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


Bugs United Strategy 2014-2020 - Buglife. 

Established in 2002 Buglife has become the focus point for efforts to save bug species from extinction and to halt the declines in bug populations. Buglife is a world leader and the only European champion for the conservation of all animals without backbones, from bees to Earthworms and spiders to corals.

Our track record is strong; including advising on habitat management; transforming the conservation of neglected habitats; creating new bug habitats; saving the homes of highly endangered animals from destruction; and restricting uses of deadly insecticides that were destroying aquatic life and bees.

‘Bugs United’ builds on our established reputation and base of volunteers and supporters. While improving the status of wild bugs and achieving the outcomes of this strategy will be very hard work, we know we can make new friends for bugs and build momentum and capacity to deliver a better future for them and for people, a future that achieves our vision of “A wildlife - rich planet where species, including invertebrates, thrive alongside people."

Our Mission: Buglife’s aim is to stop the extinction of invertebrate species and to achieve sustainable populations of invertebrates.

We will accomplish our aim by protecting, improving and expanding their habitats (homes) and strengthening the respect given to bug species.

Download the full strategy document (PDF).


New team to drive forward Scottish Wildcat Action project - SNH

The new team to support conservation action for priority Scottish wildcat populations has been unveiled.

Jenny Bryce of Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) said: “We are delighted to unveil the new team who are tasked with co-ordinating work to preserve Scottish wildcats. Our wildcats are important to Scotland’s people, despite being rarely seen, and they are under threat as a distinctive yet iconic species.”

Dr Roo Campbell is the new project manager based at Scottish Natural Heritage’s Great Glen House in Inverness. He brings with him significant experience of carrying out research on the behaviour and ecology of Scottish wildcats.

He said “This project is the best chance for survival the Scottish wildcat has ever seen. It is one of the biggest partner-led conservation projects for any native species in Scotland, with more than 20 key organisations involved, and I am delighted to lead such a highly skilled team to take this project forward

Scottish Wildcat Action is a five-year project which will focus on the wildcat priority areas outlined in the national action plan and is supported by Heritage Lottery Funding.

The six wildcat priority areas comprise more than 64,000 hectares of wildcat habitat

Scottish Wildcat Action will work in the six priority wildcat areas to reduce hybridisation and disease from feral and domestic cats, accidental persecution, and impacts from development.

Roo Campbell added: “We have five years to stop wildcats from disappearing but we need to improve the fortunes for Scottish wildcats in the long term. That means leaving a legacy by reducing the risks from hybridisation and disease, and the chances of accidental harm from predator control activities. Success depends on working with local people to make a difference for the wildcats in their area. Together, we can ensure that the Scottish wildcat survives not just over the next five years but into the future.”

The partners are delighted at the response from local people so far and hope to be able to build on this now the team are in place.

The team would be delighted to hear from people interested in getting involved with the project or with reporting any sightings of wild-living cats in the priority areas, whether feral domestic cats, hybrids or wildcats.

Read the Wildcat Conservation Plan in full (PDF)


Slaughter at sea? - National Trust for Scotland

Richard Luxmoore, the Trust’s Senior Nature Conservation Advisor recently raised concerns about the disastrous consequences for seabird populations resulting from a proposed network of wind turbines off the east coast of Scotland.
For the avoidance of doubt, the National Trust for Scotland accepts the need to reduce our society’s reliance on fossil fuels and to replace some of this with sustainable, renewable energy.   But we need to ensure this is not at the expense of valued features of Scotland’s environment.   

We have always taken the view that renewable energy developments should be proportionate in scale and sensitive to the needs their surrounding flora and fauna.  We also believe that the process of siting any new developments should be conducted through due process with the utmost transparency.
Now, information has come to light which causes us and others very great concern about the Inch Cape, Neart na Gaoithe and Seagreen Alpha and Bravo marine wind farm projects for which Scottish ministers have given permission to be sited offshore from the Firths of Forth and Tay.  Scottish Renewables, the organisation that lobbies on behalf of developers, asserts that these proposals have been through a rigorous assessment. That may be the case – but the alarming conclusions that have come to light since the original applications were submitted do not seem to have influenced ministers one jot, despite their own advisors making reasoned objections to the proposals.
The official process intended to ensure this is the Appropriate Assessment carried out by Marine Scotland. Details here (PDF)  In this instance, assessment was carried out on the impact of the proposed turbines on a number of internationally important seabird colonies in the region. 

The conclusions were shocking: each year the proposed wind farms are predicted to kill 1,169 gannets, 424 kittiwakes and 1,251 puffins.  The assessment also shows that over 25 years this rate of attrition will reduce the breeding populations of these three species in the nearby Forth Islands by 21 per cent, 24 per cent and 25 per cent respectively.  Not surprisingly, the government’s nature conservation adviser, Scottish Natural Heritage, concluded that these losses were unacceptable.  However, by some obfuscating process of mental agility, Marine Scotland has attempted to argue, through deep layers of bureaucratic jargon, that this level of slaughter is acceptable.  Many people in Scotland would not agree, nor would the European Commission, which is charged with overseeing European conservation measures.

