Anne Baker from Henley on Thames (to whom thanks) has sent in this photo of a dormouse in her garden. She writes:
“We have seen a Hazel Dormouse quite a few times in Middle Assendon *, Henley on Thames. The first time my husband spotted him walking to the bird food outside our kitchen window. We have filmed him/her a few times as well at night and in the daytime. We also found a dead one about a year ago in an old bird box so they are obviously around here quite a lot.
We have a wild garden with a lot of hazelnut trees and honeysuckle which I believe they like too. Maybe that is why they are here. They seem to be nesting close to the house by the look of it and don’t seem to be frightened. ”
Thanks to Mike Wallen of Bucks Bird Club for this news, written on 6th September:
For those not already aware there are significant developments at Willen and we are going to get some waders !!
The North lake has a problem with a valve on the sluice; to repair it they’ve had to dig down a way and have created a large breach to the lake. They have tried to dam it but the dam has collapsed.
So far the South lake has dropped by about half a metre and mud is developing around the edge! This is because the south lake is draining into the North lake in the south-east corner. However the water is leaving the North lake much quicker than it’s coming in, and 30% at least of the North lake area is now mud!! I’d estimate the water level there to be down well over a metre already.
This morning (6th) it has already attracted a Dunlin, then 2 x Black-tailed Godwit flew in, shortly afterwards another 2 x Black-tailed Godwit flew in.
Over the next week (and hopefully longer) this could be seriously good for waders.
(Photo of Willen Lake North, taken from W, midday on 7th Sept. Photo: Martin Ferns)
The Birdguides website (www.birdguides.com) reported, in a blog by Ben Ward on 4th July, that 46,026 swifts were seen passing Gibraltar Point in Lincolnshire on 29th June 2020. This is considered to be the highest single-site count made in Britain, surpassing the previous highest of 31,350, which was also made at Gibraltar Point, on 31 July 2019. For the full story, including short videos, go to a-british-record-day-for-common-swift-passage
This celebration of bats is held by bat groups and the Bat Conservation Trust, to coincide with International Bat Night (formerly European Bat Night) which is organised by Eurobats. We aim to encourage thousands of people across the country to see and hear bats in their natural environment by taking part in a range of events organised by local bat groups, wildlife trusts, countryside rangers and other organisations across the country.
Through the website you can download a free International Bat Night Pack Inside you will find ideas on how to celebrate bats, help bat conservation, further resources and more! You will find lots of useful hyperlinks throughout the document too so you or you can print the packs or bits of it.
The photo is of a Pipistrelle Bat Pipistrellus pipistrellus, photographed at Linford Lakes NR on 17th October 2016, by Martin Kincaid.
Each year a theme is chosen with one or more target species to look out for. [Moth Night 2020 coincides with the flight periods of four of the Red Underwing moths recorded in the British Isles – and this is a theme this year.] But Moth Night is about all moths and participants are encouraged to find and record as many different species as they can. If you are new to moth recording, then go to our Taking Part page for information on how to get started.
In previous years public events have been a feature of Moth Night. In 2020 however, due to the ongoing situation with Covid 19 we are not encouraging or promoting public events as part of Moth Night. We hope to be back with a public event element in 2021. Moth Night is the perfect event for garden participation, however, and we hope that people will make the most of the opportunity to look at what moths occur in their gardens.”
“From diving cormorants and gannets, to delicate hummingbirds and petrels, you can view the winning and shortlisted images from this year’s Bird Photographer of the Year here.
Bird Photographer of the Year is an annual international photography competition which celebrates birds.owned by conservation charity Birds on the Brink, and the money generated from the competition will used to award grants to conservation projects that benefit birds.”
This year’s MK Festival of Nature was due to take place in June but due to the situation around COVID-19 we’ve postponed this until August. The festival will now run from 31st August – 6 September 2020. We’ve also adapted the activities that were due to take place to comply with the current government.
So now over this week-long festival, you can join us at one of our ticketed events or can get involved with some of the online activities that we will be sharing via our social channels throughout the week. All of these are designed for you to either do at home or in your local park.
If you fancy getting out and about then why not take part in one of our walks. We have a variety to choose from including; evening Bat walks, where you’ll join our bat enthusiasts for a walk around Walton Lake to discover these nocturnal animals that fly through our parks. Or maybe try a Wellbeing Walk for Families, where you’ll connect with nature, use your senses to take in your surroundings as well as taking part in relaxing activities.
