It was a treat to see this swarm of bees on the edge of the forest this morning. They were resting on a small willow tree. The weight of the swarm was so great it had pulled the branch right down so it almost touched the ground.
For about a month, Portuguese men o’ war (Physalia physalis) have been washing up on Cornish beaches. Now they have arrived at Newborough too. I spotted one at the start of the week. Today there were about a dozen dotted along the tide line.
I had never seen one of these in real life (or death) before, and I was surprised at how petite they are. The sails, or balloons, of the ones I’ve seen are only around 20cm long and 10cm tall at the most. Their colours are stunning.
Portuguese Men o’ War are related to the Borne by the Wind Sailors (Velella velella) that washed up earlier in the year.
Sadly, there have also been lots of dead seals washed ashore lately: mostly young pups, still coated in their pale baby fur. In south Wales it is being reported that as many as two-thirds of this year’s seal puppies have been killed by the storms. I wouldn’t be surprised if the situation is just as bad here:(
Although hooded crows are more usually associated with Ireland and Scotland, there are usually one or two around about Newborough, feeding in the fields at the edge of the forest. They seem to have paired up with regular carrion crows, so there are probably hybrids around too.
A couple of weeks ago, Newborough Warren was teeming with the green and black caterpillars of burnet moths.
The caterpillars have now grown fat and are starting to make their cocoons on plant stems throughout the warren.
The cocoons look just like they’re a part of the plant – like a golden coloured blister fused to the side of a stem. Over the next few weeks, the beautiful black and red moths will start to climb out of these cocoons and you’ll see them, along with the similarly coloured cinnabar moth, flying all over the warren.
Dotted throughout Newborough Forest are ponds and dune slacks. Amongst other things, these provide a habitat for the Great Pond Snail – Lymnaea stagnalis. These snails are widespread in England, but much less common in Wales, except for Anglesey which has plenty of them.
These snails can grow up to about 7cm long and they have a much more pointy shell than our regular land snails. They feed on plant matter and general detritus, and so help to keep ponds clean.
Scientists use Lymnaea stagnalis in the study of neurology – apparently they have a very pretty and compact nervous system, ideal for research. They’ve even been used to make biological silicon chips. The snails are probably not proud of either of these achievements!
Scholarpedia has an interesting article on the use of the snails in science, and generally interesting and in depth stuff on how a snail works
For some reason, there were quite a few of these large spider crabs washed up on the beach this morning. Most of them were slightly alive, but only slightly. It’s common to see shells of the crabs, but much less common to see so many live and intact crabs. However, the gulls were having a field day, so soon these big crabs will probably just be shells and scattered claws too :(
Yesterday was stormy all day with gale force winds driving the tide up the shore. This mermaid’s purse was still intact. It probably belongs to a nursehound (aka greater spotted dog fish) – which, confusingly, is a type of cat shark (Scyliorhinus stellaris). But this is one egg that won’t make it.
The pale, bobbly egg cases of the common edible whelk (Buccinum undatum) look more like some kind of seaweed than something animal.
Shells were the main thing washed up by the storm:
Along with all the whole, undamaged shells, were lots of chippings of nacre from oyster shells, making the whole bleach glint in the sunshine.