Wednesday, 28 May 2014

A Reptile Ramble at Parc Slip; A Guest Blog by Karen Coles

I was lucky enough to go on my second ever Reptile Ramble last Wednesday, at Parc Slip nature reserve. Some of the pictures are a bit blurry, sorry. It was impossible to see whether they were in focus at the time, due to the strong sunlight (nothing to do with my woeful photography skills – cough, cough).
Lady’s Smock, Ox-eye daisies, Cowslips and beautiful Ragged Robin were just some of the gorgeous wild flowers we saw.
Spotted this Drinker moth caterpillar:
015Plus this beauty, which I’ve been reliably informed (by twitter) is a Garden Tiger moth caterpillar! Glad I didn’t pick it up!
Dingy Skippers022Common Blues057 (640x480)and Green-veined White butterflies were everywhere. Also saw a Small Copper, and Rose (the walk leader) pointed out some Orange Tip eggs on the underside of Lady’s smock.
We were lucky enough to see three adders, one female024and two male.
We also saw grass snakes, one of which stayed still long enough for a photograph.
This is the shed skin of a grass snake, showing the eye scales. To find the whole skin intact is apparently quite rare, so we were extremely lucky to see it. What a fabulous face. Wish I could have kept it!
The highlight of the day for me was watching the courtship of two palmate newts in the pond. The male would swish his tale every now and then, and then shake it to waft pheromones to his beloved. She didn’t look too impressed, and we left without knowing if it ended happily ever after (hope so!). Sadly, I couldn’t get a photo of the newts, but did get these damselflies. I’ve been told they’re an azure blue and a large red.
Someone did spot a dragonfly, but I missed it :-( We did, however, spot this dragonfly exuvia (shed skin) on an emergent plant. Sorry the photo isn’t great. Just love these things and again, wish I could have taken it home. Not sure my hubby would be too happy if I did though.
This female slow worm was so well-camouflaged that we almost missed it.
Last and rarest creatures we saw were some Great Crested Newts. Feel honoured to have seen them.
To top off a wonderful morning, two ravens flew overhead, and just made my day!
Thanks again to Rose, and to all at Parc Slip nature reserve.
Karen Coles (
If you would like to join us on one of our weekly Reptile Rambles, please book with Rose Revera on or 01656 724100. Visit the website to see available dates and more information. 

Thursday, 8 May 2014

Dog Walking at Parc Slip

We love to use this blog to share with you updates on the nature reserve, your photos and facts about the wildlife. Unfortunately, sometimes we have to let you know about some of the less pleasant aspects of managing the nature reserve! Apologies in advance for some of the photos in this blog entry…

One of the main issues we have on the nature reserve, as some of you may know, is the amount of dog mess that is left on the paths here. The good news is that despite the increase in visitors to Parc Slip over the last year, the amount of mess left on the paths has actually decreased since the reopening of the centre. Most of the dog walkers that visit Parc Slip are very responsible and carry poo bags with them- thank you very much to these owners. However, there is still enough mess left on the paths to cause problems.

Dog mess left on the path leading out of the picnic area 
As well as being unsightly and a potential disease risk for the people using the nature reserve (imagine how unpleasant it is for reserve workers strimming the paths, or for school groups visiting the nature reserve), there are also implications for the wildlife. Dog mess can actually increase the nutrients in the soil, which allows the more competitive species such as nettles and grasses to grow, which leads to a reduction in wildflowers along the paths. We also unfortunately occasionally get poo bags thrown into the hedgerows, where they hang in the trees and are very unsightly and unpleasant. The bags (even the biodegradable ones) will not rot down for a long time and can cause a hazard to wildlife that could eat them. 

Nettles can overtake wildflowers on the paths where dog mess is left

So here are our plans to help reduce the problems of dog mess at Parc Slip. Hardy Wildlife Trust staff and volunteers are undertaking weekly ‘Poo Patrols’ around the main paths at Parc Slip. Quick removal of the mess from the paths will prevent the problems outlined above and create a much more pleasant environment for people and wildlife at Parc Slip. However, this does use up valuable staff time that would otherwise be spent on conservation work. Please help us reduce the time spent on Poo Patrol by picking up after your dog. 

Wildlife Trust staff tackle this unpleasant job
Bins have been placed on the nature reserve in prominent places; at the car park, the end of the canal path, by the willow weaved tree and at the top of the Nant-y-Gedd cascades. If you have forgotten your poo bags, you can pick them up for free from the Visitor Centre. We are also currently in the process of fundraising for a dog poo bag dispenser that will be fitted in the car park to make it as easy as possible for dog owners to pick up after their dog.

Lastly, we are looking for artistic children to help get the messages across! We’d love to get some posters put up on the nature reserve that encourage people to pick up after their dogs, so if your children would like to get their pens and pencils out to help the wildlife at Parc Slip, please send the posters through to Rose Revera, WTSWW, The Nature Centre, Fountain Road, Tondu CF32 0EH

Thank you for picking up after your dog and helping keep Parc Slip a safe and pleasant place for wildlife and people.

Thursday, 1 May 2014

Patchwork Challenge April; A guest blog from Paul Parsons

April is the busiest month for returning migrants which have spent the winter in Southern Europe and Africa. I saw my first Willow warbler on the 3rd and a Canada goose was sitting on a nest on the island of the North wetland.

Willow Warbler
A second winter Glaucous gull that has been frequenting nearby Mynydd Baeden since February was seen flying north over the reserve on the 8th, the highlight of the month for me. On the 10th a pair of Greylag geese flew low over the wader scrapes and a female Stonechat was in the south western fields. A female Goosander flew east along the railway track on the 12th and my first Whitethroat was singing away on the 14th. 

Greylag geese
A Rook was unexpected, flying south over the monument on the 17th and 2 House martins and a Swift were feeding over the wader scrapes on the 21st. On the 22nd I finally caught up with the two Wheatear that had been seen on the scrapes and there were 3 singing Reed warblers new in on the same day.

House martin
 A Tree pipit was singing near the weaved willow tree on the 24th and single Sedge and Garden warblers were new in on 29th, along with 8 Tufted ducks flying speedily around the scrapes in the low morning mist before heading south. There were 7 of these birds, presumably the same flock, on the north wetland on the 30th.

Tufted duck being chased by coot!
Reed warbler
I finished April with 80 species for the year and May should see the arrival of Lesser whitethroat and  Hobby with hopefully Spotted flycatcher and Cuckoo gracing the reserve too, fingers crossed!