Author: Rebecca Vincent

News From Vine House Farm

Check out the latest news from Vine House Farm’s blog

This month’s blog includes highlights on:


The Lapwings are on the fields because the stalks from the previous pea crop are still on the surface. The invertebrates come up through the soil to eat the trash, mainly at night and so become available to the Lapwings.

When we cultivate our fields by ploughing, we are killing some of the insects, turning their homes upside down and burying the trash from the previous crop. Therefore, the only downside of direct drilling, as far as the invertebrates are concerned, is that they will have to come on top to feed.

The upside, as far as I am concerned, is that we will have more wildlife on the farm. As the young Lapwings are having to move about more to find their food, due to there being less invertebrates in the soil than previously, this extra movement attracts the predators – Crows, Buzzards and Foxes eat the Lapwing chicks. Quite simply, if there were no soil invertebrates, there would be no Lapwings.


Vine House support all the Wildlife Trusts with every purchase of bird food.

Unique Christmas Gift Ideas

e-Christmas Card - Owl flying

Discover unique Christmas gift inspiration in our online Wildlife Trust shop. Be the ultimate gift giver this year with gifts that won’t fail to bring a smile to anyone’s face.

As an added bonus, when buying gifts from our shop you’ll be contributing to the vital conservation work that we carry out locally. 100% of profits from gifts in our shop goes towards:

    • funding nationally important conservation projects across south & west Wales
    • lobbying for better legislation to protect all wildlife in south & west Wales preserving
    • improving wildlife habitats through south & west Wales.

Our supporters fund a large amount of the Trust’s work – every single thing you buy does make a difference!

Here’s a few of our shop favourites to get the inspiration flowing…

Tea towels from £6.50

Delightful cotton tea towels featuring a novel Christmas design by Emma Ball. Choose from Christmas Penguins, Christmas Birds and Christmas Puffins.

Christmas Birds Tea Towel


Wildlife Adoptions from £3 a month

Giving a wildlife adoption as a gift this Christmas will not only put a smile on someones face but will also help us protect that species. As part of the adoption you’ll receive:

  • Introductory letter
  • Personalised Certificate
  • Fact Sheet
  • Soft Toy
  • Once a year (usually in autumn) you will receive a report on the adopted animal.

Please note that the last day to order your wildlife adoption to guarantee delivery in time for Christmas is Monday 10th December. After the 10th December we will still be taking adoption orders but will be unable to guarantee that they’ll arrive with you in time for Christmas.

Aprons from £15

Produced in the UK, these adult aprons are made from 100% cotton, and come with matching ties.

Designs come with garden birds & honeysuckle artwork or puffins by Emma Ball.

Emma Ball Puffins Apron


Children’s book £7.99

Marli’s Tangled Tale is a true and gentle story about the global problem of plastic rubbish, highlighting to children the relationship between humans and wildlife and the dangers puffins face in their own natural habitats.

Stunning artwork captures the imagination of young readers and brings to life a very real threat to our world.

Marli’s Tangled Tale shares a powerful message which invites children and adults alike to question the impact of plastic pollution on our environment. With ideas and activities which reinforce the story, Marli’s Tangled Tale is a book which will inspire children to make changes to the world around them.


Marli's Tangled Tale


Binoculars from £29.99 to £139

With such a varied price range, we’ve got something to suit everyone, including Opticron’s best selling lines. Binoculars are a fantastic gift for any wildlife enthusiast and are perfect for all types of wildlife watching. They are branded with the Wildlife Trusts logo and all profits made go towards to conservation work carried out by the Trust.

Certain binoculars in our shop are waterproof, covered by a 5 year warranty and are supplied with neck strap, cleaning cloth, carry case and rainguard.




Join us today and help support our Welsh wildlife. Every membership helps the Wildlife Trust pay for essential conservation work, tools for volunteers and protection of wildlife.

Benefits include our magazine, three times a year, our monthly e-newsletter, early booking to stay on Skomer Island and free landing on the island too.

Long term support makes a real difference to the success of wildlife in Wales; for this reason we would like you to be comfortable with your subscription amount and choose the amount that you wish to give. Most people give between £50 and £120 per year, or from less than £1 per week. The choice should remain with you.


Family of Puffins - family membership

Family membership brings so much joy

Weekly Organisers from £8

Each organiser contains approximately 80 pages, measuring 275 x 135mm.

Inside the organisers, features a ruled week-day table for you to become super organised for this year. They also feature a table containing columns for you to write notes and lists of things to complete.

Emma Ball Weekly Organiser

Wrapping paper – £2.99 and cards £5

Get the essentials this Christmas through us and help wildlife while you’re at it! We’ve got your cards and wrapping paper sorted this Christmas.

Inside the cards the message reads “Happy Christmas”. They come with white envelopes and measure 153mm x 153mm. Each pack contains 10 cards of one design.

Eco-profile: These cards are FSC certified. 50% recycled board. 100% recycled envelopes. Compostable bag. Alcohol-free print. Vegetable-based inks. Printed with Green Energy.

Our wrapping paper is high quality and comes with die cut tags and hanging strings. An open sheet measures 500 x 700mm and one pack includes 5 sheets and 5 tags of one design.


Deer/Stag Christmas Wrapping Paper Wildlife Trusts Christmas Cards (Bilingual) - Fox


Puzzles from £11.99

We have a wide range of wonderful square jigsaw puzzles.

