Swifts spend our winter months away from our cold weather in Africa, undertaking a huge migration every year to return to here to breed. They tend to start arriving in late April and early May and depart by the end of August, and are rarely seen into September.
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?
By Gwen Potter, Countryside Manager for Northumberland Coast and Farne Islands, National Trust
It’s June on the remote Farne Islands and National Trust rangers have started the task of counting the islands’ thousands of pairs of puffins. The much-loved seabird, which has traditionally done well on these wild isles off the Northumberland coast, is being closely monitored amid fears climate change is having an adverse effect on sources of food and puffin numbers internationally.
Grey Wagtails occur at highest densities along fast-flowing upland streams. WBS/WBBS shows a fluctuating population size along waterways, with a fall during the late 1970s and early 1980s from an initial high point in 1974, some increase since the late 1990s, and another steep drop around 2010. The BBS trend matches WBS/WBBS closely: there was an initial increase but from 2002 the trend was steeply downward, especially in Scotland. The species was moved from the green to the amber list in 2002, and subsequently from amber to the UK red list at the latest review in 2015 (Eaton et al. 2015). However, the long term decline is now categorised as moderate rather than rapid, as a result of a slight upturn since around 2012.
Ring-necked Parakeet by Howe Park Wood, April 2012, by Harry Appleyard
Electric Ladyland wasn’t the only thing Jimi Hendrix released in 1968. One day in that tumultuous year he left his flat on Brook Street, Mayfair, and strolled down nearby Carnaby Street with a birdcage in his hands. I like to think that he was dressed in a tasselled jacket and flares, his favourite Fender Stratocaster slung across his back. Or perhaps he travelled incognito, in a trenchcoat and dark glasses. Either way, somewhere on that street, the heart of Swinging London at the height of peace and love, he opened the door of the cage and unleashed two bright green birds: Adam and Eve, a breeding pair of ring-necked parakeets.
A close look at pesticide use reveals we’re treating crops more frequently and with a greater variety of chemicals than ever before – it’s time to reverse this trend and put the UK onto a trajectory of pesticide reduction.
The White-legged Damselfly (Platycnemis pennipes) is a delicate little insect that can be found fluttering along lushly vegetated margins of rivers, streams, pools and lakes in southern England and Wales. In recent years there have been increasing concerns that this elegant species is disappearing from some parts of the UK. However, our understanding of White-legged Damselfly population trends it limited by a lack of long term data; thus, the British Dragonfly Society has launched the White-legged Damselfly Investigation.
UK honeybees have an extremely varied diet, foraging on a selection of more than 1,000 different plant species, a pioneering analysis of honey samples has found.
Around 200 beekeepers from across the UK provided honey samples for high-tech DNA testing. The results revealed that bees feed on a wide variety of commonly found crops, wildflowers and garden plants including Oilseed rape, Clovers, Brambles and Sweet Chestnut. It has also found invasive non-native species to be important sources of pollen and nectar, particularly Himalayan Balsam and ‘Tree of Heaven’.
Great spotted woodpeckers make themselves at home at some of our reserves across Scotland, and can be seen visiting gardens over winter to have a go at the feeders. RSPB Scotland’s Allie McGregor shares five facts about this great species.
With Ring Ouzel migration about to reach its peak this wonderful thrush can turn up almost anywhere. Check out the latest identification video to help separate this species from Blackbird, both on the ground, in flight and by song.
Back in 2004, when Rothamsted Research and Butterfly Conservation first uncovered the significant, long-term decline in moth abundance, artificial light at night (ALAN) was highlighted as a potential contributor to the observed trends1.
Footage of every single freshwater fish species in Britain filmed over the course of 7 years. Jack traveled across England, Scotland and Wales to film these species using various specialist techniques.
Peregrine by Harry Appleyard, Hazeley Wood, 29 May 2016
Despite extensive research on city-dwelling Peregrine FalconsFalco peregrinus in mainland Europe and other parts of the world, little has been undertaken and published in the UK. We analysed the diet of Peregrines in three cities in southwest England – Bristol, Bath and Exeter – between 1998 and 2007.The wide range of prey species taken included many species associated with a variety of non-urban habitats. Some prey species appear to be hunted at night, while on migration. This paper summarises the diet of Peregrines in urban areas and reviews their night-time hunting behaviour.
Swallows are summer visitors to the UK. They start to arrive here from Africa in April. By early June most swallows have started breeding and by July, the first brood of young has usually left the nest and flown away. The parents will normally then go on to raise a second brood, sometimes even a third.
