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


BVA calls for change to badger culling method and wider roll-out in England  - British Veterinary Association

image: BVABVA has called for the four-year culls of badgers in West Somerset and West Gloucestershire to be completed using the ‘tried and tested’ method of cage trapping and shooting only. In light of the results from two years of culling in the two pilot areas, BVA has concluded that it can no longer support the continued use of controlled shooting as part of the badger control policy.

Following a full discussion at BVA Council, at which a wide range of views were expressed, BVA concluded that the results from the first two years of culling have not demonstrated conclusively that controlled shooting can be carried out effectively and humanely based on the criteria that were set for the pilots.  

Image: British Veterinary Association

BVA remains supportive of the use of badger culling as a necessary part of the comprehensive strategy for control and eradication of bovine TB. BVA is therefore calling on the government to revert to the method of cage trapping and shooting only, which can deliver a safe, humane and effective cull, as demonstrated in the earlier Randomised Badger Culling Trial (RBCT).  

The RBCT established that culling badgers can deliver a net benefit in terms of a reduction in the incidence of bovine TB in cattle. BVA is therefore now calling for badger culling to be rolled out using cage trapping and shooting only to other areas where badgers contribute to the high incidence of TB in cattle.


Breakthrough in protection of the Dogger Bank Natura 2000 site, ecological heart of the North Sea - Birdlife International

After years of negotiations, the Dogger Bank, a unique and massive complex of Natura 2000 sites belonging to the UK, Germany and the Netherlands will finally get its needed fisheries management plan.

Centuries of invasive bottom-trawling have degraded the sandbank community of the Dogger Bank, altering it in favour of short-lived species at the expense of vulnerable, long-lived ones like the ocean quahog (a type of clam), the longest-lived animal known to man on the planet (known to survive up to 500 years).

In 2013, after 3 years of discussion, the Member States, along with Denmark who prize the Dogger Bank as their most important sandeel fishing ground, agreed to exclude beam trawls and other bottom gears, from about a third of the Dogger Bank. BirdLife Europe as well as other NGOs had sought a higher level of protection but accepted that this was still a major step forward in balancing nature conservation and fishing interests.

However, with increased pressure from the Dutch industry to go against the consensus, the Netherlands demanded closing less of the Dutch part of the bank on the grounds that the proposed closures were too costly for the fishing industry. The UK and Germany, however, refused to renegotiate the overall management plan.

After months of political wrangling in the Dutch Parliament, Sharon Dijksma, the Dutch minister responsible for fisheries, has finally decided to support the joint Member States proposal. In her letter to the Dutch Parliament this week, she rejected the Dutch fishing industry’s plans to protect less of the Dutch Natura 2000 Dogger Bank site from the damaging impact of beam trawls and other bottom gears.

Birdlife Europe congratulates the Dutch Minister on facing down her industry’s attempts to block what was a multi-national consensus on how best to protect the Dogger Bank’s sandbank habitat and ensure a future for both nature and the fishing industry.


Report on capercaillie breeding success in Scots pinewoods in Strathspey – Scottish Natural Heritage

Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) today published a report which investigates the factors associated with capercaillie breeding success.

The Scottish capercaillie is of high conservation concern as the population has declined to 1,000-2,000 birds since the 1970s. Strathspey remains the stronghold with around 75% of the Scottish population. However, capercaillie productivity varies across the region.

The report –‘Correlates of capercaillie productivity in Scots pinewoods in Strathspey’ – is the result of a partnership comprising SNH, RSPB Scotland and the Cairngorms National Park Authority (CNPA).

The report reaffirms the complex relationships between the success of capercaillie in rearing young and habitat structure, predator activity and weather during the egg-laying and brood rearing period. Some elements have been found before, notably an association between poor capercaillie breeding success and wet weather in June when nesting females have dependent broods. Others, including a weak association between breeding success and a measure of pine marten activity, need to be explored further in order to fully understand the relationship.

One new finding was that blaeberry leaves (a key food item) had a better defence against herbivores through their chemical composition in old-growth Scots Pine forest than in younger plantations.

Read the report here.


