Author: Lyndsey Maiden

Shear brilliance for Pembrokeshire’s islands!


Manx Shearwater by Dave Boyle

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

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 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.

Come Join Us in Cardigan

Ceredigion local group walk

Are you local to the Cardigan area?

Do you want to help your local wildlife, meet new people and learn new skills? The South Ceredigion Wildlife Group is looking for new members.

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

Ceredigion local group walk


Volunteering on Skomer

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:

2020 Skomer short term vol info

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 by 30th September. Applications by post, or by CV, cannot be considered.

2020 Skomer Short Term Application Form – Word doc

2020 Skomer Short Term Application Form – PDF

If you have any queries on this please phone the booking office on 01656 724100 or email Islands

Return to the Visiting and Staying on Skomer and Skokholm main islands page

Skokholm Long Term Volunteers

Skokholm Island
Giselle, Skokholm Island Warden, admiring the view

Admiring the view over Skokholm

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 2019 until 30th June 2019 and two from 1st July 2019 until 30th September 2019.

1st April until 30th June
1st July until 30th September

Spring is a fantastic time to be on Skokholm.

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. Volunteers are also encouraged to run a personal project, be it moth trapping, plant surveys, hoverfly identification, butterfly transects, cetacean watches, or something we have not yet thought of.

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.  As with the first volunteer period, both of the successful applicants will be encouraged to take on a personal project.

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.

Download a Long Term Volunteering Application Form 2019.

Applications must reach the below address by email or post by 12th February 2019.
Decisions will be made within the following two weeks and candidates short-listed for phone interviews will be contacted.

Please e-mail (or post) your application forms to:
Richard and Giselle
Email or
mail The Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales
Welsh Wildlife Centre
Cilgerran, Cardigan, SA43 2TB


CMB Engineering supports local wildlife

CMB Logo

Cardiff based firm, CMB Engineering, become Platinum Members of the Trust.

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 becomes a member

West Wales cottages logo

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.”

Osprey drops in on Westfield Pill

Osprey at Westfield Pill by Wayne Davies
Osprey at Westfield Pill by Wayne Davies

Osprey at Westfield Pill © Wayne Davies

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!

Co-operative Funding

Reedbed spread control
Reedbed spread control

Reedbed spread control

Pembroke Upper Mill Pond nature reserve benefits from Co-op funding

Cooperative Welsh Wildlife Heroes logoIn 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.

Ditch clearance

Ditch clearance

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

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.

Are you a responsible dog owner?

Responsible dog walking

As the Wildlife Trust Officer for Pembrokeshire, I always look forward to the arrival of spring when across the county, signs of life slowly start emerging once again.

It is a time when wildlife begins planning for the breeding season and start to make use of the habitats found in their surroundings. It is also a time where the human element of the wider countryside start to venture further afield and come into closer contact with nature.

Responsible dog walking

Responsible dog walking

The Wildlife Trust of South & West Wales manages 14 reserves within the county and along with other conservation organisations such as the National Trust, National Park and RSPB, actively encourages a greater connection between members of the public and nature.

Nearly all of our sites are open for access all year round and have a good network of paths across them. This allows a variety of user groups to gain better access to our nature reserves and immerse themselves in the natural environment that surrounds them.

One of the main visitors to our sites are dog walkers. Whilst the majority of this group of people follow guidelines set when on a reserve, there are still a fair few that do not. It is becoming increasingly frustrating as a reserve manager to come into frequent contact with those who show little responsibility for their dog or respect for wildlife when visiting a nature reserve.

Simple tasks like keeping a dog on a lead or picking up, bagging and taking home dog waste are not adhered to. Trees decorated in dog waste bags are sadly becoming an increasingly common sight.

We require dogs to be kept on leads at all times. This helps to protect ground nesting birds, vulnerable wild mammal populations and prevent any disturbance to grazing animals. After all, it isn’t called a nature reserve for a reason.

There are other important reasons for keeping dogs on leads that owners need to be aware of. Some of which are as follows:

  • One is able to see when a dog defecates and therefore bag it and bin it. If not removed, areas of high defecation can cause damage to fragile and complex habitats and transmit disease and pathogens.
  • Dog mess can cause possible blindness to reserve workers if any were to enter their eyes when strimming paths. It is also a health hazard to other members of the public, especially children.
  • Not everyone is fond of dogs and some have severe phobias. Other reserve users can feel extremely uncomfortable when a dog runs up to them even though the dog may be friendly and harmless.
  • Small children are especially in danger from loose dogs, ranging from simply being knocked down by an enthusiastic dog to being bitten or seriously harmed.
  • Dogs off lead decrease the number and diversity of wildlife near footpaths. Many people come to reserves to see the wildlife that live in these protected areas, so their enjoyment is directly diminished.

Dogs can also help spread invasive species. This is particularly the case for those invasives found in areas of open water such as New Zealand pygmyweed.

