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A round up of the top countryside, conservation, wildlife and forestry stories as chosen by the CJS Team.


Bumblebees shy away from field-facing hedgerows – Plymouth University

Study by Plymouth University suggests pesticides and fertilisers used on crops are dramatically reducing bees’ potential habitats

The pollination service provided by bumblebees on the field-side boundaries of hedgerows may be limited because farming methods are having a negative impact on their sources of food, a study has found.

Research by ecologists at Plymouth University has shown some of the most common species of bumblebees are more than twice as likely to visit flowers on the road-facing side of hedgerows compared to crop-facing boundaries.

Writing in the Journal of Insect Conservation, they say this can be attributed to the pesticides and fertilisers used on crops, and they are dramatically reducing the bees’ potential habitats.

But they suggest there could be a simple way to address the problem, by encouraging farmers to leave a greater barrier between their crops and hedgerows so as to lessen the effects of chemicals and encourage wildflowers to flourish.

Dr Mick Hanley, Lecturer in Terrestrial Ecology in the University’s School of Biological Sciences, conducted the study alongside undergraduate Josh Wilkins, and they examined bumblebee habits at 30 sites across Devon and Cornwall. Dr Hanley says: “There have been hedgerows and field boundaries in these locations for centuries, and even if you go back 50 or 60 years, you would not have seen this phenomenon. Both sides of hedgerows would have been flourishing, and bees and other insects would have been numerous on both sides, but that was before an increase in the use of fertilisers. Now what you see is the chemicals having impacted one side, with the hedgerows in effect acting as a filter to protect the road-facing edge. It decreases the bees’ sources of food and, therefore, has the potential to impact on their numbers.”

In recent years, the global decline of many different insect pollinators has been established and this has been largely attributed to habitat loss and fragmentation, and the direct and indirect impacts of pesticide use.

In the current research paper, the scientists say that organic farming may offer some advantages for pollinator conservation since it reduces field margin exposure to agro-chemical inputs.

Access the paper here: Hanley, M. E. & Wilkins, J. P. (2015) On the verge? Preferential use of road-facing hedgerow margins by bumblebees in agro-ecosystems. Journal of Insect Conservation. DOI: 10.1007/s10841-014-9744-3


Sale of Lake District National Park property – Lake District National Park Authority

As part of the Lake District National Park’s ongoing property review, we invited offers through a formal tender process for eight properties. The deadline for bids concluded on Thursday 12 March 2015 and the current status is:

  • We have identified new future owners for two properties
  • We are in discussions with a charitable body for one property
  • We have not managed to find a suitable new owner for the five remaining properties, including Stickle Tarn.

In progressing the tender process we made sure environmental protection and rights of way would be protected and the public’s enjoyment of the land would be unaffected in line with the Vision for the National Park. This forms a key part of our strategy to ensure we hold on to the right pieces of land for the right reasons and to release funds for reinvestment and other improvements in the park. 96 per cent of the park is in alternative ownership, demonstrating we do not need to own the land ourselves to actively conserve and maintain it.


New Ecologists' Toolkit enables habitat assessments in the field - Oxford Brookes University

Image: Oxford Brookes Universityimage: Oxford Brookes University

Brookes Centre for Ecology, Environment and Conservation has developed an iPad Toolkit for ecologists and environmental consultants, which enables users to efficiently conduct Phase One ecological surveys.

The toolkit enables users to conduct Phase 1 Habitat Survey, which involves habitat mapping and collecting ancillary data reliably and efficiently. Such surveys are part of the planning and development process and are one the most fundamental parts of the ecological assessment process.

The new toolkit removes the need for surveyors to make notes with paper and pencil in the field before translating them onto digital maps when they return to their offices. They can create fully colour coded, spatially referenced habitat maps on the spot, and include valuable information on the species present in the area.

The toolkit which has been developed with the support of funding from the Higher Education Innovation Fund (HEIF) will aid the initial assessment of the value of habitats undertaken by consultants, wildlife organisations, local authorities and others across the UK. Maps, data, photographs and notes from the Toolkit can be exported with minimal need for post surveying data collation or editing. The Toolkit also includes detailed information including photo references, distribution maps and ecology on more than 900 key UK species including plants, birds, mammals and insects.


