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!
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.
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.
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”
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.
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.
Planting billions of trees across the world is by far the biggest and cheapest way to tackle the climate crisis, according to scientists, who have made the first calculation of how many more trees could be planted without encroaching on crop land or urban areas.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The first Blooms for Bees journal paper ‘Evaluating the ability of citizen scientists to identify bumblebee (Bombus) species’ has been published in PLOS One this week. You can read the full paper on the PLOS One website.
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.
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.
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.
After 50 years of looking at British nature, I conclude that the most entrancing of its parts is a flower-rich meadow. Once England had 4m acres of them; now 1% remains, like these at the southern edge of the Peak District national park.
Tree-planting in England fell well short of targets in the past year new figures show, despite government promises to restore and plant new woodland across the country to combat the climate change crisis.
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.