Author: Gina Gavigan

Top Tips for a conscious and plastic-free Halloween!

Halloween is often a great time for spooky family fun, but unfortunately it is often centred around buying new costumes, single-use decorations and lots of spooky items that are only used once, then thrown away. Unfortunately, most purchased for one spooky evening will include single-use plastic of all kinds – the scariest of them all!

If Halloween costumes, masks, and copious amounts of plastic wrapped treats are enough to scare you, then check out our top tips for a plastic free Halloween! 

Bring costumes back from the dead
It can be great fun dressing up as your favourite spooky character, but a recent survey found that Halloween costumes are often made up of 90% plastic. An incredible 7 million Halloween costumes are thrown away each year in the UK!
Why not get crafty and make your own costume from old clothes? This reduces fast fashion and waste as well as giving you and the family the perfect opportunity to get together for some crafty fun! Alternatively, why not encourage costume swaps with friends and family?

Paint on a Scary Face
If you are looking for a waste free costume, face paint is the perfect option!
Choose a natural, non-toxic face paint which washes off at the end of the night. Transform into a ghastly ghost or a skeleton without the plastic waste!

Don’t waste your pumpkin
Carving a pumpkin is a family friendly activity which screams Halloween. But what do you do with the left overs? Sadly, a horrifying 8 million pumpkins will be thrown out after Halloween in the UK alone. How about using the left overs to make a pumpkin pie or soup? Alternatively, roasted pumpkin seeds make a quick and easy snack and are delicious!

The trick to ‘Trick or Treating’
Instead of going from house to house collecting sweets in a plastic tub, why not use a canvas tote bag hand decorated in a spooky design? This is a family fun activity which will last for many years to come!

Home Baked Treats

Instead of giving out individual plastic wrapped sweets, why not bake your own spooky cookies? Children will love decorating spiders and ghosts with their friends.

Throw a fang-tastic party
You can throw a frightfully good party, without harming the planet by reducing your waste using these easy tips!

  • Send e-invites
  • Get creative and make decorations that are recyclable, like paper ghosts, bats and garlands!
  • Make Autumn leaf lanterns using old jam jars and leaves found in the garden
  • Plastic straws, plates, cups and cutlery are big contributors to plastic pollution. Use reusable crockery and cutlery instead!
  • Play plastic free games, like bobbing for apples – this plastic free activity is as easy as it sounds and offers fun for all the family!

Keeping wildlife safe this Bonfire Night

Hedgehog by Tom Marshall

Roaring heat, spitting sparks and shooting flames. Everybody enjoys a good bonfire and fireworks, especially on Guy Fawkes Night!

But it is important to remember the impacts of bonfire night on wildlife.

The bright lights and loud bangs of fireworks scare many animals, both domestic pets, livestock and other wildlife too! With ever increasing availability of fireworks for public purchase and busy working lives leading to a many celebrations; the disturbance to animals is not only on one night, but spread across weeks. This is not to say we cannot enjoy the festivities though. We recommend going to a larger organised and/or public event, or buying silent/quiet/animal friendly fireworks.

Fireworks are not the only danger to wildlife on bonfire night though. Bonfires are large piles of wood and sticks which look like great hiding places for all sorts of birds and small mammals, including hedgehogs.

Hedgehogs are one of fastest declining species of mammals in Britain, mainly due to decreasing amount of suitable habitat. Habitats become unsuitable through use of pesticides in gardens, towns and farming practices killing off invertebrates and other food sources. The Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales (WTSWW) manages nature reserves to ensure good quality habitats and food availability, as well as managing the reserves to ensure deadwood in woodlands that will decompose and provide a suitable place for invertebrates to live, which are food for hedgehogs and many other species.

You can help wildlife at home by following our handy tips.

Fragmentation is also an increasing problem for the hedgehog population, with fewer hedgerows, more roads and solid garden fences creating barriers and hazards. As well as working on our own nature reserves we also like to work with partners and neighbours to improve the wider living landscape and provide connections to allow species to move. One of these schemes is working in conjunction with partners and neighbours to maintain and re-implement hedgerows that connect nature reserves and other important habitats.

