Author Archives: admin

The rise of ‘ungardening’

Meadow flowers by Peter Hassett, Sharpenhoe Clappers 4 August 2019

Meadow flowers by Peter Hassett, Sharpenhoe Clappers 4 August 2019

Manicured privets and immaculate lawns are a thing of the past. Nowadays, it’s all about “ungardening”: eschewing toxic pesticides or sterile patio decking to create gardens that will encourage native wildlife to live and flourish. Rewilding, as it’s more commonly known, has been growing in popularity across Europe and the US, as green-fingered activists use their skills to reverse ecological decline and encourage the growth of native species. But how best to turn the average British garden into an idyll for birds, mammals and, yes, even bugs? Wildlife gardening expert Jenny Steel weighs in.

Click here to read the rest of the article.: The rise of ‘ungardening’: how to turn a backyard into a wildlife haven | News | The Guardian

Petition to Ban Driven Grouse Shooting

UK Government logo

UK Government logo

Chris Packham, Ruth Tingay and Mark Avery (Wild Justice) believe that intensive grouse shooting is bad for people, the environment and wildlife. People; grouse shooting is economically insignificant when contrasted with other real and potential uses of the UK’s uplands.

Click here for more information.: Ban Driven Grouse Shooting Wilful blindness is no longer an option – Petitions

Chris Packham interview on grouse shooting

‘Ruthless cull’: Hundreds of thousands of animals being killed on private estates to protect grouse shooting, Chris Packham

Foxes, stoats, weasels and mountain hares ‘ruthlessly’ targeted alongside illegal killings of protected species, says TV presenter

Click here to read the rest of the article.: ‘Ruthless cull’: Hundreds of thousands of animals being killed on private estates to protect grouse shooting, Chris Packham says | The Independent

The Glorious 11th! Hen Harrier Day 2019 

Blog from the RSPB’s Guy Shorrock on Hen Harrier Day 2019

Yesterday I joined the crowds for the sixth Hen Harrier day event at Carsington Water in Derbyshire, organised by Wild Justice with help from Severn Trent Water. It’s thought that around 1500 people were there at any one time – the largest number for a Hen Harrier Day event ever. It was a brilliant day, the weather held and the crowd enjoyed a terrific selection of great speakers.

Click here for more information:
The RSPB blog
Wild Justice’s photos of the day

Invasive Japanese knotweed hybrid on the rise in the UK sparking concerns

Reports of a Japanese knotweed hybrid which has the potential to out-compete native vegetation are on the rise, it has been warned.The invasive “bohemian knotweed” is produced by cross fertilisation between Japanese knotweed and giant knotweed and can be more vigorous than its parent plants, according to experts.

Source: Invasive Japanese knotweed hybrid on the rise in the UK sparking concerns

A Year in the Life of a Black Hairstreak

The Black Hairstreak butterfly has held a special place in my heart for almost as long as I’ve held an interest in butterflies. Their specific needs making them a real Northamptonshire speciality coupled together with the elusiveness making them a challenge to study only make the species more appealing to me. The Black Hairstreak was one of the first species of butterfly I made a special trip to see when many years I ago I headed to Glapthorn hoping that I’d bump into someone who knew what they were doing and show me where to see them.

Click here to read the rest of the article.

The Chequered Skipper Flies Again!

Seeing Chequered Skippers flying once again in their former English strongholds has been a dream of mine since I was a child. I grew up in Northamptonshire in a house that backed on to fields and while exploring the seemingly endless natural world beyond the back gate I developed a fascination for butterflies. I kept this interest in butterflies into my adult life and I now find myself as the Northamptonshire County Butterfly Recorder. It was during my early studies of butterflies that I first came across the Chequered Skipper, but only in a book as the species became extinct in England two years before I was born. I was saddened to read the accounts of its disappearance from its former strongholds here and I was amazed to learn how rapidly a species can decline and disappear in a short space of time.

Click here to read the rest of the article.: The Chequered Skipper Flies Again! – Back From The Brink

The Great Fen Newsletter August 2019

Water Works Project Awarded £1 million

We’ve been busy as always here on the Fen and after the huge success of the Rothschild’s Bungalow Open Weekend at the end of July we are looking to re-open at the beginning of October. So many new visitors came along to make the most of this rare opportunity to come into the bungalow and due to the electrics not working it was an authentic glimpse into how it would have been for the Rothschild’s family all those years ago!

Click here to read the newsletter: £1million for new project, wildlife sightings and upcoming events

Thornborough Bridge by Peter Hassett 6 August 2019

Trip Report – Coombs Quarry and Padbury Brook 6 August 2019

The evening started from the Medieval Thornborough Bridge (pictured above) constructed from the local Blisworth Limestone which we were to see in the quarry. The route took us under the busy A421 upstream along the bank of the Padbury Brook (a few members took advantage of much nearer car parking courtesy of the local farmer so missed the walk but had time to set out the demonstration table above the quarry).


