Trip reports

Indoor Meeting - Developments on the WWT Reserve at Llanelli

little egret, wading, water

Friday, 14 September 2012

Nigel Williams has been the Manager of WWT Llanelli for 8 or 9 years but began volunteering 21 years ago when the reserve opened. He explained that the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust was founded by Peter Scott at Slimbridge. His career could have taken him in a number of directions he used to shoot geese, became a famous artist and represented Britain in the Olympic Games in sailing.

The Llanelli reserve was developed on council land, that they were not sure what to do with. Peter visited and fell in love with the area. When the WWT took over the site it was low grade farmland, although 200 years ago it would have been salt marsh. However a sea wall had been built and the land drained. The Trust created a number of saline lagoons. These are unique, fast declining habitat. The estuary contains internationally important numbers of oystercatchers, pintail and shoveler.

A relatively new area of the reserve is the Millennium Wetlands. Before work started the wildlife was surveyed and one of the largest populations of water voles in Wales was found. Contractors were brought into dig ponds however it was essential to preserve the voles' habitat by keeping the original hedgerows and ditches. The contractors normally built roads and when they saw the plans said they did not do curves! However they adapted to a new way of working and produced a natural looking area. Welsh Water donated drainage pipes to the reserve and some surplus ones have been stood on end to create barn owl towers. Barn owls have used these to breed successfully.

Climate change may be affecting birds on the reserve. Cold weather drives waders and wildfowl west to the reserve but mild temperatures mean fewer birds arrive. At the same time birds from warm areas are appearing. In 1996 three little egrets arrived and were a real rarity, since then they have become much more common. Spoonbills have also become much more common and may over winter.

The WWT sites contain many captive birds which are important in conservation of species, as they may be released back into the wild. One of the iconic species is the Hawaiian goose which was threatened by introduced rats and mongoose. Another species is the New Zealand blue duck threatened due to hydroelectric power dams and competition for food with introduced brown trout. Nigel also mentioned the spoon-billed sandpiper which we will learn more about next year.

The group are looking forward to visiting Llanelli on Sunday 21st October.