Archives for June 2010

Die hard feral bees wanted

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Martin Aaron Martin Aaron | 16:37 UK time, Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Following recent publicity about the West Wales Bee Breeding project, scientists at Bangor University have been inundated with messages of support, offers of help and reports of feral colonies from beekeepers around Wales.

The project aims to breed a stock of disease resistant bees that are easy to work with and suited to the challenging Welsh climate.

An apiary in spring. Image by the West Wales Bee Breeding Program:
hives.jpg

The research team are trying to follow up as many leads as possible and would like to make an appeal to other beekeepers in Wales, to let them know about any feral colonies they know of - that have survived in the wild for at least three years.

Anita Malhotra said: "The fact that these feral colonies can survive without medication and feeding by beekeepers suggests that they may be a source of very useful genes".

Moving bees to the heather in August. Image by the West Wales Bee Breeding Program:
heather.jpg

"We have also been told about managed bees from lines going back a long way, or which have particularly interesting characteristics".

"One of these is apparent resistance to the parasitic varroa mite, so that colonies do not need to be treated".

"Another very useful trait would be bees that are particularly good at adjusting egg laying to suit the prevailing conditions".

"This characteristic is important in the changeable weather we get in Wales, so that the bees don't starve when the weather turn bad because they need to feed a very large brood nest while they can't forage".

The end product. Image by the West Wales Bee Breeding Program:
honey_comb.jpg 

A website has just been launched for the project - www.bees.bangor.ac.uk so please get in touch if you have any information to share or phone (01248) 383735.

The team hopes to visit promising colonies and take nucleus colonies (a common method of increasing hives) which will raise their own queens.

These 'nucs' will be left in place until the queen has mated with drones of local provenance, and then moved to a specially established apiary in Mid Wales over winter.

In 2011, the team will rigorously compare the performance of these colonies in order to choose the best to enter the breeding program.

Gull

"Old balls please"

Martin Aaron Martin Aaron | 14:21 UK time, Wednesday, 30 June 2010

As viewers across Britain settle down to another week of Wimbledon - I wonder how many of them have ever wondered what happens to the old tennis balls?

It turns out that RSPB Wales has found an ingenious use for them.

Local residents in the Newport area are being asked to donate old tennis balls so they can be used to provide homes and shelter for harvest mice at the Newport Wetlands Reserve, which I visited back in March.

Anyone for tennis?
tennis.jpg

RSPB and CCW staff make a small entrance hole in the balls, cut another slot so a stick can be threaded through and then stand them about one metre above ground level in the reedbeds.

To make things more comfortable - the balls are stuffed with hay and some bird seed is added as a final, welcoming touch. What mouse could resist?

A harvest mouse in a natural nest by Mike Lane, (RSPB- images.com)


It's a tried and tested method though and helps with the monitoring as the balls are easy to find and check.

Anyone with spare tennis balls is being asked to take them to the nature reserve on West Nash Road near Newport and hand them in at reception.

30 - love

Gull

Pick of the bunch

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Martin Aaron Martin Aaron | 11:13 UK time, Monday, 28 June 2010

Summer seems to be well and truly under way now. I spent the weekend down Gower and the weather was outstanding.

I didn't notice much in the way of nature as I was on a friend's stag weekend...but I definitely saw burnet moths on the morning after the night before and plenty of bats over the weekend but please don't push me for any formal identification.

A golden moon over Worm's Head looked particularly supernatural on Friday evening.

Here are a few that have caught my eye on Flickr recently:

This grass snake in water was spotted by 'Rat Salad'. Interestingly the only time I've seen one was also in water - a rather large specimen in my parent's pond who still refuse to believe I actually saw one.

They are of course, completely harmless - unless you're a frog, so you should feel very privileged if you're lucky enough to ever find one in your pond.
grass_snake_rat_salad.jpg

This next amazing macro shot shows what I believe to be a harlequin ladybird about to devour an aphid - something to help raise gardeners spirits during this dry spell.
ladybird_shane_jones.jpg

You can currently take part in a UK ladybird survey.

Charles Dawson has been visited by a hedgehog recently. It seems slightly bizarre to feature hedgehogs as 'unusual' when you consider how common they once were?

Let's hope they can claw their way back. There's plenty you can do to help though.
hedgehog_charles_dawson.jpg 

Modern gardens and fencing make it tough for our little prickly friends to move around so consider leaving a gap or a hole for them in fence panels. An adult can travel up to two miles a night so they like to stretch their legs.

Old piles of logs and leaves in a wild area of the garden will also provide a nice home for them.

Avoid using slug pellets as hedgehogs will often eat dead or dying slugs and snails by mistake, thus ingesting the poison. You could also consider using eco-friendly pellets.

A healthy hedgehog will be far better for your garden than any pesticides.You can even looking at getting one for your garden.

And finally a baby smooth or common newt was spotted by Joy in Carmarthenshire recently.