They contain 1000 pieces and, once complete, measure 58cm x 58cm. Choose from 8 different wildlife themed designs.


Nature Reserve Jigsaw Puzzle - Pollyanna Pickering


Free delivery is available on orders over £20

To see all of our brilliant, wildlife themed products visit our online shop:


Amazon Smile

If you’re looking for gifts that we don’t stock in our online shop, why not try Amazon Smile.

We’ve become part of the Amazon Smile initiative. Amazon Smile is an easy way to make charitable donations to us without costing you anything extra! Simply shop at – the same amazon you know with the same products, prices and service but Amazon Smile will donate 0.5% of the price of your eligible Amazon Smile purchases to us.

Support us by shopping on our online shop, or through Amazon Smile and selecting The Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales as your charity to support – Thank you.

Happy shopping!

Help Wildlife Survive this Winter

There are little things that we can all do this winter to ensure that the colder season is easier for our local wildlife friends. Here are a few suggestions…

  1. Pop out bird feeders full of delicious seeds
  2. Floating a tennis ball in a pond, or source of water, will prevent it from freezing over
  3. Let your garden grow wild for invertebrates and small mammals
  4. Download our free guide on how to build a hedgehog home
  5. Create a cosy log and/or leaf pile for frogs, toads and newts

A few things to remember:

Be sure not too leave out too much food so that your wildlife friends don’t become dependant on handouts.

Ensure that your bird feed is bought from somewhere reputable and that it doesn’t contain any harmful chemicals. Vine House Farm provide good bird feed and some of their profit gets donated to The Wildlife Trusts!

And make sure you’re not encouraging your wildlife friends to cross busy roads in order to get to a source of food, water and/or shelter.


Jack Donovan, Ronald Lockley, Dillwym Miles and David Saunders on Skokholm in May 1991, photo by Jack Donovan

In the month that we remember the first centenary of the ending of the War that did not end all Wars (1914-1918), and with the seventy fifth anniversary of D Day coming up next summer it is as good a time as any to also remember the origins of our Trust, some of the people who were involved at these various times, how our Trust came into being, and some of the early actions.

Formal interest in wildlife in South Wales started with the founding of the Cardiff Naturalists’ Society [CNS] in 1867 formed for the practical study of natural history and the founding of a museum.  A future CNS President Joshua Neale leased Skomer and Grassholm for a decade in 1890 to protected the birdlife after having witnessed a company of seamen from HMS Sir Richard Fletcher slaughtering gannets by using them for target practice on a visit with other CNS members. And another President, Robert Drane was the first person to recognise the Skomer Vole as being different from the mainland bank vole while making a visit to Skomer in 1898.

Our ultimate origin as a Wildlife Trust is the Society for the Promotion of Nature Reserves (SPNR) founded in May 1912 by Charles Rothschild[a] and based at the Natural History Museum, Cromwell Road, London. Over the next three years SPNR amassed a list[b] of 284 important wildlife sites from around Great Britain and Ireland which the society considered worthy of preservation and sent to the Government for action. Selection was mostly done by letters from each county, except where Rothschild or his associates knew the sites, in England (188) [c], Scotland (56), Ireland (19) and Wales (21). Being as the work was progressed through the opening years of the First World War, it was not nearly as thorough as it might have been.

Wales rather missed out on this 1915 list with a mere 21 sites being listed, and presumably due to lack of contacts owing to being away on war work, none from Pembrokeshire. Of the 21 Welsh sites, 6 are within our Wildlife Trust’s boundaries

Brecknockshire: Craig-y-Cilau

Carmarthenshire: Kidwelly (Towyn/Pembrey Burrows)

Ceredigion: Tregaron Bog/Cors Caron

Glamorgan: Kenfig Burrows; Sully Island; Worm’s Head

It is salutary to realise that 103 years later, 4 of these sites are managed as National Nature Reserves (NNR) and of the remainder Sully Island is designated as a geological Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), and what remains of Pembrey Burrows after afforestation is a Local Nature Reserve.

While these things were happening at a national level two people, both born in Cardiff, who were to be important in our Trust’s story were living in the same street, Heol Don, Whitchurch. Being 11 years apart in age Harry Morrey Salmon born in 1892 and Ronald Lockley born in 1903 are not known to have met at this point and world affairs gave them very different early lives. Both benefitted independently from an interest in natural history and the habitats in the immediate area of their homes, such as the Glamorgan Canal and the Cardiff beechwoods.

Salmon is known to have cycled as far as Kenfig Pool for week-end camping and bird watching. At eighteen he bought his first camera, a quarter-plate Reflex, and took his first photograph that same day of a Dipper nest. And with that came a hobby that lasted him a lifetime, and won him national renown as the “Father of British Bird Photography”, all starting by forming the photographic section of the Cardiff Naturalists Society with his birdwatching friend, Geoffrey Ingram[d].

While Lockley was too young and missed the war, Salmon had a considerable adventure. He returned having been mentioned in dispatches and having been awarded the Military Cross and bar in part for liberating the French town of Bry[e].

After the war, having taken up various agricultural enterprises, Lockley discovered Skokholm in 1927, negotiated a 21year lease, wrote Dream Island in 1930[f] which brought him to the notice of a wide audience including Dr Julian Huxley and Peter Scott. He founded the Skokholm Bird Observatory[g] in 1933 with help from Salmon[h] in building the first Heligoland trap and a public appeal for which Ingram and Salmon acted as treasurers.

