What is Hen Harrier Day? Hen Harrier Day celebrates the beauty of this wonderful bird and highlights its threatened status which is almost entirely due to wildlife crime. Hen Harriers are illegally killed because they eat Red Grouse (among other things) which people want to shoot for fun. There have been Hen Harrier Day rallies since 10th August 2014 when four events took place, the largest of which was held in the Peak District in torrential rain and was attended by the ‘Sodden 570’ and hosted by Mark Avery and Chris Packham. It is an annual event timed around the “Glorious” 12th (ie the start of the grouse shooting season)
It started in 2014, at the Derwent Dam, my image attached (I was one of the “Sodden 570 ” in the aftermath of Hurricane Bertha). In 2015, it moved to the Goyt Valley, Derbyshire (my image attached) then to RSPB Rainham Marshes in 2017 (my image attached) It was in various locations in 2017 and 2018 (I was unable to attend these so have no images) As noted above, it is consolidating down to the one location in 2019 for the 6th HH Day. I am planning to attend. Not everyone is aware that these even happen and even if not wishing to attend may just like the information.
Twitter followers should use the hash tag ##HHDay19
Grey Wagtails occur at highest densities along fast-flowing upland streams. WBS/WBBS shows a fluctuating population size along waterways, with a fall during the late 1970s and early 1980s from an initial high point in 1974, some increase since the late 1990s, and another steep drop around 2010. The BBS trend matches WBS/WBBS closely: there was an initial increase but from 2002 the trend was steeply downward, especially in Scotland. The species was moved from the green to the amber list in 2002, and subsequently from amber to the UK red list at the latest review in 2015 (Eaton et al. 2015). However, the long term decline is now categorised as moderate rather than rapid, as a result of a slight upturn since around 2012.
As part of the Festival of Nature week, Nick Baker, TV presenter, naturalist and Vice President of the Wildlife Trusts will be giving a talk:
Professional naturalist and TV presenter Nick Baker has travelled to every corner of the globe while following his passion for the natural world. Now, Nick uses his lifetime of experience and lifelong love of science and nature to provide some insight of how to reconnect with the wildness that lives within us all.
Ring-necked Parakeet by Howe Park Wood, April 2012, by Harry Appleyard
Electric Ladyland wasn’t the only thing Jimi Hendrix released in 1968. One day in that tumultuous year he left his flat on Brook Street, Mayfair, and strolled down nearby Carnaby Street with a birdcage in his hands. I like to think that he was dressed in a tasselled jacket and flares, his favourite Fender Stratocaster slung across his back. Or perhaps he travelled incognito, in a trenchcoat and dark glasses. Either way, somewhere on that street, the heart of Swinging London at the height of peace and love, he opened the door of the cage and unleashed two bright green birds: Adam and Eve, a breeding pair of ring-necked parakeets.
A close look at pesticide use reveals we’re treating crops more frequently and with a greater variety of chemicals than ever before – it’s time to reverse this trend and put the UK onto a trajectory of pesticide reduction.
The White-legged Damselfly (Platycnemis pennipes) is a delicate little insect that can be found fluttering along lushly vegetated margins of rivers, streams, pools and lakes in southern England and Wales. In recent years there have been increasing concerns that this elegant species is disappearing from some parts of the UK. However, our understanding of White-legged Damselfly population trends it limited by a lack of long term data; thus, the British Dragonfly Society has launched the White-legged Damselfly Investigation.
UK honeybees have an extremely varied diet, foraging on a selection of more than 1,000 different plant species, a pioneering analysis of honey samples has found.
Around 200 beekeepers from across the UK provided honey samples for high-tech DNA testing. The results revealed that bees feed on a wide variety of commonly found crops, wildflowers and garden plants including Oilseed rape, Clovers, Brambles and Sweet Chestnut. It has also found invasive non-native species to be important sources of pollen and nectar, particularly Himalayan Balsam and ‘Tree of Heaven’.
Great spotted woodpeckers make themselves at home at some of our reserves across Scotland, and can be seen visiting gardens over winter to have a go at the feeders. RSPB Scotland’s Allie McGregor shares five facts about this great species.
With Ring Ouzel migration about to reach its peak this wonderful thrush can turn up almost anywhere. Check out the latest identification video to help separate this species from Blackbird, both on the ground, in flight and by song.
Back in 2004, when Rothamsted Research and Butterfly Conservation first uncovered the significant, long-term decline in moth abundance, artificial light at night (ALAN) was highlighted as a potential contributor to the observed trends1.