  • Some conservation organisations do not allow dogs on their reserves at all. We require the understanding and respect from all our dog walkers to keep their dogs on leads and follow the country-side code so that we may continue to welcome dogs to our nature reserves.

Thank you for your cooperation.

Nathan Walton, Wildlife Trust Officer for Pembrokeshire

Whistling Dolphins

Cardigan Bay dolphins by Sarah Perry
Dolphin in Cardigan Bay by Sarah Perry

One of Cardigan Bay’s semi-resident bottlenose dolphins by Sarah Perry

What’s Occurring? Welsh dolphins produce high frequency whistles

Scientists from the Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales’ Cardigan Bay Marine Wildlife Centre, New Quay have shown that Welsh bottlenose dolphins produce high frequency signature whistles, the highest frequency recorded for the species so far.

Cardigan Bay dolphins by Sarah Perry

Cardigan Bay dolphins by Sarah Perry

Bottlenose dolphins live in an aquatic environment with few physical landmarks and often poor visibility, as a result sound is very important to them. Bottlenose dolphins are well known for their use of individually distinctive identity signals, known as signature whistles, which they use to broadcast their identity and to maintain contact with one another.

A team of researchers studying the bottlenose dolphins in Cardigan Bay, Wales, have found evidence of geographic variation in signature whistle structure, with some Welsh bottlenose dolphins whistling at higher frequencies than those found in other populations.

“We found that at least one dolphin whose signature whistle was produced at higher than expected frequencies (>30kHz), a frequency band that is outside of human hearing” says Helen Hiley, the lead author of the paper who conducted the study as part of her honours degree at St Andrews University in collaboration with researchers at Cardigan Bay Marine Wildlife Centre and the University of Western Australia.

“The use of this higher frequency for bottlenose dolphin whistle communication has not been documented elsewhere for this species, it was previously believed bottlenose dolphins did not exploit the 30 to 40kHz frequency band” says Hiley.

This study brings the total number of wild bottlenose dolphin populations, where signature whistles have been identified, up to six.

“The findings of this study have significant implications for the management and conservation of regional populations of dolphins, such as Cardigan Bay population. The reasons for the use of these higher frequencies for whistle communication are unknown and further research is required to determine the extent of the use of these ultrasonic whistles” says Sarah Perry, the Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales’ Living Seas Science Officer, and co-author on the recent study.

The results are published in the journal Bioacoustics.

Sarah Perry – – 01545 560224

Woodland Management in the Vale of Glamorgan

Coed Garnllwyd wood anemones
Coed Garnllwyd wood anemones

Coed Garnllwyd wood anemones

Habitat Piles and Spring Flowers

Coed Garnllwyd in the Vale of Glamorgan is a 13ha nature reserve consisting of ancient broadleaved woodland and a meadow, situated less than 1km northeast of Llancarfan. It is underlain with limestone and contains species typical of calcareous woods such as Herb Paris and Early Purple Orchids as well as Bluebells, Wood Anemones and other characteristic woodland species.

Coed Garnllwyd habitat piles

Coed Garnllwyd habitat piles

The woodland is mixed Ash with neglected Oak/Ash coppice and a varied shrub layer including Holly, Wayfaring Tree, Hazel and Crab Apple amongst others. In the autumn of 2015 a group of hardy volunteers and Trust staff reinstated coppicing management to an area of the woodland in order to open up the canopy and get more light to the woodland floor. This management will hopefully benefit the ground flora as well as invertebrates such as butterflies.

An area of 0.4ha will be coppiced in rotation every 2 years with the coppiced material being used to create dense habitat piles which will provide nesting habitat for small birds and an excellent substrate for fungi as the wood decomposes. Dead wood such as this is a valuable habitat for a range of invertebrates too who use it for shelter and food.

This spring has seen a fantastic display of Wood Anemones come up in the coppiced area (see photo below) with numerous hoverflies and bumblebees already seen taking advantage of the nectar supply. Volunteer wardens Linda & Rob Nottage have been faithfully monitoring Early Purple Orchids and Herb-Paris for many years and it will be interesting to see if these species spread in future years due to the increased light levels.

Volunteers at Coed Garnllwyd

Volunteers at Coed Garnllwyd

Both these plants are typical of woodlands on calcareous soil and both benefit from coppicing. Herb-Paris is an unusual-looking plant whose latin name Paris quadrifolia is an indication of its features – Paris comes from the latin par that means equal (it usually has symmetrical leaves (normally 4, hence the quadrifolia) topped with 4 narrow green petals with 8 long golden yellow stamens above that). The fruit is a single black berry that then sits above the petals – quite distinctive but not always easy to spot amongst the Dog’s Mercury and other ground flora.

Next winter the focus turns to fighting back some of the scrub that has been encroaching on the meadow in recent years while over the summer we will concentrate on maintaining the paths and carrying out species monitoring including moths, butterflies and breeding birds.

A big thank you to all the volunteers who helped out in the reserve this winter – we couldn’t do it without you