Peatland project breathes new life into National Park – Loch Lomond & the Trossachs NPA

Image: Loch Lomond & the Trossachs NPAImage: Loch Lomond & the Trossachs NPA

A major peatland restoration project by Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park, which will help reduce the effects of climate change, create healthy habitats for wildlife as well as being used for recreation and providing employment - will be completed this month.

The project is part of The National Park's biodiversity action plan, 'Wild Park 2020'. The £120,000 of repair work, funded by Scottish Natural Heritage’s Peatland Action, at Beinn Dubh above Glen Luss and Auchtertyre, near Strathfillan, has involved supplies being flown in by helicopter and conservation workers enduring two-hour hikes in high winds and snow to reach the remote areas.

The restoration of the top of these two mountains involves blocking drains which provides a number of benefits including; preventing peat from drying out and releasing carbon into the atmosphere; reducing the impacts of flooding by slowing down water flow for farmers and residents downhill; improving water quality and the quality of mountain vegetation for local wildlife; as well as supporting the internationally important habitats for rare plants, birds and insects. Eroded areas of bare peat have also been re-planted to help stabilise the exposed sections.

Harriet Smith, land management adviser at Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park Authority said: “Peatland restoration is incredibly important; not only to reduce the effects of climate change, but because of the far reaching additional benefits both for wildlife and people. We have worked closely with Luss Estates and Scotland's Rural College at Kirkton and Auchtertyre farms to make these projects a reality and are looking forward to seeing more people being able to enjoy the benefits that these iconic landscapes provide.”


Offshore wind farm risk to seabirds varies between years – British Trust for Ornithology

Offshore wind farms are now operating or being constructed all around the UK as the government invests in renewable energy, but what are the consequences of such developments for our wildlife? New research by the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) has used state-of-the-art GPS tags to show how Lesser Black-backed Gulls breeding at a protected site in Suffolk use areas of sea where offshore wind farms already exist, and where future developments are earmarked.

BTO tracked twenty-five birds in three consecutive summers and found that gulls visited offshore wind farm areas significantly more in some years than in others. In every year, birds spent more time in wind farms zones when their chicks were young than at other times in the breeding season. Males also spent more time in these zones than females later on in the breeding season, when chicks were growing bigger and more independent.

Dr Chris Thaxter of the BTO said, "These results indicate just how varied individual seabirds can be in their behaviour, and highlights the value of long-term tracking datasets in estimating potential impacts of offshore wind farms on seabird populations”.  He added “Tracking animals over extended periods will help to correctly estimate the magnitude of risks posed to protected populations”.       

The paper is published in Biological Conservation. Read it here


logo: year of fieldworkFSC is proud to present the ‘Year of Fieldwork’ – Field Studies Council

Field Studies Council, has joined together with Esri UK, the Geographical Association, Ordnance Survey and the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) to create the ‘Year of Fieldwork’.  We will be working collaboratively to promote the value of geographical fieldwork and the wide range of resources, training and other support that is available to schools and colleges across the UK.

The ‘Year of Fieldwork’, will run throughout the academic year 2015-16. It aims to bring together a range of partners to celebrate out-of classroom learning and opportunities and to offer support for those that wish to develop these further. Our hope is that schools and colleges across the country join with us to celebrate fieldwork and the opportunities it provides not just during the ‘Year of Fieldwork’, but throughout the life of learners.


Parks on the Agenda - Landscape Institute

A collection of recent reports suggest there is growing evidence proving parks are valued community assets

A body of evidence is growing that quantifies the public benefits of parks, and at the same time, explicitly details the loss of community benefits if severe budget cuts continue. The budget cuts are not just cuts to parks funding; they are cuts to public health and endanger government attempts to address obesity rates.
Parks featured in a collection of reports released in the winding down of the 2010-2015 Parliament. A step forward was made in the Select Committee for Communities and Local Government's end of term report suggesting, as a result of TPA's written submission, that there may be merit in the Committee considering an inquiry in to the state of the UK's Parks during the next Parliament. For The Parks Alliance Interim Board, this was a welcome sign that the fight for park funding and maintenance is creeping onto the Parliamentary agenda.
Well managed and maintained parks are central to achieving improvements in public health. It now seems that everyone is concerned about parks and their impacts on the quality of public life. The Fabian Society’s Places to Be, recently released, provides further evidence about the importance of green spaces in the community lives of an increasingly urban lifestyle.
The report captures the essence of the case for providing parks when it says: “Our open green spaces more than ever provide a crucial community ballast, where we can come together, build relationships and reverse the long-term trend towards individualism and isolation.”


