Archives for November 2010

Big cats in Wales?

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Martin Aaron Martin Aaron | 14:58 UK time, Tuesday, 30 November 2010

These stories seem to come and go throughout Wales and the UK but many experts believe that it's highly likely that big cats have escaped or been released from captivity and are alive and well in the UK.

Indeed many were set free and subsequently shot after the Dangerous Animal Act was introduced in 1976. There are countless records of lynx and jungle cat being shot dead after attacks on chickens and sheep in the 1970s.

Big cats, most probably black leopard (black panther), puma and lynx have subsequently bred here and made our isolated forests and moorlands their home.

Interestingly though big cats are not a new phenomena in Wales and have been part of our own folklore for many hundreds of years.

The medieval Welsh poem 'Pa Gwr' mentions "Cath Palug" meaning 'Palug's cat' or 'clawing cat' which roamed Anglesey until it was slain by Cei - King Arthur's foster brother.

For many 100's of years, the myth of the spectral Black Dog was also common across Britain. It was often described as a large black animal and usually symbolised death.

Sightings have been documented all over Wales from Newport in the South East all the way up to Dolgellau in Southern Snowdonia as well as Mid Wales and Pembrokeshire in the west.

I actually interviewed big cat expert - Danny Nineham for a live web chat on this very subject some 8 or 9 years ago when I first joined BBC Wales.

Here is a guide to big cat paw prints from Danny's website.

This latest story comes from two farmers in Pembrokeshire, one of whom claims to have actually seen a big cat on his land with a lamb in its mouth as well as finding paw prints in the mud.

It does make you wonder why trained tracker dogs can't locate them though, doesn't it?

Watch a clip on this latest story on BBC News online.

As ever, I'd love to hear your thoughts on this sometimes controversial subject!

Links:

British Big Cats Society website

UK big cats

Big cats in Wales

Gull

Colder than Greenland

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Derek Brockway Derek Brockway | 15:13 UK time, Monday, 29 November 2010

The cold spell tightened its grip over the weekend with record breaking temperatures in Wales making it colder than Greenland.

Cold snaps and snow are not unusual in November but the cold we're currently experiencing is more severe than usual. Our coldest weather normally comes after Christmas and in the New Year.

At Llysdinam near Newbridge on Wye in Powys the temperature plunged to -18 Celsius, beating the previous record of -11.7 Celsius set in Welshpool on 9 November 1921.

In Powys, Tirabad near Llanwrtyd the automatic weather station there recorded -15.6 Celsius. The weather station at Tirabad is very remote at 1,007 feet above sea level and is often referred to as Sennybridge which is over 20 miles away.

Meanwhile Cardiff International Airport recorded -8 Celsius which is a new record for November.

So why has it been so cold? Well, our coldest nights occur when there is little wind, clear skies and a covering of snow on the ground. Since snow is a poor conductor of heat, (especially when freshly fallen and dry ) temperatures fall sharply.

Iced up windscreen wipers by Dickie-Dai-Do.

Frozen windscreen wipers by Dickie-Dai-Do.

In Wales, the lowest temperatures tend to occur in mid and east Wales as they're furthest away from the warming influence of the sea but we've a way to go before we break any records.

The lowest temperature ever recorded in Wales was an amazing -23.3°C at Rhayader in Radnorshire on 21 January 1940. But that's nothing compared to Vostok in Antarctica which holds the current world record for the coldest temperature at -89.4 °C.

But not everywhere in Wales was very cold. Some coastal areas escaped the worst of it such as Aberdaron on the Llyn Peninsula where on Sunday morning it was a 'tropical' -1°C! Thanks to the sea acting like a storage heater and keeping things warmer overnight.

Richard Arnold from Powys measured -15 Celcious inside his car

Richard Arnold from Powys measured minus15 degrees Celcius inside his car on Sunday morning.

The week ahead...

The current cold conditions have come from Scandinavia and the Arctic and they are going to persist for the rest of this week.

The chance of a major blizzard is now zero but there is still some snow forecast and the Met Office has issued weather watches for Tuesday and Wednesday.

Most of the snow is expected in Powys and the north. The wind will also pick-up causing the snow to drift and creating a significant wind-chill.

In the wind, temperatures will feel more like -5°C to -10 °C and the frost will also be more penetrating so there is a greater risk of frozen pipes.

Longer term, it looks as if the big freeze will ease slightly over the weekend and into next week but it will still remain chilly.

Some forecasters are predicting another cold winter ahead (although perhaps not as cold as last year) and It may also be drier than normal which could lead to more drought issues again next year.

Of course only time will tell but in the meantime, wrap-up warm and watch out for those biting winds!

Derek

Blizzards and buzzards

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Martin Aaron Martin Aaron | 10:06 UK time, Monday, 29 November 2010

Well, despite the chaos on the roads on Friday night - we all managed to survive the snow blizzards...just!

It felt like a scene from 'The Day After Tomorrow' with everyone panicking, schools closing, cars sliding off the roads, traffic jams and planes crash landing into mountain tops.

Imagine if we ever end up with proper winters like they have in the rest of Europe where -25 Celcius is common and metres of snow falls for months on end?

Getting out of Cardiff took forever with traffic jams in all directions. Once I made it onto the M4 though - it was absolutely fine? Traffic was flowing nicely and for once - everyone was driving at a safe distance.

If everyone just stayed calm, I'm sure half of the traffic problems wouldn't happen?

Anyway, that's my rant over! The dreaded blizzards are no longer happening this week but Derek will update more on that later.

I was driving to Porthcawl early on Saturday morning when I came down off the motorway and face to face with a buzzard on the wing.

He was flying exactly at eye level with me, without a care in the world - just six feet away and gave me a casual glance sideways.

We continued like this for a few seconds along the road at which point I lost my nerve fearing a collision, so braked slightly.

The buzzard banked hard left and went straight over the top of my van, clonking the roof with his wing tips as he went. Fearing the worst I slowed right down but then spotted him as he swooped up high into a tree, unharmed. An amazing, if slightly surreal encounter. I guess the cold weather clouded his judgement slightly!

