Author: Rebecca Vincent

Skomer Migrant Sightings

Red-Breasted Flycatcher

As we didn’t publish the Skomer migrant bird sightings in last months e-news, you get a double helping this month of both September and October’s sightings.

September

A Pintail was on Moorey Mere on the 28th and 29th and a Tufted Duck, a Red-breasted Merganser and 96 Common Scoter were recorded on the 16th.

A Little Egret flew past Skomer Head on the 16th and four Grey Herons flew over on the 22nd.

A Red Kite passed over on the 17th. A Hen Harrier was seen from the 8th. Twenty three Common Buzzards were logged on the 18th. An Osprey flew over on the 27th.

phalarope bird on water

Phalarope

Monthly maxima for waders include: 58 Oystercatchers on the 5th; six Golden Plover on the 12th; 26 Curlew on the 17th; 27 Turnstone on the 9th; four Ruff on the 26th; two Dunlin on the 2nd; three Purple Sandpiper on the 28th; five Redshank on the 14th and four Snipe on the 3rd and 25th. Other waders seen include Whimbrel on the 8th, 9th and 17th; Black-tailed Godwit on the 1st and 2nd; Knot on the 4th, 6th and 7th; an adult Grey Phalarope on the 16th; a juvenile Red-necked Phalarope on the 28th; a Common Sandpiper on the 10th; a Green Sandpiper on the 10th and a Spotted Redshank on the 3rd.

Five Arctic Skuas passed on the 16th and there were four Great Skuas on the 13th.

Puffins were seen on the 8th and 11th.

Seventeen Sandwich Terns were seen on the 16th and there were 14 on the 24th. Juvenile Sabine’s Gulls were seen on the 15th and 16th. A large count of Kittiwakes (1,705) was made on the 16th. Seventy seven Black-headed Gulls passed by on the 24th. There were two Mediterranean Gulls on the 18th and one on the 24th.

A Barn Owl was seen on the 25th and 27th and up to four Short-eared Owls were seen throughout. A Wryneck was present at the Farm on the 1st and 2nd and again between the 5th and 9th. A Great Spotted Woodpecker frequented some willows in North Valley on the 25th and 27th.

A Merlin was seen between the 4th and 8th but did not linger for longer. A maximum of 35 Goldcrests were seen (17th) and two Firecrests were present on the 27th and 28th. Up to twelve Blue Tits and six Great Tits (both on the 26th) were seen towards the end of the month. A maximum of twelve Skylark moved over on the 25th with smaller numbers on a few other days. Sand Martins were logged on nine dates with a maximum of eleven on the 1st. On a huge day of Swallow passage on the 18th 17,400 are estimated to have passed through. Smaller, but still significant, numbers were counted on a few other days including 7,680 (including a pure white one) on the 19th and 7,000 on the 25th. An estimated five hundred House Martins also passed through on the 25th.

Maximum counts of migrant warblers include: 35 Chiffchaff on the 16th; five Willow Warbler on the 16th; 19 Blackcap on the 16th; ten Common Whitethroat on the 1st; two Grasshopper Warblers on the 25th; four Sedge Warblers on the 1st and 7th and a single Reed Warbler on the 10th.

Spotted Flycatchers were seen from the 10th with three on the 16th, 18th and 25th. There was a small arrival of Robins on the 25th when 50 were logged. There were two Pied Flycatchers on the 24th and a single record on the 26th. Two Whinchats were logged on the 23rd and a maximum of 22 Stonechats were recorded (18th). Small numbers of Wheatears passed through throughout the month with a maximum of nine on the 2nd. The only records of Yellow Wagtail were one on the 18th and two on the 19th. Seventeen Grey Wagtails moved through on the 16th. There were three Tree Pipits on the 1st and one on the 2nd.

Maximum finch counts include ten Chaffinch on the 26th, 177 Linnet (including one leucistic bird) on the 25th and 175 on the 19th and 56 Goldfinch on the 19th.

October

Eight Whooper Swans flew North on the 29th. Four White-fronted Geese flew North on the 27th and there were twelve on the 29th. In with the Canadas were a Greylag on four dates and two Barnacle Geese on seven dates. One Pale-bellied Brent Goose flew south on the 5th. Monthly maxima of other wildfowl include: 20 Teal on the 9th, 40 Mallard on the 23rd, six Shoveler on two dates, two Tufted Ducks on two dates and 61 Common Scoter on the 23rd. There was a Red-throated Diver and a Great Northern Diver on the 23rd.

Leach’s Petrels were seen on the 21st and 22nd with the former being taken by a Peregrine over the sea! Grey Herons were present on the 8th and 18th.

Red Kites were seen on the 6th, 9th (both singles), 27th (four) and 30th (two). Up to two Hen Harriers were present throughout. Up to two Sparrowhawks were seen on 14 dates.

