Archives for October 2011

Grassholm gannet nests

Post categories:

Martin Aaron Martin Aaron | 11:01 UK time, Monday, 31 October 2011

Grassholm Island or 'Gwales' in Welsh was the first RSPB reserve to be established in Wales back in 1948 so it's fitting that in this centenary year RSPB wardens - Lisa and Greg Morgan are fighting to combat an issue that affects the third largest gannet population in the Atlantic - plastic.

Aerial view of the gannetry at the RSPB Grassholm nature reserve. Image by John Archer-Thompson, RSPB Images.

Aerial view of the gannetry on Grassholm Island. Image by John Archer-Thompson, RSPB Images.

Every spring, roughly 40,000 pairs of breeding gannets descend on this small patch of rock, situated eight miles off the Pembrokeshire coast, south west of Ramsey Island.

Marine debris is now a major problem throughout the world's oceans with vast, floating islands of debris being reported - from industrialised areas right across to the most remote regions on the planet and Grassholm Island is no different.

This particular gannet colony is now on the front line. Where once seaweed and kelps fronds were used as nesting materials, they have now been added to by synthetic rope, plastic, discarded fishing nets and mono-filament fishing line.

This doesn't happen by accident though. The birds actively target these floating materials as they resemble seaweed, are easy to spot on the surface and highly visible to the male birds seeking nest materials out at sea.

Gannet colony on Grassholm. Image by RSPB

Gannet colony on Grassholm Island - image by RSPB Cymru.

Gannets are very 'site faithful' creatures and will return to the same nest location year after year, rebuilding and repairing each season, making this a long term problem.

RSPB warden's visit each October when the majority of birds have left, to keep disturbance to a minimum.

Most birds can be freed successfully, others simply have to be put out of their misery as plastic has entwined around their wings and caused permanent and irreparable damage.

Plastic entwines around their legs and wings causing death - image by RSPB Cymru

Plastic entwines around their legs and wings causing death - image by RSPB Cymru.

Monitoring the gannets

A team from the Marine Biology Ecology Research Centre, Plymouth University and RSPB have been monitoring and studying the situation on Grassholm since 1996 and have estimated the total amount of plastic on Grassholm to be a staggering 18.46 tonnes.

The average gannet nest contains 469.91 grams of plastic with the majority of nesting material being synthetic rope.

On average, just over 65 birds each year die from entanglement which equates to around 525 gannets (mainly nestlings) over an eight year period and yet although this is a fairly high number, it is unlikely to have an effect on the overall population which is doing very well in the UK compared to other seabird populations.

A young gannet being cut free from plastic on Grassholm - image by RSPB Cymru

A young gannet being cut free from plastic on Grassholm - image by RSPB Cymru.

The plastics comes from a variety of sources both domestic and international as well as shipping but all have one thing in common - they don't biodegrade, so will remain in the nests for many years to come and added to each year.


The team have also been doing some ground-breaking work using geo-locaters on the gannets, monitoring where they go to forage for food and how far they fly.

For the first time, we are beginning to build up an accurate picture of sea birds' movements which will play an important role in their future, as conservation groups lobby for more marine reserves and protected zones to be established further out to sea, around these important offshore wildlife havens.


The reserve has a strict no-landing policy and even the scientists and wardens looking after the birds are limited to a crew of just eight per visit.

Despite this, thousands of day trippers cram onto spotter boats throughout the summer months hoping to catch a glimpse of this natural wonder, as 80,000 gannets turn a small, low lying rock in the Irish Sea, white.

A gannet in flight with seaweed in it's bill. Image by Ade Owens.

A gannet in flight off Grassholm Island by Ade Owens.

There are also plenty of other seabirds to see as well as dolphins, porpoises, minke whales and even orca which visit the area in summer.

Beneath the waves however, other larger marine creatures are equally affected by plastic pollution.

Leatherback turtles

These gentle, giants of the deep travel huge distances each year to feed in our nutrient rich Welsh waters which during the warmer months are brimming with their favourite food - jellyfish.

Unfortunately, plastic bags resemble jellyfish to unsuspecting leatherback turtles which consume them in large quantities, eventually dying as their intestines become entangled with plastic.

According to the Marine Conservation Society, over 170 species of marine wildlife have been recorded as mistaking marine litter for food, resulting in starvation, poisoning and fatal stomach blockages.

Plastic bags

On 1 October 2011, Wales became the first UK country to introduce a charge for single use carrier bag and it is hoped that over time we'll start to see a decline in plastic related deaths in the seas around Wales.

The Welsh government is keen to follow Ireland's example of a 90% reduction in carrier bag use, however there are still exemptions for bags on board ships, trains, aircraft, coaches and buses.

A small team from RSPB and Autumnwatch team landed on Grassholm Island to film the gannet's plastic nests which will be featured in BBC Autumnwatch on Friday, 11 November.

Read the RSPB Ramsey Island blog - Gannet Rescue Mission.

Clocks go back this weekend

Post categories:

Derek Brockway Derek Brockway | 14:25 UK time, Friday, 28 October 2011

It's been a changeable month weather-wise as you'd expect at this time of year.

It started off with a heatwave and record breaking temperatures on 1 October followed by rain, gales and flooding in Pembrokeshire but apart from a little frost it's been mild. In fact this October will be one of the warmest since records began.

We're enjoying plenty of sunshine today but there is a change on the way over the weekend.

It's going to turn milder. The wind will pick-up as well with rain and drizzle on the way.

By the look of it Halloween could turn out wet and breezy with the rain clearing to leave Tuesday bright and breezy with scattered showers.

