Author: Lyndsey Maiden

Marsh Fritillary Larval Web Season

Marsh fritillary webs Em Foot
Marsh fritillary webs Em Foot

Marsh fritillary webs Em Foot

After cutting the Coed Penglanowen glade, marsh fritillary larval web surveys on our rhos reserves have dominated our work days for the last few weeks.

A group of students joined us for our Rhos Pil Bach survey. I was feeling hopeful after several adults were seen earlier in the year, in two separate fields.

Marsh fritillary webs and caterpillars Em Foot

Marsh fritillary webs and caterpillars Em Foot

We found 3 webs in a field they haven’t been found in for many years which was very exciting for me but I’m not sure the students were quite as excited! Unfortunately we didn’t find any webs in the usual field, however they do seem to be late this year, the webs we did find were very small, so they may not have hatched yet. There were some good patches of scabious.

We got some good frog, toad and lizard records as well as a few butterflies.

We have been much more successful at Rhos Glyn yr Helyg where we have found over 300 webs so far and still have about a third of the site left to survey!

Last year’s total was 42 so this is a massive increase. It was amazing to see so many and not have to search for them. The size of the caterpillars and webs varied greatly as did the shape of the webs.

With the sun shining many of the caterpillars were out basking. We also saw them stripping the outer layer of the scabious stalks. We still have Rhos Fullbrook to survey and Glyn yr Helyg to finish this week.

Our monthly dormouse box check at Cwm Clettwr was a success again this month with 6 dormice being found including a female and a woodmouse with 4 young. The dormice were also found in a couple of previously unused boxes including one right down at the riverside. Several unoccupied dormouse nests were also found. We haven’t found any breeding nests in the boxes so they must be using the natural habitat for these.

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 to find out more about our Ceredigion reserves.

Christmas at the Welsh Wildlife Centre

Badger in the snow Nia Stephens

Glasshouse Café Christmas Menu 2015

Book Now

This delicious menu is available from Tuesday 1st December through to Sunday 20th December served between 12pm -2.30pm. Looking out over the beautiful Teifi Marshes Nature Reserve you get a stunning panoramic from our Glasshouse Cafe

Christmas Menu 2015


Starters:

A salad of prawns, smoked salmon and aromatic pickled cucumber

Chinese spiced duck filo parcels with dressed vegetable noodles.

A cheesecake of Perl las with a toasted walnut crumbed base and topped with red wine poached pear, served on a bed of baby leaves. (v)


Teifi Marshes winter starling murmuration by Tommy Evans

Teifi Marshes winter starling murmuration by Tommy Evans

Main Courses:

Traditional roast Pembrokeshire turkey served with all of its trimmings

Roast loin of pork infused with garlic and vanilla and served in a sauce made of its own delicious juices.

Luxury nut croquettes served with a white wine and almond cream sauce. (v)

Pot roasted haunch of venison, cooked in Patagonian Malbec and served with its own jus.

Served with the Chef’s selection of roast potatoes and vegetables.


Puddings:

Traditional Christmas pudding with brandy sauce.

An apple and almond tart served with a toffee apple sauce.

Rich triple chocolate brownie served with Welsh double cream.


Booking is essential and menu choices are required before hand, ideally two weeks before.

We can cater for party sizes up to 50.

Evening booking may be available, please enquire Mark Hodgson Hospitality Manager 01239 621600

Two courses £16.00. Three courses £20.00

We can usually accommodate most dietary requirements, many of our dishes may be naturally suitable and others can often be simply modified. Please ask for advice should you suffer from any food allergies, intolerances or have any personal dietary preferences.

The Slime Mould

Slime-mould eating a fungus by Graham Watkeys
Slime-mould eating a fungus by Graham Watkeys

Slime-mould eating a fungus by Graham Watkeys

The Hazels at Taf Fechan destined for coppicing are usually marked with yellow line marking paint, so seeing a large blob of yellow on a tree wasn’t a surprise and I was only interested in the fungus at first, but this blob of yellow wasn’t paint.

