Author: Lyndsey Maiden

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

Marine Education Resources

children playing sea quest cardigan bay
Tompot Blenny Photo by Paul Naylor

Tompot Blenny Photo by Paul Naylor

Teaching the next generation about the importance of our seas.

Our Cardigan Bay Marine Wildlife Centre in New Quay is a stunning resource where we are able to offer support to teachers, whether that is a visit to your school, we can offer talks and fun activities, or we can train you as a teacher to be able to provide some insight into our stunning seas.

children playing sea quest cardigan bayYou can download our Education brochure which goes into detail about some of the great activities we can offer, including Seashore Safaris, Who Eats Who Workshops and a totally 3D underwater experience to name but a few.

We can also offer corporate days and events for adults.

CBMWC Education Brochure (English)

CBMWC Education Brochure (Welsh)

The centre is non-profit making, we do however need to make a charge to help support our workand to cover materials and volunteer travel expenses.

Speaker giving a talk lasting approximately 45 minutes – £40 (plus travel)

Two hours of classroom activities with preliminary meeting – £60

Teacher training talks lasting approximately 1 hour – £40

Half/full day field visit to CBMWC – £2/3 per child

(Minimum charge of £30 for half day and £50 for full day field visits)

Please contact us to discuss your requirements – Telephone: 01545 560224 or email info@cbmwc.org

Clearing up in Ceredigion!

Coed Penglanowen Bluebells by Em Foot

Several days have been spent in the stables area at Cors Ian. Volunteers from Coventry helped regular volunteers with the taking down of parts of the stables. Some of the material will be used to mend the remaining sections which are being kept and improved for wildlife.

Coed Penglanowen Bluebells by Em Foot

Coed Penglanowen Bluebells by Em Foot

The large concrete area in front of the stables has been cleaned up as have the areas we hope to use as viewing platforms. A muddy attempt at drying out part of the entrance track has also been made.

Straggly and overhanging trees have been cut down and rubbish removed. We had a bonfire, in the rain, to dispose of some of the brash and timber that was no good. It’s already looking a lot more open and lighter. At the other end of the reserve there was some clearing up of branches and gorse required after a new fence was installed.

Brambles were threatening to block the entrance to Rhos Pil Bach – Pennar Fawr so we spent a day clearing these and others along the fence line as well as saplings and birch and willow regrowth. Though we missed it there was an adder seen on site that day (there was photographic evidence!) It is good to know they are still around.

We had some clearing up to do after our hasty winter tree felling at Coed Maidie B Goddard. We also extended our woodland stick path into another usually muddy section.

The spring flowers were looking lovely. They are also looking great at Coed Penglanowen where the bluebell carpet is just starting to bloom.

Marine Themed RHS Garden

RHS Basking Shark by Out To Learn Willow
Marine Fun at the RHS Garden

Marine Fun at the RHS Garden

In April 2016 we were lucky enough to be included in the Royal Horticultural Society’s Flower Show in Cardiff for yet another year.

Our show garden this year was marine wildlife themed, this was to support our current appeal and raise awareness of the shocking 39% decline worldwide that we have seen in our marine wildlife. Astonishingly it is predicted that in 2050 there will be more pieces of plastic in the ocean than fish!

We utilised the RHS as an opportunity to reach a wide audience in a short space of time in order to raise some much needed awareness and support for your marine wildlife.

WTSWW’s marketing and communications officer, Rebecca Vincent, stated:

The show was a success with adults and children alike and we manage to raise a huge amount of awareness regarding current marine wildlife conservation issues.

RHS Basking Shark by Out To Learn Willow

RHS Basking Shark by Out To Learn Willow

Included in WTSWW’s garden was a model of a dolphin made from netted wire and filled with beach litter to emphasise the amount of litter that washes up on beaches, of which each piece is a life threatening hazard to declining marine wildlife.

We also included a Basking Shark woven out of willow which highlighted the fact that we have already seen a 95% decrease in these beautiful creatures!

Other features that our garden included was a turf sofa, a rock pool, a beach and maritime plants. There was an area for children’s crafts and volunteers engaged with parents and other members of the public to emphasise the struggle that currently faces our marine world.

This issue is something that everyone can get involved in and we can all do our part to help improve the current state of our marine wildlife before it is too late. If you would like more information why not take a trip to our Cardigan Bay Marine Wildlife Centre,where our living seas project is carried out, or visit the marine pages on our website. You can also donate to our Marine Appeal or call 01656 724100.