More wet and windy is on the cards for Wednesday and some heavy rain is likely with strong to gale force winds.

Don't forget that British summer time ends this weekend - the clocks go back by one hour early on Sunday morning but on the plus side that does mean an extra hour in bed!


Welsh coast: 'a must-see destination'

Post categories:

Martin Aaron Martin Aaron | 10:29 UK time, Friday, 28 October 2011

Accolades for our stunning Welsh coastline just keep on coming.

The travel bible - Lonely Planet have just announced that Wales is a 'must-see destination for 2012', highlighting the All Wales Coastal Path as a potentially huge crowd puller in their top ten regions for 2012.

The path aims to create a continuous 850 mile path around the entire Welsh coast by the summer of 2012 and will bring a huge boost to local economies as tourists and walkers flock to enjoy the scenery.

Wales will then be the only country in the world where you can do this.

Barafundle Beach, on the Pembrokeshire Coast by Arwyn Harris

Barafundle Bay, on the Pembrokeshire Coast by Arwyn Harris.

Lonely Planet's Tom Hall explained: "As well as the novel ability to walk its entire coastline, the region comes out top because of its wildlife, great surf, castles and fantastic spots such as Barafundle Bay and St Davids.

All this comes as no surprise to anyone living in or regularly visiting Wales, as we've been shouting about it for years! Take a look at our beach and coastal photos.

Back in 2010 Rhossilli Bay on Gower won the best beach at the Great British Beach Awards swiftly followed by a 2011 win for Three Cliffs Bay on Gower in 2011.

Meanwhile, the Pembrokeshire coast was honoured by the prestigious National Geographic in 2010 as the 'second best coastal destination in the world' to visit. Not bad when you consider it was up against countries such as New Zealand, Hawaii and Chile.

Check out some amazing coastal walks from our BBC Wales Weatherman Walking series and find plenty of 'wildlife friendly' places to visit in our Places to Go section. We've also got some great beach guides for surfers.

You can read more about this story on BBC News.

RSPB: Feed the Birds Day

Post categories:

Martin Aaron Martin Aaron | 10:03 UK time, Friday, 28 October 2011

As the weather starts to cool down, RSPB Cymru are urging people to feed the birds and this weekend sees the launch of Feed the Birds Day, on Saturday 29 October.

As the clocks go back and green leaves turn to golden brown, the extra food, water and shelter we provide for birds and other garden wildlife could make the difference between life and death.

RSPB Cymru suggests calorie rich foods like mixed seed, nyjer seed and peanuts. Kitchen scraps are also good too - mild grated cheese, cooked rice and pasta, unsalted bacon and cooked potatoes will give birds the energy they need during the winter months.

A supply of water is also essential for bathing and preening. Birds need to keep their feathers in top condition to ensure they insulate effectively and a dip in a clean bird bath is just what they need.

Garden plants are important too and a few inexpensive wildlife friendly plants such as honeysuckle or bushes rich in fruit like rowan and hawthorn will provide extra food and shelter.

Quick bird cake recipe:

  • Melt or soften some suet or lard in a pan
  • Mix in some or all of the following; seeds, nuts, dried fruits, finely chopped bacon rind
  • Place in a container with some string threaded through so that half the string is inside the container and half outside (for example a plastic cup)
  • Leave the mixture to cool
  • Once hardened, hang up container by the string

RSPB Cymru and volunteers will be holding several Feed the Birds Day events this weekend with activities such as bird cake making and nest box building. Here are a few around Wales:

North Wales
National Slate Museum Padarn Country Park on 27 - 28 October. Family activities and fundraising.

Denbigh Plum Festival on Saturday 29 October; RSPB stand at the event offering advice.

RSPB Glaslyn Osprey Site near Porthmadog will be holding daily family activities between 14 - 30 October.

Fron Goch Garden Centre, Caernarfon Feed the Birds Day on Saturday 29 October at. Advice and information about how to feed your garden birds and how to attract them to your garden.

Portmeirion - Feed the Birds Day / Woodland Feast on Tuesday 25 October and Wednesday 26 October from 11am - 3.30pm. Join RSPB staff for a fun day in the woodland and make bird feeders, enjoy a woodland walk, learn about woodlands and watch the birds on the feeders at the screen. Cost: Entrance fee to Portmeirion, check the website for discount offers.

South WalesMargam Park on Tuesday 25 October RSPB West Glamorgan Local Group will be running activities encouraging the public to use binoculars to look at wildlife.

Blooms Garden Centre in Cardiff on Saturday 29 and Sunday 30 October RSPB Cymru staff will be at on hand to give talks at 11am and 1pm on both days about how to attract birds to your garden, feeding garden birds, what flowers birds like etc.

Mid WalesForestry Commission Wales Bwlch Nant yr Arian site near Ponterwyd - Saturday 29 October from 11am - 2pm. What's on my feeder event where children can learn to identify the birds they see on feeders and what they like to eat, make bird feeders, a talk on feeding the red kites at 2.30pm and watch the red kites get fed at 3pm. Cost: free (car park charges £1.50 apply). Age group: Families

RSPB Lake Vyrnwy on Saturday 29 October join RSPB Cymru staff and volunteers to make feeders and bird cake 1pm - 3pm. Cost: children non-members £2.50, WEX and Phoenix members £1.50, special offer if you join the RSPB on the day, the event is free for the whole party

Risk of flooding

Post categories:

Derek Brockway Derek Brockway | 13:03 UK time, Monday, 24 October 2011

There's a big contrast in the weather across Wales today - The north east dry but the south west very wet and some torrential rain, especially in Pembrokeshire. The Met Office has issued an amber alert.

