Author: Claire Eynon

Exclusive Guided Walks with West Coast Birdwatching – Sold Out

Birdwatching on Skomer

Adventure into the wilderness of Skomer

Please note: the exclusive guided walks have now sold out. However, we would be happy to add you to a waiting list should anyone drop out.

Do you want the opportunity to spend the day immersed in Skomer’s wildlife? Surrounded by spectacular seabirds? We have four exclusive guided walks on Skomer in 2018, running on Mondays, when the island is closed to everyone else!

Skomer Island, just a mile off the coast of Pembrokeshire is home to some spectacular wildlife. The seabird burrows that honeycomb the island are a result of 25,000 Puffins and the world’s largest breeding colony of Manx Shearwaters, 316,000 pairs. Its cliffs are alive with 25,000 Guillemots, 7000 Razorbills and hundreds of Fulmars and Kittiwakes and its valleys are awash with bird calls.

As you walk through the valleys you should see Great Black-backed Gulls, the largest gull in the world, nesting on rocky promontories and in the bushes there will be the migrant breeding Whitethroats and Sedge Warblers.

Join Dave Astins of West Coast Birdwatching for a guided tour of all the best bits Skomer has to offer, in the middle of the breeding season. Not only is it the opportunity to see seabirds up close and personal, it’s also the opportunity to search for some of the more difficult to see wildlife; Short-eared Owls and Little Owls, whilst being guided by a local expert. You’ll spend the day covering the island, from huge seabird colonies at the Wick, through to dramatic cliffs on the west coast, perfect for Chough, and subtle valleys in the centre of the island, perfect for breeding Short-eared Owls.

“[Dave is] a guide who exceeded all expectations and who quite simply MUST be the most knowledgeable, personable and enthusiastic birder in Pembrokeshire at least”

To see previous trip reports please go to

The walks are running on 30th April, 14th May, 18th June and 2nd July. £49 per person.

To book please contact the booking office on 01656 724100 or

What’s happening in Ceredigion

Conservation work

Winter Works in Ceredigion

The treepoppers (and volunteers!) have been working hard again this month! (Treepoppers are large levers that remove the whole tree with its roots.)

We’ve finished wrestling out the willows in one of the meadows at Rhos Pil Bach. It’s a very muddy job that has at times seemed endless! We’re now trimming back some of the bigger willows around the edge that are encroaching and in places rooting in the meadow.

They’ve removed blackthorn and other scrubby trees at Rhos Glyn yr Helyg too.

We have also resurfaced the parking layby at Old Warren Hill and Coed Penglanowen which had got very muddy. Thanks to the North Ceredigion Local Group who paid for the materials.

Thank you to NRW and People’s Postcode Lottery for their support with some of this work

If you’d like to join our work parties, get fit and meet new people, contact Em:

Tick off what you see in Ceredigion

It is important for us to know what is on our nature reserves, it helps us protect it and plan our future work.

Over the last year Em has been working to update the biological records we hold for all the nature reserves in Ceredigion. This has included the records West Wales Biological Information Centre (WWBIC) held.

This is where you come in! There are a lot of very knowledgeable people out there who visit our reserves and it would be very useful to know what you see. We have used the updated records to create vegetation tick lists for each reserve that visitors can use to keep us updated of what they see. This in turn keeps the reserve records up to date. A spreadsheet (xls or xlsx) containing all the tick lists can be downloaded from the individual reserve pages on our website and click on a reserve.

To let us know what else you see: birds, butterflies, amphibians… email Em at

Please include a date and if possible a grid reference (otherwise we will use the centre of the reserve).

So go on, get out there and tell us what you see! Thanks!

Pixie cups       

Help Reduce Plastic in our Oceans

Common Dolphins under water

The Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales cover half of Wales’ coastline. Our marine team, who are based at Cardigan Bay Marine Wildlife Centre in New Quay, work tirelessly to ensure that our marine wildlife is protected, free from plastic and awareness is raised about the issues that it currently faces.

Unfortunately, our seas are in trouble and we desperately need your help, and the help of your friends and family, to reduce the number of plastics that are dumped into the ocean every day!