A Golden Plover flew over on the 6th and there were two on the 27th and 30th. Fourteen Lapwing passed over on the 27th, there were also three on the 28th and four on the 29th. Up to 36 Oystercatcher and 33 Curlew were seen. Turnstone numbers peaked at 25 on the 11th. A single Purple Sandpiper was recorded on the 21st and there were six on the 29th. A Jack Snipe was at North Pond on the 12th and Common Snipe numbers peaked at twelve on the 27th.

Four Pomarine Skuas, two Arctic Skuas, two Long-tailed Skuas and seven Great Skuas passed on the 21st and there was an Arctic Skua and five Great Skuas on the 22nd. A Sandwich Tern was seen off Skomer Head on the 22nd. There were high counts of 249 Kittiwakes (17th), 357 Black-headed Gulls (29th), 42 Mediterranean Gulls (29th), 17 Common Gulls (31st), 132 Herring Gulls (27th) and 235 Great Black-backed Gulls (2nd).

Two Stock Doves were at the farm on the 30th. The largest movement of Wood Pigeons came on the 30th when 1,420 were counted. A Barn Owl was seen on the 8th. There were eight Short-eared Owls on the 15th. A Great Spotted Woodpecker was recorded on ten dates. Up to two Merlins were present. 700 Jackdaws were present on the 30th. Raven numbers dropped off throughout the month and there were three Rooks on the 30th.

In a great month for tits there were 32 Blue Tit (25th), eight Great Tit (6th), three Coal Tit (8th) and 44 Long-tailed Tit (27th). Skylark numbers peaked on the 25th when at least 800 passed over. Numbers of Swallows declined but peaked at 131 on the 6th. The last Sand Martin was seen on the 8th (one) and the last House Martin on the 10th (seven).

Peak counts of warblers include: 45 Goldcrest (12th), three Firecrest (27th), two Yellow-browed Warbler (18th), a Radde’s Warbler (20th), 22 Chiffchaff (26th), two Willow Warbler (26th and 27th), 18 Blackcap (1st) and a Common Whitethroat (1st).

Starling numbers built at the end of the month to 526 on the 31st. Thrush numbers peaked at: 90 Blackbird (27th), 21 Fieldfare (30th), 86 Song Thrush (27th), 310 Redwing (26th) and four Mistle Thrush (30th).

There were four Spotted Flycatchers on the 1st and two were recorded between the 2nd and 9th. A Red-breasted Flycatcher was present in North Valley on the 27th and there was a Pied Flycatcher in North Haven the previous day. Black Redstarts were seen on six dates with two on the 22nd. Wheatears were seen on nine dates with four on the 18th.

There were 33 House Sparrows on the 27th. Grey Wagtails were seen on seven dates with two seen on three of those. Bramblings were seen from the 26th with eight on the 27th. Chaffinch numbers peaked at 253 on the 26th. A Hawfinch was seen on the14th. A Bullfinch was recorded on the 27th. Greenfinch were seen on four dates with ten on the 25th. Linnet numbers peaked at 145 on the 6th. Redpolls were seen on seven dates with four on the 27th. Goldfinch numbers peaked at 41 on the 30th and Siskin at 31 on the 27th.

Lily; Our New Placement Student

As you may be aware, WTSWW take on one to two student placements each year from Cardiff University. We said goodbye to Kate (this years placement student) in August earlier this year and have welcomed Lily!

Lily Kindly wrote a bit about herself and what she’ll be doing with us for this months e-news…

Hello, my name is Lily Ginns, I am the new placement student at WTSWW and I will be based at the Trust offices in Bridgend for the next 9 months. Originally from the Midlands I have always had a keen interest in wildlife, an interest that I have continued to explore through studying Biology at Cardiff University.

Now in my third year of studying I have come to the Trust as part of a professional training year in which I am given the opportunity to perform a research project. My project is still in its early planning stages, but I am hoping to investigate the habitat preference of adders and am excited to begin!

Alongside my research project I am also able to be involved in the day to day running and management of the reserves including coppicing and species surveying. This is a great experience and I am enjoying learning new skills and expanding my wildlife knowledge in the beautiful Welsh countryside. I’m delighted to be working with WTSWW and am looking forward to the year ahead!

Lily will be based at Parc Slip Nature Reserve but also cover surrounding WTSWW Reserves as well, such as Brynna Woods.

News from Vine House Farm

Heron flying past a tractor wheel

The Wildlife Trusts have been in partnership with conservation award-winning Vine House Farm Bird foods since 2007 because their business is committed to protecting and enabling the environment they work in to thrive.

Passionate conservationists, Vine House Farm are leading the way in wildlife-friendly farming – growing, packaging and dispatching the vast majority of bird seed they sell from their Lincolnshire farm, ensuring their family-run business always operates with the environment in mind.

Over the last 10 years Vine House Farm have given 5% of their sales to The Wildlife Trusts, with this adding up to more than a million pounds.