As much as 50 to 100 mm of rain, (2 to 4 inches), is likely over the next six hours or so with a risk of flooding and treacherous driving conditions. To give you an idea of how much rain is likely, the October average rainfall for Tenby is 131.3 mm.

The flood-line number is 0845 988 1188 or take a look at the Environment Agency's website.

The rain will spread north this evening and clear so it will be turning much drier overnight with the wind easing.

Tomorrow will bring a mixture of sunny intervals and scattered showers. Some of the showers will be heavy with a risk of thunder. Top temperatures 13 to 15 Celsius with a south to south-easterly breeze.

It's a similar story for Wednesday with more persistent rain coming on Thursday although it's possible that  the far north and west may escape.

Friday should be dry with some mist and fog patches in the morning.


Snow shovels selling

Post categories:

Derek Brockway Derek Brockway | 17:19 UK time, Friday, 21 October 2011

A lot of people are wondering what this winter is going to be like. Many have heard it's going to be a hard winter, possibly the coldest on record.

I've heard that one supermarket is already selling snow shovels, the councils are stocking up on grit and no doubt a few people have considered buying winter tyres in case its snowy.

The talk of another severe winter has largely been fuelled by the media, especially some tabloid newspapers, with sensational headlines warning of an imminent 'Arctic blast' and even a 'mini Ice Age'.

Apparently newspaper stories predicting extreme weather can boost sales by around 10 % but predictions of snow and icy conditions this month have not yet materialises.

Yes, we have had a cold snap recently with hail and snow falling on the mountains, especially in Scotland, but this is not unusual for time of year.

This winter could turn out to be cold but there are no guarantees. Also, if it was cold that would make it the fourth colder than average winter in a row in the UK which is unusual.

The latest seasonal forecast charts from the European Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecasting (ECMWF) in Reading suggests this winter will be drier and slightly milder than average but that doesn't rule out a few cold snaps with at least some frost and snow.

My gut feeling is that it will be colder than average but not as cold as last winter. We shall have to wait and see to find out whose right and whether or not it would be worth buying a snow shovel or extra tins of soup.


October walking festivals

Post categories:

Martin Aaron Martin Aaron | 09:00 UK time, Friday, 21 October 2011

This year's Monmouthshire Walking Festival takes place from October 22 - 31October .

The festival features a selection of 30 walks over 10 days, showcasing the best walks in Monmouthshire.

The walks all vary in length and difficulty and are all led by qualified and experienced walkers.

Check out the full walking schedule to find a suitable walk. The walks cost around £5 each and you'll need to book your place.

We recently completed a walk along a section of Offa's Dyke near Montgomery for Weatherman Walking, Series 5 which you can see in January 2012 and I have to say, it is a beautiful part of the country to walk in.

The National Trust also have a walking festival running from 22 - 30 October with walks happening across Wales.

Use the interactive map to find the best walks near you. You could try a spooky Hallowe'en trail, go on a storytelling walk or test your skills orienteering.

Weather warming for weekend

Post categories:

Derek Brockway Derek Brockway | 16:50 UK time, Thursday, 20 October 2011

The air over us recently has come from the Arctic so it's been a bit chilly. Last night was the coldest night of the autumn so far for much of Wales, with temperatures in Usk, Bala and Newbridge on Wye dropping to -1 Celsius.

Thankfully the cold snap is on its last legs and it's going to turn milder over the next few days with the wind turning into the south and south west.

So tomorrow morning you won't need to scrape the frost off your windscreen because temperatures will be well above freezing.

Plenty of cloud is expected with a few spots of light rain and drizzle, mainly in the west and the south west. Elsewhere it will be largely dry with the best chance of sunshine to the lee of high ground in parts of Powys, the north east, Monmouthshire and the Marches.

Temperatures will be higher than today, rising to 13 or 14 Celsius.

At the moment, it looks like most of the country will be dry on Saturday with some sunshine too but rain is possible in the west.

Sunday is looking more uncertain; there is a risk of some rain but it may hold-off but I should have a better idea tomorrow.

Temperatures will be higher on Sunday, 16 to 18 Celsius, but windy with strong to gale force south to south-easterly winds but good news for surfers.


From another kingdom: Fungi

Post categories:

Martin Aaron Martin Aaron | 10:07 UK time, Thursday, 20 October 2011

Despite a chill in the air, autumn is a great time for nature and not everything migrates or runs for cover.

Beneath the damp, decaying leaves lie fungi in a variety of shapes, sizes and vibrant colours.

Yesterday I attended a fungi walk at the National Botanic Gardens of Wales, followed by a live broadcast on fungi for the BBC Radio 4 series Saving Species.

It's safe to say that my knowledge of fungi has grown ten fold since yesterday and I came away with a much greater appreciation of these remarkable organisms.

There are an estimated 1.5 million species of fungi in the world, and yet we've only managed to identify around 100,000 of those which is staggering when compared with the fact that 90% of the world's plants have been accounted for.

Fungi, by it's very nature suffers from a bad press but has literally touched us all, in more ways than we realise - from brewing beer to penicillin and from cheese to chocolate - fungi has been involved.

The fly agaric was used by the Vikings as an hallucinogen before battle. Fungi is also apparently responsible for stopping the great army of Alexander The Great who it is now believed, died after eating rye bread, infected with the toxic ergot fungus.

Fungi has a huge reach - from the frozen landscapes of Antarctica to the most humid and tropical rainforests. Closer to home it's found between our toes and inside in our not so sterile fridges.

Fungi play an incredibly important role. They are the ultimate recyclers causing things to rot and decay and without them, we'd be up to our necks in all manner of unpleasantries.