You can do similar at home by creating hedgehog highways in your garden and speaking to neighbours on your street to encourage a hedgehog friendly neighbourhood. More info here.

Bonfires piles make fantastic cover and hiding places for wildlife, and are particularly dangerous to hedgehogs who at this time of year are searching for suitable hibernation sites where they can overwinter. Log piles provide shelter against bad weather and cold temperatures. Due to the time it takes to build, many bonfires are built days beforehand; giving wildlife a chance to move in.

It is important to check bonfires for any sleeping wildlife before lighting!

We recommend building or rebuild your bonfire the night of burning. The act of taking apart should scare off wildlife and by doing it by hand gives slow moving animals a chance to make good their escape. This year is unusually mild, but in the unlikely event a hedgehog will already be hibernating, building by hand gives you the opportunity to find and rescue our prickly friends. If rebuilding is not an options, lift as much as possible and look inside and underneath with a torch looking for movement and signs of life.

Tips and tricks to keep Hedgehogs as safe as possible this Bonfire night

🦔 Build your bonfire on the same day that you light it.
 
🦔 Place chicken wire one metre high around the bottom while you’re building it.
 
🦔 If you stored materials for your bonfire outdoors then move them to a different patch of ground.
 
🦔 Never build your bonfire on a pile of leaves as a hedgehog may be hiding underneath.
 
🦔 Check the entire bonfire for hedgehogs before lighting it. They tend to hide in the centre and around the bottom two feet.
 
🦔 When checking, lift parts of the bonfire section by section using a pole or broom. Do not use a fork, spade or rake as this may injure a hedgehog.
 
🦔 Use a torch to look inside the bonfire and listen for hissing. This is the noise that hedgehogs make when they are disturbed.
 
🦔 Always light your bonfire from one corner, rather than in the centre, in order to give hedgehogs a chance to escape if they need to.

Ways you can further help hedgehogs have a safe hibernation is to provide them with alternative housing options. Either by providing a designated log pile, or building a specific house. Find out how to build your own hedgehog home here.

On rare occasions bonfires actually help wildlife, when local Conservation Officers need to deal with high volume of material with little room for habitat piles.

To join a volunteer work party that has a bonfire, or much needed other habitat management work click here.

Have a truly WILD November 5th – and every other day of the year!

 

Skomer Island by Mike Alexander ~ Book Launch Online Event!

EVENT NOW FULLY BOOKED!

Skomer is one of Britain’s most spectacular National Nature Reserves and is managed by The Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales. It is a haven for seabirds such as Puffins and Manx Shearwaters, and the breath-taking displays of spring flowers, including coast-to-coast bluebells, give the island an almost unrivalled beauty. It is also one of the best-preserved prehistoric landscapes in Britain.

Skomer Island. Mike Alexander

  Book Launch Event Info.

Date: Thursday 6th May 2021

Time: 7pm – 8.30pm

Where: The event will take place via Zoom. You will be sent the joining link via email after registering you place.

Book you free place here!

The launch event will be hosted by Sarah Kessell, Chief Executive Officer for The Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales.

Our first talk of the evening will be from Professor Chris Perrins, FRS. Professor Perrins has been involved with research work on Skomer since the early 1960’s. His talk will focus on the significance of Skomer Island and promises to give an in-depth insight into the island.

We will then proceed to the main event of the evening and welcome Mike Alexander, FRSB FCIEEM. Mike will chat about his incredible island experiences, and the important relationship between Skomer and the people who visit for research, work or for pleasure, which is at the heart of this exciting new book. We will also have a sneak peak at the new collection of important and previously unpublished photographs!

“The main purpose of the book is to celebrate such a uniquely wonderful place in the hope that it will inspire others to care for Skomer and for our natural environment. It really is a book for the thousands of people who visit the island, an attempt to help them gain a deeper understand of the complexities and wonder of its wildlife.

As I began working on the manuscript, I came to realise that I wanted to write for a much wider audience. I wanted an opportunity to share the delightful experience of Skomer with as many people as possible. I wanted the text to be accessible to all, but, even so, I was not prepared to sacrifice the relevance of the book to knowledgeable amateurs and professionals.

