Author: Claire Eynon

Our 2018 Highlights

red squirrel in the snow

2018 has been an incredibly busy year within The Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales. We asked the staff what their highlights were for the year and here’s just a few of what we got from them…

Red Squirrel Haplotype

The Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales have discovered a new genetic marker in the mid Wales red squirrel population. By analysing hairs collected on sticky pads inside a feeding station, the team have identified a unique sequence of DNA, or haplotype, which hasn’t been found anywhere else in the world. This is great news for the squirrels, as it means they have a diverse gene pool, which helps them adapt to changing environments. The research was part of the Mid Wales Red Squirrel Project, a branch of Red Squirrels United.

Living Seas Wales

Living Seas Wales is part of the Wildlife Trusts’ vision for the future of the UK’s seas where marine wildlife recovers and thrives from the ocean depths to the coastal shallows. Our seas are at a turning point, now is the time to act. So, as part of the Living Seas project we developed a 7D augmented reality experience which toured Wales’ coastal path and even spent a few days at the Countryfile Live show in the summer. We engaged with thousands of people about Wales’ marine environment and how each of us can help it to thrive. Find out more here: www.livingseas.wales

Marsh Fritillaries

The Marsh Fritillary is one of Wales’ most beautiful and endangered butterfly species. A number of our conservation staff across south and west Wales carry out surveys to monitor the butterflies. Our reserves where they can be found are managed carefully to ensure that these populations can thrive. This year we had a record count for marsh fritillary webs at Rhos Glyn yr Helyg. 818 were seen on our transects. Rhos Marion also had a couple of webs there too which is exciting as this is the first record of Marsh Fritillaries since the 1980’s!

Badger Vaccinations

Vaccination of the Castle Woods badgers began in 2014, when 34 animals were inoculated against bovine tuberculosis (bTB) using an injectable BCG vaccine. The exercise was repeated in 2015 before having to suspend on account of a global vaccine shortage. Vaccines became available again in 2018, and thanks to support from The Welsh Government, as well as donations from our members and supporters, the programme was able to recommence.

This has been a brilliant project so far, it feels great to be doing something to help protect these fascinating animals and be part of a more humane solution to bTB.

badger vaccinations in progress

Badger vaccinations in progress. Photo: Tom Marshall

Orchids

In June this year, our team covering west Glamorgan wanted to get an idea of how our calcareous grassland is doing in the Gurnos quarry at Taf Fechan in Merthyr. We spent a morning walking slowly through the meadow doing counts of the orchids there. In 2013 the same thing was done and an estimate of 1600 common spotted orchids was recorded. However, this summer we counted 2923! This means we’ve got a baseline idea of how many orchids that meadow can hold, and we can then check against this to make sure that the meadow is thriving, and we’re not seeing those numbers drop off.

RHS

This year’s garden was a rain garden. The aim of our rain garden was to encourage people to bring sustainable draining systems into their gardens to decrease the risk of flooding in urban areas, prevent pollution and help local wildlife.

Elements of the garden included a shed with a green roof that had a downpipe fitted which fed water from the roof into a water butt. Green roofs will half the amount of water that ends up trickling off a roof and flowing down a drain. The water butt was kindly supplied by Celtic Sustainables. In the centre of the garden we had a beautiful, solar powered water feature that was kindly lent to us by Water Features 2 Go and to the side of our garden we had a willow hedgehog woven by South Wales Basket Weavers.

Other elements that we had in the rain garden included a fantastic array of pond and blog plants from Puddle Plants Nursery, and during the show we also had our Virtual Reality Experiences. People could either do our Dolphin Dive experience or our Flight of the Kingfisher experience.

Willow Hedgehog at RHS 2018

Willow Hedgehog at RHS 2018

Otter surveys in Cardiff

In April we spent a day in Cardiff’s Bute Park raising awareness of otters on the River Taff and showcasing the important research ongoing at the Cardiff University Otter Project. We had a stand that displayed a variety of items, including: stuffed specimens, footprint casts, and spraints (i.e. poo which otters use to mark territory). These specimens showed the special adaptations otters have for living an aquatic life, such as webbed feet, dense fur and the ability to close their nostrils whilst underwater.

We also ran several surveys along the river, looking for clues (e.g. spraints) that otters still use the river, which we were able to find on the day! We engaged with over 100 people on the day, with many unaware that they had these spectacular creatures in their city.

New wardens

Sadly we said goodbye to the wonderful Ed and Bee, who’ve been the wardens on Skomer Island for the last 6 years. They have done absolutely incredible things for the Island’s wildlife, alongside a dedicated team of other members of staff and volunteers. We wish them all the best for the future and hope to see them again soon.

To carry on their work on Skomer, we’ve welcomed Nathan and Sylwia who will be the new wardens on the island. We hope that they enjoy many years with the trust enabling us to record vital data which will show the state of welsh wildlife around the Pembrokeshire coast and further afield.