Plants also benefit, providing food and shelter in return for nutrients and in areas of high pollution and toxicity it is fungi which return first, allowing plants to establish themselves on top.

It's not all goodness and light though, fungi do kill trees, create harmful and deadly bacteria and try to destroy our cereal crops with rust fungi but I'm focussing on the positive aspects today.

Wales you'll be pleased to know, is the best location for waxcap fungi in Britain which, in turn is the best in Europe.

Hay on Wye is home to an internationally rare smut fungi known as, smutty naked ladies - be careful when you enter that into a search engine!

Waxcaps are a grassland species and an excellent environmental indicator, only growing in pristine locations, untouched by man and pesticides.

Think wild meadows and country houses with vast expanses of ancient lawn - managed and mown organically for generations.

The unploughed meadows near the farm have over 20 types of waxcap fungi including the rare splendid waxcap with it's brilliant scarlet cap.

I joined Bruce Langridge his colleague Tudor Davies and a host of fungi enthusiasts for a quick woodland foray to see what was around at this time of year.

The aptly named deadman's fingers clinging to a rotting log.

The aptly named, dead man's fingers clinging to a decaying log.

To the untrained eye, the woods looked fairly devoid of any fungi but the more you look, the more you see and before long, Bruce and Tudor were producing more fungi than I could poke a rotting stick at.

Along the way we encountered turkey tails, dead man's fingers, Jew's ear, yellow brain, red coral spot and white coral fungi as well as green cup, dog stinkhorn and splash cap each with their own colourful background stories.

The dog stinkhorn, is a small thin, phallus-shaped woodland fungus, with a dark tip which begins to stink in order to attract flies to it which in turn distribute the spores.

Dog stinkhorn (phallus impudicus) by brackenb.

Dog stinkhorn (phallus impudicus) by brackenb.

In the 1800s, Charles Darwin's daughter 'Etty' found the dog stinkhorn to be so immoral in appearance that she single handedly embarked on an eradication process, encouraging people to destroy them.

Unfortunately the one we uncovered had some growing to do - around six inches, but give it a few days and it should be quite visible.

Green cup fungi was apparently used in Victorian times as a it added a nice green veneer for ornate wooden boxes and was known as Tundridge ware.

The wonderful splash cup or bird's nest fungi.

The splash cup or bird's nest fungi as they resemble tiny bird's nests filled with eggs.

The turkey tail is a common or bracket fungus that grows on the sides of logs and trees and as the name suggests, resembles an American turkey's fanned out tail.

A colourful turkey tail by Gale Jolly.

Colourful turkey tail fungi by Gale Jolly.

Jew's ear or jelly ear fungus is so named because Judas Iscariot is believed to have hanged himself from an elder tree, where they are commonly found.

Jelly ear fungus or Jew's ear by Eiona Roberts.

Jelly ear fungus or Jew's ear by Eiona Roberts.

I hope I've sparked an interest in fungi for some of you. There is so much more I could have written but the National Botanic Gardens of Wales have an excellent exhibition on at the moment entitled 'From Another Kingdom' which can tell the story of fungi far better than I can.

I'll leave you with one more startling fungi fact: The heaviest living thing on the planet is not the blue whale. It is actually the honey fungus, which can cover an area of between seven and eight hectares underground.

The team at the gardens are desperate for help in recording fungi so get in touch if you have an interest. The Llanelli Naturalists also run regular fungi walks including one this Saturday, 22 October at Lower Lliedi Reservoir from 2 pm.

The fungi episode for Saving Species on BBC Radio 4 will be broadcast on November 1 at 11 am.

Are we losing touch with nature?

Post categories:

Rachael Garside Rachael Garside | 14:41 UK time, Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Nature Deficit Disorder (NDD) is the subject taking up our time on Country Focus this week.

What's that you say? Well, quite, and as you may have already guessed - it's an American term for what medical experts are claiming is a recognisable condition, namely that people are increasingly becoming divorced from the natural world.

This all started with the publication of a book entitled Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv where the term 'Nature Deficit Disorder' (NDD) was first coined back in 2005.

Since then it's become a convenient label for a number of concerns and symptoms, ranging from behavioural problems, depression and other problems associated with low self-esteem.

And all because we're 'without meaningful contact with the natural world' apparently.

You can't deny that children in particular spend less time outdoors than a generation ago or at least less time unsupervised, mainly owing to concerns about traffic and strangers.

At the same time, there's been a huge increase in organised sport for kids as an attempt (presumably) to redress the balance but whatever happened to scampering - the art of aimless, unstructured play in the great outdoors?

The type of thing that involves climbing trees (think of the health and safety implications), handling creepy crawlies (think of the germs) and getting generally muddy (think of all the extra laundry).

With a little research into the subject, there are stories to be found about doctors writing nature prescriptions, ordering patients to go on long walks, joining green gyms and learning bush craft skills.

Outdoor play has also become a huge part of the school curriculum. When I was in primary school, we didn't even have any grass to play on, just a large concrete yard, but today the Foundation Phase is all about 'bringing the outdoors in'.

Although having said that, a recent provisional report from the Schools Inspectorate, Estyn claimed that not enough was being done to encourage outdoor learning in Wales.

Outdoor play

Outdoor play

They also stress that children under five learn better and develop quicker in outdoor lessons and that teachers could do more to create opportunities to get some fresh air into the classrooms (and vice versa).

BBC News: Estyn call for more outdoor learning in Wales.

That certainly isn't the case at Llanrhidian Primary on Gower, which I visited last week as part of my research for the programme.

The school has its very own farm, housed in an internal courtyard within the main building, complete with hay bales, chickens and ducks!

