Author: Gina Gavigan

Update from Sarah Kessell

Update from Sarah Kessell, WTSWW Chief Executive Officer.

I think we are not alone in finding that the planning needed to get back to work after the Covid-19 lockdown is proving far more complex than it was to stop suddenly at the start of the lockdown.

The length of the lockdown has meant that there is a backlog of work needed on the nature reserves, to ensure that the habitats stay in good condition and to meet various grant requirements, as well as cutting back footpaths ready for when the lockdown eases.

Ideally, we need to bring all of our conservation team back in July, but financially, this is not possible. Instead we are carefully planning and prioritising the urgent tasks, to work out the minimum number of staff that need to return to work. We are certainly finding that the busier nature reserves are suffering without the usual staff and volunteer presence.

Teifi Marshes and Parc Slip have suffered from increased anti-social behaviour, including harassment of the buffalo and ponies at Teifi Marshes. At times like this, we are grateful for the links with local people and volunteers who keep an eye out for us and alert us to any problems. It worries us greatly that many nature reserves in England were treated abominably when the countryside reopened, but with the more cautious and phased approach taken by the Welsh Government, we hope that we won’t suffer the same problems.

For our visitor centres, we are starting to plan for a possible reopening in August. With the current rules, we could only provide a limited service and limited facilities, and we need to put in place a number of measures to comply with stricter hygiene and social distancing rules to ensure the safety of our staff and visitors. We will reopen if we can ensure that we can cover all these requirements and still cover costs because we cannot afford any further detrimental impacts on our budget.

Skomer and Skokholm Islands present far greater complexities! The shared accommodation facilities rule out re-opening in the next few weeks at least, and cannot easily be made Covid-19 compliant. If we cannot re-open the accommodation for volunteers and additional staff then we will not have the resources to manage the usual number of day visitors. With the 2 metre social distancing rule, boat travel is also difficult and leisure boats have not yet been given permission to run again.

Overall, planning ahead more than a few weeks is proving hard because of the changing rules. For the skeleton staff still working, Health and Safety has dominated much of the last 3 months and it won’t get any easier.

It is not easy to foresee when we will be back to normal operations across the Trust, but the impacts will certainly be felt for some time to come. The initial impact on our finances has been eased by the emergency grants we have received and we are grateful to The Moondance Foundation, The Waterloo Foundation, the Heritage Emergency Fund and WCVA for the Third Sector Resilience Fund. By the end of June it is likely that we will have received all the emergency funding possible, which if we are lucky, will recover about half of the income we have lost. This still leaves us with a big challenge for the rest of this year to find savings or other new sources of income.

Beyond that, the impact on public finances of dealing with the crisis will mean that grants from NRW and the Welsh Government are likely to reduce over the short or medium term, and as the recession bites, it may impact on voluntary donations as well. We have quite a task ahead of us to ensure we can ride out the storm ahead. We’ve been very heartened by the enthusiastic response to our appeals, and thank you to everyone who has made a donation. At such a difficult time for the staff, your response has given us a much-needed boost and your generosity will help ensure that we are here to work for wildlife next year and beyond!

Skomer and Skokholm Islands Update – Covid-19

Skomer Campion Credit Mike Alexander (2)

As you know we have been closely monitoring the Coronavirus guidelines issued by the Welsh Government since March 2020.

There are many considerations for us when we think about our precious islands, including visitor boat transportation, the difficulty in maintaining social distancing whilst boarding passengers and the provision of facilities once on the islands themselves.

After much discussion and consideration, The Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales (WTSWW) Board of Trustees has reluctantly decided that:

1. Overnight accommodation on Skomer or Skokholm Islands will remain closed for the remainder of the 2020 season.

2. Day visits to Skomer Island cannot resume at the moment, but we will keep this situation under review as further guidance is issued by the Welsh Government.

