Author: Carys Evans

Appeal success for Skomer Island

On August 5th, staff on The Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales’ Skomer Island were delighted to take delivery of two new vehicles, a dumper and a sit-in ATV, following a major appeal to replace their dilapidated and aptly named old tractor, ‘Trundle’. Trundle had done many years of service on the island but was becoming increasingly unreliable, making day to day work on the island very challenging. However it was clear that a substantial fundraising effort would be necessary to fund a replacement.

When the Friends of Skokholm and Skomer decided in February this year to launch an appeal, they knew it was a huge undertaking. Their committee members have not just coordinated the appeal, but have researched and sourced suitable vehicles. Over 137 individual donations were received from visitors and other Island supporters, as well as members of the Friends and The Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales.

Local poet Peter Brown wrote a delightful book of poetry sponsored by Signspeed, Cresselly and The Darwin Centre, from which all proceeds were kindly donated to the tractor appeal.

The Friends of Skokholm and Skomer and the Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales are really delighted with this amazing fundraising achievement and the benefits it will bring to their conservation work on Skomer.

Jonathan Parsons, Chair of the Friends of Skokholm and Skomer said:

 “I am so proud of what our members and the committee have achieved by working together and donating money and time to make this happen. Without doubt this voluntary effort encouraged the generous major donations from The Port of Milford Haven and Valero, without whom we would not have reached the target so quickly. To them I am extremely thankful.”

Sarah Kessell, Chief Executive of the Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales, said:

 “We are really excited about the two new vehicles on Skomer and what they will help us to achieve. We are incredibly grateful to all the individuals, groups and companies who made donations. Having reliable vehicles makes the world of difference to our staff, volunteers and visitors. They will allow us to move luggage and materials and launch the boat that makes our seabird monitoring possible. The ATV has already been named ‘Valery’ in recognition of Valero’s invaluable support”.

Stephen Thornton, Valero Refinery Public Affairs Manager, said:

“Pembrokeshire’s beautiful coastline is important to locals, tourists, wildlife and industry, so we were thrilled to be able to support vital ongoing conservation work on Skomer by donating this new vehicle.”

The success of the appeal shows the enthusiasm and generosity of the Friends group and island lovers, and demonstrates just some of the ongoing support they give to the work on Skokholm and Skomer.

You can support the vital conservation work on Skomer and Skokholm Island by joining as a Wildlife Trust member, volunteering or fundraising. The Friends of Skokholm and Skomer are also keen for new members to support their work.

For more information visit The Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales website: www.welshwildlife.org

Skomer Visitor Officer Sarah Parmor carries visitors’ luggage in the new dumper

Funding Boost for Red Squirrel Conservation

Enthusiastic volunteers joined project staff last month for a ‘squirrel-chewed cone’ survey at Clywedog Forest near Llanfair Clydogau to celebrate the launch of the new Healthy Reds Project. Healthy Reds is a three year project run by the Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales (WTSWW) that aims to find out more about the fragile population of red squirrels in mid Wales. The Project has been enabled thanks to a £247,100 award from the National Lottery Heritage Fund along with an award of £49,999 from the Welsh Government’s Landfill Disposal Tax Community Scheme. Healthy Reds will focus on three forests and take a close look into what red squirrels in mid Wales need to enable them to thrive.

The survey team at Clywedog Forest set up a series of trail cameras based on squirrel feeding signs. A month later the cameras were checked and the results have revealed red squirrels at five of the camera locations. The findings will inform a cage trapping survey in the autumn. Any red squirrels trapped will be weighed and pit tagged by trained staff and volunteers before being returned to the forest. The pit tags will enable the project team to identify individual red squirrels and work out how many of these iconic native mammals survive in this remote area of mid Wales.

The Healthy Reds project will move on to tracking red squirrel movements using radio-collars.  It is hoped that the tracking exercises will reveal which areas of the forest are the most valuable to red squirrels and this knowledge will help to inform habitat improvements. As well as work in Clywedog Forest, the project will also be focusing on red squirrel activity in the Irfon Forest near Abergwesyn and Bryn Arau Duon near Rhandirmwyn.

