Category Archives: News

Solved: mystery of ‘ornamented’ coot chicks has surprising explanation

The American coot is a somewhat drab water bird with gray and black feathers and a white beak, common in wetlands throughout North America. Coot chicks, however, sport outrageously bright orange and red feathers, skin, and beaks. A new study explains how the bright coloring of coot chicks fits in with the reproductive strategy of their less colorful parents.

Click here for more information.: Solved: mystery of ‘ornamented’ coot chicks has surprising explanation, #ornithology research news via @RareBirdAlertUK

Another mass poisoning in Zululand causes alarm for the future of vultures in the region

Unfortunately, yet another mass poisoning incident occurred in Africa, ending 2019 on a sad note for vulture conservation. Two days before Christmas in Northern Zululand, 16 vultures met a tragic fate. The continuation of such poisoning incidents are causing alarm for the region’s diminishing vulture populations fearing that they could face extinction. This has been an overall unfortunate year for vultures affected by poisoning in Africa, with more than 1,200 vultures estimated to have been deliberately poisoned across Southern and Eastern Africa, according to the Endangered WildLife Trust (EWT).

Source: Another mass poisoning in Zululand causes alarm for the future of vultures in the region, #WildlifeCrime news via @RareBirdAlertUK

UN draft plan sets 2030 target to avert Earth’s sixth mass extinction

Almost a third of the world’s oceans and land should be protected by the end of the decade to stop and reverse biodiversity decline that risks the survival of humanity, according to a draft Paris-style UN agreement on nature.

Click here to read the rest of the article.: UN draft plan sets 2030 target to avert Earth’s sixth mass extinction | Environment | The Guardian

UK Wildlife Podcast – Pond life in Winter

The main topic is what pond creatures, such as the pond oilve mayfly, do to survive the cold in winter, and give some tips on how to look after your pond when it freezes over.

Neil and Victoria’s News
Victoria talks about a trip to German museum with a amber collection and Neil mentions his productive Christmas period photography trips, with sparrowhawk, cattle egret and kestrel photos.

Readers questions
We answer questions on kestrels decline, and what our first memory of wildlife in the garden was, along with what surprises us about nature.

Click here for more information.

Country diary: orb-weaver spider

Orb spider (Tetragnatha montana) on Agrimony by Peter Hassett, Bucknell Wood 26 July 2019

Orb spider (Tetragnatha montana) on Agrimony by Peter Hassett, Bucknell Wood 26 July 2019

While the ubiquitous garden cross spider (Araneus diadematus) perishes in late autumn, another species of orb-weaver remains active throughout the winter. Common and widespread, Zygiella x-notata is typically found close to human habitation, its webs strung under guttering, and spanning door and window frames. Though similar in appearance to the two-dimensional, concentric-circle webs constructed by its more familiar relative, its orbs usually have a distinctive wedge-shaped segment missing from an upper quadrant, hence the spider’s common name, missing-sector orb-weaver.

Source: Country diary: a living jewel and her handiwork adorn the kitchen window | Environment | The Guardian

HS2 could threaten irreplaceable natural habitats, report warns

HS2 risks dividing and destroying “huge swathes” of “irreplaceable” natural habitats, including 108 ancient woodlands, a report has warned.

The Wildlife Trust said the high-speed rail line linking London and northern England could wipe out rare species.

Click here for more information:
HS2 could threaten irreplaceable natural habitats, report warns – BBC News
The Guardian

Plants make galls to accommodate foreigners

Gall formation by plants is a commonly-seen phenomenon that occurs in response to foreign entities (here called “gall-inducers”) such as viruses, bacteria, fungi, nematodes, etc. In this review Harris and Pitzschke set out criteria for what is and is not a gall;

Click here to read the rest of the article.: Plantae | Plants make galls to accommodate foreigners: some are friends most are foes (New Phytol) | Plantae

Rediscovering the moths of Whittingehame

A year ago, as I set out to explore the life of Alice Balfour and her moths, I didn’t give much thought to what I might find or where it might lead. I wanted to discover more about the moths she encountered and was interested to learn more about the pursuit of natural history in the Edwardian era, but mostly I was starting ‘a project’ to add purpose to my own everyday moth recording in East Lothian. Making lists of moths from different sites is all very well, but it is much more rewarding to put these lists into some sort of context. Scientific or otherwise.

Click here to read the rest of the article.: 2019 – Lessons learned – Rediscovering the moths of Whittingehame

Australia’s bushfires push countless species to extinction

Close to the Western River on Kangaroo Island, Pat Hodgens had set up cameras to snap the island’s rare dunnart – a tiny mouse-like marsupial that exists nowhere else on the planet.

