Latest news from Kites and Dippers
February 21st 2015
Our group planted 100 alder buckthorn on the reserve today. These bushes are the food for the brimstone butterfly.
News for 2014
This year has been another great one for RSPB Cwm Clydach Kites and Dippers. To kick it off, the children made bird boxes and decorated them using a pyrography kit (burning shapes into the wood). These fantastic looking homes were then placed around the car park of the Welsh Assembly Building to ‘give nature a home’ even closer to our politicians.
In March, I was successful in obtaining a grant from ‘Keep wales tidy’ and the group members were even more successful in using the grant money. Those of you who regularly visit Cwm Clydach nature reserve may have noticed the stone planters built into the wall of the driveway to the car park. This is what we made, and the children planted them with a variety of shade loving plants that were thriving during the summer. We made those planters to encourage pollinator species and other insects, so all we had left to do was build a home for them! On the same session as the planting, the group walked up the reserve, to the first large clearing and collected items of wood/stone/cardboard etc. to stuff inside our ‘Bug hotel’.
In the Easter holidays, we spent a day making thirteen plant boxes in Craig-Cefn-Parc welfare hall, and dispersing these around the village along with smelly compost and wild flower seeds (kindly granted to us by Kew gardens ‘Grow wild project’). Everyone thoroughly enjoyed the day and the wild flowers were in bloom over the summer, with some still flowering at the end of October.
Back in July I nominated one of the committed teenage members, Scott aged fifteen, for Swansea’s High 5 award: Environment category. Scott stands out because of his hard working nature, readiness to work and general get-up-and-go spirit to any task given to him. He regularly helps out at Kites and Dippers as well as extra activities that older members take part in e.g. nest box monitoring. Scott went on to win the award in October.
We’ve had another busy nesting season this year! The group has forty boxes dotted around the reserve that we check upon once a week. This year we had a grand total of seventeen Blue tits and four Great tit nests which fledged successfully and only two nests failed (sadly).
Hope you all have another great wildlife year,
Ben Rees, young leader.
Swansea High 5 Award 2014
We are very please that Scott Havard-Morris won this years ‘High 5 Award’ environment section. Ben (young leader) nominated him for this award in reconition for all the hard work and committment to the RSPB and our wildlife group.
Kites and Dippers Cave Camp Blog June 2014
The RSPB team in Cardiff were brain storming idea’s for a “Big Wild Sleepout “ event and came up with the idea of sleeping in Dan Yr Ogof caves. After discussing who they should offer this experience to, they decided that the Cwm Clydach Kites and Dippers Wildlife group was definitely crazy enough to do it….although we prefer to call ourselves adventurous.
Skipping over all the planning and organising, Ashford (the cave owner) kindly agreed that we could indeed sleep in “Cathedral Cave”, and on Friday 20th June we found ourselves running around unpacking outside Cathedral Cave!
It has been commented on how organised and productive the group were as a team, but I can tell you now it was a mess for the first couple of hours; a fun organised mess but a mess all the same. I was running around (no literally I was actually running) telling people what they needed to do and grabbing people to come and help. Whilst another leader and I were doing this everyone knuckled down to help by carrying all the equipment up the steep path from the car park, pumping up air beds or cooking food (sausage casserole, chilli and cowboy casserole. Yummy!) down a bit from the cave in an opening surrounded by dinosaurs and a pond.
After eating our last helpings of food (I had four!) we grabbed whatever we needed and made our way down through the dinosaurs, whom against the darkening sky looked surprisingly real, down to the stone circle by Dan Yr Ogof campsite. We then walked up the steep mountain path where lots of little insects were jumping in the bushes and arrived at the bottom of Cwm Haffes. We had a group photo at the top of the hill while enjoying the wonderful view looking down the valley over Craig Y Nos Castle. I began to tell the children about how the caves were formed but stopped soon after starting as I started to choke on the millions of midges around our faces. We crossed the partially dried up river and one of the children spotted a pool full of tadpoles. Whilst walking down the farm path back towards the road, one of the girls found an interesting spider much to the dislike of her mum. As we entered back through the front gates of Dan Yr Ogof we were greeted by the whizzing swallows calling above the heads of emu’s in the field.