Access to green space reduces rich-poor divide in mental wellbeing - Centre for Research on Environment, Society & Health

Having access to green spaces significantly reduces the gap in wellbeing between richer and poorer people a European study has found.

Socioeconomic inequality in mental wellbeing was 40% narrower among people reporting good access to green / recreational areas compared to those with poor access.

The research team say that green space is ‘equigenic’ because it appears that it may help in creating health equality between richer and poorer people.  The research showed that access to green / recreational space was the only neighbourhood characteristic tested which had this link to narrower inequalities in wellbeing, The study concludes that green space could have an important part to play in reducing socioeconomic health inequalities.

The study is published today in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine and was carried out by the Centre for Research on Environment, Society and Health (CRESH), which is shared by the Universities of Glasgow and Edinburgh.

Study leader Professor Rich Mitchell of the University of Glasgow, said: “Our research supports the idea that environments could play a part in reducing inequalities in health, either in tandem with other social policies, or independently.”

Previous studies have shown that greenspace has physiological and psychological benefits for an individual’s health.  However, these studies did not compare green space with other features of the environment. This study was the first to compare different neighbourhood characteristics or services to see which were associated with narrower socioeconomic health inequalities.

Professor Jamie Pearce of the University of Edinburgh said: “Many experiments have identified that contact with nature can be a balm to those who are stressed or fatigued. It seems that the beneficial effects of using green areas are stronger for those under greater levels of financial stress.  While this kind of study could not prove greenspace was the cause of the reduced inequality there are two reasons why the effect is plausible: the narrowing of inequality did not occur among those not using their green space; and experimental studies have proven that contact with nature can cause improved mental wellbeing."

Access the paper: Mitchell, Richard J. et al. Neighborhood Environments and Socioeconomic Inequalities in Mental Well-Being.  American Journal of Preventive Medicine  DOI:

DOI: 10.1016/j.amepre.2015.01.017 


How bird-watching saved my happiness – and possibly my sanity writes Andy Atkins on Friends of the Earth Green Blog


BASC and Natural England sign partnership agreement - BASC

A partnership agreement which recognises the important role of shooting’s conservation contribution to the English Countryside has been signed by the British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC) and Natural England.

BASC looks forward to working with Natural England on the annual action plan which sets out a formula for joint working to achieve common aims. This covers matters of importance to shooting and to conservationists such as delivery of the Government’s Biodiversity 2020 programme, coastal access, wildfowling consents and future reviews of general licences which allow the necessary control of certain birds.

Tim Russell, BASC’s director of conservation, said: “BASC is pleased to sign this modern partnership agreement with Natural England which recognises the important contribution that people who shoot make to the nature and landscape conservation of the English countryside, and commits the two organisations to exploring how this contribution can be further developed. The agreement also recognises that shooting as an outdoor recreation can improve health and well-being and makes a significant contribution to the economy, particularly in rural areas.”

A particular emphasis will be on how BASC’s Green Shoots programme can be further developed so that its members will be able to contribute to monitoring and conserving habitats and species as part of the Government’s Biodiversity 2020 programme.

BASC chairman Alan Jarrett said: ‘This partnership agreement is a significant marker. Natural England formally and clearly recognises the benefits of lawful shooting and its related conservation effort. It sets out a blueprint for discussing issues, for working together and for achieving positive results for shooting and conservation. It should be welcomed by everyone who shoots.’