Now, after two fires ripped through the site a few days ago, those cameras – and likely many of the Kangaroo Island dunnarts – are just charred hulks.

“It’s gone right through the under storey and that’s where these species live,” said Hodgens, an ecologist at Kangaroo Island Land for Wildlife, a not-for-profit conservation group. “The habitat is decimated.”

Click here to read the rest of the article.: ‘Silent death’: Australia’s bushfires push countless species to extinction | Environment | The Guardian

Grow your own slime moulds

Dogs Vomit Slime Mould ©Julian Lambley

Dogs Vomit Slime Mould (Fuligo septica) ©Julian Lambley, Great Brickhill 24 October 2019

Movement, memory and problem solving are abilities we normally associate with animal behaviour and a nervous system but is that always the case? Could a brainless organism exhibit intelligent behaviour, could it be capable of learning and if so, can we learn anything from it?

Source: Slime Moulds

2020: time to walk the talk on climate and nature

This post is by Tony Juniper CBE, chair of Natural England and Emma Howard Boyd, chair of the Environment Agency.

As we start the New Year, it’s clear that 2020 is our last chance to bring the world together to take decisive action on climate change, to protect our communities and reverse the alarming loss of wildlife we have witnessed in recent years.

Click here to read the rest of the article.: 2020: time to walk the talk on climate and nature | Inside track

Saving the endangered pool frog in the UK

The end of the summer marked the beginning of an exciting new chapter for over a hundred young pool frogs released into the wild in Norfolk this year. The pool frog (Pelophylax lessonae) became extinct in the 1990s in the UK but thanks to collaborative efforts by Natural England, the Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Trust (ARC), Norfolk Wildlife Trust, ZSL and partners, the species persists in protected areas where ancient ponds have been restored to provide optimal habitat.

Click here for more information.: ZSL lends a helping hand to save the endangered pool frog in the UK | Zoological Society of London (ZSL)

England-wide data for great crested newts now available

Natural England has now uploaded baseline survey data on great crested newts (GCN) to create a map of where they are across the whole of England. The project – which took three years to complete – is the largest ever survey of its type for GCN across England, and was funded by the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG).

Click here for more information.: Natural England’s Geoportal: England-wide data for great crested newts now available – Natural England

What is that wildflower? And why don’t we know?

Early Dog Violets Viola reichenbachiana, ©Janice Robertson Willen Lake 10 April 2018

Early Dog Violets Viola reichenbachiana, ©Janice Robertson Willen Lake 10 April 2018

How many people know our common wildflowers? The charity Plantlifecommissioned a poll by YouGov two years ago to find out if people could identify wildflowers and discovered a shocking lack of knowledge. Most could not identify, or mis-identified, the common dog-violet, one of the most widespread wildflowers found in 97% of the UK, and only 6% of 16- to 24-year-olds correctly named it. There were similar results for red clover, another common wildflower. But most people said they would like to identify more wildflowers, although only about half of young people were so enthusiastic.

Click here for more information.: Plantwatch: What is that wildflower? And why don’t we know? | Science | The Guardian

Committee Against Bird Slaughter 2019 Annual Report

In 2019, the various campaigns and operations coordinated by Committee Against Bird Slaughter (CABS) once again saved countless migratory birds from doomed fate being killed, caught or prematurely destined for a cooking pot. As ever, our main field campaigns focused on the bird poaching hotspots in the Mediterranean region, with CABS teams active in Italy, Malta, France, Spain, Cyprus and Lebanon during the migration period. The primary aim of our fieldwork is the same everywhere: Take direct action to stop poachers, document illegalities and to persuade authorities to intervene, with public support and international political pressure.

Click here to read the rest of the article.: Annual Reports / Komitee gegen den Vogelmord e. V.

Lawn-mowing reduction can help wildlife, says study

Third Place, Hummingbird Hawk Moth ©Janice Robertson

Third Place, Hummingbird Hawk Moth ©Janice Robertson

Rewilding gardens may be growing in popularity but even a modest reduction in lawn mowing can boost wildlife, increase pollinators and save money, according to a study.

Researchers from the University of Quebec at Trois-Rivières found that reducing the intensity of trimming lawns in urban areas can also reduce pests and weeds that cause allergies.

