Author: Lyndsey Maiden

Marine Wildlife Trips

dolphin boat trip
dolphin boat trip

Dolphin boat trip

Offshore marine Wildlife watching with the Wildlife Trust

Porpoise by Steve Hartley

Porpoise by Steve Hartley

Trips leave Neyland at about 9am returning at about 5.30pm – cost £55, and the planned dates for 2016 are

Saturday 25th June
Wednesday 20th July
Thursday 18th August
Thursday 15th September

We will be looking for all types of marine wildlife – Birds – Seals – Jelly Fish – Cetaceans. Our boat has a toilet, cabin, tea/coffee and superb visability for watching and photography

For further details information and/or to reserve a place contact Lyndon Lomax on 01437 721859

Meadow creation at Pwll Waun Cynon

Mowing Pwll Waun Cynon (photo by Chris Lawrence)
Pwll Waun Cynon meadow mowing by Graham Watkeys

Pwll Waun Cynon meadow mowing by Graham Watkeys

Biffa AwardEight people (and an imaginary dog, a Lurcher as it happens) went to mow, and after a day removing dense and encroaching bramble and scrub from one half of Pwll Waun Cynon, the general reaction was “Good lord it’s a field!!!” (or language to that effect).

Actually thanks to a Biffa Award grant it’s now a proto-meadow; or if you want to be quantum – the wave form for species rich grassland is in the process of collapsing, (or in the unlikely event you happen to be an ungulate you’re probably metaphorically rubbing your hooves together thinking nom nom nom), or if you’re a volunteer used to a brush cutter, saw and loppers you’re probably thinking where the hell has that tractory thing with the magic spinny cutty thing been all this time.

Mowing Pwll Waun Cynon (photo by Chris Lawrence)

Mowing Pwll Waun Cynon (photo by Chris Lawrence)

The ultimate aim when the alien invasive Japanese Knotweed and Himalayan Balsam are removed and the other encroaching plants and trees are cleared is to use conservation grazing to create and maintain species rich meadow, an important habitat that has seen massive declines due to changes in land use and modern intensive farming methods.

Graham Watkeys Taf Fechan Volunteer Warden

Start Easy Fundraising for Wildlife

Lapwing at Parc Slip by Kevin Head

Lapwing at Parc Slip by Kevin Head

Did you know that whenever you buy anything online – from your weekly shop to your annual holiday – you could be raising a free donation for The Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales?

Common Blue Butterfly by Jon Hawkins

Common Blue Butterfly by Jon Hawkins

There are nearly 3,000 retailers including Amazon, John Lewis, Aviva, thetrainline and Sainsbury’s, who will donate a percentage of the amount you spend to The Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales to say thank you for shopping with them.

It’s really simple, and doesn’t cost you anything.

All you have to do is:

1. Go to the Easy Fundraising Website

2. Sign up for free

3. Get shopping – your donations will be collected by easyfundraising and automatically sent to The Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales.
It couldn’t be easier!

There are no catches or hidden charges and your local wildlife will be really grateful for your donations.

Thanks

Help Protect Threatened Greenland White-fronted Geese

greenland-white-fronted-goose Creative commons imageGreenland White Fronted Goose Hilary Chambers CC BY-ND 2.0 under Creative-Commons license
The Dyfi Estuary is the best place to see Greenland White-fronted Geese in Wales

The Dyfi Estuary is the best place to see Greenland White-fronted Geese in Wales

Five minutes could help protect our threatened Greenland White-fronted Geese

greenland-white-fronted-goose Creative commons imageGreenland White Fronted Goose Hilary Chambers CC BY-ND 2.0 under Creative-Commons license

Greenland White Fronted Goose – by Hilary Chambers

Welsh Government is currently consulting on a series of options for the future conservation of White-fronted Geese in Wales. We need your help to influence the outcome for the benefit of conservation.