Footage of every single freshwater fish species in Britain filmed over the course of 7 years. Jack traveled across England, Scotland and Wales to film these species using various specialist techniques.
Peregrine by Harry Appleyard, Hazeley Wood, 29 May 2016
Despite extensive research on city-dwelling Peregrine FalconsFalco peregrinus in mainland Europe and other parts of the world, little has been undertaken and published in the UK. We analysed the diet of Peregrines in three cities in southwest England – Bristol, Bath and Exeter – between 1998 and 2007.The wide range of prey species taken included many species associated with a variety of non-urban habitats. Some prey species appear to be hunted at night, while on migration. This paper summarises the diet of Peregrines in urban areas and reviews their night-time hunting behaviour.
Swallows are summer visitors to the UK. They start to arrive here from Africa in April. By early June most swallows have started breeding and by July, the first brood of young has usually left the nest and flown away. The parents will normally then go on to raise a second brood, sometimes even a third.
The RSPB North Bucks Local Group are leading a field trip to:
Location: Meet in car park, SP 570 126. Space limited. RSPB requests car-share and do not overspill onto lane. From Abingdon Arms pub, Beckley (OX3 9TD), take Otmoor Lane for 1 mile and past firing range.
The RSPB has (with our Group’s support) restored this huge former wetland from intensive agriculture. Summer specialities include hobby, turtle dove and many dragonflies. Three hides but no toilets at this remote site. Paths level, but lengthy.
Walk leader : Mike Bird
Time: 10 am to 1 pm
Price: Free event
See the RSPB North Bucks Local Group website for more information
MKNHS is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites. You should check details of any events listed on external sites with the organisers.
Famed for its minute size and extra shiny coat the shining guest (Formicoxenus nitidulus) is a real gem to behold, particularly when you spot one in amongst a group of larger, acid-spraying wood ants – which the former treats as its ‘hosts’.
Elephant poaching rates in Africa are declining, according to a study published in the journal Nature Communications.
The annual poaching mortality rate fell from a high of more than 10% in 2011 to less than 4% in 2017, but the researchers warned that current levels were still unsustainable and could spell trouble for the future of the animals on the continent.
Our current project, FSC BioLinks, is all about invertebrates. Invertebrates provide us with many useful ecosystem services which we cannot survive without but their numbers are declining. Few people know how to identify or record invertebrates meaning there is a lack of records, making it difficult for conservationists to address these declines. The BioLinks project teaches people how to identify and record invertebrates by providing subsidised training courses, learning opportunities and digital tools to generate more records.
One of the joys of spring is the burst of bird song it brings, but telling birds apart by sound alone can be tricky for beginners. Start by learning the repertoire of some of the UK’s most familiar songsters and you’ll soon get your ear in.
Plantations are an excellent way to combat climate breakdown, writes Andrew Weatherall, of the National School of Forestry. And Rachel Kerr says heather moorland is rarer than rainforest and the underlying peat is more effective at carbon storage than trees
Linford Lakes NR BioBlitz by David Easton. 24 June 2016
Citizen scientists are increasingly engaged in gathering biodiversity information, but trade‐offs are often required between public engagement goals and reliable data collection. We compared population estimates for 18 widespread butterfly species derived from the first 4 years (2011–2014) of a short‐duration citizen science project (Big Butterfly Count [BBC]) with those from long‐running, standardized monitoring data collected by experienced observers (U.K. Butterfly Monitoring Scheme [UKBMS])…
Deforestation of the Brazilian Amazon surged last month to the highest May level since the current monitoring method began, prompting concerns that president Jair Bolsonaro is giving a free pass to illegal logging, farming and mining.
Many shark populations are in decline, primarily due to overexploitation. In response, conservation measures have been applied at differing scales, often severely restricting sales of declining species. Therefore, DNA barcoding was used to investigate sales of shark products in fishmongers and fish and chip takeaways in England.
Ptarmigans live in the mountains, and can survive quite happily at altitudes of up to 4,000 feet! To deal with the conditions in this part of the country ptarmigans have a range of fascinating adaptations, which are perhaps most evident come winter. Here are five interesting facts we thought you would enjoy about these birds.
With their characteristic black and white-striped face and grey fur, the badger looks like no other UK mammal. Stocky, powerfully-built creatures, they typically weigh 10-12kg, with a whole body length of about 90cm.