New tool-kit to save open spaces – Open Spaces Society

We have launched our campaign to save England’s much-loved open spaces.

We have published an open spaces tool-kit for communities to protect their green spaces, and have called on planning authorities to respond positively to requests to save local spaces.

Invitation to take part in neighbourhood plan for Henley and Harpsden, South Oxfordshire image: Open Spaces Society Our tool-kit consists of three handbooks: How to win local green space through neighbourhood plans; Community assets and protecting open space; and Local green space designation. We have written to all the English local planning authorities calling on them to be proactive in designating land as local green space (LGS) through neighbourhood plans.

Invitation to take part in neighbourhood plan for Henley and Harpsden, South Oxfordshire (image: Open Spaces Society)

Says Nicola Hodgson, our case officer: ‘The National Planning Policy Framework [NPPF] has been in place for three years, with its opportunity to designate land as LGS [paras 76-8]. Yet only a few have been designated. Moreover it has for four years been possible to list open spaces as community assets, but few have been registered. The society wants to make it easier for communities to rescue their threatened open spaces.’


CT scanning shows why tilting trees produce more sugars for biofuel – Rothamstead Research

CT scanning reveals that willows’ natural growth reaction to stress helps produce more sugars for biofuels (image: Rothamstead Research)

CT scanning reveals that willows’ natural growth reaction to stress helps produce more sugars for biofuels (image: Rothamstead Research)

A team of researchers at Imperial College London, in collaboration with Rothamsted Research, have used medical imaging techniques to explore why making willow trees grow at an angle can vastly improve their biofuel yields. Using micro-CT scans, the team showed that the trees respond to being tilted by producing a sugar-rich, gelatinous fibre, which helps them stay upright.

Willows are suitable for widespread cultivation as biofuels because they produce large quantities of accessible sugar, are fast-growing and can tolerate harsh environmental conditions, such as windy slopes and poor soil. In fact, trees grown in harsher conditions or polluted soil can even produce better biofuel because the sugar they produce is more accessible, requiring less energy to harvest it.

Growing the willow trees at a 45-degree angle simulates this natural stress, encouraging  the trees to produce up to five times more sugar than plants grown normally. But exactly why and how this happens has not been clear until now.

Access the paper here


UK’s first hedgehog conservation area to be established in Solihull – Warwickshire Wildlife Trust

Image: Warwickshire Wildlife TrustImage: Warwickshire Wildlife Trust

UK’s first hedgehog conservation area to be established in Solihull

A landmark project launched today (Tuesday 17 March) by Warwickshire Wildlife Trust has selected Solihull as the location for the UK’s first dedicated hedgehog conservation area, called the Hedgehog Improvement Area (HIA). Thanks to funding from the British Hedgehog Preservation Society (BHPS) the initiative has been developed in response to an alarming national decline in hedgehog numbers. The HIA aims to bolster the region’s hedgehog population, inspiring local people and organisations to take action to help one of the country’s most enigmatic and well-loved species.

"We are delighted to be funding such an exciting and important project in Warwickshire that will hopefully benefit many hedgehogs. Simple measures such as ensuring there is a 5" square gap in boundary walls and fences make a massive difference to local hedgehog populations. There are many ways people can assist this declining species and we hope this project will complement our work to highlight the plight of the hedgehog." Fay Vass, Chief Executive, British Hedgehog Preservation Society.

At the heart of the initiative will be a 90 hectare ‘Hedgehog Reserve’, incorporating Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council’s Elmdon Park and Warwickshire Wildlife Trust’s Elmdon Manor nature reserve. A group of volunteer ‘wildlife guardians’ will be recruited to aid in the management of this area of green space, helping to establish a central sanctuary from which the hedgehog population will be able to disperse and inhabit the surrounding area.


Learning outdoors more engaging, says report – Scottish Natural Heritage

Teachers who bring their pupils into the outdoors find it makes their learning more enjoyable, challenging, active and collaborative according to a report published today (Tuesday 17 March) by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH).

The study shows that outdoor learning in school and pre-schools has increased since Curriculum for Excellence was introduced but that further increases could be made. The survey of nursery, primary and secondary schools looked at over 1000 outdoor lessons and compared results from surveys in 2006 and 2014.