It's around this time of year that the adults begin to leave the water and hide out in long grasses and under stones near to the water. This is known as the 'territorial stage'.
smooth_newt_joysaphine.jpg

That's it for now. Keep the photos coming and take a look through our beautiful butterfly gallery if you haven't already done so.

Gull

The four stages of creation

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Martin Aaron Martin Aaron | 15:29 UK time, Thursday, 24 June 2010

Angelika Monks was walking through the sand dunes at Aberffraw, on Anglesey recently and took this picture, capturing the four stages of becoming a six-spot burnet moth.

All this on one clump of marram grass:

creation.jpg
  • On the right hand side - two adult moths are busy mating.
  • Top - a caterpillar starting to spin its pupae.
  • Top right - Waiting to emerge from the pupae.
  • Bottom left - a new moth beginning to emerge from a cocoon.

Okay, so technically we probably should have featured the egg stage but it's not a bad effort.

Great stuff Angelika, and we're looking forward to seeing your orchid shots from Newborough.

And for all you fans of six-spot burnet moths. Keith Moseley photographed this adult in all it's splendour, sitting on knapweed at Pentwyn Farm.

burnet_moth_keith_moseley.jpg

Gull

Weekend weather promises plenty of sunshine

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Derek Brockway Derek Brockway | 11:25 UK time, Thursday, 24 June 2010

Last Monday was the summer solstice - the sun overhead the tropic of Cancer - the longest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere, and some people take this day as the start of summer.

We've enjoyed plenty of sunshine this month with rainfall well below average. Over the weekend, there's more fine and warmer weather to come. The sunshine hazy at times with daytime temperatures reaching a humid 27 Celsius, 81 Fahrenheit in a few spots. However, some coasts will be refreshingly cooler and a risk of low cloud and some mist in the south and west.

The odd heavy and thundery shower is possible but these will be few and far between, mainly on the hills and mountains, with most places remaining dry. The Glastonbury Festival is celebrating its 40th birthday. Over the years it has been hit by heavy rainfall and flooding but festival goers this year can leave their wellies at home!

While at Wimbledon the heat will be building on centre court this weekend, on Sunday temperatures could hit a toasty 30 Celsius, 86 Fahrenheit so don't forget your hat and suncream!

Looking further ahead, it looks like June will end on a warm note with some showers on Tuesday. As we move into July, it may turn a bit more unsettled with some rain and showers at times, which may be heavy and thundery, but with some fine and warm spells likely as well. In the meantime, though, have a nice weekend and enjoy the sunshine.

Whose a pretty boy then?

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Martin Aaron Martin Aaron | 11:02 UK time, Wednesday, 23 June 2010

A trip to Flint Castle to photograph burnett moths turned into something a little more unusual for Jeff Cohen.

Walking back to his car, Jeff was amazed to see what he believes to be a colourful, red rumped parakeet perched up in the trees - not your average species for North Wales.

parakeet_head_jeff_cohen.jpg
These birds originate from Australia so migration is unlikely! It's obviously escaped from somewhere, so hopefully we can reunite bird with owner soon or perhaps it's been living in the wild for some time?

Could North Wales become home to a new kind of exotic/local hybrid?

Escaped parakeets are already breeding successfully in parts of London and the surrounding areas.
parakeet_jeff_cohen.jpg

Gull

Animal madness

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Martin Aaron Martin Aaron | 10:13 UK time, Wednesday, 23 June 2010

All this sunny weather is beginning to affect our wildlife. Not only are our reservoirs, rivers and wetland areas drying out - the animals are also starting to go a little bit crazy.

Keith O'Brien in North Wales snapped this rabbit attempting to go head to head with a large sheep. As expected the rabbit lost.
sheep_bunny_cilmeri.jpg
Charge!
sheep_bunny1_cilmeri.jpg

Meanwhile, Dilwyn Lloyd came across a squirrel taking time out of its busy schedule to catch a few rays:
sunbathing_squirrel_sashyaz.jpg

Christian Roberts encountered a stoat recently on the banks of the River Conwy darting in and out of the rocks and seaweed. This is an unusual spot to find a stoat but perhaps it's developed a taste for seafood?
stoat_christian_roberts.jpg

Keep your photos coming in. I'm currently working on new butterfly picture gallery featuring some of your best snaps which will be up on the website later today.

Gull

Whale and dolphin watching

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Martin Aaron Martin Aaron | 09:16 UK time, Monday, 21 June 2010

Cliff Benson from the Sea Trust has been in touch about a recent spate of whale and dolphin encounters off the Welsh coast:

"With two reports of minke whales seen in the Bristol Channel this month as well as hundreds of common dolphins off Pembrokeshire - it's safe to say, the whale & dolphin watching season is already off to a spectacular start".

"June seems to be a particularly good month for seeing minke whales in our waters".

"A recent survey by the Gower Marine Mammal Group just off the South Pembrokeshire Coast produced a feeding frenzy with at least two minke whales and one larger whale - probably a fin whale".