The WTSWW Red Squirrel Officer Sarah Purdon is delighted with the funding award. Sarah commented:

 “The demise of the red squirrel across much of Britain has been a great tragedy, initiated by the introduction of the invasive grey squirrel to this island. In mid Wales, thanks to a sustained local grey squirrel control effort combined with an accident of habitat provided by the vast plantation forests, we have managed to retain red squirrels. The population is sparse and remains fragile; we have scant information about how red squirrels survive in the Tywi and surrounding forests. But now, thanks to National Lottery players and the WCVA administered Landfill Disposal Tax Scheme, we are able to take an in-depth look at how red squirrels use this habitat. With the help of local volunteers WTSWW will be carrying out habitat and red squirrel surveys and tracking red squirrels to find out what part of the forest they use. The information gleaned will help us to target conservation efforts. It’s great to know that we are a step closer to improving the stakes for red squirrel in mid Wales.”

Richard Bellamy, Director of the National Lottery Heritage Fund, Wales said:

“Our natural heritage is a most precious resource and, thanks to National Lottery players, National Lottery Heritage Fund grants have helped to protect an amazing range of landscapes, habitats, and species of plants and animals. The National Lottery Heritage Fund is delighted to support ‘Healthy Reds’ that will stimulate people’s interest in the natural world and Red Squirrels by helping to protect them for future generations.”

The project will be working with local people as well as schools, universities and colleges. If you would like to get involved, or to find out more information about the Healthy Reds Project, please contact Sarah on s.purdon@welshwildlife.org / 07972 201202

Remember a Charity Week 2019

Down over South Haven

Pass on Something Wonderful…

Every September, more than 180 charities join forces to hold the annual Remember A Charity Week.

The awareness week aims to raise the profile of legacy giving and encourage the public to consider leaving a gift in their Will.

This year, Remember A Charity Week will run from 9 – 15 September and we will be calling on the public to leave a legacy.

The Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales manage more nature reserves than any other charity in Wales.

50% of those are with thanks to gifts left in Wills. 

Gifts in Wills have helped us maintain our 110 nature reserves, they have enabled us to purchase land and provide the right habitat for local wildlife that is struggling to survive in today’s urban jungles.

Leaving a gift in your Will to help local wildlife can be very beneficial to you and your family; adding a gift in your Will offers each of us the opportunity to contribute to good causes in a way that may not be possible during our life time, due to financial responsibilities.

The Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales understand that your loved ones come first and it is only after they have been provided for that we ask that you think of us.

For more information on how you can leave a lasting mark on our beautiful landscape in Wales, visit here

Alternatively, call Jon for an informal chat on 01656 724100.

We’re looking for new trustees – deadline extended!

CAN YOU HELP THE WILDLIFE TRUST PROTECT WILDLIFE FOR THE FUTURE?

We’re looking for new Trustees!

The Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales manages some of the region’s most precious wild places.

Our mission is to rebuild biodiversity and engage people with their environment, by:

Creating and enhancing wildlife havens within and outside nature reserves, particularly by creating Living Landscapes and Living Seas
Inspiring people about the natural world and helping them enjoy and protect it.
Publicly standing up for wildlife and the environment

This year we are looking for nominations from those with a professional conservation background, those with a farming background with a commitment to wildlife, and from fundraising, marketing and communications professionals

We’re wild about inclusion! We want to create a diverse Board of Trustees which reflects the communities in which we live and work.  To help us develop a Board with diverse skills and experience, we welcome applications from all sections of the community, particularly those who are underrepresented within our sector, such as people from black, Asian, minority ethnic backgrounds. We are committed to creating an organisation that recognises and truly values individual differences and identities, where everyone can be themselves and can flourish, just like our wildlife!

So if you are over 18, and would like to use your skills and experience at Board level to help us help wildlife, then we would love to hear from you.  We would also like to continue to have a good geographical representation on the Board and welcome applications from all areas.

