Author: Claire Eynon

M4 (Junction 34) to A48 and Cardiff Wales Airport transport links

Teifi Gorge - Woodland

I first drove along the M4 westward from Cardiff on the day it was officially opened in April 1980, to attend a friend’s wedding at Neath. The thing that immediately struck me and still does is how the entire route joins up the dots by going through every ancient woodland and area of common land available between the beginning and the end of the route.

The Wales Government published a National Transport Finance Plan: Update 2017 in December which was not a document I immediately took an interest in. But in April of this year the Vale of Glamorgan Council announced that they had been working with an independent technical consultant to develop proposals for a new road linking the M4 and A48.

The National Transport Finance Plan has a single bullet point:

Five Mile Lane – Feasibility study to explore options from Sycamore Cross to Junction 34.

These proposals follow a study of the transport links between the two and access to Cardiff Airport that was conducted in 2017.

Two possible routes have been identified, east and west of the existing road, both of which would allegedly improve links between the M4 and A48, reduce journey times to the airport, and help tackle local traffic congestion.

What they also admit is that this proposal is very damaging to the landscape and wildlife, damaging up to seven ancient woodlands and either forty two ancient and species rich hedgerows if the eastern route is chosen or 30 odd on the western route. Without considering all the other wildlife conservation issues which will need to be addressed.

Now these proposals with expenditure of either £58m or £81m depending upon which route is chosen are principally to allow visiting European golfers landing at Cardiff Wales Airport to get to the course quicker.

The public, and other interested groups, are now being asked which of these two routes they feel should be presented to Welsh Government with a request for funding. Something of a fait accompli.

Anyone knowing the area will realise that this B road only goes from Junction 34 to the Sycamore Crossing on the A48, but do not worry about Five Mile Lane. A huge scar has already been put in the landscape as works are in progress to take out the two bends out of that route and allow everybody to drive faster on what will become a straight road.

Vale Communities for Future Generations says:

In a modern Wales committed to tackling climate change, a 9m high concrete flyover similar to the Cowbridge bypass is not a sustainable transport option. These changes are being proposed without any transparency of public engagement and the true impact it will have on future generations.

 

There is #abetterway

A consultation on the proposals ends on 5th June.

Have your say by taking the survey here.

The real problem with this proposal is that not only is it damaging to the wildlife of the Vale, but there is every likelihood that it will not deliver what is intended anyway. Traffic statistics are notoriously unreliable.  With a large expansion of Cardiff focussed on Junction 34 for westerly travel, and a similarly large housing development sited equidistance between Junction 35 and 34 with 34 for easterly travel, Junction 34 is not going to be useable in the near future.

 

Harvesting Rainwater Positively

Water butt from celtic sustainables

Now that the weather has been positively warm over the last few weeks, many people are beginning to return their thoughts to their garden and the (hopefully) hazy days of summer. The down side for us gardeners of course is that too many dry days means we start worrying about watering the plants.

A very significant bonus from harvesting rainwater at source in water butts, for watering your garden during dry spells, is that it can play a major role in avoiding down-stream floods.  The idea, often referred to as a part of a “SuDS – Sustainable Urban Drainage System (and the theme of the Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales’ garden at the RHS Cardiff Flower Show this year) – is that water is slowed down (attenuated) to such an extent that the peak flow into rivers is decreased so much that the area downstream doesn’t flood. If everyone in an area makes small changes, a significant amount of storm water could be temporarily stored and the scale of damage during a flood event dramatically reduced.

Water butts nowadays come in all sorts of shapes, sizes and styles, some even with planters on the top so you don’t have to compromise on valuable growing space.

As a thank you to The Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales for featuring one of their beautiful water butts in their RHS Garden, Celtic Sustainable are re-running their amazing offer.

  • 10% off all 3P Technik Decorative Water Butts plus Celtic Sustainables will donate £5 to the Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales for each water butt sold
  • AND you still get Free Delivery to mainland UK addresses!
  • Go to: www.celticsustainables.co.uk/water-butts/
  • Use Coupon Code “WILDTEN” at the checkout.
  • Offer ends 30-June-2018

To take up Celtic Sustainables on this time limited offer, simply use Coupon Code: WILDTEN after you have placed your Water Butt and/or Rainwater Filter/Diverter in your shopping cart. The 10% discount will then be applied to all applicable products.