News from the Farm…

September has been wetter than average, 74mm or 2.9ins of rain. We’ve not had many nice autumn days that I would usually associate with September; it has been cooler than average. There have only been three cooler Septembers in the past 20 years, but in the 28 years prior to that, Septembers were a lot cooler. When I record this data, the results show that we are warming up and my theory is that we have warmer cloudy days and nights. When it is cloudy, it is like having a blanket over us and we are generating more heat than we used to; more vehicles, warmer homes and this heat keeps us warmer under that blanket.

Whats happening sign with tractor pictures, harvesting potatoes

For those farmers who did not get their harvest finished in August, it has been a tricky time as we had rain on 20 days in September. We always do have quite a bit of harvesting in September, with the canary seed, red millet, red clover and white millet, but we seem to have been coping and it is all in now – just the sunflowers left to harvest.

Although the rain has hindered us, in a way it has also been quite good for us. All the rape and the cover crops are growing well and we are able to lift our potatoes without bruising them, which is most important. We belong to a potato group called Nene Potatoes, they market our potatoes and give us other advice. Every morning they send out a student to all those growers to collect a sample of potatoes that are being lifted on that day. They take the samples back to the office to assess their quality for damage and bruising. The potatoes are put in a hot box, which is a small room kept at about 35ºC, which brings out the bruising within 24 hours. The potatoes are examined and peeled, the results are then tabulated and all of the results are sent to all growers telling everyone how good or bad a job they are making of their lifting.

From those results we can adjust the harvester or the potato grader to try and eliminate the damage. Normally you cannot see a bruise on a potato until it is peeled. A bruise is a black spot under the skin which, when eating the potato, most of us would put to one side. Generally, if it is a dry time we get more bruising. If it is very dry we may even get the irrigator out and water the field, which softens the clods and allows us to lift with less bruising.

Later in the year, or even in a few days time, Nene will be selling our potatoes. They will have a record of every field of every grower and will try to match each field of potatoes to the buyer who likes, or will tolerate, that sample. Potatoes with bruising in them will be worth less. Nene have 100,000 tonnes to market through the year and through the expertise and honesty of all growers and staff concerned, they help us all to improve as growers and maximise our revenue.

Potatoes are just one of the things we are busy with at this time of year; we have drilled the oil seed rape; we have to prepare the soil in the fields that will be drilled with winter barley and winter wheat; ploughing for the spring crops and the sugar beet to take up.

Birds flying next to a corn field with the work WILDLIFE writing alongside them

Although our Swallows left the farm during the last week in August, and others have said the same, I continued to see Swallows for the first 20 days of September. On 20th September we harvested our crop of organic red clover and there were up to 150 Swallows flying around the combine; to me it was a magical sight. The crop was full of insects and no doubt the combine was killing a lot of them, but the Swallows were able to have a feast as they migrated South West. There were a few about the next day, one on 22nd September but I can’t remember seeing one since.

The trailer with the clover seed in was heaving with weevils, they were half an inch thick round the outside of the trailer. How they managed to survive after going through the combine, I have no idea, but they are still crawling around in the seed and all round the building where the seed is stored. Ladybirds don’t seem to be as tough as the weevils, quite a few of them were damaged but they are a bit bigger.

After the clover was harvested, the Herons, Kestrels and Buzzards moved in to harvest the voles. There were six or seven Herons on the field and in less than two hours I watched one adult Heron catch 10 voles. The last two voles were left on the field – it must have been full. A young Heron nearby only caught one in that time and it had made two attempts at catching other voles. That told me that young birds need a surplus of food, as they are inexperienced in finding and catching food. Look around the average farm in the Fens and you wonder where there is any food, as we have very few hedges, the dykes get mown and all the stubbles are worked. No wonder our farmland birds are declining.

I have been seeing Herons down the farm on our six metre grass margins for the past six weeks, well away from water. They aren’t there for a party, they are there for the food. That food would have been voles and that tallies up with the fact that I haven’t seen any Barn Owls flying in the day time. There are plenty of voles around in this area at the moment. I say ‘in this area’ because things can be so different only 50 miles away. Tree Sparrows have also been taking up quite a bit of my time. I have been rearranging feeders on Vine House Farm and I now have 28 six port feeders hung up at one site and I have taken a photo of a Tree Sparrow on every port of every feeder. That means there were 168 birds on the feeders, there were 80 more on the ground, or in the bushes that I could see, and I expect there were at least another 100 in the bushes that I couldn’t see. I prefer to use the plastic Ring Pull Seed Feeders on the farm.

I have started erecting more nest boxes at new sites around the farm, I use Woodstone Nest Boxes, which are easy to open and are long-lasting. I have taken them from sites where there are too many nest boxes. People who have been monitoring Tree Sparrows at various sites say after a few years, they just disappear. This is because they run out of food, and by food I mean insects. They literally clear up all the insects that are suitable to feed to their young. Some of my sites, I believe, are running short of insects.