"Risso's dolphins as well as hundreds of common dolphins were also recorded. Another minke whale was seen yesterday by charter vessel 'Jessica Hettie', off Lundy Island".

A common dolphin off Ramsey Island taken by Richard Crossen on 6 June, 2010:
common_dolphin_richard_cros.jpg

"People are often surprised to hear of whales in our waters but with this beautiful weather and calm seas - we're hoping for a bumper season of sightings".

"It seems that from our records, minke whales start arriving in our waters about now (June), following the mackerel shoals".

"They also seem to be breeding here as can be seen from Adrian Shepherds picture taken on one of our recent surveys":
minke_whale_sea_trust.jpg 

"Last August we were surrounded by huge fin whales so you never really know what's going to be out there".

Find out more about whales and dolphin sightings off the Welsh coast by following the Whales in Wales blog.

We've had some lovely photos of dolphins submitted to our Flickr group so take a look if you have a spare minute.

As usual - you can submit pics to our Flickr group or e-mail them to us at wales.nature@bbc.co.uk.

Gull

Clear skies for the weekend

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Derek Brockway Derek Brockway | 14:08 UK time, Friday, 18 June 2010

2010 has had a dry start so far and the five month period from January to May has been the driest in Wales since 1964 with only 14.4 inches of rain.

June has been a dry month too (so far) with below average rainfall - just 1.3 inches so gardens everywhere are beginning feel it.

A cold front is moving south today, bringing some rain and even heavy, thundery showers to parts of Powys and SE Wales.

The weekend weather looks dry with a mixture of cloud and sunshine but it will feel noticeably fresher than of late, with lower humidity. Top temperatures on Saturday will be around 16 to 18 Celsius, 61 to 64F.

On Sunday we should see18 to 21 Celsius, 64 to 70F with a light to moderate north to north westerly breeze but it will feel cooler on the coast.

Temperatures won't be that high, but the sun will remain strong, so avoid it around midday if you can and always wear suncream - factor 30 is best.

The air over us currently originates from the Arctic, so will be clear and fresh. If you're heading into the hills or mountains, take your camera as you'll be able to see for miles!

You can send in your pics to our Flickr group.

The nights will turn chilly with temperatures dropping into single figures so you may need to dig out that chunky, purple cardigan if you're planning a BBQ in the evening.

Next week we'll see more fine and warmer weather to begin with but it breaks down later in the week with rain and thundery showers arriving.

Enjoy the weekend and take care if you're going to the coast as there have been a number of rescues in Wales recently.

I'm off to Porthcawl for my 6.50pm weather bulletin tonight so I might bump into some of you golf fans down there. The Ryder Cup Seniors Open is on at the Royal Porthcawl Golf Club until 20 June.

Derek

Boobies & wild nights in

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Martin Aaron Martin Aaron | 15:38 UK time, Thursday, 17 June 2010

I'm sure some of you were expecting me to announce a new 'Carry On' film, weren't you? ;)

But it is in fact time for the BBC Wildlife Fund to get into gear once more - think 'Live Aid' for animals.

The last call to action went out in 2007 when the BBC Saving Planet Earth appeal raised nearly £2 million.

This years' BBC Wild Night In is on Sunday, 20th June from 8-10 pm and the aim is to get you to donate as much of your hard earned cash as possible, in order to help fund worthy wildlife causes around the globe.

go_wild.jpg
The money raised is spent on a variety of projects - from securing a vital land corridor for rare African elephants in Namibia to preventing rabies amongst Ethiopian wolves.

Back home, the BBC Wildlife Fund has helped restore the habitat of the Adonis blue butterfly in Sussex and helped fund a red squirrel survey in Mid Wales with the Brecknock Wildlife Trust.

There are various ways you can get involved including a Wear Your Wildlife to Work Day on 18 June.

The idea is to swap your normal work clothes for something a bit more 'out there' which represents an endangered species or threatened habitat.

My blue whale outfit is up for consideration but getting in and out lifts may be an issue so I'm open to suggestions - leave a comment...

Andrew Marr and The Galapagos Conservation Trust are also running a Blue-footed Booby Day on 18 June so you have options...

I was lucky enough to spend time with these magnificent birds when I visited the Galapagos Islands back in 2008 and they are well worth saving!
bobbys.jpg

Find out more and donate or call 03705 100700 (standard geographical charges from landlines and mobiles apply).

All of the money donated by the public will be used to support wildlife conservation. Money raised will be distributed via grants to UK registered charities involved in conservation work around the world and on our doorstep.

A special fund raising pack, full of ideas of how to go 'Wild for Money' at school, work or home, is available from the BBC Wildlife Fund's website.

Gull

Newport's orchid walk

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Martin Aaron Martin Aaron | 15:31 UK time, Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Orchids are one of those things that are something of a mystery to UK residents, with a public perception of exotic rarities clinging to hillsides deep in the Amazon, fetching hundreds of pounds for a single bloom.