Learning in green areas like parks, gardens, wildlife areas and woodland, as well as on residential outdoor trips, particularly increased children’s engagement and enriched the learning experience in many ways. Overall, the study found that there was an opportunity to make more use of local green places to give children time outdoors at little or no cost.

Greg Mannion, one of the report authors from University of Stirling, said: “Our study shows that randomly sampled nurseries, primaries and secondaries are now providing more outdoor learning on average than in 2006, but what pupils get varies a lot from school to school and schools in deprived areas are offering noticeably less time outdoors.”

In nurseries, the vast majority of time outdoors was in the grounds, with only occasional trips made further afield. Primary schools increased outdoor learning, especially in school grounds and by going on more residential trips. Pupils in secondary schools have had only slightly increased provision since 2006 but appear to have less opportunity to learn in local areas or in the grounds.

An online copy of the report is available here


Minister visits peatland restoration site – Scottish Wildlife Trust

The Trust hosted the Minister for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform, Dr Aileen McLeod, at Carsegowan Moss in Galloway to see how the Peatland Action Fund is being used to improve these vital habitats.

The work by the Trust at Carsegowan Moss has used a pioneering technique, known as ‘peat bunding’. This involves using very low ground-pressure excavators to remove the damaged surface layers of peat. Deeper peat is then used to build up a low embankment to hold back and slow the flow of water from the site.

Scotland’s peatlands are internationally important forms of habitat, not only for their wildlife value but also for the wider benefits they provide to society, including water purification, carbon capture and storage.

Peatlands are particularly fragile and sensitive. It is imperative that effective management is put in place if they are to continue to provide all their invaluable services. The restoration and enhancement of these ecosystems will also increase society’s resilience to climate change.


New report highlights how productive woodlands can reduce flood risk and protect our waterways - Confor

Planting productive woodland in specific areas of the UK could reduce the risk of flooding, according to a landmark report published today (Tuesday 17th March).

The study by Confor and Forest Research highlights the role productive woodland can play in lessening the likelihood of floods - as well as offering significant potential improvements to the water environment and a range of additional economic and environmental benefits.

Read the report here


Momentous legislation for Wales! – RSPB Cymru

Dragonfly Image via RSPB - Mark EatonRSPB Cymru today applauds the National Assembly for Wales on passing a landmark piece of legislation yesterday (Tuesday 17 March)  for the people and wildlife of Wales.

(Image: RSPB - Mark Eaton)

The Well-being of Future Generations (WFG) Bill will create a legal basis for defining and delivering sustainable development in Wales, and create a better quality of life for future generations.

The legislation introduces seven well-being goals which public bodies must set out to achieve, including a goal, which commits Wales to maintain and enhance a bio-diverse natural environment. As Katie-jo Luxton, RSPB Cymru Director, explains: “We are especially pleased that the Bill recognises the importance of wildlife and nature to human well-being.  What will be critical now is how the Bill is put into practice and the commitment Welsh Government shows in order to make the change needed with the support of a new Future Generations Commissioner.”

The recent State of Nature Report showed us that over 3,000 UK assessed species had declined by more than 60% over the last 50 years.  The WFG Bill places a duty of sustainable development on public sector bodies in Wales, including on the Welsh Government itself and local authorities. From now on, public bodies will be required by law to ensure that they contribute through their ways of working, to meeting the commitment to halt the biodiversity decline by 2020, and to aid the recovery of biodiversity.


Gannet numbers increase in northwest Scotland - SNH

A study of gannets off the northwest coast of Scotland has found the birds’ numbers have increased rapidly over the last decade. This news comes hot on the heels of news in February announcing that the Bass Rock in East Lothian took over from St Kilda as the world’s largest gannet colony. The latest results confirm that Scotland – and particularly northwest Scotland - is an extremely important region for gannets, one of our most spectacular seabirds.

The SNH-commissioned survey found that gannets nesting at Sule Skerry increased at a rate of more than 47% per year. On the Flannan Islands, the growth was 7.5% per year. Numbers changed very little on St Kilda (now the world’s second-largest gannet colony) and Sule Stack.