Storms wreak havoc on Islands

Dead immature Grey Seal after storm on Skomer

This is utterly heart-breaking!

Storms Ophelia and Brian have wreaked havoc on The Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales’ Pembrokeshire Islands; Skomer and Skokholm. The impact of the storms has been devastating for the wildlife, buildings and equipment.

Over two thirds of the seal pups on Skomer perished in the storms and buildings on both islands were left damaged. 

The Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales need your help now to raise at least £25,000 to reverse the impacts of these unforgiving storms. We need your help to monitor the impact on wildlife as well as to repair the damage and storm-proof the islands for the future.

Crushed Seal Pup

Crushed Seal Pup

Please donate

The Islands

Skomer and Skokholm Islands are internationally significant wildlife and heritage sites, home to many important species including over half of the world’s population of Manx Shearwater and the beautiful Puffin. It is vital that we protect these truly wild places so that wildlife can thrive for generations to come.

Skomer Island is an important breeding site for the Atlantic Grey Seal. The island staff monitors the seal population throughout the year. Natural events like this can have a profound impact and our monitoring is important in understanding the effects on the population.

Lizzie Wilberforce, Conservation Manager for Skomer and Skokholm said, “These storms were the strongest since 1987 and unfortunately, violent storms like these are becoming more common as our Islands are exposed and vulnerable to severe weather. It is vital that we start to put protocols in place to better deal with the potential impacts, on both the islands’ wildlife and infrastructure. Your donation would mean we can be better prepared for similar weather in the future.“

How to help our islands recover from the storms

So please, if you can, give to The Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales’ Storm Appeal online, by  texting SEAL23 and your donation amount to 70070, or by calling us on 01656 724100.

We need your help to raise the £25,000 needed to:

  • Develop a protocol for dealing with future seabird wrecks
  • Monitor the impacts on seals and seabirds
  • Repair the immediate storm damage
  • Storm-proof the Islands for the future
Island Storm Appeal Poster

Any additional funds raised exceeding £25,000 will help replace essential equipment for the islands.

Waterfalls of Stars Book Review

Waterfall of Stars Book Cover

Book review: Waterfalls of Stars – My Ten Years on the Island of Skomer by Rosanne Alexander

Published in 2017 by Seren, ISBN 978-1-78172-380-7

One of the most curious things about long term involvement with our seabird islands of Skomer and Skokholm is how it influences your perception of time. I have had the privilege of visiting Skomer for thirty years now, and the island has never ceased to impress upon me the relative insignificance of my own existence. Over those thirty years the imposing cliffs, the feel, even the smell of island have remained almost totally unchanged. Some of the individual seabirds have been living there for longer than I have been alive. There is something intimidating and yet wonderful about this sense of the immensity of time.

Yet alongside those constants, over that same period, the human life of the island has changed immeasurably. Wildlife Trust Wardens have been resident on Skomer since 1960. In those early days the job was much more isolated. Communication with the mainland was difficult, conditions could be very harsh, safeguards were fewer. Fast forward thirty years, and our current wardens have internet access, mobile telephones, good communications with the emergency services and provide a constant stream of updates of sightings and monitoring results to the world via the 24/7 machinery of social media.

Waterfalls of Stars is a very personal narrative of Rosanne and Mike Alexander’s life and work on Skomer in the 1970s and 80s. Rosanne paints a heart-wrenchingly honest portrait of her ten years there, at a time when the job was much more isolating than it is today. The book leads the reader through both the joys and despairs of their daily existence; through the life, and death, that is an inescapable part of a small island teeming with wildlife.

Anyone who has been to Skomer and stayed overnight will recognise the sense of wonder and privilege she describes at her first experience of the Manx Shearwaters returning by nightfall, and how life-changing an experience that sudden and unexpected connection with the natural world can be. Less familiar to most readers will be the alternately funny, touching and sometimes devastating  descriptions of life as a warden over so many years; the abject helplessness of watching oil pollution devastate the island’s beaches and smother the seal pups that she has been following from birth, the fascination and pleasure of rearing an injured and increasingly tame but incredibly intelligent raven, or the true solitude of being the only person on an island with no immediate contact with the mainland.

For me perhaps the most engaging and thought-provoking element of the book is how every tale of island life reinforces the tiny distance that lies between joy and despair in the natural world. Life on Skomer in the 1970s was far removed from today’s modern mainland life, where so many of us are so disconnected from the natural world, and view wildlife and natural landscapes as an aesthetic or recreational privilege that poses no threat. On Skomer, an unexpected storm, or snowfall, can bring both spectacular beauty but also very real risk to life and limb. Rosanne paints a powerful portrait of how precarious existence on Skomer can be, but also how life persists and thrives in spite of that.