Grown-ups will also be able to join in the fun of the festival in our Foraging Walk for Adults which is being held at Linford Lakes Nature Reserve. This session is designed to give you an introduction to locating and harvesting food for free in our parkland spaces. But not only that it will also help to increase your confidence in identifying wild plants, berries and nuts.
For those budding star gazers why not enjoy our event, Explore the skies with UK Astronomy. In this virtual event you’ll find out more about our solar system and beyond in this fascinating talk by the team.
If you’re looking for something more creative, then you could join local artist Kate Wyatt for a morning of artistic discovery at Great Linford Manor Park. In this session for adults you’ll learn how to record the natural environment through sketching and other artistic techniques. Kate Wyatt is a professional artist based in Milton Keynes and her speciality is British wildlife, flora and fauna. You will be drawing outdoors from life using different media and beginning a journal of ideas and observations of your surroundings.
You may be interested in two upcoming online events which are being run by Beds, Cambs and Northants Wildlife Trust on 20th and 26th August:
1. Introduction to British Bumblebee Ecology and Identification with Ryan Clark (20 August, 7-8.30pm)
Join Ryan Clark, Northamptonshire’s Bees, Wasps and Ants County Recorder, as he introduces participants to the fascinating ecology of bumblebees and guides participants through the identification of the most common species found in Britain.
2. Introduction to Pollinators and Pollination with Professor Jeff Ollerton
(26 August, 7-8.30pm)
Join Jeff Ollerton, Professor of Biodiversity in the Department of Environmental and Geographical Sciences at the University of Northampton, for an introduction to the natural history of pollinators and how they interact with the flowers that they pollinate.
As a postscript to the item below, Sue Hetherington adds: I’ve just called on my local MP to urge for our governments to protect the wildlife and habitats of our uplands, for nature and for people. Join me and contact your local politicians at http://www.wildjustice.org.uk/sos.
Saturday 8th August was “Hen Harrier Day 7”, an annual event which started in 2014 with “the sodden 570” at the Derwent Dam. It is the day when people stand up and be counted to say they protest at the threatened extinction of the Hen Harrier as a breeding bird in our country. This year, events were planned at 7 locations – Snowdonia, Arne, Rainham, Cairngorms, Sheffield, Aberdeen and Kirriemuir. Wild Justice (Chris Packham, Mark Avery and Ruth Tingay) said in March this year “These events are sufficiently far away that it would be premature to fear they won’t happen but it would be a brave person who was sure that they would”. Well, none of us need reminding about the devastation SARS-CoV-2 has wreaked!
Last year, in Derbyshire, Wild Justice organised the largest ever Hen Harrier Day event with at least 1500 attendees. This year we’ve been part of the gang but a new charity, Hen Harrier Action, has organised Hen Harrier Day. When they started they thought that they would be helping lots of local organisers set up their own events, big and small, across the UK but coronavirus put paid to that. Instead we had Hen Harrier Day online going right through from 10am until 4pm. A flavour of the event can be seen from the video of the event’s evening final here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YwNB8MCN_qA
The image above is from Hen Harrier Day 6, in Derbyshire. Andrew and I were both there and we are in the photo.
A new invertebrate photography competition has been launched.
The new annual photography awards will celebrate insects and other invertebrates in 10 categories, with judges including Buglife president Germaine Greer, naturalist and BBC Wildlife columnist Nick Baker and professional invertebrate photographers such as Levon Biss.
The Grand Prize winner of the competition will be awarded £2,500 cash and the title of ‘Bug Photographer of the Year 2020’, as well as other prizes. There is also a title available for ‘Young Bug Photographer of the Year’ for the 13-17 age group.
Entries close 7 Sept 2020.
The featured photo of a bee in this item was taken by Paul Lund in his garden, and won first place in the 2015 MKNHS Photo Competition.
With the effects of the climate crisis on the environment becoming increasingly clear, there are some interesting plans to re-wild areas with benefits for wildlife, ecosystems – and people too.
A very local project is the planned introduction of European Bison in Blean Woods near Canterbury, under the management of Kent Wildlife Trust and the Wildwood Trust *:
Brian Eversham, Chief Executive of Beds, Cambs and Northants (BCN) Wildlife Trust, outlines their stance on the Ox-Cam Arc, and sets out the principles by which this, and any other development, should abide if the biodiversity crisis is to avoided. Brian has given talks to MKNHS on a number of occasions. BCN Wildlife trust works closely with BBOWT through the Nature Recovery Network and their campaign to strengthen the Environment Bill.
