Author: Lyndsey Maiden

Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon Gets The Green Light

Common Blenny by Jack Perks

The Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales has been engaged with these proposals throughout the planning process.

Common Blenny by Jack Perks

Common Blenny by Jack Perks

Our biggest concerns were dealt with, in particular by changing the type of turbine to significantly reduce the intertidal habitat loss predicted. However, this is a test case for a new type of development, in which there is still uncertainty as to some of the impacts, since much of the impact assessment work was based on modelling.

Therefore we want to see the proposed mitigation strictly adhered to, and we believe that monitoring should be carried out over a number of years before any other lagoons are built, so that lessons can be learnt.

Swansea is a far smaller development than other tidal lagoons proposed in the Severn Estuary, which is a more sensitive area covered by a variety of European conservation designations. Therefore any impacts are likely to be on a far greater scale.

We still have strong concerns about where the rock to build the lagoon walls will come from. For example, Dean Quarry in Cornwall is in the Manacles MCZ where plans for a new breakwater and jetties could result in significant damage to the designated habitat features as well as impacts on marine mammals.

Parc Slip Pollinators

P5160223Prep work for the new herb garden (plus some other plants) was completed on Friday by Tims Work Party, and then the planting was done on Saturday by the Watch Group . Everyone got stuck in and had great fun, the plants were planted where planned, with just a few exceptions as it was quite hard to oversee ten very enthusiastic children plus parents!

Most of the plants were purchased with a £200 Keep Wales Tidy grant, and the rest, including plants and for the children to take home to kick off their very own pollinator garden, were supplied via the Co-Op Welsh Wildlife Heroes. The children will be completing regular mini-beast surveys to monitor the success of the project, plus I will be advertising for a volunteer gardener to help keep the garden tidy and under control. In the meantime if anything looks like it needs watering or nurturing please feel free to help out and help yourself to the herbs J

This is just the start of the Parc Slip Pollinators project so watch out for more action around the reserve.

Membership card abuse costs charity thousands in needed income

Skomer's bluebells

Landing fees for Skomer Island provide an essential income stream to support the important work on the island. The amount of money generated is affected by poor weather and the associated ‘no boat days’.

Skomer Island

Skomer Island

In some years the funds generated by the landing fees have fallen short of the amount required to deliver the important work that is required because of high winds and poor weather.

We have also witnessed an increase over recent years of the lending of membership cards to non-members who do not contribute to the Wildlife Trust so they can benefit from free landing. This has reached a critical point and the charity is now suffering from high financial erosions and less income through membership card abuse. Not only do we lose out on those landing fees but we as a charity have to pay HMRC an amount for each free landing, costing us and the wildlife twice.

We do encourage members to use their cards and experience this wonderful wildlife haven but can we take this opportunity to mention that the cards are for the members only and are not transferable. Please encourage your friends and family to join us instead and help our incredible wildlife or pay the small amount of £10 to land which goes back into our work on the island, don’t forget children under 16 land for free.

Thank you for your continuing support of our charity and our wildlife.

Hammertime

Hammer the Woodpecker

Meet the latest addition to our team at The Welsh wildlife Centre.

This is Hammer, the Greater Spotted Woodpecker in his new home. He was created by Jeni & Dominic he took around three weeks to make with the whole family having input into his creation.

Hammer the Woodpecker

Hammer the Woodpecker

He was named by their son Iolo after a woodpecker who regularly visited the garden and seemed to be telling them to make a woodpecker! He is made of recycled foam and local organic sheep’s wool.

We are pleased to be able to offer him a home at The Visitors Centre here in Cilgerran and he has already become a favourite with staff and visitors alike. To see more of how he was made and how much work went into his creation check out Rustic Revolution

Humphry Bogart Vs Japanese Knotweed

After at Pwll Waun Cynon

Japanese Knotweed removal is often a long drawn out fight but one that is ultimately winnable.

So a short history of Fallopia japonica: introduced to Britain by Victorian plant hunters the plant rapidly became a prize-winning, greatly desired and admired garden plant which every self-respecting horticulturalist had to have in their modern fashionable garden.

