Not common but Comma.

comma There have very few butterflies around this year although Meadow Browns have been present in good numbers. This Comma however made for a nice sight down at Goldcliff this week. I always like seeing the strange wing edges which always looks like they have been in a fight with a bird.

A sad farewell!

Last month we were devastated to hear the sad news that Vladimir, the male Siberian Tiger at Dartmoor Zoological Park had sadly died. Vladimir was the last remaining Tiger actually born at DZP who I had been fortunate enough to have seen growing up from a cub.

Dartmoor Zoological Park in Sparkwell Devon is owned by Benjamin Mee, who has been running the zoo for the last 10 years and is doing remarkable work for research, conservation and education. In fact the film ‘We Bought A Zoo’ starring Matt Damon and Scarlet Johansen was based on the true story around the taking over of DZP by Benjamin.
Sadly the number of Tigers has decreased over the last 100 years from hundreds of thousands to between 3000 & 5000. Of these it is estimated that only 400 to 500 are living in the wild which is why it so vitally important to carry on the conservation work to make sure the Tiger lives on!

Siberian tigers are the largest of their species and yes it is true, their skin is also striped under their fur! No two Tigers will have the same stripes, just like human fingerprints.

We were so lucky to get so close to Vlad on our last visit while the keepers cleaned his enclosure…what a magnificent animal. Vladimir, like his late sisters Blotch and Stripe were amazing animals and I was delighted to have seen all three of them turning from cubs into magnificent creatures. In the early days before their enclosure was altered and the new fencing added, I was sat next to the fence stroking Vlad’s side through the meshing when he suddenly got to his feet, turned and then ‘squirted’ me. This is a warning sign from Tigers and marks their territory and is a reminder that he had wild instincts still inside his heart, but an experience that has stayed with me forever. Not many people can say they have been squirted by a Tiger!.

Vladimir was born in 2001 and along with his late sisters marks the end of a truly magnificent era for the three wonderful Tigers I came to admire and love, from cubs to fully grown majestic adults. I have been visiting DZP every year sometimes several times a year since they were born and feel privileged to have known them, got so close to them and to enjoy the wonderful moments they have given me.

Vladimir along with his sisters Stripe and Blotch made such a big impact in our lives…. They will be greatly missed but never forgotten. They really have left a paw print on my heart.

SLOEly ripening!

sloes These beautiful Sloe berries are ripening nicely at the moment and will be used by some people for making Sloe Gin and for the birds they make a welcome autumn feast.
Also of note this week were the Cinnabar Moths feeding away on Ragwort. I really love these little caterpillars. ragwort

Positive feedback.

It is always nice to receive positive feedback and comments, and the below are some from members of a guided walk I did on July 1st for the SAMYE Foundation Wales along the Cefn Onn Ridge.

“I found the walk very enjoyable and really interesting. It was not too strenuous and we stopped several times to hear interesting facts about the landscape and various species. I would highly recommend this walk and I am looking forward to the next one.” Jan

“Just to let you know, Chris (hubby) & myself really enjoyed our walk on Cefn Onn Ridge. We are cardiff born but have never realised how near this route is. How beautiful the ancient woodland is and the wonderful variety of flora & fauna that grows there.

Neville is cheerful and very informative, e.g. on foraging edible plants, identifying the large variety of birds and birdsong and his knowledge of the surrounding area generally. Will definitely return to experience again.” M Hudson


hawkYou have to admire the large yellow eye and expression of this female Sparrowhawk that is visiting our garden today and luckily for the birds on the feeders, not having any success.

Lepidoptera Lifer!

silver1Whilst on my way to work yesterday I noticed a species of fritillary butterfly feeding on a Buddlea bush. Unfortunately I couldn’t get a decent photo on my phone so I returned this morning and was able to get some better shots with my camera.
I was delighted to see that they were a pair of Silver Washed Fritillary – a new one for my list and a lovely looking butterfly too. Several Red Admirals, Large Whites, Peacock and Speckled Woods were also taking an interest in the same bushes.

