With over 70 National Nature Reserves in Wales, we are all only a few miles away from a special place to discover nature. Our colleagues working to look after the National Nature Reserves (NNR) have got together to write a blog, bringing you the latest news and goings on from a different site each month. This month's blog is from Coedydd Aber Reserve Manager Huw Green... Just before Christmas whilst out in the woodland at Coedydd Aber National Nature Reserve, (located midway between Bangor and Llanfairfechan) I had an early Christmas present when I discovered a new species not previously recorded for the site. The new find was a lichen by the name of Lobaria virens, a species which is considered endangered in Wales and is one that Britain has an international responsibility to conserve (Woods & Coppins (2003)). Lobaria virens belongs to a community of lichen species known as the Loberion, which are Ancient Woodland indicators associated with the Atlantic woodlands of the western coast of Britain. These woodlands receive so much rain some of them are considered temperate rainforests, containing trees and rocks adorned with the vibrant colours and interesting structures of a diverse array of lichen species. Before I ramble on about lichens I should explain what they are. Lichens are an association between two completely different organisms, a fungus and an alga or cyanobacteria. The fungus provides the structure (a safe home if you like) for the alga or cyano bacteria to live in. And the algae or cyanobacteria produce the food through photosynthesis for both to benefit from. Why are our Welsh rainforests such good homes for lichens? Our mild winters and high levels of rainfall throughout the year, created by the influence of the Gulf Stream, create the perfect conditions for a diverse ecosystem within which woodland lichens can thrive. Many of the species are largely confined to these humid woodland habitats and is the reason why many species are rare or threatened. Our landscape has undergone many changes in the past with large areas of our native woodlands having been clear felled over time. The presence of these special groups of lichens is an indication that pockets of woodlands have avoided being cleared completely, and have retained these beautiful and very special organisms. Our temperate rainforests have a magical feel, with trees covered in lichens and mosses giving you the feeling you are walking through a truly ancient woodland. Managing a woodland for Lichens The lichen assemblage at Coedydd Aber is so important that it strongly influences the way we manage the woodland. A great deal of care and planning is needed to get the grazing pressure and patterns correct to create the ideal conditions for the lichens and woodland at the same time. We work closely with the staff at the Bangor University Henfaes Research Centre, who graze the woodland at Coedydd Aber NNR with a flock of welsh mountain sheep. We have also recently been working with the organisation Plantlife, who have been extremely helpful in helping determine the current condition of the lichen populations at Coedydd Aber. Lichens are notoriously difficult to identify taking many years to become a competent field Lichenologist, able to identify the numerous different species. Dave Lamacraft (IPA Lower Plants Champion (England & Wales) has recently been carrying out survey work to determine how the lichens at Coedydd Aber are doing. Thankfully its good news with many of the scarcer species doing well and colonising new areas since the site was last surveyed. Woodland expansion The native woodland in Coedydd Aber is expanding! The nearby conifer plantation which shares a boundary fence with the nature reserve is currently being clear felled. Due to difficulties of extracting timber from the site, areas being clear felled will not be re planted with conifer species but will be restored to native broadleaf woodland. A 30 Hectare area in the middle of the plantation is already on its way with established 10 year old native trees growing strong. With this, the native woodland at Aber could potentially be expanded by more than 1 square kilometre! This would be a huge gain for the wildlife of the area and a massive boost to biodiversity. So the next time you visit Coedydd Aber (or other native woodlands in wales), take a minute to notice the lichens that cover the trees, with their many different forms and colours. Also take a glance up at the plantation and imagine an established native woodland clothing the valley side. Visiting Coedydd Aber Visitors are welcome, and one of the main attractions is the spectacular waterfall. The path goes from the entrance at Bont Newydd to the foot of the Rhadeadr Fawr waterfall, and there are a few picnic sites along the way There are also many features of historic and archaeological interest, including an Iron Age hill fort and the remains of several round houses. More information about visiting Coedydd Aber can be found on our website.