I’m Sue Hetherington. I’ve been a member of Bucks Bird Club since 2009 when I decided that it was about time I joined given that I was then living next door to where the club was holding its indoor meetings at the time (we have both moved since then). I remember my first field trip with Bucks Bird Club (to Wendover Woods) with shame – I didn’t even have a pair of binoculars, let alone a telescope! Oh yes, I fitted into what Simon Barnes has termed “a bad birdwatcher”. I’ve always been “into” all natural history but birds seem to have particularly invited themselves in to my consciousness and have tried to take over. I like all sorts of birds in all sorts of habitats but I have a particular interest in urban birds. To see what I mean by the term “urban birds” take a look at David Lindo’s eponymous book. And yes, David is my friend and hero.
I love seeing birds in unexpected urban settings, I admire their enterprise in finding homes with us especially when we seem to be constantly shrinking their natural environment. It also makes it easy to birdwatch if it can be combined with a trip to town. I’ve loved seeing waxwings in Aylesbury in those special winters they grace us with their presence. I’ve also some seen some amazing starling murmerations there. Come the summer, what could be better than to see (and hear) those most urban of birds, swifts. My absolute favourites though are urban peregrines and particularly those from my home county.
I know many others share my Bucks and MK interest in our urban peregrines and would like to know the results from this year. But first to summarise past years’ outcomes
– peregrines first bred on County Hall Tower Block in Aylesbury in 2011 using a provided nesting platform
– peregrines first bred in the MK Dons Stadium MK in 2015. At first they used an old crows’ nest but a nesting platform was provided which they eventually used for the first time in 2018
There is no central news outlet for these peregrines so it was not until Mike Wallen, the County Bird Recorder, placed some notes on the Yahoo discussion board called bucksbirders that this years picture emerged. This is the news that Mike gave on bucksbirders on 7/6/19
Bucks Peregrines- update
Aylesbury County Hall Tower Block.
Bad news complete breeding failure, no eggs, no chicks and it looks like the female has been lost, either before any eggs, or at some stage after. Whatever was there has been predated. There is a male present. A webcam which has been available in past years was unfortunately unavailable this year.
Much better news. The birds went straight to the platform this spring and laid 4 eggs, 3 of which hatched and have done extremely well.
The first one fledged on June 3rd, but something wasn’t quite right and it had to be rescued, fortunately a member of staff there has a partner who is a vet, it was found to be dehydrated. It spent a couple of days with the vet where she (it was sexed) recovered well. This fortunately coincided with Rod Stewart performing so we didn’t have any trouble with Peregrine chicks causing havoc in the crowd. [although several birders who attended the concert reported how much they had enjoyed seeing the peregrines as an added bonus – Sue]
Yesterday (6th) the other two chicks were still on the platform, but exercising vigorously, one nearly came off, but hung on, fledging imminent.
At lunchtime the rescued bird was released at a high point in the stadium and after sitting still for a few minutes it then took off extremely strongly and went straight out of the stadium ! It was expected to return as peregrine fledglings do. There has never been a webcam on this platform.
I for one have missed being able to follow the fortunes of the Aylesbury project on webcams, as have many others I am sure. If anyone feels similarly deprived, I recommend the Derby Peregrine Project which has the entry point to almost everything you could wish to know about urban peregrines here http://derbyperegrines.blogspot.com/ Ordinarily, they too would have a webcam but this too has been jinxed this year (building developments have got in the way of line of sight wireless transmission from the camera on the cathedral to a wireless base station – work is in progress to find a fix) The Derby website has a list of some of the other peregrine projects that exist around the county (there are lots)
That’s all the Bucks and MK Urban Peregrine news I have.
Turning to another iconic urban bird, swifts, they are back in our towns and villages but many people think they were very late and have arrived in lower numbers than normal. When they made their 6000 mile journey to us from their winter airspace in Africa, it is thought that they hit severe storms in Italy, France and Spain. It is believed they were badly hit, with many dying through starvation or hypothermia. We’ve just had a prolonged bad weather spell here which can’t have helped breeding swifts. We hope for the best for these fantastic little birds. Hopefully we won’t get a problem with grounded swifts (eg fledglings jumping before they are ready) but if you do, there is advice here https://www.swift-conservation.org/SwiftFirstAid.htm
I would add Tiggywinkes Wildlife Hospital, Haddenham to the list of carers, it’s where I would take a swift casualty. If anyone needs a swift “ambulance driver” I am happy to be contacted on 07972 833 408
I have no news yet on various swift projects around the county, but I can confirm that my swift box (in its second season) has no occupants. This would seem to bear out the “low numbers” theory as my village normally has a good population of swifts and interest was shown in my box last year.
