Author: Claire Eynon

Summer Events at Parc Slip

Ringlet Butterfly

Over the summer holidays, get out into the fresh air and explore local wildlife at the beautiful Parc Slip Nature Reserve with our family-friendly wildlife events.

Please note that because of limited spaces booking is essential for these events. To book your place please contact Megan at m.howells@welshwildlife.org or call 01656 724100.

 

Butterflies of Parc Slip: Tuesday 6th August, 11am – 1pm

Join the Wildlife Trust on a sunny day (hopefully!) to help us survey the butterfly species out and about on Parc Slip.

Brilliant Bats: Friday 9th August, 8:30pm – 10pm

Learn about the fascinating world of bats, the UK’s only flying mammal. We will use bat detectors on a night-time walk around the reserve, to find and listen in on the fantastic bats of Parc Slip. Suitable for ages 7+.

Creature Features Craft: Wednesday 14th August, 11am – 1pm

Make a butterfly feeder and/or build a mini-beast hotel for the creatures that live in your garden. Suitable for ages 5+, children must be accompanied by an adult.

Cost: £3 per insect hotel, £1 per butterfly feeder

 

Moth Morning: Wednesday 21st August, 9am – 10am

At Parc Slip we set our overnight light trap to survey the moth species that can be found on the nature reserve. Come along and take part in the recording of our marvellous moths the following morning, when our moth recorders will be checking the trap and identifying the species we’ve caught.

Meadow Walk & Bug Hunt: Wednesday 28th August, 2pm – 3:30pm

Wander the beautiful wildflower meadows at Parc Slip and help us survey the butterflies, bugs and other wildlife that lives there.

 

Holiday Wildlife Watch: Every Thursday in August, 10am -12pm

Join the UK’s leading club for young environmentalists this holiday, as we explore Parc Slip each week to find out about our amazing wildlife. Come and join us for fun activities such as arts and crafts, wildlife walks and bug hunting.

This activity is suitable for ages 5 to 12. Children must be accompanied by an adult throughout the event.

Cost: £2 per child.

A visit to Parc Slip is not complete without a trip to our Visitor centre and coffee shop! Why not join us for a delicious home-cooked meal or slice of cake? We have many vegetarian and vegan options available too. Over the summer holidays the Visitor Centre is open 6 days a week, Tuesday -Sunday 10am until 4pm.

For further details regarding our wildlife events please visit www.welshwildlife.org/events or email People & Wildlife Officer Megan at m.howells@welshwildlife.org.

Skomer Island – 60 years as a National Nature Reserve

Down over South Haven

Skomer has reached a momentous landmark in its long and varied history: sixty years as a National Nature Reserve.

As I try to look back and assess that period, it is startling to realise that I have known and loved the island for almost the whole of that time. I first visited as a schoolboy in 1962, just a couple of years into Skomer’s incarnation as a nature reserve, and it was a day that changed my life forever. The most overwhelming idea that stayed with me from that day was that eventually, whatever it took, I would become warden of Skomer. Instantly, from the confusion of my early teenage years, I had found direction and purpose.

Fulmar gliding

Fulmars glide effortlessly

At that time, I thought very little about the degree to which Skomer was in its infancy as a nature reserve or how tortuous the path had been to secure the island’s future. The importance of Skomer had long been recognised and, since the late 19th century, naturalists had been aware of the need for some protection. The real change began to take shape in 1945, when members of the West Wales Field Society were challenged by their president, Dr Julian Huxley (later Sir Julian Huxley), to be adventurous and enterprising in creating nature reserves on the Pembrokeshire islands.

Led and inspired by their chairman, Ronald Lockley, the society responded to the challenge and, despite many apparently impossible obstacles, they were able to announce in the 1958 winter edition of Nature in Wales: ‘Skomer Island – A New National Nature Reserve – as the result of the co-operation we have enjoyed with the Nature Conservancy we are at last able to announce the establishment of Skomer Island as a National Nature Reserve to be occupied and managed as such by the West Wales Field Society.’

Ronald Lockley outside the Skomer farmhouse in 1946.

Ronald Lockley outside the Skomer farmhouse in 1946.

On 15 June 1959, the island was finally designated as a National Nature Reserve.

Skomer was now owned by the nation and managed on their behalf to conserve wildlife. This was a dramatic development for the island, particularly in terms of protection for the globally important populations of seabirds, including Razorbills, Guillemots, Puffins and Manx Shearwaters, but it also meant so much more than that. It meant that Skomer was now there for everyone: for people like me, who could barely have imagined a place so rich and colourful and teeming with life.

Skomer’s time as a nature reserve spans barely a moment in its history.

People have occupied Skomer for millennia, and the archaeologist, John Evans, has described Skomer as possibly unique in the completeness of its archaeological remains. Present day visitors to the island can clearly pick out these faint patterns of the distant past – from hut circles to field systems – and, hopefully, more recent developments, such as LiDAR imagery, will slowly paint a clearer picture of the nature of that occupation.