Welsh Government say the purpose of this consultation is “to seek views on different options to impose a statutory ban on the shooting of White-fronted Goose in Wales throughout the year (including in the ‘open season’), as well as on an option to continue to support the current voluntary shooting ban.” This follows a similar consultation in 2013, when the majority of respondents did not support a statutory shooting ban, leading to a Ministerial decision to adopt the voluntary ban only.

The Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales will be responding to this consultation in support of a statutory ban, and we urge you to do the same. It could take as little as five minutes to help. The deadline is 07 March 2016. All documents are available in the How You Can Help section below.

Background
How You Can Help

There are two types of White-fronted Geese: European (Anser albifrons albifrons), and Greenland (Anser albifrons flavirostris). European White-fronted Geese are functionally extinct in Wales (Welsh Ornithological Society), and the world population of Greenland White-fronted Geese has undergone significant declines.

JNCC reports “The world population [of Greenland White-fronted Geese] declined from a maximum of 23,000 birds in the late 1950s to c. 15,000 birds by the late 1970s, due primarily to wintering habitat destruction and agricultural intensification, especially in Ireland. Correspondingly, the British population declined by 35%, whilst all-Ireland numbers fell by around 50%”.

Conservation efforts have resulted in some more recent gains in Britain, but the population remains vulnerable, and White-fronted Geese have recently been added to the red list in the Birds of Conservation Concern 4 report.

In addition, Wales is the only area of the flyway used regularly by this species where they are not protected (Welsh Ornithological Society). Their numbers in Wales are very low, and the distribution is highly restricted, and they are not even a significant quarry species for wildfowlers.

The consultation seeks views on a number of options ranging from simply maintaining the current non-statutory, voluntary ban on the shooting of Greenland White-fronted Geese (option 5) through to a statutory ban on shooting of all White-fronted Geese (both species) throughout Wales throughout the year (option 1).

The Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales will be advocating option 1, a complete statutory ban on shooting. We recognise the value that the existing voluntary arrangements have provided, but given the small numbers of birds, the vulnerability of the population in Wales, and for the avoidance of doubt in species identification, we strongly believe a statutory ban on shooting all White-fronted Geese in Wales is the best option for contributing to population recovery.

We hope you will join us in supporting a statutory ban. You can find the original consultation documents and supporting information here.

There is the option of responding via the above webpage using an online form, or details are provided of postal and email addresses to which you can write.

We have provided a response proforma which you can use either to write or email by adding your personal details, or by using its contents to answer the questions on the online form.

Responding online should take no more than five minutes, and every response will count.

Please remember that if you do not wish your personal details to be published when the responses are summarised that you must state this clearly.

For more information, contact Dr Lizzie Wilberforce.

Thank you for your support.

Winter Woodland Working Ceredigion

Coed Maidie B Goddard coupe
Coed Maidie B Goddard coupe

Coed Maidie B Goddard coupe

Over the winter we’ve done a lot of tree felling, mostly to finish our Better Woodlands Wales grant work. We’ve thinned the woods at Pant Da and Coed Maidie B Goddard and cut coupes in both of these reserves as well. We’ve also fitted in some water vole habitat improvement works at Cors Ian where we’ve cut back some willow that was over-shading a stream- there were a few wet feet!

Now that’s all done we’ve moved on to attacking the brambles that threaten our grasslands, encroaching from the sides and springing up in the middle of the meadows! We cleared lots in Old Warren Hill too where they were encroaching the paths and covering the bluebells carpets. Blackthorn and gorse growing in the wrong place don’t escape us either!

Weekend work parties at Cwm Clettwr have been working on halo thinning the birch around the oaks, hazels and rowans and removing any rogue western hemlocks. Contractors have also been in and worked on some of the larger western hemlocks on the south side where bigger oaks are struggling to survive amongst them.

There has been some halo thinning and some ring barking and there is a lot more light getting through to the floor now and room for the oaks to grow.

