CJS Logo & link to homepage

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


Norfolk and Suffolk asked to go 'batty' - BTO

The Norfolk Bat Survey (www.batsurvey.org) returns this year for its third year running, with plans to be even bigger and better. The survey, which uses automated bat detectors to record the presence and activity of bats, needs the help of volunteers willing to put out detectors. 

Common Pippistrelle (image: Amy Lewis/BTO)Common Pipistrelle, (image: Amy Lewis/BTO)

The Norfolk Bat Survey aims to give anyone in Norfolk and just over the border into Suffolk a unique opportunity to help collect new information on which bat species are present within different areas and habitats. These detectors are left in situ at selected sites to run overnight and record the echolocation calls of passing bats. The resulting sound files are then analysed to produce a list of the bats and information on the timing of bat activity from the site, something that is then shared with the volunteer who operated the detector. 

Twenty-three 'Bat Monitoring Centres' have been set up, from which volunteers can borrow equipment for a few days to take part in the survey. Over the past two years the project was able to survey 786 1-km squares (about 15% of Norfolk), and received over 600,000 high-quality recordings of bats, making this one of the largest projects of its type in the world. The aim is to increase survey coverage to 25% of Norfolk and add to existing knowledge in the neighbouring parts of Suffolk, with your help, we can do this.

Dr Stuart Newson, BTO Senior Research Ecologist commented: “It is really exciting to have an opportunity to work in partnership with local bat groups, local and national organisations and local libraries, to improve our understanding of bats in Norfolk and in  neighbouring parts of Suffolk”  He added “This project is very exciting for me because it combines a personal interest in bats, in designing large-scale monitoring schemes, and in finding novel ways of engaging the public’s interest in the natural environment.”

Last year the Norfolk Bat Survey had more people wanting to take part in some parts of the county than we had detectors to support, so you need to be quick in expressing interest, and reserving your 1-km square to survey. You can do this via www.batsurvey.org/sign-up.  

For other sightings and surveys please see our surveys page.  


Vision for a Wilder Europe – revisited, March 2015 - Rewilding Europe

Eleven organisations from across Europe reconfirmed their ambition to make Europe a wilder place by signing the new edition of the ‘Vision for a Wilder Europe’ in March 2015, which is just published.

The goal of the ‘Vision for a Wilder Europe’ is ‘to build on the significant conservation achievements in Europe over the past decades and to launch and promote a new paradigm in management and view of wild nature in European conservation’.

A Vision for Wilder EuropeRewilding Europe, Wildlands Research Institute, John Muir Trust, Zoological Society of London, Frankfurt Zoological Society, European Wilderness Society, Fundació Catalunya- La Pedrera, Rewilding Britain, Wilderness Foundation, Deutsche Umwelthilfe and Wild Wonders of Europe have worked for over a year on this vision. The organisations put emphasis on recognizing, restoring and allowing natural processes, which ultimately could create more robust ecosystems and more cost-effective conservation management systems, reduce the loss of biodiversity across the continent, provide scientific knowledge about natural developments without human interventions, give more people a closer relationship with nature in contrast to our highly technological worlds, increase resilience to the effects of climate change, and generate new economic opportunities and better services for society.

The ten action points the updated Vision calls upon all social change-makers and leaders from all European governments, businesses, communities and organisations, to adopt and work on:

  1. Existing wilderness: ensure full protection of all existing wilderness areas across the European Continent, both on land and at sea, as an immediate step;
  2. Natural processes: allow nature to take care of itself in wider land/seascapes;
  3. Large apex consumer species: recognize the underestimated ecological and economical value of wildlife and the importance of ensuring its continued comeback;
  4. Rewilding: support the rewilding of Europe;
  5. Business case for the Wild: invest in businesses linked to the values of wild nature and wildlife;
  6. New stewardship of land, water and sea: invite and inspire land owners, communities and managers of land/water/sea and natural resources to embrace “A Vision for a Wilder Europe”;
  7. Financial mechanisms: inspire and invite all funding institutions to support this vision;
  8. Public support: Reach out to large constituencies across Europe through communications and education programmes;
  9. Monitoring, research and compilation of existing knowledge: learn from existing knowledge, experiences and new research;
  10. Leadership & strategy: promote the new conservation vision vis-à-vis key constituencies and develop an action-oriented strategy.

Download the Vision here (PDF)  


Good news for water voles from the Canal and River Trust

Endangered water voles given new home on River Stort

We've completed a project to build new habitat for water voles on the River Stort.

