Note that dates are given in the format 21/1, ie 21st January 2011, and grid references are only given at the first mention of a locality.
As is often the case, the butterfly season kicked off with sightings of brimstones, with Messrs Wendell Thomas, Clive Jones and Rob Hunt seeing them respectively at WWT Penclacwydd 21/530984, 16/3; Ffordd y Wagen (Pwll) 22/469013, 17/3 and near Ashpits Pond 22/462010, 18/3. There were also some subsequent sightings at the Bethlehem Road end of Tregyb Woods 22/639218 on 7/4 (Julian Friese) and at the writer's garden at Tyrwaun, Pwll on 17/4. A single dingy skipper at the latter site on 24/4 was the first time I had noted it in my garden.
Grizzled skippers were on the wing, in warm sunshine, with holly blues and green hairstreaks and other species at Pembrey Forest 22/39‐01‐ on 19/4 and a small blue was at the same site on 30/4.
The more open, bare, shaley and sunny slopes at Mynydd Mawr Woodland Park, Tumble 22/542125 were alive with common blues and a few dingy skippers on 15/5, with at least 25 of the former counted in just 10 minutes. Later in the year, Clive Jones reported healthy numbers of wall butterflies on the rocky slopes of nearby Mynydd Llangyndeyrn (above Pontyberem). This species has generally been in marked decline in recent years.
There were good counts of marsh fritillaries made by Sue Otway and Dick Thompson from Tir Philip farm 22/481185, on the high ridge south of the Tywi, with up to 56 adults seen on 31/5 (see field meeting report on page 31). This general area each side of the A48 (especially to the north), with its deposits of boulder clay perhaps needs a determined survey effort to see if other marsh fritillary sites survive.
The 3rd of July was a 'red letter day' for me – or should I say 'white letter'?, when a white‐letter hairstreak flew down from some nearby elms and started basking right in front of me on a duvet I had washed and left out to dry in the strong sunshine at my garden at Tyrwaun. It must have been there for almost 30 minutes or so! I had seen one, high up, on the aforesaid elms a few years back and this butterfly needs specialised searching techniques to find (see notes by Neil Matthew and Clive Jones in earlier newsletters/bulletin). They are certainly worth looking for where elms grow. The same species was also recorded by Ian Pritchard at Drefach Felindre 22/35‐39‐, in the northwest of the county (on the same date) and on the 27/7 at Ystradowen and the Twrch Valley 22/76‐13 by Mike Clarke.
Reinforcing the value of flowering ivy, it was a pleasure to view red admirals and commas late in the autumn, such as those feasting near the ruins of Ty Newydd 22/401089 on the high slopes above Kidwelly at the very end of October. Red admirals were even abroad in November in unseasonally warm weather around Armistice Day.
Just as the emergence of the brimstone has become an icon of Spring, so it is with the orange underwing moth, with sightings of adults momentarily flying above birches at Mynydd Mawr Woodland Park on 22/3, at Pembrey Forest on the same date and a lucky sighting for Clive Jones when he found one actually resting on a path at WWT Penclacwydd a day later.
Once again, I personally did little moth trapping in 2011, but a chamomile shark at my 'home trap' at Tyrwaun, Pwll on 29/3 was a nice find amongst more common springtime species. Bernie Beck too, had a hummingbird hawk‐moth nearby at Pwll on 3/5. The same species turned up in a very urban garden at Nevill St, Llanelli 21/505996 on 19/6 and again a week later! The garden had been deliberately planted up with various nectar‐bearing plants and the visits by this moth to partake of sustenance (together with more regular bees etc) shows that even the most urban of gardens can actually contribute to biodiversity. A hummingbird hawk‐moth also appeared in my admittedly more rurally‐located garden at Tyrwaun, Pwll on 10/9, when it fed at honeysuckle flowers.
A couple of September moth trapping sessions resulted in the capture of 5 L‐album wainscots and a red underwing on 8/9, whilst trapping at the same site on 28/9 yielded 6 Blair's shoulder‐knots, a large ranunculus and 26 silver y's.
Remaining on the theme of spring icons, green tiger beetles and the hairy fly Servillea ursina would also fit this bill, the former being an active bright green creature that typically flies a short distance in front of you, on bare ground, such as paths. Servillea is a parasite of moth larvae. Both were seen at Mynydd Mawr Woodland Park on 23/3.
A much more distinguished find at the same locality were the few 5‐spot ladybirds seen there on 20/5; typically this species occurs on riparian shingle such as on the Tywi. Another ladybird, the harlequin, was seen on roses in my garden two days later; this of course, is the very variable species that has spread across much of southern England and Wales over the last few years. Another colonist is the tree bumblebee Bombus hypnorum, which I noted (typically) at Cotoneaster flowers, again at Mynydd Mawr Woodland Park 22/542126 on 2/6. It has been previously noted at the National Botanic Garden of Wales and also, this year, at Kidwelly. A rarity that was reported (via Ian Tew) was the golden‐haired hoverfly Cheilosia chrosocoma, which was photographed south‐east of Mynydd Figyn near Talley 22/604306 by Paul Alton, this being a new county record (NCR) and it was a species I had searched for in vain in the past. Another NCR was the magnificent musk beetle Aromia moschata, photographed by Lizzie Wilberforce at Ffrwd Fen on 2/7; it is a species of old willows and the nearest site where it had hitherto been recorded was Crymlyn Bog just east of Swansea: a 'star find' for Carmarthenshire! Less exciting, but still only the 3rd VCR, were the two Chlaenius vestitus, a distinctively‐marked carabid (ground) beetle, which I found on a seepage zone on clays below the dunes near St Ishmael 22/363079 on 11/7.
Formerly a rather scarce ladybird of old, damp woodland but now not rare (having increased considerably in the last twenty years or so), it was the numbers (18) of orange ladybirds attracted to my moth trap at Tyrwaun on 30/9 that was more noteworthy.
A monitoring visit to Dryslwyn Castle 22/555203 on 27/10 showed that the rare lapidary snail Helicigona lapicida is just surviving amongst gaps in old limestone walling on some of the minor wall sections (not the main castle) and during the search a beautifully‐marked Porcellio spinicornis, a woodlouse associated with old lime‐rich walls was also found. It also was noted at my home at Pwll (which only dates from 1880!). The lapidary snail was first found at Dryslwyn by Arthur Chater in the 1980s.
A much rarer woodlouse is Oritoniscus flavus, which until it was recently found in Scotland, was only known on mainland UK from a site near Bynea 21/548985 (it is known from Eire), which it shares with the equally rare and tiny millipede Trachysphaera lobata (otherwise only known from one site on the Isle of Wight). Specimens of the latter were collected for DNA analysis in 2011.
A harlequin ladybird turned up for the second time this year at Tyrwaun, together with two orange ladybirds and a birch shieldbug (the latter is not rare), showing that moth traps catch more than just moths!
Finally, and as with the late red admirals, common darter dragonflies were also still on the wing in warm mid‐November weather, which offered an amazing contrast with the icy and snowy weather of the same period in 2010.
Jones, C. (2011) – 2010 –Year of the Hairstreaks. Llanelli Naturalists Newsletter 77: 9‐10.
Matthew, N. (2007) – The White‐letter Hairstreak (Satyrium w‐album) in the Llandeilo area. Llanelli Naturalists Bulletin 7:28‐31.
Please send records to the following county recorders:
Moths: Jon Baker, 14 Job's Well Road, Johnstown, Carmarthen, SA31 3HG‐ 01267 221681. Butterflies: Dave Bannister, Llan Glanrhyd, Brechfa, Carmarthen, SA32 7QP‐ 01267 202210.