Sadly it is estimated that there will be more pieces of plastic in the ocean by 2020 than fish!

Research has shown that some 90% of seabirds consume plastic which becomes lodged in their stomachs disrupting feeding, the plastic particles can also release toxic chemicals into their bodies. Animals can also become entangled in plastic debris, discarded or lost fishing gear.

The great news is that as a nation we have started to take responsibility for this and have begun charging for plastic bags and have banned the use of microplastics in cosmetics and cleaning product, but we all need to be the change that you want to see in the world.

By making little changes to your daily life, you can help reduce your plastic waste.

Here are 5 easy steps you can follow to help reduce your plastic waste:

  1. Use reusable water bottles
  2. Use jute or cotton bags
  3. Say no to plastic straws, use paper or steel straws
  4. Use a reusable coffee mug
  5. Buy loose fruit and vegetables

The biggest way we can all make an impact is to share what we’ve learnt so that others can follow in our footsteps. So please spread the word about what each and every one of us can be doing to help minimise plastic waste, for the sake of our marine life.

Don’t forget to check products in your house don’t contain microplastics (look for polyethylene (PE), polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA), nylon polyethylene terephthalate (PET) and polypropylene (PP) on the labels. You can also contact your local supermarkets and ask them to reduce the amount of plastic packaging they use.

Please spread the word and help us raise awareness for the ways in which everyone can help make our oceans cleaner and protect marine wildlife for the future.

Find out more about our marine conservation work and volunteering with us

Menna’s Marathon Challenge

Menna running in the Fan Dance race

The lovely Menna Evans will be running the full length of Britain to help raise funds for The Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales!

Her JustGiving page is open for donations which will be donated to us as she progresses through the incredible journey that she is about to embark upon. She tells us why she decided to take on such a mammoth task…

Following the death of my father last March, I decided that I wanted to fulfil a dream of his and that was to walk (but I’ll be running it!) from John O’Groats to Lands End (JOGLE) during the summer of 2019. However, these past 11 months of preparation and training have been going so well, that I have decided to bring JOGLE forward and start this July 2018!! I also fear that as it has been going so well, that I don’t want to push my luck and bring on any unnecessary injuries! I have successfully raced in a few half marathons and an Ultra this winter, including a win (1st Lady, 4th overall) in the Fan Dance race (which is also used as part of the SAS selection process), located in the Brecon Beacons.

So the daunting task of organising such a big challenge is underway. Including the careful planning of a (scenic but not short in distance!) route, a schedule of dates, finding an affordable motorhome suitable to keep my 68 year old Mum and 4 year old son comfortable and happy and of course any extra fundraising that can be done along the way! I’m actually finding this harder than any training I’m doing as any self-employed, single parent can vouch for, spare time is a rarity! Managing to fit training most days is hard enough, let alone time to do admin. But.. I’m not grumbling, just knuckle down and do it.. it’s a marathon in (electronic) paperwork form. Surely good practice for the summer, just less fresh air!

Every session I do is quality rather than quantity. Concentrating on form and giving 100% effort so that I maximise each session. A mixture of cross training (exercise other than running) has been key as it prevents injury and keeps it interesting and fun. It’s all about training my body to get used to being active every day and as I get closer to July will start to increase distances. Let the countdown begin!

Here’s a snapshot of the training I am typically doing right now:

Monday – Circuits at Legends Health & Fitness

Tuesday – Track session (10 x 2mins, 400m)

Wednesday – Hill repetitions (15 x 200m)

Thursday – 8 mile run (treadmill) incl. 2x 10mins steady

Friday – 12 mile (long) run and Weights Session at Legends Health & Fitness

Saturday – Swim

Sunday – Mountain Biking

Training has to remain flexible for me as I need to be able to fit family life and work around it, so days off and/or a change to the above, happen frequently.