We've installed around 150 metres of new canal bank made of coconut-fibre rolls and reeds near Feildes Weir. The new banking will be perfect for water voles to make their homes, hide from predators and find an ample food source. The work will also help to support the river bank to prevent damage to the towpath on this section of the Stort.

Essex Wildlife Trust and Herts & Middlesex Wildlife Trust plan to reintroduce water voles to the Stort later this year and this work will  provide suitable habitat for the species.

Funding for the project was provided by The Michael Marks Charitable Trust, Chapman Charitable Trust and Clark Bradbury Charitable Trust, as well as the generous Friends of the Canal & River Trust and individual donors, who responded to an online appeal.

Chantal Dave, Canal & River Trust environmental scientist, said: “The project has gone really well, so we’re pleased to have got it completed, particularly in time for the breeding season which runs from March until October. It’d be great to see water voles back on this stretch of the Stort, and we’ll continue to monitor the site for progress.”

Charles Baker, Canal & River Trust senior project manager, who oversaw the work, added: “This was not only a chance to help water voles, but also at the same time working to stabilise the river bank and protect the towpath from further erosion. Working closely with our engineers, environmental scientist and with additional external support from the Environment Agency, we have solved several problems within one project, delivering a robust and long term solution.”

A water vole on a grassy bank (image: Canal and River Trust) 

A water vole on a grassy bank (image: Canal and River Trust) 


Newbury volunteers create luxury homes for rare water voles

Volunteers in Newbury have created new luxury waterside apartments for the country’s fastest declining mammal as part of a project to improve the towpath along the Kennet & Avon Canal.

The volunteers have planted water vole friendly coir rolls along the bank of the canal, that protect against erosion. At the same time they provide food and shelter for the animals known to live on this popular part of the canal. 

Oda Dijksterhuis, ecologist at the Canal & River Trust, said: “Water voles are among the real characters of the waterways. They are small, fluffy and very cute, but they desperately need our support to continue to live in this area, so projects like these are fantastic for them. The coir roles are mats made from coconut husks and then planted with water loving plants that naturally occur in this area. The voles then use the new canal bank and lush vegetation into to make their burrows and can live quite happily amongst the boaters, walkers and cyclists.


Mosaic Champions annual event: National Parks need to be more accessible for young people - Campaign for National Parks

Young volunteers with National Parks have spoken about the importance of them being more accessible to people of their own age (16-25) during their annual weekend event at Grinton Youth Hostel in the Yorkshire Dales.

The youngsters - Mosaic Champions with the Campaign for National Parks – talked about what they get out from spending  time in National Parks and promoting them to others of their age in terms of learning new skills, improving employment chances, having fun and reducing stress. They emphasised how important it was for youngsters to know what was available to them.To celebrate their work in National Parks, the champions tried out caving and mountain-biking in the fantastic Swale Valley. They also learnt about sheep farming and lead mining as well as making plans for how they will continue to be involved after the end of the three year Mosaic project.
Lake District champion Adam Philip-Phillips said: “I’ve spoken to several Champions to understand better how they view National Parks and I’m going to present this to the members of the Lake District National Park Authority”
Sarah Wilson, CNP Mosaic programme manager, said: ‘These celebration weekends give us an opportunity to say thank you to Champions for the fantastic work they do. It also gives them an opportunity to experience another National Park, meet other like-minded people from across the country and become part of a national group of young National Park supporters.’
Peter Charlesworth, Chairman of the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority (YDNPA), welcomed the Champions and thanked them for their work. Catherine Kemp, YDNPA Learning and Engagement Officer, said: “It’s always great to see young people enjoying our fantastic landscapes. I am lucky enough to be able to work with many of them in the Yorkshire Dales National Park and I find their enthusiasm for getting out into our National Parks truly inspirational.”


CJS Focus on Volunteering: Mosaic project article

Read more about the Mosaic project in our most recent Focus on Volunteering here.


Spot a basking shark around Cornwall? - MSC

Pick up the phone and call the tag team!

MCS and the University of Exeter have joined forces in an exciting new satellite tracking project to tag and follow basking sharks in Cornish waters. The success of the project relies on the eyes of sea users, beach goers and coastal walkers who are being asked to immediately report any sightings of these gentle giants to a special hotline which will mobilise a team who will set off in search of the shark to tag. The basking shark hotline is 07935 098122 and callers should give the approximate location, date, time, number of sharks and any other information they think might be important. For all sightings outside Cornwall, please report them as usual on the MCS Basking Shark Watch sightings pages. Basking Shark (image via MSC)

As spring gets underway, holidaymakers will flock to the South West’s stunning coastlines, where basking sharks will also make their annual reappearance to feed at the surface on seasonal plankton blooms. The shark’s large and distinctive dorsal fin, tail, and sometimes their snouts breaking the sea surface as they feed are easily spotted, even by the casual observer.