Waterfalls of Stars is at its simplest level a thoroughly enjoyable and informative description of the life of an island warden, and the trials and tribulations of wardening an internationally important nature reserve. Anyone who has been to Skomer or who appreciates wildlife will surely enjoy the book for this reason alone. However, it is most important for its insights into what it means to be so in touch with nature, to become so personally entwined with the fate of the wildlife around you, that it alters your entire outlook on life. Rosanne’s final description of leaving the island, and the absolute pain of being wrenched so terminally from a place to which you feel you belong so wholly, is the culmination of the intimate connection between her and the island that develops throughout her very personal story.

I loved this book. It fired up every emotion that inspired me into a career in conservation: anger at the threats we so carelessly impose on our wildlife, the joy of making a difference, the fascination at the unfolding wonders of the natural world, and the sheer pleasure of reading someone giving voice to emotions that I could never articulate so eloquently myself.

You can buy a copy of Waterfalls of Stars here:

https://www.welshwildlife.org/shop/waterfalls-stars-ten-years-island-skomer-roxanne-alexander/

Rosanne is very kindly donating 10% of the royalties from the book to the Trust.

Lizzie Wilberforce

Conservation Manager

Learn to grow wild children with us!

My Wild School

We now live in a world where only 10% of children go out to play in natural areas. It’s becoming increasingly important to help children to connect with the outdoors.  The Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales, RSPB Cymru and Cardiff Council Community Rangers are reaching out to Cardiff schools to help teachers learn how to use wildlife and the outdoors in their day-to-day teaching.

The conservation charities and local authority are joining forces to provide FREE training in October, with workshops covering subjects such as bird watching in school and bug hunting and how they can be linked to the curriculum.

Rose Revera, The Wildlife Trust’s People and Wildlife Officer, says “ We believe that every child should have the opportunity to experience wildlife first-hand, to access wild spaces and have the chance to develop a connection to the natural world through school and play. It’s scientifically proven that a connection with the wild can improve both physical and mental health, as well as strengthen children’s social skills.”

Today’s children are the conservationists of the future. We would love to see more children learning outdoors, as these will be the people that go on to protect wildlife and wild spaces for generations to come.

Join us to learn how you can start connecting your children with nature.

The training will be taking place on Monday 16th October at Forest Farm Wardens Centre, Whitchurch, Cardiff.. There are two available sessions, morning (10am-1pm) or afternoon (2pm-5pm), open to teachers, teaching assistants and students/

To book your FREE space, contact Rose via 01656 724100 or r.revera@welshwildlife.org.

 

Help Skomer’s Cameras

Puffin by Tom Marshall

Skomer Island is a firm favourite for many travellers, birders and families. Many of you who have visited the island will know that we have a camera feed from Skomer Island into the Lockley Lodge visitor centre. Unfortunately these cameras are on their last legs and won’t last another season so we are hoping to replace them.

We use the cameras for the following:

  • To show visitors what wildlife is on the island at that time, which encourages them to visit and helps to bring in revenue to The Trust.
  • To show people who might be slightly less mobile than others what the steps are like once they get off the boat onto the island.
  • To show people what the landing bay looks like when the boats are unable to take visitors over to the island.
  • The Dale Sailing skippers also use the camera feed as one method to decide how safe it is to take visitors over to the island that day.

Unfortunately The Trust doesn’t have any spare funds available to replace these cameras so we are asking you lovely people if you might be able to help by either donating funds or providing appropriate equipment.

If you can help, please contact Rebecca via r.vincent@welshwildlife.org

 

Thank you!

Menna is Running to Help Wildlife

Menna and her Dad

The lovely Menna Evans will be running the full length of Britain to help raise funds for The Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales!

Her first race starts this weekend and we’d love you to give Menna some support! Her JustGiving page is open for donations which will be donated to us as she progresses through the incredible journey that she is about to embark upon. She tell us why she decided to take on such a mammoth task…

7 years ago, I sat with my Dad at his retirement party. He was 65 years old and looking forward to new adventures at the start of what should have been a well deserved break from work. He turned to me and asked “how would you like to walk John O’Groats to Lands End with me?” It didn’t take me a second to reply, I jumped at the chance! You see, he had already walked around Wales several times with a group of youths as part of his role as Chief Executive the of Boys and Girls Clubs of Wales. I had always felt slightly envious of all the other kids but now was my chance to fulfil my Dad’s mission, by his side, his proud daughter.

Unfortunately, his health deteriorated and he spent his whole retirement, in and out of hospital having had issues with several hip operations, and a stroke, all of which contributed to a decline in his general health. He was never going to get better and he then sadly passed away in March of this year.

So, I have now made it my mission. I want to RUN John O’Groats to Lands End (JOGLE) in his memory. He’ll be with me every step of the way as he always is since I started training in March. I wear his chain on my wrist and a pendant around my neck with the words “follow in my footsteps”. Both which will guide me during this mission.

