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.
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.
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.
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.
The Loa water frog, Telmatobius dankoi, a species listed as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List, was saved from extinction thanks to the swift actions of conservationists, indigenous leaders and government officials in Chile.
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.
Tuberculosis levels in cattle have risen in the original two areas of the country where the badger cull has been piloted over the past five years, raising questions about the merit of expanding the scheme.
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.
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)].
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.
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.
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.
Our results broadly echo recent reported trends in insect biomass in Germany and elsewhere.
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).
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.
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.
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.
The annual release of more than 50 million non-native game birds into the countryside with no environmental assessment is to be reviewed by the government after campaigners announced a legal challenge.
Last week, the latest UK Biodiversity Indicators were published. Did you see the government press release about them? Did you hear Defra ministers quizzed about them on every news bulletin through the day? Is this the first you have heard of them?
The two main aims of the Great British Hedgerow Survey are:
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.
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.
Conservationists from BirdLife and the Ornithological Society of the Middle Easthave estimated that at least 1.7–4.6 million birds from over 400 species are being illegally killed or taken each year in the Arabian Peninsula, Iraq and Iran.
The RSPB has revealed that 22 Hen Harrier chicks have fledged from five nests on the United Utilities Estate at Bowland, Lancashire. This is the second year in a row that the species has nested successfully at the site, after 13 chicks fledged from three nests in 2018.
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.
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.
Following the announcement of our news about the initial Chequered Skipper success (very exciting!), people have been curious as to why red spots can be seen on the wings of some of the butterflies. Hopefully this blog post will reveal all.
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.
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.
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!
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.