Since the Manual’s initial publication 13 years ago, the impact of weirs acting as barriers to ecosystem connectivity, and posing health and safety risks, has been researched in more detail and recognised more widely. The new guidance is a ‘cradle to grave’ document which provides industry guidance on all aspects of weirs. Whilst it is quite a bit lengthier than the old guidance, the new guide helps the reader by signposting relevant sections depending on whether the reader is an owner, a regulator or user of weirs. I’m delighted with how this new guide considers whole life costs and impacts in a very holistic way. This aligns much better with NRW & WG principles on ecosystem services, sustainable use of natural resources and providing a healthy and functional environment for future generations. Not only is this a great example of how NRW and geomorphology are helping the wider environment, but the document should help many of us in a very practical way to manage, permit/licence/consent, operate or work on impounding structures. The new guide can be found by following this link. http://www.ciria.org/Resources/Free_publications/River_weirs.aspx The Project Steering Group consisted of a multi-disciplinary panel from regulatory, advisory, trusts and consultancy backgrounds across the UK, bringing together a wide breadth and depth of knowledge about weirs. For more information please contact Oly Lowe
With over 70 National Nature Reserves in Wales, we are all only a few miles away from a special place to discover nature. Our colleagues working to look after the National Nature Reserves have got together to write a blog, bringing you the latest news and goings on from a different site each month. This month’s blog is from our Reserve Manager Kevin Dupè. Here he talks about the birds at one of the newest and most distinctive nature reserves in Wales. If someone asks me my favourite time of the year at Newport Wetlands, I wouldn’t be able to decide between winter and spring. So I say the winter if it is the winter, and the spring if it’s the spring. In the spring we have the excitement and anticipation of lots of different species of bird breeding. This year the highlight was provided by a male bittern booming for over 7 weeks from deep within the reedbeds. In that 7 weeks he was only seen once, but he could be heard over a mile away! This was the first time a bittern has boomed here for a sustained period of time. Unfortunately he didn’t manage to attract a mate this time, but it bodes well for the future. Like the bittern, many of the birds which live in the reedbeds are more often heard than seen. We have dozens of water rails here and they make a very loud squealing sound - a bit like a pig. I hear them frequently, but I can’t remember the last time I actually saw one! We do see the bearded-tits a little more often, they make a “pinging” call like a little bell being rung and you will always hear them “pinging” before you see them. Preparing for the winter birds When winter eventually arrives, we are treated to a spectacle as thousands of ducks and waders migrate here. Between the end of the breeding season and the arrival of the wintering birds (the end of August and early September), we have a small “window” to get a lot of work done and prepare the habitat for them. The rush on the wet-grassland is cut, baled and taken away as animal bedding. Hedgerows around the fields are trimmed. Scrub and vegetation on islands is cut down. Lagoons may need de-silting and fences and gates re-paired. Sluice boards are put back in and re-placed if necessary. In late September and early October we pump water from our reedbeds (which act as reservoirs) onto the wet-grassland – flooding it in time for the birds who will have travelled miles to spend their winter here. Wigeon for example breed in Scotland and northern England in small numbers, but most of the thousands who come here for the winter will have flown in from Iceland, Scandinavia and Russia. We have around 2,000 wigeon at Newport Wetlands at the moment. Unlike some ducks which “quack”, wigeon whistle and this is one of the enigmatic sounds of estuaries around the UK throughout the winter. “Lazy” Lapwings Another bird which helps make winter at Newport Wetlands so special is the lapwing. In the spring we have around 20 pairs breeding, but in winter we can have up to 3,000 lapwing. They seem to spend a lot of time just standing in shallow water, facing into the wind, but will often take to the air for no apparent reason. Their “lazy”, erratic flight and the dark green upper-wing contrasting with the black and white underwing is one possible explanation for the name “lapwing”. Spectacular Starlings The most numerous bird here in the winter is the starling. Every evening about 20 minutes before sunset, they start to gather on the pylons. At first it is just 2 or 3, then flocks of a few dozen and then flocks of thousands arrive. Within minutes there are up to 150,000 swirling about in tight formation. Eventually they will go down into the reedbed for the night and you can hear their loud chattering. This natural spectacle also attracts many human visitors. Occasionally, if the starlings have put on a really good display, the crowd will break out in spontaneous applause when the last bird dives into the reeds. The starlings normally head further south to Somerset in early December, but some years they will stay to the end of December. You can contact Newport Wetlands, RSPB Visitor Centre on 01633 636363 for up to date information about the starling roost and for information on guided walks or email Newport-Wetlands@rspb.org.uk. The RSPB website has more information about the spectacle of starling flocks. There is also information about the starlings in Aberystwyth. Monitoring the birds We know the numbers of each species of bird on the reserve quite accurately. Bird numbers are monitored monthly through-out the year, but in the winter they are monitored up to 3 times a month. Voluntary wardens help us with these bird counts as the reserve is too big, and there are too many birds for 2 members of staff to do it. With 4 or 5 people counting simultaneously across the 5km length of the reserve we can get a much more accurate count. Visit Newport Wetlands to see and hear the birds for yourself You can come along to visit the birds at any time, the nature reserve has a walking trails and viewing platforms. We also have a floating pontoon which forms a direct route to the East Usk Lighthouse which is over 120 years old. For the latest news and pictures directly from the reserve you can follow us on Facebook too.
The Marloes Peninsula is a must-visit for wildlife watching, heritage hunting, coastal walks and outdoor adventure.
The landscape here is incredibly diverse; craggy cliffs and coves make way for sandy bays and neighbouring islands, whilst further inland, coastal heath and thriving wetlands sit alongside agriculture.
There’s plenty to see, do and explore, so get the binoculars, bucket and spade, and walking boots ready and make the most of Marloes.DISCOVER MORE OF OUR VIDEO BLOGS
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