This has been a very difficult decision and we know it will be a great disappointment to our guests but the safety of our island staff, Dale Sailing boat staff, our visitors and our local community remains our key priority.

We would like to thank everyone for keeping in touch with our Islands via social media, the Skokholm Blog and Skomer LIVE and those who have donated to our Islands emergency appeals. 


Further information. 

Current Welsh Government guidance: From 6th July, if conditions allow, the requirement to stay local will lift and people can travel to tourist attractions across Wales. Self-contained holiday accommodation may be able to reopen on 13th July. The requirement to maintain a 2m social distance remains, as is the requirement that people should only meet with one other household outdoors.

Boat Access to the Islands: Trips to the Islands are dependent on Dale Sailing who provide our boat service. We are in close contact with them and continue to discuss options as guidance changes. Currently, charter and leisure boats cannot run, until restrictions on boat activities are lifted. We also share concerns for boarding and disembarking passengers whilst maintaining social distancing and boat trips for mixed groups are not currently possible.

Day trips to Skomer: The current restrictions on boats and social distancing make day trips impossible. Should these restrictions lift, there is also a concern about the safety of compost toilets, and the safety of the staff or volunteers who would have to clean and service them regularly. Without public toilets, daily trips to Skomer would have to be for a limited period of time. We also only have a skeleton staff team on both Islands and therefore have limited resources to manage an influx of daily visitors.

Accommodation on the Islands: Both Islands offer shared facilities for guests and volunteers; living rooms, dining room, kitchen and bathrooms. Under the current restrictions we cannot re-open the accommodation because it is not self-contained. If the restrictions on shared facilities are lifted but social distancing remains in place, then the accommodation alterations needed would not be feasible. The additional requirements for deep cleaning accommodation between guests would also be extremely difficult given the limitations imposed on the Islands by being off-grid and with limited access to power and hot water. Some research indicates that the time that the virus survives on surfaces may be affected by temperature with higher temperatures reducing the period of time the virus remains infectious. The unique nature of our un-heated accommodation brings additional risks. Should anyone fall ill while staying on the Island then it would be extremely difficult to arrange safe passage off the Island and to quarantine those left on the Island.

Transferring bookings.

Whilst we have never transferred bookings from one year to the next we have decided that this is an appropriate course of action in this unprecedented situation. Bookings will be offered for the same period in the same month next year. So if you have a reservation between April and July your booking would remain for the same period next year. Transferring bookings to different dates next year is complex and we must wait for all 2020 guests to exercise their options before considering this.

If you have an overnight booking please wait for us to contact you – there is only one member of staff working on this so please be patient, we will work through the bookings in sequence and you will be contacted in due course.

Refunds.

If you would rather have monies returned this will be completed when our teams return to work as we cannot perform this whilst working from home, we do appreciate your patience with this matter.

Donations.

This is clearly an unprecedented time for The Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales. Please consider donating some or all of your booking fees to help the islands.

You can let us know your wishes by emailing us at islands@welshwildlife.org

Razorbills of Skokholm Island

Razorbill on Skomer Island

In May’s update we talked about the importance of continuing with the vital seabird monitoring on WTSWW’s Skokholm Island and this month we’re going to focus on Razorbills.

The 2020 whole Island count tallied up at 3517 adults on ledges, this an increase of 28% on last year. But to understand just how many of Skokholm’s Razorbills manage to raise a chick to jumpling size, there are three plots on the Island where we follow individual pairs from egg laying to chick jumping.

One of these is an impressive rocky jumble where eggs are laid in dark crevices and under huge, overhanging, lichen covered rocks. The remaining two plots are dramatically positioned on precipitous ledges high along the Old Red Sandstone cliffs.

The Neck plot is one of these and one which we are particularly fond of, having surveyed it since 2013. With all 30 pairs on an egg, as May hurtled by we eagerly awaited the first hatchling to appear. The weather, however, had a different agenda and on the night of 22nd May the wind picked up to gale force, whipping up the sea and creating nine-metre-high waves which pounded the North Coast cliffs, sending cascades of water up and across the auk breeding ledges.