The Padbury Brook was a green corridor of reeds and rushes through the parched meadows. Late flowering summer flowers on its banks were still showing well including Great Willow Herb, Marsh Woundwort, Water Forgetmenot, Water Figwort, Angelica and Teasel. 

Two Brown Hares on an arable field opposite offered early excitement. Unfortunately there were few insects in evidence and birds were few and far between but did include Grey Wagtail, Reed Bunting, Swallows, and a large flock of Rooks feeding on stubble.

Joe gave a brief introduction to the rock exposure in the quarry as observed from the viewing platform above it. Mainly drawing on the excellent Bucks Geological Society website and Interpretation Boards he explained that deposition was about 170 million years ago in the Middle Jurassic Period. The area was then at a latitude of about 40 degrees North. He explained that the Blisworth Limestone was deposited in low energy shallow warm marine conditions (as currently found in the Florida Keys). The Blisworth Clay above the limestone was deposited in lagoonal, mud flat and brackish marsh environments. There are fewer fossils but a dinosaur(Theropod) footprint had been found near-by at Thornborough Mill.

Of particular interest was a fault line (subsequent to deposition) which had displaced the younger rubbly Cornbrash seen to the east of the quarry downwards relative to the Blisworth Limestone. This could be clearly seen despite slumping of much later material. 

Jenny then demonstrated how this had happened with a specially baked ‘strata’ cake! (Subsequently the cake was rapidly eroded by participants!)

Most of the group then spent about an hour examining the structural features of the quarry and some Blisworth Limestone samples. We noted that the latter are made up of accumulated fossil shell fragments bound together with a carbonate cement. The fossils that can be found here are of Bivalves, Gastropods, Corals, Ecinoids and Brachiopods. Members identified with some confidence Bivalves and Gastropods including a small number with complete shells. A worm like trace fossil was also found. Others proved more challenging to identify. Calcite crystals (precipitated after deposition) were also in evidence especially with the aid of hand lens.

During the time in the quarry area several members explored the wooded area adjacent to it: a Jay and Tree Creeper were seen and a Green Woodpecker heard. Some also found the ruins of the two 19thcentury lime kilns which operated on the site until 1890 and are now marked by an information board.

This outing was rather different from our normal living wildlife focus but apart from its attractive setting the geology observed was a useful reminder of a past habitat and some of the animals that lived in it.

Text by Jenny Mercer and Joe Clinch

Pictures by Peter Hassett

How hot is that butterfly?

In the summer of 2018, the University of Cambridge and the Wildlife Trust for Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire began a new project to assess the impacts of climate change on butterfly species living on some of the Trusts’ most important reserves. Butterflies are abundant, easy to survey, and sensitive to environmental change, making them an ideal group to study and understand how individuals and communities might respond to our warming climate.

Click here to read the rest of the article.: How hot is that butterfly? | Wildlife Trust for Beds, Cambs & Northants

Scientists discover new shark species that glows in the dark

The tiny shark, named the American pocket shark, was collected by chance in 2010 by a research team aboard a NOAA ship studying sperm whale feeding off the Gulf of Mexico. But it wasn’t until 2013 that the shark was found amidst the other specimens that had been collected during the survey.

Click here to read the rest of the article.: Scientists discover new shark species that glows in the dark – Discover Wildlife

Seeds of rare wildflower sown for ‘perfect bake’ in summer sun

Seeds of a wildflower so rare it is only found in a handful of sites are being “baked” in the sun after last year’s heatwave boosted its survival.

Experts at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, have found the key to helping bring once-common pheasant’s-eye back from the brink of extinction is to expose seeds to the summer sun to encourage them to germinate.

Click here to read the rest of the article.: Seeds of rare wildflower sown for ‘perfect bake’ in summer sun to boost species – ITV News

Moth from Southern hemisphere now resident in Portugal

As travelling in the 21st century is easier than ever, so is for species to make their way to new areas, sometimes increasing their distributional range, or even establishing whole new habitats. On the other hand, when they leave their natural predators and competitors behind, and find abundance of suitable resources somewhere else, they are running the risk of becoming invasive.

Click here to read the rest of the article.: Southern hemisphere moth species in Portugal | Pensoft blog

The return of the dazzling purple emperor

Purple Emperor ©️Martin Kincaid, Shenley Wood 5 July 2019

Purple Emperor ©️Martin Kincaid, Shenley Wood 5 July 2019

Every July in the 1980s, my dad and I visited Foxley Wood, an ancient woodland close to my home. We were searching for the purple emperor, an iridescent purple, treetop-dwelling insect that inspires more obsession than any other butterfly.

Click here to read the rest of the article.: Butterflywatch: the return of the dazzling purple emperor | Environment | The Guardian

Cuckoo Tracking Project

We’ve lost over half the number of Cuckoos in the UK over the last 20 years. Since 2011 we’ve been satellite-tracking Cuckoos to find out why. We’ve learned lots of vital information which could help us to understand our Cuckoos –  such as how the different routes taken are linked to declines, and some of the pressures they face whilst on migration. But there is still more to discover. We now need to look more closely at how dependent they are on, and how much their migration is linked, to the drought-busting rains of the weather frontal system known as the Inter Tropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) as they move out of the Congo rainforest and begin to head back to the UK via West Africa. Follow our Cuckoos as they move to and from Africa.

