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Saturday, 27 July 2013

"There`s gold in them hills..."

I went for a planned walk up the Pysgotwr, beyond Allt Rhyd y Groes NNR to visit Pwll Uffern (`Hell`s Pool`) with Nigel Stringer yesterday (26.7.13). The Pysgotwr forms the vc boundary between Carmarthenshire and Ceredigion (Cards.), NW of Rhandirmwyn. Obviously, I intended to keep an eye out for day-flying moths, as well as partaking in general botanising and helping Nigel record rusts (his main mycological interest).
One mothy aim was to visit a flower-rich meadow where, on 13.7.1995, Nigel had reported chimney sweepers to me (about which he had completely forgotten by yesterday!). However, I had remembered, and I told him to be on the look-out!
Almost immediately, Nigel spotted one and others were seen by us very shortly afterwards. One of the latter individuals was photographed - a difficult task due to intervening grass stalks, bothersome `sweat flies` (muscids) and the difficulty of getting my camera to focus on the moth, not the vegetation.
There had been overly pessimistic predictions that the chimney sweeper might be extinct in the county, but it my view that the dearth of records is more due to the lack of recording, particularly the sufficient targetting of certain diurnal species (clouded buff alsocomes to mind). There are records of chimney sweepers from several sites in the county (including the Rhandirmwyn area), the Carmel limestone ridge and elsewhere.
The photos below show one of the chimney sweepers and also photos of the meadow in which it was recorded. Seven individuals were counted.

In the same meadow, I was very surprised to see two small blues, as this species is extremely rare inland in Carmarthenshire - I have previously had it, for example, at Capel Dyddgen quarry and Carreg Eidon (NE part of Mynydd Llangyndeyrn) in summer 1975 (since extinct at both) and at Penty SSSI in late August 1988. At both sites they must be feeding as caterpillars on birds-foot trefoil, as kidney vetch is absent. A photo of yesterday`s small blue is given below (it flew away before I could get a more `natural` photo!).

Now, for a non-lepidopteran of note, which I suspect may be of interest to all. Walking onwards through the oak-birch woods, Nigel was walking a couple of steps behind me, as I had `banned` him to this position, due to his inate ability to scare off any `moving wildlife` by his movements or noise levels. He was talking about his cat (again!!!), and I was almost mechanically giving him grunts of acknowledgement, but actually was on the `look-out` for moths or anything else. Ahead of us, I could hear a redstart and a blackbird uttering mobbing calls and I thought that perhaps a tawny owl or a diurnal raptor might be nearby. Suddenly, a mammal hurtled downslope, at about 50+m distance, through the birches and into some bracken etc. I immediately asked Nigel `did you see that!`, but he was `in his own world` and just said `what`! The creature that I`d seen had a long tail, was brownish above and had a white bib.....yes, a pine marten! I`d only seen it for about three seconds -count 1-3 slowly, and that was the maximum time. Although I have an interest in martens (see the Llanelli Naturalists Newsletter for Winter 1992-93,, I`d never thought I`d see`s not something you can really look for! Not many people will have seen a Welsh pine marten! There are records for the Rhandirmwyn area, including one ascending to a kite`s nest...see the article mentioned. There is also information on the Vincent Wildlife Trust website (type in `pine martens Wales`).
Now, back to lepidoptera.... after exiting the woodland, we now had the more open vista of Cwm Pysgotwr in front of us (see photo below) and various butterflies (gatekeepers, ringlets, large skippers and one grayling on scree) were noted. There were moths too, flushed or spotted within the often dense ungrazed heather and bilberry (opulent with berries!), including yellow shells, barred straws and one northern spinach. Best of all, was a scarce silver-y, sitting amongst some bilberry. It allowed me to view the difference between it and the common silvey-y - it had blackish forewings, with more `detailed` markings of grey and a discal mark forming a larger, more blotchy `y`. I was going to pot it up to take home to photo, but given its apparent serenity, I decided to photo it `in situ`, but whilst getting my camera out of my shoulder bag, the latter swung forward and flushed it. I followed it to its landing site, but it then immediately flew again for a considerable distance downslope. I may have seen another individual, later up the valley. There are at least four records from RSPB trapping at the nearby Gwenffrwd-Dinas (2.7.1970; 5.7.1973; 15.8.1973 & 30.7.1984), plus Rothamsted records from Ty`r Ysgol, Rhandirmwyn. Steve Lucas has also had it in the Aman Valley in July 1993.
I did, however, manage to get an imperfect picture of the scarce upland bee Bombus monticola nearby (see below).
We did n`t reach Pwll Uffern....the wildlife intervened and time flew! But we did also see a profusion of stag`s-horn clubmosses and excellent potential black grouse habitat. We`ll be back!


  1. For info, the chimney sweeper records I recall/know of are:
    Penyrallt SN377373, 14.6.1988 [IKM]
    Carmel Woods (W) SN590126, 1989 [IKM]
    Cae Tir Clun SN783267, 1989 [IKM]
    Carmel Woods (E) SN605166, c1990 [NR Matthew]
    plus the RSPB records mentioned in main text and Nigel`s 1995 Allt Rhyd y Groes meadow record.
    Sorry I can`t be more detailed re dates re some of above, but my paper records from that period are with Jon Baker.
    If interested, for details re clubmosses around Rhandirmwyn, go to the

  2. PS - pine marten....exact grid ref of sighting was SN 76183 48235
    .....and the `chimney sweeper meadow` = SN 76435 48195

  3. Very interesting Ian. I've walked the area to the north of there, along the Doethie (Ceredigion), a few times while staying at Tyncornel YHA. I've seen Graylings on scree in that area but not the other species you mention...certainly not Pine Marten!


  4. I`m in touch, incidentally, with the Vincent Wildlife Trust re the marten sighting.
    Also trapped last night at Ferryside, but less moths about and nothing really exciting...will do a very short blog tomorrow sometime.
    The Brynambor farm near Ty`ncornel was rather infamous in the late 1970s due to a murder there!

  5. Many congrats on the marten Ian! Based on the recent level of activity on this blog, I'm sure if you start a pine marten blog the records will come flooding in....

  6. That really is an exciting observation Ian - let's hope follow up work will be revealling...

  7. With your luck Ian, rediscovering Mazarine Blue in S wales is a distinct possibility! Note the underwing pattern is very similar to Small Blue ;)

  8. P.S.
    It was obviously Nigel talking about his cat that lured the marten out in to the open. Make sure you take him out and about with you more often...