There is no better time to browse Celtic Sustainables range of decorative 3P Technik Water Butts!

After the Storm

Storm Ophelia on Skomer

Storm Ophelia struck west Wales on 16th October last year

The consequences were devastating…

Starting as the easternmost Atlantic major hurricane on record, Ophelia was extratropical (and thus downgraded to a ‘storm’) by the time it reached the UK, but it was still regarded as the worst to affect Ireland in 50 years. In Wales, roads were closed, and hundreds of houses were left without power. Five boats were sunk in Porthclais near St Davids, and 92 mile an hour winds hit Milford Haven marina.

For the Trust, it is the Pembrokeshire Islands of Skomer and Skokholm that are always our first concern; lying just off the south west coast of Pembrokeshire they always bear the brunt of autumn storms, and their exposed location leaves them vulnerable to the impacts of Atlantic weather.

Storm Ophelia certainly lived up to the dire warnings issued by the Met Office. Waves reaching 16 metres were recorded at nearby St Ann’s Head. High winds- but even stronger seas- battered both islands. The Skokholm Wardens Richard Brown and Giselle Eagle describe their experience as they returned to their lighthouse base at the end of the day:

“The Lighthouse compound was deep with sea water, and seaweed and spray continued to fly around. We knew we had to get inside quickly but we weren’t greeted by the dry and cosy Lighthouse that we had imagined. It soon became apparent something was wrong. The old generator room door was rattling and all of the equipment and furniture within the room were sodden, covered in glass fragments and pushed up against the wall. The windows were smashed, the wind was howling and as we watched seawater pouring through the ceiling it became apparent that something was seriously wrong. We rushed up to the first floor and saw a huge hole in our living room wall. It was a hole normally plugged by a window, which was now lying flat on the floor. Another wave came splashing through, peppering the walls with seaweed and sand. A wild night followed. Fortuitously a flat calm day followed and we were able to properly assess the damage and carry out make shift repairs for the winter. There had been a huge amount of water damage to the Lighthouse. The door to the generator shed had been blown in and wrapped around the generator. Equipment and personal belongings were laden with glass fragments and debris.”

On Skomer, the damage to our buildings was less, although roof tiles were ripped off both in North Haven and at the Farm accommodation, some left sticking dagger-like into the courtyard turf. On Skomer though, the impacts were more immediately apparent on the wildlife: October is the height of Grey Seal pupping time, with large numbers of pups lying on the island’s beaches. Although seal pups can swim from birth, even large pups are unable to withstand the battering of prolonged and extreme weather. Skomer Wardens Bee Büche and Ed Stubbings monitor the pups daily at this time of year, and by the time the storm abated, two thirds of the pups they had been individually monitoring before the storm had disappeared from the beaches.

On the back of this devastation, WTSWW decided to launch an appeal, to raise funds to repair the substantial damage to the island’s infrastructure, and to help us underwrite the future of the critical seal monitoring and to protect the programme from any future funding pressures.

Many of you responded to this appeal, and incredibly generously- a big thank you to every single person who wrote, phoned or got in touch to support this important cause.

Thanks to your generosity, we actually exceeded our target of £25,000 – and some donations are still coming in.

So, what has happened since?

On Skokholm, after the storm passed, the wardens were left with a relatively short time before the island had to be closed down for the season, to make temporary repairs that would withstand the winter. Doors and windows were boarded up and made good as best as could be achieved. On Skomer, roofs were repaired and as soon as the storm cleared, and seal monitoring resumed, though it would be some months before the true impact of the storm on the final breeding figures could be calculated.

This spring, both sets of wardens have returned to the island and fortunately found that their late season repairs had held strong. On Skokholm, considering it had parts missing from it, the Lighthouse had overwintered extremely well. The walls were damp and even dripping in places where saltwater had driven in. The walls and woodwork were mouldy and the metal work had dribbled rusty stains down the paint work. Still, no further damage had occurred and the unaffected rooms remained as the wardens had left them.

The clean-up job was huge!