I plan to do the JOGLE challenge during the summer of 2019. The distance is over 1,000 miles and will take over 4 weeks to complete. I’m aiming to run 25-30 miles every day (carrying everything I need) and then camping over night. Leading up to the challenge, I will of course be in training and have planned to do a few Ultra marathons in a bid to get my body adjusted to running long distances.

Some of the races that Menna plans to take on in the lead up to the finale run from John O’Groats to Lands End include:

  • Cardiff Half Marathon – 1st October, 2017
  • Gower Ultra Marathon – 11th November, 2017
  • Brecon Beacons Trail Challenge – 5th May, 2018
  • London Marathon (ballot entry, awaiting confirmation) – April, 2018
  • Endurancelife Pembrokeshire marathon – 27th April, 2017 (if not successful with London marathon ballot)
  • Preseli Beast – May 2018
  • Dragon’s Back – Summer 2018
  • London to Brighton – 2019

… all while raising much needed funds to support our work for local wildlife. These are only a few of many races that Menna intends to do within the next 2 years. Other races will be added to the list in due course and update will be given on her JustGiving page and via WTSWW.

Please, if you can, help Menna raise her target for The Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales by donating to her JustGiving page here.

Stranded Manx Shearwaters

Manx Shearwater by Dave Boyle

You may have seen the news coverage in the last few weeks about manx shearwater chicks coming ashore due to the strong winds. Thankfully, as the and has dropped off the Manxie’s fledging has gone back to normal. However we thought it would still be appropriate to provide you with information on what to do it you come across a stranded Manx Shearwater…

If you find one please just keep it in a box, with as little disturbance as possible. Handle with care, wear gloves and keep the bird away from your face. Please release it to sea, at dusk, on a sheltered bit of the coast.  It’s not a problem for the birds to be kept for a couple of days as they will have a LOT of fat reserves, and when the wind drops off a bit they will find it easier to navigate out to sea.  Don’t try and release them in the daytime or if it’s flat calm. It can be distressing to see so many birds blown ashore, but it’s only a tiny proportion of the hundreds of thousands still safely at sea.

If anyone has a bird that they are not able to keep and release themselves, there are volunteers on Pembs who can help. Anyone who wants to volunteer to help, or who needs help moving and releasing a bird, is welcome to contact Conservation Manager, Lizzie Wilberforce (by phone, 07970 780553) who will be able to pair you up with someone who can assist.

Notes from our AGM

WTSWW's Annual General Meeting 2017

Briefing to members at AGM, Welsh Wildlife Centre, 18 September 2017

The following text contains the Chair’s speaking notes at AGM 2017.

Welsh Wildlife Project

As we discussed last year, there is a continuing decline in nature conservation and biodiversity in Wales and the current structure is not addressing this as effectively as it could do, despite the best efforts of staff and trustees.

Devolution – most policy in respect of the environment and conservation is now made in Wales and the fact that Wales can and is making its own laws creates significant new opportunities and requires new ways of working for us all.

We know that our strength as a movement is our localness -our connection with people and communities and our local wildlife knowledge.

Structural changes have been under consideration for some time, indeed mooted as long ago as 2013 and again before that.

Having 6 regional Trusts in Wales dissipates our energy; while performing well individually, together they are not punching above their collective weight – in an increasingly competitive charity sector we need to be measured in the same breath as e.g. RSPB, National Trust, Woodland Trust and indeed non-environmental charities.

As I said last year, and with all this in mind the Chairs of the Wildlife Trusts commissioned external expertise to present options for a way forward. That report was received this summer.

At the recent meeting of Chairs there was a consensus that there was considerable merit in a single Trust for Wales and to explore ways forward.  A timetable of 3 years has been set which is thought to be achievable but is challenging.  There may be obstacles to overcome and decisions to be made on the way that could affect the timetable or eventual outcome.

There is much to consider before we make any final decisions and of course members will be at the heart of those decisions. We need to consider how one Trust could work, how it would be based on strong local identity, how it would be funded. I know that you will want to know the answers to these questions before you make any decisions. These are big considerations. The Chairs are putting in place the arrangements to find these answers.

But any change is difficult – and we are especially aware of the uncertainty that may arise among our staff.

So with this in mind….

Brecknock

Somewhat surprisingly, at the end of June we were approached by the Board of Brecknock Wildlife Trust (BWT), who presented us with a proposal to amalgamate our two Trusts into one.

As you may know BWT is a relatively small organisation, established in 1964 and roughly one tenth of our size with a declining membership of around 400 and 4 staff, it manages 18 Nature Reserves stretching from Ystradfawr in the west to Glasbury close to Hay on Wye in the East. We share a common border of over 60 miles.

Why should we amalgamate?

Since the proposal was made your Trustees and senior management team have examined it closely and considered its implications for WTSWW – your Trust, our staff, our volunteers and members and of course for our wildlife.

