself I won't mention that particular word until at least December.

So what else comes from Lapland I hear you cry?

Well... the answer is - the Lapland bunting of course!

This little chap was recently been spotted at Kenfig Nature Reserve near Porthcawl by Flickr regular - Mike McCarthy.

Mike had heard rumours of a sighting so popped down on the off chance of seeing one. He was surprised to find a fairly tame bird, sat just 3 metres from him - happily posing for photos!

Lapland Bunting by Mike McCarthy:

Lapland Bunting by Mike McCarthy

 

Here's the RSPB description:

"Slightly smaller than a reed bunting with a well marked head pattern, chestnut nape and chestnut wing panel. It spends most of its time on the ground and often seen in small flocks."

Lapland Bunting by Mike McCarthy:

Lapland Bunting by Mike McCarthy

 

"Occasional birds are seen in Scotland in the summer, when males have a striking black crown, face and throat."

These birds are normally found along the east coast of Britain, arriving from September through to November and leaving by May - no doubt to avoid our lousy summers!

So we should consider ourselves quite privileged to have them visiting us in South Wales.

If you've seen anything unusual visiting our shores then do get in touch and let me know - wales.nature@bbc.co.uk

Gull

Porthcawl Elvis Festival

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Martin Aaron Martin Aaron | 15:44 UK time, Friday, 24 September 2010

Stuck for something to do this weekend?

Well, if you happen to be wandering around Porthcawl this weekend - don't be alarmed if you bump into 1000's of Elvis fans sporting wigs, side burns and outrageous costumes.

The Porthcawl Elvis Festival begins tonight and runs until 26 September.

The official shows take place in the Grand Pavilion and includes the 'Elvies' - the world's premiere event for Elvis tribute acts.

An Elvis impersonator in Porthcawl. Image by Mat Fraser:

Elvis impersonator by mat fraser

There are also lots of shows taking place at the Hi-Tide Inn and plenty going on at the Fringe Festivals dotted around town - making this the largest Elvis event in Europe!

The weather forecast is shaping up nicely too with sunny weather and light N winds forecast so those wigs should stay on ;)

I'd love to see pics from the event, so if you're going - email your best photos to me at wales.nature@bbc.co.uk.

Read a blog about a new film being made all about the festival.

thanks

Gull

 

 

Nature news

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Martin Aaron Martin Aaron | 10:24 UK time, Friday, 24 September 2010

A quick round up of some of the other nature & outdoor stories in Wales this week:

Wind power finally arrives on Ramsey Island meaning the wardens and volunteers will no longer have to rely on the old generator for power.

The Millennium Stadium has set itself a target of becoming the UK's first green events venue.

Plans are afoot to restore the Grade II listed swimming lido in Pontypridd after it received a £75,000 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Sadly a marine conservationist student from Wales has drowned while diving off the coast of Martinique. Thomas Dunkley, 28 had been carrying out research for his Masters degree at Bangor University; looking into the effects of global warming on coral reefs.

Workers have uncovered 100's of single shoes whilst repairing a chimney stack on an old stone 17th century cottage in Snowdonia. The shoes are thought to date from Victorian times and have left the National Trust baffled.

One explanation is the "concealed shoes" phenomenon - an ancient and superstitious practice aimed at guarding a house against bad luck.

Beaches across Wales had a good clean up recently thanks to the 'big beach watch clean up' organised by the Marine Conservation Society.

An unmaned robotoc yacht named Pinta was launched off the Irish Coast earlier his month by a team from Aberystwyth University.

Teams from around the world use on-board sensors and GPS technology to help their boats navigate themselves across some of the most treacherous oceans in the world.

Pinta is only 3m long and not expected to complete the challenge but it will be interesting to see how far she gets.

And finally Welsh naturalist - Iolo Williams is set to star in BBC's Autumnwatch series next month.

Wildlife survey results

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Martin Aaron Martin Aaron | 00:02 UK time, Thursday, 23 September 2010

Participants in Wales in the the RSPB summer wildlife survey - Make Your Nature Count almost doubled in 2010 with over 4,000 people counting the birds and mammals in nearly 3,000 gardens.

 

Dana Thomas, from RSPB Cymru, said: "For many species the only way of counting them is to ask people to take part in a garden survey like this and some of the results have been quite surprising."