The Snail

Brown-lipped Snail (Cepaea nemoralis) by Graham Watkeys
Brown-lipped Snail (Cepaea nemoralis) by Graham Watkeys

Brown-lipped Snail (Cepaea nemoralis) by Graham Watkeys

An embodiment of the golden ratio, a mathematical secret of the universe hidden in the turns of a shell; a horticultural horror, an armoured spiral, chewed leaves and silver trails reveal the single footed glider.

A conqueror of the land coming from ancient seas needing only the sun gifted ghost of oceans and the shade of the night to thrive, snails are a seemingly ubiquitous part of the world, hated by some, ignored by most it has been shown that snails have more to them than meets the eye.

The garden snail (Cornu aspersum) Graham Watkeys

The garden snail (Cornu aspersum) Graham Watkeys

An experiment carried out in 2010 by a frustrated but snail friendly gardener of ravaged beans and decimated lettuce, found that snails have a strong homing instinct (search snails homing instinct if you don’t believe me) and you have to move them over 20 metres away (which is a very, very long way for a snail) to be sure of them not coming back. (And of course I did BBC So You Want To Be A Scientist – Snails – the Editor)

So simple snails have the ability to know which way is home, I wonder how the pigeon, that most famous of cartologically minded animals, feels about being upstaged by a mere gastropod?

I often see snails in the crevices of walls and rocky outcrops at Taf Fechan and knowing they could be the same individual snails in the same crevices every time I pass makes me feel we have a relationship if only a vicarious one.

Graham Watkeys – Taf Fechan Volunteer Warden

Primary colonisers

Bonfire Moss - Funaria hygrometrica Graham Watkeys
Bonfire Moss - Funaria hygrometrica Graham Watkeys

Bonfire Moss – Funaria hygrometrica Graham Watkeys

Another in the series of updates on interesting species recorded at Taf Fechan sees the inclusion of Bonfire moss AKA Common cord-moss as number 554 on my list.

The Taf Fechan reserve is known as an important location for Bryophytes and is acknowledged as one of the best sites in Glamorgan for these small but fascinating plants.

Funaria hygrometrica by Sture Hermansson

Funaria hygrometrica by Sture Hermansson

Recognisable by its wavy setae (the stalk that holds the spore baring capsules) Funaria hygrometrica is a primary coloniser of fire sites; in fact it miraculously and invariably turns up almost as soon as the fire goes out.

Being a specialist of what is essentially an extremely geographically random and sporadically generated habitat it must be ready to colonise and germinate at a moment’s notice.

Millions of its spores must be drifting in the wind hoping to land on the right habitat; it’s not just pollen floating around in the air. Primary colonisers do a vastly important and often underrated job, they are able to tolerate, and even thrive in, very hostile habitats and their death and decay provides humic organic material to what is effectively a sterile environment eventually allowing other plants to grow; they bring back life to the scorched earth.

Finding an unrecorded moss species at Taf Fechan was a bit of a surprise but it is usually very inconspicuous when not fruiting, now is the best time of year to look for this species on old fire sites as well as other hostile habitats, for example the moss found on old compost in plant pots is probably this species.

Graham Watkeys – Taf Fechan voluntary warden

Frog Went A-Courting

Frogs at Coed y Bwl Richard Marks
Frogs at Coed y Bwl Richard Marks

Frogs at Coed y Bwl Richard Marks

Frog spawn at Coed y Bwl

Frog spawn at Coed y Bwl by Richard Marks

Frogs are already on the march at Coed-y-Bwl Reserve – one jump ahead this year with masses of spawn appearing on January 27.

Reserve volunteers have logged only one January record in the same ancient sheep pond alongside the wood – coincidentally on January 27, 2008 during a comparably mild period of westerly weather.

At a time when frog ponds are vanishing through land development, the Coed-y-Bwl team have cared for the frogs by diverting rain water from a lane next to the reserve along a ditch and into the pond.

Twenty years ago the workers excavated – with buckets and spades – tonnes of silt to restore the pond for wildlife.