This was devastating for our Razorbill colony on the Neck and 18 of 30 pairs lost their egg, an egg which had almost certainly started to hatch. With pairs sat back on their traditional ledge looking somewhat confused and salt battered we wondered what their fate would be. Razorbills can re-lay if they lose their egg early, but these birds had committed over a month of incubation time; it was probably too late for them to try again. We continued to visit the plot as there was still a small number of birds that had somehow managed to keep their egg and were now feeding rapidly fattening chicks.

Occasionally some of the failed birds would come back to their ledge but on 8th June the plot seemed particularly busy; many of the failed adults were back! They weren’t just back, 15 of them had returned and laid another egg which they were incubating diligently.

These eggs will not hatch until the second week in July, which means for the first time in our eight years we could have Razorbill chicks on the cliffs in August!

Please support us during this difficult time by making a donation to our emergency COVID-19 appeal. 

Thank you!

Anti-social behaviour at Teifi Marshes…again!

Since lockdown restrictions have eased in Wales, there has sadly been a surge in anti-social behaviour at Teifi Marshes nature reserve, the home of The Wildlife Trust’s Welsh Wildlife Centre.

Unfortunaley, youths are gathering in our nature reserve bird hides and playing loud music, drinking and taking drugs. Grazing ponies have been let out of fields and chased down boardwalks and most recently, a young lad was seen within the water buffalo enclosure, throwing stones at the animals. There has also been some vandalism in the Otter and Treetops bird hides and to the willow badger sculpture.

The Welsh Wildlife Centre is still closed and most of our Wildlife Trust staff are still on furlough. However, Nathan Walton,  Pembrokeshire Wildlife Trust Officer is back at work and ensuring a presence on the reserve. He does manage another 13 sites within the county so is unfortunately unable to be on the reserve all the time.

This sort of behavior occurs every year, more so during summer months and school holidays. Over the past few years, we have taken a number of steps to try and combat this activity. We have installed CCTV around the Welsh Wildlife Centre and immediate buildings, stepped up volunteer patrols on the reserve, engaged with youth groups and schools in Cardigan and created more social media posts and press releases detailing the issues we face.

The response from the local community has been heart-warming and the Police are also doing their best to patrol the reserve out of hours and when reports are made.

We do hope that with lock down restrictions being lifted, more visitors will come to the reserve and disturbances on the reserve will cease. These are very frustrating times for all.

Visitors to the reserve are encouraged to be our eyes and ears on the ground and to phone the Police on 101 or 999 if an emergency to report any unusual or unruly behaviour.

Parc Slip…. your ‘Gateway to the Valleys’ opening soon!

Parc Slip Visitor Centre Tondu

Regular visitors to our Parc Slip reserve near Tondu would have noticed a lot of activity around the site over the past winter and spring!

Paths and car parks closed (and not only as a result of the recent Corona virus restrictions!), heavy machinery moving mud around, familiar benches replaced and bird hides and ponds being spruced up.

This work has all been possible due to funding provided by Welsh Government to local authorities across south Wales to help set up and promote the Valleys Regional Park (VRP). This major project has been around for quite a while, but has really leapt forward in the last year or so and aims to promote the natural and cultural assets of the Valleys, our hidden gems and world class attractions, to local communities and visitors.

The current funding has been focused on promoting ‘gateways’ into the valleys – sites where we can showcase the best the Valleys have to offer and encourage people to explore further.

In Bridgend the Trust has partnered with the Local Authority to carry out a raft at works at Parc Slip and Bryngarw Country Park. For us this means significant investment to improve the facilities at the Visitor Centre and make it more environmentally friendly (eco-taps, electric car charging points, new tables, chairs and benches) and upgrade the Reserve itself, including completely renewing the boardwalk from Tondu, improved path surfaces, cycle shelter and lots of habitat improvements.