This is a volunteer position but ‘out of pocket’ expenses could be covered. The commitment is to attend Board meetings (about 6 a year, usually on a Monday evening in Bridgend and 2 Saturdays at any of the Trust venues) as well as volunteering some spare time to help develop the Trust’s work and to occasionally attend other meetings or events.

The term of appointment is for up to three years in the first instance, although there is the opportunity to be co-opted to the Board for an initial term of one year.

Wildlife Trust staff are deeply committed to their work in protecting wildlife and ably supported by many dedicated volunteers including Trustees.  We have a lot of work to do, and being a Trustee can feel demanding at times, but it is deeply rewarding and you will be part of a friendly and energetic team.

Please email Diana Clark for an application form d.clark@welshwildlife.org

The deadline for applications to join the Board for the AGM 2019 has been extended to Monday 16th September 2019. 

Our current Trustees would be delighted to talk informally to anyone interested in applying.  Please contact Diana Clark, who would be happy to set up a meeting or phone call with an existing Trustee to discuss the role.

Contact details: Diana Clark, The Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales, The Nature Centre, Fountain Road, Tondu, Bridgend CF32 0EH.  Tel: 01656 724100

Email: d.clark@welshwildlife.org

Help us protect the badgers of Castle Woods

Badger vaccination 2019 – please donate to help us raise the last £3000 to complete our programme!

The Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales (WTSWW) has been vaccinating badgers against bovine TB in Castle Woods, Carmarthenshire since 2014.

The vaccination is a five year programme, but had to be paused in 2016-17 due to a global vaccination shortage. We resumed our efforts last year, and have just completed our fourth session this month. The work at Castle Woods will help to protect the resident badger population against the disease, and contribute to the benefits of the many other cattle-based and farm biosecurity measures already in place to help protect cattle in the local area from TB.

This year’s vaccination took place in the third week of August, with traps set at seven locations around our woods, based on maps of sett entrances and badger activity in the reserve. WTSWW works with our expert contractor, Andrew Crace-Calvert from EcoCon, who holds all the licences necessary for the work; vaccination is a tightly controlled exercise, and the vaccine is supplied direct from Welsh Government. EcoCon offer nationwide contract badger vaccination services to the agricultural and environmental sectors.

We caught a total of 14 individual badgers this year; the total numbers of animals in the reserve seemed to be low again but encouragingly, 11 of the 14 were this year’s cubs- catching young animals increases the effectiveness of the vaccination programme and shows the social groups are breeding well. Badgers had a tough year in 2018 due to the very dry weather in the cub rearing period, with many young animals apparently being unable to dig through the hard soil to find food, but this year’s young seemed in good health.

It’s always a fascinating programme to be part of. The heavy traps have to be carried up and down the steep woods to areas of greatest badger activity. Then they are left in place for a number of days, tied open, with bait regularly placed in the traps and their immediate surroundings. This ensures the badgers get used to going into the traps, prior to two nights setting the traps to catch in each area. The badgers are utterly unconcerned by the injection itself – sometimes they don’t even seem to notice!

Five animals were also caught two nights in a row, demonstrating that their love of peanuts outweighed anything else about the traps. One particularly young and agile young male that we caught was a budding gymnast, playing in the trap and even hanging off the roof of the cage; it was hard not to interpret it as showing off. It’s great to see how unconcerned they are by the whole process.


We have one more year of vaccination to complete (in 2020), to be confident that our badger population is as protected from the disease as it can be- also helping to safeguard cattle in the area, including the National Trust’s rare breed White Park cattle in Dinefwr Park. The work is 50% funded by Welsh Government, but we still need to raise a total of £3000 to complete the programme successfully.

Please donate if you can, and spread the word.

It is really easy to donate, either post a cheque (with a note to say it is for the ‘Badger Vaccination Appeal’) to WTSWW, The Nature Centre, Fountain Road, Tondu, Bridgend CF32 0EH. Alternatively, call 01656 724100 to donate via telephone.

If we are lucky enough to raise more than we need to complete our programme, any extra funds will be donated to other badger vaccination programmes in Wales.

Thank you so much for your help, and we look forward to reporting on a successful completion to the project next year!

