I sit at my home office desk, looking out at a bright blue sky, not a cloud in the sky. It’s days like
these when the sun is shining, and the sea is flat calm that I really miss being out on the water in
Previously as a volunteer and now as part of my work with WTSWW I would ordinarily have been fortunate enough to spend time out on the water monitoring the marine wildlife that we see. This includes the internationally important population of bottlenose dolphins that we find off the Welsh coast, Atlantic grey seals, harbour porpoises as well as a multitude of seabirds nesting along the coastline. For me this is the first year since 2003 that I haven’t been able to do this. And it is the first year in almost 25 years that Cardigan Bay Marine Wildlife Centre (CBMWC) hasn’t been able to collect vital marine monitoring data.
Although I am sure, the last few months during lockdown have provided some much needed respite for nature, in certain areas at least. It appears that wildlife has enjoyed some breathing space from human activity, less car and boat traffic and fewer people have meant that we could enjoy the bird song all around us without even trying and the sea around our coasts and around the world have been much quieter.
Having said that it’s not the case for all wildlife in all areas. In some parts of the world wildlife poaching has been rife in areas where the pandemic has led to reduced patrols and closer to home there has been a surge in anti-social behaviour on our nature reserves particularly since lockdown restrictions began to ease. It is also concerning the amount of litter that is starting to accumulate on our shores and beaches. Just when we were doing so well at becoming more environmentally aware, reducing our use of single use plastic, refusing, reusing, reducing and recycling we are having to consider using single use items such as face masks and gloves to remain safe and healthy and litter is once again appearing on the ground.
litter in Cardigan Bay Copyright Sarah Perry
Concern also lies with the continued easing of lockdown, not only for our health and wellbeing but for the potential for disturbance. We must remember to be mindful of our surroundings once again and be particularly careful not to disturb wildlife. It’s important that we all play our part in helping to ensure wildlife remains undisturbed and our green and blue spaces remain litter free, as the phrase states “leave nothing but footprints, take nothing but photographs”.
When the time is right, I look forward to heading back out on the water to resume our long term marine wildlife surveys and to catching up with old finned, flippered and feathered friends!
The Covid-19 pandemic poses many threats to both humans and wildlife, conservation organisation like WTSWW struggle for funding. Looking after our natural world has become harder than ever during the pandemic please consider making a donation to support our marine conservation work now and for the future.
Dr Sarah Perry, Living Seas Manager, The Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales
Wales’ wildlife continues to decline according to the State of Nature 2019 report, with the latest findings showing that one in six species in Wales are at risk of extinction. Since rigorous scientific monitoring began in the 1970s, there’s been a 13% decline in average abundance across wildlife studied across the UK.
The State of Nature 2019 report reveals that of the 3,902 species assessed in Wales, 73 have been lost from Wales already, with birds like turtle doves and corn buntings now gone from Wales’ skies. A further 666 species are threatened with extinction in Wales.
Three small islands off the coast of Pembrokeshire are flying high this month, as the latest seabird census results indicate that they are now home to more than 50 per cent of the world’s entire Manx shearwater population.
It’s estimated that nearly a million breeding Manx shearwater adults reside on Skomer, Skokholm and Middleholm based on the monitoring work by The Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales (WTSWW), the National Trust and the University of Oxford and University of Gloucestershire.
The survey was part of the Joint Nature Conservation Committee’s Seabirds Count census, and took place in June 2018.
It required a careful approach as Manx shearwaters nest in burrows, meaning the team had to watch their footing to ensure minimum disturbance to the fragile nests.
The monitoring work involved playing the seabird’s social call, which had been pre-recorded on an audio device, into a sample of burrows across the three islands. If a bird responded to the call then the burrow was recorded as active as part of the survey.
The census finished and on the boat back to Skomer by Ed Stubbings
“It was a privilege to be part of the team who, by using a survey method which encouraged a higher proportion of nesting birds to make themselves known than ever before, helped to produce our best estimate yet of how many pairs of this remarkable seabird breed on these islands,” enthused Richard Brown and Giselle Eagle, wardens on WTSWW’s Skokholm Island.