Richard Marks Coed y Bwl volunteer

Time to Save Our Seas

Queen Scallop by Polly Whyte
Queen scallop by Amy Lewis

Queen scallop by Amy Lewis

Time for action: Save our seabed

Welsh Scallop fishery consultation

Cardigan Bay, on the west coast of Wales, is an important area for scallops. It is also an important area for wildlife, with a large Special Area of Conservation (SAC). Click the What You Can Do tab to Take Action Now or download our template response here. Thank You. 

Download Template Response
Introduction
The History
Cause for concern?
What can you do?
References

Queen Scallop by Polly Whyte

Queen Scallop by Polly Whyte

Current government management measures for scallops within the protected site in Cardigan Bay (Cardigan Bay SAC) allow only one area within the SAC being opened for a limited time each year for scallop dredging. These measures came into force in 2010 and were based on the limited evidence available at the time of inception. Welsh Government has now stated that it aims to establish a viable and sustainable scallop fishery within the currently closed area within Cardigan Bay SAC.

The Minister for Natural Resources has launched a consultation entitled ‘Proposed New Management Measures for the Scallop Fishery in Cardigan Bay’.

The Welsh Government had suspended the consultation due to technical glitches with the online form. This has now been resolved and the consultation has been reopened with a closing date of the 17th Feb 2016. All responses already submitted using the original method should be resubmitted in case they weren’t received as intended.

On the 26th November 2015 the Minister for Natural Resources, Carl Sargeant relaunched a Welsh Government consultation entitled “Proposed New Management Measures for the Scallop Fishery in Cardigan Bay”.

Cast your minds back to the winter of 2008/2009, at this time if you were to look out to sea at night you may have seen a myriad of shining lights on the horizon – these were the lights from fishing boats, fishing for scallops.

fishing boat and fishery patrol

Fishing boat and fishery patrol

At that time the fishing was reportedly good and there was an influx of vessels into Cardigan Bay from all around the UK and further afield all wanting to take advantage of a good thing!

Following this, concerns were raised over the amount of dredging taking place and the impact on the features of the Special Area of Conservation (SAC). This led to the closure of all Welsh territorial waters to scallop dredging in 2009.

In 2010 the Welsh Government introduced a new piece of legislation, opening up an area of sea within the Cardigan Bay SAC within which scallop dredging was allowed to once again take place. This area is commonly referred to as the “Kaiser box” and allows a restricted fishery to occur on a seasonal basis which continues to date.

Parts of Cardigan Bay are designated as Special Areas of Conservation (SACs), Cardigan Bay Sac and Pen Llyn a’r Sarnau SAC. Cardigan Bay SAC is designated for its population of bottlenose dolphins, its sandbanks, reefs and sea caves, which are of European importance. The Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales are particularly concerned about the potential impact on the features of the site as well as the effect across the whole of the SAC including the long term impact on the marine ecosystem.

It is well documented that the process of dredging can alter the seabed habitat and diversity through the movement and disturbance of the seabed (Dayton et al 1995, Kaiser et al., 1996).

Newhaven scallop dredger

Newhaven scallop dredger

Fishing for scallops with the toothed Newhaven dredges commonly used around the United Kingdom (UK) has been considered one of the most damaging of all fishing gears to non-target benthic communities and habitats (Kaiser et al., 2006). Changes to the physical structure of the seabed can occur (Collie et al., 2000) as well as changes to the seabed community structure (Dayton et al., 1995).

Larger sediment, such as cobbles, are picked up and brought to the surface in the dredge itself and discarded away from source. Other impacts include sediment compaction, and chemical changes caused by the disturbance of the seabed (Sciberras et al., 2013).

Dredges can damage reef structures and other vulnerable seabed habitats and features as well as impacting non-target species. The long-term impact on the marine ecosystem as a whole, including all species, in particular species further up the food chain is largely unknown.

Pink Sea Fan Paul Naylor

Pink Sea Fan Paul Naylor

The current consultation includes the Welsh Government’s recommendations for the establishment of a viable and sustainable scallop fishery within the Cardigan Bay SAC.