Thermal imaging of dormice

WTSWW are involved in the Dormice Monitoring Project through our reserves across south and west Wales. Recently in Pengelli Forest it had been noticed that fewer and fewer boxes were being used. After purchasing a thermal imaging camera through a legacy and grant funding, we found that the Dormice are choosing to use the appropriate habitats instead that we’ve carefully managed for them. It is a relief and very encouraging knowing that the reserve has a greater number of dormice than originally recorded from the box scheme. It’s also brilliant to know that years of sensitive woodland management is helping to provide a suitable habitat for this species.

Dormice in nest

Dormice in nest

Brecknock merger

On Easter Sunday (1ST April 2018) a new era of wildlife conservation in mid Wales began as Brecknock Wildlife Trust (BWT) became part of The Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales (WTSWW).

Brecknock Wildlife Trust was a small Trust in a wonderful area, with 18 Nature Reserves stretching from Ystradfawr in the west to Glasbury close to Hay on Wye in the East.  It was becoming increasingly difficult to raise funds in this area with a small, predominantly rural population and ultimately, the 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.

BWT and WTSWW share a common border of over 60 miles, as well as two major river catchments and already worked in partnership on projects like the Red Squirrel Conservation.  The overriding objective of the merger is to create an organisation which will be effective in the longer term in developing and promoting environmental conservation and habitat improvement over a wide area of Wales and its surrounding Marine environment.

Chris Packham Bioblitz

In July, we were fortunate enough to have Chris Packham’s Bioblitz Campaign visit two of our nature reserves. His UK Bioblitz was to raise awareness for his ‘Nature reserves are not enough!’ campaign. It had a serious purpose as the results of the 2018 bioblitz audit of wildlife at the sites he visits were recorded to create a benchmark. This will help measure the rise and fall in numbers of different species on these sites in the future.

Chris Packham visited The Wildlife Trust’s Cardigan Bay Marine Wildlife Centre and Cae Lynden Nature Reserve in Brecknockshire.

Iolo and Chris with children at Brecknock Bioblitz

Iolo Williams and Chris Packham with children at Brecknock Bioblitz

Great crested Newts

While making improvements to the fencing around the meadow at Prior’s Nature Reserve, Gower, we found a first for the site; Two great crested newts were found wriggling at the bottom of a hole made for installing new gate posts to keep the winter grazing ponies in the meadow. The closest record of great crested newts is 5 miles west, but now other nearby ponds may also be suitable or already inhabited, perhaps nearby Gelli Hir Nature Reserve.

These further improvements will now have to be put on hold until a licence is obtained to work safely in that area, causing minimal damage to newts and their habitat.

Puffins

This year, we once again broke our population record of 22,227 Puffins on Skomer which was set in a count on the 14th April 2017. In 2018 we conducted two counts on the 8th and 14th April. The count from the 8th was a whopping 30,895 Puffins!

We census the seabirds on Skomer yearly to monitor their populations and keep track of any trends. In other parts of the world, Puffins are doing very poorly, and it is not quite known why Skomer’s Puffins are bucking the trend. Without these annual numbers we would not know if this trend started to turn.

A party of puffins on Skomer

A party of puffins on Skomer

Changes to Parc Slip cafe – East Meets West

This year we’ve undergone some major changes at Parc Slip’s visitor centre. We have a new management team that have set up tasty new menus and events. Tom, an existing member of the coffee shop team has taken on the supervisor role, while some of our western team from The Welsh Wildlife Centre in Cilgerran have spared some of their time to oversea these changes.

30 Days Wild

This June for the whole month, every day, everybody, everywhere, were encouraged to enjoy nature on their doorstep, as well as the ‘great outdoors’. The Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales (WTSWW) inspired thousands of people to take on ‘Random Acts of Wildness’ (practical, fun and quirky ideas that will connect people with the wild around them) every day for 30 days throughout June. Loads of people shared their wild experiences with us and we really enjoyed seeing people meander along a river bank, dance in a downpour, record a wild ringtone, meditate in a meadow and sip a glass of wine as the sun went down and appreciate their gardens.  And its official, the University of Derby tracked the campaign and found that a daily dose of nature, even in bite size chunks, is good for you!

Basking in Glory!

The second largest fish in the world; the Basking Shark, has been visiting Welsh waters this summer much to the delight of our Living Seas team, based at Cardigan Bay Marine Wildlife Centre. Our Living Seas team hadn’t documented a Basking shark sighting since August 2015, but since this summer they have spotted 3 in Cardigan Bay! During an all-day boat survey on the 19th July volunteers from CBMWC spotted a 2 meter (7ft) long, juvenile Basking shark swimming just under the surface. 2 more sharks were then spotted in New Quay Bay by volunteers on land based surveys on 2nd August and 19th September.

basking shark and our living seas

Basking shark and our living seas

2018 has been an immensely busy year and our staff and volunteers have worked tirelessly to protect wildlife on your doorstep. We want to thank the staff, volunteers, members and anyone else who has supported us this year. We’re looking forward to 2019!