There is much more to come as well, new signage and trails, gates, wildlife gardens, a community orchard and a programme of exciting events, as soon as we are allowed to gather together again! We’ll be keeping you informed as these things happen and we’ll be looking for lots of new help and support to make the most of them so if you have volunteered in the past or would like to volunteer in future watch this space!

Skomer’s long reach – the science behind global conservation!

The vital conservation value of the monitoring and management work done by the wardens and volunteers on our Wildlife Trust reserves is clear to us all. But what are all the visiting scientists up to on our islands each season? Interesting stuff, you might think, but what’s it got to do with conserving our seabirds?

Skomer’s science, it turns out, has a long reach, and Oxnav’s work is just one example of many. For some years we’ve been studying the behaviour of Manx shearwaters at sea using miniature on-board tracking technologies, and they make some remarkable journeys. In summer, parents return from sea every night or two to feed their chick. But they also take turns to go much further in search of good resources to replenish their own bodies, exhausted by childcare.

More than 200km away, rich waters around the Irish Sea Front prove an especially important destination. And it’s not just Skomer birds that rely on it, because we found shearwaters from as far away as Rum and Copeland in the north and Lundy in the south travelling here to feed. These data proved key evidence in the gazetting of the UK’s first entirely offshore Special Protection Area (in 2017) for foraging seabirds: the Irish Sea Front marine SPA, 180 km2 of ocean about 35km south west of the Isle of Man.

Even more remarkable, a second area turns out to be important for Skomer’s pelagic seabirds (puffins and kittiwakes, as well as shearwaters), this time far out into the North Atlantic between the Grand Banks and the Mid-Atlantic ridge. A global collaboration of tracking scientists led by Birdlife international (and including Skomer) have now discovered this area to be a key overwintering hotspot for more than 20 pelagic seabirds, even some Southern ocean breeders, as well as sharks, tuna, turtles and whales.

More than half a million square kilometres of high seas known as the North Atlantic Current & Evlanov Seamount is set to become one of the largest MPAs for seabirds in the North Atlantic. Our shearwaters stopover here to forage during annual migration to and from Patagonia, but remarkably they also travel here to feed during breeding too, several thousand kilometres from their nests on Skomer, something we never suspected.

So next time you spot a weird experiment in the distance, or exhausted-looking graduate students scurrying about their mysterious business, spare a thought for the contributions that Skomer’s science makes to global conservation: it may not be obvious at first.

MPAsFigure1

Figure 1. Main figure: The UK’s first entirely offshore protection area for seabirds, the Irish Sea Front SPA (in red), was gazetted in 2017 and is located in the rich waters around the Irish Sea Front (blue band). GPS tracks of shearwaters from four colonies (gold stars) over several years show the extent of foraging by this extraordinarily pelagic species. Inset: Approximate area (in red) of the proposed North Atlantic Current and Evlanov Seamount MPA, hotspot for pelagic seabirds including Manx shearwaters, puffins and kittiwakes from Skomer.

Figure 2. Header Image of a Manx shearwater, photo by Joe Wynn

Summer Bat Count at Parc Slip!

Soprano Pipistrelle Amy Lewis

Have you ever visited the Parc Slip office wondered why the conference room smells so weird or the building fascia looks so tired and needing replacement or a good lick of paint?

Well here is the answer, for a number of years the office has been home to a maternity roost of Soprano Pipistrelle bats (Pipistrellus pygmaeus). The soprano pipistrelle is small, with brown fur, black wings and a black face. Not to be confused with the common pipistrelle (Pipistrellus pipistrellus). They are almost identical in appearance, but the soprano is slightly smaller. The most reliable way to distinguish the species is by the frequency of their echolocation calls.

In the springtime females will form colonies and a single pup is usually born during June or July. The young can fly after around four weeks and forage independently after six weeks. A good tell-tale sign that they have returned in the pile of bat poo on the windowsill!!!