Wetland Birds Survey: 2013/14 report - JNCC  

The 33rd annual Wetland Bird Survey (WeBS) report which includes counts from 2013/14 is now available. WeBS is the principal scheme for monitoring the populations of the UK’s wintering waterbirds, indicating the status of waterbird populations and the health of wetlands.​ 

The UK’s importance as a waterbird wintering area comes from its geographic location as the most northerly temperate area with generally mild, maritime, winters close to arctic breeding areas. The UK’s many major estuaries are of critical importance as a food resource for these species during winter.​ ​ 

Smew © Edmund Fellowes_BTOSmew © Edmund Fellowes, BTO

Overall the report shows that UK wintering waterbird populations have declined during a run of milder winters in the last decade.  However in periods of extreme cold, 2008/9, 2009/10 and 2010/11, the UK acted as a refuge for waterbirds from continental Europe as birds moved to the nearest appropriate over-wintering site. The key UK sites – protected under various legislative measures – play a critical role in supporting waterbird populations under changing environmental conditions, and operate as a functional ecological network at national and international scales. The report illustrates an instance of this with recent research on use of Special Protection Areas by Smew (a small diving duck), highlighting the importance of site networks in maintaining overall species populations as its distribution within Europe changes in response to climate change. David Stroud, JNCC’s Senior Ornithologist contributed to the paper describing this research.

Download the report  here: BTO Wetland Birds Survey (PDF) 


Grey squirrels’ role as hosts of Lyme disease bacteria under the spotlight - University of Glasgow

Grey squirrels have been described as one of the ‘world’s worst invasive species’ and have caused a decline in indigenous red squirrel populations and damaged forestry in the UK.

Photo courtesy of Aileen Adam, University of Glasgow

Photo courtesy of Aileen Adam, University of GlasgowNow the role of this invasive species in hosting the bacteria which causes Lyme disease in humans has come under the spotlight in a study by ecologists at the University of Glasgow.

In Britain, Lyme disease is caused by four species of the bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato. These bacteria are maintained in a tick-wildlife cycle and a bite from an infected tick is responsible for Lyme disease in people.

In the UK, the main tick species which transmits Lyme disease, Ixodes ricinus, is commonly known as the deer or sheep tick. Around 4% of ticks in the UK are infected, though this can vary substantially between different areas. Species of Borrelia bacteria can infect a number of wildlife species, but generally birds and rodents are considered to be the most important hosts, while deer are important for maintaining tick populations but do not become infected with the bacteria.  Grey squirrels could act as an alternative host for ticks. Based on other studies of invasive species, they may either increase or decrease the number of infected ticks in the environment, an important risk factor for human infections.

The researchers tested 679 squirrels from across Scotland and the North of England in 2012 and 2013. They found that grey squirrels often carried ticks, and could be infected with all four of the Borrelia species found in the UK. Around 12% of the collected squirrels were infected, and surprisingly, the most frequent infection was a species usually found in birds.

Caroline Millins, of the Institute of Biodiversity, Animal Health and Comparative Medicine and lead author of the study Miss Millins said: “Frequent infection of grey squirrels with bird strains of Borrelia was unexpected, and challenges our current understanding of host pathogen interactions for this zoonotic pathogen.  We found quite different patterns and duration of infection in grey squirrels compared to native woodland rodent species. Grey squirrels become infected with whichever strains are circulating in the local area, and our models suggest that the duration of infection isn’t life-long. In contrast, native rodents tend to develop chronic lifelong infections with strains of Borrelia that have adapted to these hosts.  We can't say from this study whether grey squirrels lead to an increase or decrease in the number of ticks infected with Borrelia species in an area, but we have produced comprehensive baseline data that future studies could use to investigate this.” 

Read the paper: Caroline Millins et al An invasive mammal (grey squirrel, Sciurus carolinensis) commonly hosts diverse and atypical genotypes of the zoonotic pathogen Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato. Applied and Environmental Microbiology


Bees prefer nectar containing pesticides – Newcastle University

Bees are attracted to nectar containing common pesticides, scientists at Newcastle University and Trinity College Dublin have discovered. This could increase their chances of exposure to high levels of pesticides. 

Previous studies have suggested that exposure of this kind can affect bees’ fitness. The research, published in Nature, discovered that buff-tailed bumblebees and honeybees could not taste the three most commonly used neonicotinoid pesticides and so did not avoid them. In fact, the bees showed a preference for food which contained pesticides: when the bees were given a choice between sugar solution, and sugar solution containing neonicotinoids, they chose the neonicotinoid-laced food.

The lab-based study also showed that the bumblebees ate more of the food containing pesticides than the honeybees, and so were exposed to higher doses of toxins.