I hope that my typical reader will be someone who enjoys the countryside, who perhaps occasionally visits nature reserves and would like to know a little more about conservation management and the decisions that we must make.” Mike Alexander.

There will be a question and answer session following the talks. If you’d like to submit a question to Mike, Chris or Sarah then please email g.gavigan@welshwildlife.org or you’re welcome to enter it in the comment box on the evening.

Places are limited so register your place today to avoid disappointment! You can also pre-order your copy of the book via our online shop. Profits from the sale of the book will support our vital conservation work and important research.

The Big Return to Skomer…

On 1st April myself and Ceris Aston (WTSWW’s Assistant Skomer Warden) returned to Skomer for the start of the season. For Ceris, it was a return after a short spring on Skomer last year, but for me, it was a return after three years of absence. Having previously worked here as the Visitor Officer between 2015 and 2018, it felt overwhelming to step foot on Skomer again, but this time as the Warden.

Our first few days were spent re-finding our feet and familiarizing ourselves with the island once more, before starting the long process of readying the island for visitors.

Skomer Sunrise

Skomer Sunrise!

The sunrise on the first morning was spectacular and really set a bar for all future sunrises.
The early season jobs of cleaning and fixing, nearly always outweigh monitoring, but it’s a real joy to be out looking for nest building Raven and Chough throughout March. All of our Ravens are now incubating eggs and most, if not all, of the chough have started nest building!

Every few days we wake up to the sounds of auks on the cliffs; sometimes Razorbills outweigh the Guillemots and sometimes it’s the opposite. We can nearly always rely on the Fulmars to be in attendance though.

The sound of our first Manx Shearwater came quite early in the month, we were sat enjoying the warmth of a fire when Ceris and I were both alerted to a lone bird calling over the house. There have been occasional nights where the cacophony of Shearwaters has woken me up, but I never grumble, just marvel, in the return of these birds from the south Atlantic.

Landslide on Skomer

Not a very welcoming sight! Skomer Landslide

This landslip, deposited an estimated 40-50 tons of material on the Jetty which completely blocked access for our vehicles; it was a good thing we came back on the Dale Princess and not our RIB!

 

Skomer's Strarlings

Skomer’s Starlings Return

Starlings have been seen regularly over last few weeks, their chattering always a feature around the central fields.

The weather has been relatively settled so far. I am currently writing this on a blustery day but the sun is still shining and it is warm in the Library! Thanks to everyone for their support of Skomer and The Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales over the last year, we’re really looking forward to welcoming people back to Skomer when the guidance allows.

Leighton Newman, Skomer Island Warden. 

Lucky finds from rabbit hole re-write prehistory of Skokholm Island!

Bevelled Pebble Discovered on Skokholm Island!

Chance finds of prehistoric stone tools and fragments of pottery, picked up from a rabbit hole by the wardens of Skokholm Island, have surprised experts and hint at new chapters in the prehistory of this famous island.

Nicknamed ‘Dream Island’, Skokholm lies two miles off the south Pembrokeshire coast and is owned and managed by The Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales. It is famed for its tens of thousands of nesting seabirds in the spring and summer months.

Nearby Skomer Island is better known for its well-preserved prehistoric archaeology. That all changed in March 2021 when wardens Richard Brown and Giselle Eagle, currently alone on the locked-down island, picked up a smooth rectangular stone from a rabbit hole near the island’s cottage, in the shelter of a rock outcrop.

First finds of hunter-gatherer tools

Bevelled Pebble Discovered on Skokholm Island!

The Late Mesolithic ‘bevelled pebble’ tool dating between 6-9000 years old is the first evidence for hunter-gatherer occupation on Skokholm Island (Richard Brown and Giselle Eagle, WTSWW).

Photos were emailed to archaeologist Dr Toby Driver of the Royal Commission, Wales, part of the team who has worked on nearby Skomer Island, who contacted prehistoric stone tool expert Dr Andrew David.

Andrew immediately recognised the significance of the find:

‘The photos were clearly of a late Mesolithic (Middle Stone Age) ‘bevelled pebble’, a tool thought to have been used in tasks like the preparation of seal hides for making skin-clad watercraft, or for processing foods such as shellfish, among hunter-gatherer communities some 6000-9000 years ago’.