Paul wins a Lantra Award!

Paul Thornton winning the Lantra Award

Well Done Paul!

Last month, Lantra (Sector Skills Council for land-based and environmental industries) announced their Land-based learner of the Year Awards 2018. The ceremony took place at the Royal Welsh Winter Fair with the awards presented by Lesley Griffiths AM, Cabinet Secretary for Energy, Planning and Rural Affairs.

Our very own Senior Wildlife Trust Officer, Paul Thornton was nominated by Julie Thomas at Simply the Best Training and won the Lifelong Learner (Animal Health and Welfare, Horticulture and Environmental) category.

Paul’s experience and training record is extensive, all of it put into practice delivering work for The Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales.

Speaking about the award Paul said,

“In my opinion, most importantly this award should bring kudos for The Wildlife Trust of South & West Wales, who have encouraged, enabled and facilitated my training and career development over the last 11 years. I have every hope I will still be doing this job in twenty years time, managing habitats, working with colleagues and volunteers and sharing my skills and knowledge with others. Winning this award is recognition of the efforts I have put in to build my skills over the past twenty years”.

Paul and his team manage a number of reserves in Swansea and Neath Port Talbot.

The majority of their time is taken up with habitat management; most of this is also supported by volunteer effort without whom, we would not have half the impact.  This year, the team have been busy managing those woodlands that require attention, such as thinning and coppicing at Craig cil Hendre, The Dranges, Gelli Hir & Priors. We’re continuing to work towards engaging and inspiring people and this year we have given guided walks, activities and talks for the communities that neighbour or use our reserves. We’ve also lead field trips for farmers and other specialist groups.

Great Crested Newts discovered

This year’s highlight has to be the discovery of Great Crested Newts at Priors Wood and Meadow. The next nearest record is 5km west of here, this suggests the population spread of this animal on Gower may be greater than ever thought. The team have also been very busy keeping paths open, litter picking, maintaining reserves infrastructure, boundary checks and gate and fence maintenance.

We’re so proud of Paul and the work that he, along with other members of staff and dedicated volunteers, are doing to help protect local wildlife on your doorstep.

If you’d like to support our vital conservation work, please consider becoming a member of The Wildlife Trust.

Skomer Island Migrant Bird Sightings – November 2018

Firecrest

What’s been spotted on Skomer in November?

Numbers of wildfowl were pretty high with peak counts of 12 Eurasian Wigeon (7th), 70 Eurasian Teal (17th), 104 Mallard (7th), 2 Northern Pintail (7th), 3 Northern Shoveler on the 3rd and 22 Common Scoter that flew over on the 16th. Great Northern Diver was recorded on two occasions both 16th and 18th.

Fulmars returned to the island with the highest count of 44 seen on the 11th. Manx Shearwater was heard almost throughout the entire month. Grey Heron was seen most of the days with 2 individuals being present on the 6th and 7th.

Marsh Harriers were present throughout with one that roosted on the 11th in North Valley. Hen Harrier commonly seen around the island with the peak count of 8 on the 22nd and an adult male was seen on the 16th, 19th, 21st and 22nd. Eurasian Sparrowhawk was recorded on the 5th and 7th.

Water Rail commonly heard with up to 10 individuals around.

Monthly maxima of waders include…

42 Oystercatcher (7th), 30 Curlew (3rd), 16 Turnstone (17th), 5 Purple Sandpiper (13th), 3 Woodcock (13th) and 8 Common Snipe (5th, 17th).

Gull counts peaked at 95 Kittiwake (21st), 68 Black-headed Gull (11th), only 2 Mediterranean Gull (16th), 1 Common Gull (12th), 19 Lesser Black-backed Gull (16th), 217 European Herring Gull (13th), 19 Great Black-backed Gull all chewing on the seal carcass (12th).

Woodpigeons scarcely seen around with the top count of 77 on the 2nd.

It was a good month for owls!

With 3 Long-eared Owl individuals present between the 4th and 7th in North Valley. Also, 7 Short-eared Owl were recorded on the 7th and 6 on the 4th. Merlin was recorded on eight dates. A maximum of 9 Chough were seen on the 16th. Highest count of Goldcrest of 7 was made on the 1st together with a Firecrest on the same day. Blue Tit counts peaked at 9 on the 2nd.

There was a very late record of a single Barn Swallow made on the 18th!

Chiffchaffs were seen throughout with the highest count of 16 on the 4th. Siberian Chiffchaff was present on both the 2nd, 7th and 17th. There were 5 Blackcaps recorded on the 1st. Skylark top count of 75 was recorded on the 2nd. Starlings peaked at 5065 on the 15th.

Top counts of thrushes include…

20 Blackbird (17th), 127 Fieldfare (15th), 30 Song Thrush (18th), 84 Redwing (7th) and Single Mistle Thrush recorded on three days.