Click here for more information.: Lawn-mowing reduction can help wildlife, says study | Environment | The Guardian

Surrey Small Blue Stepping Stones Project

In 2019 we completed a project to help the Small Blue Butterfly on the Surrey Downs. The project has helped to create an extensive network of sites between Guildford and Box Hill, with individual butterflies now more able to move between different areas and sites, enabling the creation of a strong and sustainable metapopulation.

Click here to read the rest of the article.: Surrey Small Blue Stepping Stones Project

Pond Ponderings – Story of a Small Pond So Far

Emperor dragonfly ©Janice Robertson Caldecotte Business Park ponds 30 June 2019

Emperor dragonfly ©Janice Robertson Caldecotte Business Park ponds 30 June 2019

Building work needed on the old neglected and abused Victorian house took priority, then in March 2018, I built a small wildlife pond into the middle of the garden. From the start, it was aimed at dragonflies plus other insects, plant life and nature in general.

Click here to read the rest of the article.: Pond Ponderings – Story of a Small Pond So Far, by Dan Brawn – British Dragonfly Society

National Trust State of Nature report 2019

Butterflies fluttering, a kittiwake diving into ice-blue waves and the sweet song of skylarks first thing in the morning. These sights and sounds are becoming even rarer with 41 per cent of species in decline since 1970. We need to act now to stop this loss, creating more homes for wildlife and calling on governments to introduce stronger environmental protections.

Click here for more information:
State of Nature report 2019 | National Trust
The Guardian

Short-eared Owl Tracking

Short-eared owls appear to be nomadic, breeding almost prolifically in suitable habitat in some years, yet in others appearing to be absent. Adults owls can be seen flying during daylight hours when they have dependent young, but at other times they can be largely nocturnal, making the population hard to monitor. The best evidence that we have suggests that the population has declined, perhaps by as much as 50%. The reasons underlying these changes are poorly understood, but recent advances in technology have presented new opportunities for research.

Source: Short-eared Owl Tracking | BTO – British Trust for Ornithology

Fennoscandian wader factory

At the end of the summer, vast numbers of waders leave Norway, Sweden and Finland, heading southwest, south and south-east for the winter. In a 2019 paper by Lindström et al, we learn what is happening to these populations of Fennoscandian breeding species, as diverse as Temminck’s Stint and Curlew. The news for the period 2006 through to 2018 is basically pretty good – most populations have been stable and there are even some that have increased – but there are worrying signs for Broad-billed Sandpiper, Red-necked Phalarope and Whimbrel.

Click here for more information.: Fennoscandian wader factory | wadertales

Start of winter brings first ‘swanfall’ at WWT Slimbridge

The start of December, and a dip in temperatures, has seen the first ‘swanfall’ at WWT Slimbridge, with more than 50 majestic Bewick’s swans arriving at the end of the final leg of their migration. This year’s ‘swanfall’ was bang on time, as it traditionally heralds the beginning of winter, which officially started on 1st December.

Source: Start of winter brings first ‘swanfall’ at WWT Slimbridge, #Conservation #Ornithology news via @RareBirdAlertUK

BirdTrends 2019 published

The BTO’s BirdTrends report is a one-stop shop for information about the population status of the common breeding birds of the wider UK countryside. The report is based on data gathered by the many thousands of volunteers who contribute to BTO-led surveys.

For each of 121 species, users can quickly access the latest information on trends in population size, breeding performance and survival rates, as measured by our long-term monitoring schemes.

Click here for more information.: BirdTrends 2019: trends in numbers, breeding success and survival for UK breeding birds | BTO – British Trust for Ornithology

Lesser Redpoll: our ‘new’ garden finch

The finch family boasts many popular garden birds, including Goldfinch, Chaffinch, Greenfinch and Bullfinch. More recently, a growing number of people have been able to add Lesser Redpoll to this list. Results collected through the year-round BTO Garden BirdWatch survey show a 15-fold increase in the use of gardens by Lesser Redpolls during early spring over the past five years.

Click here to read the rest of the article.: Lesser Redpoll: our ‘new’ garden finch | BTO – British Trust for Ornithology

The effects of thinning management on bats and their insect prey in temperate broadleaved woodland

Daubenton’s bat by Chris Damant

Daubenton’s bat by Chris Damant

Highlights

  • Thinning significantly alters woodland habitat characteristics.
  • Common and adaptable bats benefit from thinning.
  • Rarer bat species that roost predominantly in trees do not.
  • Tree cavities are most frequent in abandoned woodland.
  • Bats and insects have opposed non-linear responses to time since management.

Click here for more information.: The effects of thinning management on bats and their insect prey in temperate broadleaved woodland – ScienceDirect

How Do Birds Survive The Cold?