Later that day I saw all sorts of raptors and plenty more buzzards out hunting rather than sitting lazily on telegraph poles.

Approaching Cross Hands - a red kite flew hovered above the outside lane of the M4. I've never seen one in this part of Wales before but it had a huge wingspan and (from a distance) resembled an approaching heron!

So, the snow does have its benefits - especially for wildlife photographers as it presents some amazing photo opportunities. Here are some of the pictures you've sent in during the recent cold snap:

A hungry sparrowhawk hunting in the snow by Sarah Bowen

A hungry sparrowhawk hunting in the snow by Sarah Bowen.

Nantgwynant Pass, North Wales by Anthony Tully:

Nantgwynant Pass, North Wales by Anthony Tully

Snowdon and surrounding mountains from Cwm overlooking the Vale of Clwyd by Matthew Griffith.

Snowdon and the surrounding mountains from Cwm, overlooking the Vale of Clwyd by Matthew Griffith.

A pheasant stays out of the snow in the hills above Carno Powys by Griff Evans.

A pheasant stays out of the snow in the hills above Carno, Powys by Griff Evans.

Cardiff Bay in the snow by Mike Fudge.

Cardiff Bay in the snow by Mike Fudge

Castle Coch in Tongwynlais by Gale.

Castle Coch, Tongwynlais covered in snow by Gale.

If you've taken any nice photos recently then why not email them to me here at wales.nature@bbc.co.uk or join our Flickr group - it's free.

Gull

Snow for some parts of Wales

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Derek Brockway Derek Brockway | 12:00 UK time, Friday, 26 November 2010

The wintry weather is tightening its grip on Wales today with most of the country seeing a spell of snow and the Met Office has issued severe weather warnings.

The area of snow is moving south east with 2 to 5 cm inland and 10 cm locally over higher ground. The north and west will brighten-up this afternoon with wintry showers towards the coast and in Pembrokeshire.

Snow in Carmarthenshire by Brigid Rees

Brigid Rees took this earlier today whilst walking the dog in Llanboidy, Carmarthenshire.

This evening, snow in the south and south east will clear. A few wintry showers are likely in the north west and in Pembrokeshire but otherwise most of the country will remain dry overnight.

Lowest temperatures will range from -2 to -6 Celsius with a widespread frost and a risk of icy roads.

Saturday will start off bitterly cold and icy but will remain dry, apart from the odd snow shower further north such as in Anglesey and the north and west coast of Pembrokeshire.

The cloud will break up allowing some sunshine to peek through but the wind chill will make it feel very cold, so wrap up warm for the rugby!

Temperatures will struggle to get above 1 to 3 Celsius and it will feel bitterly cold with a moderate to fresh, north easterly wind.

On Sunday the wind will be lighter but still very cold with highs between 0 to 3 Celsius. Like Saturday there will be some sunshine with more snow up north and possibly some further south too.

Next week will remain very cold with a 40% chance of a blizzard on Tuesday and Wednesday so I'll keep you posted. Be careful driving - especially at night when the roads may well be icy, so keep your distance.

See some snow pictures from earlier this year.

Read a blog about the history of snow blizzards in Wales.

Do your bit for wildlife during this cold snap.

Derek

It's snow joke for birds

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Martin Aaron Martin Aaron | 09:00 UK time, Friday, 26 November 2010

Unless you've had your head buried in snow, you'll have already heard from Derek that a cold snap is on the way!

RSPB Cymru is asking people in Wales to remember that birds also need our help to survive the harsh wintry conditions.

This year it looks as though wild birds will face an earlier than usual test in finding enough of the right kind of foods to give them energy and warmth. This means that the food and water we supply, could ensure their survival.

During cold snaps, birds become a lot more vulnerable and are more likely to come into our gardens to seek refuge.

When temperatures drop below freezing, birds struggle to find the natural food they need to stay alive and rely upon us to help them.

To help birds survive, people should provide food suc as meal worms, fat-balls, crushed peanuts, dried fruit, seeds and grain to compensate for birds natural food which is covered in snow and ice.

Leftovers like grated cheese, porridge oats, soft fruit, unsalted bacon, cooked rice, pasta and the insides of cooked potatoes are also a good source of energy for garden birds, and water for both drinking and bathing is vital.

As well as affecting some vulnerable species, the cold snap may also bring some unusual birds from overseas a little earlier than usual - such as the siskin, waxwing and fieldfare.

A 2010 waxwing visitor to Wales taken by Mike Warburton

A 2010 waxwing visitor to Wales, taken by Mike Warburton.

Dana Thomas from RSPB Cymru says: "With harsh wintry weather conditions heading our way this week the wild birds in our gardens will need a little TLC."

"The insects, berries and seeds garden birds usually feast on will become off limits thanks to frost and snow, so taking the time to provide some nutritious food and water for them is essential to their survival."

"It's not all doom and gloom, though. The chilly conditions may also mean that a flurry of rare birds we don't often see until later on in winter will appear earlier as they use our gardens as a safe haven."

"Look out for colourful species like the siskin and the waxwing that will add a bit of cheer to the bleak mid-winter."

Do your bit and follow the wild bird winter survival plan during the coldest weather:

  • Put out feed regularly, especially in severe weather. Set up a bird table and use high calorie seed mixes. This can also be used to put out kitchen scraps such as grated cheese, pastry and porridge oats.
  • Put out hanging feeders for black sunflower seeds, sunflower hearts, sunflower-rich mixes or unsalted peanuts.
  • Ensure a supply of fresh water every day. If it is very cold use tepid water but DO NOT use any antifreeze products.
  • Put out fruit, such as apples and pears, for blackbirds, song thrushes and other members of the thrush family.
  • Food bars or fat hung up or rubbed into the bark of trees is a great help for treecreepers, goldcrests and many other species.
  • Put up nest boxes to provide roost sites for the smaller birds. They will then be used for breeding later in the year.

During winter, birds must feed at an increasing speed, but must also take plenty of rest to conserve energy.

The big chill

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Derek Brockway Derek Brockway | 14:18 UK time, Thursday, 25 November 2010

The big chill has finally arrived.