Two pupils in wellies were busy mucking out while I visited and were clearly enjoying themselves.

Head teacher Donna Caswell also showed me the school's orchard, wind turbine and even pathways covered in Penclawdd cockle shells, claiming that the whole project has transformed the life of the school.

She also told me that pupils are less anxious when they're outside and therefore learn better and faster than in an indoor environment. I was even able to buy a box of eggs on my way out, freshly laid that morning.

You can hear more on the debate surrounding 'Nature Deficit Order' on Country Focus on Sunday, 30 October.

Feel free to add your comments about this topic to the blog.

Cool and bright

Post categories:

Derek Brockway Derek Brockway | 09:48 UK time, Tuesday, 18 October 2011

The wind and rain has eased after a turbulent night and colder temperatures thank to Arctic winds.

It's still fresh today though and a good time to dig out the coat and jumper with some showers in the north which could be heavy. The winds will be strong with gusts around 45mph.

There's also a risk of hail and thunder and it's cold enough for some sleet and snow fall on the mountain tops.

The south and east will enjoy the best of the weather today with dry and bright sunshine.

Top temperatures will be lower than recently, 10 to 12 Celsius with a brisk westerly wind will making it feel chilly.

Wednesday will continue cold and breezy with further showers, mostly in the north and west.

Thursday will be a better day thanks to a ridge of high pressure bringing calmer weather and after a cold start with some ground frost, it will be dry.

On Friday, though, the wind will pick-up again bringing a few spots of rain and drizzle.

That's it for now


Nation's favourite walk

Post categories:

Martin Aaron Martin Aaron | 10:39 UK time, Monday, 17 October 2011

The National Trust have enlisted eight celebrities, including the comedian Omid Djalili, the best selling crime-writer Val McDermid and Time Team's archaeologist Francis Pryor to find the nation's favourite walk.

Representing Wales is celebrity weather presenter, Sian Lloyd who chose Powis Castle for her favourite walk.

Powis Castle, near Welshpool was left to The National Trust in 1952 by the 4th Earl of Powis. It dates back to the 12th century and was originally built by Welsh Princes.

During the Civil War, it supported the Royalist cause and was captured by Parliamentary forces in 1644. It wasn't returned to the Herbert family (who purchased it in 1587) until the restoration of the monarchy in 1661.

'Nowadays its gardens with terraces, lead statues, yew hedges and fine lawns are considered by many people to be the best in Wales'.

Sian Lloyd at Powis Castle by Richard Williams

Sian Lloyd at Powis Castle. Image by Richard Williams - National Trust.

"I think hand on heart I would have to say the redness of Powis Castle is what appeals to me" she said.

"I know it's been described as Italian terracotta, dusky pink or whatever, but forget that, Powis Castle is a red castle, especially in autumn!"

The results will be announced in the New Year so watch the video clips and add your vote.

Rugby weekend weather

Post categories:

Derek Brockway Derek Brockway | 16:42 UK time, Friday, 14 October 2011

Well, it's been mild recently but with clear skies tonight it's going to be a much cooler night than we've had to for some time. In fact in parts of Powys temperature will fall low enough for a ground frost.

Tomorrow most of the country will be fine with bright skies and sunshine but not everywhere. The north west will be cloudier and there may be some rain by the end of the afternoon.

After a cool start it will turn out mild again with top temperatures 15 to 18 Celsius, 59 to 64 F with a light to moderate south to south-easterly breeze.

Sunday will bring a change - much cloudier with a little rain or drizzle but the north and west and Powys should dry and brighten-up. Top temperatures 14 to 16 Celsius with light to moderate winds.

For those of you taking part or just watching the runners in the Cardiff Half Marathon on Sunday. The weather doesn't look too bad - maybe a little drizzle in the morning but becoming dry and brighter.

Light winds with comfortable temperatures starting off around 12 and reaching a peak of 16 Celsius.

Next week will turn colder and windier with some rain followed by sunshine and showers.

So, Saturday the best day of the weekend and great weather for watching the rugby at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff tomorrow morning.

The weather down under in Auckland should suit the Welsh - cool and breezy with the risk of a shower with temperatures around 12 Celsius.

Have a great weekend, enjoy the rugby and the sunshine tomorrow!

Good luck to Wales. Pob lwc i Gymru


Winter visitors arrive in Wales

Post categories:

Rachael Garside Rachael Garside | 09:45 UK time, Friday, 14 October 2011

I spent a very calming couple of hours at the National Wetland Centre Wales in Carmarthenshire this week, or Penclacwydd as it's also known.

At the centre, they've just finished restoring three salt water lagoons, making it easier to spot some of our annual Winter visitors.

My guide was Dominic Carmichael who is the Learning Manager at the site and with his expertise I was able to pick out some of the many water birds across the salt marshes.

It was a misty day, with Penclacwdd only just visible on the other side of the estuary. Directly in front of us but some distance away was a little egret, a member of the heron family, standing alone waiting for the tide to go out so that he could start feeding.

Watch a clip of the reserve on BBC Wales Nature & Outdoors.

Also present were black-tailed godwits which the centre is renowned for - stopping off in West Wales as they make their way South from Iceland for the winter.

Black-tailed godwits in flight by Tony Llewellyn.

Black-tailed godwits in flight by Tony Llewellyn.

We also spotted a flock of dunlins, swooping low in formation across the water. It was very peaceful experience with only the sound of the birds to be heard.

I'm reliably informed that staff at the centre also see kingfishers and even spoonbills regularly and are convinced that the refurbished lagoons are already helping to attract more birds.