Gannets are Scotland’s largest seabird, weighing between 2.5 to 3.5kg, with nearly a six-foot wingspan. They migrate to the west coast of Africa, and sometimes further, in the winter. They only lay one egg and pairs typically mate for several seasons, if not for life. The good health of gannets across Scotland may be explained by their foraging behaviour. They can fly for great distances in search of food, and are able to take a wide range of prey species – features which may make them more resistant to changes in the marine environment compared with other birds. They also usually nest at sites which have few predators, have produced lots of chicks over the past decade, and have high survival rates.

Both Sule Skerry and the Flannan Islands have plenty of unused but suitable nesting habitat, and this may explain why the number of gannets in these particular colonies has increased. This contrasts to the stable numbers on Sule Stack, where gannets already occupy all the suitable breeding areas. This may lead to gannets establishing new colonies, as has already occurred at Sule Skerry, and may also be happening at Barra Head.

Eileen Stuart, SNH’s head of policy and advice, said: “Scotland has internationally important populations of seabirds, and gannets in particular, so it’s vital that we monitor how they’re faring. The survey is especially good news as gannets are, like many seabirds, of conservation concern.”

To download a full copy of the report, Click Here


Ancient peatlands to grow again – Natural England

Heather brash spreading and introduction of sphagnum (c. Moors for the Future via Natural England) Individual moorland business owners have signed up to 30 large Environmental Stewardship (ES) agreements which will see vast expanses of Peak District and South Pennines peatlands, home to extensive tracts of semi-natural moorland with upland heath and peat bog, birds of prey and wading birds, restored.

Heather brash spreading and introduction of sphagnum (c. Moors for the Future via Natural England)

The ES agreements will bring about £15 million of moorland restoration measures over the coming 3-5 years. They will allow for changes to management on 39,000 hectares of moorland, such as less heather burning and a return to traditional shepherding to help improve the moorland environment. Running through to 2024, the agreements will bring great benefits to water quality, wildlife, recreation and business through these restoration measures. Funding from the scheme will be of great importance in bringing upland Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) into better condition.

Natural England’s Chairman Andrew Sells said: The end-result will be amazing - the peatlands will become active again providing long-lasting prosperity for the environment and businesses. There will be improvements for people and wildlife, cleaner water for surrounding cities, reduced flood risk, better public recreation and increased global carbon storage. What a fantastic way to work with rural businesses to undertake necessary regeneration and to harness benefits from the moorlands, whilst also enhancing the rural economy. The scheme is also supported by the Moorland Association, which represents many owners. Peak District representative Simon Gurney welcomed the ambitious large-scale restoration plans, explaining the extensive experience and knowledge of land managers would be invaluable to the project’s long-term goals and success. He added: “By working collaboratively, changes and improvements can take place while safeguarding the land use which is essential to the economy of our internationally recognised moors.”


Earlier flood protection for thousands of homes across England - Defra

Budget announcement: More than 31,000 homes and businesses will be better protected from the risk of flooding sooner

The government is bringing forward more than £140 million of the £2.3 billion six-year flood defence programme announced in December to better protect more than 31,000 homes and businesses from flooding sooner than planned.

47 brand new schemes have been given the green light as part of the long-term investment programme and work will start on another 165 flood defence projects earlier than previously announced.

The 6 year programme represents a real terms increase in expenditure and will reduce flood risk across the country by 5%.

Environment Secretary Elizabeth Truss said: "We’ve already protected 230,000 homes from the risk of flooding and coastal erosion so far this Parliament. We’re now bringing forward more money to protect thousands more homes and businesses sooner than originally planned, as part of our long-term economic plan."

Projects include;

  • In the North West, more than 2100 properties will be protected by the development of the Fairhaven and Church Scar Coast Protection scheme in Fylde, which is now scheduled to start three years earlier than previously planned.
  • In the South East, the Southsea Coastal Flood and Erosion Risk Management scheme - which will improve the standard of protection to more than 2,400 properties in Portsmouth - is now scheduled to start development more than 2 years earlier.
  • In Yorkshire, the development of the River Foss Flood Risk Management project will help protect up to 1,500 properties from surface water and river flooding.

Environment Agency Chairman Sir Philip Dilley said: "This programme of more than 1,500 flood risk management schemes will significantly reduce flood risk to more than 300,000 properties in England by 2021, benefiting people, the economy and the environment. Government funding has also been brought forward meaning that over 30,000 properties will benefit from reduced flood risk earlier than originally planned. Our priority is to do as much as we can with every pound of funding from government and local partners, but of course the risk of flooding can never be entirely eliminated. With one in six homes in England at risk of flooding, I encourage people to check their flood risk and sign up to the Environment Agency’s free flood warning service."