‘Although these types of tools are well known on coastal sites on mainland Pembrokeshire and Cornwall, as well into Scotland and northern France, this is the first example from Skokholm, and the first firm evidence for Late Mesolithic occupation on the island’.

Dr David, who has directed excavations on similar sites in Pembrokeshire, noted;

‘To find an example on Skokholm is exciting’.

A Bronze Age burial

Skokholm Island Potsherd Discovery.

The decorated fragment of a 3700 year old Early Bronze Age Vase Urn is the first Bronze Age pottery from the western Pembrokeshire islands (Richard Brown and Giselle Eagle, WTSWW).

The discoveries did not stop there. As well as picking up a second Mesolithic pebble tool the following day, Richard and Giselle also noticed large pieces of coarse pottery being kicked out of the same rabbit holes.

This time it was Jody Deacon, Curator of Prehistoric Archaeology at Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales who recognised their significance. A large fragment from a thick-walled pot, decorated with incised lines around the top, is likely to be the rim of an Early Bronze Age Vase Urn, usually associated with cremation burials. Dating to between 2100 and 1750 BC, around 3750 years ago, such burial urns are not unusual in west Wales.

However this was also the first of its type from Skokholm Island, or from any of the western Pembrokeshire islands.

Plans to explore the archaeology of Skokholm Island
Archaeologists Toby Driver and Louise Barker from the Royal Commission, Wales, have carried out archaeological surveys on the nearby islands of Skomer, Grassholm and Ramsey. There are now plans to visit Skokholm later in 2021 with the other experts, as COVID restrictions allow, to explore these exciting finds further.

Toby explained;

‘We know from past aerial surveys and airborne laser scanning by the Royal Commission that Skokholm has the remains of some prehistoric fields and settlements, though none has ever been excavated.’

‘Now Skokholm is producing some amazing prehistoric finds. It seems we may have an Early Bronze burial mound built over a Middle Stone Age hunter gatherer site, disturbed by rabbits. It’s a sheltered spot, where the island’s cottage now stands, and has clearly been settled for millennia.’

‘Thanks to the sharp eyes of the wardens we have the first confirmed Mesolithic tools and first Bronze Age pottery from Skokholm. To date we have nothing similar from the larger islands of Skomer or Ramsey.’

‘Despite lockdown, the Skokholm wardens have been able to share detailed photographs and videos of their daily finds with experts around Wales. It means we can all share in the excitement of these new discoveries.’

-End –

Contacts:
Skokholm Wardens: skokholmwarden@gmail.com
Dr Toby Driver, Royal Commission. Toby.driver@rcahmw.gov.uk
Gina Gavigan, Marketing and Development Manager, Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales. g.gavigan@welshwildlife.org

USEFUL LINKS:
Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales
Online record of the archaeology of Skokholm Island 
Online record of early fields on Skokholm:

Wild Takeaways this Easter!

Good news!

Our Wildlife Trust Parc Slip and Welsh Wildlife Centre Glasshouse Cafés will be open over the Easter holidays and serving the usual tasty takeaway treats, 10am -4pm!

Good Friday 2nd April

Saturday 3rd April

Easter Sunday 4th April

Bank Holiday Monday 5th April

Tuesday 6th April

As always, we ask visitors to respect and adhere to social distancing guidelines and show respect to our staff and other users to the centres and reserves. Please keep dogs on leads at all times. Please use the litter bins provided or take rubbish home with you.

We would like to thank you for your continued support, patience and donations during this difficult time. If you’d like to support us please consider becoming a member.

10 Iconic Species of the Brecon Beacons!

Red Kite by Barry Hill

There are so many species to choose from in the Brecon Beacons that could be classed as ‘iconic’.

With the range of landscapes encompassed within the National Park there is a huge range of habitats from mountains and moorlands on Old Red Sandstone, Limestone crags and grasslands, wet marshes and bogs to woodlands and river corridors each with their own range of flora and fauna.

