Thursday, 27 February 2014

Friends of Parc Slip, Saturday 22nd Feb 2014

On Saturday 22nd Feb, Friends of Parc Slip met to do some practical conservation work on the nature reserve. Friends of Parc Slip is our weekend conservation work party who meet once a month on a Saturday to help the Wildlife Trust manage the nature reserve. This could mean anything from cutting down trees to building bug hotels.

Some of Friends of Parc Slip with Bugingham Palace

On Saturday 22nd February, we were working on the ditch running along the haulage road. Scrub has slowly been encroaching on this ditch over the years, shading the water and leaf fall is leading to the ditch filling in. We were removing the trees from within the ditch channel to prevent shading and drying out. 

The gang working in the ditch

The scrub that was removed was cut and used to build dams along the ditch. Hopefully these works will mean that there is pools of water in the ditch throughout the summer which will be perfect for breeding invertebrates, such as the scarce blue-tailed damselfly- the larvae mature at a faster rate in warm pools.

Large Red Damselfly Vaughn Matthews
 Breeding amphibians will also make use of the increased water in the ditches over the next few months. 

Rudi with the Dam of the Day! 
The result- a dam with a pool of water behind it

The next meeting of Friends of Parc Slip is Sat 22nd March, anyone welcome!

Thursday, 20 February 2014

Return of the Lapwing

Our first reports of returning lapwing came to us from Paul Parsons on the 10th February- complete with photo of the lapwing sitting on the island at the Northern wetlands, which was cleared of vegetation late last year in order to increase the suitability of the island for lapwing.

First reported lapwing of 2014, Paul Parsons
The lapwing, Vanellus vanellus, is in the plover family, which is known for its broad wings which are notable in flight and its amazing 'pee-wit' call. They breed in a variety of habitats, one of which is waterside meadows, such as the Lapwing field at Parc Slip. Over winter, lapwing are not seen at Parc Slip as they disperse to winter feeding grounds.

Flock of Lapwing in November 2013 taken above Parc Slip on Mynydd Ty Talwyn

The works that have taken place in the Lapwing field over winter to improve the habitat suitability for lapwing have included scrub clearance to increase the grassland and remove perching places for predators, cutting of the field in early February to decrease the sward height by local farmers Will and Rob and the installation of our lovely highland cattle, Mac, Hamish and Dougal.

Hopefully, all the habitat improvement will enable the lapwing to successfully breed again this year and we'll have more of these little guys running around!

Lapwing Chick Mike Snelle
The latest sightings have been of a flock of 12 lapwing on the 19th and 20th of Feb, circling the field and chasing off buzzards from the area- all good signs. Fingers crossed for the next few months for our lapwing!

Monday, 10 February 2014

Frog Spawn Season; what should you do?

The onset of the warmer weather in February brings the start of the amphibian breeding season and the welcome appearance of frog and toad spawn in Britain’s ponds. We spotted the first frog spawn in our ponds at Parc Slip this year on the 4th February.

The Parc Slip Frogspawn!

If you are lucky enough to have spawn in your pond, we have a number of pointers for you to help you look after your amphibians.

Firstly, you can work out what species you have; frog spawn is laid in obvious jelly-like clumps, like in the photo above, whereas toad spawn is laid in long chains which are often more difficult to see. Report your sightings to your local records centre- knowing where the animals are can help with their conservation. The local records centre in the South Wales area is SEWBReC.

If your pond looks like it’s over flowing with spawn, do not worry, there’s no such thing as too much frog spawn! It’s a harsh world out there; it’s thought that only one in 50 eggs laid will survive to adulthood, so you won’t ever be over run with frogs!

Frog with spawn in our Conservation Managers garden last year

The crucial thing to note is that it is very important that you do not move spawn between ponds. Unfortunately, there are a number of amphibian diseases in the UK, such as Ranavirus and Chytrid fungus that can decimate amphibian populations and lead to local population declines.

Another issue is invasive non-native pond plants, including Crassula helmsii (Australian Swamp-Stonecrop), which are extremely damaging to biodiversity and can result in the pond being filled in.

Movement of frogspawn from pond to pond can spread these diseases and invasive plants to new areas. Unfortunately, this has been the case at Parc Slip, with a pond being completely over run with Crassula. This is probably as a result of movement of materials into the pond from another infected pond. Please help us to prevent further invasions and do not transfer materials into the ponds. And start spreading the word to stop the swap of spawn! 

Crassula helmsii in our infected pond

Have you seen any frogspawn yet?

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Highland Cattle Become Conservationists at Parc Slip

So anyone out walking on the Nature Reserve recently may have noticed that we have employed the help of some four-legged conservationists this month to help with the management of the nature reserve!

Two of our Highland Cattle- Dougal and Hamish

The ‘Lapwing Field’ at Parc Slip is now being grazed by Highland cattle, owned by our local farmer, who often works with us to manage the nature reserve. This breed is often used in conservation grazing due to their hardy nature. The cattle will be improving the habitat for lapwing by grazing which will create the short turf favoured by the species. 

Lapwings are a bird that often frequent farmland and wetlands, named for their broad wings which are unmistakeable when the bird is in flight. The bird is also known as a ‘peewit’ in recognition of its robotic sounding call! When it comes to breeding, lapwings like short turf, which is where the Highland cattle come in.

Lapwing by Ian Rose

The lapwings will also benefit from churned up areas of ground, which provide nesting sites, and the manure which will provide insect food for the developing chicks.

It's lovely seeing the cattle on the nature reserve and we hope the lapwing will appreciate them too!

Mac and Hamish