Anyone who visits the island will be aware of the old farmhouse and buildings, and that period, particularly the Victorian era, is comparatively well documented. Clear imprints of this successful farm dominate the centre of the island, and, even so many years later, Skomer is, to some extent, still in transition from its long period of cultivation and agricultural use.

Down over South Haven

Down over South Haven

Following my first, unforgettable visit, I was able to return to the island in 1965 with a school friend, Brian Jones, and we became Skomer’s first voluntary wardens. David Saunders, who had been appointed warden in 1960, became our mentor, involving us in every aspect of the island’s work and finding the patience to act as a dedicated teacher. It was then that I had the time and opportunity to build on those first impressions and to discover what it was that made Skomer so extraordinary.

Although it is not large, diamond-shaped, a couple of miles long and just 720 acres, there is so much to Skomer that I don’t think it would possible for the island ever to be entirely known by one person. The most striking introduction for any visitor is going to be the island’s cliffs, and the great bays of North Haven and South Haven, which almost bisect the land, leaving it connected only by the narrow thread of the isthmus.

These cliffs attract tens of thousands of seabirds to breed in the summer months and the havens are strewn with puffins, scattering and diving at the arrival of the passenger boat from the mainland. Most people’s favourite place on Skomer is the Wick, an inlet with a towering cliff of black basalt, skimmed on the opposite side by a sweeping, stone slope, creating a perfect amphitheatre. The deep growls and high, soaring sounds of seabirds echo, overwhelmingly, between the cliffs. Guillemots line up along the ledges, protecting first the egg and then the single chick on the bare, rocky shelves until it is time to fledge.

Mike on the Mew Stone

Mike on the Mew Stone

Chunkier, starkly black and white Razorbills are scattered among them, while the straggling nests of Kittiwakes cling tenaciously and impossibly to the sheer surfaces. Amid the fast-winged flurry of auks, Fulmars glide effortlessly, pale against the shaded inlet, while the insistent call of the Kittiwake rises above the commotion. And yet, for all this drama, most visitors will be completely distracted by the adorable little Puffins scurrying around their feet. As they make their way to the underground burrows honeycombing the cliff top, the Puffins are oblivious (or sometimes even curious) of the enchanted visitors standing quietly among them.

Manx shearwaters

Manx shearwaters

For me the biggest surprise when I finally got to stay on Skomer was the Manx Shearwaters.

As a day visitor it was impossible to imagine how completely the island is transformed at night. As darkness falls and the daytime sounds fade away, there is a period of quiet until the darkness is absolute and the Shearwater calls begin, tentatively at first. A few screeching calls rake through the sky, or bubble up from the ground, accompanied by the faint thumping and scrabbling of birds as they come in to land.

The noise grows until the air is completely clogged with their cries and the slice of wings as birds flash past. To be surrounded by so many birds was a completely unique experience. As I stood among them their numbers were unquantifiable; it just felt like an island full of birds.

I continued to volunteer on Skomer whenever I could, eventually moving on to work in conservation, until I finally fulfilled that long-held childhood dream of becoming warden of Skomer. Rosanne and I married just a few days after the interview for the island post, and we began what turned out to be a ten year stay on Skomer in the spring of 1976. I was then able to become completely immersed in the island, discovering the changes not just from day to night but through the seasons and the years.

I came to treasure that moment when the first Puffins returned to the island in March, brilliant in their new plumage, nervously rediscovering the land after a long winter at sea. From then until the last Shearwater chick fledged in the early days of October, seabirds dominated our lives. In our cliff-top house we were part of the colonies, as Puffins clattered over our wooden, shingle roof during the daytime and shearwaters called from the cellar of the house through the night.

Mike making safety call

Making the routine morning safety call to the coastguards 1n 1978

Although Skomer is principally a seabird island there is so much more to it than that.

As the birds were departing, growing numbers of grey seals were beginning to gather on our beaches, most looking for somewhere to haul out, but some to give birth to their white-coated pups.

The adult seals were incredibly shy then, and we could only hope to watch them by keeping downwind and out of sight. Now that the animals are no longer persecuted they are losing that fear, becoming oblivious to people, and it is heartening to realise how quickly a level of protection can show such positive results. We had the rare privilege of being able to watch seals from our kitchen window, following the progress of individuals from the day of their birth, and including that completely uplifting moment when the pup discovers the freedom of the water for the first time.

Roseanne at sea

Roseanne at sea

We lived so closely with the island that we were aware of the changes, day by day, throughout the season. The winter storms washed away the colour and crushed the vegetation to a bleached crust, so that every spring felt like a new beginning. The earliest pale flowers were primroses in Driftwood Bay, followed by the white of sea campion frosting the cliff tops and filling the air with scent.