Basking Shark (image via MSC)

Although basking sharks are the world’s second largest fish, little is known about them. Building on the success of the University’s recent basking shark satellite tagging work in Scotland, and the MCS’s long-term Basking Shark Watch public reporting programme, this spring the team will attach cutting-edge satellite tracking tags to several basking sharks in Cornwall’s seas. By finding out more about the movements of basking sharks, and identifying the areas of sea they feed in and migrate to and from, the team hope to understand how conservation action can best help UK basking shark populations recover. Dr Matthew Witt of the University of Exeter's Environment and Sustainability Institute says, apart from their seasonal arrival in the spring at places such as Porthcurno and Sennen Cove, very little is known of the baskers behaviour around the shores of the South West:  "In Scotland over the past three years we used high-tech tracking devices to follow individual sharks and found their behaviour to be incredibly variable. This makes us suspect that sharks in the South West might be similar. Having a better understanding as to whether basking sharks we see here move north from Cornwall during the summer, stay locally or do something entirely different would help enormously in our efforts to conserve these large and magnificent creatures.” 


National Grid reveals the first T-pylon in the UK – National Grid

Construction of National Grid’s new T-pylon has begun at the company’s training academy.  The building of the training line of pylons will be the first opportunity to see the new design in the landscape.

The T-pylon was the winner of an international design competition to look for a 21st century design to carry high voltage overhead lines.  The winning design from Bystrup, the Danish architects and engineering company, is 35 metres high – up to one third lower than the conventional steel lattice pylon.

A span of six of the new T-pylons will be built at the Eakring training academy in Nottinghamshire. The different pylons all have a different function.

  • The standard suspension pylon that is designed to carry the cables in a straight line. Two suspension pylons will be built at Eakring.
  • A D30 pylon which can allow for the greater pressure and weight of turning the cables at an angle of up to 30 degrees.
  • An F10 flying angle suspension pylon which can allow a turn of up to 10 degrees – the first time such a pylon has been used in the UK.
  • A pair of terminal diamond pylons which end a line at a substation or take the cables underground.
  • A gantry terminal which is an alternative design of terminal pylon with the same function as the diamond terminal pylon.

Since the design competition in 2011, National Grid has worked with other engineers and partners to turn the design into reality and make sure the design could cope with all the stresses placed on a pylon. Is it mechanically sound? Can it withstand wind gusts of more than 80 mph or the additional weight of ice on the cables during extreme weather?

David Wright, Director of Electricity Transmission Asset Management at National Grid said: “We’ve been able to answer yes to the hundreds questions that need to be asked before we can introduce a new type of pylon. The training line has enabled us to learn so many lessons about how to manufacture and build the T-pylon.  I’m incredibly proud of the high standard of engineering that brought us to this point We developed the new style of pylon so that we could have a 21st century design to offer as we plan new transmission routes.  The T-pylon is not a replacement for the steel lattice pylon but it’s a new option and in some landscapes its shorter height and sleeker appearance can offer real advantages”.


UKOOG comment on test results from Horse Hill exploration well – United Kingdom Onshore Oil & Gas

Ken Cronin, Chief Executive of UKOOG said: “We have been drilling for oil and gas onshore in the UK for over 100 years. There are a number of sites in the South of England that have been producing oil for many years with great care for the environment and with no impact on local communities. These initial results suggest a very large volume of oil in place, which could potentially help to stem the rise in oil imports and improve Britain’s energy security and balance of payments. Further appraisal work will be needed to test what could be economically and technically recoverable.”

Read the Executive Report Summary here  


Oil find in southern England raises fracking concerns – Friends of the Earth

Oil discovery in the South East - Greenpeace reaction


New seal behaviour caught on camera - Natural Resources Wales

The grey seal is one of Wales’ most charismatic wild animals with a reputation of being playful and friendly.  But new behaviour, thought to have been filmed for the first time anywhere in the world, shows another side to their character.  The footage, taken by a local wildlife watching operator in Pembrokeshire, shows an adult male grey seal biting and eating a harbour porpoise it has just killed. 

You can see the video at: https://vimeo.com/user5119540

Grey Seals ©NRWThis video supports a new research paper to be published in the Aquatic Mammals journal. The paper is authored by a group of naturalists, conservationists and Natural Resources Wales (NRW) scientists and reports on this predation phenomena, previously only reported off the coast of Europe. To their knowledge the behaviour has never been caught on video, until now. 

