Category Archives: News

The best wildflowers for wild bees

Meadow flowers by Peter Hassett, Sharpenhoe Clappers 4 August 2019

Meadow flowers by Peter Hassett, Sharpenhoe Clappers 4 August 2019

Governmental agri-environment schemes (AES) aim to improve pollinator abundance and diversity on farmland by sowing wildflower seed mixes. These often contain high proportions of Fabaceae, particularly Trifolium (clovers), which are attractive to some bumblebee species, but not to most of the ~ 240 solitary bee species in the UK. Here we identify wildflowers that are attractive to a greater range of wild bee species.

Click here to read the rest of the article.: The best wildflowers for wild bees | SpringerLink

Find out about Bird Calls in the UK

Redwing ©Peter Hassett, Shenley Church End 18 December 2017

Redwing ©Peter Hassett, Shenley Church End 18 December 2017

Bird songs are common sounds to us all, but why do birds sing? Imagine you’re a male willow warbler, and you’ve just flown 2,400 miles (4000 km) from Africa. It’s spring, and you need to find a mate quickly. However, your home is a woodland and you’re the colour of leaves. What better way of advertising to a passing female that you are here and would make a fine father for her chicks than by having a clear, loud and recognisable song?

Click here for more information.: Bird Songs | Find out about Bird Calls in the UK – The RSPB

3rd brood meddled hen harrier ‘disappears’ in suspicious circumstances

Following the news that two of this year’s five brood meddled hen harriers had ‘vanished’ on grouse moors in the north of England in September 2019 (one in County Durham here and one in the Yorkshire Dales National Park here), we now learn that a third harrier has disappeared, also in the Yorkshire Dales National Park.

Click here to read the rest of the article.: 3rd brood meddled hen harrier ‘disappears’ in suspicious circumstances | Raptor Persecution UK

Birdcrime 2018

Birds of prey should be free to soar, enriching our lives as well as our ecosystems. But sadly, despite being protected by law, many of these birds are being illegally killed, particularly in upland areas of the UK as a result of the conflict with driven grouse shooting.

Click here to read the rest of the article.: Birdcrime 2018 | The RSPB

Soaking up the garden sounds of autumn 

Although I’m mad-keen about wildlife-friendly gardening, I also have an unbridled passion for birdsong, which at last found its chance to shine when a compilation-track of my recordings got to number 18 in the pop charts this year in what we called Let Nature Sing. (Two hundred thousand You Tube views and counting, I’ll have you know!)

Click here to read the rest of the article.: Soaking up the garden sounds of autumn – Gardening for wildlife – Homes for Wildlife – The RSPB Community

Best practice guidelines to feeding garden birds

The modern approach to garden bird feeding is to use a range of foods that support the specific nutritional requirements of a wide range of species over the course of a year. There is a scientific evidence highlighting the positive effects that the provision of supplementary food can have on birds. For example, the provision of supplementary food has been shown to improve overwinter survival in a number of species.

Click here to read the rest of the article.: Feeding garden birds | BTO – British Trust for Ornithology

New Nature Magazine September / October 2019 published

New Nature magazine Issue 27

New Nature magazine Issue 27

New Nature is the only natural history magazine written, edited and produced entirely by young people: by young ecologists, conservationists, communicators, nature writers and wildlife photographers each boasting an undying passion for the natural world. It is intended, foremost, as a celebration of nature, but also of the young people giving their time, freely, to protect it.

Click here to download the magazine

Unlocking the science to reveal the state of nature

State of Nature 2019 is published this week, updating everything we know about the state of populations – in terms of numbers or distribution – of more than 7,000 species of animal, plant and fungus within the UK. Inevitably, many of the headlines will be dire, highlighting the stark reality that 41% of the species whose numbers we can estimate are declining moderately or strongly.

Source: Unlocking the science to reveal the state of nature | BTO – British Trust for Ornithology

BTO Bird Migration Blog

It has to be said, for many of our common and scarce migrants September was a disappointing month with many species such as Redstart, Spotted Flycatcher, Whinchat, Wryneck and Red-backed Shrike being reported well below their historical reporting rates.

Click here for more information.

UK’s rarest amphibian given a head start

The UK’s rarest amphibian is taking a huge leap forward thanks to scientists behind a pioneering breeding programme.

The pool frog (Pelophylax lessonae) became extinct in the UK in the 1990s but it was reintroduced to a site in Norfolk between 2005 and 2008 by Amphibian and Reptile Conservation (ARC).

Now the wildlife charity has carried out a ground-breaking scheme to increase the animal’s population.