"Lots of people see hedgehogs, moles and deer in their gardens which you may only expect to see in the wider countryside."

And now for the results...

30% of people taking part in urban areas have seen hedgehogs in their gardens before and more than one in seven see them regularly.

A late night hedgehog visits a garden. Image by Charles Dawson:

hedgehog by charles dawson

 

They were reported from 48% of gardens in rural areas where more than a quarter of participants see them at least monthly.

Participants were also asked to report moles and roe deer for the first time this year.

14% of participants recorded mole sightings, including mole hills, with one in six detecting them regularly.

Unsurprisingly, most moles were recorded in rural gardens and were most frequently sighted in Wales with 25%, compared with 15% in Scotland and 13% in England.

Roe deer, a native species, were recorded in 5% of gardens with most sightings in Scotland.

Make Your Nature Count was one of the first garden wildlife surveys since the extraordinarily cold winter and participants also recorded common birds.

A blackbird foraging in the snow - Image by Sue Tranter (RSPB images):

blackbird foraging in the snow - Image by Sue Tranter (RSPB  images)

The RSPB also asked questions about how well robins, blackbirds and song thrushes are breeding.

The survey showed that the blackbird is still the most frequent visitor recorded in 90% of all gardens followed by the house sparrow at 84% and blue tit taking third place with 77%.

32% recorded young blackbirds, 17% recorded young robins and 5% saw young song thrushes.

Participants were also asked to record summer migrants, particularly nesting house martins.

Only 9% of respondents have house martins nesting under their eaves and experts are keen to build on this in future years to find out the extent of their suspected declines.

Next year’s Make Your Nature Count will take place from 4-12 June, 2011.

New Welsh mountain

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Martin Aaron Martin Aaron | 12:15 UK time, Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Satellite technology has now confirmed that Glyder Fawr, in Snowdonia is actually higher than a thousand metres, giving it new mountain status.

Watch a clip on BBC Newsonline.

It is now one of only five 1,000 metre or more high peaks in Wales. Previous measurements calculated it to be only 999 metres but new measurements via satellite have proved the mountain is actually 1000.8metres.

I think this story would make an excellent idea for a Hollywood movie....

 

Badgers aren't out the woods yet

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Martin Aaron Martin Aaron | 15:26 UK time, Monday, 20 September 2010

A new attempt at introducing a badger cull in parts of west Wales has been proposed by the rural affairs minister - Elin Jones.

An annual cull is being proposed over five year period for north Pembrokeshire and part of Ceredigion.

 

In a nutshell

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Martin Aaron Martin Aaron | 11:28 UK time, Monday, 20 September 2010

The weather has definitely got an autumnal feel to it at the moment but then again we are in autumn now so we shouldn't be too surprised as the nights start to draw in and the days feel just that little bit fresher.

As the leaves around us begin to change colour and float down from their perches, keep an eye out for the bright green, prickly fruits of the horse chestnut tree.

These wonderfully majestic trees are actually native to the Balkan states e.g. Greece, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina etc and all those other countries that we only ever really hear about in times of conflict or Eurovision.

The trees were first introduced to Britain during the 16th century - why I'm unsure, as the wood is of poor quality and not even particularly good to burn!

Horse chestnuts have suffered in Britain recently due to a combination of disease, drought and pest attack - resulting in the loss of thousands of trees particularly in England.

Conkers without their prickles by Eiona Roberts: Conkers by Eiona Roberts

We have approximately 11,000 trees in Wales currently so far fewer than our counterparts in England and Scotland.

The distinctive palmat leaves (i.e. the nerves diverge from a main point like fingers from the palm of your hand) usually have five or seven leaflets but you'll probably spot the distinctive, green, prickly cases strewn all over the forest floor long before you have to start identifying leaf shapes.

Conkers are poisonous to eat but you can eat the edible sweet chestnuts (unrelated to horse chestnuts) which are often roasted over hot coals in outdoor markets during the festive season - which I'll not mention in this blog for at least another two months!

Sweet chestnuts are similar in appearance to conkers (horse chestnuts) but have a pointed tip at the top of the nut. The leaf shape and prickly case are also completely different so you shouldn't have any problems identifying them, but if in doubt - don't eat.