On the lead up to JOGLE, I will be taking part in the following events:

Nant yr Arian Silver Trail Marathon – 17th March

Aberaeron to Lampeter 21 miles – 28th April

Brecon Beacons Ultra Trail Challenge – 5th May

London to Brighton Challenge 100km – 26th/27th May

Snowdonia Trail Marathon – 15th July


Please show your support and sponsor Menna… every donation helps to spur her on along the way!

If you would like to follow her progress and see what she’s been up to until now, then find her on Facebook:

A magical morning at Llyn Fach

One of the most beautiful sights to have ever met my eyes was Llyn Fach on a frosty February morning.

As I walked up the footpath that led to the lake, every step created a crunch underfoot. I noticed fox footprints frozen into the ground. The sky was a clear blue with smudges of cloud, and the only sounds were of running water and birdsong. As I came into view of Llyn Fach, the sun was peeking out from behind the top of the cliffs beyond the lake, and the rays of sunlight were hitting the powdery snow on the frozen surface of the lake and scattering rainbows in all directions. In the stream icicles like slivers of crystal hung suspended on blades of grass over the icy cold water.

Llyn Fach is one of our newest nature reserves and is the southernmost montane lake in the British Isles. The lake sits at the base of towering cliffs and scree slopes, and is surrounded by a mosaic of marshy grassland, bog and heathland, bordered by plantation forestry. During the warmer months Dragonflies and Damselflies skim the lake surface and sunbathe on strands of rush. Frogs, Toads and Newts can be uncovered in the bog, along with signs of the elusive Water Vole. You can often spot the tell-tale spraint of Otters on tufts of grass around the fringes of the lake and hear (if not see) Coot, Little Grebe, or even a Cuckoo.

Lorna Baggett, The Wildlife Trust’s Wildlife Trust Officer for the Rhondda has described a particularly beautiful day that she witnessed over the winter …

On this particular wintery morning, I was joined by volunteers to help with habitat management on the nature reserve. We have been removing conifer regeneration and reducing the spread of bramble, both of which could become detrimental to the habitat if they became established. As we worked quietly in the increasing warmth of the sunshine, I lifted my head to discover a fox trotting along the footpath that leads to the lake. It was just the other side of the stream from where we stood, and despite catching sight of us, it continued to walk along the path, stopping occasionally to sniff at the ground. The foxes’ russet coat and long bushy tail (also known as a ‘brush’ or ‘sweep’) becomes denser in the winter, and is shed before the spring, allowing for better temperature control. Still, this fox wasn’t lingering in the cold and lithely trotted away into the forest and out of sight.

It took my breath away to see such a beautiful wild animal also out experiencing this enchanting frosty February morning, and it is a memory that will stay with me for a long time.

by Lorna Baggett, Reserves Officer – Valleys

Find out more information about volunteering opportunities.

Icicles over a stream    An icy stream

Importance of Nest Boxes

Blue Tit in Nesting Box by Gillian Day. Nest box Workshop

Every year Valentines Day marks the start of National Nest Box Week (14th-21st February). The week aims to encourage people to contribute to the conservation effort of breeding birds in the UK, by putting up nest boxes in their local area i.e. in a garden or local park.

Nest boxes are becoming increasingly important for breeding birds as natural nest sites, holes in trees and old buildings, disappear due to building repairs or manicuring gardens. Loss of these habitats can have devastating consequences for bird species which use the same nest site year on year, for example swifts. Swifts often nest in spaces under the eaves of old houses and churches, this allows the bird to drop into flight straight from the nest. When these buildings are repaired those vital nest sites are lost, this causes a huge problem for swifts, which pair for life and meet their mate every year at the same nest site.

Thankfully nest boxes are an effective replacement for natural nest sites. There are different nest boxes to suit the varying needs of different species. The most familiar nest box shape for many people is the blue tit box, a small box with a hole approximately 25mm in diameter. Robins and wrens prefer an open-fronted box, whereas sparrows, which like to nest with neighbours, often have boxes which contain three or more nest compartments. Lost swift nest sites can be replaced by fitting a nest box under the eaves of a multi-storey house, or by installing a ‘swift brick’ into the wall as a new building is made (see:

Putting a nest box in your garden is a fantastic thing to do for breeding birds, and you may have the privilege of seeing breeding birds move in and raise their young.

by Megan Howells, People and Wildlife Officer

Visit our wildlife gardening page for more information about building your own nest box.