It's feeling colder today with snow in parts of the north and west of Wales with 5cm of snow reported near Dolgellau this morning.

The snow is coming from clumps of showers moving in from the Irish Sea and although the sea is still relatively warm - the cold air over the warmer sea makes the atmosphere very unstable, forming large shower clouds.

Plas Glynllifon, Caernarfon after the snow.

Plas Glynllifon, Caernarfon after the recent snow by Gwynedd Roberts.

Who actually gets the showers is very dependent on the wind direction and currently the surface wind is from the north or north-north east so the north and west of Wales is most prone to catch the showers. The wind is stronger today so the showers are being blown well inland from the sea.

Tomorrow is trickier with a disturbance over Ireland moving in to Wales. This will bring a spell of rain, sleet and snow. Most of the snow should be in the north and west but I wouldn't rule out some snow in Powys and the south, tomorrow afternoon.

Two to five cm of snow is possible in places, 1 to 2 inches, especially on higher ground. See the Met Office warnings for more details.

Met office weather chart for Friday 26 November 2010.

Met office weather chart for Friday 26 November 2010.

Over the weekend it will be very cold with a significant wind-chill. There will be the odd snow shower in places but it will otherwise remain dry.

The best of the sunshine will be in the west and north west with top temperatures of around 1 to 3 degrees Celsius.

Next week will remain very cold and there is a 30 to 40% risk of a blizzard on Tuesday and Wednesday.This is not definite at the moment - just a possibility but if it did happen it could cause major disruption, so keep a close eye on the forecast.

Watch a video clip about the latest UK snow conditions on BBC News online.

Derek

Roller coast ride

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Derek Brockway Derek Brockway | 16:54 UK time, Wednesday, 24 November 2010

I was in Porthcawl this morning, down at the Pavilion and it felt quite pleasant in the sunshine with no wind.

Temperatures here reached 8 Celsius this afternoon but are going to drop over the next few days with a mixture of sunshine, frost and wintry showers.

There is a risk of some snow too and the Met Office has issued a watch for Friday. Nothing definite but it worth keeping a eye on...

The jet stream in the upper atmosphere is shaped like a roller coaster at the moment and we're on the cold side of a big dipper and will remain so, well into next week.

In meteorology this is called an Omega Block because it resembles the shape of the Greek letter Omega. These blocks can last for some time before breaking down.

The weekend will be unusually cold for this time of year with a significant wind chill.The odd snow shower is also possible but it will otherwise remain dry with some sunshine.

Next week, looks bitterly cold with a risk of more significant snow and strong to gale force winds so keep the de-icer handy and don't forget to feed the birds!

If you're travelling, you can keep up to date with the latest travel news on Radio Wales, Radio Cymru and Online at www.bbc.co.uk/wales

Chilly weather ahead

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Derek Brockway Derek Brockway | 14:35 UK time, Monday, 22 November 2010

It's feeling chilly at the moment but it's nothing compared to what's heading our way later this week...

We are in for a real taste of winter shortly - with a cold plunge from the Arctic bringing a big drop in temperatures, sharp frosts and wintry showers.

Most of the snow will fall in the north and east of Britain but parts of Wales - mainly the north and west, Gwynedd and Pembrokeshire for example, could see some as well with hail and snow showers moving in off the Irish Sea.

Next weekend will be bitterly cold with a significant wind chill. Mind you, there is an old saying "If ice in November be thick enough to hold a duck, the rest of the winter will be all slush and muck"

In others words, a cold snap in November will be followed by a mild winter. We shall have to wait and see but at the moment, the signs are that once the cold air arrives it will take some shifting and December may get off to cold start.

The latest odds for snow in Cardiff on Christmas day are 6 to 1 but it's far too early to say whether we'll have a white Christmas or not.

In the meantime, dig out the thermals, wrap up any outdoor plants that need protecting and top up the anti-freeze for your car.


Derek

Pembrokeshire wildlife event

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Martin Aaron Martin Aaron | 09:57 UK time, Monday, 22 November 2010

Pembrokeshire wildlife will be showcased at a special event in Haverfordwest, Pembrokeshire next week at the Merlin Theatre, Pembrokeshire College on Wednesday 24 November at 7pm.

The Wildlife Sightings event aims to bring wildlife on our doorsteps closer than ever through a series of talks, slideshows and video footage.

Phil Newman, who manages Skomer Marine Nature Reserve, for the Countryside Council for Wales (CCW) said: "The talks will give people an insight not only into the wildlife they see regularly in Pembrokeshire, but also those hidden away on the cliffs and beneath the waters of our coastline.

A Sea Slug Courtesy of CCW

A sea slug off the Pembrokeshire coast. Image by CCW

Here is what's on offer on the night:

Phil Newman - Spectacular Sea Slugs
Peter Brown - Obervations and Thoughts on Skomer & Sea Bird Cliffs
Sinclair Stammers - Microworlds Pembrokeshire
Mick Brown - The Secret Life of Gannets
Dr Victoria Hobson - Taking the Sting Out of Jellyfish
David Harris - Pembrokshire Fungi

Booking is essential. Contact Tom Luddington on (01646) 696134, mobile: 07977 939325& or e-mail pcf@mhpa.co.uk

Pembrokeshire Outdoors website
Countryside Council for Wales

Weekend weather

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Derek Brockway Derek Brockway | 16:31 UK time, Friday, 19 November 2010

After all the rain the weather has been much drier and calmer today with a few fog patches and some sunshine. Ideal for all the fundraising events taking place for Children in Need.

Over the weekend it's going to turn colder with an east to north-easterly breeze picking-up. Tomorrow rain in the south and southwest first thing will clear. Much of the country will then be dry and it should gradually brighten up with some sunshine. Temperatures will be lower than today, between 6 and 9 Celsius.

On Sunday a few showers are likely. These will be wintry on the hills and mountains. Some dry weather as well with the best of the sunshine in parts of the west and the northwest. Highest temperatures between 5 and 8 Celsius.

Next week will stay very much on the cold side: the odd wintry shower, sunshine at times and some frost too.