This is a small selection from a talk I gave for the Biodiversity Information Service at the beginning of March. To watch the whole talk follow this link to the video on the BIS YouTube channel

1. Red kite
A conservation success stories of recent times. Its image is used as the emblem of many businesses around the Brecon Beacons including Powys County Council. It is identified by a red forked tail and white wing spots under the wing towards the tip. In the 1960’s only a few pairs remained in mid wales due to egg robbing and illegal poisoning due to the misconception they preyed on lambs. However, Red Kites prefer carrion & worms but will take small mammals.

Red Kite by Barry Hill

Flying high! Red Kite by Barry Hill

When low egg production was also considered it was realized that they would not spread out of Wales without help. This led to the formation of the Kite Committee which later became The Welsh Kite Trust – protection against egg robbers & education. Support from RSPB. By the 1980’s numbers were starting to increase and it is now commonly seen throughout the Brecon Beacons.

2. Purple saxifrage
This plant grows on cold loving, north facing slopes and usually on damp rough vertical rock faces or screes. It is therefore hard to spot safely. In addition the tiny rosettes of leaves are similar to miniature house leek so it is often only when the penny-sized flowers appear April to June that it becomes more obvious. It is the only purple flowered saxifrage.

Purple saxifrage credit John Crellin

Purple saxifrage by John Crellin

3. White Clawed Crayfish
Their name comes from the pale underside of their claw. This is the UK’s only native crayfish but it is threatened by a disease brought by the invasive American signal crayfish which they are not resistant to. They suffered decline of 50 – 80% over European range with habitat degradation and water pollution adding to their demise. Some colonies survive in the fast running, mineral rich streams in the Brecon Beacons National Park. They require streams that are less that 1m deep where they hide under stones. They have a varied menu of fish, carrion, invertebrates, detritus & water plants.

Crayfish by Steph Coates

Crayfish by Stephanie Coates

4. Silurian Moth
This rusty brown moth was recorded on Hatterall Hill in 2011 after a gap of 35 years by a team of moth specialists using light traps. This population was confirmed as breeding when caterpillars were found in the same area April 2012. Since then much effort has gone into finding more populations. It is an upland specialist and only flies after 1am! Although seemingly confined to the Herefordshire/Monmouthshire border, a population has been recorded in the Brecknock Vice County, VC42, south of Hay on Wye. The caterpillars feed on bilberry plants so maybe there are still populations to be found!

Silurian Moth credit Norman Lowe

Silurian Moth by Norman Lowe

5. Welsh Clearwing Moth
A fairly large species of clearwing moth can be distinguished from others two narrow yellow bands on the abdomen and a large tail fan. The latter is orange on females and a light brown on males. It requires old birch trees, preferably in a sunny position, as the caterpillars feed on the inside of living bark for several years. The birch trees can be scattered over hillside pastures, in open birch woodland and on wooded heath. The moth emerges through a 5mm hole, leaving exuviae sticking out. Find these and you have proof that the hole was made by a clearwing and not a longhorn beetle! As a day flying moth it can be attracted to specific pheromone lures in sunny weather.

 

6. Horseshoe bats
Both lesser and greater horseshoe bats are found in the Brecon Beacons with the Usk Valley supporting the largest maternity population of the lesser horseshoe. This is thought to be approximately 5% of the total UK population but surveys of their winter roosts in caves along the Llangattock escarpment suggest that this may be an underestimation. They feed mainly along woodland edges, pastures and wetlands with the lesser favouring midges, caddisfly and lacewings and the greater taking larger moths and beetles.

Lesser-horseshoe Bat by Dai Jermyn

Lesser-horseshoe Bat by Dai Jermyn

7. Bilberry bumble bee
This little bee is found in heather rich areas, species rich grasslands & open woodlands but it is rare to find away from areas supporting some bilberry. It is a pollen storing species and not reliant on nectar. They make a small nest with around 50 workers in old rodent burrows. The queens typically appear in April and workers from late May. The males & new queens fly from mid-July

Bilberry Bumblebee by Pauline Hill

Bilberry Bumblebee by Pauline Hill

8. Goshawk
Sometimes called the ‘Phantom of the Forest’, their agility flying through the trees after their prey of small birds and mammals id due to their tail and narrow wings. They can reach 40km per hour. In fact they need dense woodland to hunt, to give the element of surprise, and to nest. They are seldom seen above tree cover. They are similar in colouring to sparrowhawks with a grey back and brown barred breast but they have a distinct white stripe above their eyes and a more rounded tail. The female is the size of a buzzard. They are most easily seen late winter and spring when their ‘sky dance’ courtship display brings them out of the forest to swoop and plunge together. They mate for life and young are raised between March and June. They are making a comeback in Wales.