News from Vine House Farm

A Brambling sitting on a tree

Vine House Farm supply wild bird food direct from their conservation award winning farm and at low prices. 5% of the profit from all sales goes towards the work of The Wildlife Trusts! 😊

News from Vine House farm

January has been drier than average here at Deeping St Nicholas, only 39mm, or 1.5 inches, of rain. It has been milder than average, but there is a saying: ‘as the days get longer the cold gets stronger’ – only time will tell whether that is so this year, or not.

January is a month when all the tractors are in the sheds as it is not good husbandry for them to be on the land during the winter months. TOther parts of the country may be ploughing and/or drilling spring barley but not us, our land is too heavy. You only have to go to the other side of Spalding before the soil gets a lot lighter, and work carries on through the year.

What’s happening on Vine House Farm?

We have been busy loading potatoes to send out to pre-packers who supply Morrisons and Waitrose. These potatoes have been on a price and quality contract, where the price is £100/tonne more than the free buy price – fortunately, they have been received with no complaints. We have another 600 tonnes to move in February to McCains at Whittlesey or Scarborough, which are also at a fixed price, to make chips. As soon as the chips are made and partially cooked, they are frozen. They are not to be put in store for the long term as keeping food frozen is expensive, but just long enough to make sure there is a continuous supply of all the different products. These potatoes will have to be put over our grader and so will take a bit more time and organisation to load on to lorries, than our pre-pack varieties, which are loaded into boxes. The chips are made from a different variety to the pre-pack potatoes and have to be kept at a different temperature. If you keep potatoes at 7°C or below, they will fry a dark colour. Some of us don’t mind the chips to be a medium to dark brown, but the chip and crisp factories insist that they fry a yellowy-cream colour. If they don’t have this colour, they will be rejected and then what do we do with them?

Twenty-five years ago chip and crisp factories were wanting as little waste in their factories as possible. One or two factories were asking their growers to wash the potatoes before they were delivered, not a job that most of us were wanting to do. McCains never went down that route, but from next season McCains are asking us to send the potatoes in as grown, they are going to deal with all the small, ugly, cut and green potatoes that would normally go for feeding animals They have built a bio-gas plant and are hoping that if they ferment all those waste potatoes, it will make enough gas to power their chip factory with electricity.

We also have 800 tonnes of wheat to load that has been sold, to be moved in February. That shouldn’t take too much time as one man can easily load 200 tonnes in a day. It will be destined for one of the local mills that makes chicken or pig food. Our two local mills are now 40 and 60 miles away, which work 24 hours a day, seven days a week, all helping to make food cheaper. Forty years ago our local mills were six and 13 miles away and we delivered it to them by tractor and trailer. Most of the wheat we grow is now grown for animal feed as our Fenland soil does not grow a good bread-making wheat.

The varieties of wheat that are good for making bread yield less and so it makes good sense to grow them on land that will produce that good bread-making wheat. The summer weather makes a difference – a sunny June and there will be lots of good quality bread wheats about. When it has been a poor summer, the millers will have to import wheat from other parts of the world to blend with our wheat. They know the quality they require and where they import it from will depend on the transport costs to get it to the UK.

Wildlife at Vine House Farm

Every morning I go down the farm with bird food to feed birds. I am feeding the sweepings, cleaned out of elevators and spills, to well over 1000 birds – not all in one place though.

70 Linnets at my first stop, 25 Blackbirds and 100 Chaffinches at the next stop. At the third stop, there are 400 Chaffinches, 100 Tree Sparrows, 200 Reed Buntings, 20 Blackbirds, a few Goldfinches, Yellowhammers, Greenfinches and Bramblings. 400 Chaffinches, 300 Reed Buntings, 50 Tree Sparrows, 10 Yellowhammers, 20 Greenfinches, 5 Bramblings, 2 Blue Tits, 10 Stock Doves, 10 Blackbirds and a Sparrowhawk are all at the final daily stop. I have other places where I feed birds from feeders that are visited twice a week.