The foamy, pink clouds of thrift in areas such as the Wick are now less extensive than those we enjoyed, but the real floral highlight remains undiminished. No visitor to Skomer in May or June could fail to be captivated by the sheets of bluebells sweeping across the island and out towards the sea. To walk a path through this pure blue, enveloped in the humid scent of flowers, is a truly unforgettable experience.

One of the greatest rewards of long acquaintance with the island is learning to live with all its seasons.

We arrived on the brink of a famous heatwave that lasted all summer and scorched the island, shrivelling the vegetation from the cliff edges and depleting our water supply almost to nothing. And yet, within days of the first September rains the island was blooming again with a fine green flush of growth.

The winter storms sometimes lasted for weeks, building waves that thundered against the cliffs and silvered the air with a saltwater haze. Rarest of all was the snow, which few island visitors would ever have the chance to experience. It draped the island in a thick, white quilt, transforming it more dramatically than anything else could. This was beautiful but harsh, cutting off a whole sky full of small birds from any chance of food.

roseanne repairing the roof

Roseanne repairing the roof

By the time we left, in 1986, Skomer was still a relatively young reserve, just a little past its quarter century. Things appeared to be doing well, and we had seen increasing numbers in most of the more important species. If Skomer could have held on to those gains that would have felt like a huge success at a time when there was so much pessimism about our environment. In those intervening years, under the care of the Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales, Skomer has thrived in a way that would have seemed unimaginable.

Our 6,500 pairs of Puffins, have increased fourfold to over 25,000. Guillemots, which reached a low of around 2,300 birds in the 1970s, have soared to ten times that number. During our time on Skomer the Manx Shearwaters were to be doing incredibly well, with numbers peaking at around 120,000 pairs. There were so many birds they seemed to crowd the night sky to saturation point, and it would have been hard to envisage even greater numbers, but they have now reached around 350,000 pairs. Despite this immense presence, visitors to Skomer will see no trace of these burrow-nesting birds during the daytime, and it is not easy to census these elusive visitors, but there can be little doubt that Skomer has the largest and most important breeding colony in the world.

Snow on Skomer

Snow Calves Park and the old farm in January 1985

At a time of so much concern for our environment, Skomer shines out with a near impossible brilliance, and this success is certainly not an illusion, but there is absolutely no room for complacency.

More widely in Europe puffins are declining, and are now classed vulnerable.  A recent stormy winter killed thousands of seabirds around our coasts, and the increasingly unpredictable climate suggests that these wrecks may become more commonplace.

Manx Shearwaters travel half way across the globe, to the shores off South America, every year. In pioneering research, supervised by Tim Guilford, Shearwaters have been fitted with miniature data loggers, providing precise information about where they feed and their exact migration routes. This is ground breaking knowledge, but seeing these once-mysterious journeys traced across a map of the world is also a stark reminder of how far these birds travel, into environments over which we have no control.

Closer to home, this greater understanding of the Shearwater’s movements has made it possible to map the areas used by rafting birds around the island. The studies have shown that these areas are regularly occupied by moored oil tankers. The blaze of lights from the boats is very disorientating, particularly for the fledging birds, discovering their powers of flight for the first time.

In September 2017, Martyna Syposz, a research worker on Skomer, and Ed Stubbings, one of the wardens, spent a night on a tanker moored off the north coast of Skomer.  They found 14 birds which had already become trapped on board, and collected a further 33 individuals during the night. Once on the decks, the birds are unable to escape and, unless captured and released, they will starve to death. Of the birds that Ed and Martyna released, five returned to the boat and two were killed when they collided with the tanker. Great Black-Backed Gulls were also seen attacking the birds around the tanker.

In October 2014, the Welsh Government announced changes to the Pembrokeshire Islands Special Protection Area which included an extension of marine boundaries, specifically to enhance the protection of Manx Shearwaters and other seabirds. In reality, there have been no significant improvements. When there is so little that we can do to address the threats to these birds throughout their global range, it feels like a lost opportunity not to tackle those issues that we can influence.

Guillemots line up along the ledges

Guillemots line up along the ledges

My generation has grown up with an almost subliminal pessimism about the fate of our wildlife, to the point where decline seems inevitable and we can only hope to slow the rate of it. To have seen Skomer thrive throughout its time as a nature reserve is contrary to nearly everything I have grown up to believe, and yet it is important to remember that Skomer once had the potential for so much more.

Tim Birkhead has used photographs of the Wick, taken by Ronald Lockley in 1934, to estimate a minimum island population of around 100,000 Guillemots: four times the present number.

Photographs from the turn of the last century, show the slopes of South Haven thick with Puffins, where now they only form a thin fringe. Perhaps these things will not be possible again, but it is a vital reminder never to set our sights too low, and to hold on to that vision of what the future could be.

Foggy Skies over Skomer

Skomer is a perfect example of why we need nature reserves.

