Author: Lyndsey Maiden

Skomer Island – The UK’s Favourite Nature Reserve?

Vote Skomer
Vote Skomer

Vote Skomer

Our wonderful Skomer Island, Pembrokeshire has been nominated in the second annual LandLove Magazine Awards to win the UK’s ‘favourite nature reserve’, 1 of 12 categories. In addition, The Wildlife Trusts are in the running to win ‘favourite charitable organisation!’

Voting is now open until the 3rd January 2016!

Please visit the Landlove Website, fill in your details and vote for Skomer Island (category 1) and The Wildlife Trusts (category 5).

Other categories are historic house, garden, historic town, food producer, place to stay, drinks producer, place to eat, farm, day out and outdoor clothing company. Each category has 10 nominees. Winners will be announced in the March/April issue which goes on sale 2 February 2016.

We would also be grateful if you could also spread the word amongst family/friends and like, share, retweet our social media posts.

Thanks for your support!

Go Wild and Wake Up With Wildlife In 2016!

Walk into the woodland
Explore the wild

Exploring wildlife

If your 2016 New Years resolution is to spend more quality time with your family and explore the great outdoors then look no further!

Our Oak Tree Cottage – (the Cwtch) is the perfect Pembrokeshire holiday retreat for a couple or a family looking for something a little bit quirky! Nestled in the heart of the beautiful Teifi Marshes Nature Reserve, Cilgerran, Pembrokeshire. The Welsh Wildlife Centre is but a stone’s throw away making it the perfect base for those wanting to connect with amazing Welsh wildlife and explore the great outdoors.

Walk into the woodland

Walk into the woodland

Families with children who stay at the cottage and reserve have the opportunity to ‘GO WILD’ and play in the Cherry Tree adventure playground, discover the Butterfly Willow Maze, or explore the four fantastic nature trails on foot or two wheels. Adults will immediately unwind to the sounds of nature and enjoy the peace and tranquillity of this truly unique setting.

Numerous bird hides found on the reserve allow for the opportunity to see a diversity of wildlife in a range of habitats from a sheltered location, although patience is always key!

The Cwtch offers guests a cosy open plan living and kitchen area, one double bedroom, one twin room with bunk beds, bathroom with shower, off road parking, glorious walks with sweeping rural views.

A recent visitor to Oak Tree described their experience as ‘just magical…staying in the cosy cottage under that magnificent Oak tree with the reserve to explore around the clock is magical. If you get the chance give it a try, it’s an experience that will stay with you forever’.

So whether it’s a tranquil retreat, or an action packed getaway, the Cwtch and Welsh Wildlife Centre are waiting for you!

Short breaks available from £215.

To check availability or book please call: 01239 621600.

A Manifesto for Wildlife

Stoat_c_Margaret_Holland
'Common Dolphin and Calf' by Mike Snelle

‘Common Dolphin and Calf’ by Mike Snelle

As the Welsh Government election approaches we all have questions to ask our Assembly Member candidates, however sometimes it can be overwhelming. The Wildlife Trusts in Wales have created a manifesto for wildlife which will help you ask some of those questions as candidates come knocking at the door.

We all need nature. Wild and natural landscapes sustain us: they give us clean water to drink and fresh air to breathe; they store carbon and protect our houses from flooding; they can help make us happy and healthy.

But despite all this, nature is fading away from our lives. 60% of the species we know about are in decline and fewer than 10% of children regularly play in wild places. And it’s not just wildlife that’s losing out. It’s us too. Our health and wellbeing is increasingly at risk from problems such as obesity and mental illness, and the loss of wildlife and wild places is part of the problem – and those with the least are often affected the most.

What we need

• Leadership and resources – The value of nature needs to be at the heart of decision-making across government.
• Nature’s network – We need bigger, better and more connected nature on land and at sea.

Download the full manifesto.

Parc Slip and The Welsh Wildlife Centre in the New Year

Blackbird at Parc Slip by Vaughn Matthews

Dust off your wellies this New Year and make a resolution you will enjoy keeping! Parc Slip’s Visitor Centre will be open as normal from New Years Day onwards, serving its delicious winter menu and a selection of hot beverages to keep you warm this season.