In 1934 Huxley collaborated with Lockley to create for Alexander Korda the world’s first natural history documentary The Private Life of the Gannets. For the film, shot with the support of the Royal Navy around Grassholm off the Pembrokeshire coast, they won an Oscar for best short subject in 1937.

It was shown at the 8th International Ornithological Congress[i] which met in Oxford that year which ended with an excursion for 145 participants to the Pembrokeshire Islands including Skokholm to view the bird observatory. The excursion was also much aided by the Royal Navy and the use of H.M. destroyers Windsor and Wolfhound for transporting guests. The guests were made up of a large section of the ornithological world including Max Nicholson reporting on the 1928 national heron survey [something we do annually now at Coed Llwyn Rhyddid], Konrad Lorenz, and the ex-King of Bulgaria. Ex-King Ferdinand the First was easily recognised as he was followed by a manservant with a stool, which Ferdinand made very regular use of, to sit and survey the birds and the seascape.

This year also coincided with Salmon and Ingram publishing their first book, Birds in Britain Today (1934) as joint authors, followed by a string of county avifaunas for Glamorgan (1936), Monmouthshire-(1937, revised 1963), Pembrokeshire (1948) with Lockley, Carmarthenshire (1954). Radnorshire (1955) and Brecknock (1957).

The West Wales Naturalists’ Trust traces its specific origins back to a meeting held in the Gold Room, Haverfordwest on 26th February 1938. It was convened by L. D. Whitehead, the Welsh industrialist and owner of Ramsey Island, and Ronald Lockley. Seventy-eight people were present at that inaugural meeting and on the motion of Mr. Hugh Lloyd-Philipps, of Dale Castle, the Pembrokeshire Bird Protection Society [PBPS] was formed, with Lord Merthyr as president.

Part of the society’s work was to protect the peregrine falcon population in Pembrokeshire which were being persecuted for preying on carrier pigeons because they were being used to transmit military messages.

Perhaps the most important bird protection needed at the time was protecting the last remaining population of British red kites[j], in mid Wales, which was being done by a voluntary organisation of sympathetic land-owners and farmers, such as Sir Charles Dillwyn-Venables-Llewellyn at Llysdinam, who organised nest watchers and paid bounties to farmers and tenants on whose land kites had fledged young.

Between 1938 and 1949 Dorothy Raikes of Bwlch, Breconshire, was in charge of kite protection arrangements.  She was succeeded by Captain and Mrs H. R. H. Vaughan of Rhandirmwyn, Carmarthenshire, who, in 1949, established the WWFS Kite Committee which continued work until 1958, when the Nature Conservancy and RSPB took over.

When war broke out in September 1939, this dream island life had to be abandoned. Lockley, knowing he may never return, began writing about the history and wildlife of his beloved island. He sent what he wrote to his friend and brother-in-law John Buxton – a bird watcher captured by the Germans in Norway in 1940. These letters to a prisoner-of-war, intended to comfort Buxton in his captivity, became Letters from Skokholm published in 1947[k].

For his part Buxton avoided some of the boredom of incarceration by observing the habits of the pairs of Redstart which nested around the concentration camps, ably helped by some other prisoners including John Barrett and Peter Conder[l].  Buxton was able to publish his Redstart[m] work in 1950 as the second monograph in the New Naturalist Library published by Collins.

Barrett[n] had been shot down on his first bombing mission over Germany in 1941 and after capture was move through a number of camps including Stalag Luft II (Sagan), where he was part of the support team for the ‘Wooden Horse’ escape, before meeting up with Buxton in Oflag at Doessel bei Warburg. After the war he became the first warden of Dale Fort Field Studies Centre, and teamed up with Professor Maurice Yonge to produce the first field guide to the shore, Collins Pocket Guide to the Shore (1958).

Conder was captured with the 51st Highland Division at Saint-Valery-en-Caux in June 1940 and went on after the war to be warden of Skokholm 1947-1954, before joining RSPB and eventually becoming their CX.

Lord Merthyr was captured by the Imperial Japanese Army while serving with the Pembrokeshire Regiment in Hong Kong in 1941, and he remained a prisoner of war until 1945.

As war broke out Salmon tried to volunteer[e], and was initially turned down due to age, but was finally given command[e] of the RAF Regiment in the Mediterranean and North Africa, before ultimately taking overall charge of the RAF regiment for the invasion of Italy. Lockley joined naval intelligence.  Max Nicholson joined the Ministry of War Transport and was put in charge of organizing shipping operations and convoys across the Atlantic, and also helped in the logistic organisation of the D Day landings.

SPNR organised its first Conference on Nature Preservation in Post-war Reconstruction[o] on 5th June 1941 at the Natural History Museum. Delegates took many hours to travel in from the provinces due to wartime train disrupt and to put it in a historical context, Hitler invaded Russia a fortnight later. This Nature Preservation Conference went on to meet several more time, and a Nature Reserves Investigation Committee[p] was formed a year later. With all this activity and lobbying, the government finally confirmed that it had accepted a responsibility for preserving the natural beauty of the countryside in a debate on 30th November 1943.