Robin peaked at 40 on the 4th, European Stonechat at 5 on the 15th, 9 House Sparrow on the 2nd, single Grey Wagtail were seen on the 1st and 4th and 2 on the 2nd. There were also 63 Rock Pipit recorded on the 17th, as well as, 4 single Water Pipit seen on four different days. Brambling maximum count of 7 was made on the 2nd, 178 Chaffinch (15th), 4 Greenfinch (2nd), 31 Goldfinch (5th), 2 Siskin (2nd).

There was a single male Snow Bunting that flew over North Valley seen on the 4th. Reed Bunting was present throughout with the highest count of 11 on the 7th.

Wild Winter Days & Cosy Overnight Stays!

Open Plan Living Area - Oak Tree Cottage Cwtch

Banish those winter blues and get WILD in 2019 with a visit or stay at our Welsh Wildlife Centre and self catering Oak Tree Cottage, Pembrokeshire.

Every season is special at our Teifi Marshes Nature Reserve, but there is something quite magical about winter. Our Wildlife Trust Oak Tree Cottage is nestled in the heart of this beautiful reserve which covers approximately 270 acres and has four specially marked wildlife trails for visitors to enjoy. Keep an eye out for Kingfishers, Otters, Wader Birds, Migratory Birds, Red Deer, Badgers and Foxes.

The Starling murmuration during the winter is a spectacle not to be missed!

Watch in wonder from either the comfort of the Welsh Wildlife Centre Glasshouse Café or find your own outdoor secluded picnic spot as thousands of Starlings dance and fall to roost in the early evening sky onto the beautiful reed beds of the Teifi Marshes Nature Reserve. Look out for the magnificent birds of prey in hot pursuit particularly Peregrine Falcons and Goshawks.

Go WILD for our food!

The iconic award winning Welsh Wildlife Centre is home to the wonderful Glasshouse Cafe… why not be our guest and sample our delicious delights of our home cooked menu whilst relaxing and enjoying the amazing panoramic views of the beautiful Teifi Marshes Nature Reserve. Dogs are welcome in the outdoor cafe seating areas too. Don’t forget to end your day with a visit to our Wildlife Trust Gift Shop on the middle floor of the Welsh Wildlife Centre! You can also join as a member at the Gift Shop which is a great way to help us protect this incredible nature reserve and the wildlife that call it home.

Combine these wild experiences with the warmth and hospitality of our cosy Oak Tree Cottage and we guarantee that you’ll have the perfect winter getaway in 2019!

Short and long breaks available. Oak Tree Cottage sleeps 2 adults/2 children.

For further information visit: www.welshwildlife.org/oak-tree-cottage-cwtch/ or call: 01239 621600.

Starling murmuration at Teifi Marshes by Tommy Evans

Starling murmuration at Teifi Marshes by Tommy Evans

New Years Day with The Wildlife Trust

Parc Slip Photo by MJ Clark

We’re open on New Years Day 2019!

Once you’ve celebrated the festive season, eaten an unspeakable amount of mice pies and rung in the New Year, why not join us to dust of the cobwebs and start the New Year fresh with a walk around our nature reserves and a bite to eat?

At The Welsh Wildlife Centre in Cilgerran…

The Glasshouse Café will be serving our yearly one-off, all day hangover busting breakfast. There is something for everyone on the menu, so whether you are a confirmed carnivore, vegetarian, vegan or coeliac you can enjoy a big breakfast with us. The café is set within a beautiful nature reserve that aligns the Teifi River. There are a number of different trails just waiting for you to explore.

 

At Parc Slip Nature Reserve and Visitor Centre in Bridgend…

The café will be offering hangover busting bacon or sausage sandwiches with vegan & gluten free options too. We will have real fresh coffee and luxury hot chocolate available as well to warm you up after your wild walk. Parc Slip’s visitor centre is nestled amongst a 300 nature reserve which is steeped in history. Once an open cast coal mine, this beautiful patch of land has rebuilt biodiversity and now is home to a variety of wildlife and nature trails for you to discover.

We also have another 100 or so nature reserves around south and west Wales, so take a look at our nature reserves near you and get out and about this winter. Wildlife is waiting on your doorstep and all of our reserves are free to access and are open 24/7.

All profits from our cafes and shops go to fund our vital conservation work across south and west Wales. So eat well and keep Wales WILD!

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

See you on the 1st January 2019

New Kit on the Block

Red squirrel looking down at the camera from a branch above

An exciting new development for the red squirrel project in mid Wales!

Evidence from red squirrel hairs has provided positive news about the condition of these iconic creatures in mid Wales! After collecting and analysing red squirrel hair samples from one of the Mid Wales Red Squirrel Project’s (MWRSP) squirrel feeding stations, we have found a unique DNA sequence that hasn’t ever been found anywhere else in the world. The Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales are thrilled to report this exciting new finding!

The Wildlife Trust’s Red Squirrel Officer, Becky Hulme works with a team of dedicated volunteers to track down and monitor red squirrels in mid Wales.  A Project volunteer had attached a sticky pad beneath the lid of a popular feeder box located above Llanddewi Brefi; a rural village in Ceredigion. This feeder box contained seeds and nuts, food for red squirrels.

