Regular readers will recall that I have made, in the last couple of years, annual visits to the tall Old Red Sandstone cliffs that tower above the corrie lake of Llyn y Fan Fach, located at the western edge of the Brecon Beacons and just within Carmarthenshire`s boundaries.
This year, one aim had been to try to locate least willow Salix herbacea (not seen since the 1980s, and which we did n`t re-find) but, of course, I was on the lookout for moths too. However - and as others have experienced - wind has been a problem and nothing was in flight. We (Nigel Stringer and I) had planned to ascend the major gully located in the SW section of the cliffs, this being a relatively easy route compared to our clinging climb of the steeper cliffs of the central section last summer. En route we also inspected the lower parts of the steep, ungrazed cliff sections nearby.
The steep slopes, away from the impact of sheep are floristically-rich and doubtless hold an interesting moth fauna. Sam Bosanquet had Acleris caledoniana at this site last summer and there must be other undiscovered `good` moths.
After traversing some of the steeper slopes and inspecting the cliff vegetation we were glad to reach the ravine that we intended to ascend. This is probably the `easiest` ravine-route up the cliffs, which can almost be walked, and we were, perhaps unexpectedly aided by the wind, as the strong, gusting northerly wind was funnelled up this wide gully when it hit the semi-circular amphitheatre of cliffs around the `llyn`. The strong wind actually `pushed` us upwards, as well as blowing the sleeve right off my arm! Now, some explanation is needed here.... my `jacket` was one of those cheap (actually it cost me a pound only!) foldable plastic macks that were so favoured by older ladies visiting the seaside on rainy summer days in the 1960s! In contrast, Nigel always comes well-prepared, with suitable clothing (and with some elegance too - shirt, tie etc), whereas I dress like (and have the ways of) `Compo` in `Last of the Summer Wine`. The event did made us laugh and made up for the lack of moths.
The gully ought to have been a good place to find moths and other invertebrates but, in their absence, my mind turned to other areas of natural history and I was intrigued by some yellow growths on some wet rock faces.
Nigel, who has a great knowledge of fungi and some other lower plants, explained:
"Trenepohlia [its name] is a genus of filamentous green alga which is found free-living on tree trunks or wet rocks. The filaments have a deep orange colour due to carotenoid pigments which mask the green colour of chlorophyll. Interestingly, this alga can form a symbiotic relationship with a specific fungus to form a lichen".
Finally, the ONLY moth seen was the very common Cydia ulicetana, beaten from gorse down by the car park!
On the way home, we stopped at the Sawdde Gorge near Pontarllechau, a marvellous (flat and sheltered!) site with lots of wych elm, small-leaved lime and other good moth habitat - I`m sure that some scarce moths would be found here by the adventurous nocturnal moth trapper. A few common daytime moths were seen at this site, as well as the rare in Carmarthenshire (only the 4th sighting) and colourful leafhopper Cercopis vulneraria (shown below).
The next blog will be more `mothy` - thank goodness!