There has been little or no pre-consultation engagement with wider stakeholders other than representatives from Natural Resources Wales (NRW) scientists (it is not clear which scientists were consulted with), and industry representatives.

No conservation organisations were involved. The Welsh Government proposals include the introduction of a scallop permit scheme allowing those with a permit to dredge for scallops anywhere in the Cardigan Bay area within the 3 to 12 nautical mile zone, subject to certain conditions that would be applied on an annual basis.

These recommendations are based on a study conducted in the Cardigan Bay SAC, undertaken by Bangor University in collaboration with the industry during 2014 and early 2015. This study investigated the impact that scallop dredging may have on the SAC and its wildlife. However, this study fails to take into account the fact that the seabed has already been damaged by previous dredging activity.

Until 2010, over two thirds of the Cardigan Bay SAC were open to scallop dredging, creating modified seabed habitats throughout the whole of Cardigan Bay. Using a previously dredged area of the SAC as a baseline is not adequate justification for permitting further damaging activity; a more appropriate control would have been a pristine area of seabed.

The Cardigan Bay SAC is in an unfavourable condition with the protected features in a degraded state. It is unclear why the Welsh Government is considering opening up additional areas within Cardigan Bay to a damaging activity which could prevent the site from recovering, a requirement by both national and international legislation, without robust scientific evidence to suggest there would be no adverse effect on the area.

There are concerns that the potential effect of the fishing activity and the impacts of this on other economic activities within Cardigan Bay have not been considered.

Tourism brings far more money into the coastal economy than the fishing industry, a clean and healthy marine and coastal environment is fundamental for the future of coastal communities and therefore coastal tourism. In 2009 visitors (i.e. tourists) to Wales contributed £6.18bn (13.3% of Welsh GDP) (Wales Tourism Definitive Value report (2012).

In 2013 Dolphin watching in New Quay and the associated tourism activities contributed at least £4.9million to Ceredigion alone. The tourism sector is an industry based on many services and therefore the impact on the employment sector (such as agriculture, construction and hospitality) could be wide ranging. (Garcia Hernandez, 2015).

In Pembrokeshire studies have shown that total expenditure associated with tourism marine activities in St David’s was estimated at £51.4mn per annum, this equates to a contribution to the Welsh economy in terms of Gross Value Added (GVA) of approx. £24.5mn per annum. The largest contributor is beach activities followed by walking and wildlife boat trips (Wales Activity Mapping, 2013).

The Welsh Government must consider additional scientific evidence and provide robust scientific evidence to demonstrate that additional scallop dredging activity in Cardigan Bay will not have an adverse effect, in the short or long term, on any of the features of the SAC.

The Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales are in the process of finalising our own formal response to this consultation.

However, we are aware that our members are keen to respond to the consultation and therefore we have created a draft response letter to assist those wishing to respond outlining the main concerns.

Download Template Response

We urge you to voice your own concerns; its very important that you personalise your response to ensure it is considered as a single response rather than a campaign response. It is also a good idea to word your response so that it cannot be misinterpreted. We hope that the information above will help you, should you wish to do this.

Please write directly to Welsh Government and send your letter in either by:
Email: fisheriesmailbox@Wales.gsi.gov.uk

Or
Post: Scallop Consultation, Marine & Fisheries Division, Llys-y-Draig, Penllergaer Business Park, Penllergaer, Swansea, SA4 9NX.

The formal consultation document can be downloaded in pdf format from the Welsh Government website.

Download Consultation Document

Please note that Welsh Government intends to publish the responses received. This includes publishing the name and address of the person or organisation that sent the response. If you do not want your name or address published then you must notify Welsh Government of this in writing. We suggest writing that you do not wish your personal data (name or address) to be published under any circumstances, clearly at the top of your letter of response.

We advise those wishing to respond to write directly to the Welsh Government, rather than use the online response form provided by the Welsh Government. The consultation is due to close on the 17th February 2016 and we strongly urge you to voice your opinions; have your say and respond to this consultation.