Blackbird at Parc Slip by Vaughn Matthews

Blackbird at Parc Slip by Vaughn Matthews

Get stuck into a wild adventure to start your year with something exciting! Join us for a bird walk on the 12th of January, wandering the beautiful nature reserve of Parc Slip with our experts, along with fellow birders. Be on the lookout for winter birds such as Snipe and Bittern! Parc Slip will also be hosting a Wood Carving Craft Weekend on 23rd and 24th January where demonstrations will be taking place to celebrate St Dwynwen’s Day. Everyone is welcome, come along and learn the art of Love Spoons or gaze upon some unique walking poles.

The Welsh Wildlife Centre will also be open from New Years Day onwards and hosting an array of exciting wild events. Join us on the 6th January with Patrick Beaumont, Explorer and Photographer, as he shares some of his wildlife adventures. There will also be a diverse range of events for February Half Term including bird feeder crafts, willow butterfly making and guided walks. Be wild and try your luck at our craft dip or make a wildlife candle!

Or for all those young budding environmentalists our Wildlife Watch Clubs are the place to be. Taking place at both Parc Slip and The Welsh Wildlife Centre, they give you the opportunity to adventure into the depths of the reserve to discover incredible wildlife and learn about exciting conservation topics.
Check out all our 2016 events.

Hair Ice

Hair-ice at Taf Fechan caused by Exidiopsis efussa by Graham Watkeys
Hair Ice by Graham Watkeys

Hair Ice by Graham Watkeys

Number 545

Another entry in the occasional series of updates on the species recorded at Taf Fechan and this is a fascinating one.

Exidiopsis effusa is one of the hundreds, if not thousands, of normally invisible fungal species living inside dead wood happily and quietly digesting away; however its particular presence is revealed rather spectacularly by the formation of Hair-ice.

Hair-ice at Taf Fechan caused by Exidiopsis efussa by Graham Watkeys

Hair-ice at Taf Fechan caused by Exidiopsis efussa by Graham Watkeys

Hair-ice is generally found on fallen branches that have bark missing exposing bare wood, it forms when the air temperature is just below freezing but the ground remains just above and it always forms only when this fungus is present.

All living, metabolising fungi produce carbon dioxide, this acts to push water out of wood which would then normally just freeze as a simple crust of ice, but E. effusa causes this water to freeze into thin hair-like strands.

It is thought that it produces some kind of “re-crystallisation inhibitor” which somehow acts to create and stabilise the delicate hair-ice whilst also acting to prolong its life.

I found these examples nearly a year ago but the link with E. effusa has only recently been discovered and was brought to my attention by the Glamorgan Fungus Group who have an excellent, friendly and most informative Facebook group by the way, why not join today? (Plug, plug)

Winter Moths

Mottled-Umber-moth-by-Vaughn-Matthews
Mottled-Umber-moth-by-Vaughn-Matthews

Mottled Umber Moth by Vaughn Matthews

Winter may not traditionally be seen as a productive time of year for finding insects but there are still some out there that are worth keeping an eye out for!

The vast majority of the UK’s 2,500(ish) species of moths are active during the warmer months of the year but there are a good number that can still be found during the winter months and they are not only attractive (some of them at least…) but also have quite interesting habits.

Satellite Moth by Vaughn Matthews

Satellite Moth by Vaughn Matthews

This article was inspired by a moth being disturbed from the leaf litter by the volunteer wardens Linda and Rob Nottage at Coed Garnllwyd during a well-earned lunch break mid-coppicing – it was a moth that was new to me despite trapping weekly at Parc Slip throughout the year!

The two small dots either side of the larger one on each wing instantly identify (and name) this moth – The Satellite Eupsilia transversa.

The Satellite is not particularly uncommon and on the wing between September and April and will come to moth traps but it is the larvae which are really interesting.

In their younger stages they feed on a range of deciduous trees but as they get larger they actually turn carnivorous and feed on the larvae of other moths! Not as innocent as they appear…

Other winter-flying moths are named for the months that they tend to appear such as November Moth and December Moth as well as the imaginatively named Winter Moth.

