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Natural History

June 2013

Hunt for the black lugworm

Posted by Peter Howlett on 27 June 2013
1. One of the black lugworms collected. Handling one turns skin yellow as they secrete iodine!
2. Using a bait pump to collect the worms

This week, three members of the department travelled to Whiteford Burrows on Gower to hunt for the black lugworm Arenicola defodiens. This species is less common than the blow lug Arenicola marina that most people may have heard of or seen previously, tends to be larger and, as the name suggests, is darker in appearance (see picture).

Digging for these animals is difficult as their burrows go deep into the sediment so we used a ‘bait pump’ to try and suck them out (see picture)! Success was variable but we did manage to collect a few of each species.

The black lug was first described in 1993 from shores in South Wales including Whiteford Burrows, so this area is considered the ‘type locality’ for the species. As we didn’t have any specimens of the black lug in our collections, we felt it was important to collect a few for future reference and potential research possibilities. Some material was also preserved in 100% ethanol for possible future genetic work.

Peregrines on City Hall clock tower 2013

Posted by Peter Howlett on 7 June 2013
Young male Peregrine Falcon ringed on 6 June
Young male Peregrine Falcon - not ringed on June 7!

June 7 Update

Eventful couple of days. Received a call yesterday that a young Peregrine was on the ground near City Hall. Directions weren't brilliant so had to go hunting around and finally found a young male hunkered down at the edge of one of the footpaths in Alexandra Gardens, under some overhanging vegetation. Amazingly you could walk past within a couple of feet and it didn't move. He was duly picked up and taken back to the roof of City Hall at the base of the tower where he was fitted with a BTO ring and a colour-ring Blue FH, the first photo is of him looking lass than happy with his experience but hopefully it will keep him out of trouble until he can fly strongly enough to gain height.

Then this morning I had another call from the RSPB to say that a young Peregrine was on a statue in King Edward VII Avenue. I met up with Phil Pinder and there was the bird sat on the statue (second photo). This one was unringed so we knew it was a different bird to yesterday, I tried to catch it so it could be ringed but wasn't quite quick enough and it flew off strongly. Which is a good thing as it suggests it should survive. Apparently it had been seen feeding earlier so it's good to know that the parents are feeding them even quite some way from the tower.

No sign of the young female today though.

Peregrines on the City Hall Clock Tower 2013

Posted by Peter Howlett on 6 June 2013

June 6 Update

All three youngsters are practically fully grown now and one of the males has even left the nest ledge. He was seen on a roof above the west entrance to City Hall yesterday morning where he will be safe enough.

The other two, a male and a female, could be seen wing flapping and getting themselves ready for their first flight. It won't be long before they're out and about.

So far, so good, although the next two or three days are still perilous for the youngsters as they don't have the strength to get back to the higher ledges in the first few days after their first flight. Fingers crossed that all three will be safe and fledge this year.

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