Buy Bird Food and Support Wildlife Trusts

Wildlife friendly Vine House Farm
Lesser Redpoll feeding by Bob Coyle

Lesser Redpoll feeding by Bob Coyle

Vine House Farm wins charity award

Wildlife friendly Vine House Farm has long been a supporter of the Wildlife Trusts, donating to a local Trust every time someone buys from their great selection of bird food. Buying bird food obviously helps our wildlife by supporting our birds as their habitats diminish and this way you can then support your local Wildlife Trust at the same time and know that when you buy the bird food it’s all environmentally friendly. Buy Bird Food Now

Wildlife friendly Vine House Farm

Wildlife friendly Vine House Farm

Farm owner, Nicholas Watts, has been a passionate supporter of wildlife friendly methods for many years and this has resulted in a fantastic partnership with the Wildlife Trusts since 2007. Nicholas and his great farm have recently won Charity Partnership Small Business Award and deservedly so.

Since the start of the partnership Vine House Farm has donated 5% of all bird food sales to the Wildlife Trusts, raising an amazing £1,000,000 for the Trusts across the UK.

Read more about this inspirational farmer and his work at Vine House Farm.

Fighting Fungi

Spalting or Pseudosclerotial plates by Graham Watkeys
Spalting or Pseudosclerotial plates by Graham Watkeys

Spalting or Pseudosclerotial plates by Graham Watkeys

Spalting or Pseudosclerotial plates

It’s easy even for fungologists to forget that the objects of our interest are not just inactive and benign things sat on tree trunks.

A newly fallen tree is a massive source of food that has to be fought over; each arriving spore must compete not only with any resident fungi but also with all of the millions upon millions of spores seeking to use the same resource.

By chance our spore settles, germinates and its mycelium explores its new environment, slowly spreading through the wood happily digesting and growing, until it meets the enemy. Is enemy the right word? It implies aggression and hostility even a sense of hatred. Perhaps these are unjustified emotions to hang on a fungus but it deserves to be called more than mere competition for resources.

The tree reveals the story. The black stained battle lines seared into the wood denote the boundary zones of each fungus; each hard fought compartment may be a different species or the same there are no allies.

Mycologists call these lines Pseudosclerotial plates, wood carvers call it spalting.

Bumblebee mites

A Queen Buff-tailed Bumblebee with some Mites hitching a lift by Graham Watkeys
A Queen Buff-tailed Bumblebee with some Mites hitching a lift by Graham Watkeys

A queen buff-tailed bumblebee with some mites hitching a lift by Graham Watkeys

It’s the time of year when bee royalty can be seen hunting for the palaces of their dreams; this often means buzzing low down along hedgerows and in undergrowth looking for abandoned mouse holes or other cavities that can become the home of the next generation of bumbles.

As the mornings can still be quite cold, bees can often be seen sitting in the sun trying to warm up, this is quite normal and is often a good chance to have a good close look. This is when you might notice some mites clinging on to the bees fur.

With the disease spreading Varroa mites infecting honey bees this may cause some concern but the mites that are found on bumblebees are different and generally completely harmless.

These mites are detritivores that live in bumblebee nests, eating old wax and general bee generated rubbish; when the nests are abandoned over winter this causes a problem for the mites, so they hitch a ride on queen bumblebees to get to the next active nest.

They may look quite scary when they are seen seemingly infesting queen bumblebees but they don’t spread disease, parasitise or damage the bee in any way other than to add weight. The weight can cause an issue in extreme cases when there are so many mites that the bee can’t cope, but they can be brushed off with a small paintbrush.

Bramble attack, trees and paths!

New bridge at Coed Penglanowen by Em Foot

New bridge at Coed Penglanowen by Em Foot

Cwm Clettwr new path - by Em Foot

Cwm Clettwr new path – by Em Foot

We’ve spent several days clearing brambles at Coed Maidie and Rhos Glyn yr Helyg. On both reserves large clumps were growing in the middle of the meadows.

The very windy weather had taken its toll at Rhos Glandenys and several trees had fallen over so we spent a surprisingly warm sunny day clearing these up.

Aberystwyth University students have built two new bridges, two benches and started a new loop path at Coed Penglanowen. We spent a day finishing off the new path and clearing a large fallen tree.

Several days have been spent by both the weekday and weekend volunteers clearing a new path at Cwm Clettwr too. It links two dead end paths at the east side of the reserve. It is pretty steep in places but makes a good circular walk through the heather.

We’ve also had our first dormousey session to check and clean the boxes and replace the lids (made by North Ceredigion volunteers) on 30 of the older ones. As expected no dormice were seen this time.

Bridgend Snippets – Issue 4

Bridgend Snippets front cover

Hot off the press from our local Bridgend group; the slightly irreverent, always funny and  informative Bridgend Snippets Issue 4. From fungi to daffodils and even a bit of James Bond – there’s always something new and interesting in this local group’s newsletter.

You can read on screen below by scrolling down the right hand side or you can download to read at leisure.