Two weeks ago, we had Fieldfares in nearly every field sown with wheat. They stopped for about a week and then disappeared. On 31st January, we had 150 Fieldfares arrive down the farm. I ask myself are they birds that have just arrived from the continent, or are they birds that are birds moving around the country?

There are signs of spring all around, snowdrops and aconites are out in flower and hazel catkins are blowing in the wind. We have also had a Mistle Thrush singing on and off for the past month.

No doubt many of you saw BBC’s Winterwatch, where they were putting out various trays of seed to see which birds liked which seed. That is what we were doing 20 years ago, and so we were then able to make our various mixes and most importantly, not include those seeds the birds didn’t eat. Just a word of caution, don’t go ordering Oil Seed Rape to encourage Linnets, as they are not keen to come into our gardens, as they are a bird of the open countryside.

I went to the Solway Firth for a long weekend, at the end of January, one of my favourite places, to see Barnacle Geese. I like to get on the east side of the mouth of the River Nith at dawn; this is the river that flows through Dumfries.

Thousands of Barnacle Geese fly off the sea, or the sand depending on the state of the tide, round the corner and up the River Nith. When I arrived there were already Pink Footed Geese coming off in ‘V’ shapes, flying quite high. Out on a sandbank, in the distance, I could see hundreds of Geese. Some started to fly towards me and I soon had Barnacle Geese flying low over the sea near me yapping like little dogs as they battled against the fresh South to South Westerly wind.

Hundreds more came to join those on the sandbank, some of those didn’t stop and carried on towards me, then more followed them, they came past me some of them only 20 yards away some only 10 or 20 feet high yapping away, in small skeins and large skeins. It was a bird watcher’s dream to have so many geese so close and so low. This spectacle really excited me to see all these geese that just kept coming for five or ten minutes, blown near to me on the SSW wind. I had myself tucked into a creek, so very few of them saw me. It really made my visit to the Solway well worthwhile.

Gelli Hir – A Woodland Haven for Wildlife & the Community : Work continues…

a dirt path running through gelli hir woodland during summer

After a short hiatus while we delivered habitat work elsewhere, including thinning and coppicing in Priors and gorse clearance on the South Gower Coast, we have started 2018 with a push to deliver some more of the work in the Enovert Community Trust (formerly Cory Environmental Trust in Britain) funded Gelli Hir -A Woodland Haven for Wildlife & the Community project.


We have been working with contractors to make improvements to accessibility. Known for its mud we have altered drainage and surfaced the 380m path which skirts the north-eastern boundary linking the main track and the newly built track. This is one of the more popular routes in the woodland and we hope that by making it more accessible will give visitors a better experience. We have already observed that it’s much easier to look around and spot wildlife if the going is easier underfoot. This path is currently still closed while the surfacing firms up and we will open it as soon as possible; please bear with us.

We have also cleaned out ditches and scraped the surface of the main track all the way down to the pond and also scraped the access to the bird hide. It may look a little shocking to the eye at the moment but by spring you can be assured it will have greened up and settled down again. This maintenance work had not been down for at least twenty years and is more economically sensible than letting things degrade until they need rebuilding and is essential to maintain good access.

As part of the project we are planning a number of community events through spring and summer. These will include a number of habitat management days, a dawn chorus walk, a well-being walk (as part of the Gower Walking Festival), a bat walk and some celebration days of woodland activities. Keep your eye on posters at the entrance to the woods & our website and social media for dates.

If you have any queries please get in touch with Paul

     Path maintenance work being carried out at Gelli Hir woods     Path maintenance work being carried out at Gelli Hir woods


Winter Works in Ceredigion

View of a forest glade at Coed Penglanowen

In the last few months we’ve done a variety of jobs but it has included a lot of treepopping!

For those that don’t know, treepoppers are essentially a large lever that you attach to a tree trunk and use to pull out the tree, roots and all, or that’s the theory!