Red squirrel on a feeder

Red Squirrel on a feeder. Photo: Paul Harry

In spring 2018 we had seen a whopping 5 red squirrels making good use of its contents, all of which was captured on our trail camera along with some cheeky mating behaviour. Lucky for us, the sticky pad provided us with a few hair samples from the reds which we then sent away to undergo analysis of genetic haplotype.

What’s a Haplotype?

Haplotype is a genetic marker, a DNA sequence that can help us to understand the genetic make-up and ancestry of an animal. Put simply, haplotype is a close-knit group of genes which an offspring inherits from one parent.

Results from these hair samples in mid Wales revealed two different haplotypes. One was already known in Wales, but the other was unique and hasn’t been recorded anywhere before! This adds a fifth haplotype to the four already identified in the mid Wales red squirrel population.

Donate Now for Red Squirrels

What does this mean for Red Squirrels and their conservation?

Firstly, it means that the work our team are doing to help maintain and improve the habitat for red squirrels in mid Wales is incredibly important. This evidence also tells us that the red squirrels in mid Wales have a high level of genetic diversity. This means that our conservation work and efforts are more likely to be successful because having a diverse gene pool helps populations to adapt to changing environments.

With more variation, it is more likely that some red squirrels in mid Wales will have variations in their genes which are suited to the environment. These individuals are also more likely to survive and produce kits (baby squirrels) that will also have these beneficial genes.

All music to the ears of the project staff and volunteers! Our fingers are crossed that we have some new kits in mid Wales come spring next year.

Becky Hulme remarked:

“We are delighted to have found yet another haplotype present in red squirrels in the mid Wales forests. The analysis suggests that mid Wales forests are an important site for the conservation of British red squirrels”. She added “without the massive time-commitment, initiative and dedication of survey volunteers, none of this data could have been recorded”.

 

What’s next?

The information and research that we undertake as part of the MWRSP is vital for improving conditions for red squirrels. Research evidence helps us to better understand where our conservation efforts need to be focused. We can also use this information to encourage other Project participants such as land owners, Natural Resources Wales and the Welsh Government about how we can all work towards conservation goals to benefit wildlife.

But it may be that this discovery is bitter sweet. The MWRSP is coming to the end of its five year funding stream, which means that work to help the red squirrels in mid Wales may stop if we can’t find the funds to continue.

To continue to stage 2 of the project,  The Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales needs to raise £110,000 to fund work on the ground over the next 2 years. This will ensure that we can continue to maintain and enhance habitats for red squirrels, but also expand our team to restore some key areas that could be improved to make them more suitable for red squirrels. We’re also keen to investigate and develop innovative monitoring techniques to-track red squirrels which will provide useful information to feed into future forest management plans.

Red squirrels numbers in the UK have fallen from around 3.5 million in the 1870’s to between 120,000 and 140,000 individuals today (according to different estimates). We’re finally seeing positive results with more and more sightings of red squirrels in mid Wales, but it is vital that we continue to encourage and protect these iconic native animals.

Please Donate to our Red Squirrel appeal - photo of red squirrel by Mike Snelle

Please Donate to our Red Squirrel appeal

How can you get involved?

There are many different ways in which you can help! We’re always on the look out for more volunteers and of course funding and kind donations. We are hoping to raise the £110,000 needed to continue and expand this project through grants, Trust funds and individual donors like you who want to see red squirrels thrive in mid Wales. If any of these are you, please email Becky on b.hulme@welshwildlife.org or contact us on 01656 724100 to kindly donate.

Donate Now for Red Squirrels

Bridging the Way

Castle Woods Foot Bridge is Finally Open for use!

Regular users of The Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales’ beautiful nature reserve, Castle Woods within the Dinefwr Estate, Llandeilo, will be aware that sadly the foot bridge within the woodlands, above Llandyfeisant Church, has been closed for most of this year.

We closed the bridge because during some repair work we realised that one of the main supporting beams was rotting, making the bridge unsafe. It was a big job to rectify this as the bridge measured 6 metres long and went across a steep ravine. Initially we were unsure if we had the resources to mend the bridge and finding the funds, materials and man power took some time. It also took us a while to carry out the works; 7 work days in total of actual dismantling and constructing.

But, we are extremely pleased to say that this week we have been able to reopen the path with a brand new bridge! The Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales staff have built the new bridge with the help of some dedicated volunteers over a number of days. The new bridge is now on concrete plinths to help protect the timbers from rot for as long a possible as that was where the old bridge failed.

Rebecca Killa, Wildlife Trust Officer for Carmarthen, said

“It is incredible that we have such dedicated volunteers who are willing to put in the hours to help ensure that places like this can still be enjoyed. I’d like to thank everyone involved in getting this path up and running again.”

Ceri Evans, Reserves Officer, who oversaw the construction work said

“It was a great project to build the bridge with our volunteers, without whom the project would not have been completed.  The path is well used by walkers, and they were frequently  asking when the bridge would be ready”.