The whole group trudged back up the hill to the car park where Tim Wort (RSPB) showed us how to put a mammal trap together. After they were handed out to each child we met Eric Hawkeswood who would be our bat guide for the evening. Eric gave us a small talk and then handed out bat detectors for the older children to hold. We then walked down to an open area of grassland next to a pond and some trees and placed our mammal traps. We then carried on walking towards the bridge entering Craig Y Nos country park followed by some friendly shire horses. We sat down next to the bridge and heard some common and soprano pipistrelles much to everyone’s delight. We then continued walking to the duck pond in the country park where we were able to see loads of bats twisting and diving, silhouetted against the evening sky.
After walking all the way back to Dan Yr Ogof and saying thank you to Eric we set up a fire in the area we previously cooked at and ate hot dogs and drank hot chocolate while roasting marshmallows and chocolate tiffin. Once Claire finished reading a couple of stories to the group we were all thoroughly tired so with our bellies full we said good bye to the outside world and entered the cave.
Someone had already brought the air beds in so when we went in all we had to do was find them and then snuggle up in our sleeping bags. To our surprise the cave felt surprisingly warm when we went in as it keeps a constant temperature at 10 degrees whereas the clear night outside had gone very cold. As we settled down with drips of water falling on us and stalactites dangling above us, two of the boys Will and Ben Walsh entertained us with a hand shadows puppet show. Then everyone turned their lights out and slowly started to drift off to sleep.
We woke up at about 4 o’clock in the morning and considering that we only went to bed at 1 o’clock some people weren’t so keen at first. But once we left the entrance of the cave and felt the soft breeze on our skin and the smell of damp leaves and plants in our noses we felt slightly revives….well I did anyway! We then had quite a lot of chocolate croissants and juice before heading down to the stone circle to see the sun rise for the summer solstice. I walked a little bit ahead so that I could give them all a bit of a surprise. After walking down the hill and over the shinning dewy grass I hid behind a stone and waited for Tim to give a big cough to signal that everyone was there. I had already put a cloak on and my hood up and I walked over to them and asked them what they thought they were doing on a druids land! We sat there for a bit but unfortunately we couldn’t see the sunrise as a thick band of mist over the eastern horizon was shading in form view but we enjoyed listening to the birds singing for the dawn chorus. Jo one of our leaders then said that she would teach us an ancient ritual dance that the Celts used to do, I think she tricked us a bit as it was the hokey cokey that she taught us!
Once our dance was finished we walked down to our mammal traps and the first one we came to we had caught a little wood mouse. Unfortunately none of the others had caught anything so we strolled back up to the cave entrance and ate freshly made bacon sandwiches. Some of us went up the path towards bone cave and saw that the valley beneath all the dinosaurs was alight with the golden rays of the morning sun. It was a lovely morning except that we were still being munched on by millions of midges!
Tim then helped the younger children with pond dipping in the dinosaur pond where they found newts and dragon fly larvae while everyone else carried all the equipment back down the steep path to the car park.
To organise an event like this it takes a lot of background planning and team work from the RSPB, Club Leaders, parents and the children themselves. But I think it is important to thank everyone who sponsored us either by form of on our just giving page http://www.justgiving.com/rspb-kitesanddipperscavecamp as without these sponsorships the RSPB wouldn’t be able to help “Give nature a home”. So if you think that what we did is worth your support then please go onto our page and give us a sponsor. I hope this article has made you wonder what you are going to do next year for the BWSO, but don’t worry it’s not compulsory to become cavemen for the night!
News for 2013
Kites and Dippers have certainly had a busy year as always, with how enthusiastic our young members are, it’s hard not to! Our start to 2013 was a very active one; we did a session on owls and owl pellets which I am sure the fathers who came to collect their children early were hoping that they’d be able to have a go themselves, of course we let them! We did work on the reserve which included clearing a large area of bushes and trees which made a great habitat for butterflies and birds. Fortunately our group is famed for the efficiency of our coppicing skills and we certainly got the job done quickly!