Well, think again because Welsh meadows are teeming with orchids and this weekend the RSPB is showing off up to six orchid species at its Newport Wetlands site. The annual Wetlands In Bloom guided walk will take in the pyramidal orchid, the southern marsh and the common spotted species. RSPB Wales say, "If we're lucky we may also see the amazing bee orchid".

See pictures of orchids in our BBC Wales Nature Flickr group.

Also over the summer months you can look out for other wildlife such martins, swifts, swallows and dragonflies darting past you on the paths and trails around the reserve.

More details: http://www.rspb.org.uk/events/details.asp?id=tcm:9-249159

Early summer weather patterns

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Derek Brockway Derek Brockway | 11:10 UK time, Wednesday, 16 June 2010

We've had more than our fair share of north-east winds so far this year which led to a cold winter in Wales followed by a dry spring with rainfall below the long term average.

During the spring and early summer north-easterly winds are fairly common in this part of the world. The jet stream weakens and areas of high pressure form over the sea. However, the weather pattern often breaks down in mid to late June when we often see the 'return of the westerlies'. Some people call this the start of the 'European Monsoon'.

The jet stream strengthens and moves north towards Iceland steering low pressure systems in the Atlantic towards Scotland. These bring spells of rain to northwest Europe and the downpours can play havoc at Wimbledon and turn the Glastonbury Festival into a mud bath. Once a weather pattern is set it can be difficult to shift and can continue for the rest of the summer.

However, the European monsoon normally weakens in July and if we are lucky the rain is interspersed with areas of high pressure from the Azores which bring us spells of warm and settled weather. These may last a week or two but more often than not, the most we can can hope for is three fine days followed by a thunderstorm.

After such a cold winter you may think we deserve a hot summer this year which was the case in 1947. Given the law of averages this summer should be better than the last three but of course there are no guarantees. The word 'changeable' comes to mind so keep the brolly handy for when the heavens open and make the most of the good days.

See if you can trump this

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Martin Aaron Martin Aaron | 13:38 UK time, Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Do you remember playing Top Trumps (in between 'touch on it' and 'British bulldog') as a child in school?

I do. For some reason battleships and sports cars spring to mind but these days they're available in a variety of themes and sell in their millions all over the world.

For the really lazy - you can even get a Top Trumps application for your iPhone.

The National Trust has just launched a new British wildlife series of Top Trumps - perfect for days on the beach or travelling on long journeys.

The cards feature 30 species of British wildlife - ranging from red squirrels found at locations such as Plas Newydd in Anglesey to the red kite at Dinefwr in Carmarthenshire and otters at Stackpole in Pembrokeshire.

top_trumps.jpg 

Trump your friends to win by getting top points for your creature's rarity, ability to move, ferocity and lifespan.

You'll quickly learn how these creatures survive and find out some weird and wonderful facts as you play. Did you know that purple emperor butterfly don't feed from flowers? Instead they prefer dung, dog poo or even rotting animal carcasses!

The 30 creatures selected for Top Trumps were chosen by the National Trust wildlife experts and all of the featured creatures can be found living in land protected by the National Trust.

A long eared bat fairs well in the 'gross out' stakes: 
top_trumps_bat.jpg

Richard Neale, National Trust Manager for Snowdonia and Llyn, where a large number of the featured species can be found, said:

"Top Trumps is a great way to find out how exciting our wildlife is, even the stingy, biting kinds. Not all the animals in this pack are pretty, many can be mean and nasty, but none are boring".

The game is available in all National Trust shops and online for £5 with money from sales goes towards supporting the conservation work carried out by the Trust.

Gull

The importance of wildflower meadows

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Martin Aaron Martin Aaron | 13:28 UK time, Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Native wildflower meadows in the UK have seen a dramatic decline, leading to a loss in habitats for a wealth of insects, flora and small mammals.

Springwatch presenter Chris Packham talks about their importance to our countryside and the role they play as a food source for many pollinating insects, including the UK's struggling bee population.




Conquering the Welsh Matterhorn

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Derek Brockway Derek Brockway | 09:20 UK time, Monday, 14 June 2010

Last week, I was away filming for a new series of Weatherman Walking.

We did two fantastic walks - the first on the Llyn Peninsula and the other up the Welsh Matterhorn - Cnicht.

The walk on the Llyn Peninsula took in the summits of Tre'r Ceiri meaning 'town of giants' and Yr Eifl.

Remains of the Iron Age huts:

iron_age_fort.jpg

Along the way, we visited one of the most spectacular Iron Age hill forts in North Wales - which still has large ramparts (up to 3m high) in places as well as remnants of old stone buildings inside.

As the mist lifted the views across to Snowdonia, Anglesey and around the coast were absolutely stunning.

We then headed down to Nant Gwytheryn, an old mining village, which has been transformed into the Welsh National Language and Heritage Centre.

Coming here brought back memories of my last visit back in 2005 when I came to study Welsh for the Big Welsh Challenge.

