27th February 2013 – The Friends Forum

20130207-225853.jpgThe evening started with a presentation by Dave King, events organiser for the Cardiff Rivers Group, supported by Hugh Kettle their social secretary. After an introduction, we watched a video showing some of their litter picking events and interviews with committee members and the public who were asked about their views on the CRG’s work. Dave also showed slides of volunteers hard at work at various sites in and around the City.

imageThe CRG was founded in 2009 with a mission to ‘keep rivers beautiful’ for the enjoyment and use of everyone and with a wider aim to encourage enterprise to the area and, of course, keep the rivers healthy. Their work was initially funded by Keep Wales Tidy and grants from Cardiff Council but now they are almost self funding, having partnerships with private and commercial companies. However, its not all work and no play as this 300 strong group have a very good social programme too!

CRG’s success is due to good communications with their members and publicity via social media, text, emails and local newspapers. At litterpicks the volunteers hand out business cards to interested passers-by and have a very visible profile, wearing their bright red t-shirts. It comes as no surprise that this lively and dynamic voluntary group has recently won prestigious awards from KWT in both ‘River Improvement’ category and ‘Overall Winner’ along with £500 prize money!

The Friends asked Dave about the possible negative environmental impact of some of their work and he told us that they frequently liaise with the environmental agency. On a river clean-up, they will, for example, leave a partly submerged log in the water, providing the flow is not disrupted; such obstacles offer a safe haven for aquatic wildlife.

imageMike, our Chairman followed Dave’s talk with a Powerpoint presentation on the Friends, speaking about our activities in the past year, the Restoration Project and about our plans for the future. He asked for ideas about what you wanted us to organise and talked about designing nature routes around Bute Park, with accompanying leaflets for walkers or cyclists. Jane, our Vice Chair, spoke of the wildlife monitoring that we plan to do in the Park, sending valuable data to SEWBReC. We are going to organise litter picks and balsam pulling events and we’ve already started a huge survey of the Park’s trees, renumbering them as we go, with a view to constructing a detailed tree map. Some of our members are keen to lead guided rambles at different times of year, exploring and identifying the marvellous range of plants, bugs, butterflies, flowers, lichen and fungi to be found on our own doorstep.

Compared with the CRG, the Friends of Bute Park is a relatively new venture but we are growing in number and are an enthusiastic bunch. If you love the Park as much as we do then come and join us – what would you like to do? Pick up litter? Pull up weeds? Note down wildlife? Work with rangers? Tag along on our walks? You’d be very welcome!

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Bute Park Users Survey – Have your say!

Cardiff Council has published its latest biannual survey for the many users of Bute Park online. You can find it HERE

your-country-needs-you-94-cBute Park is probably the brightest jewel in the City’s crown and we want to keep it that way! How often do you use the Park? Do you pass through on your way to work? Cycle? Walk the dog? Or do you enjoy a day out there with your family? Do you think the sign posting, services and facilities within the Park are adequate? Can you think of improvements? What do you like; what would you change? How can the Park be improved even more?

In the past couple of years so much work has been achieved with the £5.6 million restoration project, supported by a £3.1 million grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund. birdWe’ve seen the development of the Summerhouse Kiosk, a great spot for refreshments; West Lodge, which is now a gift shop ( currently being restructured) & the very popular Pettigrew Tearooms; the Education Centre within the Secret Garden Cafe and restoration of the Animal Wall & Blackfriars Friary. Work on clearing and filling the Mill Leat is scheduled to start soon. What do you think of the changes? What more can be done? Have you heard of us, the Friends of Bute Park? Do you know what we do and would you like to join us?

This is your opportunity to have your opinions heard – the Park managers do look at ALL the responses so please take a few minutes to take part – you might even win £50 of high street shopping vouchers, just for answering some questions!  Any personal information that you provide will be processed under the Data Protection Act.

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16th February 2013 – Glamorgan Recorders’ Forum

parkThe Glamorgan Recorders’ Forum was held at Rhondda Heritage Park at Trehafod. It was a full day of talks and presentations with a great many attendees from all walks of wildlife. The event was hosted by the South East Wales Biodiversity Records Centre (SEWBReC) who collate and manage wildlife records in the region. We are grateful to them for inviting us to this event.

The first talk of the day was by Chris Manley, author of ‘Moths of Trigon: Observations on a Dorset Country Estate’, copies of which Chris kindly gave away for a very small donation. Chris spoke about an app that he and others have developed for the Smartphone called ‘Butterflies of Europe’. This is described on iTunes as ‘a brilliant resource for experts and novices alike.’

Paul Seligman from Glamorgan Bird Club took us through the changes in technology which have helped him to record his sightings over the years, starting with pencil and paper (not much good in the rain!) through digital recorders and now the latest Smartphone apps. Paul described ‘Bird Track’, iSpot and the very comprehensive ‘Nature Lister’.