Results suggest that there are nearly half-a-million breeding pairs in total across the internationally-important islands, with 89,000 on WTSWW’s Skokholm Island, 350,000 on WTSWW’s Skomer Island and 16,000 on Middleholm.
Speaking about the overall findings, the University of Gloucestershire’s Matt Wood, who helped coordinate the census, said: “Seabirds are in such trouble globally so this is great news internationally, not just in Wales – nearly a million breeding adults on these three small islands, and if you include the teenagers hanging around nearby and the chicks in their burrows in August you can almost double that number.
“That’s well over half the entire world’s population of Manx shearwaters, and it looks like they’re increasing steadily here.”
For the National Trust, the data is especially exciting for Middleholm as area ranger James Roden explained: “The 2018 census on Middleholm was the first time in 20 years that Manx shearwaters have been recorded on the tiny island, and it’s great to see that the population is much larger than we first thought.
“We hope to carry on working closely with the Wildlife Trust on more monitoring projects in the future, as well as towards the continued conservation work on Middleholm.”
The view across to Skomer Island from the top of Middleholm by James Roden
The monitoring work was made possible through funding support from Natural Resources Wales, The Seabird Group, The Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales and National Trust.
The South Ceredigion Wildlife Group is a local group based in Cardigan. The group is run entirely by volunteers and raises money for the Wildlife Trust’s local nature reserves.
Throughout the winter the group puts on talks from topical speakers on wildlife which are very well attended. They meet in the Catholic Church Hall in Cardigan on the first Wednesday of each month from September through to April. The group are looking for people to join them to help with organising these talks.
There are a variety of jobs available including: introducing the speaker at the monthly talks, assisting with group finance, assisting with co-ordinating talks and finding speakers, assisting with tea and coffee facilities at the meetings or just coming along with some new ideas.
Any contribution, large or small would be much appreciated!
The group’s AGM will be held at 7:30pm on Weds the 4th of April in Cardigan Catholic Church Hall. The AGM will be followed by a talk “The Plight of the Bumblebee” by Sinead Lynch of Bumblebee Conservation. All welcome! Come along to see what it’s all about.
If you’d like more information please contact the Welsh Wildlife Centre on 01239 621600 or email email@example.com
Short term volunteers are required on Skomer Island from 21 March to 26 September inclusive.
We take up to six volunteers each week (Saturday to Saturday), to help with managing day visitors, assisting with overnight guests and their accommodation, conservation work including monitoring and surveys, and building maintenance.
You can find out more about what we expect from our volunteers by downloading:
The minimum age is 16 years. You will need to be able to walk several miles carry luggage up a steep, long, flight of steps several times a day. You need to enjoy working outside in all weather conditions including strong sunshine, heavy rain, cold and strong winds.
You will need to be happy talking to members of the public, have a cheerful and customer friendly approach to sometimes difficult situations. When the island is closed to visitors you will be helping out on the reserve. This may include maintenance of buildings and control of vegetation.
Applying to be a volunteer
Applications are accepted from September for volunteering positions in the following year (application deadline 30th September). Positions are allocated in October. Some spaces may become available over the winter. To be added to the cancellation list, please complete an application form and send to the email address below.
Please download and read the short-term volunteer information before applying. If you’d like to apply please complete an application from below and send to firstname.lastname@example.org by 30th September. Applications by post, or by CV, cannot be considered.
Each season we invite four volunteers to come to Skokholm and help the Wardens manage the Island and monitor its wildlife. There are two positions running from 1st April 2020 until 30th June 2020 and two from 1st July 2020 until 30th September 2020.
Yes it can be cold and yes it can be wet, but suddenly there are signs everywhere that breeding seasons are fast approaching. Dark nights see the first of our 175,000 breeding Manx Shearwaters return to the Island and quickly the nights become a cacophony of whaling noises.