 

Pass on something wonderful

Pass on something wonderful…

Without people like you choosing to leave a gift in your Will to us, we may be unable to continue our vital conservation work to protect local wildlife.

Previously we have managed to buy the final piece of Skokholm Island, securing its future for wildlife, because of help from gifts in Wills. We’ve also provided nest boxes for kestrel, protected butterfly habitat and monitored Red Squirrels in mid Wales thanks to gifts in Wills.

Every gift, however large or small, even a 1% share, has a big impact on small, independent charities like us.

Please help us to ensure future generations can enjoy wildlife and wild places just as you have by leaving a gift in your Will.

Lasting Legacies Event

This September we will be hosting a legacy event at Parc Slip where you will have the opportunity to hear about how we have used previous legacies, the incredible impact that a legacy can have on our vital work to protect local wildlife and how you can make or amend a Will to include a gift to The Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales.

Venue: Parc Slip Nature Reserve and Visitor Centre Discovery Room, Fountain Road, Tondu, Bridgend, CF32 0EH
Date: Thursday 19th September 2019
Time: 10:30am for approx. 2 hours followed by a buffet lunch
Cost: Free

If you would like to attend either event please RSVP to Carys Evans, Communication and Fundraising Officer, via email cm.evans@welshwildlife.org or call 01656 724100 by 13th September 2019

Unknown Wales is back for 2019!

Unknown Wales is back to shed some light on some of Wales’ most secretive but magnificent creatures!

Join us at National Meuseum Cardiff on Saturday 26th October at 10am for a day full of wonder and discovery. 

Delivered collaboratively with National Museum Wales, this year sees a range of topics from secretive birds to rare sharks, and will bring to light some of the amazing creatures we are lucky enough to have in Wales. Discover facts you may not know about the beautiful but invasive Himalayan Balsam, and things you almost certainly didn’t know about slime moulds (not slimy and not mould!). Plus there will be information from public participation projects across Wales including ways that you can get involved and discover our fascinating Welsh wildlife yourself.

Take a look at our exciting programme!

English Programme

Download the programme here – Unknown Wales 2019 English Programme

 

Welsh Programe

Download the Welsh programme here – Cymru Anhybys 2019

Booking is essential.

To book your place, please visit the museum’s website

Event Summary

Date: Saturday 26th October
Time: 10am – 3:30pm
Location: Reardon Smith Lecture Theatre, National Museum Cardiff

In partnership with the National Museum Wales – Amgueddfa Cymru

Parc Slip’s Sunflowers

Your social media feeds were probably full of photos of people with sunflowers this August, and for good reason!

Here at Parc Slip, our conservation team carefully manage the arable field, so that every summer sunflowers bloom. The field is transformed into a carpet of yellow, which is not only a feast for the eyes – but also a feast for the birds!

Sunflowers can still be seen at Parc Slip, but to see them at their best visit from late July to early August.

Book it in your calendar for next year!

Over £600 raised for Red Squirrels!

An appeal for those who don't affiliate with a county but would like to support our red squirrel appeal

On Saturday 13th July, wildlife enthusiast Michael Cunningham jumped out of a plane to raise vital funds for the Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales’ Mid Wales Red Squirrel Project.

Mike was committed to raising awareness of our precious native red squirrels, which led to his epic skydive over the Gower. He raised an impressive £619.89 through online donations and through collections at his local Co-op store.

 

Red Squirrel Officer, Becky Hulme said:

“We are so grateful to Mike for choosing to raise funds for the Mid Wales Red Squirrel Project. He raised an excellent total, which will go towards the cost of trail cameras and training for volunteers, without which our understanding of our native red squirrel would be limited. Thank you Mike!”

You can watch his epic skydive here 

Learn more about our Mid Wales Red Squirrel Project here

Last of the Summer Conservation Work Parties at Brecknock

August has been a busy time for our hard working volunteers!