If you're in the area, pop into Caffi Meinir for a bite to eat or an ice-cream. After filming, we went to Porth Dinllaen near Nefyn and had a drink in the Ty Coch inn which is right on the beach - a great place to relax and have a paddle in the sea.

Rowing boats on the beach at Porth Dinllaen:

porth_dinllaen_boats-.jpg

The next walk was up Cnicht, a mountain which, when viewed from the south-west, looks like The Matterhorn in Switzerland but is not particularly high at 689 metres or 2,260 feet.

We started from the village of Croesor which has its own outdoor swimming pool. The climb is fairly steady and soon there were wonderful views down to Porthmadog and Tremadog Bay.

Towards the peak, the walk became a bit tougher as we had to scramble over rocks but it was well worth the effort.

On the trail up towards the Cnicht Mountain:

cnicht.jpgWe all felt a real sense of achievement when we reached the top but by then, the weather had closed in with fog and heavy rain.

Thankfully my guide had a map and compass which you definitely need on this walk, just in case the weather takes a turn for the worse.

The route down took us past Llyn y Adar and the eerie remains of Rhosydd and Croesor slate quarries.

Old slate fencing at Cwm Croesor:

cwm_croesor_slate.jpg

We then walked down Cwm Croesor and back to our starting point at the car park where we popped into Caffi Croesor for a well deserved cuppa and a muffin.

Cnicht and the Moelwyn mountains are much quieter than other popular parts of Snowdonia, but are just as rugged and beautiful in their own way.

Derek

Escape in the sun

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Martin Aaron Martin Aaron | 11:22 UK time, Friday, 11 June 2010

Derek is off walking for the new Weatherman Walking series so Sue Charles has kindly sent over the weekend weather prospects.

Any cloud today should be quickly dispersed by north westerly winds leaving most of us with plenty of sunshine and a promising weekend ahead.

It will however feel fresher along north facing coasts - 14 Celsius for Conwy Bay with the winds lightening as you head south east - so a touch warmer with temperatures reaching 21 Celcius in the Vale of Glamorgan.  

Saturday looks like the brightest day of the weekend with temperatures about average for early June around 17-20 Celcius. Any early cloud will burn away leaving a lovely sunny day so good news for Escape in the Park, Swansea.

High pressure is building to the west of the UK so we'll see a much more settled picture as we head into the weekend.

There's a small risk of a shower in North Wales on Sunday but other than that - plenty of fine weather to come.

Man versus horse

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Martin Aaron Martin Aaron | 09:10 UK time, Friday, 11 June 2010

It may sound like a Harry Hill "fight!" scenario but this race has actually been taking place in the smallest town in Britain - Llantwrtyd Wells since 1980.

A local landlord overheard two men in his pub discussing whether it was possible for a man to beat a horse over a long distance race and the rest is history.

Action from the race. Image by Chris Prichard:
manvhorse.jpg

The race is a 22 mile course and says what it does on the tin. Men and women race through the countryside on foot against horses over the same distance and since 1985, cyclists have also been allowed to take part.

In 2004, Huw Lobb became the first runner to actually beat a horse with a time of 2 hours, 5 minutes and 19 seconds took home a £25,000 prize.

  • The race starts at 11am on Saturday, 12 June in Llantwrtyd Wells.
Enter your address to get directions to Llantwrtyd Wells.

Read more on this story on BBC News online.

Find out more on Wikipedia.

Rare bird ruffles a few feathers

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Martin Aaron Martin Aaron | 12:36 UK time, Wednesday, 9 June 2010

A little bird has had 'twitchers' all over Wales in flap recently.

Hundreds of people have gathered on the Blorenge, near Abergavenny, to see a marmora's warbler, from the Mediterranean islands.

Ornithologist and former RSPB site manager Alan Davies saw the warbler after setting off from home in Llandudno, Conwy, at 0430 BST.

"This is extremely rare. It's only the fifth one ever to be seen in the UK since ornithology records began in the 1800s and the first one ever to be seen in Wales, without doubt."

Find out more on BBC News online.

Read about a Blorenge walk done by Derek Brockway.


Gull

Your wildlife pics

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Martin Aaron Martin Aaron | 11:17 UK time, Tuesday, 8 June 2010

It's been a great summer for wildlife photography so far and long may it continue!

The Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2009 exhibition is coming to Cardiff this month. The exhibit will run from 19 June - 12 Sept at the National Museum of Wales so well worth a visit if you're interested in wildlife photography and improving your skills.

Back to your work now. Our Wales nature Flickr group is flourishing so I've picked out a couple of unusual ones that caught my eye this week.

Here's something you don't get to photograph very often - a stoat killing a rabbit. Al Preston initially thought the stoat was being chased by the rabbit but things quickly reversed:
stoat.jpg

Funnily enough I was down Gower surfing early on Saturday morning when a stoat darted straight across the path in front of me - quick as a flash!

Bearded tits have been in the news lately at the RSPB reserve in Conwy. A pair have finally bred - the first for 40 years in North Wales and the chicks have recently fledged.