Both trusts together with the RSPB have set out a set of principles For ‘Nature’s Arc’ which can be found in full on the RSPB website. They are encouraging members to contact their MPs to express the importance of strengthening the Environment Bill
Perhaps he has a point if it is the case that there is still a chance that the whole project might be dropped. However, given that the same organisations have been campaigning vigorously on this issue for some years with only minor successes, maybe the new approach is more pragmatic. The same debate applies to new development in and around MK – is it better to resist the building of new homes, or accept that it is inevitable (‘people have to live somewhere…’) and work to ensure that the planning of new housing developments both conserves as much wildlife as possible, and where possible provides new opportunities?
You may recall the name David Lindo – he’s The Urban Birder, author, naturalist, media personality etc. – and he generously wrote a piece for The Magpie 50. During the pandemic disruption he is hosting quite a few free hour-long zoom webinars, which you can book to join in live, or you can access a recording later. You just need to go to web address https://theurbanbirderworld.com/live-webinars/ and scroll down to ‘Join In the Conservation’ (yes, that’s a pun – conservation/conversation).
There are upcoming ones which can be booked – mostly these are totally free. You just click on the link and check out as you’d do with any online purchase, except this one has a charge of £0.00. In due course you get an email confirming your order, which gives you a link to click on at the scheduled start time. Easy as that!
Of particular interest is that Edward Meyer was ‘in conservation’ with David on the theme of Save our Swifts on Tuesday 23rd June. This and other past sessions are listed under the upcoming ones, by date. You just click on the one you want to see and it starts there and then.
The ‘In Conservation’ series is in association with Leica Nature and Birding, and is part of the Nature Unwrapped season at London’s Kings Place – in which there a lot of other interesting events, past and planned (moved online until further notice). See https://www.kingsplace.co.uk/whats-on/nature-unwrapped/
Wildlife Trusts warn of effects from neglected reserves and species loss, to fly-tipping and illegal shooting (Caroline Davies, The Guardian, 24.04.2020)
While lockdown has allowed some a greater appreciation of spring and the fun of seeing goats, sheep and deer foraying into urban landscapes, Covid-19 is wreaking havoc with UK biodiversity as vital conservation projects are put on hold.
On Friday conservationists warned of “desperate times” with an explosion in invasive non-native species during prolific spring growth and the deterioration of rare and historic wildlife meadows that could take years to restore. …
Our climate is changing. 2019 was the Earth’s second warmest year since modern records began in 1880. The average UK temperature has increased roughly 1deg C since the 1960s, leading to warmer and wetter winters, and the evidence is growing that changes in our UK climate are affecting our birds.
Green Drake mayfly, Ephemera danica by Frupus (CC BY-NC 2.0)
Freshwater insects, mosses and lichens are bucking the trend of wildlife losses in the UK and have expanded their ranges since 1970, according to a new study. Reductions in air and water pollution are the most likely reason.
We’re spoiling you with a second new ID guide in less than a week! This time to the genus Pachygaster and allies – small, rounded soldierflies that are easy to overlook. But not any more! We look forward to lots more records of them this year!
A new feature on the website: a list of species recorded in each vice-county. You should be able to filter by species and see which counties it’s been recorded in, or filter by county and see which species have been found there.
We are devastated to report that eleven Griffon Vultures fell victim to poisoning in the area of Klisoura Gorge in Greece. Unfortunately, nine vultures died from the incident, and two are alive but currently in recovery.
Following the successful trial of the dormouse footprint tunnels last year, we are planning to use them in a few other locations in Northamptonshire to identify where dormice are present along this northern edge of their core range.
To make this work I will need team of local volunteers to help check on the tunnels so if anyone is interested in getting involved these are the locations we are looking at next:
Hazelborough Woods near Silverstone *NEW SITE*
Salcey Forest/adjacent hedgerows north of Milton Keynes
Stoke Wood, adjacent to last year’s survey site near Corby
Fineshade Forest near Peterborough (joint with Friends of Fineshade)
In a shallow pool amid a mossy landscape is a trap, a tiny triggered vacuum that sucks in unexpected prey at great speed, absorbs what it needs, then ejects the empty husk of its victim. If you’ve sunk and splashed your way through a peat bog in summer, you may have caught a glimpse of the plant’s more alluring feature, the showy yellow flowers that wave above the water.