In August 1945 the Government set up a Wild Life Conservation Special Committee[o] chaired by Prof. Julian Huxley (the Huxley Committee) to examine the needs of nature conservation in England and Wales. Its report, Command 7122[q], published in 1947, recommended a list of proposed nature reserves where wildlife would be studied and protected, which now includes Skomer, Skokholm and Grassholm as well as Kenfig, as future National Nature Reserves (NNR), the creation of Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) for areas outside the statutory reserves, the undertaking of survey and experimental work, a series of institutes of terrestrial ecology, and the setting up of an official biological service to establish and maintain the reserves, to carry out the necessary research, and to advise on nature conservation generally.

January 1946 saw the Pembrokeshire Bird Protection Society decide to change its name to the West Wales Field Society (WWFS). Huxley[r], moving the adoption of the seventh annual report, explained the wish of the Society to broaden the basis of its work and to include botany, zoology, geology and archaeology in addition to the study of bird life and the interests of the countryside in general.

The Government accepted Command 7122 and set up the Nature Conservancy, the forerunner of part of what is now Natural Resources Wales, as a separate body under the aegis of a committee of the Privy Council by Royal Charter on 23 March 1949. Max Nicholson became its second director general in 1951.

The Nature Conservancy attempted to get Kenfig declared as a nature reserve as suggested by Command 7122, but found too many obstacles and abandoned the project in 1954[s]. Morrey Salmon then managed to induce the Glamorgan County Council to propose Kenfig as a Local Nature Reserve in 1956, but this was prevented by an ancient legal conflict between the Trustees of the Margam Estate and the Kenfig Corporation over the ownership of the dunes.

Likewise, in 1956, the Nature Conservancy asked a local Swansea solicitor and birdwatcher Neville Douglas-Jones whether he could organise a survey of Buzzards on Gower, due to their falling numbers following the outbreak of myxomatosis in rabbits their primary prey. This was achieved by recruiting a group of naturalists from the area, including a Pomeranian refugee, ex Royal Army Medical Corps Col., orthopaedic surgeon, bird watcher Jo Hambury[t]. This group went on to form the nucleus of the Gower Ornithological Society.

Skomer was offered for sale in 1958, and donations varying between 2s 6d and £1,000 were received for the WWFS Skomer appeal amounting to nearly £4,600. The cost of the Skomer purchase and sub-sale, and lease (by the Nature Conservancy to the Society) cost £4,100, leaving a useful surplus in the fund for maintenance and other expenses of this new National Nature Reserve. Donations[u] were received from some 155 individual contributors and institutions including Viscount Alanbrooke, John Buxton, BP (Llandarcy) Ltd, Bruce Campbell, Christopher Cadbury, Cardiff Naturalists’ (Ornithological Section), J.W. Donovan, Esso (Milford Haven), Gower Ornithological Society (including Mr and Mrs Neville Douglas-Jones, Mr and Mrs Jo Hambury, Miss Betty Church, and Mike Powell), Lord Hurcomb, Sir Julian and Lady Huxley, R.M. Lockley, C. Mackworth Praed, Lord Merthyr, Col. H. Morrey Salmon, Tony Soper, RSPB, and H.N Savory.

Over the next couple of years Jo Hambury became increasingly concerned for the Glamorgan countryside, and wanting to create an organisation for the acquisition and protection of land important for wildlife. He met Christopher Cadbury[v], the Chairman of SPNR’s County Naturalists’ Trusts Committee, at the first of the County Trusts’ biennial conferences at Skegness in 1960, and they discussed the possibilities of forming a Glamorgan Trust as they walked together across Gibraltar Point. The Glamorgan County Naturalists’ Trust (GCNT) was formed the following year, on 24th May 1961, with Hambury as chairman and Mary Gillham and Morrey Salmon as founder members.

The WWFS agreed to re-constitute itself to be known as the West Wales Naturalists’ Trust at its 23rd AGM on 27th May 1961. The Brecknock County Naturalists’ Trust (BCNT)[w] was established in 1964 by Major General Sir Geoffrey Raikes, spurred on by Jack Evans. The first decade of the Trust’s work centred on improving the information known about the county’s flora, including expanding the distribution of globeflower from two 10 km squares to forty-four 5 km squares. By the end of 1970, SPNR were able to confirm that BCNT had the highest membership as a percentage of their resident population of all the existing Naturalists’ Trusts in UK. This lead position in the Trust movement was maintained for many years overseen in part by the Trust’s Honorary Secretary, Eric Bartlett, and his Gestetnered Trust newsletters.

Max Nicholson[x] reported to the 3rd County Naturalists’ biennial Conference in 1964 that “In Wales, the former WWFS (now the West Wales Naturalists’ Trust) pioneered in safeguarding off-shore islands as Nature Reserves from the ‘thirties, and was for long, on such areas as Skokholm and Skomer, the only body in Wales under taking practical conservation; The struggle by the WWNT and the Conservancy to save Borth Bog has recently dominated the scene, as the successful struggle of the same partners for Skomer Island did in the ‘fifties. Skomer is the only National Nature Reserve owned by the Nature Conservancy and managed under lease by a Naturalists’ Trust

Glamorgan has an active Naturalists’ Trust which has acquired part of the important Gower Cliffs, and has been the first to survey and publish a directory of areas used by schools for educational purposes.”

