Oops - long time no see!

It seems that with so many other things to do, I've completely neglected this site.  Must do better - but that won't be until September.

The magazines have been published, with another one due out by the end of the month (though I think it will be a little late - sorry)

Meanwhile, I'm just trying something out.  What happens when I embed a map here?


The next magazine will be about National Parks along the Green Belt of Europe - and this is one of them.


Nature-watching in Europe Issue 9

Issue 9 contents:


Italy - magic of the Sibillini Paul Harcourt-Davies
News and Research

Adders - what harm photographers and watchers can do
Slovenia - land of lakes and limestone
Spain - crane migration
European Breeding Birds Atlas - how to contribute to the second edition.


Only on the Apple News-stand

Subscribe here




Late afternoon at Stackpole

Sometimes, it seems that Lady Luck is on your side.  Or maybe you've just put in the hours and it's about time something happened.

We walked alongside the lake at Bosherston from the Eight-Arch Bridge to the Grassy Bridge.  During the winter there are usually a flock of up to 40 goosanders here.  Normally they are on the far side of the lake - and they believe in keeping their distance.  Today, yes, they were on the far side, but the far side of the narrowest part - and they even deigned to come half way across.  At last, a decent opportunity for photography.

People often put food down for small birds on one end of the Grassy Bridge.  This practice is not encouraged, but is done often enough for birds to expect people to provide them with a snack.  As we arrived, a robin sat there expectantly.  A grey wagtail worked its way along the parapet away from us.  Wagtails often have a beat they use repeatedly, so I sat and waited.  It took a while, the bird flew off, came back again, and again, and posed for a few photos. 

A young heron - one of last year's chicks - came and sat on the parapet in the sun for a while.  Chaffinches, blue tits, great tits and dunnocks checked the feeding station.  As did a female mallard with two males following her around.



A new season

March 21st is traditionally the first day of spring in Britain, and probably in most of Europe.  This year in Pembrokeshire, it is the continuation of a spell of pleasantly mild daytime temperatures tempered by a light but cold north-easterly breeze,  and cool nights.  It’s a good day for going out and seeing what is about.

A couple of weeks ago I gave a talk about mammal recording at the annual meeting of county recorders in West Wales, organised by the West Wales Biodiversity Centre.  One of the WWBIC staff had produced a map showing the density of records in each one kilometre square in each of the three counties - Pembrokeshire, Carmarthenshire and Ceredigion.  It was no surprise to see large areas of blue or green (few records per square) and some bright orange or red areas (lots of records - sometimes 1000s).

There was one square, adjacent to the one we live in, where there were less than 50 records.  How had we missed recording there?  Well, there should have been bird records, but birds atlases at least are recorded at the tetrad (2x2km square) level, and were not included in this map.

So, I gave myself a challenge - could I record 50 species there at this time of year.  I'm pretty good on birds.  As county mammal recorder I should be able to find a few signs of things.  A few plants are coming into flower, and there might even be a few insects around.

To record properly, means moving slowly.  I walked briskly along the road to warm up, slowed down as soon as I got onto the footpath and started looking around.  By the time I reached the edge of the 1km square, I was looking and listening.  This is a habit I must get back into.

To cut a long story short, I recorded 51 species. 

24 species of bird - mostly identified by call or song.  If I'd concentrated only on birds, I might have found a few more.

3 species of fern - hart's tongue, hard fern and bracken are all fairly easy to identify.  The bracken was dead, but that still counts - it will come up again in a few weeks.  There was also a Polypody species, and now that I've checked a book or two, that will be given a name next time round.  There was another fern, but I'll have to take the book with me to ID it.

16 species of flowering plant.  These include ash, hazel, holly and other trees and shrubs, as well as lesser celandine and primrose in flower and a few that could be easily identified from their leaves. 

Insects were few and far between - a couple of Bombus terrestris - buff-tailed bumblebee - queens searching for holes to nest in.  Also a queen wasp who didn't stay around long enough to be identified or photographed, and some dark brown hoverflies that didn't want to be photographed.

Mammals were the stars, though.  Moles make life easy by making molehills.  Badgers, foxes and rabbits are good at leaving footprints in mud.  A pile of otter spraint was a good find, and a grey squirrel chasing its tail in a garden made up the total. 

Mammals are mostly recorded through their signs, and a live sighting is a bonus.  I was walking along looking at the ground for plants, when a badger came out of the wood and stopped in front of me.  She was a bit unsure what was going on, but she waited, and I waited, and she waited, and then she decided it was safe to continue.  She made a slow bee-line across the corner of the field to a large hole I'd already noticed.  I kept downwind, and went along the edge of the field to intercept her.  She disappeared into the hole, and I continued back to the footpath.  A quick glance behind me revealed that she was out again, and heading for the wood.  Of course, I didn't have a proper camera with me, just a compact with a good zoom.  I took a few snaps, whistling to attract her attention briefly before she disappeared into the wood again.   She waited in the hedge as I went past - obviously curious about this strange intrusion into her territory, but not unduly alarmed.

Back home, the collection of records needed to put somewhere useful.  There are lots of on-line recording systems, many of them for single taxon groups, eg birds at the British Trust for Ornithology website.  However, I had a mixture of things, and they were all mixed up too, as I wrote them down in the order I recorded them.  iRecord would be a good option, but even better was a local version, on the WWBIC website.  


Nature-watching in Europe issue 8

Bulgaria - Central Balkan National Park

France - Golfe du Morbihan

Ireland - Pine Martens

Spain - volcanos on the western Canary Isles

Garden Finches

News & Research

Subscribe to Nature-watching in Europe, only on the Apple Newsstand - only for the iPad.

Allow Apple to give your email address to us, and get the current issue free. (we promise not give or sell your address to anyone else)