Click here to read the rest of the article.: UK’s rarest amphibian given a head start | The Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Trust

Bird populations in US and Canada down 3bn in 50 years

Bird populations in Asia and the US are “in crisis”, according to two major studies.

The first concludes there are three billion fewer birds in the US and Canada today compared to 1970 – a loss of 29% of North America’s birds.

The second outlines a tipping point in “the Asian songbird crisis”: on the island of Java, Indonesia, more birds may now live in cages than in the wild.

Click here to read the rest of the article.: Bird populations in US and Canada down 3bn in 50 years – BBC News

UK roadsides on verge of becoming wildlife corridors

Britain could enjoy 400bn more flowers if road verges were cut later and less often according to guidelines drawn up by wildlife charities, highways authorities and contractors.

The national guidance for managing roadside verges for wildflowers calls for just two cuts a year – instead of four or more – and only after flowers have set seed, to restore floral diversity and save councils money. It would also provide grassland habitat the size of London, Birmingham, Manchester, Cardiff and Edinburgh combined.

The recommendations have been produced by the wildlife charity Plantlife,

Click here for more information.
The Guardian
The Telegraph

Save the Bees

WHY THE BEES NEED OUR HELP

Did you know bees are critical to the food we eat? They give life to produce like peas, tomatoes and strawberries.

In fact, our supermarket shelves would look very different indeed in a world without bees. That’s why we need to take urgent action to help them!


Click here for more information.: Save the Bees – Backyard Nature

5 bird species once presumed extinct

The dramatic rediscovery of the Antioquia Brush-finch – a species unseen for almost half a century – hit the headlines this past April. However, such incredible returns, although rare, are not unheard of. We explore some of the most miraculous examples of recent times, and what they teach us about the danger of presuming a species is extinct.

Click here for more information.: Meet the Lazarus Birds: 5 species once presumed extinct | BirdLife

Biological control of Himalayan balsam

Himalayan balsam has rapidly become one of the UK’s most invasive weed species. A lack of natural enemies allows it to successfully compete with native plants for space, light, nutrients and pollinators, reducing biodiversity and contributing to erosion. Traditional control methods are inadequate. This project involves identifying an insect or plant pathogen that exclusively attacks Himalayan balsam, which can be released into the UK to control the plant while leaving indigenous species intact.

Click here to read the rest of the article.: Biological control of Himalayan balsam

General licences – Scotland

Everyone is looking at general licences following our successful legal challenge of the system, and in the knowledge that further legal challenges are possible from Wild Justice and from other interest groups. This unprecedented scrutiny is getting statutory agencies and governments to sharpen up their acts.

In Scotland, SNH has commissioned a report from the BTO which is now published

Click here to read the rest of the article.: General licences – Scotland – Wild Justice

Attracting invertebrates to your garden

Volucella zonaria Hoverfly ©Julie Lane. Johnson's Field, Olney. 25 July 2017

Volucella zonaria Hoverfly ©Julie Lane. Johnson’s Field, Olney. 25 July 2017

One of the keys to maintaining a garden that is attractive to a wide range of insects and other invertebrates is the provision of pollen and nectar across as much of the year as possible. Fortunately, plants do not all flower at the same time; this means that the annual sequence of flowering times can be used as the basis for selecting particular plants for your garden. Do not equate flower size with value, since a big showy flower does not necessarily offer more rewards to a visiting insect than one that is much smaller and less showy. The small flowers of Holly on show in late spring are extremely well used by insects. Blossom is important for insects and other invertebrates, providing both nectar and pollen. Nectar is a sugar-based solution which provides a ready source of the carbohydrates needed to fuel insect flight. Pollen, which is rich in protein, is thought to be important for the production of insect eggs.

Click here to read the rest of the article.: Attracting invertebrates | BTO – British Trust for Ornithology

(Ivy) Bee Aware

Here is a short visual essay on a wonderful addition to our parish. It is ivy time again and the lane down from the house has a hedge smothered in it. I always love to stop and examine the plethora of insects, which are intoxicated by its pollen and nectar. Last autumn I found a gorgeous addition to the village community called ivy bee Colletes hedera.

Click here for more information.: (Ivy) Bee Aware | Blackwater Blog

White-tailed Eagle returns to Isle of Wight 

Culver is a male White-tailed Eagle, originally from a nest on the Isle of Skye in Scotland. He was translocated to the Isle of Wight and released on 22nd August 2019. His ring number is G3 22.

After an extraordinary eight day, 680 km flight around southern England, Culver made it back to the Isle of Wight today. What’s more, he made landfall over Culver Cliff – the site of the last known breeding White-tailed Eagles in southern England in 1780; the place he’s named after.