Coppicing at Taf Fechan

Coppicing at Taf Fechan

The fungus is Wrinkled Crust. The fungus is doomed, it’s being slowly eaten alive by a slime-mould (a misnomer as it isn’t actually a mould or in fact a fungus they have a category all to themselves).

Usually existing as separate single cells, slime-moulds congregate at this time of year (nobody knows how they do this) creating a yellow gooey super-predator consuming everything in its path.

The slime-mould actively travels hunting for its food of bacteria, fungi and other organic matter (nobody knows how it does this), a mass of single cells without a nervous system or any kind of brain acting like a single entity (nobody knows how they do this).

Out of the chaos of the multitude order is created simulating purpose and direction where none exists beyond the relentless need for food.

When the food runs out this conglomeration decides it’s time to reproduce (nobody knows how it does this) the millions of identical cells spontaneously reorganise themselves into a wholly new configuration creating mushroom like structures, some become stems, some spores (nobody knows how it does this) the simple becoming complex, the uniform becoming specialised.

The spores are released into the wind and the Slime-mould becomes a disparate unicellular organism again.

The world has some extraordinary inhabitants.

New to Cardigan Bay

Laura Evans

I’m Laura Evans and I joined Cardigan Bay Marine Wildlife Centre in July 2015 as the Living Seas Volunteer Coordinator. I will be developing the Living Seas volunteer programme at CBMWC.

I have always been passionate about marine mammals and the marine environment. I studied Zoology with Marine Zoology at Bangor University, graduating in 2012.

After leaving university I spent 7 months as an intern studying bottlenose dolphin behaviour at the BDRI in Sardinia. I assisted with land and boat based field work, data entry and photo identification of dolphins.

Laura Evans

Laura Evans

I returned to university in 2013 to study Animal Behaviour at the University of Exeter, graduating in 2014. My masters project focused on communication in European fiddler crabs.

I first joined the CBMWC Living Seas Team as a volunteer in March 2015. Now as Living Seas Volunteer coordinator I will be managing the Living Seas volunteers at CMBWC and developing the volunteer programme.

For more information and to find out about volunteering opportunities please visit Cardigan Bay Marine Wildlife Centre’s website, call 01545 560224 or email me.

New cakes and staff at Parc Slip

Anne at Parc Slip Visitor Centre

My name is Anne and I joined the trust on the 1st of September after leaving Bridgend college where I was a trainer and lecturer in Tourism and Hospitality for 9 years.

Anne at Parc Slip Visitor CentreI studied catering in Derby college of further education and after graduating went on to have a long and varied career in the hospitality industry.

I have been chomping at the bit to start in Parc Slip as visitor centre manager and I am really looking forward to progressing the coffee shop, putting on a wider selection of hot meals and introducing a selection of homemade cakes.

I have found working at The Trust so far to be a wonderful experience and has found everyone very welcoming and warm.

Marsh Fritilaries and Damselflies

Marsh Fritillary by Mike Clark
Marsh Fritillary by Mike Clark

Marsh Fritillary by Mike Clark

Early September is the best time for looking for marsh fritillary larvae webs. Rhos Cefn Bryn, our marshy grassland reserve near Llannon is a site we monitor annually to see how the fritillaries are faring.

The larvae webs are home to the caterpillars that will over winter and become adults next summer. 2014 was a good year for the marsh fritillaries and we were pleased to find 24 webs across the site.

Unfortunately this year only 5 webs were discovered; although these were much smaller and inconspicuous than we’re used to seeing at this time of year, and we undoubtedly missed some.

This month the volunteer work group has started some of the winter jobs that come up on the Carmarthenshire reserves.

To benefit the small red damselfly and other odonata that utilise the ponds at Cors Goch, we have created some more open water.

