Author: Claire Eynon

An update from Brecknock

Introducing our reserves to Crickhowell Walking Festival-goers

Pauline, People & Wildlife Officer for Brecknock and volunteer Ruth lead a walk for Crickhowell Walking Festival which included an ancient well, a fort, two of our nature reserves, an ancient woodland and the home farm of our Exmoor pony conservation workers.

12 people joined us at Maendu Well, Brecon and climbed to the top of Pen-y-Crug Fort in the sunshine.  Here we were rewarded by 360° views, a snipe fly past and skylarks singing.  After a group photo, we descended and followed footpaths and tracks to Llandefaelog Wood Nature Reserve where the wild daffodils were in flower and the bluebells were pushing up through the leaf litter.

We prepared ourselves for the slog up to Cae Eglwys Nature Reserve with a refreshment break.  The route took us through the tiny hamlet of Sarnau before entering the rough track upwards.  We reached Cae Eglwys and could see the rain progressing down the valley. The red kites put on a good aerial show as I described the wonderful wildflowers that can be seen there in May/June.  We then took the decision to head to the Exmoor ponies farm where we could shelter in a barn to have our lunch.  David and Ruth treated us to tea and homemade cakes before joining us to eat and tell us about the ponies.

Waterproofs on, we headed across Afon Honddu to the other side of the valley.  Threading along footpaths and small lanes down the valley to Brecon, we passed through Priory Woods.  This ancient woodland of beech and oaks has a wealth of wildlife and is easily accessible from Brecon town centre.  These strange white flowers of toothwort were found by the river and are parasitic on hazel and other shrubs.

We managed to get back to the cars before the rain really set in.

 

Rain doesn’t stop work

Two more good sessions at Cae Bryntwarch have broken the back of the fencing repairs.  The last session was particularly wet, with the ground sodden and the rain blowing across the res

erve horizontally.  None of us had dry feet by the end.

The last bit to do is to make the fence sheep proof by blocking a few holes under the fence.

You can learn more about our Brecknock reserves here.

Step into a Wilder Future at the RHS Show, Cardiff

A Wilder Garden. Artist: Carys Fletcher-Charles

Following the success of our ‘Into the Nest’ garden in 2019, we are delighted to confirm that we will be exhibiting again at the RHS Show in Cardiff on 17th – 19th April.

Inspired by our Wilder Future campaign, our feature garden aims to inspire and motivate gardeners to make small changes for the benefit of wildlife, no matter how big or small the garden!

Walk beneath our willow archway and be transported into a greener, Wilder Future. Packed full of wildlife friendly features, our garden will offer ideas from hedgehog highways to wildlife friendly planting.

Given the ecological and climate crisis, there is no better time to highlight the plight of British wildlife. The UK is one of the most nature depleted nations in the world. The Wildlife Trusts Wilder Future campaign hopes to secure a wilder future for wildlife through inspiring urgent action at a local and national level. Gardens make up 20% of our cities, which is why they are so important!

Join us on 17th – 19th April in Cardiff and Step into a Wilder Future

New face at Parc Slip Visitor Centre!

Patrice is the new Parc Slip visitor centre catering supervisor
Patrice is the new Parc Slip visitor centre catering supervisor

Patrice is the new Parc Slip Visitor Centre Catering Supervisor

We are delighted to welcome Patrice McGhee to our Parc Slip Visitor Centre team!

Patrice joined us in February as our new Catering and Visitor Centre Supervisor; we can’t wait to see what the future has in store for Patrice and the Visitor Centre!

Patrice had this to say:

“I studied textile design at art school in Dundee, Scotland. During this time I started working part time in a nightclub to fund my studies. It was from here I began my career in the hospitality industry. I worked in many different gastro pubs in Scotland as a General Manager before moving to London. I missed the countryside too much so moved to Cardiff where I am now happily married.

I rekindled my love for food again over the past few years and being vegetarian you have to be a bit creative with ingredients so when I saw the post come up at The Wildlife Trust I jumped at the opportunity. It suited my lifestyle as we try to live sustainably. We have an allotment where we grow our own fruit and veg which we use in our cooking and making presents for friends and family.

My aim for Parc Slip is to create proper home cooked food and be involved in events going on around the reserve, utilising what’s around us!”

Make sure to pop in and say hi to Patrice next time you are visiting Parc Slip!