The first spring migrants begin to pass Skokholm and the Puffins return (from when our evenings are spent counting the large rafts which congregate around the Island). The Razorbills and Guillemots return to their cliff ledges and the gulls begin to lay their eggs. Days are spent counting the nesting seabirds and seeing how the totals fluctuate each day and nights are spent taking guests to see the phenomenal Storm Petrel colony at the Quarry. Moth trapping and the morning census of migrant and resident birds provide a break from the seabird monitoring.
Choughs are secretive around their nests and the staff thus find themselves hidden among the rocks to look for incubation changeovers. The Peregrines and Ravens are more straightforward, as is the mapping of the vocal Oystercatchers.
Much of our time is spent establishing study plots and, as the spring progresses, monitoring a sample of each breeding species; this will be the basis of our productivity estimates. All this, coupled with a long-term Puffin colour ringing study, a study of Manx Shearwater survival rates and the daily ringing of passage birds sees the staff flat out.
Our second team of long-term volunteers pick up where the first team left off.
The productivity monitoring plots are established and the chicks have hatched, but we need to follow the progress of the Fulmar,Razorbill, Puffin and gull chicks to see if they fledge. A large amount of time early on in the period is spent playing Storm Petrel song along several transects, thus allowing an estimate of crevice occupancy to be made. The staff take turns during several 24 hour periods to assess how many of the Puffins arrive with fish.
Many more visits are made to the Puffin study colony to try and see as many colour ring combinations as possible. If the weather behaves, evenings are spent ringing adult Storm Petrels which often goes on until the early hours. Attention turns to the Manx Shearwaters in August with visits being made to our study plots to ring the chicks and monitor their development and fledging.
Autumn migration picks up pace as August progresses and the daily census begins to take longer as the number of birds lurking around the Island increases. If the pond has dried out then there could be several days of hard digging as we continue to remove the sediment which has built up over the decades. September is an exciting month and much time is spent in the field counting common migrant birds and searching for scarcer ones.
This is a fantastic opportunity to work on one of Britain’s most spectacular Islands and to gain experience in a wide range of survey techniques. But it is not all about the monitoring work! The successful applicants will be integral to all aspects of Island management, from providing sanitation and clean visitor accommodation to helping with boat deliveries and physical management such as pond digging. Skokholm relies on bigger groups of volunteers for managing its infrastructure but your help will be needed too; in the spring work concentrates on getting the accommodation ready for guests (so lots of cleaning, painting and lime-washing), whilst in the autumn work usually focusses on the Lighthouse and vehicles.
Each volunteer has their own bedroom at the Farm and share the same facilities as our paying guests; we are thus looking for people who are happy to spend time with our guests and share their passion for the phenomenal things which inhabit Skokholm.
No qualifications or specific experience are required as training will be given on the Island, however candidates who are working towards a career in conservation are preferred. Additionally candidates who have previous volunteering experience, island experience or relevant qualifications such as a ringing permit or who are experienced birders will be well placed. We are looking for people with enthusiasm for UK wildlife who have a desire to learn and get involved in a range of tasks. Candidates must be of a hardy nature as working days can be long and in a range of weather conditions.
How to apply
Please fill in the application form explaining why you are interested in the post, what you could bring to it and what you hope to achieve from the position. No cover letters or CVs will be included as part of your application.
Becoming a corporate member of your local Wildlife Trust is a fantastic way of showing your support for wildlife as well as assisting us in our conservation efforts.
CMB Engineering is a socially responsible firm, based in Cardiff and they have highlighted the importance of becoming corporate members of the Trust:
Due to our new Environmental Management System we as a company recognise the importance of managing our impacts on the environment and are willing to back this up by supporting such a worthwhile project such as the Wildlife Trust.
West Wales Holiday Cottages join us as a Small Business member and we are very grateful for their support. They are a family run business based in Cardigan Bay who help local independent cottage owners advertise their holiday properties.