Unmanaged stand of Japanese Knotweed at Pwll Waun Cynon

Before

Things like “you simple must come and see my Fallopia japonica!” were probably said with chest swelling pride and the pursuit of gardening one-upmanship.

I wonder how long it took for that to change to “For heaven’s sake man take some of my Fallopia japonica its taking over the whole ruddy garden!” to “I don’t know just dig it up and dump it somewhere!”? Anyway back to Pwll Waun Cynon (were we there Graham? – the editor).

This reserve has a busy railway line running right through the middle of it, now I’m mentioning this for two reasons firstly it allows the possibility of a bit of amateur train spotting (my particular favourite at the moment is the old EWS coal train 66531) and secondly gives me the excuse to legitimately use the “we were on the wrong side of the tracks” literary devise (all very Film Noir minus the melancholy, alienation, bleakness, disillusionment, disenchantment, pessimism, ambiguity, moral corruption, evil, guilt, desperation and paranoia but with trains).

So being on the “wrong side of the tracks” our Knotweed battle began by removing the years of densely packed dead stems and detritus covering the actively growing clumps, blocking access and hiding the extent of the problem. This was quickly achieved by using the slash, drag and burn method (the dame was just stood there while exploding knotweed stems popped like muffled gunshots in the night, I removed my trench coat and gloom stained trilby…)

After at Pwll Waun Cynon

After

Having now cleared around half the stand of this old growth it is now open enough to allow the control of the Knotweed in this part of Pwll Waun Cynon to start.

As with the other side of the reserve the plan is to eventually return this long neglected field to grazing to create a diverse meadow habitat (perhaps with a couple of strategically positioned lamp posts to stand under looking all Noir-ish?).

Graham Watkeys – Taf Fechan Warden

If you are inspired by Graham’s writing to help us manage these problematic weeds then please consider contributing to our Non Native Invasive Species Appeal – yes we know the title is a little bit of a mouthful

The Taf Fechan method

Sunny scrub clearance

Is meteorological consistency too much to ask for?

I think vindictive atmospheric flip flopping between cold blustery, rain and baking hot sun every 5 minutes is not only unfair but positively mean!

The prevailing weather conditions meant that a whole new scrub clearance procedure had to be developed to prevent complete and total saturation: this is now known as the Taf Fechan method (patent applied for).

The Taf Fechan method is simple but effective: first approach your Birch sapling, give the base of your chosen sapling a sharp and forthright clout with your loppers remembering (and this is the important bit) to duck out of the way of the resulting cascade of wet type water! This enables the chopping of your sapling to be undertaken in a safe and non-saturated manner.

Following the Taf Fechan method (patent applied for) we managed to clear a load of scrub regeneration which is slowly turning one of our few large open heath and grassland areas back into woodland. All this was done after a 6am start to look for one of the species we are actively managing for at Taf Fechan.

The Pied Flycatcher (or if you’re up at 6am a Flied Piecatcher) is somewhat of a Welsh speciality and we get small numbers of them at Taf Fechan but we are looking to encourage more to use the reserve. Unfortunately we didn’t see (or hear) any on this occasion but we shall continue to look, we were however treated to a fine dawn chorus.

A Winning Garden for Wildlife

Every year for the last four years we have had a garden at the RHS in Cardiff, Lyndsey, our Communications Officer, is a keen but AMATEUR gardener and has designed the garden each time and Gina her partner in crime reckons she often kills her plants. As this year saw our second commendation award it just demonstrates that you don’t have to be an expert to make your garden a winner for wildlife.

Lyndsey and her son enjoying the very popular turf sofa

Lyndsey and her son enjoying the very popular turf sofa

The idea of the garden every year is to inspire people to garden for wildlife, we were delighted when a number of people came on the stand to tell us what they had used from our garden last year.  It really heartened us when people came to the stand with photos of their version of a bug hotel for example.

This year we had a flowering lawn, a wetland area, a pond, a bug hotel, a giant willow flower with bee and butterfly, a rockery area for the reptiles, woodland area, a turfed sofa and flowering beds to attract a wide variety of insects.

So many people asked us how we had achieved the different elements and took photos that we reckon we inspired quite a few people to do something over the next year.