We are home to a quarter of the entire global population of curlew. If the curlew dies out in the UK, they are in real danger of disappearing from the earth all together. The scary news is that UK’s curlews are in serious decline. The British countryside is no longer a safe place for curlews to raise their young. With too few chicks surviving to fledge, there are not enough youngsters joining the population to replace the adults. We’re facing a future without our wader – that’s if nobody does anything about it.
In my last blog piece I wrote about the lichen translocation work that we carried out at Tarr Steps National Nature Reserve on Exmoor as part of Plantlife’s Building Resilience in South West Woodlands project, as recently featured on BBC’s Countryfile. This work focussed on the rare Tree Lungwort lichen (Lobaria pulmonaria) – a superstar of the lichen world. This large and vibrantly coloured species has drastically declined due to air pollution and acid rain and the UK has an international responsibility to conserve it.
This large, powerful butterfly is usually seen flying swiftly over the tops of bracken or low vegetation in woodland clearings. In flight, the males are almost impossible to separate from those of the Dark Green Fritillary, which often share the same habitats. However, both species frequently visit flowers such as thistles and Bramble where it is possible to see their distinctive underside wing markings. The Dark Green lacks the orange ringed ‘pearls’ on the underside of the hindwing.
At the RSPB Centre for Conservation Science there are around 60 full time scientists working on conservation problems around the world. My team specialise in tackling the problems faced by breeding waders and Project Godwit is one of our big projects over the next few years. This project aims to secure the future for breeding black-tailed godwits in the UK.
The month of June began with the appearance of some old moth friends showing their faces for the first time this year. It is always reassuring to see them, to see that they have survived the rigours of the past year and are in good shape to continue. Things have rather slowed down over the past week with the heavy rain, winds and sometimes cool temperatures. My mothing has been confined to the garden in Newport Pagnell and Linford Lakes Nature Reserve using Robinson Moth Traps (See previous notes of for information about traps).
On the night of June 1st, 294 moths of 76 species visited the trap at Linford Lakes and amongst the catch was a lovely Oak-Hook-tip. It is one of seven Hook-tip moths to be found in Britain and as the name suggests its caterpillars feed on the foliage of oak trees and the Hook part refers to the wing shape. It is able to complete its life cycle twice in the year and will be on the wing again in late July to mid September.
Another on the 1st at Linford Lakes was one of the carpet moths, a Green Carpet. There are 54 species of Carpet moths and none of them eat carpets. They are named so because of the delicate patterns on their wings. It too has 2 generations in a year and the caterpillars feed on Bedstraws and Cleavers.
June 3rd was not quite as busy as the June 1st with some 221 moths of 50 species at Linford Lakes. One that took the eye though was the Cream-bordered Green Pea. A friend of mine observed that it sounded more like something that should be on a restaurant menu rather than the name fora moth. It is a nationally scarce moth whose caterpillars feed on Willows and Sallows and seems well established at Linford Lakes.
The China-mark moths are emerging and have been visiting the trap too. There are 4 species: Small China-mark, Brown China-mark, Beautiful China-mark and photographed here, the Ringed China-mark. They have aquatic or sub-aquatic caterpillars. The Ringed China-mark caterpillar feeds on Pondweeds, Canadian Waterweed and other plants and spins leaves together and lives in an open web.
In the garden this week it was good to see the return of the Orange Pine Tortrix. It is a micro-moth whose caterpillar feeds on Scots Pine where it makes a silk tube along a twig. The moth was first recorded in Britain in Surrey in 1945 so it has been here just 3 more years than me.
Text and photos kindly supplied by Gordon Redford. Click here to read the previous edition of Moth Notes
The Case for Caddisflies and much-maligned Molinia.
Over the past few years I have developed an interest in caddisflies – their life-cycles and ecology in particular – thanks in part to the enthusiasm of friend, neighbour and seasoned entomologist Graham Vick. All caddis are tied to water in one way or another by the aquatic or semi-aquatic requirements of their larvae and in Britain the group comprises some 200 species. Larval cases arouse a passing curiosity in most naturalists but the adults must be one of the most overlooked and neglected insect groups going.
The news from the UN that the global rate of extinction is accelerating – with at least a 20% decline over the last century – caused reverberations around the world when it was published earlier this month.