Several controversial studies have shown that neonicotinoids have negative effects on bee foraging and colony fitness. As a result, public concern has grown over the impact of neonicotinoids on bees and other pollinators. In April 2013, the EU introduced a temporary ban on the use of neonicotinoid pesticides on flowering crops, while further scientific and technical evidence was gathered.

Professor Geraldine Wright, lead scientist on the study at the Institute of Neuroscience at Newcastle University, said: “Bees can’t taste neonicotinoids in their food and therefore do not avoid these pesticides. This is putting them at risk of poisoning when they eat contaminated nectar.  Even worse, we now have evidence that bees prefer to eat pesticide-contaminated food. Neonicotinoids target the same mechanisms in the bee brain that are affected by nicotine in the human brain. The fact that bees show a preference for food containing neonicotinoids is concerning as it suggests that like nicotine, neonicotinoids may act like a drug to make foods containing these substances more rewarding. If foraging bees prefer to collect nectar containing neonicotinoids, this could have a knock-on negative impact on whole colonies and on bee populations.”

Jane Stout, Professor of Botany and Principal Investigator in the School of Natural Sciences at Trinity College Dublin, said: “Our findings imply that even if alternative food sources are provided for bees in agricultural landscapes where neonicotinoid pesticides are used, the bees may prefer to forage on the neonicotinoid-contaminated crops. Since neonicotinoids can also end up in wild plants growing adjacent to crops, they could be much more prevalent in bees’ diets than previously thought”.

Access the paper: Nigel E. Raine  & Richard J. Gill (2015)  Tasteless pesticides affect bees in the field. Nature. DOI: doi:10.1038/nature14391


Light at the end of a very grey tale! – Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust

Researchers at the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT), who are studying wild grey partridges – one of our fastest declining farmland birds – are hoping for a warm summer this year to repeat the breeding success of 2014, which saw an encouraging 18 per cent increase in grey partridges.

The 2014 autumn counts revealed that that the total number of grey partridges recorded in its Partridge Count Scheme (PCS) increased by 4,730 birds to a total of 33,250 birds.

According to the Trust more than a thousand farmers and gamekeepers are putting their combined weight behind saving this iconic species. These passionate and dedicated enthusiasts are also going out twice a year – in spring and autumn – to count their birds, to see how their birds are faring.

Wild grey partridges, which were once common across the country have suffered an 86% decline, but monitoring by the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust shows that a warm summer this year could help to restore numbers in many areas. (Photocredit: Peter Thompson)Wild grey partridges (pictured), which were once common across the country have suffered an 86% decline, but monitoring by the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust shows that a warm summer this year could help to restore numbers in many areas. (Photocredit: Peter Thompson)

Dr Roger Draycott, from the GWCT said, “For the first time in several years we had excellent summer weather during the peak hatching season for grey partridge chicks. Where farmers and keepers had put in place a good bundle of management measures, we are witnessing a fantastic turn-around in numbers in most regions of the UK, which was reflected in the 2014 PCS autumn count data.”

Once widely spread across the country with a population of more than a million breeding pairs, the wild grey partridge population has suffered a massive drop in numbers of more than 86 per cent in the past 40 years because of land use changes and the indirect effect of pesticides, which killed off the insects that young chicks depend on to thrive – they need at least 2,000 insects per day to survive.

However, the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust, who have been monitoring the birds since 1933 through its Partridge Count Scheme, says that the counts last year showed an impressive uplift in its population. Roger Draycott explains, “Grey partridges can bounce back really quickly given the right conditions, particularly as they lay more eggs than any other bird in this country - as many as 18 eggs can be laid in one nest. But when bird numbers are very low they do need targeted management to maintain numbers, such as good all year round habitats, including, nesting, brood rearing and overwinter cover. They also benefit from supplementary food over winter as well as protection from predators during the breeding season.”

There was a distinct regional variation in bird numbers across the country last autumn. However, all regions within the Partridge Count Scheme measured an increase in bird densities in 2013/14.


Tree Health Scotland Bursary Award Scheme Announced - Arboricultural Association

The Scottish Forestry Trust has launched a new fund specifically targeted at supporting postgraduate research on tree health issues in Scotland. Supported by a generous contribution from Forestry Commission Scotland, and funds from The Scottish Forestry Trust, the Tree Health Scotland Bursary Award Scheme will offer 50% support for research which addresses tree pest and pathogen issues which are of current concern or represent a future threat to trees, forests and woodlands in Scotland.