The Winter Moth and the rather more striking Mottled Umber are both examples of moth species whose males and females are vastly different.

The males are typical moths while the females are wingless and look rather like small furry grubs which crawl up tree trunks and emit pheromones which attract the more mobile males to them. If you saw a female of one of these species you might be surprised to find out that it was actually a moth at all!

Herald Moth by Amy Lewis

Herald Moth by Amy Lewis

Then there are species such as The Herald which is a beautiful species that spends the winter hibernating in cool, dry places such as caves, sheds or even bird boxes and can be found there in quite large numbers in some cases before re-emerging in the spring when temperatures start to increase.

So make sure to check around any external lights during mild, overcast nights or even dust off the moth trap if you’re lucky enough to have one and give it a go over the winter – all moth records are worth sending off to your local recorder, especially winter-flying moths as they are usually less often recorded.

Structurally complex habitat banks and hibernaculum

Creating a structurally complex habitat bank and hibernaculum (Photo by Pete Hill)
Toad

Or Building the ARC

ARC vanWe don’t often get to do big conservation or at least big in the sense of single large project aimed at a specific outcome; so it was with enormous anticipation and excitement that we welcomed the Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Trust to Pwll Waun Cynon to install a pond and a large structurally complex habitat bank/hibernaculum.

After the initial pangs of jealousy that came with seeing Pete’s newt van, and the relief that we didn’t have to dig the pond by hand, we got to work cutting logs to make the core of the bank along with branches to make the next layer.

All of which would then be covered in the soil conveniently excavated from the newly dug pond, thus creating a frost proof refuge for the resident reptiles and the amphibians, who will soon be living in the new pond, to overwinter.

Creating a structurally complex habitat bank and hibernaculum (Photo by Pete Hill)

Creating a structurally complex habitat bank and hibernaculum (Photo by Pete Hill)

Hopefully this new habitat addition will not only help our Amphibians and Reptiles many of which are in trouble and in serious decline but also help a wide range of other species wholly or partially dependent on ponds.

Having been responsible for the reptile surveys at Taf Fechan for the past few years I have developed quite a soft spot for them so I would like to thank Pete Hill and the Arc Trust for one of the most enjoyable volunteering days I’ve had for a long while, despite the mud.

Graham Watkeys – Taf Fechan Volunteer Warden

Time For Action – Save Our Seabed

Queen scallop by Amy Lewis
Queen_scallop_c_Amy_Lewis

Queen scallop by Amy Lewis

Welsh Scallop fishery consultation

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.

Please write directly to Welsh Government and send your letter in either by Email or Post:

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

On the 14th October 2015 the Minister for Natural Resources, Carl Sargeant launched a Welsh Government consultation entitled “Proposed New Management Measures for the Scallop Fishery in Cardigan Bay”.

 

The History
Cause for Concern
What Can You Do?
References

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.

Queen Scallop by Polly Whyte

Queen Scallop by Polly Whyte

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.

Why is dredging a cause for concern?

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 bought 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.

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; its not clear which scientists were consulted with, and industry representatives.

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. We do not believe using a previously dredged area of the SAC as a baseline is adequate justification for permitting further damaging activity; a more appropriate control would have been a pristine area of seabed.

The Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales are in the process of writing a formal response to this consultation. Please keep an eye on future e-news publications and our website for further information.

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

Please write directly to Welsh Government and send your letter in either by Email or Post:

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

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 5th January 2015 and we strongly urge you to voice your opinions; have your say and respond to this consultation.

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.

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

Kaiser MJ, Clarke KR, Hinz H, Austen MCV, Somerfield PJ, Karakassis I (2006) Global analysis of response and recovery of benthic biota to fishing. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 311:1−14

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.

Windy, wet work days!

Pant Da coupe by Em Foot

As I’m sure you can appreciate the weather lately has generally not been ideal for working outside and especially felling trees. Unfortunately the work still needs to be done so we have persevered, changed things around and continued… (a huge thanks to my sturdy volunteers!)

We have done some watervole habitat improvement work at Cors Ian. The stream running through the site has become over-shaded by willow trees so we’ve been clearing the southern side to allow more light in.

