Author: Lyndsey Maiden

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 – s.perry@welshwildlife.org – 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

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.

Swansea Local Group News March 2016

Swansea Local Group Bird Walk at Cwm Ivy. Robert Davies.

The first Swansea Local Group evening meeting of 2016 was a talk on the High Brown Fritillary Butterfly, from Richard Smith (Butterfly Conservation South Wales Branch). Richard gave an account of the work that has been undertaken in the Alun Valley, nr. Bridgend, to conserve this population, which is the only one in Wales. We will be following up this talk with a trip to the Alun Valley on Saturday 2nd July. Click here for more details.

On Saturday 30th January, 8 local group members enjoyed a sunny morning Bird Walk around Cwm Ivy Woods and Marsh. We spotted a multitude of bird species, including Red Shank, Curlew, Bullfinch, Songthrush, Kestrel and Long Tailed Tits.

The next evening meeting was a slight change from the norm, with a special guided tour from Dr Dan Forman of Swansea University around the Zoology Museum in the Wallace Building. This was a really enjoyable evening, as the museum holds some fantastic specimens, and the group had the chance to hold a tiger skull and touch a blue whale rib!

The next event was a Fresh Air Walk along South Gower Coast, a chance to get out and walk this beautiful stretch of nature reserves. 12 local group members came along and spotted Oystercatchers, Stonechats, Bloody-nosed Beetles and even a Seal!

The next meeting was a talk from Emiritus Professor John Ryland on the wildflowers of Western Australia, especially the orchids. He showed some beautiful photos of the amazing array of wildflowers found on his visit there.

We look forward to seeing more and more new faces at these local group meetings. Evening meetings are on the second Tuesday of the month from September to April (7pm Wallace Building, Swansea University Singleton Campus), with various field trips throughout the year. Anyone is welcome to join us, members and non-members, the more the merrier. Click here for details of our upcoming walks and talks.

Swansea Local Group Committee
Email contact- Chairman Robert Davies.