Lots of you are busy organising events this weekend. There's a Christmas Craft Fair at Ysgol Penmachno on Saturday and Sunday between 10am to 4pm. Everything you need for Christmas under one roof!

While The Parish of Neath are holding its Annual Winter Fayre tomorrow at St David's Church in Neath between 10am and 2pm. A wide variety of goodies will be on offer - including the Rector's famous chocolate stall!

Whatever you're doing, have a great weekend and stay warm! I'm off to watch Wales play Fiji at the Millennium Stadium.

Derek

Iolo's Secret Life of Birds

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Martin Aaron Martin Aaron | 10:01 UK time, Friday, 19 November 2010

Sunday, 21 November at 7.30pm on BBC Two Wales.

In episode two, Iolo Williams investigates the courtship and nesting behaviour of birds, including the amazing courtship display of great crested grebes at a reservoir near Pontypool.

He also looks at the impressive sky dance of hen harriers in the Cambrian Mountains, how nuthatch use mud like cement to prepare their nests and why long tailed tits near Newtown are exceptional nest builders.

Great crested grebe in a courtship display by Anthony Cronin

Great crested grebe in a courtship display at Roath Lake by Anthony Cronin.

On the Lleyn Peninsula near Trefor he looks at why one colony of shags nest earlier than any others in Wales and in Pembrokeshire he finds out where house martins nested before they used our buildings.

Iolo looks at the variety of places birds like to nest, from little ringed plovers on shingle banks along the River Tywi to puffins underground on Skomer.

Let us know if you're enjoying the new series and what you've spotted recently in the comment area below.

Gull

A Wye Wye Wye wonder

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Martin Aaron Martin Aaron | 09:45 UK time, Thursday, 18 November 2010

Remember the UK River Vote I mentioned back in August?

Well the votes have been counted and a Welsh river has taken the top spot!

The River Wye was voted the public's favourite river in Wales and England with voters describing it as "magical and timeless" and "a haven for wildlife".

The Wye is one of Britain's most important rivers and is a Site of Special Scientific Interest. Not only is it a stunning river to look at but it also provides excellent habitat for salmon, otters, kingfishers, rare lamprey, eels and many other creatures.

Interestingly the River Thames came second but also first in the Worst Rivers category?!

Watch a nice clip about the River Wye.

Find out more on BBC News Online

Thanks for following us on Twitter by the way! The number of followers is going up daily which is always nice to see :)

Gull

All sides of Autumn

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Derek Brockway Derek Brockway | 14:00 UK time, Wednesday, 17 November 2010

We're seeing all sides of Autumn this week.

Yesterday saw thick fog, frost and even blue sky and sunshine in places but today the wind and rain has returned with a vengeance.

Mumbles Head near Swansea was one of the wettest places with over an inch and a half falling in 12 hours.

The heavy rain has inevitably led to some flooding and at the time of writing, there are 2 flood watches in force.

The highest wind gusts so far were 58mph, recorded at both Aberdaron on the Lleyn Peninsula and Capel Curig in Snowdonia.

The band of heavy rain is moving slowly north east with drier and clearer weather following along behind.

Latest pressure chart from the Met Office

The latest pressure chart from the Met Office

Low pressure over Ireland will push more showers and rain across the country tonight and into tomorrow but the rain will not be as intense as it has been today.

Friday looks better! Generally drier and brighter with a few showers in the west. And then over the weekend it looks like turning colder with east to north-easterly winds.

Take care


Derek

Wales on Autumnwatch

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Martin Aaron Martin Aaron | 10:21 UK time, Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Autumnwatch - Thursday, 18 November at 8.30pm on BBC Two Wales.

Autumnwatch has a distinctly Welsh flavour tomorrow night as our very own Iolo Williams is out and about searching for the elusive sea trout or sewin as we call them here in Cymru.

Chris Packham and Kate Humble are also in Wales on a mission to track down one of the UK's biggest autumn wildlife spectacles - vast flocks of roosting starlings off the pier in Aberystwyth.

You can also watch this spectacle on BBC i-player currently in iolo Williams new TV series - Secret Life of Birds.

How about this for a photo?!
Starlings flocking over Newport Wetlands by Adrian Mizon.

Starlings flocking over Newport Wetlands Reserve. Image by Adrian Mizon.

We've also got some great clips on BBC Wales Nature & Outdoors too. This clip was filmed over Aberystwyth Pier where giant flocks of starling have been seen again this year with up to 10,000 or more birds:

In order to see this content you need to have both Javascript enabled and Flash installed. Visit BBC Webwise for full instructions

It's thought that the starlings flock together in this way for safety in numbers - making it harder for predators to pick them off but I like to think it's because they enjoy it.

The crows opposite my house do it too, but in smaller numbers. Surely they don't do it for safety? It seems to be more of a sociable act just before roosting during the summer months.

Find out more about Autumnwatch on the programme website.

Gull

Waterspout off Anglesey

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Derek Brockway Derek Brockway | 14:06 UK time, Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Yesterday conditions were perfect for a few waterspouts to form around the coast of Wales.

One was filmed by a 203 Squadron Sea King, based at RAF Valley as it carried out a training exercise off South Stack lighthouse on the island of Anglesey.

The crew had spotted another waterspout 40 minutes earlier off the Skerries just north of Anglesey but were amazed to see another forming right before their eyes.

A waterspout spotted off Anglesey in November 2010

Flt Lt Mike Castle saw the water spout forming about 4 miles directly in front of the aircraft.

Mike turned the on board camera towards the water spout to record these remarkable pictures.

A waterspout off the coast of Anglesey in November 2010

Mike commented: "In 12 years of being at RAF Valley I've only ever seen four of these and two of those were today."

Waterspouts are fairly common and occur when a tornado forms over oceans, lakes, or rivers. Apparently, there are two types of waterspout.

Waterspouts can vary in size from a few feet to more than a mile in height, and from a few feet to hundreds of feet wide.

Witnesses say they make hissing and sucking noises as they move and these water twisters can move at speeds ranging from 2 to 80 miles an hour!