The scheme is available for applications now and full details can be downloaded from The Scottish Forestry Trust website. It is anticipated that the scheme will be able to provide support for five doctorates completing over the next four or five years.

In 2013, the Tree Health and Plant Biosecurity Expert Taskforce noted that there remain significant knowledge gaps in epidemiology, surveying and surveillance and detection of tree pests and diseases and that there was a decline in scientific expertise and a need to build capacity to address these issues in the future.

Welcoming the launch of the new scheme, Guy Watt, the Chairman of The Scottish Forestry Trust said,

“The launch of this scheme is a really important milestone for the Trust and we are very grateful to Forestry Commission Scotland for their generous support. Together we will be able to support important new research for Scotland and help in building capacity for future scientific expertise.”

Commenting on the Scheme, Hugh Clayden, Forestry Commission Scotland Policy Advisor on Tree Health said

“In the last few years we have seen the emergence of several new pests and pathogens in Scotland’s trees, woodlands and forests and, unfortunately, many of them are capable of causing serious damage. Climate change may also be an important factor in these pests and diseases establishing and spreading. There is no doubt that we need to greatly improve our understanding of this important aspect of woodland management and I welcome the introduction of this new bursary scheme”.

For details of lots more grants, funding providers and bursaries look at our Grants and Funding page.


SSE windfarm at Strathy South could take over 20 years to become carbon neutral - RSPB

wind turbine blades (Image: Niall Benvie, RSPB)Image: Niall Benvie

It has been revealed that a windfarm due to be considered at a delayed public inquiry commencing today (Thursday 23rd April) could take up to 24.8 years to ‘pay back’ the carbon impacts of its construction. 

Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE) has proposed a 39-turbine development at Strathy South in Sutherland, which would only operate for a maximum of 25 years.   

Windfarms reduce carbon emissions by displacing more polluting forms of energy generation from the electricity grid, such as coal fired power stations. However, there are carbon emissions associated with manufacturing and installing the turbines and other infrastructure.  Whilst most windfarms generate significant climate benefits by reducing emissions, when windfarms are built on peatland sites these benefits can be significantly reduced. 

SSE’s proposed Strathy South windfarm would be situated on a peatland site in the heart of the internationally important peatlands of the Flow Country in Sutherland and is being vigorously opposed by RSPB Scotland because of the harm it would cause the peatland habitats and the birds they support. 

To help inform the case against the windfarm, RSPB Scotland commissioned an independent expert review of the carbon impacts of the proposed development. The review found that while SSE claimed the carbon payback period would be between -0.5 and 4.6 years, it would in fact be much more likely to be between 4 and 16.1 years. In one scenario, where the electricity from the windfarm displaced a mix of energy from the national grid rather than just fossil fuels, it could even be up to 24.8 years.

Aedán Smith, Head of Planning and Development for RSPB Scotland said: “This independent analysis of SSE’s Strathy South proposal shows that the benefits from this windfarm could be minimal. The results from this analysis are startling but not entirely surprising given the sensitivity and importance of this peatland site. SSE should abandon their plans for this site and concentrate on developing sites which can make a bigger difference to Scotland’s climate objectives. Ultimately, Scottish Ministers are likely to make the final decision and will want to be sure that any windfarms they consent both avoid harming Scotland’s most important wildlife sites and deliver guaranteed climate benefits. Clearly that will not happen at Strathy South.”


Spot UK orchids and help research climate change impact – Natural History Museum

The burnt orchid (Neotinea ustulata). © Fred Rumsey, via NHM 

The burnt orchid (Neotinea ustulata). © Fred Rumsey, via NHM 

Look out for this and 28 others and record what you see in the Orchid Observers project. 

If you see an orchid, let scientists at the Natural History Museum know as they are launching Orchid Observers today (23/4/15), a citizen science project and collaboration with the University of Oxford's Zooniverse, which will investigate how orchid flowering times are being influenced by climate change.