BWT have quite substantial financial reserves (much of which was donated to be used in the Brecknock area) but a declining income and membership. Quite simply and against the backcloth of the ongoing Welsh Wildlife Project  they  – BWT, feel too small to go it alone any longer.

We border BWT sharing, amongst other features, the Beacons and two major rivers – the Taff and the Towy; their very successful Wild Communities Project is right on our border.

And Brecknock’s area adjoins two other Trusts so that such a small organisation should come to us with their proposal for merger is in effect a vote of confidence in WTSWW.

There are clear opportunities to grow membership in Brecknock.

And quite simply it is the right decision to better protect our wildlife now and for future generations.

But what else is in it for WTSWW?

As already explained – 6 Wildlife Trusts are committed to exploring better ways of working and change is on the horizon…

We believe in this case that one Trust amalgamating with another Trust so that their resources are pooled will generate greater benefits for wildlife than if they remain separate.

There is also greater potential for sustainable, linked conservation projects (cross-border)

In all this we are committed to carrying out a thorough scrutiny of BWT before any decision on amalgamation – ‘due diligence’ and maintaining our localness –  ‘A regional wildlife charity that delivers locally’ 

We want to ensure that no undue costs fall on WTSWW and while clearly any amalgamation that might occur would create additional pressure on our team, we will take steps to ameliorate this

Inclusivity – we will consult and keep you our members informed. It’s important that you understand and support the rationale.  If Trustees think that this is a sensible way forward we will convene an extraordinary General meeting to ensure that you are involved.

And our name…

The  ‘Wildlife Trusts of South and West Wales’ will not change because WTSWW will continue

Book Signing Event at WWC

Iolo and Rosanne signing books by Mike Alexander

On the 7th September, we were delighted to host a dual book launch and signing event at The Welsh Wildlife Centre. Rosanne Alexander was speaking about her new book, Waterfalls of Stars, My Ten Years on the Island of Skomer. The event was introduced by Iolo Williams, in his usual inimitable and entertaining style. Iolo was also signing copies of his own book, Wild Places: Wales Top 40 Nature Sites.

Rosanne gave a very personal account of her ten years on Skomer with her husband Mike, whose beautiful photographs gave an atmospheric backdrop to her presentation. She described her amazement at settling into life on an island that was previously unknown to her, and gave a wonderful account of her life amongst the island’s wildlife, from making bread in a kitchen overlooking the puffins in North Haven, to the annual seal monitoring work she helped establish. The delighted audience included many WTSWW volunteers and regular Skomer visitors, who all took pleasure in hearing such an emotional account of life on the island. We regularly (and rightly) hear about the importance of Skomer and about the ups and downs of the internationally important populations of seabirds there. It is much rarer that we hear anyone talking so openly about how the island makes them feel, and the emotional connection that people have with it. Perhaps if we all talked a little more about how wildlife makes us feel- and if we could do it as well as Rosanne (more than one member of the audience shed a tear over her account of the hardships songbirds on the island suffered in a period of protracted snowfall)- we could persuade a few more people to stand up for wildlife and make a difference.

The talk was followed by a signing event where Rosanne and Iolo both chatted to members of the public about their books. A big thank you to both Iolo and Rosanne, and everyone who attended, also to their publisher Seren for making the event possible.

Waterfalls of Stars, by Rosanne Alexander, is published by Seren.

It is available for sale in hardback in The Welsh Wildlife Centre or on the Trust’s online shop for £12.99. Ten percent of the royalties from the book are kindly being donated to our work.

Wild Places: Wales Top 40 Nature Sites, by Iolo Williams, is published by Seren.

Much loved TV naturalist Iolo Williams picks forty of his favourite Welsh nature reserves. The book includes descriptions of the sites, and details for visiting. It covers a number of WTSWW reserves and is illustrated with beautiful colour photographs. It is available for sale in paperback in The Welsh Wildlife Centre or on the Trust’s online shop for £19.99.

Book review: Waterfalls of Stars – My Ten Years on the Island of Skomer by Rosanne Alexander

Published in 2017 by Seren, ISBN 978-1-78172-380-7

One of the most curious things about long term involvement with our seabird islands of Skomer and Skokholm is how it influences your perception of time. I have had the privilege of visiting Skomer for thirty years now, and the island has never ceased to impress upon me the relative insignificance of my own existence. Over those thirty years the imposing cliffs, the feel, even the smell of island have remained almost totally unchanged. Some of the individual seabirds have been living there for longer than I have been alive. There is something intimidating and yet wonderful about this sense of the immensity of time.

Yet alongside those constants, over that same period, the human life of the island has changed immeasurably. Wildlife Trust Wardens have been resident on Skomer since 1960. In those early days the job was much more isolated. Communication with the mainland was difficult, conditions could be very harsh, safeguards were fewer. Fast forward thirty years, and our current wardens have internet access, mobile telephones, good communications with the emergency services and provide a constant stream of updates of sightings and monitoring results to the world via the 24/7 machinery of social media.