Path network to boost health, economy, tourism and environment - SNH

Thirty new long distance routes are to be added to Scotland’s network of trails, cycleways and canal towpaths, as part of a national project to give people more opportunities to enjoy the outdoors and travel sustainably.

The National Walking and Cycling project plan was launched today (19 March) by Cabinet Secretary for Planning Alex Neil near the Falkirk Wheel. It will extend the network by 500 miles over the next five years, joining up and improving existing routes.

Scottish Natural Heritage, Sustrans and Scottish Canals, who are behind the initiative, want Scotland to develop a strategic path network on a par with the best in Europe, making it easier for people of all ages and abilities to get to and enjoy. The paths will offer something for everyone, from walkers, cyclists and horse riders to people using wheelchairs and mobility scooters. The project is one of a number of key developments highlighted in the Scottish Government’s National Planning Framework.

Mr Neil stepped out on the banks of the Forth and Clyde canal to see some of the benefits for himself and meet the project partners and representatives from Falkirk Council. The canal towpath is part of the new John Muir Way, a national cycle route and links to a network of local paths round Falkirk. Mr Neil said: “Scotland’s extensive network of long distance routes, national cycleways and canal towpaths is already much loved and well used. Encouraging more people to enjoy the natural environment is important for the environment, tourism and boosting the economy – that’s why the National Long Distance Cycling and Walking Network is designated as a national development in Scotland’s National Planning Framework. The Plan will extend the network of connected, accessible paths and tracks for visitors of all ages and abilities to walk and cycle, encouraging even more people and visitors to enjoy the outdoors and to become more active.”

Feasibility studies are already underway for a North Solway coastal path, parts of a ‘Pilgrim’s Way’ across Scotland between St Andrews and Iona, and to extend the Clyde walkway in Lanarkshire. Major improvements on canal towpaths have begun and there are also plans to improve existing long distance routes such as the Cowal Way and the Clyde Coast path. While work will be carried out over the next five years, the national development is also long term, with the project plan setting out a strategy for the network over the next 20 years.


Great British Beach Clean – Marine Conservation Society

Great British Beach Clean 2014In September 2014, our fantastic volunteers broke a 21 year record when they found 2,457 pieces of litter on each kilometre of beach they cleaned and surveyed.

5,349 volunteers cleaned and surveyed 301 beaches collecting a whopping 2,457 bits of litter per kilometre!

(image via Marine Conservation Society)

Last September's beach clean broke other records, too. There were more volunteers, more bits of plastic found, more volunteer hours spent cleaning, and more rubbish removed from the beach than ever before. 

Now we've got a massive amount of evidence that not enough is being done to tackle the litter in the seas and on our beaches.

Download the 2014 report PDF


Conservation covenants can help protect our landscapes – Natural England

Conservation covenants could allow landowners to protect their environment in perpetuity says Andrew Sells, Chairman of Natural England.

Andrew Sells, Chairman of Natural EnglandAndrew Sells, Chairman of Natural England (image via Natural England)

The importance of this country’s treasured landscapes to our economy, our health and our sense of identity is perhaps greater now than it has ever been. And yet protecting our natural heritage is often seen as a long-term investment made unaffordable by society’s more pressing day-to-day needs.

I believe there is a way forward that can help landowners and communities to protect the many benefits of the environment for generations into the future.

By using an agreement known as a conservation covenant, landowners in England and Wales could, for the first time, protect their environment not only during their tenure but in perpetuity if they wished.

For example, the owner of some woodland enjoyed by the local community may wish to leave the land to her children. She wants to ensure that the woodland is maintained for public enjoyment but doubts that future generations would share her priorities. A conservation covenant would achieve her aims.

A scheme for conservation covenants in England and Wales was recommended by the Law Commission in June last year. A conservation covenant is a voluntary, private agreement between a landowner and a conservation body – such as Natural England or a local wildlife trust - to do or not do something on their land for a conservation purpose. Made in the public interest, it continues to be effective even after the land changes hands. Conservation covenants operate in other countries such as Scotland, USA and Canada, but not yet in England and Wales.