Although the news shocked and surprised a lot of people, conservation organisations have long been aware of the challenges facing our natural heritage. We caught up with James Harding-Morris of Back from the Brink, a groundbreaking National Lottery-funded project set up to help reverse this decline.
Mammal recording was introduced to the BBS in 1995 with a view to help improve our knowledge of the distribution and population trends of some of our commoner mammals.
Compared with birds, the population trends of mammals are relatively poorly known. Even though mammal recording has always been a voluntary addition to the scheme, around 90% of BBS squares now hold mammal data.
With their soft golden coat, furry tail and big black eyes, hazel dormice are one of Britain’s most endearing but critically endangered mammals.
Our State of Britain’s Dormice report in 2016 confirmed that hazel dormice have become extinct from 17 English counties since the end of the 19th century, with populations thought to have fallen by a third since 2000 – a rate of decline equivalent to 55% over 25 years.
Due to a combination of a cold, wet spring (the beast from the east), followed by the long, hot, dry summer last year was very disappointing for the owls and kestrels across Buckinghamshire. Many of the birds did not even try to breed and those that did deserted eggs and chicks because they could not find enough voles and other small mammals to feed either themselves or their offspring.
However, in 2019 the birds are really proving to be in the mood to make up for lost time. Buckinghamshire Owl and Raptor Group volunteers have been busy for the last few weeks checking the 700 + boxes located across the whole county and with very pleasing results.
This issue delves into the deep, dark depths of the soil – the foundation for much of life on Earth.
This issue explores the beauty and function of soil, the fascinating creatures that call it home, the threats to its health, and ways to manage it sustainably for future generations of flora and fauna (including humans).
Are subsidies that are designed to protect the biodiversity of Britain’s saltmarshes, delivering the planned, conservation benefits? In particular, is this investment supporting populations of amber-listed Redshank?
One of the strongest recommendations from Mark Parsons and Phil Sterling, the moth gurus at Butterfly Conservation, in relation to #MyMothYear book was that I wrote about BC’s Back From the Brink project to restore populations of a geometer moth called Barberry Carpet. And so earlier this week, Wingman Will and I joined project manager Fiona Haynes and local moth-era Robin and Carol for a nocturnal survey (under license, as this is a legally protected species) in north Dorset. Phil Saunders was there for the first few hours – and netted the first Barberry Carpet. Brilliant!
It is such a delight to be in the garden this month – so many plants have burst into bloom that there is a mass of colour and a buzz of pollinators. The Springwatch programmes have also brought brightness to BBC2 and they have launched a big citizen science project called Gardenwatch to encourage people to assess their garden wildlife. It has inspired me to review my own space.
The UK’s moths are in trouble, two-thirds of common and widespread species have declined in the last 40 years. In a bid to make the UK mad about moths Butterfly Conservation is launching Moths Matter, a campaign to overturn their unfair reputation.
Our “carbon in nature rich areas” story map highlights that the best places for nature across the UK also hold massive amounts of carbon. If lost to the atmosphere, this carbon would equate (very conservatively) to two gigatons of CO2, equivalent to four years of the UK’s annual overall CO2 emissions.
Mammals are often elusive night-time visitors to our gardens. We need your help to find out how much these often under-recorded animals use gardens and to understand which resources are most important for their survival.
Spring has never truly arrived until you catch sight of your first bee, but do you know what species it is?
You might be surprised to learn there are more than 250 species of bee in the UK. Bumblebees, mason bees, mining bees – these are just one small part of a big, beautiful family. Take a look at how to identify some of the most common types of bees in the UK.
“…verges are actually fascinating habitats…because they are these fragments of the surrounding countryside that are preserved along ancient routes…” Most of us are aware now that biodiversity is in decline.
Plant biodiversity here in the UK has especially suffered: wild flowers have been lost from huge areas of Britain, and so have the pollinators and other invertebrates that depend on them. Conservationists are having to look to protect what’s left of our wildlife in areas that may not be optimal, but that nevertheless hold a surprisingly important range of flora and fauna. Along with our gardens, one of those areas is our rural road verges, those largely county council-owned strips of land next to our roads which, according to the UK charity Plantlife, make up a network that is equal to half of the country’s remaining flower-rich grasslands and meadows.