Click here for more information.: Cuckoo Tracking Project | BTO – British Trust for Ornithology

Chiffchaff CC BY_NC_SA Peter Hassett, Draycote Water 3 April 2019

Trip Report – St.Laud’s Churchyard, Sherington 30 July 2019

Shield bug on Dogwood  ©Julian Lambley, Sherington 30 July 2019

Shield bug on Dogwood ©Julian Lambley, Sherington 30 July 2019

Sherington now has an active and growing Biodiversity Group who are doing all they can to make the village more attractive to wildlife. The churchyard of St.Laud’s Church is managed with a light touch – large areas of the churchyard are left unmown to allow grasses and wildflowers to flourish and some areas have been enhanced with sown and planted wildflowers. ‘Bug hotels’ have been installed on the walls and hedgehogs are encouraged throughout the village.

On the evening that we visited the omens were not good. After a wet day, the skies were leaden and it was drizzling at 6.45pm. Nevertheless, twenty members turned up. Parking at the village hall, we made the short walk along Church End towards the church. As luck would have it, we had just reached the church when there was an almighty downpour. Luckily, we had shelter in the church porch which was quite cosy with 20 people in it! A good place, this, for the Harvestman enthusiast. However, the rain soon passed and we had a very enjoyable hour.

Speckled Bush Cricket by Peter Hassett

Speckled Bush Cricket by Peter Hassett

Martin Kincaid led the group from the church into the adjacent fields. One of these former arable fields has now been turned over to nature by the owner who has planted a nectar rich garden which is full of butterflies, bees and hoverflies. On the previous day Martin and Carol Allen had counted 13 species of butterfly here for the Big Butterfly Count. In the damp conditions, we did not see any butterflies flying about but before long people started to find roosting butterflies on grass stems – at first just Meadow Browns and Ringlets, and later a wider range including Common Blue, Brown Argus and Small Copper. Everywhere, Meadow Grasshoppers were leaping about and we managed to identify six species of Orthoptera. Probably most impressive were a number of adult Speckled Bush-crickets who were settled on the leaves of a Buddleia. Julie Lane found these and before long several of us had them crawling over our hands.

This garden is privately owned but signs dotted around make it clear that anyone is welcome to wander through and enjoy it – provided they clean up after their dogs. In a second clearing there was a large compost heap and around here impressive stands of Purple Loosestrife and Water Figwort.

Returning to the churchyard, we concentrated on plants. Roy Maycock had listed plants here in the 1980s as part of his county-wide churchyard survey. Mary Sarre, assisted by others, amassed quite a list this evening and will be interesting to compare this with Roy’s 30+ year old list.

Among the birds heard and seen were Swifts, Swallows and House Martins – which were foraging over the village – Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Chiffchaff and Green Woodpecker.

A most enjoyable walk despite less than summery conditions and one worth repeating. We will provide Sherington Biodiversity Group with our records and observations.

Text by Martin Kincaid.

Photo at top of page is a Chiffchaff by Peter Hassett


Time to nest again?

Early return to breeding areas is widely acknowledged to be ‘a good thing’ but why? Some people suggest that early migrants can choose the best territories, others argue that early chicks have a disproportionately high chance of fledging but there are other explanations too. In their paper in Ecology & Evolution, Catriona Morrison and her colleagues ask how much of the advantage of being an early migrant could be associated with having an option to nest again, if the first attempt fails.

Click here to read the rest of the article.: Time to nest again? | wadertales

Petition to Repeal the archaic Weeds Act 1959 to benefit pollinators and wider biodiversity.

UK Government logo

UK Government logo

This Act drives destruction of native wildflower species so essential to the survival of pollinators & other wildlife. Plants targeted by the Act include common & creeping thistle – both rich sources of nectar, ragwort with its 177 pollinators & dock an important food plant for many insects.

Click here for more information.: Repeal the archaic Weeds Act 1959 to benefit pollinators and wider biodiversity. – Petitions

Generational change in Black-tailed Godwits

In a changing world, with more chaotic weather patterns and rapidly altering habitats, migratory birds are faced with opportunities and challenges. Long-term monitoring of colour-ringed Black-tailed Godwits, during a period of range expansion and phenological change, has revealed that individuals behave consistently over time but that the behaviour of new generations is moulded by the conditions they encounter.

Click here for more information.: Generational change | wadertales

Hen Harrier Day 11 August 2019

Carsington Water Visitor Centre
Ashbourne, Derbyshire

Join Wild Justice (Chris Packham, Ruth Tingay and Mark Avery) for the UK’s 6th Hen Harrier Day. Learn more about our Hen Harriers, discover the TRUTH behind their disappearance in the UK and find out what you can do to help.