The RSPB North Bucks Local Group are leading a field trip to:
Location: Meet in car park, SP 570 126. Space limited. RSPB requests car-share and do not overspill onto lane. From Abingdon Arms pub, Beckley (OX3 9TD), take Otmoor Lane for 1 mile and past firing range.
The RSPB has (with our Group’s support) restored this huge former wetland from intensive agriculture. Summer specialities include hobby, turtle dove and many dragonflies. Three hides but no toilets at this remote site. Paths level, but lengthy.
Walk leader : Mike Bird
Time: 10 am to 1 pm
Price: Free event
See the RSPB North Bucks Local Group website for more information
MKNHS is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites. You should check details of any events listed on external sites with the organisers.
Famed for its minute size and extra shiny coat the shining guest (Formicoxenus nitidulus) is a real gem to behold, particularly when you spot one in amongst a group of larger, acid-spraying wood ants – which the former treats as its ‘hosts’.
Elephant poaching rates in Africa are declining, according to a study published in the journal Nature Communications.
The annual poaching mortality rate fell from a high of more than 10% in 2011 to less than 4% in 2017, but the researchers warned that current levels were still unsustainable and could spell trouble for the future of the animals on the continent.
Our current project, FSC BioLinks, is all about invertebrates. Invertebrates provide us with many useful ecosystem services which we cannot survive without but their numbers are declining. Few people know how to identify or record invertebrates meaning there is a lack of records, making it difficult for conservationists to address these declines. The BioLinks project teaches people how to identify and record invertebrates by providing subsidised training courses, learning opportunities and digital tools to generate more records.
One of the joys of spring is the burst of bird song it brings, but telling birds apart by sound alone can be tricky for beginners. Start by learning the repertoire of some of the UK’s most familiar songsters and you’ll soon get your ear in.
Plantations are an excellent way to combat climate breakdown, writes Andrew Weatherall, of the National School of Forestry. And Rachel Kerr says heather moorland is rarer than rainforest and the underlying peat is more effective at carbon storage than trees
Linford Lakes NR BioBlitz by David Easton. 24 June 2016
Citizen scientists are increasingly engaged in gathering biodiversity information, but trade‐offs are often required between public engagement goals and reliable data collection. We compared population estimates for 18 widespread butterfly species derived from the first 4 years (2011–2014) of a short‐duration citizen science project (Big Butterfly Count [BBC]) with those from long‐running, standardized monitoring data collected by experienced observers (U.K. Butterfly Monitoring Scheme [UKBMS])…
Deforestation of the Brazilian Amazon surged last month to the highest May level since the current monitoring method began, prompting concerns that president Jair Bolsonaro is giving a free pass to illegal logging, farming and mining.
Many shark populations are in decline, primarily due to overexploitation. In response, conservation measures have been applied at differing scales, often severely restricting sales of declining species. Therefore, DNA barcoding was used to investigate sales of shark products in fishmongers and fish and chip takeaways in England.
Ptarmigans live in the mountains, and can survive quite happily at altitudes of up to 4,000 feet! To deal with the conditions in this part of the country ptarmigans have a range of fascinating adaptations, which are perhaps most evident come winter. Here are five interesting facts we thought you would enjoy about these birds.
With their characteristic black and white-striped face and grey fur, the badger looks like no other UK mammal. Stocky, powerfully-built creatures, they typically weigh 10-12kg, with a whole body length of about 90cm.
We are home to a quarter of the entire global population of curlew. If the curlew dies out in the UK, they are in real danger of disappearing from the earth all together. The scary news is that UK’s curlews are in serious decline. The British countryside is no longer a safe place for curlews to raise their young. With too few chicks surviving to fledge, there are not enough youngsters joining the population to replace the adults. We’re facing a future without our wader – that’s if nobody does anything about it.
In my last blog piece I wrote about the lichen translocation work that we carried out at Tarr Steps National Nature Reserve on Exmoor as part of Plantlife’s Building Resilience in South West Woodlands project, as recently featured on BBC’s Countryfile. This work focussed on the rare Tree Lungwort lichen (Lobaria pulmonaria) – a superstar of the lichen world. This large and vibrantly coloured species has drastically declined due to air pollution and acid rain and the UK has an international responsibility to conserve it.
This large, powerful butterfly is usually seen flying swiftly over the tops of bracken or low vegetation in woodland clearings. In flight, the males are almost impossible to separate from those of the Dark Green Fritillary, which often share the same habitats. However, both species frequently visit flowers such as thistles and Bramble where it is possible to see their distinctive underside wing markings. The Dark Green lacks the orange ringed ‘pearls’ on the underside of the hindwing.