By June (GCSE’s over for me) we had all gone a bit batty and had a great time playing Bat themed games to show the group how amazing bats and their hunting technique (echolocation) really is. Our fantastically sunny summer allowed us to have a fun time down the seaside and a session in August spent buzzing around like bees smelling different scents.
One of the most memorable sessions was “animal tracks and signs” where we had fun with poo! Five different animals poo was collected by adult leaders and the children’s task was to guess which animal it belong to we also had different feathers and a snake skin to identify (fox poo is definitely the most smelly).
The teenage members of the group have been very busy with nest box monitoring in the reserve. They have 22 boxes and checked them 10 times during the breeding season. Our successful boxes fledged 1 family of Nuthatches, 4 Great tit families and 7 Blue tit families we also had some bees making a home in one of the boxes. This autumn they have had two sessions building dipper boxes for Swansea Council’s nature conservation team out of recycled plastic, we shall now be putting up the boxes under some new footbridges to replace the habitats that have been lost.
And finally a lovely evening was had by some of our group at the “Sustainable Swansea Awards” in March. The group was a finalist for the “Biodiversity Award” and I was a finalist for the “Champion Award”.
Young Leader with RSPB Cwmclydach Kites and Dippers
News for 2013
This past year has been a very successful one for Kites and Dippers with 20 children regularly turning up for the sessions. Our activities have been ranging from den building to pond dipping, planting hawthorn on the reserve to a summer camp in Pembrokeshire with a trip to Skomer island.
My highlights for our year would have to be the den building which took place on the reserve where everyone worked as a team whether big or small and all could have fun. Also the camping/Skomer island trip. We were lucky enough to see seals, porpoise and a little owl as well as loads of puffins of course.
During the winter the older members of Kites and Dippers put up 8 bird boxes on the reserve which they monitored during the spring and summer months. We had four families of blue tits and one great tit family take up residence and I am pleased to say that they all fledged successfully.
With this being only the second year that Kites and Dippers has been running, I think it goes to show that the joint effort of the leaders can create a positive outcome and will continue to do so in future years.
For this years “Birds of Prey” appeal my brother Alex and I done a 25mile sponsored bike from RSPB Cwmclydach to WWT Llanelli following the cycle paths. We managed to raise £500.
I have also recently been elected onto the RSPB Phoenix forum, which is a group of 10 teenagers from all around the UK who decide on everything to do with teenagers in the RSPB, and I am honoured to be the only representative from Wales.
RSPB Cwmclydach Kites and Dippers
WWT Llanelli 10th Nov
Sightings : Swan Shelduck Siskins lapwings Jay Kingfisher Bluetit Chaffinch Redshank Heron Pied wagtail Little egret Dunlin Coot Moorhen Woodpigeon Blackbird Hawiian geese Robin Magpie Jackdaw Greenshank Wigon Yellowhammer Hooperswan Black headed gull Pochard Dunock Snow geese Rook House martin Godldtit Dove Canadia geese
Den Building 9th June
We met in the Cwm Clydach reserve car park. While we were waiting for everyone Vicky handed out some litter pickers so we could tidy the car park area. We then made our way up the reserve climbing over a fallen tree which had blown down in a storm the previous day. We came to a nice flat area near the “beach pool” where we decided to build our den/shelter.
Ben Emma and Rhiannon constructed the frame from large lengths of wood then came the hard work of collecting lots of smaller twiggy wood before covering the whole thing with ferns etc.
Gareth also took us down to the “beach pool” to skim stones.
Our shelter stood for over a month before finally collapsing and then Ben went up and tidied up the mess into a neat pile.
