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Icelandic whooper swan found in Pembrokeshire

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ONE of the oldest Icelandic whooper swans on record has been found in Pembrokeshire – having spent almost three decades on Earth. 

RSPCA Cymru was alerted after a member of the public found the male swan grounded underneath power lines in the Letterson area of the county on 1 April, after a suspected collision.

Other swans – believed to be joining the swan on a flight back to Iceland – were circling above the stricken swan; who was then confined by a member of the public before RSPCA rescuers were contacted.

RSPCA animal rescue officer (ARO) Ellie West rushed him to Tinker’s Hill Bird of Prey & Swan Rescue Centre in Amroth for immediate care, before the bird went on for veterinary examination. 

Sadly, X-rays revealed the swan had a fractured spine and ribs – and vets decided he had to be put to sleep. However, the RSPCA take “some solace” in the fact that interventions – including from the member of the public who found the bird – meant the swan’s pain and suffering was not prolonged.

The swan was wearing an Icelandic metal ring. These are identifying rings placed around the legs of swans which help build a picture of the lives lived by these animals.

ARO West contacted the Icelandic Bird Ringing Centre, which uses ringing to study birds and their migrations, who confirmed that the swan was “very close to the oldest Icelandic whooper”; having first been ringed in 1996 at the age of only three.

The oldest Icelandic whooper on record is believed to be 30 years old – so only a year or so older than the veteran bird found in Pembrokeshire. 

The British Trust of Ornithology states the typical lifespan of a whooper swan is only nine years; but do have records of one living more than 28 years after first being ringed.

ARO West said: “When I rushed to the aid of this swan, I was expecting a mute wwan, which we commonly deal with – but was instead surprised to see a whooper swan, which is a much rarer sight for our inspectorate.

“Sadly, the poor thing was in quite a bad way after a collision with some power lines. Vets later found his injuries were so severe – including a fractured spine and ribs – that he had to be put to sleep; which was such a shame – but at least we can take some solace that we were able to bring his suffering to an end.

“I noticed the bird was wearing a metal Icelandic ring, and was fascinated about his story. I reached out to the Icelandic Bird Ringing Centre, who confirmed the bird had been ringed at the age of three back in 1996 – making him, in their words, ‘very close to the oldest Icelandic whooper’ – who we believe to have been 30. 

“It’s so amazing to think this beautiful bird  – one of the oldest Icelandic whooper swans on record – has been potentially migrating between Iceland and West Wales for decades.”

Whooper swans usually visit the UK in Winter. The RSPB say its “small breeding numbers make it an Amber List species”, and say the swan’s” honking voice … can sound like an old-fashioned car horn!”

Population estimates – confirmed by the Icelandic Bird Ringing Centre – suggest there are approximately 40,000 whooper swans wintering in the UK.

Svenja Auhage, from the Icelandic Bird Ringing Centre, added: “Ringing swans helps identify the lives these amazing animals lead.

“While it’s so sad this whooper swan has now died, the sighting history shows that since the mid-1990s, this bird was very well travelled!

“Sightings have been made in both County Londonderry and County Antrim in Northern Ireland, in Skagafjordur in Iceland, in parts of the Republic of Ireland and in Orkney in Scotland; before he was found in Pembrokeshire – 18 years on from the last logged sighting, in Ballyscullion in 2003! We suspect he must have lost his darvic ring shortly after 2003, since there were no sightings after that.”

Community

Redstone Bridge opens as part of A40 improvements scheme

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TRAFFIC is now flowing across a key element of the A40 improvements scheme following the grand opening of Redstone Bridge, north of Narberth. This milestone was celebrated on Friday, May 17, with a ceremony that highlighted the involvement and spirit of the local community.

The honour of declaring the bridge open was bestowed upon pupils of Narberth CP School, symbolising the younger generation of the community. Accompanied by their headteacher, Mrs Moore, and assistant headteacher, Mr Noble, the pupils were joined by residents and staff of Blaenmarlais Care Home in Redstone Road.

The A40 project, extending from Llanddewi Velfrey to west of Redstone Cross, is being delivered by Alun Griffiths Contractors Ltd for the Welsh Government. The opening ceremony featured a short speech from Project Manager David Noblett, who expressed gratitude to the pupils, residents, and the workforce from Griffiths and Trueform Civils Limited. The crowd applauded as the pupils cut the ribbon, officially opening the bridge and walking across it for the very first time.

A spokesperson for Griffiths commented, “Griffiths would like to thank residents, businesses, and the community for their co-operation during the closure, which allowed the final phase of bridge construction to be completed on time. A particular thank you to the residents of Northfield Road who experienced parking restrictions throughout this period. They were admirably supported in the parking of their vehicles by Janine Perkins from Bloomfield Community Centre, and Narberth Health Centre, which allowed a family with a baby to use their car park during the closure period.”

The Narberth children were specially chosen to do the honours, representing the future of the community and underscoring the project’s significance for upcoming generations.

The completion of Redstone Bridge marks a significant step in the A40 improvements scheme, promising enhanced connectivity and infrastructure for the region. The community’s involvement in the ceremony highlights the collaborative effort behind this essential project, reflecting a shared commitment to progress and development in Pembrokeshire.

