Many thanks to news of this free course from Emma Douglas of PONT, which Isabel Macho has kindly provided. Please contact Isabel, the county’s biodiversity officer, with any ideas about how the group might progress on.
IMacho@carmarthenshire.gov.uk or ring 01558 825390.
PONT Stock Checkers Course
10am – 4pm on Tuesday 30th August 2016 at WWT, Penclacwydd, Llanelli, SA14 9SH
Want to learn how assess the safety and health of livestock? Trained stock checkers can help to make conservation grazing viable for graziers.
The course is aimed at those who do not have a background in animal care who are involved in managing land with livestock for conservation.
By the end of the course they need to be confident in their ability to undertake daily stock checks, complete a monitoring form, and take appropriate actions if the need arises.
They should be able to recognise potential site problems and signs of illness or injury in livestock.
(Some of our hardy Tor Ddu sheep – key co managers of our meadows. Whatever the weather.)
If you’d like a space on the course please contact Emma Douglas on email@example.com or 07579 008578 to book a space. The course is free but booking is essential.
We were delighted and very fortunate to have a visit last Tuesday, from a number of different naturalists to have a look at our Gelli Uchaf meadows, their plants and other assorted wildlife.
The day was coordinated by Kate Smith from the WWBIC.
Which stands for the West Wales Biodiversity Information Centre, if you don’t know of its existence, which shamefully I didn’t. One of 4 such centres established across the country to collect and store data on all aspects of the natural biodiversity within the region. Click here for a link to the centre. Kate, Colin and Josh from the centre were joined by Dave Bannister, a fellow Carmarthenshire Meadows Group meadow owner and county butterfly recorder, along with Richard Pryce and his wife Kath who concentrated on looking at on site flora.
Richard is the county plant recorder for Carmarthenshire…… and has a very efficient, well honed approach, using a clipboard with an aerial photograph of the site and GPS gizmo to explore and record findings from different areas around the property, whilst making copious notes on sheets of paper – fortunately in the dry, on this occasion.
The sunny weather meant that Fiona and I had to pause mid afternoon to bring in the latest swathe of hay from our top meadow. But by then I’d been really impressed by how thorough the survey was, and what was turned up. I can only present a snapshot here, since Richard apparently took 24 pages of notes, which will clearly take a while to sift through and type up.
It was pleasing for me to find a Broad leaved Helleborine, lurking beneath mature Hazel trees on a North boundary bank of our hay meadow. We’d found a plant here 2 years ago, but not seen it last year. Richard explained that this semi-shaded location was typical habitat, and it follows on from Andrew Martin’s Helleborine plant, featured in the last post.
What really impressed me was the thoroughness with which Richard approached the task – surveying many different areas and, for example, in a 15 yard section of one of the lower meadow ditches finding 5 different plant species, which I’d never even noticed before, including Bulbous Rush, Juncus bulbosus, below … and tiny flowered Bog Stitchwort, Stellaria uliginosa …
A significant highlight was Richard fishing out on the end of Colin’s walking stick, a glutinous mass of what I would have assumed was just algal gloop, from one of our meadow’s ponds and declaring that it was quite an unusual insectivorous plant called Lesser Bladderwort, Utricularia minor. Apparently there are only 3 (post 2000) records of this in the county, so it’s nice to see that it’s colonised a pond which we had dug out about 15 years ago, presumably brought in by an itinerant bird or mammal.
A little bit of research reveals that these are highly adapted plants which use the small ‘bladders’ formed along the stems as traps for catching water invertebrates, which are then digested as a supplementary nutrient source for the plant.
What’s more the genus ranks as one of the fastest moving plants in the whole plant kingdom. Click here for more, including a video you can watch of the trap in operation ( though with our limited internet data for the month, we can’t yet!). Apparently once the unfortunate invertebrate touches the trip hairs at the mouth of the bladder, the pent up energy in the flexed bladder wall is released, the wall bends outwards, 100 times faster than a shutting Venus Fly trap, which consequently sucks water, and the insect, into the now enlarging bladder. (Cleaned up and free of the attached algae, the bladders become a bit more obvious when viewed from above)…This bladder filling process creates turbulence which prevents the prey from making a speedy exit. Meanwhile the plant produces a special mucillage type plug at the bladder’s entrance, sealing any route out. An individual trap can be re used many times over, and at the end of the year has a role in sinking the floating plant to the base of the pond to escape winter freeze ups. It does flower as well, so next year, I shall be on the look out for these small yellow structures.
Richard also found, much to Fiona’s delight, a Lemon scented fern growing on one of the lower field banks. A few butterflies, dragonflies and damselflies were also seen, including Common Darters ovipositing in what has been a generally poor year here for these insects with the lack of warm sunshine for them to take wing. (A picture of these from a couple of years ago, below.)
And during a well earned break and tea and cake in the garden, one of our juvenile common, or vivaparous, lizards, Zootoca vivipara, put in an appearance, basking on our hollow rusty chicken. As the name implies this reptile doesn’t lay eggs but gives birth to live young, so I’m guessing this is the offspring of the parent (lower photo, below) which I noticed using the same basking spot last September. Colin did indeed see an adult Lizard about a metre away from this specimen, but it shot into vegetation before anyone could photograph it.
In due course, I shall post a more detailed record of all the findings on the Gelli Uchaf Gallery page of this website page, but I must again say a big thank you to Kate, Colin, Josh, Dave, Richard and Kath for visiting us, and all the hard work put in. (Lesser Skullcap, Scutellaria minor.)
Any other meadow owners who would like a similar survey done can either contact Kate via the WWBIC site, or Richard Pryce at firstname.lastname@example.org . You never know what might be turned up on your site! But do bear in mind that they have limited time opportunities to carry out such visits, so please be patient.
Finally a reminder to any reader who owns a meadow (s), large or small, which they would like to feature in the meadow gallery pages of this website; or to anyone who has any meadow images or topics that they would like to write about or discuss on the website, to please contact me, Julian Wormald, the current website administrator at
Thanks for reading.