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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

Community Centre thanked for opening toilets to the public

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A COMMUNITY centre is throwing open its toilet doors to enable the public to make use of them.

As a non-statutory service, Pembrokeshire County Council has been under pressure to reduce the budget for public toilets for several years.  Some communities have stepped forward and taken over the running of public toilets, whilst others have helped to meet ongoing costs.

Another way to protect, and even increase, provision is for community venues and businesses to make their toilets publicly accessible. This is where the trustees of Hubberston and Hakin Community Centre have stepped in.

Their toilets will be open to the wider community for a trial period during their normal centre opening hours. The toilets have been redecorated and refurbished recently and are now ready for use.

For those with mobility issues there is ramped access to the centre, and one of the toilets is fully accessible.

More details of the centre can be found on their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/HHCYC/ or contact them on email h.h.ccbookings@gmail.com

The toilets will shortly appear on the map of public toilets on the Pembrokeshire County Council website (https://www.pembrokeshire.gov.uk/map-data/public-toilets-map).

A Hubberston and Hakin Community Centre trustee said: “We had no hesitation in making these toilets available to anyone who needs to use them. 

“It is great to be able to provide a much-needed facility, particularly for those workers who are out and about every day in our community and need such facilities. It will also prove useful for those visiting the area such as walkers and cyclists.”

Cllr Rhys Sinnett, Cabinet Member for Residents’ Services, said: “I would like to thank Hubberston and Hakin Community Centre for stepping forward and providing this facility to their wider community. 

“They can clearly see the benefits that making their toilets publicly available can bring not only to the residents they serve but also those who are working in that area. I hope that other community and private settings will see the benefits of doing the same.”

If any community or private venue would like to make their toilets publicly available, please contact Katy Daly, Strategic Business Manager (katie.daly@pembrokeshire.gov.uk).

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Community

Local florist creates stunning tribute to Queen Elizabeth II

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GWENDA’S Flowers From Home have created a beautiful floral display as a tribute to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II following her passing on September 8. 

Chris used four flowers from around the country in his display. Daffodils from Wales, red roses from England, Eryngium (similar to thistles from Scotland) and Molluccella, which is also known as ‘the bells-of-Ireland’.

Gwenda’s Flowers From Home create high quality arrangements and guarantee a personal touch with every bouquet. 

Chris, 39, named his business after his grandmother. Chris said she was a royalist and she loved the Queen. 

He feels as though this tribute is very fitting and is proud to make the display in his grandmother’s name. 

The display is currently located in Haverfordwest at the War Memorial. 

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Veteran opens Slimming World in Milford Haven

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ARMY Veteran, Rachel, has launched her own Slimming World group in Milford Haven after her own positive experiences. 

“I changed lives in the army and hope to continue changing lives for people in Milford Haven.”

Rachel was born and raised in Milford Haven. As a small child, she was “active and busy” and a real tomboy alongside her brothers. 

In 1998, she joined the Army at 16-years-old as a Combat Medical Technician. Following training, Rachel served in Germany, all over the UK, overseas in Cyprus, and was deployed to Oman, Kosovo, Bosnia and Poland before retiring from service in May 2021.

Her role as a combat medical technician meant she often had to deal with soldiers who had been injured in war zones. Rachel described dealing with the range of injuries as “life-changing”.

Rachel’s job not only consisted of helping soldiers physically recover; she also helped them with their mental well-being. 

She said she: “always pointed out the positives ahead of them for their lives and their families.

“The fulfilment I would get from seeing them recover and their family made whole again is so rewarding, I cannot put it into words.”

She has always been a strong, physically fit person. She enjoyed an active lifestyle and felt as though she “could always eat what she wanted.”

In 2017, she was posted to Harrogate. Rachel was 36 years old and had recently given birth to her third child, a daughter, after already having two sons aged 13 and 5. 

She says she was almost two stone overweight even before her pregnancy. 

Rachel said: “So here I was with four stone to lose. I had lost all confidence and was at a loss.

“I was at a GP surgery when I saw a poster for Slimming World. I was there for my daughter’s first vaccinations and that’s when I decided to join my local Harrogate Slimming World group.”

Rachel said she was welcomed to the group with open arms. She described the members as being lovely, offering to make her a hot drink after being weighed or hold her baby while she got settled into the group. 

It was at this group that Rachel found her love for Food Optimising, which is Slimming World’s unique plan to lose weight and get healthy. 

She swapped takeaway meals for ‘fakeaways’ using recipes she learned from her group. 

After only a week, Rachel had lost 4 lbs and knew this new plan was one she could follow. 

Over the next 10 months, she enjoyed curries, chillis, chips loaded with a variety of toppings and cheese within her daily allowance, and she could still enjoy treats every now and then. 

By June 2018, she had hit her target and lost the whole four stone. She said she “felt amazing!”

Unfortunately, during lockdown, she became a single mum and was at an “all-time low”. She moved back to Pembrokeshire in December 2021 and quickly swapped healthy meals for quick and easy, high-fat processed meals.

Rachel said: “Being stuck in the house with three children during lockdown was hard. 

“As I was working from home with nowhere to go, I found myself mindlessly eating as I was only eating out of boredom. 

“I put almost two stone back on and I was devastated.”

In January 2022, she decided to get into shape again. She joined the local Slimming World group in Johnston. 

Rachel said she had two stone to lose and was determined to return to her target weight. 

She claims she was blown away by the consultant Kelly’s knowledge of the plan and her motivation. 

“She guided me back through the new member talk, reintroduced me to my love of Slimming World and allowed me to fall in love with the plan all over again!” Rachel added. 

“The warm atmosphere and the gentle reminder that the plan can be used for all the family reignited my passion.

“Since January 10, 2022, I have lost one stone and five pounds. I am only two-pounds away from my personal target.”

After talking about Slimming World and the freedom it allows Rachel to have, she joined Slimming World and trained to be a consultant. 

Thanks to her time in the Army, helping those with their physical and mental health, Rachel feels that she would be well suited to helping those achieve their goals. 

She commented: “The training is thorough and covers not only the plan but the psychology of wanting to lose weight. 

“It has totally changed my views on how I shop, cook and eat food, and I hope my drive and motivation will help others to do the same.”

To join Rachel’s Slimming World group, call Rachel on 07391 634033 or visit Milford United Football Club, Marble Hall Road, every Thursday at 5.30pm. 

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