Winds within the waterspout can spiral around at 60-120 miles an hour and usually last up to fifteen minutes with some lasting for more than half an hour.

Waterspouts are often seen in groups and ships out on the ocean have reported as many as 30 in one day.

Waterspouts, like tornadoes on the land, can suck up and transport some interesting objects. Other than rain itself, fish are the most common thing reported falling from the sky, but rains of frogs, tomatoes and even lumps of coal have been known to fall too.

Waterspouts are most frequent from May to September over warmer waters.They are usually not as dangerous as tornadoes, but can still cause serious damage to ships.

Other examples of waterspouts around the Welsh coast:

BBC Local Mid Wales

A water spout off Barry Island on YouTube

Torro - the tornado and storm research organisation.

The Brocken Spectre

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Derek Brockway Derek Brockway | 14:48 UK time, Monday, 15 November 2010

Glory, Glory, Hallelujah!

Recently Huw Beynon from Llandeilo encountered a weather phenomenon he had never witnessed before and managed to capture it with his camera.

This ghost-like image is caused by a unique combination of atmospheric effects which give rise to an illusion called a Glory or Brocken Spectre:

A weather phenomena known as Glory or Brocken Spectre by Huw Beynon

Huw Beynon from Llandeilo captured this startling image of a Brocken Spectre.

The name comes from The Brocken - the highest peak in Germany's Harz Mountains, where it was first seen by mountaineers.

Legend has it that a climber was startled by the sudden appearance in the mist of a human figure with a ring of light around its head.

Frightened, the climber fell to his death, killed by his own shadow and the ring of light was his own glory ring!

To see one, you must have your back to the sun and there must be many water droplets in the air. Sunlight hits the water droplets and bounces back off them. The reflected light comes back towards the sun and the observer.

Here's another one sent in from Phil Edwards who snapped one in Pontcanna Fields recently:
A Brocken Spectre taken by Phil Edwards, Wales.

A Brocken Spectre in Pontcanna Fields by Phil Edwards.

Even if you are in a group you can only see your own shadow and or your own Brocken Spectre.

Brocken Spectres are usually confined to high-mountain areas when the sun is low but they can also be seen from an aeroplane flying in sunlight above clouds.

With the sun above the aircraft, the glory is visible around the aircraft's shadow, projected onto cloud below.

So if you're out walking and see your shadow in the mist. Don't be scared - It's not a ghost; just a harmless Brocken Spectre!

Derek

Images of Brocken Spectres on Google images.

 

Iolo's Secret Life of Birds

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Martin Aaron Martin Aaron | 09:00 UK time, Monday, 15 November 2010

Watch at 6pm, Sunday evenings on BBC One Wales

In this new series Iolo Williams explores the fascinating behaviour of birds in Wales, revealing all aspects of their lives from surviving harsh winters and avoiding predators, to living alongside us in our towns and cities.

A snipe in flight by Tim Jones:

A snipe in flight by Tim Jones

 

In episode one, he investigates how and why birds communicate, looking at the reasons snipe use their tail feathers to make a very distinctive noise and what's happening when thousands of starlings participate in stunning aerial displays in Aberystwyth.

Missed episode one? Watch again on BBC i-player.

Mountain biking in the Afan Valley

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Martin Aaron Martin Aaron | 09:27 UK time, Sunday, 14 November 2010

The Afan valley in South Wales was one of the most deprived areas in the country after the coal mines closed, but in the last few years it has seen the growth of a new industry.

From out of the wreckage of collieries and coal tips, the Forestry Commission has built a series of single-track mountain bike trails which are amongst the best in the world.

The area has just won an EU grant to expand the network even further. Forest ranger Nick Murfin has tried out the trails he has helped to build. Watch a video clip on BBC News.

Wales v South Africa weather

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Derek Brockway Derek Brockway | 16:50 UK time, Friday, 12 November 2010

Thankfully we've seen the worst of the gales (for the time being) in Wales but it was certainly wild and windy yesterday with winds reaching storm force 10 on the Llyn Peninsula!

Capel Curig in Snowdonia recorded the highest gust of 91 mph, while 73 mph was recorded at Mumbles Head.

A rainbow taken over Forden, Mid Wales at lunchtime today by Ian Francis:

A rainbow over Forden in Mid Wales by Ian Francis.

"the sky turned black within seconds of the shot being taken."

The gales, although not unusual for this time of year, were strong enough to cause damage, bringing down a few trees and power lines.

The wind has now eased and will continue to do so this afternoon with some rain in south and Mid Wales. This evening the rain will clear with some showers overnight with lows of between 6 to 9 Celsius.

Tomorrow will bring a mixture of sunshine and scattered showers. It will become dry for a time but rain is expected to spread across the country during the afternoon. Top temperatures of 10 to 12 Celsius with a west to south-westerly breeze.

If you're in Cardiff for the rugby match between Wales and South Africa tomorrow - I can promise some sunshine but take a brolly as you may get wet afterwards.

Sunday will be colder with a risk of showers/ longer spells of rain and some snow on the mountains.

In the south it should turn drier and brighter with top temperatures of 7 to 10 Celsius with light to moderate winds.

Have a good weekend.

Derek

BBC wildlife presenter attacked

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Martin Aaron Martin Aaron | 15:05 UK time, Friday, 12 November 2010

Some of you may remember Steve Backshall's recent visit to Wales when he brought his Live and Deadly roadshow to Cwmbran?

Well, Steve is currently out filming for the series in Argentina and was out searching for yellow anaconda in wetlands when he accidentally stepped on a spectacled caimen, which proceeded to take a bite out of him...ouch!

Find out more and watch a video clip of the attack on BBC Earth News.

Gull

A bird (box) in the hand

Post categories:

Martin Aaron Martin Aaron | 14:11 UK time, Friday, 12 November 2010

Birds in schools across Newport will be offered new homes this winter but they won't get their heating bills paid for! ;)

Children in 15 local primary schools are busy building nest boxes where wrens, robins and blue tits can huddle together for warmth during the cold winter months.

