The past week has been another good one for the Community Team. With myself and volunteers helping out at events. We all enjoyed time spent at the St David’s Day Market in Cardiff city centre. As the weather had been so bad recently, the organisers kindly took action and put up the wooden sheds which makes life easier for us during these cold months.
I can’t say we enjoyed the conditions on Abergavenny High Street on the same Friday though. I went to experience the day in the life of a recruiter, and can honestly say it’s no easy job. We survived two hours under the slight shelter of the marquee and made three memberships for our time.
Next week we are trying something new and attending the monthly Market at the Office for National Statistics, Government Buildings in Newport. As ever, we love a challenge and can’t wait to see what kinds of people we will encounter on our travels. We will be here on Tuesday 11 March.
On Wednesday 12 March we will be up by the counters again at IKEA Cardiff Bay, and Friday returning to the Bay for another new idea of ours – World of Boats. With the stunning views seen across the Bay we hope that we’re onto a good thing. Thank you to the owners for allowing us to come and meet with their visitors.
Also look out for us at ASDA Ystalyfera Swansea on Friday and Saturday.
If you run, or go to, any events and you think we would add something to your customers or visitors experience, please get in touch with me by email Stephanie.email@example.com
What the Gola rainforest teaches us about our place in nature
We're a week further into Gola month, our collaboration with Size of Wales to raise £20,000 to help save Gola's natural paradise. In our previous post, I took a look at pygmy hippos, the elusive animals that help remind us of the diversity of Gola's wildlife.
That diversity is pretty staggering. The numbers alone give one part of the story. Nearly 50 species of large mammal, nine of which are threatened. More than 320 species of bird, with ten endangered. 43 species of amphibian. 140 species of dragonfly, 899 plants, more than 600 butterflies. The list goes on.
These numbers tell us one thing - how we feel about them tells us another. For most of us, the sheer abundance and variety of life in Gola, once we learn of it, is mind-boggling. Wondrous, even. Then there's the individual species themselves; look at the image of the white-necked Rockfowl, or Picathartes, below.
Image: Wikimedia Commons
Like more than half the birds on the planet, it's a 'passerine', a set of birds characterised by their three toes, among other features. It has no feathers on its head, just yellow skin, and a long, graceful tail used for balance. The brilliant, contrasting colours and the large, dark eyes give the impression of an slightly alien creature, and at first glance it can seem slightly unreal.
And when we consider that this strange, almost otherworldly creature is just one of the thousands who rely on the Gola rainforest, it's hard not to feel a sense of wonder; a deep connection with the mysterious world of the animal kingdom, at once seemingly distant and intrinsically linked to our own lives.
This isn't just romanticisation - this sense of wonder plays an important role. It tells us we care, it reminds us that the natural world is part of our own. The fact that Gola is threatened reminds us that there's a reason we need to care. Human beings have an immense capability to destroy, but they also have the potential to protect and conserve. It's whether or not we care that tips the balance.
Helping to protect the Gola rainforest shows that we can choose the right path, and to use the sense of wonder that nature provides in abundance. Gola cannot simply be ignored; for us to understand the world we share with wildlife, we need to make sure it's still there. We need Gola.
Life is sometimes made up of spontaneous decisions. I made one last Thursday. I woke up early to find the sun streaming in through the sky light in the bedroom. Bright early mornings are the first sign that spring is around the corner. I decided it was too good to waste, and chucked the camera and binoculars in the car and headed east to Newport Wetlands.
I have been neglecting my local RSPB Reserve for some months now due to one thing and another. It’s one of those things I want to put right this year. It’s where I cut my teeth by learning the reed bed birds and wildfowl there. Newport Wetlands is definitely a patience/ reward type reserve. If you are willing to sit quietly at one of the blinds for a while you are normally rewarded with something special. The reserve has been throwing up some great birds of late too. Some of the special highlights in the past months have included a Black Redstart, Goldeneye, Penduline Tit, Hen Harrier, American Wigeon, Goosanders, Red Breasted Mergansers, Wryneck and a Woodchat Shrike. The last twelve months has really put the reserve and Goldcliff on the birding map as one of the places to visit in South Wales.
I turned up at the reserve, and immediately bumped into fellow Newport Wetlands Forumite John. He is an early birder, and was on his way down to Goldcliff having already been on the reserve for an hour or so when I turned up at half past nine. Whilst we chatted a small non-descript bird flitted through the hedgerow in Perry Lane. It turned out to be an over wintering Chiffchaff. In a few weeks’ time his onomatopoeic song will be ringing out from those hedgerows. Numbers will build with arrivals from Africa, along with other warblers that make the reserve so special in the coming months.
I walked towards the power station. There was plenty of activity on the margins of the scrub and brambles. Blackbirds were picking at the leaf litter looking for worms underneath. Lesser Redpolls and Linnets were working their way along the birch tree tops. Every so often the sharp burst of a Wren’s song would startle me. Always heard but never seen these little birds. I happened upon a small number of Long Tail Tits that were collecting lichen from the branches of the small trees along the footpath. Somewhere unseen in the copse one of the most amazing nests built in the UK was being constructed. This was more evidence spring was in the air. It was around this moment winter decided to remind me he was still about and a short deluge of hailstones got me scampering for cover!
A quick check of the lagoons at this end of the reserve revealed the two Goldeneye were still in residence. I returned to the heart of the reserve via the coastal path. The tide was a long way out, but you could see a small flock of Knots dancing low over the mudflats, the Kestrel that glided back towards me must have been the cause of their agitation. A couple of Cormorants flapped languidly along the tideline as I made it back to the lighthouse. I paused here to watch about a dozen Reed Buntings picking at the seed heads on the reeds. Getting a photo was quite an accomplishment as it was quite blustery after the short storm.
My time was running short now, so I wandered over to see if the reserves grumpiest looking characters were on their normal perch not far from the visitor centre. I didn’t hold much hope as the wind was coming from off the estuary, but sure enough one of the Little Owls was hunkered down in the split tree. I just managed to point him out to a couple of visitors before he got stage fright and flew around to the back of the same tree.
I started to head back to the visitor centre. I had two final reminders of the changing season when a Stonechat popped up onto a branch and let out a short burst of song, he was joined by a female, and they darted off. As I headed back down the path to Perry Lane a large bumble bee took off, defying all sensible laws of physics and avionics.
Spring is in the air and the most exciting time for nature watching is about to begin … I for one can’t wait!
All images © Anthony Walton