For at least the last 3 years we have been monitoring the female adult numbers in the roost, by physically counting them when they emerge at dusk to feed. So, on a damp evening this June we took the chance and over a period of an hour, our socially distanced, survey team counted 208 bats leaving the roost that evening. The good news is that the numbers have been consistent year on year, even after our strange winter weather of late.

The short video shows the bats having a good chat before emerging, making plans shall we / shan’t we and telling their pups the rules for staying home alone, so turn the sound up. Then short footage of the adults emerging for their night-time feeding session, they are come out fast so you may have to play it a couple of time and don’t blink!

Watch the video here!

Remember bat roosts, all bat species, their breeding sites and resting places are fully protected by law so should not be disturbed in anyway.

Catherine Lewis
Wildlife Education Officer

David Gray Shares New Fundraising Song to Support the Trust!

Skomer is unique and irreplaceable, and must be protected - David Gray

Skomer is unique and irreplaceable, and must be protected – David Gray

British singer-songwriter David Gray

British singer-songwriter David Gray

Running on the Waves is the new fundraising song from musician David Gray

We are thrilled to announce that we have been working with award winning British singer-songwriter David Gray to raise awareness and much needed funds to support our Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales (WTSWW) COVID-19 emergency appeal.

We have uploaded ‘Running on the Waves’ to our WTSWW YouTube Channel and we ask that you make a donation to the Trust prior to enjoying this amazing new song! Please help WTSWW ensure that wildlife has a future in south and West Wales by making a donation however big or small. You can donate here.

Please donate now

Almost 10,000 viewers tuned into episode 6 of our Skomer Live weekly Facebook broadcast to hear about David’s fond memories of visiting Skomer as a child and the impact this had on his life. During the show David also announced that he has written and recorded a new and exclusive piece of music inspired by our amazing Welsh islands of Skomer and Skokholm to help with the fundraising.

Musician, David Gray said, “Skomer Island is a spectacular place that is literally teeming with wildlife. It is both unique and irreplaceable, and must be protected, treasured and maintained at all costs. I was changed forever by a visit there as a child, when in the space of just a few glorious hours it transformed my concept of the natural world completely and utterly.”

WTSWW’s exciting weekly broadcast of Skomer Live is hosted by Welsh TV wildlife presenter Lizzie Daly. The 30 min show goes LIVE at 1pm every Wednesday across the Facebook social media platforms of The Wildlife Trust of South Wales and Skomer Island and features guest appearances from the Skomer Island team, weekly challenges and highlights from islands incredible web cameras.

Gina Gavigan, Marketing and Development Manager for WTSWW said, “We are over the moon to be working with David Gray to raise awareness of our emergency fundraising appeal. It was wonderful to hear about his special memories of Skomer and to finally share the new song ‘Running on the Waves.‘ Skomer Live and our island web camera project is part of a wider fundraising initiative from the Trust and we are delighted that David is using his awesome talent and love of the islands to help us through this crisis.”

The Covid-19 situation has exacerbated what would already have been a very difficult year for the Trust. WTSWW earn nearly 50% of its income through tourism-related activities; cafes, shops, holiday accommodation and Skomer landings, and the lockdown comes at their busiest time of year which is disastrous!

Visit our WTSWW Facebook page to watch the weekly #SkomerLive broadcast: The Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales https://www.facebook.com/WildlifeTrustSouthandWestWales/

Update from our Dream Island!

Skokholm's History

After a long spell of rough weather, jumping off the Dale Princess onto the seaweed covered South Haven jetty on 16th March was our latest ever return.