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Tenby to mark D-Day 80 with Beacon Lighting Ceremony

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PLANS are well underway for Tenby to mark the 80th anniversary of the D-Day landings with a special beacon lighting ceremony on Castle Hill. This significant event will honour the bravery and sacrifice of those who took part in Operation Overlord, the largest naval, air, and land operation in history.

His Majesty, The King, has requested that instead of lighting beacons for his coronation last year, they be lit on June 6 to commemorate the anniversary of this pivotal World War Two operation. The Normandy landings in 1944 opened Europe’s Second Front, which ultimately led to the downfall of Hitler’s Nazi regime 11 months later.

The commemoration will begin with a procession led by the Mayor of Tenby, Cllr. Dai Morgan. Accompanied by fellow councillors, representatives of the Tenby Royal British Legion, and local cadet units, the procession will leave Castle Square at Tenby Harbour at approximately 8:50 pm on Thursday, June 6. The procession will then make its way up to Castle Hill.

Upon reaching Castle Hill, the International D-Day Tribute will be read, after which Cllr. Morgan will light Tenby’s beacon at 9:15 pm. This beacon will form part of a UK-wide chain of beacons and Lamp Lights of Peace, symbolising unity and remembrance across the nation. All members of the public are welcome to join in this solemn and significant commemoration.

Earlier in the day, at 11 am, the Mayor will lay a wreath at Tenby’s war memorial. This act of remembrance will honour all those who gave their lives during the D-Day landings, ensuring their sacrifices are not forgotten.

This special beacon lighting ceremony and the wreath-laying are poignant reminders of the courage and determination of the Allied forces. The events planned in Tenby offer an opportunity for the community to come together to reflect on the historic significance of D-Day and to pay tribute to the heroes of Operation Overlord.

Tenby’s commemoration is part of a larger national effort to mark this historic anniversary, ensuring that the legacy of those who fought and died continues to be honoured and remembered for generations to come.

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Community

First electric mobile post office tested in Pembrokeshire

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THE FIRST full-electric Post Office vehicle has been successfully trialled in the UK, and it has all happened in Pembrokeshire.

The pioneering effort is being led by Pembroke Postmaster, Mark Wilson, who, along with his team, has been serving 11 rural communities in Pembrokeshire with a new electric Mobile Post Office.

Replacing the traditional diesel vehicle, this new electric model has demonstrated its capability over the past several weeks, navigating the hilly terrain of the region without issue. The environmentally friendly vehicle can travel over 100 miles on a single charge, comfortably exceeding the longest 60-mile route covered by the Pembroke Mobile Post Office. This ample range alleviates any concerns about “range anxiety” and eliminates the need for mid-route recharging, as the vehicle is conveniently charged overnight.

Mark Wilson highlighted the positive reception from the community, stating, “Our electric Mobile Post Office is turning heads with its distinctive signage. People are used to the typical Post Office red vehicles, but the design on this vehicle emphasises its environmental benefits. It’s exciting to have the first of these in the UK. Customers have praised our new vehicle for being less polluting and visually appealing.”

The new electric vehicle maintains the same height as its predecessor but offers a slightly wider build, which has proven manageable on country lanes. Its interior design provides better layout and increased space, allowing for more retail offerings and greater storage capacity for parcels, accommodating the rising trend of home shopping returns and online sales.

Wilson added, “Colleagues working on the Mobile are pleased with its road handling and the smoother driving experience thanks to the automatic transmission.”

The Mobile Post Office has long been a vital service for maintaining Post Office access in smaller, rural communities. It offers a full range of Post Office services, including mail, pre-ordered foreign currencies, banking for all major high street banks, bill payments, and vehicle tax.

The 11 communities currently served by the electric Mobile Post Office include:

  1. Cosheston
  2. Milton
  3. Carew
  4. St Florence
  5. Broadmoor
  6. Lawrenny
  7. Angle
  8. Herbrandston
  9. St Ishmaels
  10. Marloes
  11. Dale.

Nigel Parry, owner of the Post Office National Outreach Model, which includes Mobile Post Offices, underscored the environmental and economic benefits of these electric vehicles. “We know the green credentials of these vehicles; they are better for the environment as there are no emissions polluting communities. These vehicles are also cheaper to run and maintain.”

Parry emphasised the importance of real-world testing to ensure the vehicles’ fitness for purpose. “We want to see how they perform in real-life conditions. Hilly terrain, cold weather, traffic jams, and the age and condition of the battery all affect the vehicle’s range, so it’s crucial to ensure there is spare capacity to serve outlying communities throughout the year.”

An additional advantage of electric vehicles is their quicker maintenance turnaround, reducing downtime compared to the biannual servicing required for diesel vehicles.

Following this successful trial in Pembrokeshire, another electric Mobile Post Office will be introduced in East Anglia next month, with a third location yet to be determined. This rollout aims to further test the suitability and cost-effectiveness of electric vehicles for rural locations. Currently, there are 67 diesel Mobile Post Offices operating across Wales, England, Scotland, and Northern Ireland.

This move marks a significant milestone in the Post Office’s commitment to sustainability and innovation, ensuring that even the most remote communities can benefit from modern, eco-friendly services.

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