At the RSPB Centre for Conservation Science there are around 60 full time scientists working on conservation problems around the world. My team specialise in tackling the problems faced by breeding waders and Project Godwit is one of our big projects over the next few years. This project aims to secure the future for breeding black-tailed godwits in the UK.
The Case for Caddisflies and much-maligned Molinia.
Over the past few years I have developed an interest in caddisflies – their life-cycles and ecology in particular – thanks in part to the enthusiasm of friend, neighbour and seasoned entomologist Graham Vick. All caddis are tied to water in one way or another by the aquatic or semi-aquatic requirements of their larvae and in Britain the group comprises some 200 species. Larval cases arouse a passing curiosity in most naturalists but the adults must be one of the most overlooked and neglected insect groups going.
The news from the UN that the global rate of extinction is accelerating – with at least a 20% decline over the last century – caused reverberations around the world when it was published earlier this month.
Although the news shocked and surprised a lot of people, conservation organisations have long been aware of the challenges facing our natural heritage. We caught up with James Harding-Morris of Back from the Brink, a groundbreaking National Lottery-funded project set up to help reverse this decline.
Mammal recording was introduced to the BBS in 1995 with a view to help improve our knowledge of the distribution and population trends of some of our commoner mammals.
Compared with birds, the population trends of mammals are relatively poorly known. Even though mammal recording has always been a voluntary addition to the scheme, around 90% of BBS squares now hold mammal data.
With their soft golden coat, furry tail and big black eyes, hazel dormice are one of Britain’s most endearing but critically endangered mammals.
Our State of Britain’s Dormice report in 2016 confirmed that hazel dormice have become extinct from 17 English counties since the end of the 19th century, with populations thought to have fallen by a third since 2000 – a rate of decline equivalent to 55% over 25 years.
Due to a combination of a cold, wet spring (the beast from the east), followed by the long, hot, dry summer last year was very disappointing for the owls and kestrels across Buckinghamshire. Many of the birds did not even try to breed and those that did deserted eggs and chicks because they could not find enough voles and other small mammals to feed either themselves or their offspring.
However, in 2019 the birds are really proving to be in the mood to make up for lost time. Buckinghamshire Owl and Raptor Group volunteers have been busy for the last few weeks checking the 700 + boxes located across the whole county and with very pleasing results.
This issue delves into the deep, dark depths of the soil – the foundation for much of life on Earth.
This issue explores the beauty and function of soil, the fascinating creatures that call it home, the threats to its health, and ways to manage it sustainably for future generations of flora and fauna (including humans).
Are subsidies that are designed to protect the biodiversity of Britain’s saltmarshes, delivering the planned, conservation benefits? In particular, is this investment supporting populations of amber-listed Redshank?
One of the strongest recommendations from Mark Parsons and Phil Sterling, the moth gurus at Butterfly Conservation, in relation to #MyMothYear book was that I wrote about BC’s Back From the Brink project to restore populations of a geometer moth called Barberry Carpet. And so earlier this week, Wingman Will and I joined project manager Fiona Haynes and local moth-era Robin and Carol for a nocturnal survey (under license, as this is a legally protected species) in north Dorset. Phil Saunders was there for the first few hours – and netted the first Barberry Carpet. Brilliant!
It is such a delight to be in the garden this month – so many plants have burst into bloom that there is a mass of colour and a buzz of pollinators. The Springwatch programmes have also brought brightness to BBC2 and they have launched a big citizen science project called Gardenwatch to encourage people to assess their garden wildlife. It has inspired me to review my own space.
The UK’s moths are in trouble, two-thirds of common and widespread species have declined in the last 40 years. In a bid to make the UK mad about moths Butterfly Conservation is launching Moths Matter, a campaign to overturn their unfair reputation.
Our “carbon in nature rich areas” story map highlights that the best places for nature across the UK also hold massive amounts of carbon. If lost to the atmosphere, this carbon would equate (very conservatively) to two gigatons of CO2, equivalent to four years of the UK’s annual overall CO2 emissions.
Mammals are often elusive night-time visitors to our gardens. We need your help to find out how much these often under-recorded animals use gardens and to understand which resources are most important for their survival.
Spring has never truly arrived until you catch sight of your first bee, but do you know what species it is?
You might be surprised to learn there are more than 250 species of bee in the UK. Bumblebees, mason bees, mining bees – these are just one small part of a big, beautiful family. Take a look at how to identify some of the most common types of bees in the UK.
“…verges are actually fascinating habitats…because they are these fragments of the surrounding countryside that are preserved along ancient routes…” Most of us are aware now that biodiversity is in decline.