It was also great to hear people say things like “wow I’ve always seen the damp part of my garden as a problem but now I am going to plant it up with wetland plants!”

Sarah Kessell in the willow flower

Sarah Kessell in the willow flower

Thanks to Salix for the donation of the wetland plants, Out To Learn Willow for their fantastic willow sculpture and Dianne Bartholemew for lending us her trees again!

For those of you who would like to have a flowering lawn then this superb list of plants gives you a start – thanks to Lionel Smith for sharing his list with us

Acaena buchanii, Acaena inermis ‘Purpurea’, Acaena magellanica, Acaena @.  M mf ‘Copper Carpet’, Achilleaok millefolium ‘Aureum’, (ajuga is bugle) Ajuga reptans ‘Burgundy Glow’, Ajuga reptans ‘Chocolate Chip’, Ajuga reptans ‘Multicolour’, Ajuga reptans ‘Variegata’, Anthyllis vulneraria -kidney vetch, Argentina anserina – silverweed, Bellis perennis – daisy (wild form), Bellis perennis (mixed cultivars), Campanula cochlearifolia, Campanula rotundifolia, Cardamine trifoliata, Chamaemelum nobile ‘flore pleno’, Chrysanthemum weyrichii, Dianthus deltoides

RHS forest garden

The forest garden

‘Flashing Lights’, Erodium x variabile, Erodium castellanum, Fragaria vesca ‘Golden Alexandria’, Geranium pyrenaicum, Geum urbanum, Glechoma hederacea, Glechoma hederacea ‘Variegata’, Houstonia caerulea, Houstonia caerulea ‘Millard’s Variety’, Leontodon saxatilis, Leptinella dioica, Leptinella dioica minima, Leptinella squallida, Leptinella squallida ‘Platt’s Black’, Lobelia angulata, Lobelia oligophylla, Lobelia pedunculata, ‘Alba Super Star Creeper’, Lobelia pedunculata, ‘Blue Star Creeper’, Lobelia pedunculata ‘County Park’, Lotus corniculatus ‘Plenus’, Lotus formosissimus, Lysimachia nummularia ‘Aurea’, Mazus reptans, Mentha requenii, Nierembergia repens, Oxalis adenophylla, Oxalis corniculatus, Oxalis magellanica ‘Nelson’, Parachetus communis, Phylla nodiflora, Pilosella aurantiacum, Pilosella maculatum ‘Leopard’, Pilosella officinalis, Pilosella tardans, Polygala vulgaris, Potentilla neumanniania nana (P.verna), Potentilla reptans, Primula – Wanda hybrids, Prunella grandiflora, Prunella vulgaris, Ranunculus repens, Ranunculus repens ‘Buttered Popcorn’, Ranunculus repens ‘Gloria Spale’, Sagina subulata var. glabrata aurea, Selliera

Flowering lawn

The flowering lawn

radicans, Taraxacum pseudoroseum, Taraxacum rubrifolium, Thymus serpyllum, Trifolium pratense ‘Susan Smith’, Trifolium repens ‘Garnet’, Trifolium repens ‘Son of William’, Trifolium repens ‘Chocolate Splash’, Trifolium repens ‘Purpurescens Quadrifolium’, Trifolium repens ‘Dragons Blood’, Veronica armena, Veronica austriaca ‘Ionian Skies’, Veronica officinalis, Veronica prostrata ‘Goldwell’, Veronica prostrata ‘Mrs Holt’, Veronica prostrata ‘Lilac Time’, Veronica prostrata ‘Nestor’, Veronica repens, Veronica repens ‘Sunshine’, Veronica spicata ‘Dwarf Blue’, Veronica spicata ‘Dwarf Pink’, Viola hederacea, Viola labradorica, Viola odorata, Viola sororaria.

Not all of the plants are native, some are cultivars, all provide a rich range of nectar for pollinators in the garden over a long period.

Winter Departures – no, we didn’t head for the sun

This winter has been a bit of a departure from the norm for the staff and volunteer team. We left the woods and headed for the fields mainly focusing on the SITA Trust funded project at The Dranges.