Thank you Castell Howell!

Thank you to Castell Howell for their donation toward the Bird Hide appeal

We have received an incredible donation of £2,500 from Castell Howell Foods to go towards our Emergency Bird Hide appeal!

Brian from Castell Howell had this to say:

We, as a company, are so happy, proud and prepared to support such businesses as the Welsh Wildlife Centre, who offer such superb facilities of natural wildlife and the wonders of nature to every one of us to see completely free of charge. It is also so satisfying that the Teifi Marshes have been transformed into such an interesting and informative facility for everyone to appreciate.

Mark Hodgson, Visitor Centre Manager said:

We would like to say a huge thank you to Castell Howell for their incredible generosity. We have been saddened by the vandalism at the reserve over the last few months, but would like to thank companies such as Castell Howell as well as the local community for the support we have received.

We are confident that with the support of businesses such as Castell Howell and the community we will be able to rebuild our popular Kingfisher Hide as well as put in place security measures to avoid any further vandalism. Thank you ever so much Castell Howell!

You can read more and donate to our Emergency Hide Appeal here

Ogmore Valley Valeting keeping hearts beating at Parc Slip!

The new defibrillator in Parc Slip

We are delighted to confirm that with thanks to Ogmore Valley Valeting we have been able to purchase a defibrillator for Parc Slip Visitor Centre!

Ogmore Valley Valeting had this to say:

We decided to donate after we saw Parc Slip’s post about the defibrillator fund needing the last £300 in order to be able to purchase the unit.  We have been regular visitors to Parc Slip since we moved to the area five years ago. It is a lovely place which we really enjoy visiting so it seemed fitting to help out.

We hope it will never need to be used, but if it saves just one life, it will be worth every penny.

Mark Hodgson Visitor Centre Manager said:

We would like to thank Ogmore Valley Valeting for their generous donation of £300. This kind donation has meant that we can finally install a defibrillator at the visitor centre for the community to use. Thank you for your support!

The defibrillator can be found in the Visitor Centre at Parc Slip in the hallway by the entrance to the Discovery Room.

If you would like to make a difference like Ogmore Valley Valeting, we have a number of appeals or get in touch with Carys on cm.evans@welshwildlife.org

We’re searching for seaside stories!

Laura Evans, our Living Seas Wales Project Officer, at one of our ‘Memory Pod’ events ©
working on the boat in Amlwch harbour

Working on the boat in Amlwch harbour © Peter Williams

Are you from south or west Wales? Do you have memories about marine mammals? Stories about sharks or salmon? Perhaps you could write a book about your time on a boat? If so, the Living Seas Wales Team want to hear from you!

As part of ‘Documenting our Past’, a component of The Living Seas Wales Project, we are looking to explore, document and share people’s memories of the marine environment. In particular we’re interested to hear about marine megafauna: people’s encounters with dolphins, whales or sharks, for example, as well as memories related to fishing. These can be as recent as yesterday, all the way to stories passed down through the generations!

Unlike data already in archives, people’s stories and skills are constantly at risk of disappearing. That means that sharing memories could not be more important to be carried forward into the future!

Peter Williams’ uncle Hywel Williams, with his boat used in the Herring Run off Amlwch mid 20th Century ©

As well as word of mouth, we’re looking for photos, postcards or objects that transport you back to a time and place on the Welsh coast.

Want to be involved? Or know someone who should be?! Email: livingseas@welshwildlife.org, Call: 01545 560224, contact us online or attend one of our ‘Memory Pod’ or ‘Sea and Me’ events!

Laura Evans, our Living Seas Wales Project Officer, at one of our ‘Memory Pod’ events ©

Laura Evans, our Living Seas Wales Project Officer, at one of our ‘Memory Pod’ events ©

An update from Brecknock

Brecon Local group christmas meal

Brecon Local Group mailing list achieves 100 subscribers!

The Brecon Local Group achieved 100 subscribers in early January and continues to grow.  A steady trickle has signed up via the link on the website page and through the meetings.  The talks have continued to attract 30 to 40 people from as far afield as Ystradgynlais and Garth.  The latest talk was about the Welsh Beaver Project given by Alicia Leow-Dyke (Project Officer) which supplied us with many interesting facts.  In December, the winter walk followed by a meal was also well attended.

An enthusiastic team have been planning the summer activities and have put together an exciting programme to be released soon.

