Something to look forward to in the New Year. Steve Butler will be leading a bird walk in the Meadows on Saturday 13th January. Meet at 10am in the Byfield Lane car park, wearing clothes and footwear appropriate to the weather.
Thanks to Steve Butler for guiding a group around the edges of Castle Meadows (edges are often more interesting places for wildlife) to look for butterflies. A good range of species were spotted: speckled wood, large white, red admiral, comma, meadow brown, ringlet, tortoiseshell and green-veined white. However, for the second occasion on our walks this year the highlight was a moth – this time a magnificent elephant hawkmoth found in the copse.
Many thanks to Sheelagh Kerry of the Monmouthshire Meadows Group for taking us around the meadows this morning and demonstrating just how varied “grassland” can be. Three species of clover, three of buttercup and more than ten of grass can be found in what might look, at first sight, like a uniform habitat.
A dozen of us joined Mark Langley from Monmouthshire Countryside Services for a dusk walk around the Meadows to look and listen for bats. First stop was the river, but there was too much wind to spot the Daubenton’s bats that can sometimes be seen skimming low over the water in search of insects. We had better luck by the copse where there were plenty of pipistrelles flying around. Mark’s bat detectors brought their calls down to human hearing range, so we could listen to them both navigating and hunting for small insects using high-frequency sound. Working out whether their squeaks were loudest at 45kHz (common pipistrelle) or 55 kHz (soprano) kept us happily – and inconclusively – occupied till well after dark.
Eighteen of us joined Steve Butler for this morning’s walk around the meadows. The birds managed an equally good turnout, with a record of 44 different species seen or heard. Highlights were a kingfisher flying down the Gavenny and up the Usk, and the first spotted flycatcher that any of us had seen this year. It was great to see one of these declining migrants, which only returned to Gwent a couple of days ago.
Full list: Blackbird, Blackcap, Blue Tit, Buzzard, Carrion Crow, Chaffinch, Chiffchaff, Coal Tit, Collared Dove, Common Sandpiper, Dipper, Dunnock, Goldcrest, Goldfinch, Goosander, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Great Tit, Greenfinch, Grey Heron, Grey Wagtail, House Sparrow, Jackdaw, Kingfisher, Lesser Black-Backed Gull, Long-tailed Tit, Magpie, Mallard, Mistle Thrush, Moorhen, Nuthatch, Pied Wagtail, Raven, Red Kite, Robin, Sand Martin, Song Thrush, Sparrowhawk, Spotted Flycatcher, Starling, Swallow, Swift, Treecreeper, Woodpigeon, Wren.
Alan Underwood’s walk challenged us to see how today’s Castle Meadows were influenced by events that happened as long as 400 million years ago, and as recently as two hundred.
The earliest of these is actually the most obvious – the rocks that are now Sugarloaf, Skirrid and the lower slopes of the Blorenge were formed in the Devonian period. That’s so long ago that what is now Abergavenny was south of the equator Continue reading