Woodland managementThat’s not to say we haven’t been in the woods at all this winter. We have been carrying out the usual maintenance work, fencing repairs, site risk and hazard tree assessments and we also did 1.7ha of coppicing in the Bishopston Valley as a contract from National Trust.

One of the tasks which had been bugging me since last summer was that we had missed the late summer cut on the meadow at Elizabeth & Rowe Harding Reserve. Our intention had been to cut the meadow with scythes, it is just the right size to tackle in a day but wet weather on planned work party days scuppered our attempts. One thing led to another and the cut was missed.

meadow management Elizabeth and Rowe Harding nature reserveWhen I first got to know this meadow seven years ago it was head high with bramble, bracken and blackthorn due to a lack of appropriate management. Five years ago this was the first task tackled when we re-established the regular volunteer work days. We started with a late spring and late summer cut & rake to restore the grassland and after restoration we reduced the input to just one cut & rake in late summer. Now if I let an annual cut be missed the volunteers would not forgive me.

A window of opportunity presented itself to mechanically cut the meadow in February and a good day with the volunteers raking will mean the meadow survives scrub free for another summer.

We hope to broadcast some Yellow Rattle seeds here to reduce the dominance of the vigorous grasses and improve the quality of the wildflower meadow.

 

The Dranges Marsh Fritillary Habitat Recovery Project

It felt like we were doing battle with the weather and ground conditions but as winter progressed so did the SITA Trust funded project to restore the habitat for Marsh Fritillary butterflies at The Dranges, Bishopston.

Dranges diggerFebruary 2015 saw the completion of the external fencing, a total of 2500m. Internal boundary fencing was commenced and completed a total of 1470m.

11 gates and 2 stiles were installed, 3 existing gates on the external boundary were also rehung. 4 swing gates were also installed where the fencing crossed watercourses.

Through the winter the staff and volunteer teams have worked hard clearing scrubby vegetation and two of the wet meadows were cut and collect mowed.

With the removal of rank vegetation and the new fencing this will enable the site to be grazed in future making the management of the grasslands for the Marsh Fritillary sustainable.

We have now said goodbye to our specialist contractors AJ Butler Contracting Ltd who delivered the fencing and mowing work. I would like to thank them for their flexible and sympathetic approach to working this site.

Dranges workThe ground and weather conditions were challenging and without their low ground pressure machinery this job would have been near impossible. Delivering so much work in such a short period of time has certainly impacted on the site but the contractors reinstated as they pulled out of site we have now handed it over to nature while the site ‘settles’ and greens up again.

We are now minimising our own access onto the site to reduce the impact and will return once the weather improves.

Spring is here in Ceredigion!

New Boundary Fencing by Em Foot

With the arrival of spring we see a change in jobs to be done on the reserves- generally less destructive!

Having moved a bridge in Coed Maidie B Goddard (for safety reasons) last year and rerouted the path we needed to put in some steps, block off the old path and remove the old steps to discourage people from using the old, unsafe path.

This was one of the earliest sunny days and proved to be very pleasant, the sun helping to set our mud step surfaces.

We also spent another day mending bits of the causeway and ensuring gates opened properly and easily. The celandine was just coming out too.

We had one last, tiring day cutting and dragging willow from the bog at Cors Ian to improve the water vole habitat.

We cleared it from a steam, living it less overshadowed. There was lots of frog activity in the pond and we even saw a few lizards basking in the spring sunshine- a first record for the site.

After the fire on the hillside here last year there is a lot of dead, burnt gorse that is not rejuvenating. We have spent a couple more days clearing this to allow the grazing animals access to the fresh grass below. Some, but not all, of the gorse is regrowing so hopefully we will end up with some glade-like areas on the hillside.

We have also created a long habitat pile/dead hedge which will provide lots of nesting and hiding places for the resident and passing wildlife.

Cors Ian seems to be a woodpecker haven- all three varieties have been heard on the site this year! We also hear curlew regularly but suspect they are just across our boundary!

New Boundary Fencing by Em Foot

New Boundary Fencing by Em Foot

There was a stretch of boundary fence that needed mending at Coed Simdde Lwyd. Luckily this section was not far from the road but was up a very steep hill with a section of steep ladder steps. Carrying the posts and tools up them was definitely good for our fitness! T

here is an old mine on the site which is fenced off (and away from the paths) but we replaced the warning signs and used a pallet with a warning sign to cover another entrance.