Click here to read the rest of the article.

Managing road verges for pollinators

Road verges are a common sight across the UK landscape, with 238,000 ha of road verges along our almost 400,000 kilometres of roads. These habitats can support a wide range of wildlife, in particular providing sources of food and shelter for insect species. This report reviews the scientific literature on the benefits road verges can provide to pollinators, as well as the costs caused by their proximity to roads and road traffic. Finally the report reviews the literature around road verge management in order to make recommendations that aim to provide the best habitats for pollinators. The management recommendations provide road verge managers with a hierarchy of management choices, with each step benefiting pollinators and from which action can be taken depending on their resource and commitment levels.

Click here for more information.: Managing road verges for pollinators | Buglife

Minister’s claim that badger cull cuts cattle TB is attacked by experts

Government claims that the controversial badger cull is reducing tuberculosis rates in cattle have been undermined by a group of leading vets and animal welfare experts who have shared data that, they say, confirms it has made no difference.

Click here to read the rest of the article.: Minister’s claim that badger cull cuts cattle TB is attacked by experts | Environment | The Guardian

Declining abundance of beetles, moths and caddisflies in the Netherlands

Caddisfly by Paul Lund

Abstract

  1. Recently, reports of insect declines prompted concerns with respect to the state of insects at a global level. Here, we present the results of longer‐term insect monitoring from two locations in the Netherlands: nature development area De Kaaistoep and nature reserves near Wijster.
  2. Based on data from insects attracted to light in De Kaaistoep, macro‐moths (macro‐Lepidoptera), beetles (Coleoptera), and caddisflies (Trichoptera) have declined in the mean number of individuals counted per evening over the period of 1997–2017, with annual rates of decline of 3.8, 5.0 and 9.2%, respectively. Other orders appeared stable [true bugs (Hemiptera: Heteroptera and Auchenorrhyncha) and mayflies (Ephemeroptera)] or had uncertainty in their trend estimate [lacewings (Neuroptera)].
  3. Based on 48 pitfall traps near Wijster, ground beetles (Coleoptera: Carabidae) showed a mean annual decline of 4.3% in total numbers over the period of 1985–2016. Nonetheless, declines appeared stronger after 1995.
  4. For macro‐moths, the mean of the trends of individual species was comparable to the annual trend in total numbers. Trends of individual ground beetle species, however, suggest that abundant species performed worse than rare ones.
  5. When translated into biomass estimates, our calculations suggest a reduction in total biomass of approximately 61% for macro‐moths as a group and at least 42% for ground beetles, by extrapolation over a period of 27 years. Heavier ground beetles and macro‐moths did not decline more strongly than lighter species, suggesting that heavy species did not contribute disproportionately to biomass decline.
  6. Our results broadly echo recent reported trends in insect biomass in Germany and elsewhere.

Click here to read the rest of the article.: Declining abundance of beetles, moths and caddisflies in the Netherlands – Hallmann – – Insect Conservation and Diversity – Wiley Online Library

Petition to extend native status & legal protection to reintroduced native species in the UK

UK Government logo

UK Government logo

No overarching legislation currently exists to formally confer native species status or appropriate protection upon reintroduced wildlife driven to extinction by man and now reintroduced (by whatever means).

Click here for more information.: Extend native status & legal protection to reintroduced native species in the UK – Petitions

BTO Garden Birdwatch

Gardens are great places in which to watch birds and many people spend time watching these delightful visitors.

Add up all the gardens across Britain and you’ll end up with an area greater than that of the county of Suffolk, a not insignificant resource. Given this fact, it is important for us to understand how and why birds (and other wildlife) use gardens and the resources (like food and nesting opportunities) that they offer.

Click here to read the rest of the article.: About the project | BTO – British Trust for Ornithology

Know your Bank Vole!

Bank Vole by Peter Hassett, Linford Lakes NR 18 February 2017

Bank Vole by Peter Hassett, Linford Lakes NR 18 February 2017

Bank Voles are easily confused with Field Voles. They are larger than Field Voles, measuring about 13 to 17 cm long. They have small eyes, small ears and a blunt snout. Adult Bank Voles have a rich chestnut-brown back compared to the grey-brown fur of the Field Vole. They also have a much longer tail than the Field Vole.

Click here for more information.: Bank Vole | BTO – British Trust for Ornithology

Turtle Dove population in a tailspin

Turtle Dove in member's garden January 2014

Turtle Dove, Julie’s garden, Julie Lane, January 2014

Turtle Doves spend the winter in West Africa, arriving back to the UK in April to breed. Once in the UK, they prefer areas of bare ground with open water and mature scrub areas in which to nest, with a plentiful supply of seed to feed their young.  Before the BBS began in 1994, changes in land management had already impacted the population greatly and the species has continued to decline to this day. The highest remaining breeding densities occur in eastern and southern England, and they have now disappeared from large areas of the country.

