Thursday, 21 January 2016

New exhibition at Brymbo Fossil Forest

In Natur Cymru 43 (2012) Raymond Roberts wrote about the exciting fossil discoveries unearthed at the former iron and steelworks at Brymbo near Wrexham. There has been much work at the site since then, and Raymond has written about the developments in the latest issue of Earth Heritage, the twice-yearly geology magazine. You can download a copy for free here.

Fossil of giant clubmoss
One of the most important finds was that of a giant clubmoss from the Carboniferous Era, with the trunk and roots still connected. It was decided to extract this from the site, both for its own protection and to allow further access. After careful reconstruction the fossil will now be on display in Wrexham Museum from 30th January 2016.

Sunday, 3 January 2016

Over-wintering on Welsh Islands

Here in North Wales we probably think we’ve had it pretty rough over the Christmas period, with roads flooded and closed, railways closed (Bangor to Holyhead a few days ago, Conwy Valley line closed for weeks to come) and difficult driving conditions.

Spare a thought then for those hardy souls spending the winter on two offshore islands, Ramsey and Bardsey (Ynys Enlli). Life on offshore islands is never easy, but at least staff on islands without livestock, such as Skomer and Skokholm, are able to leave for the mainland in early winter.

You can read about the adventures of Greg and Lisa Morgan on their Ramsey blog on the RSPB website. In addition to pictures of the little harbour being pounded by the gales 3 days ago and at the end of November, you will find out about the tidal turbine which was installed in Ramsey Sound in mid-December (in a calm spell!). To see how Lisa and Greg have coped over various winters, you can read their blog back to 2010.

The situation on Bardsey is a bit more complicated. The Porter family have been living on Enlli since 2007, but by October last year both children were away at University in Falmouth (some way away....). They were due to come back for Christmas, by which time when the island should have had another two new residents: Sian Stacey and her partner Mark Carter. Mark has been Assistant Warden at the Bird Observatory for several years, and Sian is the new Island Manager for the Bardsey Island Trust. Sian and Mark were all set to arrive at the start of December, but had to wait on the mainland until 27th when the weather relented and Colin Evans was able to take them and the young Porters across.

You can read Sian’s blog about their adventures at, and see pictures of the whole gang bathing in the Cafn on January 1st. Let’s see how they cope with the next three months!

My pictures taken at the end of September show that life on Bardsey can be easier, at times.

Cattle returned to the island in September
A September sunset looking towards Ireland 
Geoff Gibbs

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Natur Cymru Issue 57 Winter 2015-16

'Twelve drummers drumming' (detail)
by Ann Lewis
Publication date: 15th December 2015
Cover price £4.50, or quarterly by subscription £18 pa (individual) or £32 (group/organisation)

A box of matches and sheep's teeth ● David Elias
Conservation management on the North Wales moors

The Welsh uplands death or resurrection? ● Mick Green
Wildlife declines may require a new approach.

Planhigion meddyginiaethol Meddygon Myddfai ● Bethan Wyn Jones
Hynt a hanes meddygaeth lysieuol.

The Black Mountains - not such a black future ● Bradley Welch
Targeted use of the Welsh Government Nature Fund.

One farm’s flora: 30 years on ● Neil Ludlow
Vegetation changes on a Carmarthenshire smallholding.

Something like tundra.....unique Welsh highland habitat ● John Harold
Montane heath on the upland plateaux of Snowdonia.

The pearl-bordered fritillary in Wales ● Tammy Stretton & Russel Hobson
Conservation efforts along the Welsh border for this declining species.

The Llysdinam legacy ● Fred Slater
The story of Cardiff Unversity’s field centre in mid-Wales, and the studies conducted there


Buglife ● Sarah Henshall
Exposed Riverine Sediments and the invertebrates found there

Discoveries in science ● Sarah Daly
Stuffed, Pickled & Pinned - an exhibition of the wonders of nature in Welsh museums

From the Garden ● Rob Thomas
Pollen analysis throws light on the creation of the Middleton Hall gardens two centuries ago

Green Bookshelf ● Ian Spence, Annie Haycock, Chris Fuller, David Saunders & Mandy Marsh

Lifelines ● Kathryn Hewitt
Natura 2000 - the natural wealth of Wales

Mammals round-up ● Frances Cattanach
An update on a whole spectrum of Wales' mammals

Marine matters ● Ivor Rees
Proposed Tidal Lagoon in Swansea Bay

Nature at large ● Gareth Cunningham
Welsh seabird colonies - how are they faring?

Plantlife ● Dave Lamacraft
Unearthing the secrets of the Celtic rainforest

News ● Hilary Kehoe - PONT - grazing animals project

Enquiries: 0300 065 4867

Thursday, 15 October 2015

‘A year in the life of a National Trust woodland - autumn at Dolmelynllyn

Yesterday I returned to Dolmlynllyn to film ‘autumn’, the third season in ‘a year in the life of a National Trust woodland’.

Rhodri Wigley was an excellent guide and laid on several activities; removing sapwood from cleft fencing stakes, a dangerous tree survey, pruning of small trees, volunteers thinning an overgrown piece of woodland and the building of the village bonfire at Ganllwyd. Here are the short films in English and in Welsh:

Thursday, 24 September 2015

Teifi Marshes: a small butterfly, a big badger and some buffaloes!