Click here for more information.

Threatened sand dunes set for a dynamic future

  • £4m from The National Lottery Heritage Fund for a pioneering project led by Natural England in partnership with the National Trust, Plantlife, The Wildlife Trusts and Natural Resources Wales
  • Citizen scientists and communities will make the difference to help England and Wales’ most important dunescapes get moving and thriving again

Click here for more information.:

The Wildlife Trusts
The Telegraph
Discover Wildlife

Box Tree Moth Threat to Chilterns Box Woodlands

You may remember the Heritage Lottery Funded Box Woodland Project (2013 – 2015) led by Sarah Wright which introduced many of us to the rich cultural history of the Chilterns Box Woodland.  The largest native Box Woodland in the UK can be found near Great Kimble and remnants of other Box Woods, sometimes existing as an understorey to other woodlands, can be found scattered across the Chilterns.  The slow growing dense wood has been used for centuries for engraving, medieval woodwind musical instruments, early printing blocks and lace-makers bobbins, used locally to produce the famous Bucks Point Lace. Click here to learn more about Chilterns Box Woodlands.

Click here to read the rest of the article.: The Chilterns AONB – News

Moth Notes 28 July 2019


Since I last wrote moth notes over a month has passed and that time has taken us in to the busiest part of the mothing season.  I have spent some of that time on the Suffolk Coast in search of moths that do not venture inland.  There has been plenty of mothing going on here though with visits to Goosey Bank and Barn Field, both near Olney, a night out at Howe Park Wood helping with the Bioblitz there on 1-2 July, a late night/early morning at the Woodland Trust owned College Wood, near Nash as well as the usual traps left at Linford Lakes Nature Reserve and in my garden here at Newport Pagnell.

The wet and cooler weather of the past few days has provided a little respite and has permitted time to check records, enter them on the data base and to write some mothing notes.

One of the moths I enjoy seeing in Suffolk is the Rosy Footman.  I have never seen it in North Bucks so you can imagine my surprise when it was found in a trap at Linford Lakes on 13th July.  I returned from Suffolk on the 12th and the trap it was found in was one that I had taken away with me so I suspect that I may have brought it back with me. I will include it in my records for Linford with an explanatory note but who knows, the moth may have found its way there on its own accord.

One that took the eye at Howe Park Wood on 2nd July was a Green Arches.  There are a number of moths with Arches in their names and all have markings with a curved or pointed arch above a pair of columns. The caterpillars feed on Dock, Bramble, Primrose and Honeysuckle at the wood and they overwinter as caterpillars and pupate underground.

At Barn Field, near Olney on 17th July a lovely specimen of Yellow Shell was recorded.  These are disturbed during the day and are on the wing between June and August.   The caterpillars feed on Cleavers, Bedstraws, Dandelions and Docks and they too overwinter as larvae and pupate underground.

Found outside one of the traps on the same day at Barn Field was this Leopard Moth.  The caterpillars of this moth feed on wood and stem tissue of many trees and because there is not much nutrition in wood they remain in the caterpillar state for between 2-3 years. The adult moth, like the one in the photograph, is incapable of feeding.

On the 25th June, a welcome visitor to the garden trap in Newport Pagnell was the very colourful Scarlet Tiger.  The Tiger moths are as colourful as butterflies and their caterpillars are the “woolly bears”.  The Scarlet Tiger seems to have   been extending its range in recent years from a base in the south west of England. The caterpillars feed on Common Comfrey and Hemp-agrimony and when larger disperse on to Common Nettle, Bramble and Sallow.  The micro-moth beneath the Tiger is known as the Yellow-spot Tortrix.

Text and photos kindly supplied by Gordon Redford. Click here to read the previous edition of Moth Notes

Butterfly numbers fell by one-third in the US over past two decades

Butterfly numbers have dropped by one-third in the past two decades in the US, echoing declines seen in Europe. These figures raise alarm bells for the health of other insect populations, because butterflies face similar environmental changes and are used as a proxy for studying insects in general.

Click here to read the rest of the article.: Butterfly numbers fell by one-third in the US over past two decades | New Scientist

What’s that Wildflower?

There are some plants we all know at first glance, the bright red poppy, or the tiny daisy, but could you tell the difference between upright hedge parsley and burnet saxifrage? If you came across a beautiful wildflower, on a walk in a woodland or amongst unmown grass in your local park, how would you go about finding out what it is?

What steps can you take to make identifying a wildflower that little bit easier?

We’ve created a Wildflower ID template to help you, and your friends and family, look at wildflowers more closely and to help you begin to build a botanical vocabulary. It is not intended to be exhaustive, but we hope it will help you pay closer attention to wildflowers and develop the eyes, and noses, of a botanist!