After 28,000 wildlife photography fans voted for their favourite photo as part of the LUMIX People’s Choice Award of the Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition, and Bristol-based photographer, Sam Rowley’s “Station Squabble” came out on top.
The RSPB wants to see nests and not nets, and is appalled to see netting used once again to prevent birds nesting. We are facing a twin nature and climate crisis: wildlife must be allowed to thrive and we all have a role to play in not letting this practice go unchallenged.
The latest report, Population estimates of birds in Great Britain and the United Kingdom shows that the Wren continues to hold the title of our commonest bird – the last report in 2013 also had Wren at the top of the list but with a population of just over 8.5 million pairs. Wren numbers are known to fluctuate according to environmental conditions and it may be that generally milder winters are benefitting one of our smallest birds.
Peat is plant material which is partially decomposed and has accumulated in waterlogged conditions.
Peatlands include moors, bogs and fens, as well as some farmed land.
Peat bogs are particular types of wetlands waterlogged by direct rainfall. Peat bogs grow slowly, accumulating around 0.5 to 1 mm of peat each year, and the water prevents the plants from decomposing. As a result, many areas of UK peat bog have been accumulating gradually for as much as 10,000 years, and can be up to 10m deep. Due to its slow accumulation, peat is often classified as a fossil fuel.
In a 2020 paper, Mark Whittingham and colleagues show that, in one area of northeast England, the decline in Turnstone numbers is more obvious on mainland sites that are subject to human disturbance than on offshore refuges. Whilst national declines are probably linked to factors affecting productivity in breeding areas in Greenland and Canada, it is interesting that Turnstone seem to be withdrawing into areas where they are subject to less winter disturbance.
Bee-fly by Harry Appleyard, Tattenhoe 22 March 2016
Bee-fly Watch is now into its fifth year, following a bumper year in 2019 when more bee-flies than ever before were recorded, and they broke all previous records by first appearing on 17 February (two sightings), about two weeks before their normal emergence date! These distinctive furry flies are more usually on the wing from March to June, often hovering over flowers and using their long ‘nose’ (proboscis) to feed on nectar. Once again we are asking people to look out for bee-flies and add your records to iRecord.
Estimates of population size are a key tool, used alongside population trend information and that on other aspects of bird ecology (such as survival and productivity rates) to assess conservation status. Periodic assessments of the size of breeding and wintering bird populations in the UK and in Great Britain are made by the Avian Population Estimates Panel (APEP). Their fourth assessment ‘APEP 4’ is published in the journal British Birds, and summarised here.
Winter is the biggest challenge for British butterflies. Most species tackle it in their vulnerable caterpillar form, burrowing into leaf litter, while others such as the purple emperor gamble by lying on an exposed branch with only camouflage for protection.
One of the big questions raised in the analysis of New Year Plant Hunt (NYPH) results by Kevin Walker, BSBI Head of Science, is around what the impacts of changes in flowering times of wild and naturalised plants might have on pollinators and other insects.
The issue of climate change is in the news on an almost daily basis. We are seeing growing evidence of its impacts on the natural world, from the bleaching of corals in the Indian Ocean, to raging wildfires in Australia, to shrinking ice-sheets affecting polar bears in the Arctic. Closer to home, the fingerprints of climate change are all over the British countryside, but here, the impacts on species are not always negative.
Butterflies and sunshine are as synonymous as polar bears and snow. Think of butterflies and you are instantly transported to a summer’s day. In the UK we are lucky if we get more than a few weeks each year when we can enjoy butterflies, blue skies and colourful flowers. Seeing a butterfly before April and after September is an unusual occurrence. So where do our butterflies disappear to when it is too cold and wet for them to be able to fly?
This article describes the hibernation behaviour of Small Tortoiseshell and Peacock butterflies in my St Albans shed during 2019. It provides an update on an article first published in an abridged form in Butterfly Conservation – Herts & Middx Branch Newsletter in April 2019.
If you ask British birdwatchers to name the nine wader species that are causing the most conservation concern in the UK, they would probably not include the Ringed Plover. Curlew may well be top of the list, even though we still have 58,500 breeding pairs in the UK*, but would people remember to include Ruff? This blog is written to coincide with the publication of Red67, an amazing collaboration of artists and essayists that highlights and celebrates the 67 species on the current UK red list, nine of which are waders.
Orca, or killer whales are the largest members of the dolphin family. These enigmatic animals are apex predators, positioned right at the top of the food chain. No other animals hunt orcas except for humans.