The first week of work party volunteers came out armed with cleaning sprays, buckets, scrapers and sponges and, starting in the lantern, cleaned every single bit of every single wall, cabinet, glass, door, window and floor removing the salt, mould and soggy plaster work. The work was grubby and monotonous but the team remained enthusiastic and worked incredibly hard to get the building back to a decent condition.

A dehumidifier, bought with monies raised during the Storm appeal, is currently removing 4 litres of moisture a day from the Lighthouse and whilst it is far from its pre-Ophelia splendour, it is in a good place from which to continue the repair and redecoration in the future. The Lighthouse generator, which had been affected by saltwater after the storm damaged the door, was coaxed back into life with an engineer’s support- but funding from the appeal has now also been set aside to replace this when it reaches the end of its life.

Counting the cost to the seal population

On Skomer, the results of the autumn and winter’s seal monitoring was being tallied up. As well as Storm Ophelia, which had washed roughly two-thirds of the white coated pups off the beaches, the island had been subject to Storm Brian, only five days later, which was less severe but no less devastating, sweeping some of the remaining pups away. Fortunately, 2017 was a good year overall for our seals, and so some pups had already weaned and moulted before the storm hit, and others were not born until after the storms had passed.

In the final analysis, in the worst-case scenario (assuming the pups that disappeared during the storm had died, even the larger ones that we would normally assume had survived), pup survival was 62%. Whilst significantly lower than average, this is much higher than we could have hoped or imagined in those first hours after the storm. The fact that survival was as high as it was can be explained by the very good start of the seal pupping season (of the first 52 pups born only four died). It shows how populations are in fact able to deal with some of these natural disasters, and that bad years can be accommodated without too much long-term impact on the population

We remain concerned

If over time climate change causes us to have more storms of this severity, with greater frequencies earlier in the autumn, then we may start to see bigger and longer term impacts on the Grey Seal population. This is where the immense value of the long-term monitoring data really becomes apparent; with Grey Seal data stretching back decades, we are able to work with Natural Resources Wales to establish long term trends and work to understand the effects of changes in the environment in a way we never could if we only collected data reactively.

We were fortunate that the date of this storm meant that we did not record any impact on the seabirds, whose breeding season was over, but the same concerns apply to what seems to be a trend towards bigger and more frequent summer storms in the future.

The Trust would like to extend a huge ‘thank you’ to everyone who has donated to the storm appeal- your generosity has made a massive difference at a difficult time. Even now, we are still in the process of replacing equipment that was damaged or destroyed in the storm six months ago. You have helped us to put right what was damaged, replace what was destroyed, and have confidence that we can continue the essential work to impact the effect of such events on the islands’ wildlife into the future.

     

 

 

Bashing Balsam

A balsam bashing work party

The Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales have been tackling Himalayan Balsam, Impatiens glandulifera, a non-native invasive species.

Introduced to Kew gardens London in 1839 as an exotic flower, balsam was then spread as a colourful garden species particularly for wet areas. It is also known as Indian balsam, Policeman’s Helmet, Bobby Tops, Nuns, Gnome’s Hatstand, Kiss-me-on-the-mountain and Jumping Jack.

Although an annual, this pretty yet ecologically damaging flower grows up to 3metres/10feet in only one spring and summer season. It also has the ability to fling as many as 800 seeds up to 4 metres/13feet from each plant. As opposed to native plants which tend to either grow quickly to a short height, or tall slowly.

The seeds also float very well, so spread rapidly down water courses. Therefore if not controlled and eradicated, balsam quickly spreads to out-compete our native wildflowers by shading and stealing nutrients. Himalayan balsam also has attractive flowers that likely distract pollinating insects from fertilizing our declining native wild flowers.

Furthermore, since Himalayan balsam is non-native from a distance region of the globe, there are no natural ‘predators’. This leaves balsam mostly untouched by herbivorous mammals, birds, reptiles and invertebrates alike. Allowing balsam uninhibited growth and colonisation.

As part of the Wild Woodlands project funded by WREN, a not for profit business that awards grants to community projects from funds donated by FCC Environment to the Landfill Communities Fund, the Wildlife Trust is fighting to get the upper hand against invasive species on their reserves, amongst others Himalayan balsam.

In Gelli Hir, a reserve on Gower near Three Crosses, there has been a consistant effort over several years by a dedicated team of volunteers to beat balsam. For this site, most affected areas are difficult to access. Plants are between trees, in bramble thickets and in very wet/boggy ground.