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 find out more about our Ceredigion reserves.

Wonderful Water Voles and more Carmarthenshire news

New steps at Castle Woods

Good news for our Water Voles at Ffrwd Farm Mire! Ffrwd is our wetland reserve near Kidwelly, which received over 200 captive bred water voles last summer as part of a project to increase the range of the Llanelli population.

Water Vole by Amy Lewis, this mammal is seen on Goodwick Moor

Water Vole by Amy Lewis

After a quiet winter, when the water vole is fairly inactive, there have been lots of signs of renewed activity along the ditch edges. There are many visible signs of feeding, runs and latrines.

Hilary Foster, NRW Biodiversity officer and manager of the project, says ‘It seems our water voles have done well over the winter and are well and truly setting up for the breeding season now that we’ve had a few warmer days’.

Soft rush can be an ongoing problem for land managers. It is a native species but problematic, due to its invasive nature and ability to outcompete other grassland species. At Carmel as part of our ongoing management of the meadows we have had the rush cut in several fields to try and reduce its dominance.

Raking off soft rush at Carmel

Raking off soft rush at Carmel

Our volunteers then spent 3 days raking and piling the arisings at the field edge. This is important as many of the fields at Carmel were at one time improved, so nutrient depletion is an ongoing objective in their restoration.

The piles of rotting vegetation will provide valuable habitat for invertebrates and small mammals, and potential egg laying sites for the small number of grass snakes that use the reserve.

We have collected rubbish from Carmel. The busy A476 that runs straight through the reserve is a point of entry for wind blown rubbish thrown from car windows. In total close to 30 bags of rubbish were collected, some tyres, a toaster and a life buoy.

We are grateful to Brian Mogford from Tidy Towns who removed all the rubbish collected, and disposing of it for us.

New steps at Castle Woods

New steps at Castle Woods

The volunteer group has also spent a day in South Lodge Woods, part of Castle Woods NNR, improving access. Previously a steep part of the woodland path, at the Penlan Park entrance, was becoming increasingly precarious especially when wet. Three new steps dressed with stone should make a safer and more user friendly access route into the woodland.

 

New Sand martin accommodation available at Teifi Marshes

Sand martin Structure

Sand martins in the locality of our Teifi Marshes nature reserve can now benefit from further nesting opportunities as a new artificial nesting structure has recently been installed.

Sand martin Structure

Sand martin Structure

The structure, supplied and installed (with the help of volunteers) by Green Future Buildings provides nesting for 96 pairs of Sand martins although other species such as Kingfishers may also take advantage of the opportunity.

Sand martins are common summer visitors, arriving in March and leaving in October. They nest in colonies, digging burrows in steep, sandy cliffs, usually around water, so are commonly found on wetland sites.

The tunnels they bore can be up to a metre in length. At a chamber at the end of the burrow, four or five eggs are laid on collected straw and feathers.

Sand martins are sociable birds and will nest together in summer and gather to roost in large numbers in autumn; eventually they migrate to Africa to spend the winter.

Sand martin by Richard Bowler

Sand martin by Richard Bowler

The aim of the structure is to help provide nesting opportunities for Sand martins as the banks on the nearby river Teifi are prone to erosion with high water flows and the activities of nearby sand quarries are changing the availability of natural nesting sites on an annual basis. The structure hopes to mitigate in some way for these issues.

The design of the structure also allows ringers access to nests for ringing and monitoring opportunities and so the Teifi Ringing Group are patiently waiting for the first arrival(s). At present there are hundreds of Sand martins using the reserve and so we hope that the structure will soon attract some to nest on site and add to the rich diversity of wildlife found.

The installation of the structure was only possible through the generous donation of funds from private donors, the Pembrokeshire Bird Group, Environment Wales, the Pembrokeshire Biodiversity Partnership and BIFFA Award. The Wildlife Trust is grateful for all their support.

Nathan Walton, Wildlife Trust Officer for Pembrokeshire

Biffa AwardPembrokeshire Biodiversity networkEnviro Wales logo