Dawn Chours 12th May 2012
We all met bright early and bushy tailed at the hall at 7am for our dawn chorus walk up Mynydd Gelliwasted. It was a bright clear morning and we heard and saw a large variety of birds from Green Woodpeckers to seeing the 1st Cuckoo of the year and listening to the beautiful Skylarks overhead . We then headed back to the hall for bacon rolls and croissants and cups of tea.
The badger talk and 1st Birthday
On the 28th of April Kites and Dippers celebrated its 1st birthday. We all went to the village hall and Tony Eccott ( my farther ) gave us a talk about badgers.
5 interesting facts we learnt about badgers:
1.Badgers are in the same family of animals as the stoat and otter (mustelids).
2. A badgers home is called a sett.
3. Badgers favourite food are worms.
4. Badgers often take the same route when they go places and you can see there well worn footpaths
5. Badgers toilet is called a latrine, which is a hole dug in the ground.
Most of the audience had never seen a live badger. Unfortunately most people have seen a badger on the side of the road. Tony brought in a stuffed badger and a badger skull we could all interact with.
Then we did we did some arts and craft such as……… Making a collage of a badger on a big (well drawn) picture by matt!
After that we sat down and ate party food to celebrate kites and dippers birthday!
We all had a fab time!!:)
New Spring Life and Wild Art (10th March)
We met at Craig Cefn Parc Hall and Ben Rees had produced a power point slide show with lots of pictures of different types of bird nests. He showed us the powerpoint show using a projector and explained all about the different nests. Next we all had a go at building our own nests using twigs, moss, straw, and hay. It was great fun and very messy. After that we tidied up and started our wild art competition.
Planting in the reserve (11th Feb)
We met in the reserve carpark at 10am, Vicky had told us to wrap up warm. Dave the warden talked about the types of trees we were going to plant on the reserve. The types of tree were, hawthorn, blackthorn and alder buckthorn (which attracts a special butterfly, the brimstone). We put on gloves and Dave showed us how to make a “T” shaped cut in the ground and then gently push the roots in the ground then we had to firm the ground with our feet. In small groups we planted about 100 trees all together. We stopped for a rest and a drink and a biscuit. We had 4 larger trees to plant, these were hard work because we had to dig a very large hole. I’m very excited about the trees and I hope that we will see the butterflies.
By Rosie Dyer aged 8
Bird Boxes (28th Jan)
Over the winter I made eight bird boxes and together with some of the leaders and Will.W,Lucy and Will.H we found suitable trees to hang the boxes on within the reserve. These boxes are now going to be monitored by the Kites (phoenix) members of our group. By Ben Rees
Big Bird Watch
We met at the hall and split into two groups. Group one went to a nearby garden and they counted the birds for the survey while group two stayed in the hall. First I talked about the differences between the garden birds that they were likly to see and explained the family groups. Next we done the bird I.D. competition from the leaders guide and the we played bird top trumps. After an hour group one came back and we swapped activities. At the end of the session we compared garden bird surveys and found that group one saw the most birds. These are our results:-
- Bullfinch 2
- Robin 3
- Blue Tit 8
- Collard Dove 3
- Chaffinch 3
- Coal Tit 2
- Jackdaw 8
- House sparrow 18
- Great Tit 2
- Magpie 3
- Woodpigeon 2
- Greenfinch 2
- Blackbird 3
By Ben Rees
We had a great time at our christmas party on 10th December. We made Robin xmas cards, cut out snow flakes, and Emma one of the leaders showed us how to make star’s out of willow. I think the adults had just as mush enjoyment making the willow star’s as the children did. Then we had a great feast on party food and robin xmas cake.
Our last session of Kites and Dippers was held on November 12th 2011 at Craig Cefn Parc Welfare Hall. We were making and designing bird boxes and bird feeders. We arrived at about 10 o’clock and there were benches, tools and equipment ready waiting for us. There were also other tables set out with bird seed, pine cones and bird fat. There are a lot of children at Kites and Dippers so we had to be split into two groups. One to use the saws and cut and nail wood, the other to create bird feeders. Then we swap around. Sawing the wood was very tricky so we had to ask the adults for a hand on times. It was a great workshop. We left with amazing bird boxes, which i’m sure are hung in everyone’s garden.