Kenbray 54 snapped this bearded tit amongst the reed beds:
bearded_tit_ken.jpg
 
And it just goes to show that you don't have to move far away from urban populations to find great wildlife on your doorstep. This great crested grebe complete with chicks was taken at Roath Park, Cardiff by Moses Davies:
great_crested_grebe.jpg




Ynys-hir is bursting with song

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Martin Aaron Martin Aaron | 10:15 UK time, Monday, 7 June 2010

Caroline de Carle - the centre manager from the RSPB reserve at Ynys-hir has been in touch with the latest news:

"Ynys-hir is at its absolute peak of perfection at the moment with the woodlands bursting with song and the tiny cheeps of newborn chicks".

The reserve:
ynys_hir.jpg

"With the BBC's Springwatch series on our TV screens this week, it has reminded me to tell you about the pair of swallows nesting in the gent's toilet on the reserve - right above the cistern of all places".

"They seem to be unfazed by the constant male traffic so fingers crossed the chicks won't mind too much either!"

The swallows nest on top of the toilet:
swallow_toilet.jpg

"The nightjar and glow worm walks this month are proving very popular and are almost fully booked.

So if you want to see and hear the magical Dyfi valley after dark, get yourself booked in ASAP".

"There is a walk on Saturday, 19 June, so visit the reserve website for more information or to book yourself a spot".

"We also have new arrivals on the reserve in the form of a foal from one of the rescue ponies brought here last autumn and another one on the way".


Plan your BBQ for Saturday

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Derek Brockway Derek Brockway | 15:38 UK time, Friday, 4 June 2010

We've all enjoyed some lovely weather this week with plenty of sunshine and temperatures rising as high as 25 Celsius this afternoon but will it last over the weekend?

Well, I can promise more fine and warm weather but there's a change on the way and not everywhere will stay dry.

If you're planning a picnic or a BBQ, Saturday looks like the warmest and sunniest day of the weekend with top temperatures around 23 Celsius and light winds.

The sunshine will be hazy and many coasts will be cooler with sea breezes. There may also be some sea mist in the Irish Sea that could roll onto the coast around Cardigan Bay and Caernarfon Bay.

Roger Williams from Trefechan sent in this photograph of Llwyn Onn Reservoir. The bridge is usually only visible during prolongued dry spells so it's very early in the summer for the bridge to be in full view:

llwyn_onn_reservoir.jpg

If you fancy a paddle, the sea temperature is a refreshing 11 or 12 Celsius. Sunday will be cloudier and cooler with the risk of some rain and showers which could be heavy with thunder.

However, if all goes to plan, it should dry and brighten-up during the afternoon with some sunshine. Temperatures will be around 16 to 20 Celsius with a light to moderate west to north-westerly breeze.

There are lots of events taking place this weekend:

  • Mancot Bowling Club in Flintshire are having a family open day on Sunday. Some rain is expected but it should brighten up later.
  • The Great Strait Raft Run is taking place on Sunday between Y Felinheli and Menai Bridge. The weather should improve here with a light to moderate north-westerly breeze.

Next week the signs are pointing towards cooler and more unsettled weather with low pressure bringing rain and showers - some of it heavy in places too.

Derek

Tree bumblebee discovered

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Martin Aaron Martin Aaron | 10:32 UK time, Friday, 4 June 2010

A rare tree bumblebee (bombus hypnorum) has been discovered at the National Botanic Garden of Wales.

This particular bee has never been seen so far west before and was first spotted in 2001 in the New Forest, Hampshire having flown over from France.

Previously in Wales, it had only been found in Cardiff - so it appears to be expanding its reach here in Wales. With other bee species in serious decline this is great news.

Tree bumblebee:
tree_bee.jpg

It's a distinctive bumblebee with a brown thorax, black abdomen and white tail - no other bumblebee looks like this, so it's fairly easy to spot. It naturally nests in tree holes but will also happily nest in bird boxes.

You can see exactly what they look like at www.bumblebeeconservation.org

Ironically the discovery was made on 'Bee Aware Day' at the Garden, when talks, tours and stalls were organised to raise awareness of the need to conserve bees.

BBC Bee Part Of It

View our bee pictures


Offshore windfarm to go ahead

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Martin Aaron Martin Aaron | 09:57 UK time, Friday, 4 June 2010

Construction work will begin next year on one of the largest offshore windfarms in the world.

The £2 billion Gwynt y Môr windfarm will have 160 wind turbines around 10 miles off the North Wales coast near Colwyn Bay and Llandudno.

The RWE Innogy-led project is expected to be completed in 2014.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/wales/north_west_wales/10235242.stm

Are you for or against wind power?

Woodfest wobble

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Martin Aaron Martin Aaron | 08:30 UK time, Friday, 4 June 2010

Woodfest Wales, in St Asaph, North Wales kicks off today and runs until 6 June.

The festival is a celebration of all things wood and showcases a variety of wood related activities, crafts and forest industries.