The ponds here have become full of vegetation with very little of the open water necessary for the emergence of adult dragonflies and damselflies. This is an annual job that aims to also allow all stages of successional pond vegetation to be present.

We have also had some access issues at Dinefwr Castle Woods. A veteran Ash came down unexpectedly and contractors were brought into clear it. The path from Penlan park was completely blocked and needed reopening.

Marsh Frittilary larval web by E Foot

Marsh Fritilary larval web by E Foot

Also this month the volunteer group has renewed steps in the gully above the church. Their position in a damp and shady location has consequently meant that they have succumbed to rot and much of the wood needed replacing.

Number 500 at Taf Fechan

Calliphora vomitoria at Taf Fechan
Calliphora vomitoria at Taf Fechan

Calliphora vomitoria at Taf Fechan

The day was beginning to look rather Spartan but having reached 499 the previous day with a Cream-spotted Ladybird I was as determined as Leonidas…. Ok so trying to unobtrusively crowbar references to Thermopylae (I really wanted to use the word phalanx) into an article fundamentally about a “Bluebottle” is more difficult than it seems and should probably go under the heading “It seemed like a good idea at the time” plus the fact I’ve just realised it was “The 300” not “The 500” (although most historians put the actual number at around 1400 which only goes to prove the saying “never let the truth get in the way of a good story” or that the Spartans had a really good communications officer) so let’s forget this ever happened and move on, anyway back to the point (breathe Graham, breathe – the editor).

Where was I? Ah yes, Number 500.

Despite some heroically intensive bimbling it was actually looking rather Spartan with not much about until a flash of blue caught my eye, this flash of blue landed on a nearby Birch leaf.

This flash of blue was quite happy to stay on the nearby birch leaf (which is quite a rare occurrence with flashes of blue on birch leaves). I admit I had to squash the thought “Oh it’s only a Bluebottle” and I nearly moved on but as this particular flash of blue was happy to sit as I poked my camera in its face I took its picture (side view, top view and front view).

Despite being common there are only 251 records of Calliphora vomitoria (which is what it turned out to be) across Wales and if I’m honest despite this low number I was hoping for a more glamorous species to sit as Number 500 on my list but there you are.

I subsequently found out that Calliphora vomitoria is one of several flies that go under the name “Bluebottle” and as they all have the same vitally important though, let’s face it, rather unpalatable life habit; my mind just refuses to consider what that black fluid its blowing bubbles with actually is.

So ladies and gentlemen Number 500 on my Taf Fechan species list, the Bluebottle!

Graham Watkeys – Taf Fechan Warden

Microcows at Y Gweira

Y Gweira One of the larger patches cleared - Chris Lawrence
Y Gweira bracken control

Y Gweira bracken control – Graham Watkeys

A loud chomping noise rises from inside a tussock of grass (Chomp, chomp, chomp. Pause. Rustle. Chomp, chomp, chomp…).

Y Gweira One of the larger patches cleared - Chris Lawrence

Y Gweira One of the larger patches cleared – Chris Lawrence

The only logical conclusion is that Y Gweira has a thriving population of micro-cows. The reserve already has the normal large kind, recently introduced to graze the reserve, who were giving us the usual intensely laconic Bovine stare whilst making the exact same chomping noises as their tiny compatriots as we wandered around collecting Scabious seed for an upcoming project.

(Yes, my fellow volunteers and our esteemed leader said the concealed chomper was something called “A Vole” but who seriously believes they exist).

Both kinds of Cow are charged with preventing this SSSI from being encroached by scrub, bracken and bramble and to encourage regeneration and enrichment of the wet grassland and raised bog habitat which is home to several important and interesting species.