Little did we know that we would be spending at least the next three months, just the two of us, alone on Dream Island and experiencing a very different spring to the last seven. Whilst the first couple of weeks seemed very normal, the spring work parties which typically start at the end of March were sorely missed. The work parties are made up of a group of hard working and hilarious volunteers who come out to help us tackle the big maintenance jobs on the Island – things like the annual lime washing of all of the buildings, painting the Lighthouse exterior, the cleaning of 20 guests rooms and communal areas and the repairing and touching up of everything that has suffered during the winter (and this winter was especially wet).

With lockdown and social distancing preventing anyone from travelling to Skokholm, we had to adapt to the idea that we wouldn’t be able to get our Spring Long-term Volunteers out either, two extremely keen naturalists that were excited and eager to spend three months of their lives out here, something that would support their career in seabird conservation. We also had to break the bad news to our long-term researchers who wouldn’t be able to get to Skokholm to continue their monitoring.

Tuning into the news on the radio every morning we quickly realised just how lucky we were to be able to continue ‘as normal’ on Dream Island, at least in terms of the daily monitoring work. It was important to get the balance right. Even though Skokholm is only a mile by a mile and a half, with just two of us wielding binoculars, getting full Island coverage every morning to monitor migrant and resident birds was going to take longer.

The decorating and cleaning were going to take a lot longer and there were going to be jobs we just couldn’t do. For the first year ever we would be juggling painting bedrooms with seabird research, but with the long-term monitoring of Manx Shearwater, Storm Petrel, Fulmar, Guillemot, Razorbill, Puffin and three species of gull dating as far back as the 1920’s, it was crucial that we continued to add to this important dataset. It has been a whirlwind two months and we have enjoyed some stunning spring weather; huge blue skies and flat calm seas in April were the perfect conditions to perform a whole Island Puffin count which totaled 8534 birds, this the highest April count since the 1950’s.

Now that the Fulmars, Manx Shearwaters, auks and gulls are on eggs most of the annual seabird monitoring has kicked off, but migrants have been moving through since our return. Spring highlights have included a stunning Curlew Sandpiper, a splendid male Marsh Harrier, at least six different Red Kites (a species rare here before 2015) a Hobby, an Osprey , a Turtle Dove, a Cuckoo, a Blue-headed Wagtail, the first Red-spotted Bluethroat since 1995, just the second and third spring records of Siberian Chiffchaff, the fourth spring record of Coal Tit, a female Western-type Subalpine Warbler and a male Eastern Subalpine Warbler.

It’s not just the birds that are monitored each day; the non-avian highlights include a regular passage of Noctule Bats, the first ever records of Emperor Moth and Water Carpet, the first Orange Tip since 2010 and a pod of 14 Risso’s Dolphin off the Lighthouse.

Despite all of this excitement, it remains surreal that Skokholm is not bustling with researchers, volunteers, artists, poets, musicians, botanists, moth enthusiasts, ringers, birders, photographers and relaxers. We can’t bring guests here to share with them all of the amazing wildlife, so we hope that the daily blog and social media nuggets are bringing the Island to them.

Please help support Skokholm and the Trust through this difficult period by making a doantion here.

Red Squirrels in Clywedog!

Red squirrels have been surviving in an isolated area of mid Wales since before the incursion of American Greys. The Mid Wales Red Squirrel Partnership was founded in 2002 to protect our native red squirrels and learn more about them. Since then, the partnership has discovered a unique mid Wales haplotype through DNA work- proving that these red squirrels are a relic population, and not redistributed or relocated from other areas of the UK. The partnership is currently led by WTSWW, and the current project “Healthy Reds” has been funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, and by WCVA and the Landfill Disposals Tax Communities Scheme.

More recently, the Clywedog woods near Lampeter have shown to be an important area for these protected Reds, with camera survey work providing regular records of red squirrels there. Unfortunately, in the winter of 2019-2020, essential Larch felling had to be carried out, overlapping with some of our regular record locations.

