Author: Lyndsey Maiden

West Glamorgan Reserves News

Chipping at Coed Gawdir Stuart McKinnon

The winter season as usual has been busy with habitat management. Some of the work has been supported by the Welsh Government’s Glastir Woodland Management scheme and the WREN funded West Glamorgan Wild Woodlands project has enabled us to expand our delivery of work across a greater number of our 31 nature reserves.

Areas of Priors Wood, The Dranges, Peel Wood & Gelli Hir have been coppiced and thinned. A small number of young hazel have been coppiced at Coed Barcud which was planted in 2007; this is a bit of trial to see how these young trees respond to being cut and brought into a coppice rotation early in the woodland’s life.

Alongside this work there has been a big push to clear the very invasive Rhododendron at Coed Gawdir and continue its eradication at Craig Cil Hendre. The pond is now visible again at Coed Gawdir and restoration of this reserve will continue next winter.

Users of the A4118, (South Gower road) may have noticed we have had contractors removing roadside trees at our Kilvrough Woods reserve. This felling was in part required to enable us to manage the risk from tree to the road and road users, but it has also helped us benefit biodiversity by both letting in light to previously dark areas of woodland, which will benefit the wild flowers, and also increasing the diversity of the age structure of the woodland. This reserve is designated SAC and SSSI and has been failing to meet one of its SSSI targets to preserve deadwood habitat; for this reason nearly all of the felled trees have been left on site to decay. Given a season, the areas which may look a little stark at the moment will soon have regenerated.

Information and data for our South Gower coast reserves has been gathered together and we are in the process of rewriting our management plans for these reserves to inform future management work. The focus of our practical management here has been the cutting back of vegetation beside the Wales Coast path. This will benefit path users but will have the added benefit of increasing the areas of shorter vegetation on the slopes which will provide basking areas for reptiles and a diversity of habitats. We have also done a couple of beach cleans at Overton Mere and removed a lot of plastics from the marine environment.

We would like to thank our volunteer team for all their help through the habitat management season. If you would like to get involved then get in touch with Tara Daniels on 01656 724100 or email.

Paul Thornton
Senior Wildlife Trust Officer (Swansea, Neath and Port Talbot)

Bumblebee mites

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bramble attack, trees and paths!

New bridge at Coed Penglanowen by Em Foot

New bridge at Coed Penglanowen by Em Foot

Cwm Clettwr new path - by Em Foot

Cwm Clettwr new path – by Em Foot

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

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

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

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

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

Bridgend Snippets – Issue 4

Bridgend Snippets front cover

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

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

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Some spring observations

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

Early flowering Toothwort Taf Fechan by Graham Watkeys

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

Eristalis tenax hoverfly by Graham Watkeys

Eristalis tenax hoverfly by Graham Watkeys

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s all very worrying.

Graham Watkeys (Taf Fechan Volunteer Warden)

Nest boxes at Llyn Fach

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

Room with a view – Graham Watkeys

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Biffa Award

More Moss

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

Grey cushioned Grimmia (Grimmia pulvinata) by Graham Watkeys

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

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

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

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

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

Swansea Makes a Splash- Rain Gardens Officially Opened

Today, on St David’s Day, a day of celebration for Wales, the opening of a new Rain Garden was celebrated in Swansea.

The Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales, funded by Natural Resources Wales, has been working at the Swansea Vale Resource Centre with New Horizons, a support organisation for people with disabilities, to create Rain Garden planters at Swansea Vale Resource Centre, which capture rain water from the down pipes that would otherwise have gone straight down the drain. This is an example of a SUDS (Sustainable Drainage System), which can help prevent flooding and pollution on our rivers.

These were planted with plants for pollinators and people and now provide a space for New Horizons to relax and unwind, as well as holding water back from the river after storms.

Victoria Hill, Assistant Manager at the Swansea Vale Resource Centre, said ‘I am really pleased to have worked with the Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales to create a Rain Garden at the Swansea Vale Resource Centre. Where we previously had tarmac and not much else, we now have lovely raised planters which are also helping wildlife and the environment. The service users at New Horizons have enjoyed helping with the creation of the Rain Gardens and they now have a new place to go to enjoy wildlife and get some peace and quiet.’

New Horizons users, their families and representatives from the City and County of Swansea Council, Keep Wales Tidy and the Wildlife Trust joined together today to celebrate the opening of the gardens.

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.