9. Sessile Oak
The sessile or ‘Welsh oak’ has a more upland and western distribution than its cousin, the pedunculated or English oak’. The acorns of the sessile oak do not have a stem but the leaves do. It is the other way round for the pedunculated oak. However they can hybridize. When left to grow it can form dense single species woodlands where the ground cover is formed mostly of mosses and bryophytes. In more open and mixed woodlands there may be carpets of flowers such as wild daffodils and bluebells. Both species of oak are important to biodiversity. Over 300 species are only found on oaks. Their acorns are enjoyed by species such as squirrels, badgers and jays.

Sessile Oak BWT archives

Sessile Oak

10. Autumn Gentian
Favouring dry calcareous soils this large biennial gentian. It produces leaves in the first year and the flower spike in the second year between July and October. It is often found in groups.

Autumn Gentian by John Crellin

Autumn Gentian by John Crellin

Membership is our only stable source of income. By joining us today you will be helping to ensure that Wales’ wild places will be enjoyed for generations to come. You will make a difference!

Pauline Hill, WTSWW’s People and Wildlife Officer.

New Online Booking System for Skomer Day Visits….Coming Soon!

We are excited to confirm that we have a new on-line booking system for Skomer Island day visits in 2021. The online system will allow you to buy your combined boat and landing ticket in advance for the first time. Although still in the final stages of development, with the support of our partners, Pembrokeshire Islands Boat Tours we hope to launch it soon.

Covid restrictions will determine when and how Skomer can re-open. Please note this may not be on the 1st April as normal. The number of visitors we can accommodate each day on the island will also be limited, especially at the start of the season.

Visitors will be asked to adhere to Welsh Government guidelines regarding social distancing. Queuing for tickets at Martin’s Haven will not be permitted under current Welsh Government guidelines, so pre booking of tickets will be essential.

Please note that we have been inundated with enquiries and are unable to response to everyone individually. Please keep an eye on our social media pages and website for updates regarding the island opening, launch of the booking system, protocols for visiting and staying safe.

We’d like to take this opportunity to thank you for your patience and support. We are looking forward to welcoming you back to Skomer.

If you’d like to support our vital conservation work and important research please join us by  becoming a member today. 

Thank you.

Pencnwc Mawr Woodland Appeal Update!

An update from Sarah Kessell,  WTSWW’s Chief Executive Officer…

I am delighted to share some very good news!

We have now completed the purchase of Pencnwc Mawr Woodland!

Thank you to everyone who supported our appeal and for helping to make this possible with your donation.

The appeal was launched in January 2021 and we needed to raise the money quickly to prevent the woodland being sold to another interested buyer who wanted to manage the woodland as a pheasant shoot.

We did not raise the full amount in time through the appeal, but we were able to top up the funds we needed in the short term by borrowing from a fund that was left to us as a gift in a will. Any further donations we receive for this appeal will help restore that fund.

Pencnwc wood shares much of the wildlife interest of the adjacent Pengelli Forest nature reserve and has expanded our nature reserve by a fifth. We can now manage this enlarged woodland reserve sympathetically, to provide the best conditions for wildlife and reduce the damaging effects of habitat fragmentation.

By donating, you have helped many woodland species including the rare barbastelle bat, the visiting greater horseshoe bats, breeding populations of dormice, together with many woodland birds and butterflies, particularly the silver-washed fritillary.

Our plan is to use this opportunity to encourage local people, farmers and other land owners to gently transform their landscape into a more natural, sustainable and safer environment – a better place for wildlife and people. The appeal has already drawn attention to this plan and we have been contacted by another woodland owner in the area who is interested in a woodland owners forum, a promising start!