References and Useful Resources

Beukers-Stewert & Beukers-Stewart (2009). Principles for Management of Inshore Scallop Fisheries around the United Kingdom, Environment Department, University of York

Caddy, J.F (1973). Underwater observations on tracks of dredges and trawls and some effects of dredging on a scallop ground. Journal of Fisheries research board of Canada, 30. No 2 173-180.

Cardigan Bay Special Area of Conservation (SAC) Management Scheme 2008.

CCW (2009). Cardigan Bay European Maine Site Advice provided by the Countryside Council for Wales on fulfilment of regulation 33 of the conservation (Natural Habitats, &c). Regulations 1994, February 2009.

Collie, J.S., Escanero, G.A., and Valentine, P.C. (2000). Photographic evaluation of the impact of bottom fishing on benthic epifauna – ICES Journal of Marine Science, 57: 987-1001.

Dayton, P. K., S. F. Thrush, M. T. Agardy, and R. J. Hofman (1995). Environmental effects of marine fishing. Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems 5:205-232.

Garcia Hernandez, O (2015). Economic Impacts of sustainable marine tourism in the local economy. Case study: Dolphin watching activity in New Quay, Wales. MPhil thesis, Aberystwyth University

Hatton-Ellis, M., Kay, L., Lindenbaum, K., Wyn, G., Lewis, M., Camplin, M., Winterton, A., Bunker, A., Howard, S., Barter, G. & Jones, J (2012). MPA Management in Wales 1: Overview of current MPA management in Wales and a summary of new MPA management tools. CCW Marine Science Report 12/06/01, 56pp, CCW, Bangor.

Kaiser MJ, Hill AS, Ramsay K, Spencer BE and others (1996) Benthic disturbance by fishing gear in the Irish Sea: a comparison of beam trawling and scallop dredging. Aquat Conserv 6:269−285

Sciberras. M., Hinz, H., Bennell, J., Jenkins, S., Hawkns, S., Kaiser, M., 2013. Benthic community response to a scallop dredging closue within a dynamic seabed habitat. Marine Ecology Progress Series 480, 83-98.

Wales Activity Mapping: Economic Valuation of Marine Recreational Activity. Non Technical Executive Summary (2013). Report by Marine Planning Consultants Limited for Wales Activity Mapping Working Group.

Wales Tourism Alliance (2012). Wales Tourism Definitive Value Report

Early Spring Flowers Record Breaker

Coed y Bwl wild daffodil woods, near St. Brides Major by Richard Marks
Wild Daffodil at Coed y Bwl L Maiden

Wild Daffodil at Coed y Bwl L Maiden

It’s a record!

The first wild daffodils were in bloom at Coed y Bwl reserve on January 25 – beating a long-standing early record by six days.

Our mildest December since records began helped promote dormant bulbs at this wildwood gem in the Vale of Glamorgan.

On the same day, nuthatches were spring-cleaning an old woodpecker hole in an ash tree, song thrush and mistle thrush were in full song and a tawny owl was mobbed by wrens and blackbirds. Wood anemones and dog violets will bloom soon.

Visitors are asked to stay on the circular path and keep dogs on leads. The full display of daffodils is expected to mature by early March. And for the record: On Sunday, January 31, 1999, two daffodils burst forth to claim the earliest record since the Trust acquired the reserve forty-five years ago.

Coed y Bwl Daffodils

Coed y Bwl Daffodils

Set in the north west side of the Alun valley this stunning little nature reserve is well tended by a local group of volunteers who maintain its paths and walls. Every year this ancient ash woodland fills up with spring flowers, making it a spectacular sight, but the daffodils really make it special.

Concerned by the early onset of daffodils appearing in gardens from December one of our intrepid volunteers, Richard Marks, made it out to the site to check on the state of play. Whilst some daffodils are coming thankfully they are not all in flower yet, but it’s worthwhile remembering that we could have a very early bloom this year – so watch this space.