School boys playing conkers: School boys playing conkers

No-one really knows where the word 'conker' came from but some believe it originates from the French word 'conque' meaning conch - as the game was originally played using snail shells.

Whatever its origin, the game of conkers has entertained school boys for centuries, long before hand held game consoles were invented.

Indeed, it's highly likely that youngsters today have no idea what to do with a conker so I've included a link to the World Conker Championships website for the official rules of engagement ;)

In a nutshell (pun intended!) you simply drill a thin hole through a conker, thread some string through and tie a knot at the bottom. You then take turns at hitting your opponent's conker until one of them shatters. Last conker standing, wins - simple.

There are a number of ways to make your prized conker last a bit longer - including soaking them in vinegar or baking in an oven (so they become rock hard) but I'm sure these techniques are frowned upon nowadays.

A grey squirrel with a conker. Image by Eiona Roberts: A grey squirrel with a conker in its mouth. Image by Eiona  Roberts

Aside from us humans; only squirrels and deer seem to bother with them - probably due to the poison (Aesculin) contained within them.

Squirrels tend to bury them but no-one is sure if this is done to help release some of the toxins, making them more palatable? Or as a back up plan for survival during harsh winters. I guess if you're a hungry squirrel, you'll eat anything!

Gull

Rhys to the rescue

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Martin Aaron Martin Aaron | 10:15 UK time, Monday, 20 September 2010

Wednesday, 22 September at 7.30pm on BBC One Wales

Rhys Jones isn't your average chap. His normal day consists of dealing with schoolboys bringing home pet tarantulas and boa constrictors escaping from bedrooms.

Rhys is a wildlife expert and one of a handful of people in the UK, qualified to deal with endangered species and reptiles.

As a result he's often called upon to help out the police or Countryside Council for Wales when specialist skills are required.

Rhys to the Rescue is a fascinating insight into Rhys' weird world, as he tackles the kinds of critters most of us would be too scared to handle.

Herpetologist, Dr Rhys Jones:

Reptile expert, Rhys Jones

 

In episode one, Welsh troops (about to undertake a tour of duty) learn how to tackle snake and scorpion bites & stings - which affect around 600 military personnel in Afghanistan and Iraq every year.

They may be battle-hardened veterans, but these soldiers would rather face the enemy than get up close and personal with Rhys' snakes!

In another call out - Rhys is asked to track down and remove a colony of adders in need of rehousing after a new housing development is put on hold.

Rhys and leading reptile vet - Mark Evans microchip them in a unique experiment to see what happens when snakes are relocated.

You can watch the first episode on Wednesday, 22 September on BBC One Wales.

Gull

Weekend weather

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Derek Brockway Derek Brockway | 13:47 UK time, Friday, 17 September 2010

Autumn has arrived in Wales this week bringing heavy rain, strong to gale force winds, blustery showers and some sunshine.

It has also turned noticeably cooler with north-westerly winds bringing colder air down from the Arctic.

In fact tonight is going to be the coldest night of the week with some ground frost, especially in the countryside, on sandy soils and in rural areas with temperatures falling close to freezing in a few locations.

Over the weekend, the weather is set to change again.

Saturday will start dry and bright with some sunshine but gradually cloud over with a few spots of light rain in the north and west. 

The south and east and Mid Wales should stay mostly dry with top temperatures  between 14 to 16 Celsius with a light to moderate west to south-westerly breeze.

On Saturday night the rain will spread across the country with some moderate bursts but much milder with temperatures around 8 to 12 Celsius.

Sunday will be rather cloudy with some rain and heavy showers but some drier interludes too.

It may even brighten-up on the north coast with some sunshine and temperatures around16 to 18 Celsius.

Anne Riggs in Haycastle sent me this pic of Newgale beach looking bright and sunny earlier today:

Newgale beach by Anne Riggs in Haycastle

The wind will be light to moderate west to south-westerly and feel fresh on exposed coasts and hills.

Next week is best described as mixed - with some rain and showers at times but also some sunshine and becoming warmer too.

There's lots going on this weekend!

The Lampeter Bee Keepers Association are holding an open day at Norwood Gardens, Llanllwni near Pencader on Sunday from 10.30am with lots of activities and stalls.

Pop along to a fun and free Deadly Day Out with CBBC's Live 'n' Deadly on Sunday and meet naturalist Steve Backshall.