The salt water also attracts all-important invertebrates which provide a valuable food source. The only problem is being posed by a resident peregrine falcon who is terrorising the smaller visitors.

A little egret landing by Martin Pulling.

A little egret landing by Martin Pulling.

One top tip from Dominic to anyone visiting the Wetland Centre is to check the tide times before you set out as high tide is best and could make all the difference.

Here's a few bird numbers counted on the restored lagoons so far this autumn:

160 little egret, 500 black-tailed godwit, 340 redshank, 150 lapwing, 850 curlew, 58 greenshank.

Rarer birds spotted included great white egret, wood sandpiper, garganey, ruff, little stine and kingfishers.

Sheep rustling on the rise

Post categories:

Rachael Garside Rachael Garside | 11:23 UK time, Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Sheep rustling is on the increase and becoming a big problem for farmers in Wales.

I know this after making a radio series earlier this year about rural crime and discovering that as the economy nose-dives, criminals are becoming more organised and more audacious.

I spoke to one farmer, (who didn't want to be interviewed) who told me that he'd lost around 100 of his sheep last year - taken off the mountain where they were grazing - resulting in significant financial losses.

It's hard to imagine how anyone could steal that many animals without anyone noticing?

You'd have to have proper transport, somewhere to take them and someone who knows what they're doing to slaughter them. But meat prices are high at the moment and a whole lamb can sell for around £75.

This week, 80 sheep have been stolen from common land in Mid Wales and police in the Beacon Hill area of Radnorshire are asking for anyone with information to come forward.

Figures also show that rustling doubled in the first six months of this year across the UK.

Sheep portrait by Photography King on Flickr.

Sheep portrait by Photography King on Flickr.

Police and Trading Standards Officers are asking people to 'remain vigilant' but it's difficult to know how to tackle the problem.

One of the difficulties is keeping an eye on livestock and to catch any rustlers in the act. After all, you can't install CCTV high up in the hills.

We've tried looking at this issue on Country Focus, but again found that people are extremely reluctant to talk publicly about the problem.

I remember seeing a news report about a farmer in the Yorkshire Dales who got so fed up at losing his stock to thieves, that he sprayed his entire flock a bright orange.

Another suggestion from the farming unions is to make gates into fields narrower, so that access is harder - but again, that means extra cost for the farmers.

The rural equivalent of Neighbourhood Watch, called Farmwatch is drawing more members as these incidents increase.

At the moment, there are schemes covering large areas of rural Wales from Anglesey to the Ogmore Vale, using the latest technology to help combat rural crime.

If anyone notices a suspect vehicle for example, they can contact the local police who then send out a text message to all the Farmwatch members in the area to alert them to a potential problem.

There's a common assumption that farming does well during war or recession but I doubt that farmers who've lost livestock recently would agree.

Mini Ice Age for Britain?

Post categories:

Derek Brockway Derek Brockway | 15:23 UK time, Monday, 10 October 2011

The Welsh Rugby team may be on top form at the moment but the weather certainly isn't!

I was in Bryngarw Country Park yesterday doing a charity walk organised by the Lions Club of Bridgend.

It was damp and windy but despite the drizzle it was pretty mild and a good number turned out with plenty of smiling faces.

You may have read recently that Britain is about to be plunged into a mini Ice Age for the first time in 300 years. Well don't panic! I don't think we are...but it makes a great headline.

It's all based on a link between sunspots and how these may affect pressure patterns, the position of the jet stream and temperature.

Cold winters and ultra violet emissions - an article on BBC News.

A dip in the 11 year sunspot cycle could be responsible for cold winters over parts of the US and Europe. However, this is only one of many factors such as La Nina in the Pacific Ocean which could influence our winter weather.

Sunspots move in cycles with highs and lows. We are now in a period of increasing solar activity compared to recent winters which would on its own suggest milder winters in the UK than of late.

Also the suggested mechanism does not alter global temperatures. It simply suggests an influence on circulation patterns such as the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) or the Arctic Oscillation (AO) and how they distribute heat around the globe, with some parts, e.g. Canada and southern Europe, tending to be warmer during an inactive sun.

Both the NAO and AO are connected and affect our weather patterns. If they go into a negative phase, which they did last winter, this suggests that the jet stream will move to the south of us.

High pressure is then likely to build over Scandinavia and Greenland with Britain exposed to very cold air from the Arctic or continental Europe.

It will be interesting to see how this winter pans out but I know some people will be keeping a close eye on the NAO and the AO and hoping for another cold winter with more snow and ice.


The daily grindstone

Rachael Garside Rachael Garside | 08:57 UK time, Friday, 7 October 2011

Where do you buy your daily bread?

Chances are, it's in the supermarket which is where most of us by now reach for a loaf of sliced white during the weekly shop.

But imagine a time when you could stroll down to your local shop and buy bread baked locally using flour ground in a local mill. Well it's still possible in the village of Llanrhystud in Ceredigion where I visited Felin Ganol mill this week.

Ann and Andrew Parry bought the mill five years ago and set about lovingly restoring it to its former glory - wading through layers of flour dust and cobwebs as they went.

The machinery was mostly in good order and Andrew who previously worked in IT took on the huge task of refurbishing the woodwork and mending the millstones to bring the mill and all its workings back to life.

As luck would have it, Ann is a retired cereal pathologist (both worked previously at the Institute of Grassland and Environmental Research at Aberystwyth University) so her background was also put to good use as they sourced wheat to start their work at the grindstone.

We have to keep reminding ourselves that this is still a hobby' Ann told me as the machinery chugged along gently in the background.