It has been a great project and learning experience, with a definite sense of achievement with its completion.

We would like to say a big thank-you to the Carmarthenshire Volunteers who have even worked through torrential rain to get the main beams in place. We’d also like to thank The National Trust for storing and transporting materials when needed and Players of the People’s Postcode Lottery.

If you’re interested in finding out more about volunteering locally with The Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales please visit www.welshwildlife.org/things-to-do/volunteering.

Peoples postcode lottery logo

Skomer Island Update and Migrant Bird Sightings – October 2018

Grey Phalarope sitting on the sea

After an extremely busy and successful season on Skomer, we’ve now only got four people left on the island; Sylwia and Nathan – the new Wardens, and Bee and Ed – the old (but still very young) Wardens 😉 who will sadly be leaving the trust at the end of the year. They will be deeply missed and have done incredible things for wildlife conservation on Skomer.  The Trust is very excited to welcome Sylwia and Nathan onto our dedicated team and we can’t wait to see what they get up to.

It is definitely different on the island without daily visitors and volunteers’ company. The wardens are still enjoying themselves and working hard to make sure that everything is safe, sound and secure for the next season in 2019.

 

Storms on the Islands

Unfortunately, we have been experiencing some storms on the island again this year, with wind gusts reaching 60 knots. Thank goodness we haven’t got anything like last year when Storm Ophelia and Brian hit both Skomer and Skokholm very badly. Our appeal to raise funds to help reverse the impacts of storms is still open for any kind donations you may be able to spare. Any continued donations will still be spent on storm-proofing the islands and developing protocols to deal with seabirds and seals effected by storms.

Although these storms aren’t as bad as last year’s, we’re still battling with a flooded toilet, leaking windows in the library at North Haven, broken garage doors, guttering that’s come off and our boat almost flying down the cliff! But apart from those and a few other small damages, everything is good.

 

Seal pups on Skomer

We have been worrying about the seals and are hoping that they have been OK! We cannot tell how the storm has affected them just yet but we will let you know as soon as we do.

However, seal pupping on Skomer is drawing to a close for 2018. It has been a good season for the seals with no disastrous storm events like last October, and well over 200 pups have been born! At least one of the storms this year corresponded with neap tides which meant the pups had somewhere to retreat to away from the crashing waves. So it seems that survival to weaning (around 3 weeks of age) will be good this year. Of course, knowing this is only possible due to the long-term monitoring that we do on Skomer. This monitoring is of vital importance if we are to understand the population dynamics of the seals and safeguard them for future generations to coexist with and enjoy.

 

Migrants during October

As always, we’ve been making notes of the migrant birds that we see either on the island or passing over. Here’s what we saw in October 2018…

First Great Northern Diver this autumn (adult) was seen on the 10th of October.

Grey Herons were seen almost every day between the 19th and 31st.

Single Eurasian Wigeons were seen between the 15th and 22nd with 2 on the 22nd. One Pintail was observed on the 5th, 21st, which looked like a possible Mallard hybrid and two potential hybrids on the 22nd. There were also 22 Northern Shovelers found at North Pond on the 21st, 5 on the 22nd, 5 on the 29th and 4 on the 30th.

Individual Tufted Duck was found on the 17th and 3 on the 21st. There were 4 Common Eiders seen flying by on the 29th. October was pretty good for Common Scoters with 11 flying through on the 3rd, 20 on the 11th, 8 on the 25th and 19 on the 29th.

Red Kites were seen over 5 non-consecutive days. Marsh Harriers were seen over 16 days during the entire month with an individual that roosted on the island on the 21st and 23rd. Individual Northern Goshawks were noted on the 1st, 2nd, 4th and 8th. Top count of Water Rails was 10 individuals on the 17th.

two Oystercatchers foraging on Skomer

Oystercatchers on Skomer

Monthly maxima for waders include 53 Oystercatchers on the 28th, 11 Eurasian Curlews on the 16th, 14 Turnstones on the 2nd, 10 on both on the 10th and 12th, 23 Common Snipes on the 18th. There was a record of 1 and a flock of 11 Lapwings flying through made on the 18th and the 30th. Single Purple Sandpiper was seen on the 23rd and 31st.

The highlights were 2 Grey Phalaropes seen in North Haven on the 15th (last month only one), 1 Jack Snipe on the 27th and 2 on the 28th, Cetti’s Warbler seen in ivy on the 20th, single Barred Warbler at Farm on the 5th, Lesser Whitethroat seen also on the 5th, Red-breasted Flycatcher on the 9th and a first flock of 10 Long-tailed Tits seen this autumn in North Haven.

Single Woodcock, which was struck by a Peregrine but killed and eaten by Ravens was seen over the Neck on the 27th and then 2 were seen both on the 29th and the 31st. Mediterranean Gull was seen on both the 24th and 28th as well as individual Common Gulls on the 15th, 16th, 28th and 29th.  8 Stock Doves were counted flying through on the 29th.