1964 also saw the acquisition of Whiteford Burrows NNR[y] by the National Trust owing in substantial part to the efforts of Jo Hambury and Christopher Cadbury, now President of SPNR. Cadbury provided a personal loan of £20,000 to GCNT to help the National Trust bridge the purchase price of £35,000. Later the National Trust repaid the monies via their Enterprise Neptune appeal. The National Trust leased the dunes to the Nature Conservancy, who set up a management committee with GCNT representation.

Harry Morrey Salmon volunteered as the warden of our Lavernock nature reserve from the beginning of our tenure in 1966 until 1975 when he retired from volunteering and passed the responsibility onto John Zehetmayr.

Ronald Lockley emigrated to New Zealand in 1970 to avoid the continuing threat of the Milford Haven oil industry to his precious Pembrokeshire islands.

The legal conflict between the Trustees of the Margam Estate and the Kenfig Corporation over the ownership of the dunes was finally resolved in the high court on 10th June 1971 in favour of the Kenfig Corporation, with considerable pro bono legal advice and support from the GCNT’s solicitors Douglas-Jones & Mercer[s].

Finally, in 1977, Harry Morrey Salmon completed the task which he had failed to achieve in 1956, and oversaw Kenfig Burrows being declared as a Local Nature Reserve. It is regrettable that he did not live to see the site declared as a National Nature Reserve in 1989.

To complete the circle of our Wildlife Trust’s story, it should be noted that Charles Rothschild’s grandson Jacob oversaw the awarding of large grants for the management of their nature reserves to all the Wildlife Trusts in UK during the 1990s, while he was the chairman of the Heritage Lottery Fund.



[a] Barnes, S. (2016) Prophet and Loss: Time and the Rothschild List. Kindle Edition.

[b] The Rothschild List:

[c] Rothschild, M. and Marren, P. (1997) Rothschild’s Reserves: Time and fragile nature. Harley Books.

[d] Sutherland, M. (2001) Colonel H. Morrey Salmon, CBE, MC, DL, DSc, (1890-1985) Cardiff Naturalists Society 72nd President. An Appreciation.

[e] Salmon, N. & H. (2011) Footprints on the Sands of Time: the life of Colonel Harry Morrey Salmon, Privately Published.

[f] Lockley, R.M. (1930) Dream Island. H.F. And G. Witherby

[g] Lockley, R.M. (1933) Skokholm Bird Observatory British Birds 29 [8]: 222-235

[h] Lockley, A.  (2013) Island Child: My life on Skokholm with R M Lockley. Gwasg Carreg Gwalch

[i] Anon (1934) Notes: Eighth International Ornithological Congress. British Birds 28 (3): 73 – 74.

[j] Salmon, H.M. (1970) The Red Kites in Wales: The story of their preservation. In: Lacey, W.S. (1970) Welsh Wildlife in Trust. NWNT, Bangor.

[k] Lockley, R.M. (1947) Letters from Skokholm. Dent.

[l] Niemann, D. (2012) Birds in a Cage. Short Books.

[m] Buxton, J. (1950) The Redstart. Collins, London.

[n] Saunders, D.

[o] Sheail, J. (1976) Nature in Trust. Blackie

[p] Anon (1944) Nature Conservations and Nature Reserves J. Ecol. 13 [1]: 1-25

[q] Huxley, J.S. (1947) Conservation of Nature in England and Wales. London: HMSO Cmd. 7122

[r] Huxley, J.S. (1946) West Wales Field Society. Nature 157: 366

[s] Hatton, R.H.S. and Hambury, H.J. (1970) Some Problems of a Naturalists’ Trust in Industrial Wales.  In: Lacey, W.S. (1970) Welsh Wildlife in Trust. NWNT, Bangor.

[t] Douglas-Jones, N. (1986) Jo Hambury. In: Perry, A.R. (1986) Glamorgan Trust for Nature Conservation 1961-1986. GTNC, Tondu.

[u] Anon (1959) List of Subscribers to the W.W.F.S. Skomer Fund. Nature in Wales 5 (3): 836-837

[v] Cadbury, C. (1971) The Next Decade. Glamorgan County Naturalists’ Trust 10: 5-7

[w] Sands, T. (2012) Wildlife in Trust: A hundred years of nature conservation. RSWT.

[x] Nicholson, E.M. (1964) Advances in British Nature Conservation. In: Anon (1965) 48th Annual Report. SPNR.

[y] Powell, M.G.D. (1976) Whiteford National Nature Reserve. GNT Bulletin and Annual Report 15: 34-35

The Red Squirrel Book

Author Jane Russ

A new publication by wildlife author Jane Russ features the work of the Mid Wales Red Squirrel Partnership.  This is the latest title in a series of introductions to British wildlife from Graffeg.

A native species of the UK dating back almost 10,000 years, since the turn of the twentieth century the red squirrel has sadly been in decline – the population plummeted from around 3.5 million during the 1950s to around 140,000 in recent years. Instantly recognisable despite being a rare sight today, this fall has been attributed to a variety of factors, particularly the presence of grey squirrels, which were introduced from North America between 1876 and 1929. The squirrel parapox virus, carried by greys and fatal to red squirrels, as well as their higher concentration of numbers of greys and their ability to better compete for food in different habitats, has had an enormous effect.