The first Annual General Meeting for the Brecon Local Group will be held on Tuesday 28th April, 7.30pm to 9.30pm at The muse, Brecon LD3 7DW.  All are welcome so please come and add your support and ideas.  We hope to form a committee so if you are interested in taking this group forward please contact Pauline 07957 292235 or email p.hill@welshwildlife.org and whether you would like to stand for Chair, Secretary, Treasurer or to assist with planning the programme.

Mammal records on Vicarage Meadows

Pictures of badgers, mice, a fox and a few birds were recorded when we placed wildlife cameras on Vicarage Meadows Nature Reserve.  We proved that bramblings like beech masts, as do the many mice!  The sightings were then recorded with BIS – wired

The remoteness of this reserve makes it very difficult to record many species in any other way.  We may see occasional signs when we do visit but it is good to confirm what is there.

Winter works with the Wildlife Trust in Pembrokeshire

Despite the inclement weather, this season has seen much activity on a number of Wildlife Trust reserves within the county. It is the time of year, outside the breeding season, where work can be undertaken with generally the least impact to wildlife.

The Wildlife Trust has been fortunate to receive funding through the Pembrokeshire Nature Partnership to undertake an open water enhancement project at Llangloffan Fen along with fencing works here and also at Teifi Marshes nature reserve.

An area of open water at Llangloffan Fen has been desilted and areas of the invasive horsetail plant removed. This has improved the aquatic habitat for a variety of species including invertebrates such as dragonflies and damselflies, amphibians, wetland birds such as the kingfisher and rare aquatic plants such as pillwort. Due to much rain and high water levels on the reserve, it didn’t take long for the pool to fill and bird species such as water rail, coot and moorhen were soon seen using the water. Otter has also been reported within the pool.

Habitat benefits of Water Buffalo

Fencing projects have allowed the better management of marshland habitat for conservation at Teifi Marshes with water buffalo now able to graze areas of the reserve previously left to the encroachment of scrubby species. Water buffalo like nothing better than wallowing, thus creating depressions and ponds which are a prefect habitat for invertebrates such as damselflies and dragonflies, amphibians such as toads and newts and also for birdlife. These species in turn help feed the reserve’s population of otters, as well as herons and egrets.

Grazing of water buffalo can maintain the diverse and low height vegetation structure of wet meadows and on marshy areas, trampling of vegetation also creates channels which can be used for dispersal by fish into reedbeds. On reedbed areas they help achieve a variety of habitats, from dense common reed (Phragmites australis) to open channels. These open channels might also provide suitable bittern (Botaurus stellaris) foraging habitat. The buffalo prove adept at using their long, sweeping horns to tear out brambles to reach places where horses and other animals would not venture.

Other reserves in Pembrokeshire

Other winter projects have included the annual cutting of firebreaks and scrub on Dowrog Common (part funded by the Pembrokeshire Wildfire Group), woodland thinning works at Pengelli Forest, ash dieback felling works at West Williamston, Westfield Pill, Teifi Marshes and Pengelli Forest and the refurbishment of a large leaking pond at Teifi Marshes. This revamped pond is located in front of the Welsh Wildlife Centre and will be used for engaging with the general public through pond dipping events, etc. Projects still looking to be completed before summer 2020 include a new 970m boardwalk and bird hide at Teifi Marshes.

If you would like to get involved at our reserves, check out our volunteer pages

Thank you Carmarthenshire Nature Partnership!

Carmarthenshire Volunteers

We have been able to carry on with our grey squirrel control programme in South Lodge Woods this winter, thanks to funding available through the Carmarthenshire Nature Partnership. An unpleasant task, but one that is necessary to safe guard young trees from damage by squirrels. The damage is prevalent within the woods and happens when a tree gets to approximately 15- 20 years old. The squirrels strip the bark to get at the sweet sap filled layers just beneath, as a result we have many stunted and ill formed younger trees.

The site is nationally important for its woodland and the many veteran trees it supports. It is international renowned for the lichen assemblages that inhabit, in particular, the older trees. We are concerned and believe there is a need to protect our young trees which will in turn become our future veterans.

The Local Nature Partnership funding has also paid for some welcome new tools for the Carmarthenshire Volunteers. Numbers of volunteers have increased this past year, and our existing tools have definitely seen better days. Our armoury has now got more of the conservation volunteer stables such as loppers, pruning saws and scythes plus we’ve acquired some new fencing kit. This shall be really helpful in coming years as we have many fences to renew at Carmel NNR amongst others.

