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.
The fantastic butterfly season during 2018 was always going to be a difficult act to follow and although some species were down in 2019 the year still held some great success stories. Among 2019’s achievements was a very welcome spike in Peacock numbers, a Painted Lady invasion, the continued colonisation by Dark Green Fritillaries and the incredible news of the first Chequered Skippers to emerge in the wild in the county for nearly half a century.
This report provides a preliminary assessment of the 2019 breeding season in terms of population sizes and breeding success, comparing this year’s results to the averages recorded over the previous five seasons.
The Wildlife Trusts are disappointed that the new report from the Committee on Climate Change fails to recognise the full array of natural solutions available in the UK, and their immense value for achieving net zero emissions.
Come springtime, the RTBF reports, the Brussels region’s environment agency Bruxelles Environnement will take up the beehives it manages at nature sites in Brussels, and remove them permanently.
The move forms part of a plan by the region to tackle the recent huge growth in members of the public keeping bees – a trend inspired by concerns about pollution, climate and biodiversity. Bees have become something of a mascot for this movement, in part because they are an excellent barometer of environmental conditions, and in part because of their crucial role in maintaining biodiversity.
We’ve all heard of species brought back from the brink of extinction, but have you ever wondered how impactful conservation actually is? A new study shows that global conservation action has reduced the effective extinction rate of birds by an astonishing 40%. But is it all good news?
It is one of the country’s top predators, with a 2.4-metre (8ft) wingspan and a preference for plucking fish from the ocean.
So a young sea eagle’s choice of landlocked Oxfordshire as its home is unexpected. More surprising still is that the bird has lived for four months almost completely unnoticed by the public close to the M40 and the commuter belt.
While climate change and habitat loss seem to keep making all the headlines when it comes to environmental damage, invasive species are still chugging along comfortably as the second biggest threat to our planet’s biodiversity. New cases are popping up all the time, with the Burmese python, Crucian carp and the emerald ash borer beetle recently reaching new levels of notoriety.
The Dragonfly-like Meganeuropsis was a giant insect that plied the skies from the Late Carboniferous to the Late Permian, some 317 to 247 million years ago. It had a wingspan of some 28″ with a body length of around 17.”
Birds bring a wonderful soundtrack to spring, and even in towns and cities the array of voices can be quite dazzling. If you are trying to develop your skills in identifying bird songs, you are best off initially trying to familiarise yourself with a few of the more frequent songsters. In early spring, four of the key species to listen out for are Robin, Song Thrush, Great Tit and Dunnock.
A growing number of studies are providing evidence that a suite of anthropogenic stressors — habitat loss and fragmentation, pollution, invasive species, climate change and overharvesting — are seriously reducing insect and other invertebrate abundance, diversity and biomass across the biosphere. These declines affect all functional groups: herbivores, detritivores, parasitoids, predators and pollinators. Insects are vitally important in a wide range of ecosystem services of which some are vitally important for food production and security (for example, pollination and pest control). There is now a strong scientific consensus that the decline of insects, other arthropods and biodiversity as a whole, is a very real and serious threat that society must urgently address. In response to the increasing public awareness of the problem, the German government is committing funds to combat and reverse declining insect numbers. This funding should act as a clarion call to other nations across the world — especially wealthier ones — to follow suit and to respond proactively to the crisis by addressing the known and suspected threats and implementing solutions.