In the post-war period around 50 per cent and even up to 100 per cent of ancient forests in areas of England and Wales were destroyed, which was again devastating for the red squirrel, which can spend as much as 70 per cent of its in the leafy canopies overhead. However, conservationists emphasise that such shifts are not set in stone. Peter Smith, Chief Executive of the Wildwood Trust, stated earlier this year: ‘It’s not yet too late. If we can help restore areas of woodland to a native state and make a concerted effort, we might just be able to tip the balance back in the red squirrel’s favour.’

The dedicated work of the Wildlife Trusts and initiatives UK-wide, such as The Mid Wales Red Squirrel Partnership and Red Squirrels Trust Wales, have seen some improvements, and it was reported earlier this year that numbers in Scotland have stabilised following a 2017 survey. Such work may eventually allow for everyday encounters with this ever-popular creature.

An accessible but highly informative guide, The Red Squirrel Book introduces the reader to their physiology, characteristics, habitats and behaviours, as well as their continued place in the British consciousness. The text is complemented throughout by a range of stunning images, exhibiting their unique character in action and providing a wonderful insight into what we could stand to lose.

A compact, portable and affordable title, this book is both an important reminder of the threat posed to one of our best-loved species, as well as an ideal purchase or gift for all lovers of British wildlife.

This delightful little book retails at £9.99, but Graffeg have provided members of The Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales with a fantastic pre-Christmas opportunity to purchase this book at a bargain £8 (plus £1.50 postage) if ordered by 10th December. Every purchase will include a donation of £3 to the Mid Wales Red Squirrel Project. All orders will be despatched shortly after the 26th November.

How to Order

If you would like to order one of these delightful little books, either:

  • Send a cheque made payable to ‘WTSWW’ to Martin Jones, Retail Manager, The Welsh Wildlife Centre, Cilgerran, Cardigan SA43 2TB; mark your envelope ‘Red Squirrel Book’ and include your delivery address.
  • To pay by credit/debit card phone 01239 621600
  • Make payment via your Paypal account using the email address and then email Martin Jones via with the number of books ordered and your delivery address.

You’re Invited to Our Special Event

Last month we posted about a dedicated legacy event which we would be holding in the following month. This has now expanded to include other aspect as well as legacies and we would like to invite you to the event.

We would like to give you the opportunity to get to know us better by inviting you to a special event we are hosting for the first time on Wednesday 7th November. This will be at our headquarters in Tondu where you will meet some of our Trust staff, who work to protect and care for our local wildlife and nature reserves, and also gain a real insight into your local Wildlife Trust.

As many of our long-term members have expressed an interest in leaving a gift to our Trust in their will, we will be talking about legacy giving, how austerity is changing the way we are funded and how we are responding to this very real challenge. We will also share with you some of our successes and explain some of the difficulties we face and give you an opportunity to discuss the wildlife issues that matter to you.

The event will be held in the Discovery Room at Parc Slip Visitor Centre, Fountain Road, Tondu, Bridgend, CF32 0EH. Refreshments will be available from 10.30am and a series of short talks will start at 11am. They will last approximately 1 hour, after which there will be an opportunity to ask questions and chat to the staff.

If the weather allows, there will be the option of a walk around the nature reserve. This event is open to both members and non-members but please bare in mind that there are limited spaces.

We do hope that you can join us on the day and please feel free to bring a guest with you. Please RSVP to Rebecca via or 01656 724100 by Friday 2nd November.

We hope you can make it.

Skomer Island Monthly Migrants – Sept 2018

Bonelli's Warbler on Skomer

See what we’ve been spotting during September on Skomer Island…

The highest count of 16 Common Curlew was made on the 19th. There was a first Sanderling seen in 10 years on both 19th and 21st. Single Pectoral Sandpiper seen flying on the 15th.

Grey Phalarope stayed for one full day on the 21st at the North Pond. Common Snipe was seen on the 17th, 20th, 24th (2), 25th, 28th (3) and 13th, 19th, 21st, 22nd, 27th, 29th, 30th (1). There were 8 Sandwich Terns seen on the 2nd. Mediterranean Gull was spotted on the 10th and the Common Gull on the 24th. Juvenile Red-backed Shrike stayed at the Wick Valley and South Stream on the 18th and 19th. Maximum count of Goldcrests was made on the 23rd with 9 individuals counted. There was a Firecrest in North Haven Valley seen on the 30th. Top counts if Blue Tits consisting of 7 and 8 individuals were made on the 27th and 28th. Up to 2 Great Tits seen consecutively for four days between the 27th and the 30th. Best count of Skylarks was made on the 24th (20). Great passage of Barn Swallows on the 23rd, 24th and 27th (4000, 9819, 3840), and 30 House Martins on the 24th.

Warblers: Bonelli’s Warbler 16th (unconfirmed if Eastern or Western), Yellow-browed Warbler on the 29th, highest count of Chiffchaffs on the 13th (15), of Willow Warblers on the 2nd (13), Blackcaps again on the 13th (19), Garden Warbler on the 25th, Lesser Whitethroat on the 26th, Common Whitethroat top count was made on the 2nd (16) and single Grasshopper Warbler seen on the 17th at North Pond.

A few higher counts of Sedge Warblers made on the 7th, 11th, 13th and 15th (7,6,6,8).

There was an individual adult Ring Ouzel seen on the 21st at North Haven. Count of 12 Spotted Flycatchers was made on the 2nd and two were seen on the 9th and 13th.