The robberfly Machimus atricapillus Graham Watkeys

The robberfly Machimus atricapillus Graham Watkeys

We have been here for the past few months controlling the Himalayan Balsam (yes it’s here as well) that is slowly beginning to invade from the edges of an adjoining stream, luckily we have caught it before it has become rampant (we hope) and have a chance of getting control and eradicating it (Hmmm thinks: An army of trained Micro-cows that nibble through Balsam stems?), and some of the larger bracken and scrub patches to allow the Cows easier access to chomp on any subsequent regrowth.

Of course a new reserve with different habitats means a new set of species to find which makes me happy!

Graham Watkeys – Taf Fechan Warden

UK Fungus Day 2015

FungiA day to celebrate fungi?

Now you may think this is a crazy idea but hundreds of fungi fans across the UK are gearing up to celebrate UK Fungus Day on the 11th of October but why on earth would you want to celebrate fungi? The answer is simple, without fungi we wouldn’t exist! There’s much more to mushrooms than meets the eye.

Parc slip baby oysterling

Parc slip baby oysterling

Fungi are responsible for many parts of our life that we take for granted. Without fungi we would have no soil to grow our crops, they are nature’s perfect recycler’s breaking down organic matter and returning the goodness to our earth.

They provide us with a range of food and not just fried mushrooms to go with your cooked breakfast! Fungi play a part in the production of marmite, chocolate and bread. It’s not just food either, without fungi there would be no wine, beer or lager!

Many of our medicines have fungal origins and some fungi like mycoproteins may just be the answer to concerns about future food production.

Parc slip purple toadstool

Parc slip purple toadstool

With all this in mind they deserve a little more of our attention which is why Glamorgan Fungus Group and ourselves are inviting you to Parc Slip Nature Reserve (Tondu, Bridgend) on Sunday the 11th October to learn a bit more about our mushrooms.

We will be holding guided walks (at 11:00 and 14:00) where you can learn why a stink horn stinks, what the difference is between a toadstool and a mushroom, how some fungi can turn insects into zombies and what would happen if you ate a Deathcap!

Mail the Glamorgan Fungus Group to find out more.

Lapwings at Parc Slip

Lapwing Kevin Head
Lapwing Kevin Head

Lapwing Kevin Head

If you have visited Parc Slip Nature Reserve you may have noticed that the coffee shop windows are adorned with pictures of the iconic Lapwing, a farmland bird that was once thriving successfully at Parc Slip.

Lapwing by MJ Clark

Lapwing on Parc Slip by MJ Clark

Unfortunately Lapwings are becoming a less common sight in Britain as their breeding habitat has been lost and today the lapwing is a U.K. and Wales priority species requiring urgent positive action.

So over the next few months we are going to be springing into action to improve the habitat here at Parc Slip for Lapwing so that we might once again see many of these beautiful birds on the Nature Reserve.

We will be creating new habitat, such as cryptic nesting sites and scrapes, and restoring old habitat by removing the scrub and immature woodland that has encroached on it.

In addition to the practical habitat management and creation, the project will also undertake research and monitoring on the reserve and in the wider landscape to better understand and conserve the species in Bridgend.

Beginning on Friday 2nd October and continuing every Friday until Christmas, we will be working with volunteers to carry out this vital Lapwing conservation, and we are looking for Lapwing Champions to join the team. By helping the Wildlife Trust with this project, you will gain:Lapwing habitat work

•Practical experience of habitat management, including scrub clearance and scrape creation.
•Official certificates presented to Lapwing Champions who complete more than five work parties.
•Enjoyable days working with like minded people to help conserve the lapwing.

If you would like to help us with this project, send Lorna (l.baggett@welshwildlife.org) an email to register as a volunteer or come along to our next Lapwing Conservation Day. All the dates for Lapwing Conservation Days can be found on our events page.

We look forward to seeing you at one of our Lapwing Conservation Days soon!

An Orchid Revival

Orchid seed collected from Parc Slip
Orchid seed collected from Parc Slip

Orchid seed collected from Parc Slip

Over the past few months we have been collecting orchid seed from plants around Parc Slip in order to be able to sow our new wildflower meadows with orchid seeds and hopefully get a higher abundance of a variety of orchids in the meadows in the next few years.