Grey Seals ©NRW

The lead author, Tom Stringell, Senior Marine Mammal Ecologist at Natural Resources Wales, said: “Monitoring protected habitats and species improves our understanding of our marine environment. The Pembrokeshire coastline is an important habitat for a wide variety of marine life, including grey seals, harbour porpoises and other marine mammals. With reports of grey seals feeding on harbour porpoises off the coast of Belgium, France and the Netherlands in the past, we were surprised to see this behaviour here in Wales. We observed this happening on four separate occasions off the coast of Pembrokeshire. But, it is unclear how long this has been going on for, and why.”

 It is unknown what is behind this unusual behaviour, but it could be due to competition for food from an increasing seal population, or just opportunistic hunting.

Access the paper: Stringell T, Hill D, Rees D, Rees F, Rees P, Morgan G, Morgan L, Morris C 2015 In Press. Predation of harbour porpoises (Phocoena phocoena) by grey seals (Halichoerus grypus) in Wales. Aquatic Mammals 41(2)


Continental Butterfly Appears In Cambridgeshire - Butterfly Conservation

Scarce Tortoiseshell Seen At RSPB Fowlmere - photo by Dave CurnowA European butterfly which made news headlines last month for being the first on record to survive a British winter has now emerged in Cambridgeshire, Butterfly Conservation can reveal.

A sighting of the Scarce Tortoiseshell, also known as the Yellow-legged Tortoiseshell, was submitted to the wildlife charity’s Cambridgeshire and Essex Branch on Saturday 21 March.

Scarce Tortoiseshell Seen At RSPB Fowlmere - photo by Dave Curnow, via Butterfly Conservation

Branch Recorder, Louise Bacon, said: “The butterfly was seen at the Fowlmere RSPB Reserve where it was settling for long periods, allowing the man who spotted it to get a great photo. In the shot the wings are very worn, which clearly show that this is not a fresh visitor, but one which has emerged from hibernation.

“This is the 2nd ever sighting of the butterfly in Cambridgeshire, but more significantly this is the first time one has survived hibernation to emerge in this area.”

The Scarce Tortoiseshell, Nymphalis xanthomelas, is so incredibly rare in the UK that until last year there was just one previous wild record from 1953 - a single female seen in West Kent.

Butterfly Conservation’s Head of Monitoring, Dr Tom Brereton, said: “It was a truly historic event as it marked the first time this stunning butterfly has ever overwintered successfully in Britain.

If you think you have seen a Scarce Tortoiseshell, please email Butterfly Conservation’s Head of Surveys, Richard Fox at rfox@butterfly-conservation.org 


Scientific Publications

Francesc Baró, Dagmar Haase, Erik Gómez-Baggethun, Niki Frantzeskaki, Mismatches between ecosystem services supply and demand in urban areas: A quantitative assessment in five European cities, Ecological Indicators, Volume 55, August 2015, Pages 146-158, ISSN 1470-160X, DOI: 10.1016/j.ecolind.2015.03.013.


Gaucherand, Stéphanie, Schwoertzig, Eugénie, Clement, Jean-Christophe, Johnson, Brad & Quétier, Fabien. The Cultural Dimensions of Freshwater Wetland Assessments: Lessons Learned from the Application of US Rapid Assessment Methods in France. Environmental Management DOI:10.1007/s00267-015-0487-z 


La Sorte, Frank A., et al Migration timing and its determinants for nocturnal migratory birds during autumn migration.  Journal of Animal Ecology. DOI: 10.1111/1365-2656.12376


Costello, M. J., Vanhoorne, B. and Appeltans, W. (2015), Conservation of biodiversity through taxonomy, data publication, and collaborative infrastructures. Conservation Biology. doi: 10.1111/cobi.12496


Pamela Boyle, Margaret Hayes, Michael Gormally, Caroline Sullivan, James Moran, Development of a nature value index for pastoral farmland—A rapid farm-level assessment, Ecological Indicators, Volume 56, September 2015, Pages 31-40, ISSN 1470-160X, doi:10.1016/j.ecolind.2015.03.011.


 Pellegrino, I., Negri, A., Boano, G., Cucco, M., Kristensen, T. N., Pertoldi, C., Randi, E., Šálek, M. and Mucci, N. (2015), Evidence for strong genetic structure in European populations of the little owl Athene noctua. Journal of Avian Biology. doi: 10.1111/jav.00679


CJS is not responsible for content of external sites.  Details believed correct but given without prejudice.

Disclaimer: the views expressed in these news pages do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of CJS.