No two days are the same in my role as meadows advisor at the conservation charity Plantlife. My job is to help others create meadows – from small community meadows to large estates – and I am delighted my work is supported by The Prince of Wales’s Charitable Fund.
India is home to a diverse variety of wildlife and has its own ‘Big Five’ must-see mammals. Our photo gallery features Asian elephants, Bengal tigers, greater one-horned rhinos, Indian leopards, and gaurs.
We’re delighted to announce that on 10th January Natural England granted our application to release beavers into an enclosed area at Knepp. This is one of a number of beaver licenses granted in England for similar introductions so far this year, in a move which could, eventually, see beavers back in the landscape after an absence of around 500 years.
Individuals within a species may all look alike to the average insect, but one paper wasp species has evolved specialized cognitive abilities to recognize individual faces among their peers. How did complex cognition evolve in just this species?
One of the good things about recording beetles is that you can do it at any time of the year, since many beetles overwinter as adults. In summer techniques like sweeping and beating are used to find active insects, but in winter the emphasis shifts to finding insects that have tucked themselves away in various hideouts to await more favourable conditions. Habitats like litter piles, loose bark, crevices and rotholes in trees, and particularly the base of grass tussocks, are all worth exploring.
Beaver number one was in no hurry to exit her safe, straw-lined wooden crate. After a tense six-minute wait, Derek Gow, a wildlife expert, reached a hand into the creature’s temporary home, grabbed her gently by the rear end and encouraged her out.
Scotland’s peatlands are host to characteristic species of plants and animals that have adapted to living in harsh conditions. Peat forms in areas of high rainfall and most often where there is low availability of nutrients. Consequently, peatland habitats are waterlogged, acidic and nutrient poor.
Where would you expect to find a voyager from the High Arctic? Probably not a Dublin park, but that’s exactly what happens every winter when thousands of little geese descend. It’s the light-bellied brent goose: arguably the toughest bird on the British Isles. So why does this wild creature pop up here?
The flight navigation strategy of moths can be used to develop programs that help drones to navigate unfamiliar environments, report Ioannis Paschalidis at Boston University, Thomas Daniel at University of Washington, and colleagues, in the open-access journal PLOS Computational Biology.
An average garden accommodates more than 2,000 different species of insect! Very few of these creatures cause significant damage to our prized plants, and there are many more insects that actually help us to control the ones that do! By providing the right habitats, we can greatly increase the number of ‘beneficial’ insects in the garden.
A new study undertaken by British Antarctic Survey (BAS), the UK Centre for Ecology and Conservation (UKCEH) and a team of international scientists provides a list of 13 species most likely to threaten biodiversity and ecosystems in the Antarctic Peninsula region.
Blue tit, CC BY_NC_SA Peter Hassett, Rhayader 14 May 2014
Information collected by British Trust for Ornithology volunteer bird ringers and nest recorders provides an insight into how some of our resident and migratory birds fared during the 2019 breeding season.
It is hard to ignore 622,000 people with hedgehogs on their mind – at least that is what Bovis Homes have discovered. The lobbying work done by you all – and in particular those individuals who have made direct contacts with developers – has born great fruit. Here is what Bovis had to say:
“In an industry-first initiative, Bovis Homes, part of the newly-formed Vistry Group, will install hedgehog highways to its existing developments and all future sites wherever possible, as part of a campaign that will also help other small mammals, birds, frogs and insects.”
As winter sets in over Punjab, one can hear the humdrum of hundreds of machines harvesting rice across lakhs of hectares of paddy fields. In Maharashtra, villages in Vidarbha lug their snowy cotton harvest to the market. Years ago, these landscapes were a sprawling array of forests, grasslands, wetlands and multiple crops cultivated on a shifting basis. But in the last five to six decades, many such natural landscapes have been converted into permanent farms that grow only one or two crops while extensively using resources such as water and chemicals in the form of pesticides and herbicides.
Winter is a wonderful time to see wildlife, particularly for fans of our feathered friends. As the cold grip of the Arctic winter takes hold on the lakes, pools and marshes of Northern Europe and Russia, huge numbers of swans, ducks and geese retreat to the relative warmth of the UK. Our lakes, rivers, reservoirs and coasts are a winter home for an estimated 2.1 million ducks!
Beetles, beetles, beetles. I love beetles and one of the best places to look for these animals is in and around deadwood. This often overlooked habitat positively bristles with a splendid variety of these insects.