The most effective way to clear balsam is to pull it up by the roots and leave it to rot down in heaps or builders sacks strategically placed for access and to prevent further spread. Alternatively once pulled, the bottom node (fat part) should be squished, plants can then be hung up in trees so the roots dry out, cannot touch the ground or any moisture giving branch and regrow.

Last summer, volunteers have made giant leaps forward in clearing the entire area from the stream’s entrance to the reserve (where the balsam enters) all the way down to the pond. Even making a trip out to the island to pull each and every plant they could find.

Another member of Wildlife Trust staff Rebecca Killa, recently visited Gelli Hir. Rebecca used to work on this reserve and started the balsam effort there, said:

“I’m amazed at the progress and to see it so clear”.

The next stage this year will be pulling any plants that were previously hidden or missed, any that were residing dormant in the seed bank and any new influx from the stream, hopefully restricted to bank sides.

To help make a difference with this and other important conservation work you could join the Wildlife Trust to volunteer or support us by becoming a member or leaving a legacy so we may continue this vital work.

Himalayan balsam       Himalayan Balsam flower

Skomer Island Migrant Report April 2018

What’s been spotted on Skomer last month?

Two Red Kites came over the island on the 21st. At least one Hen Harrier remained until the 15th. A Sparrowhawk was present on three dates.

Water Rails were present throughout and started singing towards the end of the month.

Oystercatcher numbers peaked at 141 on the 4th. There were two Golden Plover on the 2nd and five Ringed Plover on the 29th. Whimbrels began passing through from the 13th with a high count of 35 on the 22nd. A Black-tailed Godwit was on North pond on the 18th. Turnstone numbers dwindled towards the end of the month with a high count of 13 on the 4th.

There were two great counts of Purple Sandpipers in the month with 40 on the 4th and 27 on the 6th. The first Common Sandpiper arrived on the 11th and there was just one further record in North Haven on the 23rd. Snipe were present throughout most of the month with counts of up to four.

Another record was set with our spring count of Puffins when 30,895 individuals were counted on the 8th. Three Black-headed Gulls in Jack Sound on the 19th were the only records of the month.

A Collared Dove at the Farm on the 6th was the only record of the month. The first Swift was seen on the 28th over the Farm. A female Kestrel was present on several dates at the start of the month and a male was seen on the 30th. Merlins were present throughout with two on the 14th.

A Woodchat Shrike arrived in North Valley on the 18th and remained until the 21st. Goldcrests passed through in small numbers with a peak of six on the 9th. There were single Blue Tits on the 5th and 7th and Great Tits on the 1st (one), 3rd (two) and 4th (one).

There were nine Sand Martins on the 3rd, 33 on the 20th and smaller numbers throughout. Swallow numbers peaked at 97 on the 22nd. The first House Martin was seen on the 6th and there were 15 on the 19th.

Warbler numbers peaked with 28 Chiffchaff on the 3rd, 47 Willow Warbler on the 21st, 27 Blackcap on the 8th, four Common Whitethroat on the 29th and ten Sedge Warbler on the 29th. There was also a Lesser Whitethroat present in North Haven on the 22nd and 23rd and Reed Warblers on four dates.

A Ring Ouzel was present near the Garland Stone between the 14th and 16th and there was a second bird on the 16th. A Fieldfare with a broken wing remained from ‘the beast from the east’. There were single records of Song Thrush on the 4th and 29th and Redwing on the 4th and 5th.

The first Spotted Flycatchers (two) were seen at South Stream on the 30th. There were odd records of Robins with two on the 4th, 8th and 12th. A male Pied Flycatcher was seen in North Haven on the morning of the 13th and, what was probably the same individual, was seen later at the Farm. Single Black Restarts were seen on the 3rd and 4th and there were two on the 5th and 6th.

Small numbers of Stonechats continued to pass through at the start of the month with five on the 5th but by the 20th only one breeding pair remained. Wheatears passed through in small numbers with 28 (including six Greenland birds) on the 29th and 32 (including nine Greenland birds) on the 30th.

A single White Wagtail was seen on the 7th.