Plant biodiversity here in the UK has especially suffered: wild flowers have been lost from huge areas of Britain, and so have the pollinators and other invertebrates that depend on them. Conservationists are having to look to protect what’s left of our wildlife in areas that may not be optimal, but that nevertheless hold a surprisingly important range of flora and fauna. Along with our gardens, one of those areas is our rural road verges, those largely county council-owned strips of land next to our roads which, according to the UK charity Plantlife, make up a network that is equal to half of the country’s remaining flower-rich grasslands and meadows.
Adders are reportedly going extinct in the UK because they’ve had a lot of negative press. Campaigners are worried that unless our attitudes towards them change, they’ll completely disappear from our country.
In order to understand why nightingales have declined by a staggering 90% in the UK over the last 40 years, we’re working with the British Trust for Ornithology and the Wildlife Trust for Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire.
By utilising data from an existing study, David Douglas and James Pearce-Higgins have discovered that Golden Plover chicks that carry more sheep-ticks Ixodes ricinus have a lower chance of survival. Their findings are written up as a paper in Bird Study. The work is only based on a small sample and the data don’t identify the mechanism that leads to increased mortality but, given the current interest in the biological effects of ticks, the findings are interesting.
Only a third of the world’s great rivers remain free flowing, due to the impact of dams that are drastically reducing the benefits healthy rivers provide people and nature, according to a global analysis.
The recording scheme guide to bee-flies in genus Bombylius has been updated to provide some more information on how to distinguish the two clear-winged summer bee-flies: Western Bee-fly Bombylius canescens, and Heath Bee-fly Bombylius minor. (The section on the two pattern-winged spring bee-flies remains unchanged.)
A rare butterfly has been reintroduced to a site in Derbyshire where it’s not been seen for 52 years, thanks to an ambitious project by the National Trust and wildlife charity Butterfly Conservation (BC).
The Grizzled Skipper has declined by 55% across the UK over the last 40 years and disappeared from its former stronghold in Derbyshire – the National Trust’s Calke Abbey near Ticknall – in 1967.
The first Purple Emperor of 2019 will take to the air at lunchtime on Friday June 14th, somewhere in Sussex or Surrey. An earlier appearance was on the cards but larval progress has been slowed down by cool nights and evenings during May (at one staged a May emergence was a possibility).
This prediction is based on the progress of larvae being followed in the wild (last year my prediction was less than 24 hours out…).
Is your outdoor space providing the resources birds need to breed (including food, shelter, water and nesting sites)? Watching what birds are doing, their behaviour, can provide the answers. We need your help to find evidence of how common garden birds benefit from our outdoor spaces at this critical time of year. Don’t forget to report back – your observations can help us understand how we can better support the birds and other wildlife on our doorsteps.
A plan to bring back the Eurasian lynx – Lynx lynx – to Britain has moved a step nearer with research that pinpoints the Kintyre peninsula in Scotland as the place this large carnivore has the best chance of thriving. From there, the research suggests, the lynx could spread to the rest of the Highlands over the next century.
BTO research has used information collected by bird ringers to investigate large-scale differences and flexibility in the timing of feather moult across 15 passerine species that breed in the UK. Different moult strategies were found between migrant and resident species, alongside within-species regional variation in moulting schedules.
There are over 250 species of larger wasp in the UK, but about 6000 species in total, including tiny parasites and gall-wasps right up to the magnificent brown and yellow hornet, one of our largest insects, with quite a reputation. The wasps most of us know are the nine social species, the paper wasps, named from their nests, including the common wasp, the German wasp and the hornet.
A regular question we get asked at the Bumblebee Conservation Trust is “How are the UK’s bumblebees doing?” It seems such a simple question that you’d think demands a simple answer, but like most things in life, it’s actually a lot more complicated!
Males blue with dark border. Females brown with row of red spots. Undersides brown-grey with black spots, a row of orange spots, and small greenish flecks on outer margin. Males similar to Common Blue, which lacks greenish spots.
Plastic pollution represents a pervasive and increasing threat to marine ecosystems worldwide and there is a need to better understand the extent to which microplastics (<5 mm) are ingested by high trophic-level taxa, such as marine mammals. Here, we perform a comprehensive assessment by examining whole digestive tracts of 50 individuals from 10 species whilst operating strict contamination controls…
Tree Bumblebee by Harry Appleyard, Tattenhoe 24 February 2017
When I see a bee buzzing around my garden or in the park in early spring, I get a real thrill from being able to identify her. If she is black and darting among small, white tubular flowers with her long tongue protruding and her legs tucked under her furry, round body, I know she is a hairy-footed flower bee.