This little fragment of land has an extraordinary richness of wildlife, held in a fragile balance that is maintained by constant vigilance. The ongoing research work has, in some cases, continued unbroken for decades, building an invaluable bank of knowledge that will contribute to the protection not just of the island but the wider environment. All this is possible only because of the dedicated work of the Wildlife Trust staff and research scientists: people who treat these responsibilities as a vocation and recognise the value of what they can achieve. The growing support from volunteers has also been vital in maintaining these high standards.

Perhaps, above all, reserves like Skomer are the most powerful advocate for nature that we could possibly have. The island gives visitors an almost magical insight into somewhere that transcends our ordinary world, and one close encounter with a puffin may speak more eloquently for conservation than a thousand words ever could. I will never forget the moment when I first saw Skomer and will always be grateful for the way it changed my life. I hope that it can go on changing lives for at least another sixty years.

If you would like to more about our time on Skomer Rosanne’s book, Waterfalls of Stars, provides a remarkable insight into those ten wonderful years, when (in the days before internet, telephone or electricity) Skomer felt even more isolated than it does today.

Written by Mike Alexander,  Skomer Warden 1976 – 1986

 

Waterfalls of Stars: My Ten Years on the Island of Skomer

Orchids at Cae Eglwys Nature Reserve, nr Brecon

Orchids and Wildlfowers at Cae Eglwys

Volunteers rewarded for their hard work with an abundance of Wildflowers and Orchids

On a recent work party to clear bracken at Cae Eglyws Nature Reserve, near Brecon our volunteers were able to see the benefits of their labours with a profusion of orchids and other wild flowers.

The orchids are mostly common spotted orchids, broad-leaved helleborine and a very small population of northern marsh orchids. Other flowers include eyebright, common knapweed, common and large birds-foot trefoil, fleabane, common marsh and heath bedstraws amongst many others.

Volunteers have been controlling bracken here since at least 2006 when the meadow was covered with very tall and dense bracken. Now many areas are completely clear or with sparse, short fronds allowing the flowers to flourish.  There are still areas that need more work to stop the bracken spreading back in and to open up more of the meadow.

Long term volunteer, Wendy Ozols, who has been working here since the beginning, enthused

It is so exciting to see how the orchids have spread through out the meadow from a few individuals.  It makes us feel that all the hard work has been worthwhile.

We certainly couldn’t make this difference without our volunteers.

If you would like to help us make a difference to wildlife in the Brecknock area, please contact Pauline by phone  01874 625708 or email p.hill@welshwildlife.org.

Magnificent Moths at Darren Fawr

80 plus species were recorded at the Darren Fawr moth group day and night!

On 8th July the Brecknock moth group met at Merthyr Golf club together with WTSWW staff to put out 6 moth traps on the common known as Cefn Cil-Sanws, the intention was to reach the nature reserve Darren Fawr which has limestone grassland.  However it was a step too far and bracken and rocks slowed us down carrying our traps and batteries.

It was getting dark as the last trap was put out above the privately owned slopes of Dan y Darren Local Wildlife Site and quarry.  It was a warm evening with plenty of midges and we stayed out until almost midnight walking slowly back along the common and checking the traps.

The next morning we met again and started emptying our moth traps, soon we were joined by Lorna Baggett’s Valleys Volunteers.  We found so many moths it was a long morning emptying the traps with a wide range of species including Annulet.  The larvae of this lacy looking moth feeds on rock rose, salad burnet and birds foot trefoil and is also  found nearer the sea.

 

After all this recording  of 80 plus species, some spent the rest of the morning cutting bracken that is spreading over the heath and grassland.

We also noticed large fritillaries fluttering about and Keith Noble was able to get a lovely picture of the underside on one which confirms that it was a dark green fritillary.

Dark Green Fritillary

Dark Green Fritillary. Photo: Keith Noble

Thanks to the Brecknock Moth Group and Dr Norman Lowe and the Valleys & Brecknock volunteers.

If you would like to get involved at future events, explore our events page

Thank You for Helping Us Keep Hearts Beating!

Welsh Wildlife Centre

Following a successful fundraising campaign at our Wildlife Trusts Welsh Wildlife Centre (WWC), Cilgerran we are absolutely delighted to announce that in just two months we have reached our defibrillator appeal target of £1100!

This will know enable the Welsh Wildlife Centre team to purchase a much needed defibrillator for the Visitor Centre. This potentially life saving piece of equipment massively increases the changes of surviving an out of hospital cardiac arrest from just 6% to a massive 74% if used within 3 minutes.

Our ‘lets keep hearts beating’ fundraising appeal was kick started by a generous donation from the wonderful Newport Women’s Institute, Pembrokeshire. We also received donations both small & large from a wide variety of visitors to the centre. It also gives us great pleasure to thank our awesome Welsh Wildlife Centre Glasshouse Café team for donating their tips from the Christmas period to this vitally important fund.  Thank you everyone!

Once in situ full training will be provided free of charge for our staff by Welsh Hearts.

However, the ‘lets keep hearts beating’ funding appeal continues onto stage 2!