Our focus now is on raising the funds needed to integrate the two woodlands and carry out any initial management needed.

During the midst of Covid19 and all the problems this has caused, the purchase of this woodland has been a wonderfully positive step forward for wildlife. The staff, Trustees and I have been greatly encouraged by the response of our supporters over such a short time.

With many thanks from me and all at the Wildlife Trust.

Sarah Kessell

Silver-washed Fritillary butterfly- male nectaring.

 

 

Oak Tree Cottage – ‘the cwtch’ is Good to Go!

Wake up with wildlife and explore the great outdoors with our Wildlife Trust self catering Oak Tree Cottage.

Oak Tree Cottage – (the Cwtch) is the perfect Pembrokeshire holiday retreat for a couple or a family looking for something a little bit quirky this spring!

The Cwtch offers guests a cosy open plan living and kitchen area, one double bedroom, one twin room with bunk beds, bathroom with shower, off road parking, glorious walks with sweeping rural views.

Located in the heart of the beautiful Teifi Marshes Nature Reserve, the Welsh Wildlife Centre Glasshouse Cafe is but a stone’s throw away from the cottage. It really is the perfect base for those wanting to connect with our amazing Welsh wildlife and explore the great outdoors.

Numerous bird hides found on the reserve allow for the opportunity to see a diversity of wildlife in a range of habitats, although patience is always key! Watch otters at dawn, badgers and deer at dusk, kingfishers on the river and a wealth of flora and fauna during the daytime.

The Welsh Wildlife Centre Cafe is currently open and offering a delicious #WildTakeaway service! All profits from Oak Tree Cottage support our vital conservation work and important research.

So whether it’s a tranquil retreat, or an action packed getaway, the Cwtch is waiting for you. 🙂

To check availability or book please click here. 

Nest box checking at Coed y Bedw

Coed y Bedw is a 16.5ha ancient woodland reserve just north of Cardiff. Nest boxes of various types have been installed here since at least 1985, soon after WTSWW purchased the reserve.

The volunteer warden at the time installed nest boxes for the benefit of Pied Flycatchers (Ficedula hypoleuca) who were known to breed at the reserve. This charismatic migrant is a feature of mature woodlands in the west of the UK where in feeds primarily on caterpillars and other invertebrates.

Since then, the nest boxes have been replaced as they’ve degraded, with additional ones installed in the reserve as well as in the open woodland and lines of mature trees in the neighbouring land (with the kind agreement of the landowner). At the moment the number of boxes is 120 which includes 2 Tawny Owl boxes, 1 Barn Owl box, a couple of specialist boxes for Redstarts (Phoenicurus phoenicurus) with the remainder being more traditional boxes made either of wood or more recently the longer-lived woodcrete boxes.

The number of Pied Flycatchers on the reserve has declined over the years but nonetheless WTSWW and our hard-working volunteers try to monitor a selection of the boxes every spring to see if Pied Flycatchers appear. The events of 2020 meant that we were unable to carry out this monitoring unfortunately so we relied on our winter box checks to give us an indication of how many boxes were used. It’s good practice to clean out nest boxes in autumn once their occupants have left as the nesting material can harbour parasites.

We try to do this every winter at Coed y Bedw which is quite a mammoth task and is made a lot easier by our committed volunteers whose eagle-eyes make finding them all a lot less time-consuming!

Unfortunately this year that wasn’t possible but we managed to get to all the boxes eventually. It was gratifying to see that about 80 had been used for breeding last year. It’s possible to tell, to a certain extent, what has used the box by what remains – there are often unhatched eggs or bits of shell which can be characteristic; Blue Tit and Great Tits are the commonest residents with their mini egg-like shells.

Blue Tit Nest

Blue Tit Nest

 

Pied Flycatchers’ eggs are glossy blue and sadly none were found this year. The other common residents are Nuthatches whose nests are made of woodchips and bits of leaves compared to the moss, wool and hair generally used by the other species. Nuthatches often build up a layer of mud around the entrance hole too which is a definite sign of their presence.