Waterfalls of Stars is a very personal narrative of Rosanne and Mike Alexander’s life and work on Skomer in the 1970s and 80s. Rosanne paints a heart-wrenchingly honest portrait of her ten years there, at a time when the job was much more isolating than it is today. The book leads the reader through both the joys and despairs of their daily existence; through the life, and death, that is an inescapable part of a small island teeming with wildlife.

Anyone who has been to Skomer and stayed overnight will recognise the sense of wonder and privilege she describes at her first experience of the Manx Shearwaters returning by nightfall, and how life-changing an experience that sudden and unexpected connection with the natural world can be. Less familiar to most readers will be the alternately funny, touching and sometimes devastating  descriptions of life as a warden over so many years; the abject helplessness of watching oil pollution devastate the island’s beaches and smother the seal pups that she has been following from birth, the fascination and pleasure of rearing an injured and increasingly tame but incredibly intelligent raven, or the true solitude of being the only person on an island with no immediate contact with the mainland.

For me perhaps the most engaging and thought-provoking element of the book is how every tale of island life reinforces the tiny distance that lies between joy and despair in the natural world. Life on Skomer in the 1970s was far removed from today’s modern mainland life, where so many of us are so disconnected from the natural world, and view wildlife and natural landscapes as an aesthetic or recreational privilege that poses no threat. On Skomer, an unexpected storm, or snowfall, can bring both spectacular beauty but also very real risk to life and limb. Rosanne paints a powerful portrait of how precarious existence on Skomer can be, but also how life persists and thrives in spite of that.

Waterfalls of Stars is at its simplest level a thoroughly enjoyable and informative description of the life of an island warden, and the trials and tribulations of wardening an internationally important nature reserve. Anyone who has been to Skomer or who appreciates wildlife will surely enjoy the book for this reason alone. However, it is most important for its insights into what it means to be so in touch with nature, to become so personally entwined with the fate of the wildlife around you, that it alters your entire outlook on life. Rosanne’s final description of leaving the island, and the absolute pain of being wrenched so terminally from a place to which you feel you belong so wholly, is the culmination of the intimate connection between her and the island that develops throughout her very personal story.

I loved this book. It fired up every emotion that inspired me into a career in conservation: anger at the threats we so carelessly impose on our wildlife, the joy of making a difference, the fascination at the unfolding wonders of the natural world, and the sheer pleasure of reading someone giving voice to emotions that I could never articulate so eloquently myself.

You can buy a copy of Waterfalls of Stars here:

https://www.welshwildlife.org/shop/waterfalls-stars-ten-years-island-skomer-roxanne-alexander/

Rosanne is very kindly donating 10% of the royalties from the book to the Trust.

Lizzie Wilberforce

Conservation Manager

Buglife’s Autumn Oil Beetle Hunt 

Meloe rugosus by John Walters

We want to help our friends at Buglife Cymru with their Welsh Oil Beetle survey as they hope to generate more records for Rugged Oil Beetles in Wales. At the moment there’s only a handful of records known for south east Wales, but John Walters; Oil Beetle expert, thinks there’s a good chance they’re present on the Gower!

Clare Dinham, Wales Manager for Buglife is promoting the following:

Last spring we asked for help in recording oil beetles in Wales and due to this we now have a much better idea of where these threatened beetles are. We can now use this information to help to protect and enhance the wildflower-rich habitats upon which the beetles rely.

You may have now caught the oil beetle recording ‘bug’ and can’t wait til next spring to get out and look for more beetles. Well, fear not though as this is the time of year that our third and most elusive species of oil beetle in Wales – the Rugged oil beetle – emerges.

Rugged oil beetles (Meloe rugosus) are primarily nocturnal and the adults can be active between September to April, in grasslands on chalk, limestone and sandy soils. In Wales, the Rugged oil beetle is only known from a small area in South East Wales.  However, given that the beetle is most active at night and during the winter months it is likely that its presence has been overlooked in Wales – it may be more widespread.

This Autumn we need your help!  Please let us know if you spot a Rugged oil beetle in Wales, there is every chance that your sighting could be a new discovery!

Already, the project has led to the discovery of many new sites for oil beetles in Wales, and in England we rediscovered the Mediterranean oil beetle after we thought it was extinct in the UK! Like its Rugged counterpart, Mediterranean oil beetle (Meloe mediterranaeus) is also nocturnal and active during the Autumn and Winter months This species may be present in South Wales and your sightings can really make a difference.

If you see any large, conspicuous black beetles on your travels please submit your sightings and a photo to our Oil beetle survey page. Our Oil beetle Identification guide will help you identify your beetles, but even if you’re unsure please send in your record anyway as we have experts at hand to identify them from your photographs.

Diolch!

Buglife Cymru