Top count of Robins was made on the 24th with 41 individuals seen. Female Common Redstart was spotted on the 2nd. Two Whinchats were seen on the 2nd and singles on the 9th, 13th, 17th, 19th, 20th, 23th, 24th, 27th. First Stonechats of this autumn were seen on the 2nd (female and male) and best counts were made on the 13th, 16th, 24th, 27th, 28th (12, 6, 6, 7, 10). There were 6 Wheatears seen on the 2nd and 13th. The top number of Pied Wagtails (10) was made on the 4th. There were 9 Grey Wagtails flying west seen on the 15th and 18 around the whole island on the 13th. Maximum numbers of Meadow Pipits moving were made between the 8th – 14th (70,70,145,140,120,135,75) and 20th – 240, 24th – 180.

Top Rock Pipit counts were made on the 17th and 21st (11, 12). Chaffinches were mostly seen in singles but 4 individuals were seen on the 28th. Good Linnet passage with 120 birds on the 24th and 91 on the 26th. There were 10 Crossbills seen flying on the 24th. Top counts of Reed Buntings with 10 birds were made on the 24th and 28th.

Update from Ceredigion

Meadow rescue and bat chamber!

The path at Penderi Cliffs had a cut and we also cut and raked a small bracken patch and an area of brambles.

At Rhos Marion we spent a couple of days “rescuing” a meadow. Lots of willow branches and trees had fallen over, leaving not much meadow! We cleared some encroaching brambles too.

We have finally progressed works on the bat room/chamber at Cors Ian by adding a bat friendly box into one of the stables. It’s now been closed up and hopefully next year we’ll do a bat survey to see if it’s being used. The rest of the stable has been used by several birds (big and small) and various insects.

We also cleared a fallen tree and strimmed a grassy/meadow patch in the stables area. We have constructed four benches and cut back some branches to improve the views. We are hoping this (and previous) work will allow those unable to visit the whole reserve to experience a small part of it.

We’ve also strimmed some tracks through the mollinia at Rhos Glyn yr Helyg to encourage the horses to graze and improve the habitat for the marsh fritillaries. We’ll be continuing with similar jobs in the next few months.

The Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales are very grateful to the players of the People’s Postcode Lottery who have made all this work possible.

If you’d like to join our work parties, get fit and meet new people, contact Em:

Meet Victoria, our New Placement Student

Harvest mouse nest survey

The start of a new academic year means that we’re welcoming another student to our team for the next 10 months or so. Meet Victoria…

Hello, I’m Victoria Shone, the new placement student here at the Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales! I am currently a student at Nottingham Trent University where I study Wildlife Conservation. Instead of going straight into 3rd year I decided I would much rather complete a work placement, which would allow me to gain valuable skills I can’t get from inside a lecture hall. I am currently based at Parc Slip Nature Reserve, but will be visiting many of the sites that WTSWW have to offer. I aim to visit as many of these places as I can before my placement ends in 9 months, and be involved in as many aspects of the Trust as I possibly can.

Before starting university I was volunteering once a week at my local nature reserve in East Yorkshire, the North Cave Wetlands, a reserve belonging to the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust. Tasks I have been involved in at that reserve have included clearing undergrowth to building and putting out tern rafts. While working with WTSWW I hope to gain more knowledge of practical management techniques, conduct various species’ surveys, and visit new places.

Throughout my placement I hope to expand my knowledge, gain skills that I won’t find anywhere else and watch my confidence grow as the year goes on. Hopefully the varied opportunities I have will help me find the career that is right for me when I finish my university degree. No doubt it will be in the conservation of our amazing British Wildlife!

News from Vine House Farm

Our friends at Vine House Farm have written about what’s been going on at the Farm this September…

The wheat harvest was finished earlier than usual, and despite yields being down on our gravelly land they were on average with the last five years. It was of a good quality, due to all the sunshine we had in June and July.

Our sunflower fields looked spectacular when they were in flower and we had good coverage of them on ITV Anglia, BBC Look North, the Daily Mail and on the Good Morning Britain weather forecast. They had a good dose of sunshine when in flower, so hopefully we will have a good crop.

Our next crop for harvesting will be the organic red clover, followed by canary seed, red millet, white millet and lastly the sunflowers. All these crops have been able to benefit from the rain, along with the sugar beet and the potatoes.

The potatoes have been very hard work this year. We have irrigated them non stop but they didn’t grow in the hot dry weather. We did keep them alive and they are now enjoying the cooler weather and are putting on some weight.

Harvest time is the most important time of year, where we find out what our crops have yielded and to determine which crops, and their varieties, we will grow next year. Due to modern technology the combine can tell us how much each crop has yielded, whereas 20 years ago we would’ve had to estimate the yield. Throughout the country there are trial grounds recording the yields of all combinable crops, including existing and new varieties. This information is available to farmers which helps us to decide what varieties to grow for the following harvest.

Not every crop will show a profit every year but wheat is the best all round crop for most land types. We don’t grow it every year, or in every field, because we have to have a rotation. Most farmers have narrowed their rotation, growing only the two crops that pay the best, usually wheat and oil seed rape. This has done them very well for many years, but they have now run into trouble with a grass weed called Blackgrass.