Chaffinches were seen on the 9th and 14th. Numbers of Linnets and Goldfinches passing through peaked at 91 (on the 21st) and 59 (on the 26th) respectively. Lesser Redpolls were seen on the 21st and 23rd and single Siskins were recorded on the 14th and 21st.

If you’d like to visit Skomer or Skokholm Island for an overnight stay please contact our booking team via 01656 724100. For day visits to Skomer all information can be found here.

Paths at West Williamston Reserve get a makeover

West Williamston Reserve path

Since the nesting season started, work at the Wildlife Trust’s West Williamston nature reserve in south Pembrokeshire has moved away from habitat management tasks such as scrub clearance, coppicing blackthorn and thinning/clear-felling trees in the woodland. Efforts now lie primarily in maintaining reserve infrastructure of which footpaths are the main focus.

Recent work events on the reserve have involved volunteers repairing steps on the woodland paths, removing rotten risers and replacing with new. Additional steps have been installed in areas where they are needed, enabling better access through the reserve. As much of the reserve is comprised of underlying limestone rock and old spoil heaps from the activities of historical quarrying, bedding some steps in proved to be more onerous than anticipated! None-the-less, volunteers were keen and very much able, so all planned work was completed in time.

Other work included removing the build up of moss and grass from the tarmac road leading down to the meadows and foreshore from the carpark. This is an annual task that helps to maintain the integrity of the road and avoid the need for resurfacing. This is a task that is mundane in nature and doesn’t really get noticed yet can save the Wildlife Trust considerable investment in the long term.

Ongoing tasks over the summer months will involve cutting back vegetation from encroaching on to paths and upgrading interpretation.

Over the years the reserve has been under Wildlife Trust management, funding for enabling work to occur has come from a variety of sources. Recent improvements have been funded through the People’s Postcode Lottery. The Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales are very grateful to the players of People’s Postcode Lottery who have made all this work possible.

 

Nathan Walton, Pembrokeshire Wildlife Trust Officer

Path work at West Williamston reserve           West Williamston Reserve path         Peoples postcode lottery logo

Living Seas Wales Awarded National Lottery Support!

North Wales Wildlife Trust and The Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales have received a confirmed grant of (£587,600) from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) for their exciting 3 year Living Seas Wales project!

Thanks to money raised by National Lottery players, the project will use awe-inspiring technology for their ‘Sea Wales’ 7D augmented reality family experience, immersive skills and learning opportunities to build connections, sculpt attitudes, change behaviour and inspire action to benefit the natural heritage of our coast and sea.

The project will provide participants with opportunities to learn about, enjoy and contribute to the conservation of the marine environment, its conservation and how they can impact on its future; whether they live on the coast, use the marine environment for work or leisure, or live inland and visit the coast on holiday.

Dr Sarah Perry, Living Seas Manager for South Wales says:

“We are delighted that we have this opportunity to work in partnership with our colleagues from North Wales Wildlife Trust to work together to raise the profile of the marine environment around Wales. Through hard work and dedication this project comes to fruition at exactly the right time; 2018 is Wales’ Year of the Sea it couldn’t be more timely. We look forward to an exciting few years ahead as part of the Living Seas Wales project and the opportunities for all this project will bring”.

Living Seas is The Wildlife Trusts’ vision for the future of UKs seas. Within Living Seas marine wildlife thrives from the depths of the ocean to the coastal shallows. We know our seas are at a turning point and as well as our advocacy work with the Welsh Government and Welsh politicians, we believe that local people, local communities and coastal visitors are the key to help reverse the decline in marine wildlife.

Nia Hâf Jones, Living Seas Manager for North Wales said:

“This project is an exciting opportunity for us and our partners at the Wildlife Trust of South & West Wales to showcase the incredible marine wildlife found here on our doorstep. It will allow us to bring our coast and seas to life through the stories and memories of the people of Wales and use innovative technology to ‘wow’ our audiences! We’re looking forward to working within Welsh communities and there will something for everyone; whether you want to join us for a rock pool ramble or learn how to lead your own groups on the coast”.

The Living Seas Wales team will embark on an all Wales Living Seas Live Roadshow and deliver an exciting activity programme to reach a wide audience of the next 3 years! The project will officially launch at the Volvo Ocean Race, Cardiff Bay on Thursday 7th June.