Mindfullness and nature walk for SAMYE Foundation Wales.

oystersWell the weather was excellent, warm but with a gentle breeze as twenty eager participants met me at the Travellers Rest pub car park (my thanks to the landlord for allowing us to use the car park, thanked in return with drinks at the end from all on the walk). After my introduction and health and safety pep talk we headed down the road to join the Rhymney Valley Ridgeway Walk to take us along the Cefn Onn Ridge, through a mixture of Beech woodland, past open fields and disused lime kilns and quarries.

Straight away we were welcomed by the song of a Blackcap singing from deep within the canopy and a Blue Tit and Blackbird was heard also. The variety of plants was plentiful and we started to look at Red Dead Nettles, Hart’s Tongue Ferns and Enchanter’s Nightshade. The Ramsons (Wood Garlic) had gone over but the scent from the leaves was still very strong. A dead Rat on the path gave us a laugh as Loraine had asked if we would find anything edible – needless to say the offer of this as food wasn’t taken up. Many in the group joined me to see a hidden patch of Common Twayblade orchids I know of.

As we walked further along I pointed out some Cramp Ball fungus – also known as King Alfred’s cakes with an explanation as to why they had this nickname. A large group of Ganoderma (Artists Fungus) was pointed out growing on a Beech tree. The fungus was giving off the brown spores that will spread onto the neighbouring trees, deposited on the wind. A large group of Oyster Mushroom on a rotting log was an unexpected surprise. Numerous ‘spit’ like substances were on the grass fronds formed by the Froghopper insect which in-cases itself in a foamy substance to protect it from other predators by giving off an unpleasant taste. Another warbler was heard singing, this time a Chiffchaff.

Passing a disused lime kiln we continued along the path stopping off to look at Jelly Fungus, a group of Dryads Saddle growing on a tree stump and Southern Polypody fern growing from the trunk of a Hawthorn. The group marvelled at the size of many of the Beech trees and we estimated their age to be around 300 years plus. Either way these trees would have seen a lot of history. A group of Wild Cherry had one tree which was sadly dying, and already there were tell-tale signs of Beetles boring into the soft wood and pecking holes from Woodpeckers.

The tiny yellow flowers of Agrimony grew along the entire stem and close by another large group of red Dead Nettle was growing. Self Heal, Hawkweeds and more Enchanter’s Nightsahdes grew alongside these plants. At the fork in the path we turned left and followed the path gently uphill for a short distance where I showed the group a vein of Baryte passing under and across the surface of the path. Passing through the gate we wntered a lovely ancient Beech woodland where Bracket fungus was growing on several of the trees. Some of the Beech trees here are very old and have formed amazing shapes. As we entered a clearing just before the quarry, several Ringlet butterflies were showing themselves well and a Speckled wood butterfly was resting on a Bramble, enjoying the strong sunlight on it’s wings.

Several fine specimens of Common Spotted Orchids grew alongside the path with a deep colour, so different from the greens of the Twaybaldes. At the disused quarry we sat on the grass grazed short by the local Rabbits where Wild Thyme, Tormentil, Birds Foot Trefoil and the tiny white flowers of Eyebright all grew. We enjoyed drinks and snacks here in the warm sunshine before following the path downhill for a while before re-joining the path at the start of the ancient Beech woodland. Turkey Tail fungus was growing on a tree stump and another Blackcap serenaded us with a Wren giving off it’s alarm call at our presence. A Woodpigeon egg shell was found. Many birds deposit the eggs once the young have hatched some distance away from the nest site to avoid attracting any predators.

We stopped to enjoy sampling some Wood Sorrel with it’s bitter taste caused by Oxalic acid in the leaves. We re-joined the original path and laughed at another Blackcap that seemed to be following us, singing all the time, but staying well hidden in the deep foliage. I spotted a Tawny Owl breaking cover and flying above the path but unfortunately only one other person got to see it.

Purple Moor grass and some other species of plants were spotted on the return walk and back at Blaen Nofydd farm at the start of the walk we stopped to speak to Ian Griffiths, a friend of mine who owns the property, and he told us some of the local history of the area which was fascinating. He also had a spring on the property where many of the group got to sample the water purified by passing trough the limestone.

We returned to the pub for some drinks and snacks and reminisced on the plants, fungi and birds seen on the walk. My thanks to the SAMYE Foundation Wales for their positive feedback to me for the walk and for the excellent company. For further details on SAMYE Foundation contact Samye Foundation Wales on 02920 228040 or email at