In Barry - the first Vintage and Steam weekend is taking place at Romilly Park with three Traction Engines.

You can also see one of the very first petrol driven fire engines, several vintage buses and World War Two memorabrillia including pump engines and over 150 vintage cars. Fireman Sam is attending too!

While in Knighton, Powys, The Battle of Britain Parade is taking place on Sunday at 10.15am with a parade through the town.

Derek

Vintage fire engines on BBC Wales History

Battle of Britain - Welsh Aces on BBC Wales History

Live and Deadly

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Martin Aaron Martin Aaron | 09:00 UK time, Thursday, 16 September 2010

No, it's not the latest Bond film, it's a new children's wildlife and adventure series from Steve Backshall - naturalist, writer, adventurer and TV presenter.

Some of you will already know Steve from BBC programmes such as Lost Land of the Volcano, Lost Land of the Jaguar, Expedition Borneo and Deadly 60 on CBBC - when he travelled to six different continents to complete a list of the 60 most lethal animals on earth.

In his latest television series, Steve will be bringing the great outdoors directly into your living room every Saturday morning.

The show will be broadcast over eight episodes on BBC and CBBC starting on 11 Sept.

Steve studies a preying mantis using a magnifying glass:
Presenter steve backshall studies a preying mantis
Steve will be introducing children to climbing, abseiling, white-water rafting, wildlife watching, birds of prey, snakes, spiders and plenty of other wildlife surprises.

To celebrate the new series; Steve is taking his Live and Deadly tour out on the road. In Wales there will be a Deadly Day Out on Sunday, 19 September at the Cwmbran Shopping Centre from 10am - 4pm.

You'll be able to meet Steve and the team and get up close and personal to some amazing wildlife. Wales' very own reptile guru, Dr Rhys Jones will also be there, so expect plenty of snakes!

Besides the animals, the Live and Deadly truck will be bringing challenges and dares to Cwmbran, so pop along if you're up for a challenge!

Local wildlife groups will also be on hand to show you what you can get up to in your area and you might even have the chance to appear in your own animal movie - using the latest green screen technology. Imagine swimming with sharks or soaring with eagles?!

BBC Live & Deadly - FAQ's

Gull


An autumnal feeling

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Derek Brockway Derek Brockway | 17:45 UK time, Wednesday, 15 September 2010

It definitely feels like autumn has arrived today with a strong and blustery wind making it feel cool.

There have been gales on the hills and mountains with a gust of 68 mph recorded at Capel Curig in Snowdonia.

The wind will ease tonight and tomorrow will be less windy but cool with a mixture of sunshine and showers.

The air will be more unstable than today though which means if you catch a shower it could be heavy with a risk of hail and thunder.

Friday will be generally drier with some sunshine and the wind should fall but it will turn cold overnight with a touch of ground frost early on Saturday!

Derek

Is golf missing a birdie?

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Martin Aaron Martin Aaron | 12:17 UK time, Wednesday, 15 September 2010

With Ryder Cup fever approaching, I thought I'd look for a nature angle on this year's tournament and golf courses in particular.

Traditionally, golf courses don't have a particularly good reputation for being wildlife friendly - mainly due to the amount of pesticides and water used to keep the greens looking pristine.

It's ironic when you consider the sport's environmentally friendly origins when men in Scotland wandered around hitting pebbles with sticks.

Five hundred years or so later and British golfers had rapidly fallen in love with America's green and sterile courses and wanted the same back home. But perfect greens come with a hefty environmental price tag.

You'd be forgiven for thinking that acres of green grass would be good for the environment but without wild plants to attract the insects and the birds and mammals to eat them - they simply become green deserts.

Then of course there's the construction of the courses themselves - digging up habitats to create all the twists and turns of the course as well as all the bunkers and water hazards.

Even the 'water hazards' can become devoid of life - becoming contaminated with pesticides after periods of heavy rain.

Besides the pest control, golf courses consume a staggering amount of water. A Unesco World Water Development report found that an 18-hole golf course can use as much as 2.3 million litres of water every day! Which isn't an easy statistic to swallow in our current world climate.

BBC Panorama recently covered the state of 'Britain's disappearing wildlife'. In that programme, Pavan Sukhdev from the UN Environment Programme stated that businesses in the future are going to have to re-think the way they operate and become far more environmentally aware; if we're to avoid paying higher food and water prices.