Signs of other spring flowers in many of our nature reserves are appearing, Dog’s Mercury has pushed up it’s leaves in many of our woodland reserves, snowdrops are blooming in Dinefwr Castle Woods Llandeilo, and bluebells are pushing their leaves up across the patch.

If our exceptionally warm weather continues then everyone will need to adjust their spring flower calendars back a little bit, although if we are in for a sudden cold snap before the winter is out then we could see many of our plants knocked back.

Amazing reserves to see spring flowers include:

Coed y Bedw – Pentyrch, Cardiff. An ancient broadleaved woodland. Bus number 136 from Cardiff to Gwaelod-y-Garth. ST111827

Coed y Bwl – Castle Upon Alun, Vale of Glamorgan. Ancient ash woodland where wild daffodils and bluebells are in abundance. Bus numbers 146 and 145 from Bridgend. SS909749

Craig Cilhendre Woods, Pontardawe, Swansea. Partially ancient oak woodland with some newer woodland areas. Bus numbers 122, X20 and X25 from Swansea Quadrant Bus Station to Pontardawe. SN719022

Cwm Ivy Woods and Betty Church Reserve, Cwm Ivy, Gower, Swansea. Ancient broadleaved woodland with an abundance of spring woodland flowers, plantation and calcareous pasture and quarry. Bus number 116 from Swansea Quadrant Bus Station to Llanmadoc. SS438937

Melincwrt Waterfalls, Resolven, Neath, Port Talbot. Spectacular waterfall and ancient oak woodland with beautiful spring woodland flowers. Bus number X5 and X6 from Swansea Quadrant Bus Station or Neath Train Station. SN822020

Dinefwr Castle Woods, Llandeilo, Carmarthenshire. Lowland mixed deciduous woodland with an abundance of spring flowers in a stunning setting. On the train line – Swansea to Shrewsbury service. Bus number X13 from Swansea and the 280 from Carmarthen. SN623223

Coed Wern Ddu, Llanllwch, Carmarthen. Mixed deciduous and wet woodland with an abundance of spring flowers. No known public transport. SN373179

Poor Man’s Wood/Gallt y Tlodion, Llandovery, Carmarthenshire. Sessile oak woodland with a hazel understorey. Lower down in the woodland is an abundance of spring flowers. On the train line – Swansea to Shrewsbury service. 280 from Carmarthen although the bus stop is a reasonable walk from the woodland. SN781351

Coed Penglanowen and Old Warren Hill, Nanteos, Ceredigion. A varied woodland which includes the county’s tallest tree, a specimen of Sequioadendron giganteum. This woodland has a spectacular display of spring woodland flowers. The Aberystwyth circular town service stops in Penparcau, a 2km walk to the reserve. SN611786

Penderi Cliffs, between Llanrhystud and Monk’s Cave, Ceredigion. Oak woodland hanging on to the cliffs with a spectacular spring flower display of flowers. Bus numbers X40, X50 and 550. SN553734

To stack or not to stack?

Black and yellow longhorn beetle Rutpela maculata Castle Woods
Dead wood Castle Woods

Dead wood at Castle Woods by Lizzie Wilberforce

That is the question at Castle Woods…

Visitors to our Castle Woods nature reserve near Llandeilo, Carmarthenshire, may have noticed that over the last few months, quite a bit of tree felling has been taking place in South Lodge Woods. This section of the reserve runs between the main drive, Penlan Park and Bridge Street.

This habitat management work is funded by Glastir Woodland Management, and aims to thin out some of the more crowded tree regrowth, particularly of ash and sycamore, to favour the larger and better specimens of tree which have the potential to become our future veterans. Veteran trees in Castle Woods host a wealth of other important wildlife from breeding birds to scarce lichens.

Black and yellow longhorn beetle Rutpela maculata Castle Woods

Black and yellow longhorn beetle Rutpela maculata Castle Woods

Castle Woods is a SSSI and National Nature Reserve, and the woodland habitats within Dinefwr are recognised as one of its most special features. Another is the community of dead wood invertebrates which inhabits the woodland. We are fortunate that Castle Woods has a high proportion of dead wood, both standing and lying on the ground, because of the age and size of many of the trees, and its history of sympathetic management.