To collect the seed we went out around the reserve with volunteers and the Widlife Watch group to spot the plants, which was not easy when they were no longer in flower!

But with plenty of keen eyes looking for them, we found lots of Orchid plants and were able to harvest the seed from them by gently rubbing the seed pods over a paper envelope and catching the tiny seeds that fell out.

We then put the seeds in open-top tubes and nestled the tubes inside sealed Kilner jars filled with dried rice. The rice drew the moisture out of the orchid seed, meaning that after 3 days the seeds were dry enough to seal in their tubes ready to be scattered in the wildflower meadows.

Orchid seed in Kilner jar

Orchid seed in Kilner jar

Orchid seeds are one of the smallest seeds of any plant and are so small that they do not even contain enough energy for the seed to germinate on its own.

Orchid seeds therefore require a mycorrhizal fungus in the soil to provide the nutrients they need to germinate and grow.

This starts as a parasitic relationship but may reduce in dependence or end once the germinated seed has developed enough to produce its own leaves to feed itself.

As the seeds are so small, there can be thousands per pod, and by weighing the dry seed mass that we gathered, we estimated that we might have collected as many as 8,750,000 seeds!

As the last of the orchids dry up and shed their final seeds we will be heading to the new wildflower meadows at Parc Slip to scatter the orchid seed that we collected from around the Nature Reserve.

Then we will have to simply wait until next summer to see if we get more orchids in the meadows than before.

Fingers crossed!

Introducing Our New Students

New students Megan and Alex

Megan

Hello my name is Megan. I’m a third year student from Cardiff University currently studying Zoology.

This year, as a sandwich year in my degree, I am lucky to be working at Parc Slip Nature Reserve, under the Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales.

During the year I will be involved in many different projects for the Trust, I will be especially involved (along with Alex) in the Lapwing project.

I am a member of the Cardiff University Ornithology society and the university’s wildlife society which is linked to the Cardiff WTSWW group

I have a passion for wildlife, particularly birds, and through my degree I have been lucky to be involved in wildlife survey projects.

New students Megan and Alex

Megan and Alex

In my first year I had the opportunity to survey the diversity of bird, insects, amphibians, reptiles, bats and fish in the Rainforest of Guyana for one month. I saw some fantastic species from Giant River Otters to the Rainbow boa.

This summer I spent a week at Skokholm Island, off the coast of West Wales, studying the large puffin colony there.

I am very excited to be working for the Wildlife Trust this year, and look forward to seeing you around the reserve.

Alexandra

Hello!

My name’s Alexandra. I’m a third year Ecology Student at Cardiff University and I am local to the Ogmore Valley, Bridgend.

Here at Parc Slip, the staff of the Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales have presented me with the fantastic opportunity to work with them for a year.

I have no doubt that the skills and knowledge I gain here will be invaluable towards my degree, and I hope to be able to give something back to these places, which have inspired me from a young age. I am especially looking forward to working with Megan on the Lapwing project.

Outside of the lecture theatres have been a volunteer at Bryngarw park for three years, and love attending wildlife walks and talks in the different reserves, especially if they are about bats. I think it’s safe to say that over the last two years I have become even more ‘batty’ as what started off as attending bat group walks and events led me into traveling on a six week expedition to Mexico in 2014. Whilst there I assisted in collecting data from an array of magnificent birds, bats, mammals, herpetofauna and habitats.

I was thrilled when I was invited back this summer to focus more on bats, and I was trained in net extraction and processing of the weird and wonderful bats in the Calakmul Biosphere reserve.

I am also a member of the Cardiff University DanceSport Team, and have competed in Latin and Ballroom dancing across Universities in the UK. So, if you see someone waltzing down the path, that may well be me.

I can’t wait to get started, and I look forward to meeting you in the reserve.