BeeWalk is a standardised bumblebee-monitoring scheme which involves volunteer ‘BeeWalkers’ walking the same fixed route (transect) once a month between March and October, counting the bumblebees seen and identifying them to species and caste (queen, worker, male) where possible.
Established in 2008, and opened to the public in 2010, the twin aims of the scheme are collecting abundance and distribution data on Britain’s bumblebees, and using this data as widely as possible to analyse population trends and carry out other research as appropriate.
“All this rain is miserable, but it’s great for the garden and the rivers will be fine now!”. I’ve heard that quite a few times this week. The most important thing needed for a healthy river is water – a constant supply of it. Our most important river habitats are our chalk streams, which rely on a constant supply of water from a chalk aquifer. This is the same aquifer which supplies the taps in and around Cambridge, and it’s not in a good way right now. The River Cam this May had the lowest flows for that month since records began in 1949.
Turtle Dove, Julie’s garden, Julie Lane, January 2014
Just weeks after its initial decision to shoot up to 6,000 Eurasian Curlew was greeted with Europe-wide fury, the French government has given the go-ahead for hunters to shoot up to 18,000 European Turtle Doves this season.
The decision comes despite clear warnings from conservationists that the species is in rapid decline. European Turtle Dove is a globally threatened species and categorised as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List, yet its status in north-west Europe is significantly worse than even this suggests. It has decreased by 94 per cent in Britain since 1995, and many British birds will migrate south through France this autumn, putting them at significant risk of being shot.
A group of locals are now planning to facilitate a community land buy-out proposal to transform the knackered old grouse moor in to a species-rich nature reserve to benefit local people, nature conservation and tourism.
Calling themselves the Langholm Moor Working Group, these local community members are currently crowd-funding to raise £5,000 to help cover the costs of putting together a feasibility study, needed to agree on a fair price and to establish a sustainable case for community ownership. The group has secured match funding for anything it manages to raise via the crowd fund.
Record-breaking numbers of long-tailed blue butterflies have been seen in the last few weeks.
Wildlife charity Butterfly Conservation reports that more than 50 long-tailed blue butterflies and hundreds of this species’ eggs have been seen across southern England, and experts believe that climate change could be the cause.
All birds of prey are legally protected in the UK under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, but following the publication of the Birdcrime 2018 report, the RSPB says that in some areas of the country, these laws are being widely ignored.
From a wildlife gardening point of view, we are interested in providing those fruit and berry producing plants that attract and support particular species of bird. As such, we can use some of the evidence about feeding preferences and fruit availability to emerge from decades of research into this topic to draw up a list of suitable plants.
Plastic was the furthest thing from Gregory Wetherbee’s mind when he began analyzing rainwater samples collected from the Rocky Mountains. “I guess I expected to see mostly soil and mineral particles,” said the US Geological Survey researcher. Instead, he found multicolored microscopic plastic fibers.
The discovery, published in a recent study (pdf) titled “It is raining plastic”, raises new questions about the amount of plastic waste permeating the air, water, and soil virtually everywhere on Earth.
The annual Mammals on Roads survey has been run by People’s Trust for Endangered Species (PTES) since 2001. Over half a million kilometres of Britain’s roads have been surveyed so far, enabling us to target conservation action where it is most needed. One example of this is the fall in hedgehog counts that were the basis for projects such as Hedgehog Street and further research to uncover the reasons for the decline.
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.
The first white-tailed eagles to be reintroduced to England have been released on the Isle of Wight. The six young birds, the first to be returned to southern England for 240 years, are part of a five-year programme to restore this lost species led by Forestry England and the Roy Dennis Wildlife Foundation.
The remains of a human-size “monster” penguin have been discovered in New Zealand, scientists announced Wednesday.
The newly found species, Crossvallia waiparensis, is from the Paleocene Epoch — between 56 and 66 million years ago, making it one of the world’s oldest known penguin species, according to a statement from the Canterbury Museum in Christchurch.
A higher standard of wastewater treatment in the UK has been linked to substantial improvements in a river’s biodiversity over the past 30 years, ensuring a welcome success story for wildlife, say scientists.
The future of the HS2 high-speed rail project has been thrown into doubt after the government launched a “go or no go” review into the proposed £55.7bn network, with a leading critic of the scheme as its joint author.
The Wash Wader Ringing Group (WWRG) started with a bang on 18 August 1959, when the team made a catch of 1,132 birds in a Wildfowl Trust rocket-net at Terrington, in Norfolk. Over the years, cannon have replaced rockets, catches have become generally smaller and the scientific priorities have been refined, but the Group continues to focus upon discovering more about the waders that use the Wash. This blog attempts to summarises what has been learnt about the waders that rely upon the Wash, the vast muddy estuary that lies between Lincolnshire and Norfolk, on the east coast of England.
A sheriff has criticised Scotland’s weak wildlife crime laws after a gamekeeper convicted of killing protected birds of prey and mammals avoided a prison term.
Alan Wilson, 60, pleaded guilty in July to shooting and trapping badgers, an otter, goshawks and buzzards and installing 23 illegal snares in a small wood on a grouse- and pheasant-shooting estate at Longformacus near Duns.
Members of the public are being asked to look out for jellyfish when at the beach during the bank holiday weekend, and to report their findings via the website or via social media, using the hashtag #GBJellywatch.
You may have seen the blog summarising hen harrier breeding success in England explaining how the Hen Harrier LIFE project team have been involved in protecting and monitoring nine successful hen harrier nests in England this year, with the successful fledging of 33 chicks.
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.
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.
The Common Blue is the most widespread of the UK’s blue butterflies and during the record-breaking hot weather in 2018, the butterfly’s numbers soared across the UK, increasing by 104% on the previous summer.
What wonderful speakers there were at Hen Harrier Day! We don’t have images of them all, but here are some. If you have images of any of the missing ones (!) we’d love to be able to use them and credit them to you.
A new generation of national nature reserves are being created to help improve people’s health and mitigate the effects of climatic extremes, according to the chair of the government’s conservation watchdog.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
A new interactive online tool is set to encourage tree planting initiatives across the UK. It calculates how much pollution would be removed by planting trees in local areas, as well as the corresponding public health cost savings.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
Carsington Water Visitor Centre
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.
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.
England’s House Sparrow population fell by 70% between 1977 and 2016, and this once ubiquitous species is now absent from many urban areas. New research involving the BTO has found evidence that malarial parasites may be linked to this species’ decline.
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 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.
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!
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
Climate crisis disasters are happening at the rate of one a week, though most draw little international attention and work is urgently needed to prepare developing countries for the profound impacts, the UN has warned.
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.
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”