We are now in the process of fundraising to equip our Parc Slip Visitor Centre, Bridgend with the same life saving piece of equipment.

Mark Hodgson, WWC Visitor Centre Manager said,

“having, like so many people, lost someone very close to me though cardiac arrest I believe that this life saving piece of equipment can make all the difference when it matters the most”.

Please visit our appeal page to donate today: https://www.welshwildlife.org/appeal/help-us-keep-hearts-beating/

Thank you!

Skomer Island exclusive… Autumn Migration Special

birdwatching on skomer island

We are delighted to be working with renowned Pembrokeshire bird guide Dave Astins of West Coast Birdwatching again this year, with two Autumn Migration Specials taking place on our Wildlife Trust Skomer Island on the 7th – 10th September and the 14th – 17th September.

The 3-day events are limited to 10 places which makes this such an exclusive experience.

Dave has been guiding on Skomer for many years and knows the island well. He has a habit of finding ‘something good’ and it was Dave who found the first ever snowy owl for Skomer this year!

Autumn always brings a diverse range of migrant birds to the island. Most years in September we will see birds such as wrynecks, black and common redstarts, ring ouzels and many warbler species for example yellow browed and grasshopper.

Last September more unusual highlights were a Bonelli’s warber, goshawk, red-backed shrike, grey phalarope and pectoral sandpiper. We also had regular sightings of ringtail hen harriers and one male hen harrier. Who knows what this September will bring?

September is also a great time for sea-watching. Seabirds such as great and artic skua, Balearic shearwaters, Leach’s storm petrels and Sabine’s gulls will be migrating south through the Irish sea and, if conditions are right, you may see some of these from Skomer. Talking of coastline, this time of year we will be in the heart of seal pupping season, Skomer’s beaches will have plenty of these little guys to spot.

And if all that wasn’t enough, the real reason September is my favourite time of year on the island is because of the Manx shearwaters. Mid September is the busiest time of year for fledging Manx shearwater chicks. With around 350,000 breeding pairs of shearwaters on Skomer there is nowhere better in the world to see these elusive birds that only come out of their burrows by night.

To book your place on any of these unique events please ring 01656 724100 or email: islands@welshwildlife.org . The 3 day experience costs £149pp which includes accommodation on the island.

Hope to see you in September!

Sarah Parmor  (Skomer Island Visitor Officer)

Mother’s Day at the Welsh Wildlife Centre

Welsh Wildlife Centre

Treat your lovely Mum to a splendid meal at the Glasshouse Café

Enjoy delicious home cooked food overlooking the stunning views of the Teifi Marshes Nature Reserve. Keep your eyes peeled on social media for a special Mother’s Day menu coming soon but here is just a taster of what to expect…

Main courses

Traditional Roast beef with all the trimmings

Chicken & asparagus roulade with a chive & white wine sauce. G /F

Smoked haddock fillet topped with Welsh rarebit, baked & served atop a spinach & potato cake with a light tomato sauce.

Vegetable moussaka topped with a butterbean & tahini sauce. G/F Vegan

All served with Chefs selection of potatoes & green vegetables.

Puddings

Strawberry meringue roulade. G/F

Cappuccino & Tia Maria cheesecake

Dark chocolate & coconut cream mousse. G/F Vegan

For bookings contact Mark on 01239 621600/ 621212 or m.hodgson@welshwildlife.org

 

If you are looking for the perfect gift, then look no further than the Welsh Wildlife Centre Gift Shop

You can find a huge range of wonderful cards and gift ideas including homewares, jewellery, clothing and accessories, books and much more! Many of the pieces on sale have been handcrafted within West Wales by local artists and these are just five of the latest craft makers to join the ever expanding roster in store!

Jason’s Woodcraft

Jason creates spectacular woodturned bowls, chopping boards, tea lights and coasters from his home in Abercych. He has great artistic flare using techniques such as ebonising to add character and finish his pieces off to an exceptional standard.

Vlad Art

Vlad produces exceptional artwork featuring wildlife, horses, wild animals and country & coastal scenes, mostly from around Wales but also further afield. His artwork can be purchased in print form or the Welsh Wildlife Centre also stocks a wide range of divine cards available too!

Moirath Glass

Moira makes exquisite glass landscapes and decorations inspired by the local area from her studio in Newcastle Emlyn. She uses layers of colour, paint, pattern, texture and print to make each piece with many of her glassworks in store featuring actual feathers or leaves! The light of the suns rays passing through each piece produces an awe-inspiring display of colour.

Aled Jenkins

Aled creates delightful clocks, vases, bird houses & feeders and jewellery from reclaimed and recycled Welsh slate at his home near Llandysul.  He focuses on producing tactile pieces with a smooth finish and the attention to detail on each item is superb!

Anita Woods

Anita is a figurative artist inspired by the animals, landscape and sea of West Wales. Her artwork features an array of adorable native wildlife, as well as local scenes and loveable dogs. Anita supplies both canvas and mounted prints to the shop at great value prices and these would make a lovely addition to any home.