The partnership would also like to thank the Players of the People’s Postcode Lottery who are supporting this project.

Wildlife trust living seas                       

 

New research reveals nature’s beauty increases happiness

30 days wild

30 Days Wild pioneers action to connect people with natural beauty

  • The Wildlife Trusts’ annual nature challenge 30 Days Wild encourages people to do something wild every day for the month of June.  250,000 people took part in 2017
  •  Research reveals 30 Days Wild is first to improve people’s perception of beauty in nature and that noticing natural beauty makes people happier and want to care for it
  • Launch of first ever Big Wild Weekend of wildlife events 16th/ 17th June: bushcraft, osprey trails, mammal tracking, wild sleepovers, wild picnics and more!

This June’s 30 Days Wild challenge from The Wildlife Trusts will encourage thousands of people across the UK to make their neighbourhoods wilder – to help wildlife and get communities sharing the joy of the wild. Academics at the University of Derby who have monitored the challenge since it began in 2015 have discovered that spending time in nature makes us feel good. 30 Days Wild encourages people to notice nature on their doorsteps every single day and gives them a multitude of exciting and fun ways of doing it.

 

New research on the link between natural beauty and happiness

The University of Derby’s evaluation of 30 Days Wild 2017 included new measures and reveals that people’s perception of beauty in the natural world is a key ingredient to unlocking the benefits of wellbeing and happiness experienced by participants in the challenge.

 

Dr Miles Richardson, Director of Psychology, University of Derby explains:

“Over the past three years we’ve repeatedly found that taking part in 30 Days Wild improves health, happiness, nature connection and conservation behaviours. Now we’ve discovered that engagement with the beauty of nature is part of that story.

 

Tuning-in to the everyday beauty of nature becomes part of a journey which connects us more deeply to the natural world. As people’s appreciation of natural beauty increases, so does their happiness.  We respond to beauty – it restores us and balances our emotions. This, in turn, encourages people to do more to help wildlife and take action for nature.”

 

The latest set of results from the study of 30 Days Wild also confirms that the benefits of the challenge last well after the month has ended. There are indications that the beneficial impact of taking part could last an entire year.

 

Lucy McRobert, Campaigns Manager for The Wildlife Trusts said:

 

“30 Days Wild is a lovely way to get closer to nature and marvel at the everyday wildlife that lives all around you. Sit quietly and enjoy watching dragonflies dance over a pond or take a moment to sow a window-box of wildflowers to help bees. Get together with your neighbours to create hedgehog highways or sow front-garden meadows along the length of your street. No matter how small the action, it all counts!”

 

30 Days Wild pack

Sign-up to 30 Days Wild and you’ll get a free pack with a booklet of inspirational ideas for Random Acts of Wildness, a recipe for wild strawberry and thyme ice cream, wildflower seeded paper to sow, a wall chart to record your activities and wild stickers. There are special packs for schools with outdoor lesson plans and giant Random Acts of Wildness cards. Business can join in too, with tailored download packs to bring the ‘wild’ to work.

 

30 Days Wild 2018 neighbourhood theme

This year’s theme is all about helping wildlife in your neighbourhood and our pack has inspiring ideas for sharing the challenge locally. See great ways to green-up your street – from carving hedgehog holes in fences to putting up bird and bat boxes and doing a local litter pick.

 

New: first ever Big Wild Weekend!

The first ever Big Wild Weekend takes place 16th – 17th June! It’s a new ingredient for 2018 to mark the middle of the 30 Days Wild challenge.  Wildlife Trusts across the UK will hold special events – there over 100 events taking place – including night safaris, wild festivals, seashore safaris, bioblitzes, mammal tracking, bushcraft, family nature nights, big wild picnics, wild river dips and much more…

Skokholm Breaks this spring

Spectacular red sandstone cliffs of Skokholm Island

Lying in the Celtic Sea two miles off the south west Pembrokeshire coast is Skokholm Island. This beautiful and wild island has its own charm and sense of remoteness with tall, sandstone cliffs and a wild landscape.

 

LAST MINUTE GETAWAYS

If you’re looking for a last minute get away and fancy something a little more remote, something where you can get away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life, why not unwind on your very own island. There are never more that 26 people on Skokholm at one time. That’s 10 acres of space per visitor!