This, combined with the fact that this land has been covered in woodland continuously for many centuries, is one reason the reserve is so very important. Many deadwood invertebrates do not move well through the landscape, so tend to disappear when a site is deforested for any length of time. The continuous woodland cover at Castle Woods has allowed some scarce species of invertebrate to persist.

For the benefit of these tiny creatures, we like to retain as much of our felled timber on site as possible. Now here comes the conundrum; do we leave the trees almost whole as they fall, or do we stack them neatly in log piles?

The answer is that we have been leaving them whole. There are a number of arguments in favour of this, both ecological reasons, and some reasons which are much more practical.

The ecological argument is that large, and long, pieces of dead wood on the ground attract a slightly different community of creatures than pieces that are cut shorter and stacked. The humidity and physical environment inside a large piece of timber as it decays is quite different, and so it is of benefit to keep these large pieces of timber in situ.

Castle Woods Llandeilo Photo by Lizzie Wilberforce

Castle Woods Llandeilo Photo by Lizzie Wilberforce

The more practical reason relates to the slope. On such a steep gradient, the large timbers are much safer and less likely to be dislodged, either by chance or by human hands.

Sadly in the past when we have short-cut timbers on the Penlan path, visitors have rolled them down the hill, damaging our boundary fence and posing a huge threat to the safety of visitors walking the lane below. In addition, shorter sections of timber are regularly stolen from many of our sites where we undertake woodland management- perhaps a reflection of the rise of the domestic wood burning stove.

We understand that the aftermath of woodland operations can look a little brutal in the short term, and that carefully stacked woodpiles are an attractive and valuable feature-but please be reassured that the work is carefully planned for the interests of both our wild and human visitors.

With the extra light that should now be reaching the ground in the thinned areas, we hope for a really good display of spring flowers in April and May; South Lodge Woods is a fantastic place to see Dog’s Mercury and Bluebells.

Smutty Ferns

A Fern Smut larva showing its characteristic brown head and green gut Graham Watkeys
A Fern Smut larva showing its characteristic brown head and green gut Graham Watkeys

A Fern Smut larva showing its characteristic brown head and green gut Graham Watkeys

This is about smut, but not the fungal kind of smut this time but the Mothy kind (reference previous article – Smut at Pwll Waun Cynon.)

Fern smut feeding case Graham Watkeys

Fern smut feeding case Graham Watkeys

I’ve no idea why this particular group of Moths are called smuts but apparently they are.

Maybe it’s one of these names that get applied to species that have never had common names, sometimes people seem to think they are in need of one to fill in a perceived nomenclatural hole, many of which just don’t stick or are less memorable or more unwieldly that the Latin.

Anyway this particular Smut goes by the name of Psychoides filicivora better (or maybe otherwise) known as the Fern Smut.

It was first recorded in Ireland in 1909, probably introduced via imported Ferns, first recorded at Taf Fechan by me via another newly acquired habit: systematic leaf turning.

Now of the many “funny look” generating habits I have acquired whilst wildlife surveying (kissing fungi, stalking (or in fact having any kind of an interest whatsoever in) flies, suddenly stopping and staring at trees/grass/twigs/rocks/the sky in a disconcertingly intense manner amongst others) this really isn’t that bad, it may even be bordering on (for me) abnormally normal.

Admittedly the middle of winter is probably not the best time to develop this habit but luckily P. filicivora likes the Hart’s tongue Fern which is evergreen and its larvae can be seen feeding throughout the year. They also feed in a particular manner generating a little case from their leftover meals to camouflage and protect themselves from predators.

For those who are also interested in Flies I also found the leaf mines of Chromatomyia scolopendri on the same frond it’s one of the few other insects that feed on Fern and worth looking for as there are very few records of it in Wales.