As a society we are particularly involved in the Teens go Wild event on Thursday 4th July 7-9pm at Linford Lakes Education Centre (Linford Lakes Nature Reserve) and the Nature Day at Howe Park Wood on 6th July. If you are happy to help for an hour or two at either of these events then please contact me Julie Lane at email@example.com
Adders are reportedly going extinct in the UK because they’ve had a lot of negative press. Campaigners are worried that unless our attitudes towards them change, they’ll completely disappear from our country.
In order to understand why nightingales have declined by a staggering 90% in the UK over the last 40 years, we’re working with the British Trust for Ornithology and the Wildlife Trust for Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire.
By utilising data from an existing study, David Douglas and James Pearce-Higgins have discovered that Golden Plover chicks that carry more sheep-ticks Ixodes ricinus have a lower chance of survival. Their findings are written up as a paper in Bird Study. The work is only based on a small sample and the data don’t identify the mechanism that leads to increased mortality but, given the current interest in the biological effects of ticks, the findings are interesting.
Only a third of the world’s great rivers remain free flowing, due to the impact of dams that are drastically reducing the benefits healthy rivers provide people and nature, according to a global analysis.
The birds went straight to the platform this spring and laid 4 eggs, 3 of which hatched and have done extremely well.
The first one fledged on June 3rd, but something wasn’t quite right and it had to be rescued, fortunately a member of staff there has a partner who is a VET, it was found to be dehydrated. It spent a couple of days with the VET where she (it was sexed) recovered well. This fortunately coincided with Rod Stewart performing so we didn’t have any trouble with Peregrine chicks causing havoc in the crowd.
Yesterday (6th) the other two chicks were still on the platform, but exercising vigorously, one nearly came off, but hung on, fledging imminent. At lunchtime the rescued bird was released at a high point in the stadium and after sitting still for a few minutes it then took off extremely strongly and went straight out of the stadium ! I expect it will return.
The recording scheme guide to bee-flies in genus Bombylius has been updated to provide some more information on how to distinguish the two clear-winged summer bee-flies: Western Bee-fly Bombylius canescens, and Heath Bee-fly Bombylius minor. (The section on the two pattern-winged spring bee-flies remains unchanged.)
A grey damp afternoon and threatening dark clouds set the scene leading up to our visit to Stonepit Field (SP 84489 42160) on Tuesday 4th June 2019, but by the time we gathered the clouds had just begun to clear so the evening ended with bright sun and clear blue skies. Surprisingly, with such unappealing weather in the lead up, around 20 members had assembled to enjoy the visit.
Mike LeRoy gave a brief explanation of the site’s geology and its history since the 1960s. The woodland flanking the Railway Walk dates from the end of the 1970s, part of the New Town ‘advance tree planting’ by Milton Keynes Development Corporation (MKDC). In the early 1990s a MKDC project was implemented to convert a former barley field into flower-rich limestone grassland. A ‘scrape’ of exposed limestone was formed at the same time. More recently, around 2007, two flood-management ponds were inserted into the lower slopes for the nearby housing at Oakridge Park.
Our walkabout started by the ‘scrape’ with Gordon Redford demonstrating use of a pheromone lure to attract Six-belted Clearwing moths Bembecia ichneumoniformis; a demonstration because these day-fliers are known to be present at the site but don’t turn out readily on a cool evening. The next centre of attention was Bee Orchids, which had come into flower on the scrape over the previous couple of days.
We then formed several smaller groups. One led by Harry Appleyard circled the more wooded parts of the site and the ponds in search of birds, and found a surprisingly wide range as this is not known as a bird site. 30 species were seen or heard, including Grey Heron and Little Egret on the east pond, at least two Bullfinch and over 16 Wood Pigeon, as well as two Song Thrush, with one singing beautifully.
An invertebrate search group was led by Gordon Redford. The wide range of plants and dense grassland at the site attract many insects and other invertebrates, but far more of them on a sunny daytime than on a cool evening after rain. Over 20 butterfly species are seen in the grassland and on hedges and trees, but not on this evening. Day-flying moths are also seen here and the Burnet-companion moth Euclidia glyphicais seen widely at present. The search group found five other moth species including the micro-moth Agapeta hamana. Several other insects were found including a whole group of Bishop’s mitre shieldbugs Aelia acuminata. A Common malachite beetle Malachius bipustulatuswas found as well as a Swollen-thighed beetle Oedemera nobilis.Several of the common Bumblebees were still flying low in the vegetation.
A tree and shrubs group was led by Alan Birkett. 15 tree species were found and nine shrubs. These included Alder Buckthorn Frangula alnus, which is a foodplant of the Brimstone butterfly. A few exotic tree species were not identified, but these were not generally thriving.