Pop into the Welsh Wildlife Centre shop to browse all of these magnificent pieces from our local crafters, or shop online at www.welshwildlife.org/shop for a whole range of alternative gift ideas from puffin memorabilia to jigsaw puzzles!

 

Amazon Smile

If you’re looking for gifts that we don’t stock in our online shop, why not try Amazon Smile.

We’ve become part of the Amazon Smile initiative. Amazon Smile is an easy way to make charitable donations to us without costing you anything extra! Simply shop at www.smile.amazon.co.uk – the same amazon you know with the same products, prices and service but Amazon Smile will donate 0.5% of the price of your eligible Amazon Smile purchases to us.

Support us by shopping on our online shop, or through Amazon Smile and selecting The Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales as your charity to support – Thank you.

Happy shopping!

One to watch this spring……..Wales: Land of the Wild!

walking on skomer island

BBC One Wales and S4C will show you Wales as you’ve never seen it before this spring with a new landmark natural history series that tells the story of our amazing wildlife through one extraordinary year.

If you loved BBC Blue Planet and Planet Earth II then Wales: Land of the Wild is not to be missed…it also features a special Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales Nature Reserve and a variety of awesome wildlife that call it home. You’ll have to tune in the spring it to find out which one!

Hollywood star Michael Sheen, who was raised in Port Talbot, will narrate Wales: Land of the Wild for BBC One Wales, with a soundtrack written by world-renowned composer Sir Karl Jenkins and his son Jody, and performed by the BBC National Orchestra of Wales.

Wales: Land of the Wild / Cymru Wyllt is produced by Plimsoll Productions, an award-winning wildlife team who have also worked on Blue Planet, Planet Earth II and Springwatch for the BBC. They have also brought together the passion and expertise of wildlife enthusiasts across Wales, including series consultant Iolo Williams.

Together they have used their unparalleled knowledge to uncover the secrets of Wales’ rich habitats, as well as using the latest wildlife-filming technology to give viewers unprecedented access to a huge cast of creatures both great and small.

BBC Wales Head of Commissioning, Nick Andrews, says:

“Wales has some of the richest and most beautiful wildlife in the world, and I’m delighted that BBC Wales is able to tell these spectacular stories in Wales: Land of the Wild. It brings together the best of Welsh talent both on and off the screen to tell the defining story of Wales’ natural history. This ground-breaking series will uncover a Wales most of us have never seen before.”

Michael Sheen says:

“Land of the Wild is a revelation. It shows us a Wales as wild, as magical and as savagely beautiful a place as we have always felt it to be – and this landmark piece of Welsh television reveals it to us in all its natural glory like never before.”

The Welsh language version Cymru Wyllt will air on S4C.

For information on our Wildlife Trust Nature Reserves please visit www.welshwildlife.org . You can also follow us on Facebook /Wtsww, Twitter @WTSWW and Instagram Wildlife TrustSWW

Help us protect our precious Islands from invaders!

House-mouse-copyright-Amy-Lewis

Are you planning a day visit or overnight stay to Skomer or Skokholm in 2019? If yes then we need your help to keep our special islands safe from invaders.

The islands of Skomer and Skokholm are home to breeding populations of seabirds of both national and international importance. There are no significant ground predators (such as large mammalian predators or snakes) on the islands. Their continued absence is key to the future conservation of our seabirds and other ground-nesting birds.

The introduction of new species such as rats, or even other, smaller rodents, poses the greatest current, and acute, risk to our islands. Islands such as neighbouring Ramsey, where rats arrived via shipwrecks, are testament to the damage that can be caused; significant increases in breeding seabird species are only being recorded there after costly and time-consuming rat eradication in relatively recent history.

It is also important to note that whilst mammal introductions present a significant threat, other introductions such as of new plant species also have the potential to massively impact the island’s ecology (potentially including the seabird populations).

What  You Can Do Help..

Whilst the accidental introduction of rats or mice may feel unlikely, the consequences could be devastating. For this reason it is essential that we maintain strict biosecurity and quarantine for all people and luggage travelling to Skomer and Skokholm. Adopting some quick and easy safeguards could make all the difference. These apply to both day visitors and overnight visitors to both islands.

(1) Pack all luggage yourselves

(2) Pack all luggage in a rodent-free environment (e.g. avoid garages, sheds)

(3) If packing before the day of your arrival, store all packed luggage sealed and in a rodent-free environment. On the day of travel, inspect luggage to ensure no rodent has accessed the containers.

(4) Do not bring anything that might present a threat onto the island. This includes plants with root balls / compost (including potted herbs), seeds etc.

(5) All luggage must be closed. Open bags and unsealed luggage will not be permitted to land on the islands.

 (6) Avoid leaving your luggage unattended in Martins Haven as this is a high risk area where rats are regularly recorded.

Thank you for your help keeping Skomer and Skokholm special.