One thing that particularly caught my eye however was the mountain bike event. Some of the top UK trail riders will gather to take on what can only be described as a terrifying wooden obstacle course - the only one of its kind in the UK.

I'm showing my age now but does anyone remember 'Kick Start' on BBC One? It consisted of kids on motorbikes riding over crazy assault courses against the clock. Well, imagine that only with mountain bikes and you're half way there.

I loved that show though and spent many hours making elaborate ramps to fall off in the comfort my own back yard. Happy days, long before game consoles...

Some of the riders in action:
woodfest.jpg

Anyway, back to the wood....the monster that everyone fears is an 11ft high balance board that the riders must battle - using every ounce of balance they can muster.

Despite safety nets, a few riders were injured last year so it's definitely not for the faint hearted.

The custom designed course will consist of 'North Shore style' (trails that incorporate natural and man-made features of terrain) see-saws coupled with gap jumps over water - all of which are designed to test the riders balance and concentration.

There will also be tractor tyre 'gap jumps' and a Land Rover that the riders will have to ride up, over and off.

Find out more at the woodfest website and if you go along - I'd love to have some photos from the event to feature here.

You can email pics to me at wales.nature@bbc.co.uk

Thanks

Gull



Go wild at the Urdd

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Martin Aaron Martin Aaron | 14:00 UK time, Thursday, 3 June 2010

Looking for something to do in Mid Wales this week? Pop into the Countryside Council for Wales (CCW) tent at the Urdd in Llanerchaeron:

  • Art Competition - 'Llanerchaeron Wildlife' or 'Llanerchaeron Landscapes'. Prizes to be won every day for under 7 years, 8-11 years, 12-18 years with daily winners selected at 3pm.

  • Photography Competition - Winners selected on Saturday 5 June with prizes for under 11 years, 12-18 years and over 18 years.

  • Forest Guided Walk at 2pm every day - A free guided walk through the Llanerchaeron Forest, joining up with the cycle path to Aberaeron.

  • Coastal Trip - A free guided walk to enjoy the Ceredigion coast at Cwm Soden. Free bus to the coast. 5-7pm Friday, 4 June.

  • A treasure hunt around the Maes. Visit the CCW stand for details and your own magnifying glass. A free goodie bag is available for all those taking part.

    Gull

Blue tit rescue

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Martin Aaron Martin Aaron | 11:07 UK time, Thursday, 3 June 2010

It's heart warming to know that you're all doing your bit to look after our wildlife here in Wales. Here are two stories that have come in recently regarding blue tit chicks.

Rachel Dicker e-mailed us to tell us all about a stranded bird she recently rescued:

"This is a picture of a baby blue tit we found wandering around the garden who had obviously left his nest too early and couldn't fly and had no idea where his nest was".

"We have loads of cats in our garden so I knew it wasn't going to survive long. I picked it up and put it in a old hamster cage with some bedding up in a tree".

A fluffy chick in his temporary accommodation:
bluetit_chick.jpg

"We had him for just over a week. The children played with him each day then put him back in his cage and he became really friendly".

"His mum and dad continued to feed him throughout the time he was with us and were quite happy to go inside the cage to do this".

"I shut the cage door at dusk and got up each morning at 4.30 to open it up again so the cats couldn't get him. He eventually got confident and flew away. We were all very sad but happy that we were able to help".

And we've also been following Joysaphine's valiant efforts over on our Flickr group who took on an entire brood after the parents were killed by cats. You can read all about it here.

Obviously it goes without saying that you should never intervene unless it's absolutely necessary and even then, it's sometimes better to let nature take its course.

But it's always nice when rescue stories have a happy ending :)

Gull

Make your nature count

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Martin Aaron Martin Aaron | 10:10 UK time, Thursday, 3 June 2010

Thousands of you will be joining in this week to take part in the RSPB garden wildlife survey which runs from 5-13 June.

The RSPB is keen to find out as much as they can about mammals such as moles, badgers, foxes as well as birds to build up an accurate picture of what is visiting our gardens at this time of year.

A fox by Mark Hamblin (rspb-images.com):
fox.jpg

The wildlife charity also wants to know where you live in order to identify urban, rural and regional variations in species.

Almost 3,000 people took part in the survey last year so it would be great if we can better it this time around. The results made for some interesting reading too. For instance - you're far more likely to see a fox in an urban garden than you are out in a more rural setting.

Taking part is simple - Just spend one hour during the week of 5-13 June counting birds and other wildlife that you see in your garden and record the highest number of each species that you see at any one time.

You'll be able to log all your results on the RSPB website from 5 June - 5 July so don't panic you have plenty of time.

To help you identify birds you can download a bird spotter form. The information you collect can then be transferred to the online form from 5 June onwards.

Bilingual forms are available by phoning 02920 35300.

You can also send in any wildlife pictures to our BBC Wales Nature Flickr group. We've got over 10,000 images in there currently.