Click here for more information.: Turtle Dove population in a tailspin | BTO – British Trust for Ornithology

The Great British Hedgerow Survey

The two main aims of the Great British Hedgerow Survey are:

  1. The survey provides a health-check to assess the condition of each hedgerow surveyed. The results offer instant feedback and tailored management advice for each hedge to ensure the hedge thrives for the benefit of our wildlife in the future.
  2. To collect this data to get a national view of the condition of our hedgerows. Understanding the condition of our hedges gives us the best chances of helping restore them.

Click here for more information.: The Great British Hedgerow Survey

‘Eagles need to eat too’: grouse moors take new approach to shooting

It was over in seconds. High over the grouse moor two hen harriers wheeled slowly around each other before, suddenly, the female darted underneath her mate to catch a freshly caught meal dropped from his talons and took it back to their chicks.

“That was a food pass,” said David Frew, the property manager of Mar Lodge, a vast Highland estate near Braemar in the southern Cairngorms. “You’re really lucky to have seen that.”

On many grouse moors in Scotland, hen harriers struggle to survive. The ground-nesting bird of prey is often shot, trapped or even poisoned to protect valuable grouse stocks from predation. On these shooting estates, the sight of a harrier, eagle or buzzard wheeling overhead would be a sign of failure.

Click here to read the rest of the article.: ‘Eagles need to eat too’: grouse moors take new approach to shooting | UK news | The Guardian

Government rejects Derbyshire badger cull

A proposed badger cull in Derbyshire this winter has been rejected by the government.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said it would not grant farmers licences.

It said it would give further consideration to how to combine vaccination programs against bovine TB with other methods.

Click here to read the rest of the article.: Government rejects Derbyshire badger cull – BBC News

US government announces changes to the Endangered Species Act

The changes will reduce the amount of regulations, allowing economic factors to be considered when assessing which protections will be given to vulnerable species. New rules will allow the administration to reduce the amount of habitat set aside for wildlife and remove tools that officials use to predict future harm to species as a result of climate change.

Click here for more information.: US government announces changes to the Endangered Species Act – Discover Wildlife

Hedgerow wildlife

Hedgerows are so teeming with life that one study counted 2070 species in one 85 metre stretch. Even this was thought to be an underestimate, as many taxonomic groups were not thoroughly sampled.

Whole books have been written about the wildlife that live, feed and travel in the hedgerows of this country and still they barely scratch the surface. The importance of our hedgerow network cannot be overstated, especially at this time where we are seeing worrying declines in our native wildlife across the board.

Click here to read the rest of the article.: Hedgerow wildlife – People’s Trust for Endangered Species

Bird responses to housing development in intensively managed agricultural landscapes

New BTO research has used citizen science data to assess the effects of housing developments on Britain’s bird populations, predicting that almost half of the bird species currently found on sites earmarked to become the government’s flapship ‘garden villages’ could decline once development starts.

Click here for more information.: Bird responses to housing development in intensively managed agricultural landscapes | BTO – British Trust for Ornithology

BeeWalk

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.

Click here for more information.: BeeWalk – Bumblebee Conservation Trust

Seal pups counted in the Thames

Scientists from the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) undertook the first ever comprehensive count of pups in the Thames, taking hundreds of photos during the pupping season in 2018.

After analysing the images, they have now tallied up a total of 138 common seal pups, which they say is clear evidence that the species is breeding in the river.

Click here to read the rest of the article.: Seal pups counted in the Thames – Discover Wildlife

Global heating brings Mediterranean butterfly to the UK

Record-breaking numbers of long-tailed blue butterflies have been seen in the last few weeks.

Long-tailed blues and eggs seen in large numbers but are unlikely to survive the winter.

A fast-flying migratory butterfly from the Mediterranean is appearing in large numbers across southern England this summer as a result of global heating, experts say.

Click here to read the rest of the article.: Global heating brings Mediterranean butterfly to the UK | Environment | The Guardian

Water, water everywhere – but is it enough?

One of the many ponds ©CC BY-NC-SA by Peter Hassett, Felmersham Gravel Pits 11 August 2018

One of the many ponds ©CC BY-NC-SA by Peter Hassett, Felmersham Gravel Pits 11 August 2018

“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.

Click here to read the rest of the article.: Imagining the invisible | Wildlife Trust for Beds, Cambs & Northants