They have been used a lot on the willow at Rhos Pil Bach where we’ve mostly been removing stumps that have been cut before- more wrestling in the mud than popping! They’ve also been used at Caeau Llety Cybi to remove blackthorn from the meadow, and at Rhos Fullbrook, Rhos Glandenys and Coed Maidie B Goddard to remove brambles, gorse and small trees. A group of volunteers from Warwickshire Wildlife Trust joined us for a muddy day of bramble removal at Coed Maidie. Most recently we’ve removed some quite large willow coppice from the pond meadow at Coed Maidie.

The storms meant there were branches/trees to be cleared at Rhos Glandenys, Coed Maidie, Cwm Clettwr and Rhos Fullbrook. Tree contractors AMEY kindly gave us a hand at Old Warren Hill clearing a large hung up tree and a large trunk that had fallen on the fence.

Other jobs include mending gates at Coed Maidie B Goddard and Coed Simdde Lwyd; mending the information sign at Old Warren Hill; re-routing the stream at Coed Penglanowen, as well as digging a ditch to try and protect the path from flooding, and deadwooding over the paths and road. The roadside trees at Pant Da had to be cut back and we had a joint work party at Pengelli Forest in Pembrokeshire, cutting the holly that’s taking over the understorey. A couple of the bluebell areas at Old Warren Hill and the trackside brambles at Rhos Pil Bach have been cut.

As a Christmas treat (!) and break from treepopping, we did some tree cutting at Cwm Clettwr: halo thinning the dense birch and willow around heather, oak, rowan and hazel trees. We also cut down some more western hemlock. Our tree cutting continued into the new year with some thinning of largely damaged sycamores at Old Warren Hill.

Thank you to NRW and People’s Postcode Lottery for their support with some of this work

If you’d like to join our work parties, get fit and meet new people, contact Em

Winter Seed Crop Project at Llangloffan Fen

Skylark in grass at sunset

Britain’s farmland birds have suffered alarming declines over the last twenty-five years with some species having become locally extinct and many others considered threatened. It would appear that their decrease in numbers coincides with a period of rapid intensification in farming in the mid-1970s, and they have continued to steadily drop in numbers ever since. Another reason for these declines is lack of food during winter which causes high levels of mortality.

At the Wildlife Trust’s Llangloffan Fen nature reserve there is 7 acre of semi-improved grassland that is currently grazed by cattle and has opportunities for better habitat management. Through discussions with the Pembrokeshire Bird Group and other conservation organisations, the lack of winter sources of seed for birds is a real concern in this high pastureland environment.

To help sustain and aid the recovery of bird species over winter months in this area, the Wildlife Trust is looking to sow a 2-acre area of the grassland as a winter seed crop. A ‘BumbleBird’ seed mix will be sown which will provide a food resource for farmland birds during the winter months of 2018/2019 and 2019/2020. It will also provide an abundant supply of pollen and nectar rich flowers between early and late summer for a range of nectar feeding insects, including butterflies and bumblebees (other species that are in need of support).

The Wildlife Trust has been fortunate to receive funding from the Pembrokeshire Bird Group and The Pembrokeshire Nature Partnership for this project.

The kinds of species that could be served well by additional seed sources are the passerines group such as ground-feeding skylarks, finches (several species – including e.g. linnet and chaffinch) and buntings (such as reed bunting and also hopefully yellowhammer – if they are in the area). Birds like house and tree sparrows (there used to be a local breeding/wintering population near Llangloffan Fen) could hopefully also find considerable benefit from ruderal type plant seed sources.

Research suggest that a mixed farming landscape which combines stock grazing with an arable regime that maintains some over-winter stubbles will support higher numbers and a higher species diversity of field-feeding birds than landscapes dominated by autumn-sown crops or pasture. Over-winter stubbles are extremely important feeding habitats for seed-eating passerines. On set-aside land, regeneration of a vegetation cover from stubble is thus likely to yield much greater benefits for wintering seed-eating birds than sown grass covers.


Nathan Walton

Wildlife Trust Officer for Pembrokeshire