Most opted to identify flora, led by Roy Maycock and by searches with Mary Sarre and Jenny Mercer. Although this is largely a created grassland from seeds sown over 25 years ago, other plants have found their way there. Only a few meadow grass species had been sown: these had been selected as ‘low competition’ species, together with a semi-parasitic plant, Yellow Rattle Rhinanthus minor. This has enabled other flowering plants to flourish. The group found another semi-parasitic plant in small numbers: Common Broomrape Orobanche minor. The remnants of plenteous Cowslip were widely across the grassland and the Buttercups were past their best, but the group found a wide range of meadow flowers including: vetches & trefoils, bedstraws, three plantain species, cranesbills, scabious, white and red campion, and numerous other plants. One of particular interest was the small bright crimson flower on a grass-like stem of the Grass Vetchling Linifolius nissolia. Other plants such as Yarrow Achillea millefoliumwere just emerging.
We had a surprisingly productive evening and found much more than might have been expected so soon after rain. The delight was a site full of flowering plants and alive with small creatures in a fine evening sunlight.
I was very interested to read all about the activities of MK Swifts in the Summer 2019 “Magpie”. Living at Gawcott, near Buckingham, I am a little too far outside MK Swifts’ catchment area to make a meaningful contribution so I operate as Buckingham Swifts. I find that the most productive study is that carried out on one’s home patch and thus I am getting to know Gawcott’s swifts really well. Gawcott has an unusual “problem” with swifts – we have a huge main colony and at least one secondary colony BUT the big colony is in a horribly dilapidated property. This property is occupied by an elderly couple who have lifetime rights of occupation but there is a messy legal tangle to come when they pass away. The property is falling down around their ears and the assumption is that when they do pass on, the property will be sold for millions to a developer and torn down and redeveloped (yes, it has been reported to BMERC but at best this could only mitigate, not stop, redevelopment). Gawcott swifts thus have plenty of nest sites, they don’t really need my nestbox and accordingly I have not yet succeeded in getting it occupied.
I network with other swift enthusiasts nationwide and use the website Swift Conservation a lot. This is a not for profit organisation run by Edward Meyer. The site is packed with useful information and has a section for “local experts and groups”. You will see that both Milton Keynes Swifts and Buckingham Swifts are listed here.
Back in summer 2018, I was surprised to be contacted by a lady who asked me “in your capacity as Secretary of Buckinghamshire Swifts” could I design her some swift boxes to install in her church tower. This came as rather a surprise, particularly since there is no such thing as “Buckinghamshire Swift Group” and I would not even be able to put a shelf up! However, through a Swift Conservation affiliate group called Action for Swifts (AfS), I knew of a genius designer called Dick Newell who I put the enquirer in touch with. I did very little else than “signpost” (and organise a crowdfunding appeal to fund the materials) but off they all went and produced a fantastic result at Dinton (near Aylesbury) church.
I have included the text of the report that was eventually posted on the AfS webpage.
Thursday, 28 March 2019
This is a job particularly well done, so should be an inspiration to others. Back in August 2018 Sue Hetherington got in touch about swift boxes in the belfry of Saints Peter & Paul in Dinton, Bucks. The belfry has large louvres, more widely spaced than normal, meaning that 2 levels of entrances could fit between each pair of louvres. (We did something like this in St Mary’s, St Neots).
After batting photos and measurements back and forth we, AfS, suggested a configuration (see below) which has been very competently adapted and implemented by carpenter Nick Deschamps, resulting in 16 new nest boxes in the belfry. Rosemary Jackson takes up the story:
The Church of SS Peter & Paul, Dinton
“The idea for installing swift nest boxes in our village church was triggered by three incidents in 2017.
We went to the Rutland Bird fair in August 2017 and there we saw the Action for Swifts display. An enthusiastic carpenter had brought the front of a bank of nest boxes which he told us fitted in his church tower and had attracted a new colony of swifts to his village.
Also, in 2017 there was a study group amongst the churches in my area about the idea of the Eco Church and how we could make our churches more environmentally friendly.
The next summer I found out that the only nest site for swifts in my area had been blocked up and we were then very concerned that we would not get swifts back in the village. Happily, one pair nested somewhere because we had five swifts screaming around the village in August and giving us such great pleasure as they always do.