Click here for more information.: What’s that Wildflower? | Grow Wild

UK Butterflies – Larval Foodplants

Small Copper butterfly at Small Copper at Llanymynech Rocks Nature Reserve, Shropshire

Small Copper butterfly at Llanymynech Rocks Nature Reserve, Shropshire by Peter Hassett 06Aug15

This page lists the larval foodplants used by British butterflies. The name of each foodplant links to a Google search. An indication of whether the foodplant is a primary or secondary food source is also given.

Click here for more information.: UK Butterflies – Larval Foodplants

Glacial melting in Antarctica may become irreversible

Svartisen Glacier (Norway) ©Peter Hassett 18 February 2013

Svartisen Glacier (Norway) ©Peter Hassett 18 February 2013

A Nasa-funded study found instability in the Thwaites glacier meant there would probably come a point when it was impossible to stop it flowing into the sea and triggering a 50cm sea level rise. Other Antarctic glaciers were likely to be similarly unstable.

Click here to read the rest of the article.: Glacial melting in Antarctica may become irreversible | World news | The Guardian

Linford Lakes open days every Thursday in August 2019

The Parks Trust is holding open days at Linford Lakes Nature Reserve every Thursday in August (in addition to the usual Open Sunday).

Come and explore the wildlife of Linford Lakes, the best kept secret in Milton Keynes. Activities will range, but may include: bug hunting, pond dipping, bird watching, and our Wildlife Detective Trail and Challenges. All activities are completely free and suitable for all ages. This event is being run by the Parks Trust and the Friends of Linford Lakes Nature Reserve.

Open every Thursday during the Summer Holiday between 10.30 and 3.00.

Please note, as this is a nature reserve, no dogs are allowed. Visiting is usually by permit only, so if you would like to visit the site outside of these days, please sign up for a permit or come to one of the Friends of Linford Lakes open Sundays (see our website for further details).

Hen Harrier Suffers Savage Brutality

Chris Packham meets with a group of experts to unravel the horrific story of one male hen harrier caught in an illegally set trap in an area managed for grouse shooting, and discovers more about the long history of raptor persecution in this area.

Toxic caterpillars spark health scare across Germany

The Guardian logo

The Guardian logo

Marauding caterpillars with toxic hairs have brought parts of Germany to a standstill, leading to closures of swimming pools, restaurants, public parks and sections of the motorway.

Oak processionary moth caterpillars, named after the nose-to-tail processions they form to travel between the oak trees they devour, have fine, long hairs with an irritating toxin that can cause blistering rashes, feverish dizzy spells and asthma attacks.

Source: Toxic caterpillars spark health scare across Germany | World news | The Guardian

Curlews to be shot in France

In July 2018 there was a call for people to express their opinions on the issue of hunting Black-tailed Godwits and Curlews in France. This blog aimed to bring together some background to inform the discussion. The government decided to maintain the current situation until 30 July 2019: to shoot Curlew in some circumstances but to maintain a ban on shooting Black-tailed Godwits. A new Curlew decree has been published and a final decision is expected shortly as to what will happen when the shooting season reopens in August (2019). There is a link to the proposals at the end of this blog.

Click here to read the rest of the article.: Black-tailed Godwit and Curlew in France | wadertales

Management of wildflower-rich meadows

Wildflower-rich meadows are very rare and important habitats. Some of these grasslands support an amazing number of wildflower species as well as providing habitats for many species of birds, invertebrates, amphibians and mammals. In particular they provide very important supplies of pollen and nectar for bumblebees and other insect pollinators.

Click here to read the rest of the article.: Wildflower-rich meadows – Farm Wildlife

The Guardian readers on wildflower verges

Verge planted with non-native flowers

Verge planted with non-native flowers

The Guardian newspaper has published a series of letters from readers about wildflower verges.  ‘The impact is tremendous’: readers on wildflower verges | Environment | The Guardian

However, Dr Richard Bate has tweeted “This picture isn’t a wildflower meadow it’s a monster mix of non natives. It portrays the wrong image of what wildflowers are. This may seem a pedantic and trivial point to some but these flowerbeds are largely ornamental and nowhere near as beneficial to our native invertebrates”

Big Butterfly Count: Which common UK species to look for

The UK public has been asked to take part in the world’s largest butterfly count, to see if the nation is experiencing a once-in-a-decade phenomenon.

Butterfly Conservation said unusually high numbers of the painted lady butterfly had been spotted flying from Europe to the UK. They usually fly to Britain in the summer, but every 10 years millions arrive in a mass migration.

Click here to read the rest of the article.: Big Butterfly Count: Which common UK species to look for – BBC News

Britons urged to help record influx of painted lady butterflies

Painted Lady, Tattenhoe Park (9th August)

Painted Lady, Tattenhoe Park (9th August)

The UK could be experiencing a once-in-a-decade wildlife phenomenon this year with a mass influx of painted lady butterflies, experts have said.

TV naturalist Chris Packham is urging people to take part in the world’s largest insect citizen science survey, the annual Big Butterfly Count, to see if the painted ladies are arriving in their millions to the UK’s shores this year.