But it's not all doom and gloom as some golf courses are now turning their backs on this unsustainable method of land management.

Conservation groups such as the RSPB actually believe that golf courses can become wildlife sanctuaries for struggling bird populations such as skylarks, woodlarks and corn buntings.

So, golf courses can actually be good for wildlife - especially coastal courses which have an array of different habitats and species.

A golfer about to tee-off

A golfer about to tee-off

Roughly 140,000 hectares of out-of-bounds areas exist on UK golf courses which could be used as wildlife highways to create natural corridors between rural and urban habitats - something the Wildlife Trusts are already doing via their Living Landscape initiative.

New Malton Golf Club is an 18-hole course in Hertfordshire, which claims to have been chemical-free for a year, and is planning to apply to the Soil Association for organic certification.

The course's out-of-bounds areas are currently home to woodpeckers, kestrels, owls, pheasants, hares, rabbits and stoats and the owners also plan to graze animals and grow fruit on the land.

Many golf courses in the UK also overlap into SSSIs (Sites of Special Scientific Interest).

The Royal St David's Course in Gwynedd is one such site and lies within the Morfa Harlech SSSI - designated for its coastal and fixed dune grassland and diversity of wildlife.

The course has a careful programme of land management and over the years has trialled many different techniques for grass cutting and managing it's rough areas.

The Royal St David's Course. Image by Visit Wales

The Royal St David's Course. Image courtesy of Visit Wales

Parts of the course wind their way through sand hills and species-rich dune plain grasslands.

Dune areas are often left untouched apart from the occasional scrub or tree removal whilst grassy areas are trimmed to various sizes throughout the year to suit both wildlife and golfers alike.

The out-of bounds areas provide excellent habitat for skylark, meadow pipit, brown hare, amphibians and rodent species which in turn provide food for kestrels and owls. Meanwhile bare sections of the course provide ideal basking habitat for rare sand lizards.

So, the Ryder Cup course has a lot to live up to; as the eyes of the world focus in on Wales for three days this October.

Jim McKenzie, Director of Golf Courses and Estates Management at The Celtic Manor Resort, said: "The Twenty Ten course was built in harmony with its environment and with the close consideration for protected species like otters, toads and dormice."

The third hole on the Twenty Ten Course. Image courtesy of the Celtic Manor Resort:

The third hole on the Twenty Ten course. Image courtesy of the Celtic Manor Resort

"Since its conversion from intensive farmland, many indigenous grasses, plants and wildlife have returned to the land upon which the course is built".

"All the golf courses feature 100 per cent self-sustained irrigation with rain water taken from these lakes and a specially constructed reservoir".

"We are committed to continually improving our own management to ensure care for the environment continues to be a feature of The Celtic Manor Resort's staging of The 2010 Ryder Cup."

There is also a lot of work under way to look at how the event's carbon footprint can be effectively managed by identifying the main greenhouse gas generating activities and looking at ways of reducing them.

So, it would appear that golf courses can be both good and bad for the environment, depending on how they are managed.

Golf courses are ultimately designed for human enjoyment but if managed correctly - taking into account: nature conservation, the landscape, cultural heritage, water useage, turf grass management, waste and energy consumption - they can provide vital habitat for wildlife of all shapes and sizes.

Head in the clouds

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Derek Brockway Derek Brockway | 17:06 UK time, Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Simon Rolfe took these strange cloud pictures in the skies over Sychdyn in Flintshire recently and e-mailed me to find out more.

A cloud formation by simon rolfe
These clouds are actually known as Fallstreak Holes and I've actually blogged about them before.
 

If you spot any unusual cloud or weather formations in the sky, please get in touch.

You can send your pics to me here at wales.nature@bbc.co.uk along with any questions you may have and I'll do my best to answer them here in the blog.

A cloud formation by simon rolfe
And you never know - they might just turn up on the telly during one of my weather forecasts!

 

Happy cloud spotting

Derek

The cloud appreciation society website

BBC Weather - types of cloud

Ringing bluestones

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Derek Brockway Derek Brockway | 15:42 UK time, Monday, 13 September 2010

Last week I was out of the office filming two more walks in North Pembrokeshire and on Gower for the new series of Weatherman Walking.