Find out more about volunteering here

 

New owl real estate at Castle Woods!

Barn owl nest box in Castle woods

Two new owl boxes have been installed at Castle Woods National Nature Reserve. These have been very kindly put up by Proclimber, a company specialising in fast track tree surgery courses based in Carmarthen. They used the owl boxes as a training exercise for their soon to be arborists.

The boxes, one for a barn owl the other for a tawny have been installed as part of our Glastir Advanced contract. For the barn owl box we chose a lovely totem of standing dead wood at the edge of the woodland. The dead tree is fairly isolated and facing a hay meadow. It is hoped that hunting barn owls will see the box, and more importantly its hole, and explore further.

The tawny owl box in contrast has been placed within the woods as these birds are a woodland species. It has been strapped to the underside of a sloping side limb of a mature tree.

We are very grateful to Proclimber in their help installing these boxes at a suitable height off the ground. Fingers crossed our feathery friends utilise, and successfully fledge, numerous broods of owlets from them.

Follow us on social media for more reserve updates!

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News from Vine House Farm

The Wildlife Trusts have been in partnership with conservation award-winning Vine House Farm Bird foods since 2007 because their business is committed to protecting and enabling the environment they work in to thrive.

Passionate conservationists, Vine House Farm are leading the way in wildlife-friendly farming – growing, packaging and dispatching the vast majority of bird seed they sell from their Lincolnshire farm, ensuring their family-run business always operates with the environment in mind.

Over the last 10 years Vine House Farm have given 5% of their sales to The Wildlife Trusts, with this adding up to more than a million pounds.

Here’s the latest update from the farm blog

The Weather

January was the first month to receive below average rainfall since last April. There have been only three drier Januarys in the last 50 years. It was also milder than average, with only three warmer Januarys in the past 50 years in 1975, 2007 and 2008. We only saw one frost, at -3°C on January 21st.

What’s happening on the Farm?

Here in South Lincolnshire, the land is gradually drying out and now we can get onto a few of our fields. Farmers are desperate to get crops out of the ground and to get some drilling done, which should have been completed last autumn. During the past month, we have lifted another 40 acres of potatoes, with just 35 acres in the ground. Some potatoes are going to supermarket shelves and some will make chips for MacDonald’s. Those for MacDonald’s may not keep very well so we have been talking to the factory, McCain Foods. They are a bit short of potatoes so they will accept the delivery in early February.

By the end of November, things were looking pretty grim for us potato-wise. If all farmers had all their potatoes out of the ground on time, the market price would probably be £100 lower than it is now and maybe we would be worse off than we are now. A 10% shortage or surplus of any of our crops, except sugar beet, makes a big difference to the price. If farmers make a good profit from a shortage, it encourages them to grow more of that crop. Therefore, within a year or two, that crop is in surplus and farmers may well make a loss on it.

There is only one buyer of our sugar beet crop – British Sugar. They set the price for the coming year and we then decide how much to grow. For the past few years they have given us a low price, so farmers did not grow so much. British Sugar thought there was still profit in the crop, so they hired land from farmers to grow it. However they have stopped growing it now, possibly because they didn’t make any money.

Brexit is now with us. Farmers, like everyone else, will be affected but exactly by how much we don’t yet know. Our acreage payment which we currently receive from the EU will be affected, which also supports the environmental stewardship schemes.

For the last three years, farmers have been fearing the worst about our acreage payment after Brexit. Michael Gove seemed to be on our side, as he had both the farmer and the environment in mind. Then along came Boris and austerity has gone out of the window. Although Carrie, his girlfriend, is interested in wildlife so I am quietly optimistic that we won’t be forgotten. In our newspaper earlier this week, it said British farmers were going to be the envy of the world. One can only assume from that we will somehow be better off. Only time will tell, our two biggest variables are the weather and the politician and very often the latter is the greater.

However, with Brexit there will also be new trade agreements. Here in the UK, the standards we farm to are generally higher than most farmers elsewhere in the world. As you know, there is no GM cropping in Europe, we are not allowed to implant our cattle with hormones to make them grow faster, very few countries in the world have free range hens for egg production and our chickens are not chlorinated. Imports need to be restricted to reach the same standards as those we use to farm, to ensure that both the British farmers and consumers are protected.