The butterfly is a common immigrant from the Continent to the UK each summer where its caterpillars feed on thistles, but around once every 10 years there is a painted lady “summer” when millions arrive en masse.

Click here for more information:
Sky News
The Guardian
Sky News

Saving meadows

Covering less than 1% of UK land, these remaining isolated fragments are home to an unprecedented richness of species; hundreds of different wild flowers and fungi have co-evolved over millennia with farmers managing the land as hay meadows and pasture. This unparalleled plant diversity provides the life support for our invertebrates, birds, mammals.

Click here for more information.: Plantlife :: Saving meadows

Do gamebird releases lead to increases in generalist predators?

Every year, 40-50 million non-native gamebirds (ring-necked pheasant Phasianus colchius and red-legged partridge Alectoris rufa) are released in the UK, equivalent to around 46000 tonnes of biomass. Fewer than half these birds are shot, with the remaining birds predated, scavenged or surviving to breed or to be predated in subsequent years. This means there is potentially a large food resource available to predators and scavengers; a resource that has increased year-on-year as the numbers released have grown.

Click here to read the rest of the article.: Anyone’s game: do gamebird releases lead to increases in generalist predators? – The Applied Ecologist’s Blog

Scarlet Tiger moth ©Paul Lund, Flitwick Moor 25 June 2019

Trip Report – Flitwick Moor 25 June 2019

Flitwick Moor is an SSSI managed by the Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, and Northamptonshire Wildlife Trust. It is a former mire in the valley of the River Flit which rises in the Chiltern foothills (and a tributary of the River Ivel which in turn flows into the Great Ouse). It is an uncommon habitat for southern England with areas of peat fed by iron rich acid springs (chalybeate) from the Greensands. This was extracted up to 1960 (the peat was used in the purification of natural gas and the chalybeate was sold in the 19thcentury as a cure-all tonic!). Alders predominate in the lowest areas of peat extraction: birch and oak (Quercus rober) in the higher. Woodland clearings offer habitats of sphagnum mosses, bracken, sedges, reeds and cotton grass. The slightly higher ground consists of a rough meadow dotted with ant hills.

It rained heavily on the day of the visit and although the rain had stopped by 19.00 it was still damp and murky: not ideal conditions for a wildlife amble. Nevertheless 18 members turned up for the evening which produced a good showing of plants and several invertebrates of interest.

The routetook us first through the wet woodland area of peat extraction. The plant life off the path and in the managed clearings included Rough Chervil, Small Balsam, Foxglove, Honeysuckle, Bracken, Common Polypody (a fern), Broad Buckler-fern, Soft Rush, Remote Sedge, Pendulous Sedge, and Cotton Grass (the latter much less in evidence compared with the Society’s last visit in 2016) all acid tolerant or acid loving. A total of 17 bird species were noted, by far the highlight being an Oyster Catcher which was heard calling as it passed over shortly after the walk started. Most of the other birds were common woodland species including Nuthatch, Treecreeper and Songthrush, given away by their songs and calls from the dense canopy.

Six-spot Burnett ©Paul Lund, Flitwick Moor 25 June 2019

Six-spot Burnett ©Paul Lund, Flitwick Moor 25 June 2019

The meadow area is rough grazed with scattered bushes and the mounds of the Yellow Meadow Ant. Here the plant life included Pendulous Sedge, Wavy Bitter-cress, Yellow Iris, and Horsetail at the soggy edges, and Lesser Stitchwort, Tufted Vetch, Meadow Vetchling, Bird’s-foot Trefoil, Lady’s Bedstraw, Scented Mayweed, Common Mouse-ear and Yarrow in the drier areas. Invertebrates included Marbled White and Six-spot Burnet.

A short diversion along the side of one of the ditches off the meadow yielded dense Russian Comfrey, Marsh Thistle and Hemlock (one specimen at over 3 metres!). The Scarlet Tiger (photo at top of page) was the invertebrate highlight here.

Thanks to Roy Maycock and Harry Appleyard, who were kind enough to accompany me on exploratory visits and for putting together checklists of plants and birds/invertebrates for participants, and to Paul Lund for the photographs.

Joe Clinch, Leader for the evening

Hen Harrier suffers savage brutality of an illegally-set trap on a Scottish grouse moor

An adult male hen harrier has suffered appalling injuries after being caught in a spring trap that had been illegally-set next to its nest on a Scottish grouse moor.

His lower leg was almost severed by the jaws of the trap and despite valiant attempts by a specialist veterinary surgeon to save him, his injuries were too severe and he was later euthanised.

Click here to read the rest of the article.

Bucks & MK Urban Bird Notes – Edition 2  17 July 2019

Looking back over the urban birding scene since edition 1, it is swifts that have dominated, more on them below.  I have no more news about our urban peregrine falcons.  I have seen from the numerous webcams and twitter feeds that the very numerous other sites nationwide have done extremely well.  It is very disappointing that we in Bucks have been deprived of the webcam from County Hall that we had grown to know and love. I am not exactly sure of all the reasons but know a major difficulty is that the Aylesbury pigeon racing fraternity are doing their utmost to have the County Hall birds and their platform removed and are seeking to litigate to achieve this.  In my opinion, it would help the peregrines if all who care about them could take the time to write to Bucks County Council to register their support of the project. Meanwhile, I am going to have to consider enduring another football match and making a visit to the MK Dons to see if I can what’s going on there!