We started from Maenchlochog and walked up to the highest point in the Preseli Hills or Preseli Mountains, Foel Cwmcerwyn, 1758 feet above sea level.

Our hike included part of the 'Golden Road' which used to be a main trade route between Wessex and Ireland.

Fortunately the waterproofs came in handy as heavy rain was followed by heavy showers but the cloud did occasionally lift, offering glimpses of the wonderful views across Pembrokeshire.

Apparently on a clear day, you can see as far as Snowdonia, the Brecon Beacons and the Wicklow Mountains in Ireland.

You can find out more about walking in the Preseli's on BBC Local.

The whole area is steeped in history with Neolithic burial chambers, Bronze Age cairns, Iron Age forts, stone circles and standing stones.

The area is also famed for its bluestones - which can only be found in this part of Britain and I've been reliably informed that some - make a ringing sound when hit!

Our walk also took us to Rosebush or Rhos y bwlch where we popped into the Tafarn Sinc pub to shelter from the rain.

After that we headed to South Gower and walked from Caswell Bay to Pwll Du passing some gorgeous coves where smuggling was once a way of life.

We also wandered down through the Bishopston Valley which is very secluded and beautiful with rare trees and wildlife including otters and a river which disappears under ground!

You'll be able to see these walks on television in January 2011 but don't worry - I'll remind you nearer the time.

Derek 

Tide and time

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Derek Brockway Derek Brockway | 16:17 UK time, Friday, 10 September 2010

The Met Office has issued a warning for heavy rain for much of South and West Wales including Powys and Ceredigion.

The rain will clear early tomorrow and it will brighten-up with a mixture of sunshine and scattered showers. Temperatures 18 to 20 Celsius with a moderate west to south-westerly breeze.

The BBC Proms in the Park is taking place at Singleton Park, Swansea, tomorrow evening. If you're going along it should be dry with temperatures around 16 Celsius

Sunday will bring a few showers and most of these will be in the north and west in the morning.

Otherwise it should be dry with some sunshine. Temperatures 18 to 20 Celsius with a light to moderate north-westerly breeze.

Wales has been experiencing the highest tides of the year. This picture from Laugharne shows the tide rising around a van last night.

Flooding at Laugharne by Alan Evans. Pictured are Luke Whitton, Josh Staples, Dion John and Lauren Derbyshire - some of the local children who helped the stranded motorists.

Flooding at Laugharne - image by Alan Evans
 
Children went around the town, trying to find the cars' owners, as the tide came in. The next high tide this evening may lead to more flooding on parts of the Bristol Channel coast and the Wye estuary.

There is also a 4* tidal bore this evening so worth watching if you live near the River Severn around 10:49pm this evening.

Mike Davies from Neath sent in this shot of high tide at Swansea Bay this morning:

high tides at swansea bay by mike davies

Derek

Severn Bore 4*

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Martin Aaron Martin Aaron | 14:55 UK time, Friday, 10 September 2010

The last time bore fever struck was back in March this year when a 5* bore went on the rampage - sending the national press into a frenzy. Sky TV even covered the event with a helicopter and film crew!

The next two days could be equally spectacular though as low pressure and some of biggest tides of the year combine forces.

The current spate of tidal bores have been rated as 4* but don't let this fool you - I think the next few tides (on Friday and Saturday) could produce bores just as good; if not better than the ones seen in March.

If you're heading down to the river to watch - stand well back from the river bank and take care as it will be very slippery after all the recent rain. The river will also be running extremely fast and high so keep the kids on a tight leash.

You can find out all about the Severn Bore and the man who first surfed it back in 1955 in our revised surfing section within Nature & Outdoors. I hope you like it.

I'd love to see your photos of this remarkable event.You can either email them to wales.nature@bbc.co.uk or submit them to our Flickr group.

Have a great weekend and if you're stuck for something to do - the Civic Trust for Wales is running an Open Doors campaign this weekend which means you can visit all sorts of places for free - including BBC Wales.

The National Trust have also got their own version called Heritage Open Days so there is plenty going on.

Gull

Purple fingers

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Martin Aaron Martin Aaron | 10:44 UK time, Wednesday, 8 September 2010

September is a great time for foraging free food from nature's larder and right now we're well into the blackberry season.