BioSecurity Luggage-poster

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What would actually happen if a rat or mouse got on the island?

The seabirds on Skomer and Skokholm thrive because there are no ground predators- no foxes, weasels, hedgehogs, rats, snakes or similar. As close as neighbouring Ramsey Island, rats arrived historically via shipwrecks, and significant increases in seabird species have only been recorded after incredibly costly and time-consuming rat eradication procedures have been undertaken.

Rats have preyed on 75 species of seabird around the world. One academic paper describes rats as being amongst some of “the largest contributors to seabird extinction and endangerment worldwide”. The arrival of one pregnant female could be all it takes to put Skomer or Skokholm at that level of risk.

2. Why have you made these changes? We’ve been coming for years but this is new.

With increasing numbers of people coming to the Pembrokeshire islands, the risk of rats and mice arriving has increased significantly. There is also greater awareness of how severe the impacts can be. By taking this action, we are bringing our safeguards in line with similar island nature reserves around the world. We know you visit Skomer because it is special, and we all want to keep it that way.

3. I know this bag is safe- why are you making me check or re-pack it?

Our quarantine policy will only work if we adhere to it absolutely. We have made the decision to prevent any open bags and boxes being landed on the island. Small mice for example can hide remarkably well and whilst your home might be rodent free, things like rucksacks, sleeping bags etc. may be stored in garages, attics or sheds that are less rodent-proof. Therefore we are asking the contents of all open bags- however empty or visible- to be manually re-packed into sealed containers which we will be able to loan you for your journey.

4. What about big deliveries to the island?

We have developed a wider quarantine plan which looks at all movements of people and materials to the island and addresses each according to the risk it presents. The movement of all materials will be subject to quarantine. More information on our wider procedures is available on request.

For further information or specific queries, contact Lizzie Wilberforce  (Conservation Manager) on l.wilberforce@welshwildlife.org

Wild Times Ahead for Cardigan Bay Marine Wildlife Centre!

children on the beach following a seashore safari

We are delighted to announce that our Cardigan Bay Marine Wildlife Centre (CBMWC), New Quay will be launching a brand new WILDLIFE WATCH group this March 2019 with an exciting range of WILD family fun activities and events.

Wildlife Watch is the junior branch of The Wildlife Trusts and the UK’s leading environmental action club for children. There are around 300 Wildlife Watch groups across the UK. By going along to a group you will be able to make friends with other nature detectives and have lots of fun.

Families and children can explore the rock-pools, become a Dolphin Detective, or learn more about Spectacular Seaweed!

Wildlife Watch sessions at CBMWC will run during term-time from 2-4 pm on the following Saturdays during 2019:

Saturday March 23rd,

Saturday April 27th,

Saturday May 18th,

Saturday June 15th,

Saturday July 20th,

Saturday September 14th,

Saturday October 19th

Children will just need to bring their love for all things wild, natural curiosity and enthusiasm, plus a pair of wellies, and a responsible adult! The sessions are £2 per child.

For more information regarding the sessions at CBMWC please contact Aline on 01545 560224 or email info@cbmwc.org . Booking is essential.

The Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales, Cardigan Bay Marine Wildlife Centre. Patent Slip Building, Glanmor Terrace, New Quay SA45 9PS

Surprise, surprise!

sunfish

Wales is a popular destination for both people and marine wildlife alike.

During the summer months Welsh waters are visited by a number of surprising species that most people would never expect to find here!

The ocean sunfish is the largest of the bony fishes and they visit our seas to feast upon jellyfish.

An odd looking fish, their body is flat and circular and they have two elongated fins that look like wings. You can spot these strange animals resting on their side at the surface of the sea basking in the sun, hence the name! With their fin near to the surface they are often mistaken for sharks but they are unmistakable when seen up close.

Between May and October basking sharks, the second largest fish in the world, can also be spotted in our waters.

These 8 metre (26ft) long, ocean giants are filter feeders, opening their mouth up to a metre wide and filtering plankton from the water! Basking sharks are rarely seen during the winter months as they spend their time in deeper water feeding on plankton.

The most surprising of our summer visitors is the leatherback turtle and like the sunfish they come here to feed on jellyfish.

The largest individual ever record was found dead on a North Wales beach and he was around 2m long, weighed over 900kg and was believed to be over 100 years old! Leatherback turtles are unique amongst turtles as they can happily survive in colder seas, allowing them to live at higher latitudes where there are more jellyfish.

For further information on The Wildlife Trusts marine work please visit www.welshwildlife.org or livingseas.wales Follow us on Facebook and Twitter too @Wtsww  and @LivingSeasWales

What’s Occurring? February – March 2019

White-tailed Bumblebee on first Dandelions

First Signs of Spring

Seventy days after the winter solstice light is the major factor that is pushing almost all forms of life towards growth and breeding. Lengthening days makes temperature a contributory factor but it is normally fickle and not to be relied on. With temperatures in excess of 10ºC above the norm during the day and overnight frosts in this late February things are getting out of hand, with a record temperature in Aberystwyth in excess of 20ºC on the 25th. And that record was broken the following day on 26th with a temperature of 21ºC recorded at Kew Gardens, in contrast to a temperature of -17ºC recorded at Farnborough on 26th February 2018.