Turning to the swifts, over the last 2 or 3 weeks they seem to have become very active – definitely in the north Bucks village where I live at least. Parties of what I take to be non-breeders have been zooming around in devil-may-care groups screaming their heads off.  Younger non-breeding birds appear to be checking out potential breeding sites for next year by flying up to places and briefly clinging on – if this happens at wooden nesting boxes, it can make quite a bang, leading to some people calling such birds “bangers”.  For the last few years, I have been attempting to supply BMERC with a list of exact nesting sites in Bucks.  This is something that Bucks Bird Club reporting system does not lend itself to – nest sites can be difficult to see for sure and knowing how many are in a particular building is similarly tricky. Most difficult of all, I have been reporting exact addresses e.g. “43 Acacia Avenue” which is something that would be inappropriate on Bucks Bird Club’s systems, even if marked as confidential. My purpose in recording these details is not to make life difficult for householders but to try to help swifts. If a planning application came in at a property with known swift nests, it would help to make sure that work is carried out in the off season and also would give an opportunity to have a conversation with the property owner to see if they could do anything to mitigate any potential negative impact on swifts. If anyone is able to supply any data about breeding swifts, please email me on

The last week of June also saw the second annual “Swift Awareness Week” with over 100 events taking place nationwide.  They were an eclectic assortment – from walks and talks to garden parties and pop-up mini displays of information.  Princes Risborough was fortunate to have a talk by Andrew Lack, son of the David Lack, the eminent ornithologist from Oxford.

As I write in mid July, it will not be long before our swifts depart, so if you are lucky enough to have any near where you live, don’t forget to appreciate them while you can.

Sue Hetherington



Good Urban Birding until next month, Sue Hetherington

What does the heat wave mean for amphibians?

Much of Britain has been basking in glorious sunshine recently. But how do frogs, toads and newtsreact to an exceptional run of hot weather and no rain? It can be a mixed blessing. On the positive side, warmer temperatures in summer can help in a number of ways. Of course, as amphibians rely on external sources of heat; hot weather means they can be active more of the time. It may also mean that their prey are more active and possibly more numerous. Temperature has a crucial influence on the development of amphibian tadpoles (technically known as larvae). Essentially, warmer ponds means faster development for tadpoles. In some years when temperatures are high early in the year we’ve noticed froglets and toadlets emerging earlier from ponds at many sites. We suspect that the emergence of efts (the term for land-based young newts after they transform from larvae) will be earlier in many ponds in those years – this typically happens a couple of months later than frogs and toads.

Click here to read the rest of the article.: What does the heat wave mean for amphibians? | The Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Trust

June was hottest ever recorded on Earth

Last month was the hottest June ever recorded, the EU‘s satellite agency has announced.

Data provided by the Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S), implemented by the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts on behalf of the EU, showed that the global average temperature for June 2019 was the highest on record for the month.

Click here to read the rest of the article.: June was hottest ever recorded on Earth, European satellite agency announces | The Independent

Barn owl feather ©Sue Hetherington, Floodplain Forest NR 17 July 2019

Feather identification

Many thanks to Colin Dockety for leading tonight’s (16 July 2019) field trip to Floodplain Forest Nature Reserve. With my “birders” hat on, my attention was quickly drawn to a pile of feathers on the very first field leading down to the reserve proper.

I find feathers quite tricky to identify – identification is so easy when a whole bird is seen but individual feathers are another matter. The whole group looked at the feathers, but it was Ayla Webb who knew what they were – a barn owl.  We wondered what on earth could have led to the demise of this bird?

Ayla pointed out that the barbs towards the bottom of each feather were much more downy than in other birds’ feathers – this being an adaptation that allows the barn own to fly silently.

I checked this id when I got home using a free website.  This is the website of Michel Kleeman, here

Sadly, I agree that a barn owl had perished recently on that field. Note that birds are arranged in this database by scientific name and this the barn owl is listed as Tyto alba.

I’ve included this link to the feather id database as I thought that it could be of interest to other members.

Text and photo by Sue Hetherington

Hen Harrier Day 11 August 2019 – update

2015 Hen Harrier Day ©Sue Hetherington, Goyt Valley Derbyshire, 9 August 2015

2015 Hen Harrier Day ©Sue Hetherington, Goyt Valley Derbyshire, 9 August 2015

Wild Justice is organising a public event to celebrate the threatened bird the Hen Harrier at Carsington Water, Derbyshire on Sunday 11 August. We’d like to thank Severn Trent Water for their enthusiastic support. This will be a family-friendly event with lots of speakers to inspire you. The Hen Harrier is a threatened bird of prey that is illegally killed on grouse moors. All three Wild Justice directors have a long association with campaigning for proper protection of this bird. Here are the details of the event, so far, but we’ll keep you updated on the lists of speakers and events as we get closer to the 11 August.