Nick from BBC Local NE Wales has also been showcasing some of your local wildlife pictures.

That's it - get out there and get spotting this weekend!

Gull

Make Hay while the sun shines

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Derek Brockway Derek Brockway | 15:29 UK time, Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Yesterday Aberdaron on the Lleyn Peninsula was the wettest place in Britain with 20.6mm of rain (just under an inch) but that's the last significant rain we'll going to have in Wales for a while.

The next few days are looking generally dry thanks to high pressure from the Azores. This will bring increasing amounts of sunshine and higher temperatures as well.

Friday looks likely to be the hottest day of the week with a top temperature of 24 Celsius, 75 Fahrenheit.

So lovely weather for the Hay Festival, The Wales Open Golf Tournament at the Celtic Manor Resort in Newport which starts tomorrow and also for the Urdd Eisteddfod at Llanerchaeron in Ceredigion.

The heat might set off the odd shower later on Friday afternoon/evening but these will be few and far between. At the moment, the weekend looks largely dry too with some sunshine.

However, it will gradually turn cooler, especially on Sunday. As I mentioned in a previous blog, rainfall has been below normal this Spring. Infact last month, only 61.8mm of rain fell (the long term average for May is 80.7mm).

Last month was also the 6th month in a row to have below average rainfall and overall, the Spring (March, April and May) has provisionally been the driest in Wales since 1990. The current dry spell looks like breaking next week.

The signs point towards a change to cooler, more unsettled conditions with low pressure bringing some rain and showers which is typical given I am off to Gwynedd to start filming a new series of Weatherman Walking!

Two walks are planned, one up Yr Eifl on the Lleyn Peninsula and the other up Cnicht. All of my walks from my previous series are online.

Looking at the latest weather charts I think the team better pack waterproofs!

Derek

Chick number 3 hatches

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Martin Aaron Martin Aaron | 11:35 UK time, Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Ceri Mair Thomas has e-mailed over the latest news from the RSPB Glaslyn Osprey Project:

The third osprey chick hatched at 7pm on Wednesday, 19 May, after 4 hours of the first signs of hatching.

The chicks are all doing well and growing fast and the youngest and oldest are easily identifiable as the first signs of downy feathers begin to show.

The visitor centre:
glaslyn.jpg

There have been frequent sightings of other ospreys in the area and on 22 May - an unfamiliar osprey swooped into the river, right in front of a hide full of visitors!


The celtic connection

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Martin Aaron Martin Aaron | 09:26 UK time, Tuesday, 1 June 2010

I've just been away on holiday to Asturias in Northern Spain so it's my first day back for a while. There's a strong Celtic connection in the region and even some impressive walled/ fortified, Iron Age villages.

I had an amazing time and saw plenty of wildlife including black redstart which I'd not seen before although they can be common here, during the summer. They also have an abundance of jays and buzzards.

The dawn chorus each day was particularly loud and varied (I heard my first cuckoo for 2010) and I spent plenty of time watching the black kites soaring high on the thermals.

Interestingly, much of the wildlife is very similar to what we have right here in Wales with one or two notable exceptions - brown bears, wolves and lynx.

Meanwhile down at the estuary I saw spoonbill and little egret which in the past would have got me excited but are now rather common in our own Welsh rivers and estuaries.

I was particularly impressed by the way Spain manages its environment and even at the most remote beaches I kept bumping into park rangers walking along, collecting rubbish and tidying up on a daily basis.

If you've never been to that part of the world - I highly recommend it, you won't regret it but learn some basic Spanish.

The sun seems to have forgotten to put his hat on today but I've been reliably informed that it will return later this week...

It's half term for a lot of you this week (with kids) anyway and I've already mentioned a few things to do this week in my previous blog but here are few other things you might like to try:

Down at the coast - it's good news for surfers as there's a nice little swell pushing in over the next few days with light winds. I was up at 6am pondering a dip myself but the tide was too low for me unfortunately. The sea is around 11 C so you'll still need a wetsuit but the cumbersome boots and gloves can now come off. 

High tide is around 10am so bear that in mind if you're going to do a spot of sea fishing - the bass and mackerel are in now.

Staying on the coast, three of the Urdd's outdoor officers are setting off from Aberaeron harbour today on a three week kayak trip around Wales! They plan to raise money for the Welsh Air Ambulance and to increase the profile of Glan Llyn - the multi activity centre near Bala.

The Urdd Eisteddfod at Llanerchaeron is also under way and there are plenty of wild activities for kids taking place this year. It runs until 5 June, so pop along to the BBC Wales Cymru tent to find out more.

Great Orme Country Park celebrates its 30th birthday and there are various activities planned. It all kicks off from 11am today with a service at St Tudno's church and activities are planned up at the summit from midday onwards - including a guided wildflower walk at 12.20pm so I hope the rain clears.

The Brecon Beacons National Park Authority are celebrating World Environment Day by hosting a green festival at the Brecon Promenade overlooking the River Usk so pop along if you live nearby.

Gull

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