Recent research shows that the flowering time of the early spider orchid, Ophrys sphegodes, is being affected by climate change. Scientists want to know how changes in the environment are affecting other wild orchids. They want people to look out for flowering orchids and then take photographs and upload them, with the date and location, to the project website.

Also, as part of Orchid Observers, people can help digitise historical orchid collections by reading and recording label information from the more than 10,000 Museum orchid specimens.

Combining these modern observations with historical records will give scientists information spanning roughly 180 years, which can be compared against climate records over the same period.

Dr Mark Spencer, senior plant curator at the Museum and Orchid Observers lead scientist, said, 'Orchids are much loved and charismatic plants, some of which are declining – even in protected sites. Understanding how changes in the environment are affecting orchids may help us plan and protect key populations and areas. 

CJS has a wide ranging list of surveys and field work open to public participation, you can find more about it here, or see what's listed here.


Birthday celebration for Pennine Way - Yorkshire Dales National Park

Pennine Way at 50 (logo)April 24 is a special date in the calendar of thousands of walkers countrywide as it marks the day the Pennine Way was officially opened in the Yorkshire Dales National Park 50 years ago.

The 268-mile national trail, which stretches from Edale in Derbyshire to Kirk Yetholm in the Scottish Borders, was opened at Malham Cove in the presence of the then Minister of Land and Natural Resources, F.T. Willey, and Tom Stephenson, the author and writer whose dream of a path running along the Pennines inspired its creation.

The anniversary is being marked by a mass Walk the Way in a Day event on Saturday, April 25. People can choose from 50 circular walks that cover the entire Pennine Way – 10 of them in the Yorkshire Dales National Park. Full details of the walks are available at http://www.nationaltrail.co.uk/pennine-way/walk-the-way-in-a-day

Ilkley-born TV presenter Alan Titchmarsh said: “The word iconic is over used, but it most certainly applies to the Pennine Way and to the terrain it traverses. I've always been proud that it passes through some of my favourite native haunts, and my copy of Alfred Wainwright's astonishing guide is well thumbed. I hope that hardy walkers continue to be uplifted by walking even a part of it, and to feel a sense of achievement and wonder as they marvel at the beauty of the countryside around them.”

The Dales Countryside Museum in Hawes is currently staging an exhibition of work by a group of Dales artists called Pennine Ways, which is inspired by the popular walking route using art, photography and sculpture.

Lots of local organisations are also holding events to celebrate the anniversary and details can be found at http://www.nationaltrail.co.uk/pennine-way/events


More from Open Spaces Society including some wonderful archive photos.

Happy Birthday Pennine Way

Fifty years ago today, on 24 April 1965, the Pennine Way was opened.  This was the first of Britain's long-distance paths (now called national trails in England and Wales) and the event took place on Malham Moor with the Minister of Land and Natural Resources, Fred Willey, in attendance.


Wildfire does not discriminate, as deliberately-started fires raging through South Wales cause severe impacts for wildlife in this crucial spring breeding season and put long term recovery in question. - Gwent Wildlife Trust

common shrew that died in one of the recent fires (Emma Douglas)Since the beginning of April this year, South East Wales Fire Service has reported that more than 623 deliberate fires have been started across South Wales with over 741 acres of grassland being affected. Wild fires do not discriminate. Both humans and wildlife are affected. The fires pose a significant immediate danger to wildlife that relies heavily on areas and habitats which, to the human eye, could be perceived as barren but in fact are home to a wide variety of breeding mammals, birds and reptiles, such as shrews, foxes and grass snakes.  

As well as the immediate danger to people and wildlife, there is also the question of the longer term impacts of large-scale fires on an ecosystem, putting the potential recovery over years, not months, as plants and animals lose feeding and breeding opportunities as a direct result of these fires.

Veronika Brannovic from Gwent Wildlife Trust said, “There is a perception locally that these hillsides are barren. In fact, they are home to a huge variety of wildlife and any fire started can have long term consequences for many species that are already under pressure. We are heartened by the community coming together to try to tackle this problem and very grateful to the work of volunteer spotters to help spot fires and limiting the damage.”

Thank you to Emma Douglas from Coity Wallia Commons Biodiversity Enhancement Project for this image of  a Common Shrew that died in one of the recent fires. 


