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Llanelli Naturalists Newsletter - No. 74 - July 2008
Clive Jones

Having retired at the end of September 2006, the next five months were mainly taken up with a list of DIY and house maintenance tasks that my Life Manager (my wife) had drawn up for me!  The said Life Manager had decreed that I should retire, though I would have continued on a part time basis, working only in the summer months.  Twenty months later, my Life Manager has once again been proved right!  Having completed the schedule of work arranged, my thoughts turned to how I could fill the time.  One of the things I did was to keep a list of bird species seen each month.  In 2007, without trying very hard, I averaged 117 species, with no artificial limits like the county border, to restrict the number seen.  To date this year, with just a bit more effort I have an average of 130, the best month being April, with a total of 139 species without having left South Wales.  Some superb rarities have turned up this spring on the sustained easterlies. For example, Kenfig NNR has attracted Cattle Egret, Black-winged Stilt, Whiskered Tern and Short-toed Lark.  Cattle Egrets have also occurred here and in Ceredigion.  Pembrokeshire, much to their disgust, is still waiting for theirs!  Aside from the rarities, two magical visits to Dinas RSPB reserve and the surrounding area stand out.  The dawn chorus at Rhandirmwyn should be experienced by all.  OK you do have to get up at 4am, but it isn’t a problem when you can be tucked up in bed again by 11am!  Another dawn raid at high tide brought a magnificent pale phase Pomarine Skua off Pembrey Country Park.

Besides birds, I had the time to rekindle an old interest in butterflies.  I spent a lot of my time in Pembrey Forest watching blues, skippers and fritillaries galore.  This is a wonderful butterfly area, right on our doorstep.  For example, more species have been recorded in Pembrey Forest (which includes open, unwooded areas) than in the whole of North Wales.  Despite the awful summer of 2007, I encountered 29 species in an area encompassing the Forest, Country Park and Pembrey Burrows (North Wales has 34 species).  The big gap in my list of butterflies concerns the hairstreaks.  I am hoping for a better summer in 2008 so that I can hopefully address this, though they can be notoriously difficult to see.

Another string to my bow came in the shape of dragonflies and damselflies. So, you can see that I enjoy watching anything with wings, including jumbo jets!  Fortunately these masterful fliers are quite small.  Having seen their jaws in close-up action, the world can be very grateful they are no bigger.  There are only 44 species of breeding dragonflies and damselflies in Britain.  This is set to increase dramatically with several records of first occurrences in recent years.  This increase, like many other changes in our flora and fauna, can probably be attributed to climate change.  I have already recorded several interesting species around Llanelli (an ideal area with its many waterbodies!) and I hope to contribute to the British Dragonfly Society Atlas Project (2008 – 2013), which will seek to map the distributions of Odonata in the British Isles.  Our local recorder is Stephen Coker (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) and the BDS website is worth a visit (www.dragonflysoc.org.uk); perhaps you too will enjoy studying this fascinating group of insects.

I now find myself rather busier than I was when working, spending hours out in the field, or planning the next field trip. To paraphrase those well known sayings, I don’t know how I had time to work; and retirement is hard work, but someone has to do it!