“West Wales Holiday Cottages is delighted to support The Wildlife Trust of South & West Wales in caring for the natural environment. The Trust have a vital role in preserving and protecting the unique wildlife species and habitats that make West Wales so special for us and our visitors.”
Admiral Insurance have joined as a Gold level Wildlife Partner. They have offices in Cardiff and Swansea and say “ Admiral has become a corporate member of the Wildlife Trust as it believes in supporting the preservation of Wales’ unique eco system and protecting the many wildlife species which live here.”
Visitor Wayne Davies had a lovely surprise when he visited our Westfield Pill Nature Reserve in mid-April and luckily he had his camera on him to capture the moment! An osprey chose that moment to drop in and grab a meal from the lagoon in full view of Wayne as you can see from his fantastic photo.
Westfield Pill is one of 17 nature reserves that we manage in Pembrokeshire and consists of an old railway line that is now a cycle track and footpath, scrubby meadow, limestone grassland and a lake which is partially tidal. It is an important site for the Bastard Balm plant and overwintering Little Grebes as well as being one of the few European sites for the Tentacled lagoon worm!
Ospreys are one of Wales’ rarest breeding birds with only a handful of pairs present across the country. They are seen slightly more regularly in the spring and autumn as they migrate between breeding sites further north in the Lake District and Scotland and their overwintering grounds in West Africa.
Ospreys are specialist fish-hunters as can be seen from the photograph as they have exceptionally long, sharp talons with which to grab hold of their slippery prey. They execute impressive plunges into the water at speed, often appearing to struggle to emerge again with a large fish grasped tightly before flying off with it to feed. Sites such as Westfield Pill offer ideal refuelling stations on their epic journeys but you still have to be very lucky to see, let alone photograph, such a sight.
Ospreys are still slowly recovering in numbers after steep declines through persecution over many decades. Even now, nests are often kept secret or heavily protected to prevent their eggs being interfered with.
Montgomeryshire Wildlife Trust’s Cors Dyfi is an excellent place to see them during the breeding season with cameras providing an intimate glimpse into their nesting behaviour. WTSWW have installed a nesting platform at our Teifi Marshes Nature Reserve so hopefully they’ll take up residence soon as they are seen on passage there. Do let us know if you’re lucky enough to see an osprey in our patch and thanks to Wayne for sending his photo through!
Pembroke Upper Mill Pond nature reserve benefits from Co-op funding
In 2015 The Co-operative’s Food businesses donated their 5p bag levy to support wildlife projects across Wales. The six Wildlife Trusts in Wales are using these funds to save our most endangered wildlife and wild places for future generations to enjoy.
We have been fortunate to receive funding through this scheme that has recently helped to complete major ground works at one of our wetland nature reserves at Pembroke Upper Mill Pond. Over the last decade the reserve has dried up considerably due to poor flows of water through the reedbed resulting in scrubby and invasive species encroaching onto valuable reedbed habitat and ditches blocked through the build-up of silt.
We employed the services of Angle based Aquaclear Water Management services who utilised their amphibious ‘Truxor’ vehicles to clear ditches and block channels to force water back into the reedbed. They also cleared and pumped silt from areas in front of where the reedbed meets the pond area so as to stop the spread of reed into this area of open water which is an important site for wading birds such as Little Grebe and Heron.
Water levels have already risen considerably and fresh reed is growing once more. With higher water levels, other species such as the Kingfisher, Otter, frogs and toads and species of dragon and damselfly will benefit considerably.
Aquaclear and volunteers from the Wildlife Trust and local residents also spent time clearing areas of willow and alder from the reedbed and so controlling further spread and allowing areas of open water to remain open.
Willow and Alder clearance
An artificial Otter holt has also been installed to provide suitable shelter and encourage this species to breed on the reserve. Otters regularly use the site and the rest of the Mill Ponds complex. Further work will continue to manage alder and willow during winter months and water levels will be monitored throughout the year.
The Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales is grateful for the support the Co-op has given to this project.