Pant Da coupe by Em Foot

Pant Da coupe by Em Foot

It is hard work just trying to stay upright and keep your feet dry- even in wellies, especially with the water level rising! Hopefully the watervoles will appreciate our work.

Volunteers from Pembrokeshire and Carmarthenshire joined us at Coed Maidie B Goddard for some woodland thinning, we got a huge amount done and the wood looked very different by the end of the day.

We’ve spent several days at the top of Pant Da cutting a coupe and thinning, the brash piles are definitely multiplying, the wood looking more open and the volunteers looking more weary after working on the steep slope all day!

Thank you very much to everyone who has helped this month. If you would like to volunteer with us in Ceredigion there are work parties on a Wednesday and Thursday out on the reserves, year round, contact Em on 07980932332 or e.foot@welshwildlife.org or to find out more about Ceredigion reserves visit the reserves page.

Iolo Williams backs Wildlife Trusts campaign to put nature on the political agenda

Iolo Williams at the Partnerships Launch for Bluestone Photo by Gareth Davies
Researchers with Iolo Williams on Skomer

Researchers with Iolo Williams on Skomer

Television presenter Iolo Williams is supporting the Wildlife Trusts in Wales in a campaign to put nature on the political agenda.

With the Welsh elections looming, the Wildlife Trusts in Wales is asking political parties to commit to protecting nature for future generations.

Iolo Williams, who acts as ambassador for Wildlife Trusts Wales, says:

Iolo out on Parc Slip

Iolo out on Parc Slip

“To help achieve nature’s recovery, we need to put nature at the heart of decision-making, in government, in our healthcare system, housing and developments, education, the economy and flood resilience.

“We want to create local and national ecological networks to put wildlife habitats back into the landscape and help save threatened species and our wildest places before it’s too late. By creating more natural places near people, we can give wildlife the habitat it needs too. Every political party should take our need for nature seriously and help create positive change.”

The Wildlife Trusts in Wales have produced a manifesto document called Nature Matters which explains how nature improves health and wellbeing and also acts as a catalyst for economic growth. The document asks political parties to provide the leadership and resources needed for nature’s recovery and better infrastructure in order to do this. It asks political parties to consider the following proposals:

1. Nature in recovery

Set new targets to reverse the loss of wildlife and raise the nature baseline. We are calling for the restoration of our most precious nature reserves to a favourable condition by 2026 and to increase wildlife by 15% by 2050.

2. Nature at the centre of government

Welsh Government must fully integrate nature into its decision-making and a new Biodiversity Commission should be appointed to oversee this.

3. Nature, healthcare and wellbeing

By 2018, at least 1% of the public health budget should be used to make access to nature and wild places part of preventative and treatment-based healthcare.

4. Nature within walking distance

Create natural spaces no more than 10 minutes’ walk from where people live. Those with close access to green space live longer than those without.

5. Nature in schools

Amended the Education Act 2002 to make outdoor learning and caring for nature a key purpose for all schools in Wales as it can positively affect children’s development.
6. Nature in neighbourhoods

Map, protect and create areas for nature via local planning and area statements. A wild place for nature and people in every neighbourhood should be a realistic ambition.

Rachel Sharp, Chief Executive Officer for Wildlife Trusts Wales, says:

“Nature is fading away from our lives; 60% of the species we know about are in decline and fewer than 10% of children regularly play in wild places. The results of our recent poll illustrate that some children are missing out on the contact with nature their parents and grandparents are likely to have known.

“Our health and wellbeing is increasingly at risk from problems such as obesity and mental illness and the loss of wildlife and wild places is part of the problem.

“We are asking politicians how they intend to stop the loss of nature from all of our lives and we need answers.”

The Wildlife Trusts in Wales is asking its supporters to speak to their local prospective Assembly Members about the importance of nature and to share the campaign using social media. The hashtag for the campaign is #naturematterscymru

Visit http://www.wtwales.org/voice-nature/nature-matters to read the manifesto asks document or request a copy by emailing sphilpott@wtwales.org

In a recent poll by YouGov, commissioned by The Wildlife Trusts, results showed that…

• 91% of parents think that having access to nature and wildlife is important for children in general

• 78% were concerned that children don’t spend enough time interacting with nature and wildlife

• Over a quarter (27%) of children aged 8-15 had never played outside by themselves, beyond their house or garden – and 37% hadn’t done this in the past 6 months.

