Wentlooge Level, 25th JulyToday I spent 5 hours cycling along the Wentlooge Level to Cardiff and back looking for Small Ranunculus larvae and Essex Skippers. On Monday I had found at least 30 Essex Skippers on a small area of the Gaer Fort, west Newport, so I was interested in seeing how far they had spread west. I looked in Duffryn for Essex Skipper, with no success, but found 120 Small Ranunculus larvae on prickly lettuce growing on both sides of the Cuckoo Bridge over the South Wales mainline. The work to raise the bridge in preparation for the electrification of the line had created perfect habitat for the prickly lettuce to grow, There were hundreds of plants.
Just west of St Brides I caught a skipper which turned out to be a Small Skipper, but a bit further on I found another 13 Small Ranunculus larvae in the car park for a petting-farm.
I carried on to Peterstone, but there was less suitable habitat than I had imagined along the road-side with some verges/reen banks flailed and many "commons" fly-grazed with very sad looking horses and ponies. I decided to push on to where I knew there was excellent habitat at Lamby Way Fishing Lake. When I got there I was impressed with the amount of flower rich grassland, with lots of knapweed, tufted vetch, teasel and fleabane. I soon caught a skipper which turned out to be an Essex. All together I caught/saw 8 Essex Skippers around the lake. There were also plenty of Common Blues, Meadow Browns, Gatekeepers, Six-spot Burnets and a couple of Shaded Broad Bars. It would be well worth running a moth trap here with plenty of reedbed, scrub, ruderal and grassland.
Having found Essex right on the Monmouthshire border with Glamorgan, I couldn't turn back without crossing the border (the River Rummney) and trying to find it in Glamorgan. I followed the Wales Coast Path across and along the Rummney and searched in the few patches of suitable looking habitat, but eventually gave up and turned back. Then, just before joining the road back through all the industrial estates and caravan parks that pass for the Cardiff end of the Gwent Levels, I noticed the massive central reservation on the dual carriage-way. Once I had managed to reach it, I found 4 Essex Skippers.
On the way back I searched in a couple of suitable looking places and managed to find just one Essex Skipper, just east of Peterstone. I'm sure a walk along the Wales Coast Path (ie along the sea-wall)between Duffryn and Cardiff would fill in many of the gaps in the Essex Skippers' distribution.