Nest boxes play an important part in winter survival for many of our garden birds so don't disturb or move the boxes and leave any the old nests and leaves inside as they provide nice warmth for the birds.

A team from the Gwent Wildlife Trust show local schoolchildren how to make a bird box

A team from the Gwent Wildlife Trust show local schoolchildren how to make a bird box.

Hopefully then in spring, the birds will return to nest and rear their young in the same bird boxes although I'm not sure what the 'pecking order' is...

Newport City Council Biodiversity in Schools Officer, Natalie Waller, will be visiting schools with volunteers from Gwent Wildlife Trust over the next few weeks.

Natalie said "Having built the boxes, the children can then watch them being used and follow the habits of garden birds, which are such an important natural feature in urban areas."

Building bird boxes is just one aspect of Newport's Biodiversity in Schools scheme. There are also projects to plant trees and wild flowers that will attract birds and butterflies to school grounds.

Log circles will also be created as outdoor classrooms and 'bug hotels' and log piles provide a rich habitat for all kinds of insects.

Gull

Gales in Wales

Post categories:

Derek Brockway Derek Brockway | 15:55 UK time, Thursday, 11 November 2010

Wales is currently being buffeted by the strongest winds of the Autumn so far!

The strongest winds are in the north and north west and at the time of writing there is a warning of severe gales on Anglesey with 70mph gusts in exposed places.

The reason for the stormy weather is a deep area of low pressure moving across Scotland. The lines on the chart are called isobars. The closer they are, the stronger the wind.

The highest wind gust so far today in Wales is 78mph at Capel Curig in Snowdonia. The weather station there is 600 feet above sea level so very exposed.

Lower down it's less windy but still very blustery with a gust of 55 mph recorded at St. Athan in the Vale of Glamorgan.

Tonight will remain windy with gales and severe gales on exposed coasts and hills in the north and up to storm force on the mountains.

There will be a few showers but otherwise dry and at least there's far too much wind for any frost so temperatures will be staying well above freezing.

Tomorrow the strong winds will slowly ease. There will be some dry and bright weather on offer too and just the odd shower here and there.

However, increasing cloud will bring rain into the south and west during the afternoon reaching Ceredigion, Powys and later southern Gwynedd.

Saturday will be breezy with a mixture of sunshine and scattered showers. Mind you, rain is expected on Saturday night and into Sunday followed by sunshine and showers again.

And now for my Blue Peter moment....

How do you fancy making a Ukulele from a margarine tub, a piece of wood and some fishing wire?

Tune it, learn to play a song and then perform in a mass ensemble in less than four hours?

If you do...then head down to the Welsh Institute of Sport at Sophia Gardens, Cardiff on Friday, 11 November between 10am to 2pm. It's all for Children in Need and Pudsey and Behnaz Akhgar will be there too.

The event is free, all we ask is that you give a donation to Pudsey or raise a minimum of £5 sponsorship.

So why not come along and join us either come directly to Sophia Gardens or to reserve your place, and they are going fast, either email Hwyl@hybu.co.uk or telephone 0845 890 1592.

Deep low pressure

Post categories:

Derek Brockway Derek Brockway | 13:51 UK time, Wednesday, 10 November 2010

The weather is in much better shape today with sunshine and lighter winds across the country but don't be fooled, it's very much the calm before the storm...

Trouble is brewing over the Atlantic. The jet stream, with a core speed around 170mph, is steering a deepening area of low pressure towards Scotland bringing a dose of wet and windy weather tonight.

There will be plenty of heavy rain and strong to gale force winds as the jet stream moves right over us on Thursday.

Jet stream image for Thursday, 11 November 2010. Image by Met Check

Jet stream on Thursday 11 November 2010. Image by Met Check

Tomorrow will start wet and windy but the rain will clear mid to late morning leaving a drier and brighter afternoon with scattered blustery showers and then a word of warning.

Thursday evening the westerly wind is set to strengthen with gales and severe gales in some areas. 70 to 80mph gusts are possible on exposed coasts and hills, and even inland gusts 50 to 60 mph are likely.

Strong enough bring down a few trees, especially those that are still in leaf.

The Met Office will continue to monitor developments, and have issued a weather watch.

So enjoy the sunshine if you can today and then batten down the hatches!

And don't forget - Doctor Who will switch on the Cardiff Christmas lights tonight at 7.40pm at King Edward VII Avenue. The celebrations start from 6.30pm and it will be dry :)

Derek

Artic char under threat

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Martin Aaron Martin Aaron | 14:18 UK time, Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Some 800 fish have been released in a bid to protect a species under threat of extinction in North Wales.

The Arctic char is only found in three of Wales' deepest and coldest lakes.

The Arctic char were reared from eggs harvested in December 2009 from fish threatened by harmful algae at Llyn Padarn, Llanberis, Gwynedd.

Snow on the hills

Post categories:

Derek Brockway Derek Brockway | 13:14 UK time, Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Winter is just around the corner with snow already lying on mountain tops in many parts of Wales.

It's feeling pretty chilly out there today with a fresh to strong north-easterly wind giving a significant wind chill, especially on higher ground.

It's a lazy wind too - the kind of wind that goes straight through you, rather than around!

Snow in North Wales, in November 2010 by Gareth Evans

Liz and Irene on the Carneddau in North Wales yesterday by Gareth Evans.

Tonight the wind will slowly ease and with temperatures dropping close to freezing or just below, Jack Frost will make an appearance.

All change (briefly) tomorrow thanks to a ridge of high pressure so we're in for a fine and calmer day with sunshine and feeling warmer but I'd make the most of it.

And it's not just North Wales that's had some snow. We also had some in the Brecon Beacons.

Snow on the hills by Lee David

Snow on Llyn y Fan Fawr in the Brecon Beacons by Lee David.

Low pressure in the Atlantic will soon push more rain and strong winds across Wales after midnight so expect heavy rain and strong to gale force winds.

Snow on Penyfan and Corn Ddu by Pat Lathey

Snow on Penyfan and Corn Ddu on Sunday. Image by Pat Lathey.