Be warned though - many berries are poisonous; birds can eat them but they'll make us extremely ill if we eat the wrong ones, so only pick berries you know are safe to eat.

You can't go too far wrong with a blackberry though. They're easy to identify, taste great, are nutritional and free. Why pay for them in supermarkets when you can pick as many of the organic variety as you like for free?

Ripe blackberries waiting to be picked:
blackberries

They can be turned into a whole range of delicious treats - from crumbles to jams or even brandy or you can eat them as nature intended - straight from the brambles along with the odd fruit worm.

Do a quick taste test before picking as they may appear dark and ripe but not taste particularly sweet, so may need a few more days to ripen.

If you're making jams then it doesn't really matter, as you'll be adding sugar to the recipe anyway.

Top tips: Avoid picking berries which are growing near busy roads or growing lower down where dogs mark their scent....you get the idea. Plants growing near heavy industry aren't good either!

I was down at Margam recently and noticed hundreds of ripe, virginal berries oozing from the hedgerows and then realised why no-one had picked them...the steel works was opposite but it's not just air pollution that should put you off.

Superstition states that you shouldn't pick blackberries after late September/ early October as the Devil urinates on them. You'd think he'd have more important business to be taking care of but I guess we all have our vices?

So, you'll have to weigh up for yourselves which is worse - the Devil's urine or that of someone's pet pooch?

And, it therefore goes without saying that you should always wash your blackberries in cold water before eating or freezing.

Blackberrying is also a great way of re-using your old plastic bags so don't throw them away - not that you would do, in this day and age anyway.

It's also a nice way to get a squabbling family together for a weekend walk - you can even have a competition to see who can pick the most.

Stained fingers and clothes are the only downside of this ancient bushcraft but purple fingers should always be worn as a badge of honour.

The stains will fade after a day or two anyway but you could always wear gloves if you're a hand model or a particularly popular politician.

Did you know....the juice from blackberries was once used as a dye for clothes and hair. So, it gives you an indication of just how tough those stains can be to remove - so don't ever go blackberrying in white.

Wearing old clothes and long sleeves is a good idea though, as brambles can be pretty sharp and tear skin and clothes easily.

When ripe, the berries will be a deep purple, almost black colour and soft but firm to touch. If they collapse in your hand then they're past their best so leave them for the birds or use in jam.

Try to visit different locations too. That way, you'll give berries which were red during your first visit, time to ripen in time for your second visit; meanwhile you've been elsewhere, harvesting from a different spot so it's a win, win situation.

I've got a bumper crop of pears on my tree this year which are almost ripe so I'll try and do some blackberry & pear combinations this autumn. I'm also thinking 'chutney'.

If any of you have good recipe suggestions or advice about picking other edible berries then please leave your comments below.

Gull

The Size of Wales

Post categories:

Martin Aaron Martin Aaron | 10:14 UK time, Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Prince Charles is visiting the National Botanic Garden of Wales today as he launches a new environmental campaign to sustain an area of African tropical forest - the size of Wales.

The 'Size of Wales' scheme encourages people to do conservation work and make donations towards their running.

Project Manager Hannah Scrase said "This project turns the negative use of our nation's size on its head, and encourages people to help protect an area of rainforest equivalent to the size of Wales."

The Prince is currently touring the UK to promote his ideas for a greener lifestyle.

More on this story on BBC News Online.

Dizzy dolphins

Post categories:

Martin Aaron Martin Aaron | 11:06 UK time, Monday, 6 September 2010

Cliff Benson from the Sea Trust has been in touch; concerned that more common dolphins are swimming into Fishguard Harbour and appearing disorientated.

This has happened twice in the last month and Cliff is beginning to wonder if it's being caused by recent naval activity in the area.

HMS Echo and HMS Quorn have both been on exercises in Cardigan Bay recently and a submarine was also spotted whilst the team were carrying out dolphin surveys aboard the Stena Europe ferry to Ireland.

Last time dolphins appeared in Fishguard Harbour - members of the Fishguard Ladies Rowing Team intervened and managed to corral the dolphins safely out of the harbour and back into deeper water.

Fishguard rowers helping dolphins. Image by Cliff Benson of 
the Sea Trust

The jury is still out on the effects of naval sonar activity on dolphin and whale behaviour but some experts believe that mass beachings and strandings are connected with naval activities.