 

Shorteared Owl eying up Bee's cabbages

Shorteared Owl

Many Short-eared Owls were seen over the month with a top count of 7 made on the 18th. Single Great Spotted Woodpeckers were seen on a few occasions with 3 individuals noted on the 7th. Kestrels were observed almost every day with the highest count of 5 on the 5th and the 19th. Single Merlins were present for 10 days and 2 on the 28th.

Goldcrests were seen almost every day with some top counts on the 7th and 10th (8 birds). Single Firecrest sightings were made on three occasions and 2 on the 31st. Blue Tits were generally seen on a daily basis with the highest counts of 58 on the 17th and 46 on the 18th. Great Tits seen less regularly with the top count of 8 made on the 7th, 17th and 20th. We had a single Coal Tit and the first one this autumn seen on the 19th. Sky Larks passage peaked at 1245 on the 7th, followed by 407 on the 17th and 582 on the 18th. Very last Barn Swallows (8) this month were watched fly through on the 11th and House Martins on the 7th (8).

Yellow-browed Warblers were seen on the 16th, 18th, 19th and 20th (1,2,1,2). Maxima of other warblers included 16 Chiffchaffs on the 16th, 16 Blackcaps on the 7th.

Flocks of goldfinches feed here in the Winter

Goldfinch

Great passage of Starlings seen throughout the month with the highest counts of 1540 and 1545 made on the 19th and 23rd. There were two records of a Ring Ouzel made on the 16th and 23rd.  We had good numbers of thrushes with first Fieldfares this autumn seen on the 20th (4), first Redwings on the 17th (12) and first Mistle Thrush observed on the 18th. Top count of Song Thrushes (10) was made on the 28th.

Black Redstarts were seen in North Haven and at Farm between the 16th and 21st and on the 24th. There was also a Common Redstart seen on both 16th and 17th. Flocks of 14, 12 and 15 House Sparrows were made on the 18th, 20th and 23rd. Yellow Wagtails were seen on the 10th, 14th (juv) and the 19th.

First Bramblings arrived on the 18th. Highest count of Chaffinches (277) was made on the 28th. Single Greenfinches arrived on the 20th and 30th. Big flocks of Linnets (252, 215) seen on the 14th and 18th. 14th was also good for Goldfinches when we counted 177 birds. Siskins were mostly seen in the second half of the month with the top count of 6 made on the 18th.

Good count of 33 Reed Buntings was made on the 14th.

To find out more about Skomer and Skokholm Island or to book your 2019 stay visit www.welshwildlife.org/stay-with-us/, If you are able to donate to our storm appeal we would deeply appreciate any support you can give. You can find more information about the island’s storm appeal here: www.welshwildlife.org/islands-storm-appeal/. Thank you!

Meadow Management in Ceredigion

Work at reserves in Ceredigion

Strimming, strimming, strimming…

This month The Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales, and a dedicated team of volunteers, have been strimming tracks through the molinia (and some rushes) at Rhos Glyn yr Helyg and Rhos Fullbrook. By doing this we are hoping to encourage the horses to graze and improve the habitat for the marsh fritillaries. However, this job was made even harder by the vegetation being wet- definitely an outdoor gym session!

We’ve also cleared some young trees out of a violet patch at Coed Maidie, cut back fallen trees at Rhos Glandenys and cleared some branches to help with balsam pulling at Rhos Glyn yr Helyg. There was also more strimming but this time of brambles!

It’s been a great month for autumn colours and we’ll be continuing with similar jobs in the next few months.

The Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales are very grateful to the players of the People’s Postcode Lottery who have made all this work possible.

If you’d like to join our work parties, get fit and meet new people, contact Em:  e.foot@welshwildlife.org

Peoples postcode lottery logo

Firebreaks and Coastal Heath

Fire prevention coastal heath at Overton Mere

Early in the scorching hot summer of 2018 about 9 hectares (or half of the entire reserve) of Longhole Cliff, one of our South Gower Coast nature reserves, went up in flames. Later in the summer a smaller area also burnt. Whether these fires were accidental or deliberate arson we do not know but in both events the fire service had to attend although there was little they could do to stop the fire racing through the tinder dry gorse.

In the summer of 2012 Overton Cliff burnt from one side to the other, the fire being chased by an easterly wind. In 2006 a significant area of gorse on the cliff slope at Overton Mere was subject to arson.

 

Consequences of unplanned fires

While controlled burns are some times used as a habitat management tool we have never had agreement from NRW to use this option on the South Gower Coast. Unlike a planned controlled burn these “wildfire” events occur at the wrong time of year (late spring or summer), damaging habitats and potentially killing reptiles and nesting birds. A consequence of not having controlled burns and not having enough grazing pressure on these sites leads to a build up of fuel –gorse and bracken, which in itself can dominate and reduce the habitat quality of the coastal heath, but when alight can lead to fire burning across an entire site.