In Mid August at Vicarage Meadows, Steph cut half of the wildflower meadow with the help of Leigh with our tractor mower. The other half of the meadow was left so that the flowers could continue growing and  provide shelter and food for the many insects.  They will also be able to set seed to maintain the seed bank.
The next day our hard working volunteers came to rake the cut grass into rows and piles. It was then transferred onto a large tarpaulin to be dragged downhill to the edge of the meadow to our giant compost heap.  All agreed that this was a great workout!  Lizards are abundant here and probably make use of this pile to hibernate in over winter.

To see what was living in the long grass in the uncut side, Wildlife Trust Officer Stephanie used a sweep net to capture a sample of the abundant insects. From a small area of meadow there were weevils and other beetles, shield bugs, caterpillars, spiders and more!

The number of Bracken Bashing work parties has been a bit off-putting to some volunteers but no two days are the same!
We have had plenty of sunny days at Allt Rhongyr but the last summer work party above Craig Y Nos Castle was rather damp. All of us arrived expecting the weather to clear as per the forecast but it didn’t. It was a typical August day in misty drizzle and very atmospheric. After the bracken was rolled on the meadows or cut on the ridge we turned to pulling up ragwort. While this doesn’t grow densely we do have ponies grazing on the reserve so we remove it as much as we can.
We concentrate on the meadows where the ponies graze more and leave some for the many insects that feed on it in the rocky bits the ponies can’t get to.
Ragwort is toxic to horses and ponies but they will not eat it while it is growing.  However when it is dead it becomes sweeter and they will eat it so it is important to remove all the pulled plants.  We have a ragwort dump where the ponies can’t get to it but this was some way from where we were working.  The quad became our ragwort chariot.  It is amazing how heavy bundles of ragwort are when wet!

Bracken is controlled on our reserves by cutting, pulling or rolling with a bracken bruiser.  This allows the light to get to the ground again especially when the fronds are raked into piles. This means that less nutrients are taken down in to rhizomes this year so that the plant doesn’t have the resources to grow back as strongly next year. Cutting the grass and raking off the material reduces the nutrients in the soil. Native wild flowers generally prefer nutrient poor soils.
Between the bracken control work parties on many of our reserves we have a couple of places that need different treatment. Sometimes it is good to vary the timing of the cut and this year Pen y Waun was cut early and Trewalkin had a spring graze because if grass and meadowsweet grows too strongly it will smother the flowers or prevent their seeds from germinating. Both activities help keep the open nature of the habitat so that the native wild flowers thrive and provide feeding grounds for other wildlife.

To join one of our future work parties, contact Steph on s.coates@welshwildlife.org

Why August is a magical month for Skomer Island

August is a special time of year on Skomer, the island team have a chance to take a breath before seal pupping season takes hold. When everywhere else of the mainland is busy with school holiday mania, Skomer becomes a quiet getaway, a chance to see some beautiful scenery while taking a lovely wildlife walk.

The puffins have gone but there are still some seabirds to see. Kittiwake chicks fledge at the beginning of August and Fulmars will still have chicks on the seabird cliffs until the end of the month. They may look like gulls but Fulmars are more closely related to an Albatross or our very own Manx shearwaters. If you’re lucky you can see an adult Fulmar feeding a chick on one of the seabird cliff ledges. Watching the unmistakable flight of the Fulmars as they play in the wind is spectacular, as shown in this lovely photo taken by wildlife photographer Drew Buckley.

Fulmar by Drew Buckley

 

During August grey seals will be gathering around the island and the first pups are usually born by the beginning of the month. It is fascinating to watch their behaviour as seal mums stay close to their pups for the first three weeks of their lives. Meanwhile the large male bull seals are never too far from the females, defending their territories and the chance to mate.

An immature grey seal basking on the rocks at low tide

 

As well as this there are always other island residents to look out for. Chough and Peregrines can be found anywhere around the island. It is always special to see these highly protected schedule one birds. Ravens start to gather in larger numbers, their familiar call echoing overhead as they fly by. The Skomer rabbits are something a bit unusual too. As well as the usual brown rabbits you may see a variety of black or black and white ones. Essential for conservation grazing on the island they are also a firm favourite with the visitors and residents.

A pair of chough: these birds remain together even after the breeding season is over

A black and white rabbit close to the farm