So what do you think? Could naval and other sonar associated activities be responsible for disorientating dolphins off the Welsh coast?

The Registar - navy sonar dolphin massacre - the facts

BBC News - why do dolphins beach en masse?

The Independent - Dolphin charities blame Navy for Cornish beachings

Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society

The Friday forecast

Post categories:

Derek Brockway Derek Brockway | 16:00 UK time, Friday, 3 September 2010

Across Wales as a whole, the summer was slighter warmer and wetter than average because of all the rain we had in July.

The sunshine was on target with 532 hours and June was the sunniest in Wales since 1975!

August was a cool month - the coldest August in Wales since 1994 and rainfall was very mixed depending on where you live, with a big north/south divide.

The summer got off to a good start especially in May and June but soon went off the rails and typically as soon as the school holidays came to an end - the weather improved.

Over the weekend a weak front will move east across the country bringing thicker cloud and a few spots of light rain but some places will still remain dry.

Top temperatures will be around 20 to 22 Celsius with a south-easterly breeze which will feeler cooler on exposed southern and western coasts near the sea.

I'd make the most of the dry weather because on Monday it looks likely that heavy rain will spread from the southwest. This is the last thing I need as I am off filming more TV walks in north Pembrokeshire and south Gower.

Wish me luck, I may need it!

Derek

Nature & outdoor news

Post categories:

Martin Aaron Martin Aaron | 12:54 UK time, Thursday, 2 September 2010

Just a quick catch up on a few things that have caught my eye recently...

  • The Tour of Britain cycling race is coming to Swansea! The city is set to host a stage of the elite cycle race and the Kingsway will become centre stage for a sprint finish at the end of the event's third leg on 13 September.

  • Toxic waste is to be cleared from a site in Cardiff. The waste posed a "significant environmental threat" and the 1,630 chemical barrels are to be removed from the former Seaport site at Roath Dock, Tremorfa which was closed over safety issues.

  • Geologist and Author - Brian John has spoken out over the Stonehenge 'blue stone' mystery that has had archaeologists, geologists and scientists baffled for decades.

It's always been assumed that the stones were transported from the Preseli Hills in West Wales to the site. Brian believes that the stones were probably collected from Salisbury Plain, much closer to Stonehenge - thanks to glacial movement around 450,000 years ago.

It is also known that at least 20 stones came from other parts of Wales including Newport, Pembs, the Brecon Beacons and possibly Fishguard.

  • Onto birds - there are calls to protect a rare colony of little terns in Gronant, North Wales and to make the site into a National Nature Reserve.

The birds are extremely vulnerable to predation but numbers have increased significantly since Denbighshire County Council took over management of the site. The hard work of volunteers and wardens has definitely paid off.

  • And finally Welsh artist, Chris Oakley plans to mark the 200th anniversary of the Jubilee Tower at Moel Famau with a difference.

The artist plans to illuminate the old tower using a beam of light that will shoot up out of the ruins and into the sky. The light will be powered by recycled bio-fuel and shine for about a week after 25 October. Find out more about the Clwydian Range in this BBC NE Wales video.


Bring me sunshine

Post categories:

Derek Brockway Derek Brockway | 09:36 UK time, Wednesday, 1 September 2010

After all the rain last month, the sunshine is back with a vengeance for September.

Bob Gibbons from Llanigon near Hay-on-Wye took this picture overlooking Rhossili and Worms Head on Gower on Bank Holiday Monday:

rhossilli_bob_gibbons.jpg

There were lots of surfers in the sea and hundreds of families walking and picnicking. Mind you, if you were or still are camping in a tent - you'll have noticed how cold the nights are getting.

On Monday night, the temperature at Tirabad in Powys and Capel Curig in Snowdonia fell to just 2 Celsius with a ground frost.

While at Velindre near Glasbury it was the coldest August night since 2003. A real sign that Autumn is on the way.

The reason for the low night time temperatures is because the air over us currently has come via the Arctic. With clear skies and light winds at night, all heat from the sun is lost to space causing temperatures to fall sharply.

The dry weather is set to continue until at least Friday, maybe longer if high pressure holds but things are stirring again out in the Atlantic.

The nights will continue to be cool but during the day it will become warmer with maximum temperatures rising into the low 20's Celsius, 72 Fahrenheit.

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