Thursday will start very wet and windy but should be brighter by the afternoon with blustery showers and gales on exposed coasts and hills. Expect severe gales and storm force winds on the mountains.

It just goes to show that no two days are ever quite the same in this country which is what makes my job as a forecaster both interesting and challenging!

Derek

Stormy Wales

Post categories:

Derek Brockway Derek Brockway | 13:53 UK time, Monday, 8 November 2010

Well it was a stormy old night last night with heavy rain and strong to severe gale force winds buffeting the country.

The highest wind gust recorded was 69mph at Aberdaron, RAF Valley on Anglesey and at Pembrey on the Carmarthenshire coast. The wind was strong enough to bring down the odd tree.

Some of us have also had a taste of winter with snow on the hills and mountains in the north and as far south as the Brecon Beacons.

First winter snow on Snowdon. Photo: David Griffiths

First winter snow on Snowdon. Photo: David Griffiths

The deep area of low pressure responsible for the disturbed weather is currently centred over Ireland but is moving slowly towards France and as it does so, the wind will turn into the northeast and strengthen tonight and tomorrow making it feel cold.

Today's pressure chart

Today's pressure chart

Gales are likely on the hills and mountains with a significant wind chill so if you're going walking make sure you wear plenty of layers! The wind will ease tomorrow night and into Wednesday with a slight frost, but another spell of wet and windy weather is expected to sweep in from the Atlantic on Thursday followed by clearer conditions and blustery showers.

Habitat help key to safeguarding eel numbers

Post categories:

James McLaren James McLaren | 10:32 UK time, Monday, 8 November 2010

Environment Agency Wales (EAW) believes that helping eels in their Welsh habitat is the best chance of keeping a domestic population in the face of huge drops across Europe.

Eels

Eels

It is estimated that the English and Welsh eel population has collapsed 70% since the 1980s. Eels spawn in the Sargasso Sea in the Caribbean, then make a two year journey on the Gulf Stream to Europe, with historically huge numbers coming into Welsh river systems.

The are an essential part of the ecosystem, acting as food for species such as otters and herons.

Speaking to the Western Mail, Andy Schofield of EAW said: "When elvers are born they are not self-propelling and it takes them two years to drift on the Gulf Stream and ocean currents from the Caribbean across to Wales, where they are filtered into our rivers.

"Some scientists think shifts in the ocean's currents, caused by the El Niño climate pattern, have led to changes in this cycle. Others think changes to the ocean's temperature could have a big impact on them and their food supplies.

"Maybe the plankton they feed on has disappeared and the elvers are ending up as food themselves. They are also prone to a parasite that feeds on their bladders.

"Just 30 years ago there were big eel populations on the River Wye. People were using dip nets to catch elvers and transport them live to the Far East, where they are considered a delicacy."

While it is thought that environmental factors are largely responsible for the drop in eel numbers, those which do make which can be helped.

Mr Schofield went on to say: "We are improving their habitats and making sure that our lifestyles have little impact on their adult lives".

"Eels can cross damp fields at night to get from pond to pond and will leave the water rather than tackle a waterfall, making them easy prey.

"In South Wales, we have created fish passes for salmon and trout, with tiny brushes to help eels make their way up the River Taff and other rivers.

"We believe that eels spend most of their adult lives here before leaving at around seven to 12 years old to return to the Caribbean to spawn."

Damp sparklers!

Post categories:

Derek Brockway Derek Brockway | 15:33 UK time, Friday, 5 November 2010

You might have trouble lighting your sparklers this evening as it's going to be a bit damp if not wet, especially in Mid Wales and the south.

In fact the 'Sparks in the Dark' fireworks display at St. Helen's in Swansea has been postponed until Tuesday 9th November.

Tickets already purchased will still be valid for Tuesday's display. Should you require any further information please contact (01792) 635428 or visit www.swansea.gov.uk/fireworks. Over the last few days over four inches of rain has fallen on the high ground in Snowdonia and Montgomeryshire so some rivers are now swollen.

At the time of writing, there are three flood warnings in force in Bala and in the lower and upper Dee valley and 8 flood watches.

Thankfully much drier weather is on the way. The rain in the north will clear around 7pm this evening and drier weather will be spreading southeast during the rest of the evening.

However, the rain probably won't clear from Cardiff and Newport until about 11pm.

Tomorrow we can look forward to a much better day - drier and brighter. We'll all see some sunshine for a change but a few scattered showers are likely.

Most showers will be in the north and west and it will also feel colder and fresher than recently.

Temperatures will be a more seasonal 10 to 12 Celsius with a generally light to moderate west to north-westerly breeze.

If you're in Cardiff for the rugby match between Wales and Australia then it will be dry with some sunshine and light winds.

Saturday night - a few showers are expected for a time with most of them in the west and the northwest where some could be heavy and prolonged with a risk of hail and thunder.

It will be a cold night too with some mist and ground frost forming and lowest temperatures typically 0 to 3 Celsius.

On Sunday it will be dry and bright with the odd shower for most of the day with highs of 7 to 9 Celsius and light winds until after dark.

If you're off to watch the big show down between Cardiff City and Swansea on Sunday afternoon, then it will be fine but chilly - so take a scarf and gloves!

Into next week and a word of warning - A big low pressure is heading our way on Sunday night into Monday bringing a spell of wet and windy weather.

Heavy rain and strong to severe gale force winds.

So make the most of the dry weather and sunshine over the weekend if you can.

Derek

Spare a thought for the animals

Post categories:

Martin Aaron Martin Aaron | 09:00 UK time, Friday, 5 November 2010

This bonfire night, the RSPB Cymru is asking everyone to spare a thought for our wildlife - and not just the family pooch!

At night-time, birds will be roosting in trees and bushes and holding firework displays too close to their shelters could disturb them.

A large firework display that's probably ruffled a few feathers:

Firework display

Birds also use nest boxes in winter time for roosting in, so be careful where you put your catherine wheels and avoid lighting bonfires too close to them.

Always make a quick check for hedgehogs before lighting your bonfires - especially if you've been gathering wood for it over a few weeks.

Our prickly friends been having a hard time of it in recent years, so let's give them a helping hand whenever possible.

