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Dennis Country

Welcome to my blog ...

Please send me an email if you wish to leave a comment. My website includes sections on the environment, green woodworking and some industrial history photos from Gwent, UK.

Mid May Sightings

Wildlife Posted on Sun, May 19, 2019 09:40PM

A couple of welcome recent sightings in Torfaen, south east Wales:

Firstly a Green Hairstreak butterfly, difficult to see when static amongst leaves, bilberry in this case. The only UK butterfly which is nearly all green (on underside of wings), mainly dark brown on top of wings. This one has some wear to the scales.

I was alerted by snorting noises near a garden shed which turned out to be two hedgehogs having a “stand-off”, possible arguing over hunting rights under the shed floor!

A fair sized, young Elm tree, around 35 feet (10m) tall. I was advised it was a Wych Elm species.

… and nearby male and female Brimstone butterflies, may be a courtship …
Please click for video (low resolution)

Getting Wintry

Wildlife Posted on Thu, December 14, 2017 03:55PM

I prefer to write “wintery” but that’s out of fashion it seems.
It’s mid-December and roses are still trying to flower, adding some welcome colour in the garden. Time now especially to feed wild birds, and it seems a squirrel, seen in a local garden …
Trying to discourage all but small birds, this cage within a cage works quite well (outer part is a cylindrical piece of wire mesh).

Busy Bees

Wildlife Posted on Thu, March 09, 2017 09:25PM

It was around 15C today (9 March 2017), which brought out quite a few large bumble bees onto my winter flowering heather. I haven’t identified the species yet – most were as shown in photos and the video. I’ve put this post into the “Wildlife” category, but the situation was my garden, and the food plant is not native to UK. I wonder how the bees are managing in our disappearing and fragmented countryside …

Play Video

Blue Fungus (Cobalt Crust)

Wildlife Posted on Mon, December 19, 2016 03:04PM

I was impressed with this blue fungus growing on an oak post, initially thought it might be a lichen. A Gwent Wildlife Trust person suggested it could be Cobalt Crust fungus (Terana caerulea), later confirmed by the Gwent Fungus Group who recorded the apparently rare find. More photos can be seen here:

One of many information sources on www

Pale Tussock Moth Caterpillar

Wildlife Posted on Wed, October 28, 2015 12:55AM

I was surprised to find this very striking moth caterpillar (Pale Tussock, Calliteara pudibunda) inside an inverted wheelbarrow in south east Wales (elevation approx 1000 feet, 300m). I only had an old style mobile phone with me, so it’s a poor image. A Google search for information and photos is here. This website has very good photos, and the adult moth is also impressive. It seems the species is “fairly common” in England and Wales, but a sighting made it into a local newspaper (South Wales Evening Post, with incorrect adult photo). When moving, black markings can be seen between the bright yellow segments, along with what looks like an erect red “tail”. I moved it to a safer place while wearing gloves, just as well because handling can cause skin problems.

Common Spangle Gall

Wildlife Posted on Sat, November 02, 2013 05:12AM

While walking in an area with oak trees I noticed lots of what looked like seeds on the ground. These resembled parsnip seeds – discs about 5mm across, raised one side and flattened on the other. These appear to be common spangle galls, which have fallen off the underside of oak leaves, and are abundant this year.
These galls are produced on oak leaves during the first phase of the life cycle of a small wasp (Neuroterus quercusbaccurum) – each containing an egg developing to a larva. I failed to see one within the plant material, guess they’re pretty small at this stage (in late October).
The second phase also produces a gall (termed a “currant gall”) on oak leaf buds in early summer, from which wasps emerge. These galls are much less abundant than spangle galls due to actions of a wide variety of predators. Here are a couple of links to the many web pages on galls –
Trees for Life – this species is under the heading “Currant Galls”
Wikipedia Neuroterus quercusbaccarum

Note: Although this is called “common”, like many things in nature it may be prolific one year in a particular area, then not so for some time.

Update 30 Aug 2017
I didn’t see much of this species again until this year (I wasn’t looking hard), but it’s noticeably another abundant year in south east Wales (sample photo).

Interesting Things

Wildlife Posted on Tue, July 24, 2012 12:25AM

I can’t remember seeing these before – but I don’t get out that much! Both seen on hillsides in SE Wales:

A swallow tailed moth (Ourapteryx sambucaria) – usually night flying, this was early evening in July. Similar in size to butterflies such as peacock, red admiral. Typical for moths, rests with wings open and has no ‘club ends’ to antennae.

Looks like a small woodlouse, and that seems to be what it is. A crustacean – rosy/pink woodlouse (Androniscus dentiger) fits the description. It’s about 5mm long, found in rubble near a boggy area on mountainside in south Wales.

May 2020: this is South East Wales Biodiversity Record Centre’s “Species of the Month”. I’ve submitted this sighting to ; a bit late but I’ve only registered recently.

Related, Oct 2018
I believe this is a common woodlouse (UK) Oniscus asellus. There are lots of these around my garden but this is the first I’ve noticed with markings on its “back”, may be calcium deposits according to Wikipedia.

Pond Life: April 2012

Wildlife Posted on Thu, April 05, 2012 09:46PM

A high density of frog tadpoles are busy browsing the vegetation & lichen on stones (pictured below), small log and liner of a garden pond. In fact it’s not the liner, but a layer of “weed suppressant” material which I put over the liner – this provides a good hold for micro-vegetation and gives the liner some protection. This is a small, fairly new pond (put in 2 years ago), so has not silted up much – which may in time reduce the amount of “grazing” available early in the year.
Having shallow areas including some stones provides shelter for various creatures, and makes the pond popular as a “bird bath”. A few shoots of Ceratophyllum demersum (common or rigid hornwort) were
introduced last year to help oxygenate the pond, and tadpoles etc. will eat some. This plant doesn’t grow as vigourously as some other non-native species, or have significant roots, making removal of excess easier. One shoot is pictured below with the tip on the surface.
I had an old tyre and thought I’d make a habitat near the pond, not sure what species it would suit – amphibians, reptiles? The tyre has stones in the middle, and at the bottom a flat one is angled off the ground. It’ll soon get hidden with more sticks and surrounding vegetation.

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