Pontyberem and Bancffosfelen Primary Schools near Llangyndeyrn Mountain have given the rare “y pathew” dormouse new homes by putting up boxes for the shy animal. In partnership with Menter Cwm Gwendraeth, Natural Resources Wales (NRW) and other Welsh Medium Primary Schools in the Gwendraeth Valley, Year Five children built and installed 50 dormouse boxes in protected woodland in the area before the summer holidays started. The dormice will be looking for homes during the summer when they will hopefully breed and have families.
The boxes will be monitored by licensed NRW staff with the help of motion sensor cameras installed in the woods. This is to aid a wider monitoring program of the species to try and find out more about this elusive little creature. The dormouse is a European protected species. Although they are found in every Welsh county except Anglesey, they live in low-density populations in these areas. They are considered to be under threat because their numbers have fallen by over 20% in recent years. This is mainly due to habitat loss and predation.
The dormouse is part of the rodent family and measures between 68 and 79mm and weighs 16 – 20g. They are sometimes mistaken for mice, but have furry tails unlike mice. Most breed once or twice a year, producing a litter of four to five young, they can live for as long as five years and hibernate for six months of the year.
This work is supported by Menter Cwm Gwendraeth and is a partnership between NRW and RSPB Cymru’s Three Rivers Futurescape project in the Kidwelly area. If you are a teacher with a class or a youth group leader in the Llangyndeyrn Mountain area and want to find out how you can be part of this project please contact email@example.com for more information.
And so we come to the final part of our protracted journey. I painted myself into a literal corner with this A-Z. I always knew the end of the alphabet was going to be hard to do, but I didn’t realise how hard. After a couple of weeks of head scratching I came up with this …
Y is for … Yellowhammer
This blog has touched upon the plight of the House Sparrow many occasions. Its dramatic decrease in numbers in such a short space of time highlights the plight of a lot of our common species we see in our back gardens. There is another bird that can frequent your garden feeders, but it is far more associated with the countryside than our urban feathered friend. The Yellowhammer is a wonderfully bright yellow, almost canary-like, denizen of the hedgerow. Once widespread across most of the UK and Wales it has now been reduced to local populations largely in the uplands of the West and North. There has been a 55% decrease in numbers from 1970 to 2010 due to a number of factors. I am lucky enough to encounter them on my regular visits to Frampton Marshes. There is a small breeding population that frequents the hedgerow not far from the visitor centre there.
During the summer months, when the hedgerow is in full leaf they are just small flashes of gold in the depths of tangled branches. Often heard and not seen. The song is frequently mentioned in any talks you may have heard or any books you may read on them, it is always said to sound like “a little bit of bread on no cheese…”, this of course only describes the rhythm of the song, and I would have expected many a bird watcher to be startled if they heard a specific request for food coming from their feeders! In case you are wondering where the “hammer” part of their name comes from, it comes from the German word for bunting. The Yellowhammer is a wonderful bird that I hope to reconnect with soon.
Z is for … Zero
Extinction, for the layperson, is synonymous with one bird, the Dodo. There cannot be many people who are not aware of the phrase “as dead as Dodo...” The last recorded evidence of a Dodo was in 1662. It took just one hundred years from man first encountering it to hunt it into history.
I think it is time that a new, more up to date bird was made synonymous with extinction. In a few weeks’ time, on September 1st, it will be 100 years since Martha, the last Passenger Pigeon on earth died in captivity at Cincinnati Zoo. Former RSPB Conservation Director, Mark Avery, has written a book “A Message From Martha” to commemorate this. It is an extinction of a species that is truly staggering. The rate of decline, even by today’s standards is incredible. It was the most abundant bird on earth, it had no sub-species; there were just Passenger Pigeons, billions of them. Numbers began to decline at the start of the 1800’s, the birds were hunted for food, and deforestation had begun in earnest in the USA.
In 1857, conservationists tried to reintroduce a law to protect the Passenger Pigeon; it was rejected as the bird was described as widespread. By 1870 numbers were still falling fast but the hunting was now on a massive scale. The numbers of shot birds that are recorded are mind boggling. In Michigan, a hunting lodge recorded 50,000 birds shot each day, every day, for five months. On March 22nd 1900, just thirty three years after it was deemed not worth conserving, the last authenticated sighting of the bird in the wild was made in Sargents, Pike County, Ohio. The bird had been shot by a boy named Press Clay Southwold.
So I think it’s time to update “as dead as a Dodo …” to as “posthumous as Passenger Pigeon …” Let’s hope in just a decades time we are not updating it again to “as departed a Turtle Dove …”, because this one is happening on our watch!
I hope you have enjoyed these ten blogs on our journey through the A-Z of what has inspired me to join and volunteer for the RSPB. I am off to Bird Fair in Rutland this weekend, so normal service and visit report will follow next week.
I dedicate this and the other nine blogs to Martha, the last Passenger Pigeon, and lesson we must learn from our past.
All images © Anthony Walton
In the last few weeks the Welsh Government has submitted its proposals to Europe for how it plans to spend it’s Rural Development Budget for the next seven years. This is a critical period for anybody interested in the natural world as this includes the year (2020) by which European Governments have committed to halting and reversing the loss of biodiversity.
This means getting the right tools in place is critical if farmers are to contribute to achieving the Welsh Government’s commitment to stopping the loss of nature from our countryside. This is the reason RSPB Cymru campaigned to ensure Glastir, the Welsh Government’s main tool for achieving this goal, is fit for purpose.
Earlier this year hundreds of RSPB supporters contacted the Minister for Natural Resources and Food and responded to the Welsh Government review asking that Glastir:
RSPB Cymru welcomed many of the proposals for updating Glastir, which have been included in the Rural Development Plan submitted to Europe. The decision to remove options that provide little or no environmental benefit, but utilise large amounts of public money, is particularly welcome as this money can now be targeted where it will deliver most benefit and support those farms with most to offer. And the proposal for cooperative action across farms to introduce coordinated management for wildlife, as well as other environmental outputs across farms is also welcome as wildlife often requires beneficial management at the landscape level.
We also welcome the proposal to clarify what Glastir is expected to deliver as this is a vital step towards developing a wider plan to achieve the Welsh Governments commitment to halting biodiversity loss by 2020.
However, the following important elements of the scheme remain unclear and we look forward to receiving further information, from Welsh Government, as soon as possible on:
So, with your help, we have made positive changes to Glastir, although how positive is still to be seen, now we need to keep the pressure on the Welsh Government to ensure Glastir helps farmers give nature a home in Wales.