A baby hedgehog after being rescued:

A baby hedgehog at a rescue centre

Hedgehogs love old log piles and leaves to curl up in and sleep and could well be buried right at the bottom, so have a good look before you get the matches out.

Gently remove the top layer of twigs and leaves. If you accidentally disturb a hedgehog nest, carefully replace the material. The hedgehog will either repair it or move the nest elsewhere.

If you find young in the nest, avoid touching them. Similarly, if you find a hibernating adult, avoid waking it. If you do - leave some food out for it nearby until it hibernates again.

It's also a good idea to light your fire from one side only. This gives any animals inside - a chance to escape out of the other side as the fire begins to grow.

It's looking increasingly damp for Guy Fawkes night this year I'm afraid so I'm not sure how many fires will actually get lit in this current deluge!

But Derek will have a full forecast later.

Gull

A fiery forecast

Post categories:

Derek Brockway Derek Brockway | 15:48 UK time, Thursday, 4 November 2010

The weather's been very up and down this week. Sometimes dry and sometimes wet and windy.

But if you're fed up with the wind and rain, I've got good news -better weather is on the way for the weekend!

At Lake Vyrnwy in Powys 90mm of rain, over 3 inches, has fallen so far this week and there is more rain on the way.

The Met Office has issued a severe warning of heavy rain for Gwynedd, Conwy and Montgomeryshire. Rainfall totals of order 50 mm (2 inches) are likely quite widely on high ground, locally as much as 100 mm (4 inches) in Snowdonia. The warning is valid until the end of today.

It's not all doom and gloom though! Gillian Dromey sent in this gorgeous photograph of trees in Bodnant Gardens - the Autumn colours there are stunning at the moment:
Autumn colour at Bodnant Gardens by Gillian Dromey

The reason for all the rain is a tropical maritime airmass bringing plenty of moisture in from the Atlantic.

Most of the rain falls on the mountains but to the lee of the hills it's drier and warmer. And with the help of a few glimpses of sunshine today, the temperature in Flintshire rose to 18 Celsius. That's 64 Fahrenheit and 6 degrees above average.

Now I know some of you will be celebrating Guy Fawkes tomorrow night...

An amazing fireworks display over the Gnoll by Mike Davies:

fireworks display over the Gnoll by Mike Davies

As for displays - there's a large fireworks and bonfire display at Pontyclun Rugby Club.  Y Felinheli are holding their firework display and BBQ at Beach Road.

A huge firework fiesta is also planned on Barry Island and there's also a fireworks display at The Greenfly Pub in Bedwas, Caerphilly.

The forecast for tomorrow evening is touch and go. Based on the latest information it's likely to start damp if not wet!

However, the rain is expected to clear during the evening leaving a much drier and brighter weekend.

Some welcome sunshine and colder too with a touch of frost. Ideal for a trip to Bodnant Garden in the Conwy Valley!

 

Derek

Sunshine in short supply

Post categories:

Derek Brockway Derek Brockway | 15:16 UK time, Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Last month was the sunniest October in Wales since records began in 1929 with 124.2 hours of sunshine averaged across the country!

Over the next few days, though, sunshine is going to be in short supply...

An autumnal view in Neath by Mike Davies:

An autumnal view in Neath by Mike Davies

In fact some of us are in for a good soaking with a strong jet stream bringing mild but damp and very moist air in from the Atlantic ocean.

As this warm and moist air hits the hills and mountains it is forced to rise upwards and cool producing more condensation, clouds and heavy rain. Meteorologists call this process "orographic enhancement".

Depending on how strong the wind is and how the moist the air is, rainfall totals on the mountains facing the wind can be more than 10 times greater than down on the coast.

A view from Neyland towards Hobbs Point, Pembroke Dock by George Johns:

A view from Neyland towards Hobbs Point, Pembroke Dock by George Johns:

Over the next few days, 100mm or 4 inches of rain is possible on the Cambrian mountains and in Snowdonia so some rivers will become swollen.

It will also be windy at times with strong to gale force winds. Expect severe gales on the hills and mountain tops so if you are venturing out for a walk, stick to the low ground if you can.

Derek

An unsettled week ahead

Post categories:

Derek Brockway Derek Brockway | 17:05 UK time, Monday, 1 November 2010

October was a month of contrasts...

It started off wet followed by a taste of an Indian Summer and then caught a cold with some frost before turning mild again towards the end of the month.

The warmest place was RAF Valley with 23.6 Celsius, 74 Fahrenheit recorded on the 8th. While the coldest night was on the 25th/26th when Tirabad in Powys dropped to minus 6.6 Celsius, 20 Fahrenheit.

Yesterday I took advantage of the dry weather and went for a walk around Castell Coch near Tongwynlais. The countryside is full of colour at the moment with lots of rusty coloured leaves.

November has got off to a dry start today with some hazy sunshine but it won't last. The rest of the week looks unsettled - wet and windy at times with some heavy rain and gales but relatively mild with no frost.

So, typical Autumn weather in many ways this week and there is no sign of a cold snap on the horizon!

Check out the latest Met Office forecast for Wales.

Derek

Pumpkin face

Post categories:

Martin Aaron Martin Aaron | 10:23 UK time, Monday, 1 November 2010

Nothing personal! ;)

I just promised to feature some of the best pumpkin carving pics that you've sent in to the blog - wales.nature@bbc.co.uk

Jack Penketh has been busy carving again! This time it's Captain Jack Sparrow from the ghost ship - the Black Pearl...
A pumpkin carving by Jack Penketh

Meanwhile Catherine from Usk sent in this amazing face:

pumpkin carving by Catherine from Usk

There was some excellent pumpkin carving on Countryfile this week too which you might like to watch on BBC iPlayer - including a world record attempt at carving the most pumpkins in one hour.

If you've not quite had your fill of Halloween this year, then check out the BBC comedy archive for a selection of classic, creepy comedy clips.

And finally if you're wondering what to do with all that left over pumpkin? Don't throw it away - try making a delicious soup from the BBC Food website courtesy of Valentine Warner.

Gull

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