It's a very hypnotic process to watch - from the water wheel gushing outside with water from the River Wyre to the cogs turning, the grain going into the hopper and eventually the soft, powdery flour pouring down the chute into large white paper sacks.

The couple got a bit frustrated trying to source wheat, so joined forces last year with Aberystwyth University to take part in a wheat-growing trial, which produced its first harvest this time last year and led to the 'Ceredigion flour' that the mill now produces.

This coincides with a recent article in the Welsh Government's 'Gwlad' magazine encouraging more farmers to consider growing wheat in Wales.

There was a time when there would have been many mills across the country, all grinding local grain but it's another tradition that seems to have disappeared.

When you think about it, there is something slightly insane about importing wheat from Kazakhstan to make bread in Wales - something that would have been unthinkable just a few decades ago.

But then there are people like the Parrys who are both indulging their passion and embarking on a mission to bring food production back to its roots and drastically reducing food miles at the same time.

They had a lot of help and advice from the Welsh Milling Society and are hoping to gradually expand their output, while spreading the word through their mill tours.

Because at the end of the day, there's nothing more basic than our daily bread.

You can hear more about my visit to Felin Ganol on Country Focus this week on BBC Radio Wales this Sunday at 7am.

You can also visit the mill by prior appointment. Email for more information.

What a difference a cold front makes

Post categories:

Derek Brockway Derek Brockway | 16:40 UK time, Thursday, 6 October 2011

Well, what a difference a week and a cold front makes!

Last Thursday it was hot and sunny with temperatures reaching 23 Celsius in Snowdonia whereas today it was only 10 Celsius.

Our correspondent Iolo af Dafydd took this photo on the A5 near Capel Curig today. It looks like snow but it's actually hail which we can get at any time of the year - even in the summer.


It's chilly and windy today with gales on some coasts and hills and gusts of 50 to 55 mph.

Tomorrow will be a better day with less wind and a few showers but most of the showers will be in the north and west. Powys might also get some rain too but not as heavy as today.

The south east will be drier with the best of the sunshine and top temperatures between 12 - 14 Celsius and a north-westerly breeze. Friday night will be dry but on Saturday it's all change.

A bright start in the south east but clouding over with some rain and drizzle. Most of the rain will be on the high ground in the north and west with the wind picking-up but it should turn milder.

The Hay on Wye Walking Festival starts tomorrow and runs until Sunday, 9 October. A little rain is likely on Saturday afternoon but it'll be wetter on Sunday, so keep the waterproofs handy!


The soil needs a top up

Post categories:

Derek Brockway Derek Brockway | 16:37 UK time, Wednesday, 5 October 2011

After a drier than normal winter, spring was the warmest on record with the driest March and April since 1976.

Rainfall during the summer was close to average in Wales (, 11 inches) but amounts of rain varied across the country with some places drier than others.

The latest soil-moisture deficit graphic, from the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, shows the extent of the dry ground conditions in the south and east of the UK with some areas suffering from a drought.

But it's a different story in Eastern Scotland which had its second wettest summer since 1910.

The latest soil-moisture deficit graphic, from the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology.

The latest soil-moisture deficit graphic, from the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology.

In parts of Powys, north east Wales, Monmouthshire and on Gower the ground is as dry as the Midlands and south east England.

So although some people will be hoping for another 'Indian summer', many farmers will be hoping for more rain this autumn and winter to replenish ground water and top up river levels.

The next few days will bring some rain and heavy showers. Strong to gale force winds as well and it will turn colder for a time.


The soil needs a top up

Post categories:

Derek Brockway Derek Brockway | 16:37 UK time, Wednesday, 5 October 2011

After a drier than normal winter, spring was the warmest on record with the driest March and April since 1976.

Rainfall during the summer was close to average in Wales (, 11 inches) but amounts of rain varied across the country with some places drier than others.

The latest soil-moisture deficit graphic, from the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, shows the extent of the dry ground conditions in the south and east of the UK with some areas suffering from a drought.

But it's a different story in Eastern Scotland which had its second wettest summer since 1910.

The latest soil-moisture deficit graphic, from the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology.

The latest soil-moisture deficit graphic, from the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology.

In parts of Powys, north east Wales, Monmouthshire and on Gower the ground is as dry as the Midlands and south east England.

So although some people will be hoping for another 'Indian summer', many farmers will be hoping for more rain this autumn and winter to replenish ground water and top up river levels.

The next few days will bring some rain and heavy showers. Strong to gale force winds as well and it will turn colder for a time.


Incy wincy spider

Post categories:

Rachael Garside Rachael Garside | 15:47 UK time, Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Forget Big Brother and welcome a whole host of other housemates into your home as spider season is officially here.

The Guardian newspaper proudly announced this week 'owing to a dismal summer, the 2011 domestic spider season promises to be the best yet'. Great news!

Actually, I'm not in the least bit arachnophobic and have never understood the problem with them, especially after watching Charlotte's Web with the children.

But there will be plenty of people quaking in fear at the thought of an invasion of eight-legged invertebrates climbing into their nooks and crannies.

A beautiful garden spider by Keith Evans.

A beautiful garden spider by Keith Evans.

I went to brush my teeth the other night and was greeted by two enormous spiders in the bath - properly huge, complete with hairy legs and winsome smiles!

There's a great website to help identify British spiders - and having looked at the photos, I think I saw were cardinal spiders - named after Cardinal Wolsey who was allegedly terrified of them.

Also, contrary to popular belief, spiders don't climb up plug holes (incy wincy spider), they end up in the bath after falling from above and can't escape due to the enamel surface of the bath.

House spider by Charles Dawson.

Charles Dawson with a house spider which apparently tried to run up his sleeve just after this shot was taken.