As Chairman of Natural England I have had the privilege of visiting some of our finest landscapes and wildlife sites and have been struck by the generosity and hard work of people who look after these special places for the greater good of mankind and wildlife. Most of them I’m sure would love to know that their endeavours provided a lasting legacy beyond their lifetime.

Of course legal protection of our cherished landscape is nothing new, the biggest stride for conservation in this country coming with the establishment of the National Parks system in 1949. Further legislation, environmentally-friendly farming schemes and the designation of Sites of Special Scientific Interest have all moved things forward. Conservation covenants would augment these essential protections. They would give more conservation powers to those closely connected with the landscape.


Is Willow Warbler breeding changing with the times? - BTO

Willow WarblerNew research by the BTO and the University of East Anglia uses information from the Nest Record Scheme to investigate changes in Willow Warbler breeding between the 1960s and the present day. Despite advances in the timing of egg laying, there has been little change in Willow Warbler productivity over this period.

Willow Warbler (image via BTO)

New research by the BTO and the University of East Anglia makes use of the incredible amount of information collected by volunteers taking part in the Nest Record Scheme to investigate the consequences of shifts in timing of breeding for productivity in Willow Warblers. Using information from nearly 7000 nests collected between the 1960s and the present day, this study quantifies changes in the timing of laying dates and seasonal variation in both productivity and timing of breeding (i.e. the proportion of birds nesting at different points in the season), to assess the influence of these factors on changes to overall productivity.

In both north-west Britain (where populations are stable) and the south-east (where populations have declined), Willow Warblers are laying their eggs earlier, and such early nesting attempts fledge a higher number of chicks than those laid towards the end of the season. However, these advances have not lead to an increase in overall productivity, as while the proportion of early-season nests has increased, the seasonal decline in productivity in the north-west has reduced and consequently overall productivity is stable. In the south-east, however, the seasonal decline in productivity has increased and, despite the advance in timing of breeding, overall productivity has declined.

While shifts in the timing of breeding of migratory species are widespread, this study highlights that the consequences for breeding success at the population-scale will depend on both the seasonal pattern of nesting dates (which will be influenced by the dates that birds arrive from their wintering grounds, environmental conditions for breeding, nest failure and re-nesting) and on seasonal variation in productivity. This means that despite breeding success often being highest at the start of the season, advances in laying dates do not necessarily lead to an increase in productivity. Therefore predicting the population-level consequences of phenological changes requires further research to understand both the mechanisms driving seasonal variation in timing of breeding and its success.  


Reactions to Wednesday's (18/3/15) Budget by the Chancellor

The Budget: major milestones on compulsory purchase and rural broadband, says CLA

Positive step for Pitcairns - UK seas need proper protection too – The Wildlife Trusts

Alliance welcomes "budget for the countryside" – Countryside Alliance

UK Government's intention to create marine protected area around Pitcairn is 'visionary' – RSPB

Chancellor's huge giveaway for oil barons - what about the climate? – Friends of the Earth

RSPCA welcomes passing of ‘Fly-grazing’ Bill into law

Confor welcomes new £1m forestry fund in budget


Government is leaving some Local Nature Partnerships to wither – Commons Select Committee

Woodland via Commons Select CommitteeLocal Nature Partnerships (LNPs) offer an excellent opportunity for local people to drive local priorities for nature and habitats conservation, but their resources are under pressure and there is a mixed performance record between individual LNPs, the Environmental Audit Committee warns.

Where LNPs have been successful, they have demonstrated the benefits of local engagement, harnessing enthusiasm in finding solutions to local priorities. Where they have not been successful, the solution is not to impose additional tasks but to re-energise the unfocussed local commitment.

(image via Commons Select Committee)

Chair of the Committee, Joan Walley MP, said: “Many LNPs are starved of funding and resources, meaning much of the good work in getting them up and running, is being undone. The whole country—urban as well as rural—need the natural environment protections that LNPs can provide. Rather than leave under-performing LNPs to wither away, the next Government should urgently review LNPs and their funding, and re-energise the initiative.”


NSA takes action to discourage release of lynx into British countryside - National Sheep Association

Following the announcement of plans to release lynx into the UK countryside, the National Sheep Association (NSA) has contacted Natural England and a leading UK peer to voice its opposition.