By Sophie-Louise Beynon, age 11.
On Saturday 8th October, we all met up at the Cwm Clydach Reserve to go and look for fungi.
We walked through the reserve and looked around for fungi. We found lots of different types of fungi, like Shelf fungi, mushrooms with pores, mushrooms with gills and my favourite “The Match Head Mushroom” (found by me).
The weather was dull and drizzly but that didn’t dampen our spirits. We walked up the side of the valley up a beautiful path. When we were walking we saw a Buzzard a Red Kite and a Sparrow Hawk.
When we got back to the car park we all enjoyed some nice biscuits, cookies and squash while the adults had a warm cup of tea.
Practical Conservation work at Cwm Clydach on 10th September 2011
The Conservation Team
On Saturday the 10th of September, we held our first practical conservation meeting at Cwm Clydach Reserve, under the guidance of the reserve warden David Anning.
We cut back a large area of shrubby growth, which had overgrown to the left of the path, from the entrance of the reserve to the first bridge. It seemed like a lot of work to begin with, but we were surprised how quickly we cleared the area with lots of helping hands. We learned how to use shears, loppers, rakes, and clippers safely and wore protective gloves. We were rewarded by finding a toad ( who luckily escaped our shears). The weather was drizzly and showery, but we were saved by Vicky’s gazebo, under which we enjoyed a rest , a drink, some lemon cake and flapjacks made by Jo.
We are planning to keep most of the patch open, to encourage flowering plants and butterflies. In February, with David’s help, we are hoping to plant a hedge of Buckthorn, Hawthorn and Hazel at the back of the patch.
We were very pleased to be joined by Carly Jenkins, the new RSPB Education and Youth officer for Wales. Carly came down from Cardiff to meet us all and enjoyed helping with the clearing. Carly will be supporting us with educational resources and advice, also she is hoping to come along and help with the shrub planting session in February 2012.
20th August 2011
We all meet early evening and pitched our tents in a wood near the reserve, then we set up the BBQ. Some children who were unable to camp joined us for the BBQ. While waiting for the bat experts to arrive we played some games and Rhiannon and Carly set up a moth trap. The bat experts from West Glamorgan bat group then arrived and we all learnt some interesting facts about bats and echolocation. We then went for a walk up past Cathelyd Isaf farm armed with our bat dectors. We heard and saw many bats mainly pipistrelle. When we got back to camp we examined the moth trap to see what we had caught. The olders children then built a camp fire and toasted marsh mallows and cooked popcorn while Claire (Will and Bens mum) lead the way with some songs around the camp fire. A wonderful evening was enjoyed by all.
We had 6 kites and 11 dippers attend this advent.
By Ben Rees
Dawn Chorus gang
21st may 2011
The group took part in a dawn chorus walk, with local bird expert Bob Tallack. We met at the Cwmclydach reserve car park at 7am (although I think some were still half asleep!) from there we walked up the reserve. Whilst on the walk Bob stopped us and pointed out different bird songs. It was great learning bird songs because then you can work out what birds are about before seeing them. The whole group enjoyed and we hope Bob did too. When we returned to the car park, we all had croissants and fruit juice or a hot drink. Jo (one of the leaders) then tested us on what we had learnt by playing bird songs back to us and we had to identify the birds. The event was a great success as it was only our second meeting and 16 eight-eighteen year olds turned up, we now hope every meeting will go this well and would like to thank Bob for being such a wonderful guide. by Ben Rees
Dawn Chorus Birds
- Black Bird
- Blue Tit
- Chiff Chaff
- Great Spotted Woodpecker (seen)
- Great Tit
- Grey Wagtail
- Song Thrush
- Wood Pigeon
Garden birds bounce back
31 March 2011
Over 600,000 people took part in this year’s RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch, a record breaking number watching their garden birds. And their counts revealed that some of the smaller birds that decreased in numbers last year, bounced back this year.