The island is approximately half a mile across at its widest point and a mile in length which makes it perfect for exploring. In spring and summer it is colonised by tens of thousands of nesting seabirds returning to their island home. By day there is frenetic activity among the Puffins, Razorbills, Guillemots and gulls and by night there is a more vocal but equally hectic commotion from the Manx Shearwaters and Storm Petrels. Also, there are often some fascinating migrants to look out for that may pass through.

We have a limited number of last minute spaces available for three and four night stays on the island starting at £140 per person.

At present we have stays on the island available the week commencing 23rd and 30th April as well as some availability in May.

 

ROOM FACILITIES

Each room has solar powered hot water and electric lighting. There are 4 twin rooms and one double bedroom in the renovated farm buildings.

In the cottage there are 4 single rooms and one twin room which can be converted into a double.

There are further 2 twin rooms are in the Wheelhouse block. There are modern compost toilets adjacent to each block. However, living off grid means that there are no showers.

Electrical charging is available in the library but as all power is solar generated it may be limited on dull days. The library has an exceptional range of reference books and the common room in the cottage is open to all.

The accommodation is self-catering. Visitors bring their own food but there is a shop on the island well stocked with basic foods and treats. The communal kitchen has two cookers powered by bottled gas together with plenty of cooking and eating utensils and each visitor is allocated both fridge and freezer space. Because of the limited power there is no microwave.

Skokholm Island is a wild and beautiful place to stay, quieter and smaller than its sister, Skomer, there is a romance and charm to the place.

 

DAVE ASTINS BIRD WATCHING TOURS

For a more focused trip why not join Dave Astins for a three day trip to Skokholm and discover the fantastic wildlife that the island has to offer, with an expert guide. There are trips scheduled for spring and autumn migration in order to target peak passage and maximise the diversity of birds that you will see. It is a wildlife spectacle not to be missed and trips start from £169 per person as well as £27.50 to cover the boat charges.  The spring migration event takes place on 7th to 11th May and autumn migration watch starts on 7th September. To book onto one of Dave’s trips please call 01656 724100 or e-mail islands@welshwildlife.org

 

THE ISLAND’S WILDLIFE

Wild flowers create a backdrop with the white haze of Sea Campion seen even from off shore in May, while Bluebells, Red Campion and many other species create their own impact. A remarkable range of lichens reflect the island’s unpolluted atmosphere.

Porpoises and dolphins frequent the coast to reward the vigilant observer, while Grey Seals are hard to miss, often hauled out on the rocks in South Haven or Crab Bay.

Skokholm has been inhabited intermittently for hundreds of years but was brought to public notice by Ronald Lockley who leased it from 1927 to 1941. He established the first bird observatory in the UK in 1933 and wrote several books about his experiences on the island.

Visitors to Skokholm can escape the stresses of mainland life; find beauty, and a sense of solitude and tranquillity. Seclusion is easily achieved. It really is the perfect retreat for birdwatchers, artists, walkers, photographers and anyone seeking a relaxing getaway.

Visit our Skokholm page to find out more or call 01656 724100 to check availability and book your trip.

Skomer Island March 2018

Teal on Skomer

Migrants on Skomer

Many of this month’s peak counts were caused by the extreme cold spells at the beginning and middle of the month. Monthly maxima of wildfowl include five Wigeon on the 2nd and 3rd, 28 Teal on the 1st, 13 Mallard on the 1st and four Shoveler on the 31st. Manx Shearwaters were first heard, at night, on the 7th. A Little Grebe was present on North Pond between the 26th and the 28th.

One Red Kite was seen on the 24th and there were two the next day. Up to two Hen Harriers were present all month.

Monthly maxima of waders were 154 Oystercatchers on the 28th, at least 500 Golden Plover on the 2nd, at least 1,000 Lapwing on the 2nd (both being extremely high counts for the island, caused by the severe cold snap at the start of the month), 36 Curlew on the 8th, 13 Turnstone on the 11th, six Purple Sandpipers on the 10th, five Woodcock on the 2nd and 3rd and 80 Snipe on the 2nd. Additionally, there were single Bar-tailed Godwits on three dates, up to two Dunlin on seven dates and up to two Jack Snipe on four dates.