NSA believes reintroducing lynx after more than 1,300 years of extinction will pose a real threat to British livestock, and even trial work with the wild cat will lead to predation of livestock, in particular, ewes and lambs.

Phil Stocker, NSA Chief Executive, has written to James Cross, head at Natural England, and also Lord De Mauley, Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Defra. “Our primary concern is that the lynx will threaten livelihoods and businesses within the farming industry. Ewes and lambs would be much easier prey than deer because they can’t get away so quickly,” says Mr Stocker.

Sheep farming members have expressed concern to NSA since the conservation charity, the Lynx UK Trust, announced plans to submit an official application to Natural England and Scottish Natural Heritage. The charity hopes that, if successful, the lynx would then be reintroduced into three regions in Aberdeenshire, Cumbria and Suffolk.

“We were heartened to receive a speedy response from Natural England, assuring us that, if and when it receives an application from the Lynx UK Trust, it will consult ‘all relevant parties’ and consider the socio-economic impacts of the reintroduction, as well as impacts on the environment and the animals themselves,” says Mr Stocker. “This is vitally important, as the project will disrupt vulnerable ecosystems and challenge the viability of sheep farms. This will, in turn, have a damaging impact on farmers’ livelihoods and businesses if the lynx prey on sheep.”

The news from the week beginning 9/3/15 carries details about the Lynx Trust plans to re-introduce Lynx. Read it here  


Golden eagle soars again – Scottish SPCA

Golden Eagle 'Bud' via Scottish SPCAA golden eagle found with an injured wing on the Isle of Mull is the first ever to be successfully released by the Scottish SPCA.

The bird of prey was returned to the wild last week (Friday 13 March), with the assistance of the RSPB and Raptor World, after eight months in our care.

Colin Seddon, manager at our National Wildlife Rescue Centre in Clackmannanshire, said, "The juvenile golden eagle, who we named Bud, was rescued in August 2014 by a farmer and the RSPB.

(image via Scottish SPCA)

Bud was found to have soft tissue damage to his wing which took a long time to heal and unfortunately once he had fully recovered he broke his right leg in a freak accident. The break was repaired by vet using an external fixator and as the healing process was very long Bud was kept with us over winter. It is testament to the expertise of vet Romain Pizzi and the careful nursing and handling of Bud by our wildlife team that he made a full recovery. We had to carefully choose the best time and place to release Bud and, following discussions with David Sexton of the RSPB and Stewart Millar from Raptor World, we decided to take him back to a location close to where he was found. It was then a case of waiting for a reasonable weather window. We didn't want to release him in a period of heavy rain as he may not have been able to hunt. We also had to avoid strong winds because, as an inexperienced flyer, Bud would have been blown away from the release site where support food and monitoring is being provided by the RSPB. Bud is the first ever golden eagle we've been able to release back into the wild and everyone involved is extremely pleased with the outcome. It is rare for us to rescue golden eagles as there are so few of them in Scotland and because they tend to live in remote areas they often die before they are found if they become sick or injured. Bud's rescue and release was very much a joint operation between the Society, the RSPB and Raptor World, and without the involvement of these organisations it would not have been such a success."


Some good news for the first day of spring…

Continental Crusader Conquers British Winter – Butterfly Conservation

Scare TortoiseshellA spectacular European butterfly has travelled to the UK and for the first time on record, survived the British winter, Butterfly Conservation can reveal.

(image via Butterfly Conservation)

The Scarce Tortoiseshell, also known as the Yellow-legged Tortoiseshell, is so incredibly rare here that until last year there was just one previous wild record from 1953 - a single female seen at Shipbourne, near Sevenoaks in West Kent.

More than 60 years later and after several sightings throughout the country last July, one has been spotted in Norfolk this month.

Butterfly Conservation’s Head of Monitoring, Dr Tom Brereton, said: “This new sighting is a truly historic event as it marks the first time this stunning butterfly has ever overwintered successfully in Britain. The record came in on Thursday 12 March from Holt Country Park on the north Norfolk coast. This area, with its open heathy woodland, provides suitable conditions for the butterfly, which feeds on Birch sap in the spring and lays eggs on willows. The butterfly was still present the next day, but then the weather deteriorated.”