I decided that I would act to promote swifts somehow. I wrote a book about a family of swifts for young children and an artist friend illustrated it. By amazing serendipity her husband had just retired and was looking for a project to pursue and the challenge of making swift nest boxes and installing them in the church tower fired his imagination.
The Church of SS Peter & Paul, Dinton – 16 boxes installed
We realized very quickly that this was no straightforward project. After examining the Action for Swifts website and contacting a Bucks Bird Club friend we were put in touch with Dick Newell who developed a plan of 16 nest boxes to fit our very ancient church louvres inside the bell chamber. Nick set to work on the carpentry and all the winter of 2018/2019 worked on 4 banks of 4 nest boxes. Eventually when the weather got warmer, we were able to try a model in the bell chamber, and eventually mid-March fitted the real things, even putting chicken feathers in the nesting cups to get the swifts started on the soft furnishings.
At the beginning of May we plan to start playing the screaming swift family calls to alert swifts coming back from Africa that there are nest boxes here inviting occupancy.
We also plan that, should we be fortunate enough to attract out own family of swifts we will fit a camera into the nesting box and arrange a CCTV so that we can have a birdwatching day with the local school children, setting up telescopes and a laptop with live pictures and information on this amazing miracle bird.
British wildlife is truly wonderful!
Rosemary Jackson, Church warden
Funnily enough, this project did have an effect on MK Swifts. Martin Kincaid had been approached by Newport Pagnell church where they also wanted to put swift nestboxes in the tower. Martin came along and looked at the Dinton project and was suitably impressed (the carpenter had done an incredible job) He tried to contact Newport Pagnell again but the interest seemed to have withered on the vine. However, he knew that the school opposite The Cock at Stony Stratford wanted to put boxes up so he took up this project instead. He asked Andrew Hetherington to construct 4 boxes which he was pleased to do (and to kindly donate). These boxes, plus, I believe some purchased ones are now installed at the school, as reported in the MK Swifts report.
To date, I am not aware of any take up by swifts of any of the new boxes but this is to be expected. It would normally take a minimum of 2 years before swifts will take to new boxes – even with a calling system in operation.
Speaking of AfS, the group have organised the second annual Swift Awareness Week (SAW). This is taking place from 22nd to 30th June 2019. An eclectic series of events will be taking place nationwide and some national publicity will hopefully begin soon – maybe even Chris Packham will be kind enough to mention it again on “Springwatch”! Click here for the Swift Conservation events map
There will be a small pop up display at the Bucks County Museum in Aylesbury which some of you may care to have a look at if you find yourself in the town during the period.
I’ve not listed “The Crown” at Gawcott as a SAW event but I’d be pleased to meet anyone there during the swift season for a “swift half”. The big colony at the next door building can be observed from there. Late evening on a fine summer’s evening is a recommended time, leading up to around 9pm.
Text by Sue Hetherington 6 June 2019
Click here to read Sue’s article on Swift Awareness Week 2019
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The Grizzled Skipper has declined by 55% across the UK over the last 40 years and disappeared from its former stronghold in Derbyshire – the National Trust’s Calke Abbey near Ticknall – in 1967.
The first Purple Emperor of 2019 will take to the air at lunchtime on Friday June 14th, somewhere in Sussex or Surrey. An earlier appearance was on the cards but larval progress has been slowed down by cool nights and evenings during May (at one staged a May emergence was a possibility).
This prediction is based on the progress of larvae being followed in the wild (last year my prediction was less than 24 hours out…).
Is your outdoor space providing the resources birds need to breed (including food, shelter, water and nesting sites)? Watching what birds are doing, their behaviour, can provide the answers. We need your help to find evidence of how common garden birds benefit from our outdoor spaces at this critical time of year. Don’t forget to report back – your observations can help us understand how we can better support the birds and other wildlife on our doorsteps.
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There are over 250 species of larger wasp in the UK, but about 6000 species in total, including tiny parasites and gall-wasps right up to the magnificent brown and yellow hornet, one of our largest insects, with quite a reputation. The wasps most of us know are the nine social species, the paper wasps, named from their nests, including the common wasp, the German wasp and the hornet.
A regular question we get asked at the Bumblebee Conservation Trust is “How are the UK’s bumblebees doing?” It seems such a simple question that you’d think demands a simple answer, but like most things in life, it’s actually a lot more complicated!
Males blue with dark border. Females brown with row of red spots. Undersides brown-grey with black spots, a row of orange spots, and small greenish flecks on outer margin. Males similar to Common Blue, which lacks greenish spots.