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Some spring observations

Early flowering Toothwort Taf Fechan by Graham Watkeys
Early flowering Toothwort Taf Fechan by Graham Watkeys

Early flowering Toothwort Taf Fechan by Graham Watkeys

It’s an odd year (you can say that again – the editor). The winter has been warm and wet there is no arguing with that, so warm in fact that many species are struggling to tell when in the year they are.

Eristalis tenax hoverfly by Graham Watkeys

Eristalis tenax hoverfly by Graham Watkeys

Some species are very early, the Toothwort at Taf Fechan for example is flowering weeks earlier than usual but I haven’t seen a single Hoverfly yet this year, I have records for both Eristalis tenax and Eristalis pertinax from mid-February last year.

You have to wonder why; I suppose the question is why is warmer winter weather such an issue? Why, when the weather has been so seemingly benign am I seeing fewer Hoverflies?

Warmer isn’t better. This is on the face of it is a strange statement, a dichotomy even when put in the context of the warmth loving tropical species that is Homo sapiens who dream of winter holidays in the sun, but warm winters are a real problem if you happen to have evolved to hibernate.

Hibernation is dangerous; it’s an exquisite balancing act of extreme consequences it’s certainly not just going to sleep. Hibernating animals can only store a finite amount of energy to keep them alive and warm weather keeps waking them up. The problem is that waking up uses energy, in some cases a lot of energy, energy they cannot replace because there is very little or no food to replace it with.

This applies to Bats especially but it also applies to many other species of animals, not all of whom hibernate in the true sense of the word but also have to live on winter’s knife edge of life or death.

This also applies to my overwintering Hoverflies and other insects like Butterflies; warmth at the wrong time means continued activity without available food. Did fewer Hovers survive the warm winter?

Another issue is abnormally early flowering plants, which are nice for us, or a mere curiosity, but not really for the plant that expends energy on producing flowers only to have very few or no active pollinators to serve it.

This has a knock on effect throughout the year as insect numbers peak at the wrong time for nesting birds that rely on a steady source of food for energy expensive growing chicks and for those overwintering animals that have fewer fruits and nuts to eat as the flowers weren’t pollinated.

It’s all very worrying.

Graham Watkeys (Taf Fechan Volunteer Warden)

Nest boxes at Llyn Fach

Some of the nest boxes installed at Llyn Fach - Graham Watkeys
Nest box at Llyn Fach by Graham Watkeys

Room with a view – Graham Watkeys

The Biffa Award funded Llyn Fach home building scheme gets underway.

We now offer a number of well-designed residences to meet every requirement however specialised. We know the right location is important, so great consideration has been taken to provide the right aspect for the modern avian family.

Some of the nest boxes installed at Llyn Fach - Graham Watkeys

Some of the nest boxes installed at Llyn Fach – Graham Watkeys

We have also provided affordable over-day accommodation for our Chiropteran clients with all the convenience of inbuilt original features, made of the finest luxury plywood, providing bespoke perching for the discerning bat.

A lack of natural nesting holes is a real problem in most habitats, perhaps this is more noticeable in conifer plantations where trees tend to be all of the same age and are often harvested before a complex habitat structure develops.

We are helping by adding some artificial structure around Llyn Fach, not just for small birds and bats but for both owls and kestrels which have more specialised nesting requirements and suffer more from a lack of large tree cavities increasing competition for nesting sites limiting populations at a local level.

We hope to see our boxes being used over the coming months and what species will use which boxes has us all intrigued (bet there’s blue tits – the editor).

Biffa Award

More Moss

Grey cushioned Grimmia (Grimmia pulvinata) by Graham Watkeys
Grey cushioned Grimmia (Grimmia pulvinata) by Graham Watkeys

Grey cushioned Grimmia (Grimmia pulvinata) by Graham Watkeys

This is Grimmia pulvinata; now with the tendency for the existence of hidden and, to my mind unnecessarily Delphic, cryptic species (two examples of a species look exactly identical in every way but are different), or various degrees of variability within a single species (two examples of a species look different but are exactly the same) it’s sometimes just nice to find one that’s unambiguous (that confident statement of unambiguity is correct at time of writing).

The first example of this species I found was just feet outside the Taf Fechan reserve boundaries and since it doesn’t have wings it couldn’t go on the list without some bending of “the rules” with subsequent feelings of mild guilt (We could consider a take over and expansion of the reserve – the editor).

This example however was on a small stone comfortably inside the reserve (no I didn’t move the stone inside the reserve that would be cheating) and can be claimed without any kind of bending (other than to lie down to get a good photo) as Number 559.

Grimmia pulvinata likes stone and mortared walls where it forms little silver grey cushions, a closer look (and I recommend you do have a closer look) reveals its spore baring capsules at the end of strongly arched stalks making them appear almost bashful.