Some animals live in an environment where air temperature is not so critical, so trout have been spawning in rivers all winter with the water temperature between 8ºC and 5ºC. Whereas other animals live most of their lives where neither light nor air temperature have a direct effect, moles for instance…

A Mole’s life

Moles live a predominantly solitary life, but mole’s little home is actually a discrete network of tunnels. And their position and direction can be seen most easily at this time of year demarcated by the mole hills pockmarking the turf of a field or lawn.

Extraordinarily these tunnel networks become very prominent in the first quarter of the year, so what is going on? The tunnel network is designed as a trap for any mini beasts burrowing through the soil to fall into, which the resident mole patrols at regular intervals. Earth worms are the favourite fodder closely followed by beetle larvae, moth pupa, and leatherjackets.

With February being their breeding season the excellence and effectiveness of these civil engineering projects is an important factor in moles pairing up, encouraging the ladies to come calling.

Spring behaviour

On a warm sunny day there are a number of behaviours that show that spring is well on its way.  Magpies are seen in pairs or groups divisible by two. Wood pigeons undertake their significant dipping display flight with a loud wing clap and also can be heard cooing on a branch somewhere nearby, wooing a partner with much head and tail bobbing. Collared Doves make quite spectacular vertical display flights and the robin’s weak and reedy winter song starts to change.

Courting with Worm Charming, anyone?

Anyone in the Welsh lowlands and particularly urban areas should have seen Herring Gulls tap dancing on short grass turf on road verges, roundabouts, and in parks on moist mornings or after a shower of rain.  Are they trying to emulate Fred Astaire?

Well no, they are trying to find protein rich “sausages” with a core of fine earth, they are indeed worm charming. Or at least trying to scare any mini beasts into the open for a potential snack.  And in doing so they are cementing the pair bond with their partner for the forthcoming breeding season, although I have never seen them feed each other. We will soon have that raucous head back display call which wakes everybody up in the early morning.

Still Sleeping or Not?

Some beasts are still hibernating such as your garden snails, others are being subtler about it. BEWARE of curious piles of deciduous leaves it could be a hedgehog hibernaculum.  Pat Morris’ new monograph the Hedgehog No 137 in the New Naturalist Library published last year, states that these hibernacula are built for insulation both to keep the frost out and also to keep the warmth of an early spring day out as well.

Garden Snails Hibernating

Hibernating garden Snails

Other hibernators awake earlier such as the amphibians and of course there is frog spawn everywhere.

And we are just on the cusp of our early spring flowers opening, and with that, our hibernating queen bumblebees, particularly Buff-tailed, White-tailed, and Spring/Early species [orange tailed] are emerging. All these queens are carrying the hopes and fears for the year, a full set of fertilised eggs with which to found and maintain a bumblebee colony. So please look after them carefully and release them, should they accidentally enter your home.

These flowers also feed the range of hibernating butterflies, Brimstone, Comma, Small Tortoiseshell, and Peacock, all of who have been seen on the wing in the last week.

What is Flowering?

Some flowers like the Bitter-cress family flower all winter long with tiny white flowers producing large amounts of seed to give gardener’s something to do all summer. Without many if any insects about plants in general use self-pollination or other species such as hazel resort to wind pollination.

The male yellow pollen filled hazel catkins are obvious in the hedgerows and along motorway embankments. The little red tuft of hairs that makes up the visible part of the female flower is much more-subtle at the top of the photograph.

male and female hazel catkins

Male and Female Hazel Catkins

Who is on the move?

Black-headed Gulls have gone off to moult their body feathers to give themselves some semblance of being black-headed before they breed.

With the wintering birds leaving, spring migrant birds are already arriving including Sand martins, Swallows and our first leaf warblers the Chiffchaff. The Chiffchaff being first is hardly a surprise as they have taken to overwintering in UK. If they have migrated, it is only to winter in the Mediterranean and North Africa so less distance to return, whereas their doppelgänger the Willow Warbler, with that wonderful “waterfall of notes” as a call, crosses the Sahara into West Africa and will not be back until late April.

A big dragonfly, the Vagrant Emperor, has ignored the fact that it is the end of February and arrived from the Sahara to hunt for insects over Poppit Sands in the Teifi Estuary. Together with a number of sightings of Painted Lady butterfly across West Wales, a species which also migrates here from North Africa in some years, and occasionally this early, but is also known to return south in the autumn, rather than hibernate.

With the spring equinox on 20th March, we are close to having more daylight than darkness, and the intensity of the dawn chorus will increase. Some of the wind section have been practising, but it is normally not until mid-March that the entire population of male Blackbirds all join in. And then you know it is spring…