Nuthatch nest

Nuthatch Nest

Pleasingly, we also saw a Tawny Owl using one of the specialist boxes that had kindly been built by the students at Pencoed College and we subsequently managed to get a clip of it on a motion-sensitive camera. The only downside is seeing how bad a state many of the wooden boxes are getting, with at least 40 in need of repair or replacement.

We are hoping to be able to gradually replace all of these with long-lasting woodcrete boxes but that’s all dependent on funding sadly. In the meantime we’ll keep monitoring annually, hopefully with the help of the volunteers this coming year.

New Boardwalks, Visitor Shelters and Ponds in Pembrokeshire!

It has certainly been a very busy start to 2021 for our Pembrokeshire team, what with ensuring all grant funded projects are completed before the end of the financial year and having to ensure habitat management is undertaken without the use of volunteers due to COVID restrictions.

We have been fortunate to receive funding to employ contractors to undertake some of the larger projects yet Wildlife Trust staff have been busier with the habitat management side of things without that extra support from volunteers. Nonetheless, I am pleased to say that in Pembrokeshire, we are on top of things and major projects completed.

At Teifi Marshes, over 650m of new boardwalks have now been installed, replacing old, dilapidated structures with a recycled plastic framework for longevity. This has enabled the reopening of the popular Wetland Trail and allowed better, more secure access to the Mallard and Creek bird hides. A further 90m of boardwalk work will be undertaken in the summer, replacing old structures leading to the Otter hide and along the road leading to the Welsh Wildlife Centre.

A large area of open water has been extended and reshaped on the marsh near the carpark, with an island created for the protection of waders along with providing better nesting opportunities. The pond in front of the Wildlife Centre has also been re-landscaped and a new dipping platform will be installed this summer. Over 1,200m of fencing has also been erected allowing for better control of grazing animals on the reserve.

New pool and Teifi Marshes

New Pool at Teifi Marshes Nature Reserve

Further summer work at Teifi Marshes will include the rebuilding of the burnt down Kingfisher bird hide.

At Llangloffan Fen, the carpark has been resurfaced and the small dilapidated section of boardwalk that led from it has been replaced with stone chippings, allowing for better, longer lasting access. The main pool on the reserve has also been enhanced with the use of a Truxor (an amphibious digger), removing built up silt from clogging up areas and extending the pool outwards.

At Pengelli Forest, a new visitor shelter will soon be erected at the main entrance, replacing the old one which is rotting out at the foundations. The shelter at the far end of the reserve will be dismantled due to health and safety issues yet the bench will remain. When funding allows, this will also be replaced. A number of bridges have been fixed with rotting timber planks replaced with new.

Whilst mentioning Pengelli, I can confirm that we have been successful in the purchase of Pencnwc Mawr woodland that borders this reserve. This 13.5ha woodland now extends Pengelli by 20% and goes someway in protecting and linking other woodlands within the north of the county.

New interpretation panels have been installed at Llangloffan Fen and West Williamston, with further way marker maps to be erected in Pengelli Forest in the near future.

New Interpretation Panel

New WTSWW Interpretation Panel

In other news, I have been covering Ceredigion reserves since Emily Foot left the Wildlife Trust in December. I am pleased to say that we will soon have a new Wildlife Trust Officer starting on the 1st of April. He is Douglas Lloyd and will be moving to us from Gwent Wildlife Trust. We are pleased and excited to have him on our team as he comes with a wealth of experience and knowledge of managing nature reserves in Wales.

Having had a chance to breathe a little more this month, I am pleased to feel that spring is in the air and the days are once again getting longer. With COVID restrictions slowly easing, it is hoped that we can get our volunteers back working with us once again and hopefully have a summer that we can all enjoy…!

EASTER FAMILY FUN!

Outdoor family fun returns to the Teifi Marshes Nature Reserve this Easter! Come and do the self-led Easter Quiz Trail whilst enjoying the great outdoors. Available each day from Good Friday to Easter Monday between 10am and 3.30pm. Includes quiz sheet, pencil and small prize for just £3

Our Welsh Wildlife Centre Cafe also open for delicious take-away food and drinks.

Nathan Walton, WTSWW’s Senior Wildlife Trust Officer.