If you walk around a woodland in the winter you may be forgiven for wondering where all the birds have gone. In fact, there are likely to be plenty of birds about, but instead of being evenly spread throughout the area, several species group together in a loose, mixed feeding flock. Flocking together in winter improves the chances of locating food and huddling together during the critical night-time period helps conserve body heat.

Source: How Do Birds Survive The Cold? | Birds in Winter – The RSPB

Find out about Bird Calls in the UK

RSPB logoBird 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

Sir David Attenborough’s new Green Planet series will use robots to tell ’emotional stories’ about plants

Using new technology including robot cameras which can be remotely controlled by humans to look at plants in remote places, the show will treat audiences to a “mind-blowing” look at an “unseen” world.

Click here for more information.: Sir David Attenborough’s new Green Planet series will use robots to tell ’emotional stories’ about plants

Study busts myths about origins of UK’s parakeets

Ring-necked Parakeet by Howe Park Wood

Ring-necked Parakeet by Howe Park Wood, April 2012, by Harry Appleyard

Their bright green feathers and unmistakable squawk make ring-necked parakeets a striking addition to British park wildlife, but the question of how the tropical birds were first introduced has been a subject of contention.

Click here to read the rest of the article.: Hendrix? Hepburn? Study busts myths about origins of UK’s parakeets | Science | The Guardian

Where do butterflies and moths go in winter?

Unlike mammals and birds, butterflies and moths rely mainly on external sources of heat to warm their bodies so that they can be active. Although many are adept at increasing their body temperature way above ambient air temperature by basking in sunshine or shivering (vibrating their flight muscles), when their surroundings are really cold, most butterflies and moths are forced to remain inactive.

Click here to read the rest of the article.: Where do butterflies and moths go in winter?

Climate change is forcing butterflies and moths to adapt – but some species can’t

Butterflies are rather like Goldilocks, preferring conditions to be neither too hot nor too cold, but “just right”. Under climate change, the temperature at any given time of summer is, on average, getting warmer, leaving butterflies (and their nocturnal cousins, the moths) with the challenge of how to remain in their optimal temperature window.

Source: Climate change is forcing butterflies and moths to adapt – but some species can’t

How insect orders got their names

Anyway, after some fun time with my Dictionary of Entomology, (which is much more of an encyclopaedia than a dictionary), and of course Google, I have great pleasure in presenting my one stop shop for those of you who wonder how insect orders got their names.  Here they are, all in one easy to access place with a few fun-filled facts to leaven the mixture.

Source: Twisted, hairy, scaly, gnawed and pure – side-tracked by Orders | Don’t Forget the Roundabouts

Pond Ponderings: From a Redesigned Mature Pond in Suburban Suffolk!

Greater Spearwort: first flowers of year, garden pond Stoke Goldington ©Ian Saunders 29 May 2018

Greater Spearwort: first flowers of year, garden pond Stoke Goldington ©Ian Saunders 29 May 2018

“I have loved nature for as long as I can remember, certainly before I was old enough to go to school. I used to spend hours peering into our garden pond in the 1960’s and marvelling at the different creatures to be found living there. There were many frogs, toads and newts that used the pond for spawning and I would watch the progress of their tadpoles each year. There was much invertebrate life there too which was also a fascination to me. We lived about a mile from Gatwick airport and one negative aspect of this was that I often had to use newspaper on the surface of the pond to take off the thin coating of oil that accumulated, presumably from fuel dumping.

Click here for more information.: Pond Ponderings: From a Redesigned Mature Pond in Suburban Suffolk! – British Dragonfly Society

I spied-a spider: Microscope work isn’t as daunting as it appears!

There are around 650 species of spider in the UK alone. That’s a lot! Some spiders can be identified by eye, others require hand lenses and many even require microscopes to correctly identify them to species level. Most people find spiders creepy though, so never get close enough to identify them in the field, let alone choose to look at them down a microscope. Earlier this year, however, I attended the Tomorrow’s Invertebrate Recorders course run by the FSC Biolinks team during which I chose to spend a whole day learning microscopic identification of spiders.

Click here to read the rest of the article.: I spied-a spider: Microscope work isn’t as daunting as it appears! | Biodiversity Projects

The year of the fly – Exploring the families of British Diptera

Since 2019 is the Year of the Fly I thought it was time to dust off my boyhood interest in flies and see how many families of flies I could see through the year. Each time I see one from a new family I will write a post, and by the end of the year I hope to know my way around them.

Click here for more information.: The year of the fly – Exploring the families of British Diptera