 

Work at Overton Cliff and Overton Mere

In winter 2017 WTSWW managed to introduce grazing to Overton Mere after spending a lot of time clearing gorse and cutting firebreaks to ensure the welfare of the animals. This year we are working to get Overton Cliff into a suitable condition to introduce ponies to the site. Overton Cliff had also been identified as being the reserve now at highest risk of wildfire. While we are seeking ways to enable the introduction of ponies and funds to support the further scrub clearance and path widening work we need to do we have been able to take the first steps towards our long term aims.

Thanks to funding from Mid & West Wales Arson Prevention we have been able to cut significant fire breaks across the top and middle of the reserve. It was no easy task finding our way across ground that nobody on the team had accessed for a long, long time. This is the start of what we hope will be restoration of quality coastal heath.

If you’d like to help us protect your local wildlife please donate to support our vital conservation work which includes fire prevention to help protect these wonderfully wild places. Visit www.welshwildlife.org/support-us/ to donate to the trust’s conservation work throughout south and west Wales.

Thank you for your support!

Our Pledge to Reduce our Use of Palm Oil

With the launch of Iceland’s eye-opening advert which focuses on the use of palm oil in everyday products and the extremely severe and harmful impact that this is having on rainforests and the animals that live within them, particularly Orangutans; The Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales is taking a look at the products and ingredients that we use and making an effort to source alternatives.

What is Palm oil?

Palm oil is a type of edible vegetable oil that can be found in around half of all packaged supermarket products. This includes bread, chocolate, shampoo, candles, lipstick and a lot more. Although it’s not always listed as palm oil on the ingredients list, sometimes you may see ‘vegetable oil’ and ‘vegetable fat’ instead.  Palm oil is extracted from the fruit and seeds of the trees and although it’s native to parts of West Africa, plantations have been set up in Indonesia and Malaysia.

What is the problem?

Around 66 million tons of palm oil is thought to be produced every year and this results in deforestation, habitat degradation, climate change, animal cruelty and indigenous right abuses in the countries where it’s produced. It’s effecting many different animals including some endangered species such as Orangutans, Rhino’s and Tigers.

The Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales’ Head Chef, Gareth Williams says:

“We are in the process of conducting a study into all of our products and ingredients that may contain palm oil from unsustainable sources. We will then be working with our suppliers to ensure that wherever possible, we can source alternatives or products and ingredients that come from sustainable sources for both The Welsh Wildlife Centre in Cilgerran and Parc Slip Visitor Centre in Bridgend.”

 

Rebecca Vincent, Marketing and Communications Officer for The Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales added:

“After the launch of Blue Planet, we are in a very ideal time to be talking about the issues facing our environment and most importantly how we all can be making small choices every day to reduce these negative impacts. People are listening and people want to help. Change starts with yourself so we want to ensure we’re doing all we can to reduce our use of palm oil within The Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales.”

Why not visit one of our visitor centres and enjoy a meal free from unsustainable palm oil? Choose from The Welsh Wildlife Centre in Cardigan or Parc Slip Visitors Centre in Bridgend

New Trustees Wanted

WTSWW's Annual General Meeting 2017

Do you have what it takes to be a Trustee?

We welcome applications from a wide range of people to reflect the diverse make-up of our membership.  We are currently looking for new people with financial and legal experience.

Rob Pickford, Chair of The Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales explains…

Trusteeship – how your skills could help shape the future

I applied to be a Trustee back in early 2013 as I thought I had skills to offer and was encouraged to do so by colleague who was already a Trustee.  My professional background was in local government and the civil service in Wales and I brought experience in the fields of governance, partnership working and resource management.

I became Chair in 2014 and am part of an excellent team of Trustees with wide-ranging, varied skills, but above all we are enthusiastic about helping the recovery of nature and about our Wildlife Trust.  I do not take the role of Chair lightly. It brings responsibility and along with the other Trustees (all of us are volunteers), we have the ultimate responsibility for the future direction of the Trust. We are grateful that the Trust has an excellent CEO and Senior Management Team to manage the Trust. Working with the wider team of enthusiastic and knowledgeable staff is a real privilege.

Being a Trustee is tremendously rewarding and people from all walks of life and experience have the potential to bring skills that will be beneficial to the Trust. We want to encourage a diverse range of  people to consider becoming a Trustee.

We want to reflect the range of communities we work for more effectively. We would also very much like to recruit more younger people to join our Board.  We are also keen to recruit new Trustees with financial or legal expertise. So if you think you have skills to offer please get in touch. If you want to find out more before making your decision we would welcome opportunities to talk with you in more detail.

Rob Pickford, Chair

For anyone interested in becoming a Trustee please contact Diana Clark at d.clark@welshwildlife.org or 01656 724100

Annual General Meeting

Save the Date – 15th December 2018

Venue – Parc Slip Wildlife Trust Visitor Centre, Bridgend CF32 0EH

You will find your invitation to attend our 2018 AGM in the autumn edition of the Warbler, along with summary accounts and agenda.