• 37% of children had never seen a hedgehog in the UK

• Only 24% of children said their school had an indoor nature display area like a nature table

Find out more by downloading the report.

Red Squirrels – Caught on Camera!

Mid Wales Red Squirrels

“Have you seen a red squirrel in mid Wales lately?”

That’s the question that Wildlife Trust Red Squirrel Officer, Becky Hulme is asking; and reports of sightings are coming in – many from the Llanfair Clydogau and Llanddwei Brefi areas.

Mid Wales Red Squirrels

Mid Wales Red Squirrels

Becky remarked: “People love seeing red squirrels in Wales; this native mammal really does make an impact with its striking russet coat and graceful movements. Many of the older generation remember seeing reds in on a regular basis; but that was back in the 1950s and early 60s before grey squirrels had really got a hold in mid Wales.”

Since the grey squirrel colonised, red squirrels have largely vanished from Wales. Until the late 1950s, the red squirrel was a common sight in mid Wales and an integral part of the Welsh landscape.

In 1958, a schoolteacher from Rhandirmwyn stated that a child had come into school with a report of a grey squirrel, one of the first in the area! From then onwards it was downhill for the red squirrel, as the larger and more robust grey squirrel quickly moved into local woodlands, eating much of the available food and spreading squirrelpox virus, which the greys are immune to, but which is fatal to red squirrels.

A law was passed in 1938 banning further importation of grey squirrels, but the damage had been done; inadvertently heralding the demise of the red squirrel in Britain.

We now have only a little over a thousand red squirrels hanging on in Wales, in Anglesey, in the north east of the country, and here in mid Wales.

Anglesey is the real success-story in Wales; as part of a restoration project, they have cleared greys from the island and boosted the population of reds, thought to be as low as 40 individuals less than 20 years ago; Anglesey is now home to as many as 700 red squirrels.

Red Squirrels on camera

Red Squirrels on camera

The Mid Wales Red Squirrel Project (MWRSP) is a much younger project than its northern counterpart, but with the help of funding, originally through Environment Wales, a former Welsh Government funded initiative, work is getting underway to save the population of reds in mid Wales too.

“We know that we have a much-reduced population of reds in mid Wales, but we’re keen to get a better idea of where and when red squirrels are active, so that we can help to protect them, and that’s where local people come in.” Becky explained: “It is locals, both working and living in the mid Wales red squirrel focal site that are most likely to spot red squirrels, usually as they a cross a road or open ground.”

The area centred round Llyn Brianne reservoir, bordered by Pontrhydfendigaid, Tregaron, Lampeter, Llandovery and Llanwrtyd Wells, was approved as a focal site for red squirrel conservation in 2009. Welsh Ministers agreed that urgent strategic action needed to be taken in order to conserve the population of reds in this area.

“As one of only three significant populations of red squirrels in Wales, our reds in mid Wales really do deserve some attention.” Becky explained, “we hope to restore the population by reducing the population of grey squirrels and by working with Natural Resources Wales and private forest managers to encourage appropriate forest management.”

The red squirrel project on Anglesey is an extremely successful conservation project and is direct evidence that removing grey squirrels leads to red squirrel population recovery.

However, Becky points out that this ambition can only be achieved with the support of local people. “Over the past year we’ve had over 80 people volunteer their time to help in the fight to save the red squirrel in mid Wales. Activities have ranged from help with publicity at shows and events to grey squirrel control to monitoring local red squirrel populations.”

A series of delightful photos from a trail camera located above Llanddewi Brefi show reds visiting a feeding station. “These photos really do illustrate the playful nature of these iconic mammals. It would be a real shame if we allowed our red squirrels become yet another extinction story.”

Report your sighting through the MWRSP website, www.midwalesredsquirrels.org or directly to Becky on 07972 201202 / b.hulme@welshwildlife.org