The first Puffins were seen on the 13th and there was a high count of 5,440 in North Haven on the 30th. There were 16 Black-headed Gulls on the 2nd. There were single Common Gulls on the 1st and 3rd. An immature Iceland Gull flew over the Farm on the morning of the 27th. Short-eared Owls were seen on several dates with four plus on the 3rd and one was found fresh dead on the morning of the 28th. A female Kestrel was on and off throughout the month. There were multiple records of Merlins throughout, including an adult male on the 20th, with two on the 26th.

The first Goldcrest was recorded on the 12th (one) and there were six on the 27th. At least one Blue Tit was present for most of the month and there were three on the 10th. A male Great Tit was present from the 5th and was heard singing towards the end of the month.

The first Sand Martins were recorded on the 30th when three were seen. The first Chiffchaff with pollen horns was seen on the 12th and there was a clear arrival on the 30th when 13 were recorded. The first Willow Warbler was seen on the 24th and there were three on the 30th.

Thrush numbers were also much higher than usual due to the two cold snaps. There were an incredible 1,700 Fieldfare on the 2nd and numbers gradually dwindled after that. Redwing numbers were equally incredible on the 2nd when at least 7,500 were recorded either passing over or trying to feed and shelter on the island. Song Thrush numbers peaked at ten on the 8th and Blackbird at eleven on the 12th.

A male Black Redstart was seen along the main track on the 17th. Numbers of migrant Stonechats peaked at ten on the 7th and there were nine on the 16th. The first Wheatears arrived on the 13th (three). There were two on the 15th and only singles after that.

Six Chaffinch were recorded on the 2nd. There were 14 Linnet on the 2nd and twelve on the 3rd.

Many birds were found dead after the extreme cold weather, especially at the start of the month, with Golden Plover, Lapwing, Fieldfare and Redwing being the worst affected.

Find out more information about visiting Skomer Island.

 

Lapwings over Skomer island

1000 lapwings were seen on Skomer

 

Brecknock Nature Reserves

Pwll-y-Wrach waterfall

You may have already heard about Brecknock Wildlife Trust (BWT) merging with The Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales (WTSWW) at the beginning of April 2018.

We are excited about this new era of wildlife conservation in mid Wales.  Since announcing the merger at the beginning of this month we’ve received a few questions, so we thought we’d share some of the more common ones so that you can get a better idea about what this merger means for the future of local wildlife conservation.

Why has this happened ?

Brecknock Wildlife Trust’s Trustees first contacted WTSWW about a merger back in 2017. It was becoming increasingly difficult for BWT to raise funds in this area with a small, predominantly rural population. Ultimately the BWT Trustees felt that a merger with another Wildlife Trust was the best way to maintain and develop the conservation work in Brecknock whilst keeping a strong local identity.

WTSWW and BWT share a 60 mile boarder as well as major catchment areas and a ‘fuzzy border’ with BWT’s Wild Communities project, so a merger with WTSWW was the obvious choice. WTSWW also have a good history of successful mergers.

Pwll-y-Wrach waterfall

Pwll-y-Wrach waterfall

What does this mean for local wildlife?

The local nature reserves will continue to be managed as they were before, and we will continue to engage with local partners and work with local volunteers.  The overriding objective of the merger is to create an organisation which will be sustainable and effective in the longer term in developing and promoting environmental conservation over a wide area of Wales and its surrounding Marine environment.

What will happen to the staff from Brecknock Wildlife Trust?

A couple of BWT staff left before the merger took place, and the remaining staff have transferred over to WTSWW and we hope that they will enjoy and benefit from being part of a bigger team of staff.

What happens with my membership?

If you are a member of WTSWW nothing will change with regards to your membership. If you are a member of BWT you will shortly receive  a letter welcoming you to WTSWW and explaining the additional benefits you will now receive, such as free landing on Skomer Island!

We are also planning a series of celebratory events and activities over the coming months, which we will promote through our Facebook Page, Twitter, on our website and in our next newsletter.

How do I become a member?

Becoming a member is easy. Just contact our membership office via e-mail or telephone 01656 724100. You can also sign up online here.

WTSWW now have over 100 nature reserves! Visit our nature reserves pages on the website to find one near you .