June 2021

June is when everything seems to grow so quickly. We have mown the paths twice and are clearing dock which has crowded out other wild flowers in some areas. We have also hand pulled a patch of bracken and cut back plants overhanging the paths. During out work we continue to hear a variety of bird song. The willow warbler is getting scarce in some areas but it is still a regular here.

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The yellow rattle is slowly starting to colonise the meadow areas. This is a highly desirable plant for wildflower meadows as it is semi-parasitic feeding off the nutrients in the roots of nearby grasses, therefore helping to ensure grass does not take over.

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Not as many insects around as previous years. We saw the pretty sawfly, Tenthredo mesomela, with its apple green body and black back. It takes pollen (mainly from buttercup, which is abundant here) and nectar from umbellifers as well as eating small insects.

 

Perhaps the most interesting insect species seen so far this month is the Cave Spider (Meta menardi). This is one of the UK’s largest spiders. Several live in the old concrete water tank under the Bargoed Natural Burial sign. They are not rare but as they spend their whole lives in dark places they are rarely seen. They are actually repelled by light. They produce egg sacs that are tear-shaped white pendants hanging from the side or roof of the habitat by a silk thread approximately 20 mm long. The sac (2–3 cm in radius) contains an average of 200/300 eggs.

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Butterfly species seen this month include large skipper, small heath, red admiral, orange tip, specked wood, large and small whites and painted lady. The beautiful Herald moth was disturbed from under the grass whilst digging. Day flying moths seen included the pretty silver ground carpet moth (the most abundant of the moths so far), the tiny Grass Veneer and several Yellow Shells.

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The Broad Bordered Chaser posed well for several photos. The Emperor Dragonfly stayed around for a while but was too fast for the camera. This is one of the UK’s largest dragonflies and described as ‘the bulkiest’. It is usually found near ponds and lakes but there is no body of water here so must have been passing through.

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Alt-y-garreg is a 20-acre nature reserve created in 2010 from four fields that had been improved pasture. There are areas of new woodland (over eighteen thousand trees of eighteen native species), wildflower meadows, scrub and ancient hedgerows. Two of the fields are now a natural burial site. The area is teeming with wildlife.

May 2021

Our visit today was to tend to the hedgerow boundaries of the burial grounds. While the trees are still young the digging up of bramble shoots that snake their way out of the hedgerows and into the immature woodland is necessary to ensure the young trees do not get over-run with bramble. We also remove suckers from blackthorns for the same reason.
While working it was nice to see nature abounding in its many forms and we have decided to document the monthly changes to the flora and fauna of the site. We noted there is an abundance of the very dark St Marks flies drifting in the air, recognisable by their hairy bodies and long legs. They belong to the family Bibionidae, are harmless and do not bite or sting. They only fly for about a week in April and May. During autumn and winter, larvae feed on rotting vegetation which they chew with their strong mouthparts.
There are several areas where the dainty lady’s smock plants (Cardamine pratensis; also known as ‘milkmaid’, ‘cuckoo flower’, ‘May flower’ ‘fairy flower’) are blooming really well this year.

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This plant is actually edible – the leaves have a peppery taste and can be used in salads. We tried a few and they were delicious. These pink flowers attract the tiny orange tip butterfly. The female lays her eggs on this plant. The male is easily identified by his bright orange, wing tip.

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The female has no orange tip on its wings and appears white in flight, similar to the cabbage whites that are also flying at this time of year. Other butterflies we saw today included the speckled wood, a solitary peacock and two holly blues.
The song thrush and mistle thrush were singing while we worked and we also heard willow warblers, blackcaps, robins, common chiffchaffs and blackbirds. The trees are beginning to leaf up. The tiny thyme-leaved speedwell is abundant everywhere and there are many swathes of Germander speedwell that are starting to be visited by the tiny Cocksfoot and Micropterix calthella micro moths. Over the next few weeks there should be hundreds of these on this species and on the buttercups. The hedgerow verges are full of bluebells, red campion, wild garlic, celandine and stitchwort.

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Alt-y-garreg is a 20-acre nature reserve created in 2010 from four fields that had been improved pasture. There are areas of new woodland (over eighteen thousand trees of eighteen native species), wildflower meadows, scrub and ancient hedgerows. Two of the fields are now a natural burial site. The area is teeming with wildlife.