The Rare Beasts of Taf Fechan

Animals (and plants for that matter) don’t know (or particularly care) where they are “supposed” to be. They don’t read species lists or look at old maps they just live where they are able to live and everything has to live somewhere (this highlights somewhat the importance of habitat diversity and conservation but that’s another argument). This stubborn biological refusal to be entirely and completely predictable makes getting out in the countryside and looking at wildlife such a rewarding experience because you never really know what you are going to find.

I have been generally wandering around Taf Fechan nature reserve as a voluntary warden for a couple of years and for the past few months I have been recording the species I see to contribute to the reserves species list.

Many of these species may be very common and easily identifiable but have not been officially recorded on the reserve before for whatever reason (and that is a thrill in itself to record a new one) but sometimes something turns out to be something special.

The very unassuming Marsh Pug (Eupithecia pygmaeata) by Graham Watkeys

The very unassuming Marsh Pug (Eupithecia pygmaeata) by Graham Watkeys

I took a photo of this little Moth while out doing a survey, this in itself is not an extraordinary event as I tend to get photos of everything that catches my eye and is polite enough to pose, but this particular rather unassuming little black moth was identified and subsequently confirmed as a Marsh Pug. This was only the tenth ever record (the first being in 1917 recorded by a H.W Vivian) and only the ninth modern record of this species in the vice county of Glamorganshire and the only one away from the lowlands around the coast. Ten records in 97 years! This is a very rare Moth in the vice county of Glamorganshire and it lives in Taf Fechan just a stone’s throw from my house and I found it!

For the purposes of biological recording areas are divided into vice counties and each vice county has its own lists of species that have been recorded there in the past, now Taf Fechan happens to be on the border of two of these vice counties Glamorganshire to the South and Breconshire to the North.

Not satisfied with just one rare species in Glamorganshire I started to take more notice of little Moths (although little moths should carry some kind of health warning for causing extreme exasperation) and found some, this time in Breconshire. My effort was rewarded with two species recorded while out doing surveys both of which had never been recorded in the county before.

Nemophora cupriacella a new record for Breconshire by Graham Watkeys

Nemophora cupriacella a new record for Breconshire by Graham Watkeys

Now rare is one thing but newly recorded species don’t happen that often and to find two on the same reserve is special. To think that somewhere there is going to be a record with my name attached to it forevermore: Nemophora cupriacella first recorded at Taf Fechan nature reserve, G.J Watkeys, 2014…

I am not a Moth expert or an expert on any group (in fact I often haven’t a clue what many of these beasties are and often need help in ID’ing them) or even a particularly good photographer, I have a good knowledge of nature, I’m interested in surveying and have some time to give but I have had the help of some very knowledgeable people like the Vice Counties’ Moth Recorders who are always happy to help with identification and general advice as well as Carys Solman the Wildlife Trust Officer for the reserve. These species are out there to be found, you don’t need a big reserve to survey, and you genuinely don’t know what will turn up next, all you have to do is look so why not give it a go?

Graham Watkeys Taf Fechan Warden

Cochylis dubitana a new record for Breconshire by Graham Watkeys

Cochylis dubitana a new record for Breconshire by Graham Watkeys