RSPB Scotland sets strict criteria for T in the Park - RSPB

RSPB Scotland has today (24/4/15) responded to the latest planning application consultation on T in the Park being held at Strathallan Castle in Perthshire this July. 

In its response to Perth and Kinross Council, the wildlife charity made it clear that while it doesn’t oppose the new venue in principle, it does object to the music festival unless a number of strict measures are implemented. This is to ensure that nesting ospreys next to the proposed site are not disturbed.

Female osprey landing at nest with moss (image: Chris Gomersall, via RSPB)Female osprey landing at nest with moss (image: Chris Gomersall, via RSPB)

These measures include restrictions on the use of fireworks and lighting, and permanent ‘no go’ buffer zones around the active osprey nest. These zones would measure 500 m until after mid-June; this covers the period when the birds are likely to lay eggs, incubate them, and raise small chicks. After this time the zones would reduce to 250 m. At no point should festival goers or T in the Park staff enter these buffer zones.

An 'ornithological clerk of works', a specialist qualified and experienced bird expert, must also be appointed who will be able to overrule others on site to stop any activities that may cause disturbance. Some T in the Park infrastructure, like the Slam Tent, big wheel and funfair should also be moved 500 m away from the osprey nest.

RSPB Scotland is urging Perth and Kinross Council not to grant planning permission for the event without these critically important safeguards being secured.

RSPB Scotland Director, Stuart Housden, said: "It is vital that impacts on wildlife are considered at the earliest possible stage when an event or new development is being planned. This reduces the risk to developers of their plans being stopped or delayed, as well as protecting Scotland's wildlife. It is unfortunate that issues are still not fully resolved at T in the Park at this very late stage.


A better future for green spaces? - CPRE 

The Fabian Society recently launched a report Places to be: Green spaces for active citizenship which highlighted the important role of green space in all of our lives. It also set out what government action is needed to ensure the long term future of these places – be it a large park, a small play area, woodland or waterway.

Emma Marrington, CPRE Senior Rural Policy campaigner commented “We very much welcome this report as it supports our Landscapes for Everyone agenda, which set out a shared vision for our landscapes and what action is needed. One of our key recommendations was that our historic public parks and green spaces should have sufficient resources to guarantee their long term protection and enhancement. So we agree with the Fabian Society that creative ways must be found to keep our green spaces open to all during the current pressures on council budgets.


Scientific Publications

Sherry, T. W., Wilson, S., Hunter, S. & Holmes, T. T. (2015) Impacts of nest predators and weather on reproductive success and population limitation in a long-distance migratory songbird. Journal of Avian Biology. DOI: 10.1111/jav.00536


August, T., Harvey, M., Lightfoot, P., Kilbey, D., Papadopoulos, T. & Jepson, P. (2015) Emerging technologies for biological recording. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society. DOI: 10.1111/bij.12534


Patrick, S. C. et al (2015) Individual seabirds show consistent foraging strategies in response to predictable fisheries discards. Journal of Avian Biology. DOI: 10.1111/jav.00660


Stewart, A. J. A. et al (2015) The role of ecological interactions in determining species ranges and range changes. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society. DOI: 10.1111/bij.12543


Mark Anthony Browne, A. J. Underwood, M. G. Chapman, Rob Williams, Richard C. Thompson, Jan A. van Franeker.  Linking effects of anthropogenic debris to ecological impacts. Proc. R. Soc. B 2015 282 20142929; DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2014.2929. Published 22 April 2015.


Nils Chr. Stenseth, et al Testing for effects of climate change on competitive relationships and coexistence between two bird species. Proc. R. Soc. B 2015 282 20141958; DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2014.1958. Published 22 April 2015


Harris, Michael P., Leopold, Mardik F., Jensen, Jens-Kjeld, Meesters, Erik H. & Wanless, Sarah The winter diet of the Atlantic Puffin Fratercula arctica around the Faroe Islands. Ibis  DOI: 10.1111/ibi.12272


Kentie, Rosemarie, Both, Christaan, Hooijmeijer, Jos C.E.W. & Piersma, Theunis  Management of modern agricultural landscapes increases nest predation rates in Black-tailed Godwits Limosa limosa. Ibis DOI: 10.1111/ibi.12273


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