The large and beautiful Scarce Tortoiseshell, Nymphalis xanthomelas, is found from Eastern Europe to China and Japan, but in 2014 an unprecedented migration event resulted in around 30 sightings of the butterfly in the UK, in at least 10 different counties. These were mainly along the East Coast and centred on Norfolk, but some reports came from as far as Devon, Humberside, Tyneside and the West Midlands.

Dr Brereton said: “We've been waiting apprehensively over the last couple of weeks for news to see if any Scarce Tortoiseshells would emerge from hibernation following last year’s mini invasion. The butterfly prefers very cold winters and we weren’t sure if any would survive our mild season. If more emerge as we head into spring, 2015 could see the first UK-born Scarce Tortoiseshells on record.”


…and some happy news for the end of the week.

Trust volunteers happier than most - National Trust for Scotland

The first ever study of happiness amongst its volunteers has found that they are roughly seven per cent happier than the average person, says the National Trust for Scotland.

According to the research which was gathered through a survey of the conservation charity’s volunteers, around 85 per cent of Trust volunteers responded positively to the question ‘how satisfied are you with life nowadays?’, compared to 78 per cent for the UK population as a whole. There was also a positive response to the question ‘how happy did you feel yesterday?’ – 39 per cent of Trust volunteers rated their happiness highly, compared to 32 per cent across the UK, a difference of seven per cent.
The research drew on the field of positive psychology to test whether taking part in purposeful activities through volunteering was linked to higher levels of happiness and life satisfaction. The study is thought to be the first of its type in Scotland and is likely to encourage other charities to consider the question of ‘happiness’ amongst their volunteers.
Amongst the charity’s volunteers is Sir Kenneth Calman who steps down as Trust Chairman at the end of April. An eminent medical figure, Sir Ken has long been interested in how heritage and culture contributes to well-being and health.
Sir Ken said: “This is a fascinating study which helps show the positive impact that our heritage and the opportunities offered by the Trust and other bodies like it, can make to our society. The benefits of heritage and tourism are often boiled down to economics, and while these are undoubtedly important, contributing to people’s happiness is a fantastic achievement for any organisation. As a volunteer for the past 4 and a half years, I can personally confirm the benefits of such a role.”


Scientific publications

Low, M., Arlt, D., Pärt, T & Öberg, M. (2015) Delayed timing of breeding as a cost of reproduction. Journal of Avian Biology. DOI: 10.1111/jav.00623


Gullett, P. R., Hatchwell, B. J., Robinson, R. A. & Evans, K. L. (2015) Breeding season weather determines long-tailed tit reproductive success through impacts on recruitment. Journal of Avian Biology. DOI: 10.1111/jav.00560


Fijn, R. C, Krijgsveld, K. L., Poot, M. J. M. & Dirksen, S. (2015) Bird movements at rotor heights measured continuously with vertical radar at a Dutch offshore wind farm. Ibis. DOI: 10.1111/ibi.12259


Ozerov, M., Jürgenstein, T., Aykanat, T. & Vasemägi, A. (2015) Use of sibling relationship reconstruction to complement traditional monitoring in fisheries management and conservation of brown trout. Conservation Biology. DOI: 10.1111/cobi.12480


Fuchs, H. L., Gerbi, G. P., Hunter, E. J., Christman, A. J & Javier Diez, F. (2015) Hydrodynamic sensing and behavior by oyster larvae in turbulence and waves. Journal of Experimental Biology. doi: 10.1242/​jeb.118562


McCane, J. D. & Olsen, B. J. (2015) Landscape-scale habitat availability, and not local geography, predicts migratory landbird stopover across the Gulf of Maine. Journal of Avian Biology. doi: 10.1111/jav.00598 


Vasconcelos, E. P. et al. (2015) Global patterns and predictors of fish species richness in estuaries. Journal of Animal Ecology. doi: 10.1111/1365-2656.12372


Lewandowski, E. & Specht, H. (2015) Influence of volunteer and project characteristics on data quality of biological surveys. Conservation Biology. doi: 10.1111/cobi.12481


Möldera, A. et al. (2015) Bryophytes as indicators of ancient woodlands in Schleswig-Holstein (Northern Germany). Ecological Indicators. doi:10.1016/j.ecolind.2015.01.044 


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