The reason there are so many spiders around currently is because: September is the start of their mating season, (so they're actually looking for love) and a warm spring and dreary summer has meant greater numbers this year.

There are 640 species of spider in the UK and according to the Natural History Museum, 12 British breeds are capable of biting humans, although only one, the false widow spider can actually do any harm to us.

The Museum also sensibly points out that no-one has ever died of a spider bite in the UK.

So what's the point of spiders? Well, they're actually very important to the ecosystem and when they come into our homes looking for shelter this month, will helpfully eat lots of other creepy crawlies during their stay.

Disposal methods

And as for how to dispose of them - there's a multitude of advice and opinions on this subject but I went for the 'grab in a piece of kitchen roll and fling out of the window' approach with mine..

However, it seems that a glass covered with paper or card is the preferred method of choice for showing spiders the door.

So, next time you see a spider looking for a quiet corner in your home - maybe it's not such a bad idea to consider taking on a temporary lodger?

Amazing start to October

Post categories:

Derek Brockway Derek Brockway | 15:27 UK time, Monday, 3 October 2011

Well, what an amazing start to October with blue skies, sunshine and toasty temperatures - hotter than Athens, Greece!

On Saturday I was in Brecon at the Food Festival and it was baking hot. In fact temperature records were broken at Hawarden in Flintshire, where the thermometer reached 28.2 Celsius, 82 Fahrenheit.

On the Great Orme looking towards Snowdonia and Anglesey by Richard Walliker, Denbighshire.

On the Great Orme looking towards Snowdonia and Anglesey by Richard Walliker, Denbighshire.

John Goodger who runs a weather station at Velindre near Glasbury in Powys recorded his highest temperature of the year at 27.2 Celsius, 11 degrees above normal.

Temperatures are above average again today, 17 to 24 Celsius but the autumn heatwave is on its last legs and it's going to turn noticeably cooler and more unsettled over the next few days. The wind will be picking-up and bringing some rain and drizzle, especially on Wednesday.

Sunrise over Mumbles lighthouse on October 1 by Tony Buckley.

Sunrise over Mumbles lighthouse on October 1 by Tony Buckley.

Thursday and Friday will be brighter with a mixture of sunshine and showers but there will be a further drop in temperature with brisk north-westerly winds making it feel chilly.

Highs only 12 to 14 Celsius, 54 to 57 Fahrenheit and snow is likely on the Scottish Mountains.

View from Aran Fawddwy over Aran Benllyn, Llyn Tegid and Lake Bala by Ieuan Roberts, Lampeter.

View from Aran Fawddwy over Aran Benllyn, Llyn Tegid and Lake Bala by Ieuan Roberts, Lampeter.

So, after a several days of unusually warm weather and record breaking temperatures it's back to normal this week but we've had a good run.

It's made winter a little shorter and for those of you who don't like the heat, the change to cooler weather will come as a welcome relief.


Live 'n' Deadly at Margam Park

Rachael Garside Rachael Garside | 09:20 UK time, Monday, 3 October 2011

It's not every day you see a reticulated python, a tarantula, an eagle owl and a harris hawk on a visit to Margam Park near Port Talbot, but then it's not every day that the Live 'n' Deadly show rolls into town.

There was plenty to see and do from zorbing in plastic bubbles on the lake to pond dipping and all kinds of wildlife to see.

Kids 'zorbing' on the lake at Margam Park.

Kids 'zorbing' on the lake at Margam Park.

Yesterday, in the searing heat under a cloudless sky, thousands of over-excited children and their parents gathered to see the star of the show, Steve Backshall and the team, display their passion for wildlife.

If you're not an avid viewer of the CBBC channel then all this may be a mystery to you, but the Live 'n' Deadly and Deadly 60 programmes have become a phenomenon for the under 12's, and all due to the boundless enthusiasm of their presenter, wildlife expert Steve Backshall.

Steve Backshall with a reticulated python around his neck.

Steve Backshall with a reticulated python around his neck.

He was greeted on stage in the live show like a rock star, children screaming and cheering as the road show tours the country, making its one stop in Wales at Margam Park.

The show began with a stark warning about not keeping any wild animals as pets before a parade of creatures were brought out on stage by Steve and introduced to the audience.

We saw an eagle owl, a poisonous centipede, two harris hawks, an eagle, alligator snapping turtle (with the strongest bite of any creature on the planet), and an impressive reticulated python, which lost no time in winding itself around the presenter's arm. Never mind the animals, the crowd went wild!

Steve with a beautiful eagle owl.

Steve with a beautiful eagle owl on his arm.

According to the activity packs we collected to take home, the purpose of the event was to inspire children to get outside and closer to wildlife.

It's a noble cause in an age of computer games and social networking and what a brilliant way to go about it.

My boys loved it and judging from the response of the crowd, they weren't alone.

At the end of the live show, Steve asked if anyone had any questions but before he took them, he told us the answers to the questions he gets asked the most.

His favourite animal is a wolf, favourite place is the Himalayas, then he covered a whole host of subjects from endangered species to 'what's the rarest animal in the world' (answer - George a tortoise on the Galapagos Islands who is literally the last of his kind) and how many suckers does an octopus have? (answer - no two are the same so it varies).

The only down side to the event was the sheer number of people attending - you had to queue for everything, apart from the main show which was ticketed so there were quite a few tired and overheated children around.

But it didn't spoil the day. We made our way home having caught the sun and the wildlife bug and as the TV programme says 'be wild and stay deadly'....

If you went to the road show then I'd love to hear what you enjoyed about the big day - please leave your comments below.

More from this blog...

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.