Thankfully, Natural Resources Wales (NRW) are a member of the Partnership, and we were able to meet with the local managers and discuss the issue. NRW staff were fantastic and ensured that the contractors working on site were aware of the presence of red squirrels. They also marked around multiple squirrel dreys we identified in the canopy, these trees, and large buffer areas around these trees were not felled, and left as standing deadwood, enabling any squirrels resident time to relocate.

Since the felling was completed in mid-March, we have been thrilled to have picked up lots of camera trap footage not far from the previous locations, or where the felling had taken place.

We have also picked up images with multiple red squirrels in one image, which is great news for potential breeding in the area.

Picture perfect. Images of Wales to help fundraise for the Trust!

Photographer and Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales (WTSWW) Trustee, Mike Alexander has kindly decided to make all of his wonderful photographs available, via his website, to any organisation or individual who is prepared to make a donation to WTSWW.

Mike tells us about using his photo’s to raise vital funds and the need to take action to protect WTSWW….

Lockdown has, for me, become a time for communication, for maintaining contact with friends. I am too old to make best use of social media so I use the telephone.

Today, chatting with an old friend, we inevitably began reminiscing about the long careers that we shared in nature conservation. We both began working for the Nature Conservancy Council 34 years ago. We talked about driving at night in the summer and having to stop every few miles to clear the squashed insects off the headlamps. We remembered the Welsh ffridd, the upland fringe between the fields and the mountain, in springtime with cuckoos, green woodpeckers, yellowhammers, bluebells and much more.

One of the Welsh names for bluebells is Clychau’r Gog – Cuckoo bells. The traditional cuckoo poem tells us that, ‘the Cuckoo comes in April and she sings her song in May’. This, of course, coincides with the bluebell flowering period. The ffridd is, or was, the perfect cuckoo habitat in Wales. How many cuckoos have we heard this year and how many green woodpeckers? What about the Curlews, the sound of my childhood in Carmarthenshire? When did anyone last hear a spring time Curlew calling over Carreg Cennen?

Welsh nature is in freefall, and you really don’t need me to remind you. I will remind you that the future of our precious wildlife is in our hands. It is our responsibility, and if we don’t care who else will? Above all, we must care for wildlife for its own sake, but I will also recall a favourite quote, ‘All living things are mutually interdependent’. Our survival as a species on this planet is inextricably dependent on the survival and prosperity of all life, human and non-human. This is a time of crisis and human tragedy and it coincides with an environmental catastrophe. We are teetering on the edge of the sixth mass extinction. Most of us recognise the need for global action, but we must not forget that local action is of equal importance: the globe is nothing more than a collection of localities.

Our Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales, the organisation that we rely on to protect our local wildlife, is in considerable difficulty. The corona virus will have a devastating impact on the Trust’s ability to protect nature. The Trust is, in many ways, the victim of past success. Unlike so many other wildlife charities, the greater part of our income is derived from sales outlets, wildlife centres and visitors to our major reserves. Without this income the Trust will be unable to maintain its staff resource, which is so important for the management of our reserves and our work in the wider countryside.

We could lose our reserves, and we could fail our wildlife. We all need to do more to help. Unfortunately, the way in which most of us have helped the Trust has been through volunteering, but lockdown means that this is almost impossible. The obvious alternative is to help raise the essential funds. Each of us can do something. Grand gestures would be wonderful but every little will help.

My small gesture is that have decided to make all my photographs available, via my website, to any organisation or individual who is prepared to make a donation to the Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales.

There will be no fixed prices, I will rely on people to donate whatever they believe is reasonable, in the knowledge that all donations will be used to conserve wildlife. Please take a moment or two to visit my site, you might find the Skomer Island page interesting, I have included several newly discovered archive photographs of Skomer in the 1880s. All the photographs on my site were taken in Wales and most on nature reserves, if you enjoy the images please consider donating to the Trust. My website provides instructions on how to access the photographs.

Mike Alexander

Dare to be WILD! New review says get long-lasting feel-good factor from 30 Days Wild!