You can find more information on Mark Avery’s blog

Whimbrel: time to leave

Geolocators* have provided fantastic information about the movements of migratory birds – making links between countries, revealing previously unknown stop-over sites and indicating just how quickly birds traverse our planet. A small number of Icelandic Whimbrel have carried geolocators for up to six annual cycles, providing Camilo Carneiro with an opportunity to investigate the annual consistency of egg-laying, autumn departure, arrival in West Africa, departure in the spring, stopover in Western Europe and arrival back in Iceland.

Click here to read the rest of the article.: Whimbrel: time to leave | wadertales

Grouse shooting: half a million reasons why time’s up for this appalling Victorian ‘sport’

Red Grouse ©Julian Lambley, Wharfedale 10 February 2019

Red Grouse ©Julian Lambley, Wharfedale 10 February 2019

Some 500,000 birds will have been shot by the end of another inglorious season as a select few continue to trample on the interests of the rest of us

Click here to read the rest of the article.: Grouse shooting: half a million reasons why time’s up for this appalling Victorian ‘sport’ | Mark Avery | Opinion | The Guardian

Dealing with ammonia is an urgent health problem – yet levels are still rising

The Guardian logo

The Guardian logo

Earlier this year, the government produced its first comprehensive clean air strategy, the result of years of campaigning, public outcry and finally a series of court actions ending in victory for activist lawyers over resistant ministers.

For the first time, that strategy promised action on the key role that ammonia plays in the cycle of air pollution – previous pronouncements on air pollution concentrated on transport and industrial emissions.

Click here to read the rest of the article.: Dealing with ammonia is an urgent health problem – yet levels are still rising | Environment | The Guardian

Guide to Solitary Bees in Britain

Most people are familiar with honey bees and bumblebees, but look closely and there are smaller furry bees moving from flower to flower. There are around 20,000 described bee species worldwide. Most of these bees are known as solitary bees with only 250 bumblebee species, 9 honey bee species and a number of social stingless bees worldwide. In Britain we have around 270 species of bee, just under 250 of which are solitary bees. These bees can be amazingly effective pollinators and as the name suggests tend not to live in colonies like bumblebees and honey bees.

Click here to read the rest of the article.: Guide to Solitary Bees in Britain | The Wildlife Trusts

ZSL frog conservation film

Be sure to watch this video  about the spread of disease and the impact it could have on our Common Frogs.

Please think twice before moving spawn, tadpoles or frogs between different water bodies. The video is narrated by Stephen Fry. Click here to read an interview with Stephen.

What wildlife success have you had in your garden?

An RSPB blog:

Regular readers will know that I’m on something of a mission: for the past 20 years, I’ve been beavering away trying to make my garden as wildlife-friendly as possible, and sharing my experiences in regular blogs and articles and books.

Click here to read the rest of the article.: What wildlife success have you had in your garden? – Gardening for wildlife – Homes for Wildlife – The RSPB Community

What do birds eat in the wild?

While many birds enjoy feasting on the treats hidden in garden bird feeders, what do they eat in the wild?

From garden birds to waterfowl and summer migrants, find out what birds eat in the wild and how their diet can change with the seasons.

Click here for more information.

Farmland Tax Breaks revealed

Today the charity I work for, People Need Nature, publishes its latest report, investigating the tax system and how it affects farmland. “Where there’s muck there’s brass: revealing the billions hidden in farmland tax shelters” lays out the many, varied, and some frankly bizarre tax breaks available to farmers and landowners. And we argue that these are providing no benefit to society, and in some cases are operating against things society might want.

Click here to read the rest of the article.: Farmland Tax Breaks revealed | a new nature blog

Mass Seasonal Migrations of Hoverflies Provide Extensive Pollination and Crop Protection Services

Hover Fly, Helophilus pendulus ©Ian Saunders. garden pond, Stoke Goldington 10 june 2018

Hover Fly, Helophilus pendulus ©Ian Saunders. garden pond, Stoke Goldington 10 june 2018

  • Between 1 and 4 billion hoverflies migrate into and out of southern Britain each year
  • These migrants provide important pest control by consuming 3–10 trillion aphids
  • They also provide extensive pollination services and long-range pollen transfer
  • Migrant hoverflies play a vital role due to declines of other beneficial insects

Click here for more information.: Mass Seasonal Migrations of Hoverflies Provide Extensive Pollination and Crop Protection Services: Current Biology

Council suspends all hedge trimming as villagers protest work has killed or disturbed hundreds of animals

Kent council has suspended all hedge trimming and launched an investigation after metres of hedgerow were decimated, with residents claiming bird nests were disturbed and animals killed.

Click here to read the rest of the article.: Council suspends all hedge trimming as villagers protest work has killed or disturbed hundreds of animals