Wildlife

There are other signs that spring is on its way, apart from the lengthening of the day. I have heard nine different species singing, Wood Pigeon, Collard Dove, Stock Dove, Mistle Thrush, Song Thrush, Robin, Wren, Dunnock and Blue Tit. I have yet to hear a Great Tit.

The Blackbirds are chasing about in the garden mainly around the food and, of course, to minimise that I should be feeding at more than one place in the garden so each male could have his own territory.

We have a 30 acre field covered with birds. It contains 400 Lapwings, 500 Golden Plover, 20 Wood Pigeons, two Stock Doves, 15 Carrion Crows, 150 Black Headed Gulls and varying numbers of Fieldfares. The Golden Plover, Lapwings, Fieldfares and Carrion Crows are looking for invertebrates and the Black Headed Gulls try to rob a Lapwing or a Golden Plover of a worm when they find one. It is surprising how fast a Black Headed Gull can fly, they can catch up with the Lapwings and the Golden Plover.

There are a lot of invertebrates on this field because in August 2018 the field was direct drilled with oil radish the day after the field was harvested. Spring 2019 the field was direct drilled with peas. There were six pairs of Lapwings and two pairs of Oystercatchers that nested in the peas. The peas were harvested and oil radish was drilled the day after. In October, wheat was drilled into the oil radish.

The last four crops have been direct drilled, so there have been no cultivations so all the trash is on top and the invertebrates come to the surface to eat the trash. As we haven’t been cultivating, we haven’t been killing the invertebrates but the birds are doing their best to reduce invertebrate numbers and I am enjoying seeing all the birds.

Due to the wet autumn we didn’t get all the fields drilled with oil radish, but again those field that have been direct drilled with oil radish are attracting far more birds than those that have been cultivated and have not had any oil radish drilled on them.

For a few weeks there have been very few Fieldfare but I am now seeing them again. Some of them have started heading North and East. On their way south and west they were eating berries and on the way back they are looking for worms in whichever field they can find them in. Wildlife has a totally different digestive system and tolerance system to us, a worm is full of soil and other food they find in the soil is certainly not soil free. The geese and ducks thrive on rotten potatoes, but what wildlife can’t cope with is the chemicals that we have produced and some, such as rat poison, are made to taste nice.

The ducks on my wetland have increased in number. I took a photo of them when they were in the air, enlarged it, counted them and the answer was 1100, but the photo didn’t capture all of them. They are mainly Wigeon – grazers that keep the grass short for the Lapwings to nest in. Lapwings like to sit up and see what there is around them, while Redshank like to nest in long grass making their nests very difficult to find.

There are five islands in the 35 acres of wetland where the cattle and sheep were not able to get to in the summer. These provide places for Redshank and other species who rely on long grass when nesting.

Vote for Skomer!

a puffin flying with sand eels in its bill

We are delighted to announce that our wonderful Skomer Island, Pembrokeshire has been nominated in the BBC Wildlife Magazine Awards to win the ‘Best Nature Reserve’ category.

These annual awards are now in their eighth year and recognises the very best of the British countryside.

Skomer is an internationally important wildlife and heritage site located less than a mile off the beautiful Pembrokeshire coast. Well known for its Puffins, yet there is so much more to the bird paradise including Manx Shearwaters, Dolphins, Harbour Porpoises, Atlantic Grey Seal, Razorbills, Gannets, Fulmars and the unique Skomer Vole. The island is surrounded by some of the richest waters for wildlife off the British Isles from delightfully coloured sea slugs to magnificent cetaceans.

During spring the island is covered in a display of beautiful Bluebells so vast that the whole island appears blue! The old fields, the valleys, the cliff tops. No part of the island is spared from this bluebell explosion.  A shade of pink is added to the island’s colour during the summer as swathes of Campion cloak the landscape.

Skomer is truly a wonderful place and needs your vote!

How to vote…

Please visit the BBC Countryfile Magazine website to vote online.

First you will need to register or log in and vote for Skomer Island in the (Best Nature Reserve category).

We would also be grateful if you could also spread the word amongst family/friends and like, share, retweet our social media posts. @WTSWW on Facebook and Twitter.

Voting is now open until the 28th February 2020!

Thank you for your support!