The feel-good factor from simple daily contact with nature can last for months, once initiated, according to a new review from The Wildlife Trusts. The review is based on surveys completed by people taking part in 30 Days Wild – the UK’s biggest nature challenge which is run by The Wildlife Trusts and inspires daily acts of nature engagement every day during June.

Building on three peer-reviewed papers, the University of Derby has evaluated survey responses from more than 1,000 people over five years and discovered the enduring effects on wellbeing from participation in 30 Days Wild – the positive effects are still felt two months after the challenge is over.

30 Days Wild participants are provided with ideas, wallcharts and activity sheets that give everyone easy ways of enjoying nature whatever their location. These ‘random acts of wildness’ range from walking barefoot on grass, to sitting beneath a tree or watching birds on a feeder.

Key findings:

30 Days Wild – a five-year review is a summary of 1,105 people’s responses. The results show that taking part in 30 Days Wild not only significantly increases people’s wellbeing and heightened sense of nature – but that these positive increases are sustained beyond the life of the challenge – for a minimum of two months after it is over. The people who benefit most are those who have a relatively weak connection with nature at the start.

• 30 Days Wild resulted in very significant increases in nature connectedness for those who began with a weak connection to nature – their nature connectedness rose by 56%

• 30 Days Wild boosted the health of participants by an average of 30%

• 30 Days Wild made people, particularly those who started with a relatively weak connection to nature, significantly happier

• 30 Days Wild inspired significant increases in pro-nature behaviour

Other important findings include:

• People were asked to rate their health, nature connectedness, happiness and pro-nature behaviour before beginning the challenge, again at the beginning of July when the challenge had finished, and then for a third time in September, two months after the challenge had finished. All positive increases were maintained both immediately after the challenge and also two months later.

• Overall, those participants with the lowest connection to nature before doing the 30 Days Wild challenge gained the greatest benefits by taking part in the challenge.

Professor Miles Richardson, Professor of Human Factors and Nature Connectedness at the University of Derby, says:

“This five-year evaluation of 30 Days Wild has produced remarkable results – it shows the positive power of simple engagement with nature. We were thrilled to see that the significant increases in people’s health and happiness were still felt even two months after the 30 Days Wild challenge was over.

“The Wildlife Trusts have shown the importance of doing simple things to enjoy everyday nature and that it can bring considerable benefits. What really stood out was how the people who didn’t feel a connection with nature at the outset were the ones who benefitted most from taking part in 30 Days Wild.”

Over a million people have taken part in 30 Days Wild during the last five years. Last year, 2019, was the most successful so far, attracting 400,000 participants. This June, The Wildlife Trusts believe the challenge will prove more popular than ever as the UK battles with social restrictions and people are looking for ways to keep spirits up and entertain young families. Whilst time spent outside may be limited, daily nature activities – even at home – can open a door to a world of sensory delights, from listening to birdsong or growing a pot of wildflowers on a windowsill.

People of all ages can sign-up and download fun ideas, wallcharts, activity sheets and inspiration for going wild in nature during June. This year the campaign is 100% digital and everyone can download materials for FREE.

30 Days Wild has attracted well-known supporters: TV presenters Ellie Harrison, Monty Don and Dr Amir Khan, The Vamps’ James McVey, fitness blogger Zanna van Dijk, and Birdgirl – Mya-Rose Craig, have lent their support to The Wildlife Trusts’ 30 Days Wild challenge – please see quotes in the Editors’ notes.

The 2020 challenge has brand new downloads to enjoy, including:
• Wildlife gardening tips from Monty Don
• Beginner’s guide to wildlife photography from award-winning George Stoyle
• Wild fitness ideas from Zanna Van Dijk

Our Big Wild Weekend events will focus on nature at home – on Saturday 20th June everyone’s invited to camp in their back garden or create a wild and beautiful nature den indoors!

Sign-up, download the inspiration and get ready to share your daily #30DaysWild now!