Blackgrass is a plant that produces 10,000 seeds and only 0.01% need to survive to cause havoc in our crops. It is an autumn germinating plant which likes to start growing when oil seed rape and winter wheat are sown. Spring sown crops help to naturally control weeds so farmers have now started growing spring barley, peas and sugar beet again to avoid Blackgrass, and improve crop rotations. These crops are less profitable, however, so farmers have a dilemma.

We grow wheat every other year on our farm and the yield always depends on the crop preceeding it. There is a large difference on the profitability of these alternate crops – oil seed rape is usually the most profitable crop after wheat, which is why there is so much of it grown. It is also the best crop for birds, as more birds feed in it and nest in it than any other crop, but unfortunately, that’s not of high importance to many farmers.

The breeding season is now over for all birds that use insects to feed their young. Only the Wood Pigeons and Stock Doves are able to continue to breed. Every bird must take their young moist food, as they can’t take them water. The moist food, as far as the Dove family is concerned, is pigeon milk which their digestive system makes after the adult has eaten grain and taken on water. They only lay two eggs because their digestive system will only produce enough pigeon milk for one youngster, therefore two adults can feed two youngsters. With some species, the female does all the feeding of the young but both pigeon parents have to work hard to raise the family.

Generally, the farm is fairly quiet as far as bird song is concerned but the farm yard is not quiet. I hear a Robin singing wherever I go around the yard. I have been feeding mealworms for several years which has built up a good population of Robins and House Sparrows. The Pied Wagtails have been taking a lot of mealworms during the year but they didn’t rear any young – the nests failed, possibly due to visiting cats.

If we want to see a lot of birds we have to breed a lot of birds and studies have shown that by feeding live mealworms you will rear 60% more birds in your garden. When we look at those birds that are declining, they are birds that do not come into gardens – the true farmland birds. We are running out of insects and nearly everyone is at war with them. They itch, they sting, some are noisy, can give us and our farm animals diseases and can make the food we eat inedible. No wonder everyone is at war with them but they are the basis of life. Could we survive without them? Experts say no, we couldn’t. If that is so, what is our future?

Tree Sparrows have bred well, but as I have now saturated the farm with nest boxes I will be erecting nest boxes on other farmers land where there is suitable habitat. Suitable habitat is where there is an area of ground not growing a crop, with plenty of insects, water and plant diversity.

Out in the Fenland countryside there are a lot of nasty plants such as nettles, thistles, docks and others you wouldn’t want in your garden. Grasses do provide insects, but not nearly so many as broad leaved plants. Wheat is a grass plant, rape is a broad leaved plant, which is why rape is the best crop for wildlife closely followed by peas and beans. Broad leaved plants have prominent flowers, attracting insects that birds need to feed their young. Grasses do flower, but the flowers are so insignificant that you can hardly see them.

Save The Gwent Levels

Save the Gwent Levels

Time is running out to save Wales’ wildlife in Gwent. Please act now and tell the Welsh Government to drop their destructive plans for a new motorway – it only takes a few seconds!

WTSWW are supporting our neighbours, Gwent Wildlife Trust, in their campaign against a damaging, 14 mile-long, 6-lane wide motorway in south east Wales, and your help would be greatly appreciated.

The Welsh Government wants to bulldoze through the Gwent Levels to build a new 14-mile long, six-lane motorway. This proposed development will cost taxpayers of £1-2 billion and will only save 10 minutes in journey time. Yet it will destroy the home of otters, water voles, dragonflies, rare bees and wildflowers.

Iolo Williams, TV Presenter says:

“This road is going to destroy Sites of Special Scientific Interest – these are the jewels in the Welsh crown. This road is going to destroy habitat for otters, for water voles and for cranes which have nested on the Levels for the first time in 400 years! Let’s make sure the Welsh Government wakes up to its commitment to future generations. There are better and cheaper alternatives to this idiotic development.”

Recently, water voles have been discovered thriving across the Gwent Levels after bouncing back from extinction on the internationally-important wetlands of South Wales. Water Voles are the UK’s most rapidly declining mammal and has been lost from 94% of places where they were once prevalent.

Unfortunately, this news comes at a time when the Welsh Government is due to announce a decision which will decide the fate of the Gwent Levels. A decision that, if they proceed with a new motorway, will cut across 6 protected wildlife havens and destroy a historic landscape.

Ian Rappel, Chief Executive of Gwent Wildlife Trust says:

“The fantastic success of the water vole reintroduction project is a wonderful testament to all the great efforts of volunteers and staff working to enhance the Gwent Levels for wildlife. This beautiful landscape is a nature-lover’s paradise and people really enjoy its peace and tranquility. But the success is bitter-sweet. If the new road gets the go-ahead billions will be spent destroying a very special place for the sake of saving ten minutes of commuting time.”

Ian Rappel continues:

“Gwent Wildlife Trust fought the new road proposals during the public enquiry – but now we need everyone who cares about nature to voice their concern about these destructive plans. We believe that Welsh Government should scrap the billion-pound-plus road and invest, instead, in a modern public transport system for the people of Wales.”

Please help Gwent Wildlife Trust stop the destruction of the historic and beautiful Gwent Levels.

We’ve made it really easy for you to help. Just visit this webpage:, enter your name and address and follow the simple steps to send a pre-written letter (which you can edit if you wish to) to the First Minister of Wales, Carwyn Jones, asking the Welsh Government to drop their plans.