More presentations followed and before lunch the audience was treated to an inspirational video made by eight year old Rudi Bright whose favourite book is ‘Tarka the Otter’; Rudi is trying to see all the living organisms mentioned in the book and posts photographs of his many successful sightings on his internet blog.

After a very sociable lunch break we reconvened to hear more talks, starting with Clare Dinham from Buglife, a charity described as being ‘dedicated to the conservation of all invertebrates, passionately committed to saving Britain’s rarest little animals, everything from bees to beetles, and spiders to snails.’ Claire told us about some of Buglife’s work, including that at Kenfig National Nature Reserve here in Wales, recently featured on BBC1’s Countryfile. Kenfig have a Facebook page.

Further presentations included one by Emma Douglas on Coity Wallia Commons, a Biodiversity enhancement project which aims to restore and reconnect 1,063 hectares of priority habitats on Cefn Hirgoed and Mynydd y Gaer, commons north of Bridgend. This project has a particular emphasis on management for the Marsh Fritillary, High Brown Fritillary, Bog Bush Cricket and Shrill Carder Bee.

Mark Baber then told us about the Wales Online Amphibian and Reptile Atlas, a project which hopes to record all sightings of these creatures, particularly gathering data from areas on which there is currently little or no information. The data are collected by Cofnod, a Local Records Centre at Bangor.

These are just some of the talks that we enjoyed on Saturday. We felt that it had been time well spent and we recognised the great importance of monitoring and recording wildlife sightings, whether it be a comprehensive survey of Bute Park, or a one-man study of the beasts, birds and bugs seen in our own back gardens. All data are valuable once submitted to the local, regional and national record centres. The information not only to helps to protect, conserve and encourage wild life in Wales but also assists councils to make the right decisions when considering future developments in their area.

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Welcome to the new Friends of Bute Park website & blog!

This is the first day of a brand new website and blog and so there will be changes and additions as the site develops. Please keep coming back to see what’s new! If you have questions, suggestions or photos then please ‘leave a comment’ below and we will get back to you. Thanks!

This home page will be used for a blog of events that we have held. For announcements of events yet to come please see the ‘Events’ tab above! Here are three of our most recent:

26th January 2013 – Big Garden Bird Watch with the RSPB

Redwing_Turdus_iliacus

Redwing (courtesy Andre Trepte – Wikipedia)

This weekend we held an event for the RSPB‘s Big Garden Bird Watch. Starting with a warming cappuccino at the Secret Garden Cafe, we then went indoors to the Education Centre and greeted a good sized audience before introducing Anthony Walton (RSPB) who gave a wonderful talk on his favourite birds and told us which of them we might expect to see in the Park. One of our Friends committee members, John Aggleton, then led walks through the Park to see how many different species could be spotted. In the end I believe it was about sixteen, including an almost immediate sighting of a male sparrow hawk flying high above us! By listening carefully to the birdsong and scanning the woods through binoculars, we saw blue tits, great tits, long-tailed tits and coal tits plus chaffinches, blackbirds, jays and the odd thrush or two. For many, the highlight was spotting a redwing, a very pretty member of the thrush family and a not uncommon visitor at this time of year, but it was disappointing that the forty or so waxwings that had been seen in Bute Park a month ago had evidently moved on. With quizzes, a photography display and children’s craft activities, it was a busy day for everyone.

13th January 2013 – Lichen walk with Alan Orange

Physcia grisea, a common lichen that grows on walls, trees and fence posts in city environments

Physcia grisea, a common lichen that grows on walls, trees and fence posts in city environments

It was a very chilly day in Cardiff on this day but, ignoring the temptation to stay indoors, we went to Bute Park to meet Alan Orange who works as the Curator of Lichens at the National Museum of Wales. After a comprehensive, illustrated slideshow held in the Education Centre, we trooped outside and didn’t have to walk too far before finding our first lichen. These composite organisms are part fungus and part alga; they cover many of the trees in Bute Park and are yellow, green or grey to the naked eye. Lichens are not only fascinating but some are really beautiful when examined through a hand lens or the eye of a camera. A very dedicated and interested group walked and peered for upwards of two chilly hours but the enthusiasm appeared not to wane at all and we are hoping to be able to run this walk again some time in the future.

12th January 2013 – Litter pick with Cardiff Rivers Group

FoBP and CRG join forces to pick litter.

FoBP and CRG join forces to pick litter.

On this chilly, but mercifully dry Saturday morning, some of us got together with members of the Cardiff Rivers Group (CRG) for a joint litter pick in the area around Blackweir. The heavy rains had ferried lots of rubbish downstream and deposited it on the banks of the River Taff in Bute Park. Although we only spent about an hour and a half at our task, between us we managed to fill twenty bags of rubbish and recycling, which seemed to comprise mostly plastic drinks bottles. We’re hoping that this will be the first of many joint litter picking events with the CRG as not only was it a very environmentally friendly thing to do, it was also surprisingly fun! On this occasion, we were just thirteen strong but next time we’re hoping that more of you will come along too!

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