Nathan Walton wrote about the Teifi Marshes reserve (Wildlife Trust of S & W Wales) and the Welsh Wildlife Centre there, in the Spring 2015 issue of Natur Cymru. Kate and I arranged to meet Nathan at the reserve on our way down to Skokholm in early September; as his first job in conservation was with NWWT there is always plenty to talk about!

Brown Hairstreak. Photo by Maggie Sproule
The small butterfly is the brown hairstreak, one of five British hairstreaks. It has quite a limited range in Britain, but SW Wales is a hot-spot for them. The females lay eggs on blackthorn, avoiding hedges which are cut every year with a flail. We knew it was the right time of year and asked Nathan if we could see one; ‘Yes, on hemp agrimony outside the kingfisher hide’! Ten minutes later local entomologist Maggie Sproule was showing us our first-ever brown hairstreak. Maggie told us: ‘It has been a wonderful year for sightings at the Wildlife Centre, helped by the fact that so many are nectar feeding.  One day I was watching a female and waited to see how she would stay nectar feeding.  I first saw her at 14:00 on a hemp agrimony plant and kept checking every ten minutes.  She was still there, on the same plant but a different head over two hours later, and didn't leave until the plants were in the shade’.

After this experience we sat outside the Centre with a cup of tea and a bun, and enjoyed the view over the Teifi Marshes towards Cardigan town. The big willow badger certainly dwarfs the small boy!

On our walk round the 2-mile Wetland Trail we enjoyed seeing a group of water buffaloes. Nathan told us ‘we had eight females on site that arrived middle of March. Six of them were pregnant although it wasn’t clear as to when they would ‘drop’. Due to good herbage on the reserve, they developed quicker than anticipated and the first female gave birth in the middle of August. 

Blissful Buffalo. Photo by Nathan Walton.
It was decided to take them all off the reserve so as to allow birthing within farm buildings of the owner. The female and calf along with three others were easily rounded up. The other four were new to the reserve and so herding them into the pen was not so easy. They were extremely nervous and charged whenever we got near. Over a few days we managed to get them towards the holding pen by creating smaller compartments that were electrified and then shutting them in. They finally came off the reserve on 14th September after passing their TB test. They will be back next season and have done a fantastic job this year on the reserve, keeping vegetation managed and water areas open’.

The Teifi Marshes reserve and the Centre are readily accessible on foot or by bike from Cardigan over the old bridge; the Centre is reached by car via Cilgerran village.

Blogpost by Geoff Gibbs 24th September 2015.

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

Natur Cymru Hydref / Autumn 2015 - Rhif / Issue 56

Publication date: 15th September 2015
Cover price £4.50, or quarterly by subscription £18 pa (individual) or £32 (group/organisation)

Zero-till and cover crops – the new agri-revolution ● Mike Donovan. Agricultural management focussed on looking after the soil

Lovely Dyfi – progress in the Biosphere ● Andy Rowland. Community involvement in the extended Dyfi Biosphere Reserve.

Wentwood Forest revisited ● Colin Titcombe. The history and wildlife of this great Welsh forest.

The limestone grasslands of north-east Wales ● John Osley. Colourful grasslands in beautiful landscapes.

Spoilt rotten – the wonders of colliery spoil tips ● Liam Olds. The invertebrate wildlife of these rich and often overlooked habitats.

Sefydliad Morgan Parry Foundation ● Roger Thomas. Hyrwyddo addysg a datblygu cynaliadwy / Advancing education and sustainable development.

Weaving the web: towards a natural garden ● Malcolm Berry. A new approach to growing food and benefiting garden wildlife.

Dartford Warblers in south Wales ● Hannah Meinertzhagen. A study of the habitat types favoured by this new colonist of the Gower Peninsula.

Green Bookshelf ● Julian Hughes, David Saunders, James Robertson & Rowan McShane

Discoveries in science ● Bob Griffiths, Iwan Edwards & Barbara BrownSpread of the New Zealand flatworm – a new citizen-science survey.

Islands roundup ● Ben Porter and Geoff Gibbs. Rare migrant birds on Ynys Enlli / Bardsey Island this spring.

Buglife ● Steven Falk. Promoting spring forage for invertebrates.

Woods and forests ● Rory Francis. Saving the Celtic rainforest at Llenyr

Life lines ● Ben Wray. Alien invasion on the Dee! The Chinese Mitten Crab

From the Garden ● Bruce Langridge. A Welsh mycological revival

Thursday, 27 August 2015

Sand Martins, Seagulls and the Garfish

If you walk West along the beach towards Porth Dinllaen, there is a magnificent set of Sand Martin nests, tunnelled into the collapsing cliff bank. It was busy, busy towards the end of August. The chicks peering out of the nests looked big and hungry. When the parent returned with food, only 1 of 3 was happy.

While I was admiring the view across the bay, from just beyond the Tŷ Coch, a seagull struggled to take off from the sea, with a snakelike Garfish swinging beneath its wings. Quite a heavy load. On the sand the fish made several attempts to wriggle free. Juvenile gulls tried to share the prize but the catcher was feeling selfish.