The point is that the Marine Scotland assessment and its outcomes only came to light in the aftermath of the application process – we feel the Trust in its role as a conservation charity is justified in raising such concerns as they emerge and drawing public attention to the issues.


Rare species spotted in Antrim Hills - RSPB Northern Ireland

A rare beetle, though to be extinct in County Antrim, has been seen in the Glenwherry area by the RSPB.

Anne Guichard, who was surveying the land as part of a project to protect the threatened curlew, couldn’t believe her eyes when she saw a Carabus clatratus beetle scurrying around beneath her feet.

Carabus clatratus is in decline all over western Europe as its preferred habitat, natural bogs, swamps and mires, are increasingly being drained for agriculture or mined for peat.  It was formerly widespread in Northern Ireland, but is now almost confined to bogs or water-logged lakeshores in County Fermanagh, making it a priority species in Northern Ireland.

Ms Guichard commented: “The last accepted record of this beetle in the county dates back to 1896, so I was shocked and delighted to see it when I was out surveying. Luckily, I managed to snap a photo on my phone and Roy Anderson, a local expert on invertebrate faunas and conservation, confirmed the ID for me."


SNH position on possible applications to reintroduce lynx - Scottish Natural Heritage

Andrew Bachell, SNH’s Director of Policy & Advice, said: “The Eurasian lynx has been extinct from the UK for about 1300 years and releasing them into the wild in Scotland is unlawful without a licence from SNH. We know, on the basis of experience, that reintroduction projects are complex and need considerable planning to ensure national and international guidelines are met. Scotland’s National Species Reintroduction Forum is a world leader in how reintroductions are determined and has produced the Scottish Code for Conservation Translocations specifically designed to guide project development. We‘ve already had a number of highly successful national reintroductions in Scotland, including sea eagles and red kites, as well as more local reintroductions such as the scarce woolly willow. There is also an ongoing trial reintroduction of Eurasian beaver.”

“If we received an application to reintroduce lynx, we would be looking for the applicant to provide information on how the project would address ecological issues such as habitat availability, as well as the views of the public, livestock and land managers, the wider UK perspective, and any socio-economic impacts. The views of the Scottish Government would need to be taken into consideration. A significant amount of evidence is required to support an application.

“The Lynx Trust have requested a meeting with SNH to discuss how these conditions might be met.” 


Bad news from Bowland blogs Martin Harper, RSPB Conservation Director

I’m afraid to be the bearer of extremely bad news regarding one of our rarest birds of prey.  I’ve just received confirmation that three male hen harriers have disappeared from active nests in the Forest of Bowland.

The disappearances have happened over the last three weeks. At one nest the male disappeared three weeks ago, with males at two other active nests not being seen since last Thursday.  Fortunately, a juvenile male appeared at the first nest almost immediately and was accepted by the female, so thankfully her eggs have been saved.  However, the other two nests have not been so lucky.  In the absence of males to provide them with food, the hungry females were forced to abandon their eggs or face starvation, resulting in the failure of both nests.

Obviously it’s very early days and there will certainly be more to come on this case.  In the meantime, anyone who thinks they may have any information relevant to the disappearance of these three harriers should contact the local police.

What’s been happening to our hen harriers?

We mean to find out. 


Suffolk coast to get new home for wetland wildlife - RSPB

The RSPB has acquired 33 hectares of farmland adjacent to its Boyton Marsh nature reserve in Suffolk, which it plans to turn into a new ‘extension’ to the existing wetland that will help to start creating a network of homes for wildlife in the wider Suffolk landscape.

Aaron Howe, Senior Site Manager for the RSPB’s South Suffolk Coast Reserves, said, “This is great news for wildlife on the Suffolk Coast. Boyton and Hollesley Marshes, along with Havergate Island, are internationally important sites for wildlife. By enlarging areas under nature conservation management we are working towards a more connected landscape for nature in the Alde-Ore Estuary. This project won’t just increase the area of high quality wetland habitat for species like lapwing and avocet, it will also bring Boyton Marsh and Hollesley Marsh a step closer together. Along with the successful project at Hollesley Marshes this project will contribute to a vision of providing a network of new wetlands to boost wildlife on the Suffolk Coast.”

Lapwing Image via Andy Hay / RSPBRestoring 33 hectares of coastal grazing marsh next to existing Boyton Marsh nature reserve will increase habitat for threatened birds like lapwing

Image: Andy Hay

The news comes just a year after the completion of another ambitious WREN-funded wetland landscaping project transformed an area of grassland at the RSPB’s Hollesley Marsh nature reserve, just down the coast, where the creation of a new ‘scrape’- a shallow lagoon dotted with gently sloping islands, literally made for wading birds- paid almost immediate dividends for wildlife in the area. “The wildlife didn’t waste time moving in once the work was finished,” said Mr Howe. “The results were amazing: Lapwing, oystercatcher, avocet and redshank all bred successfully that year. Thanks to this new grant, we will be able to restore arable farmland back into the coastal grazing marsh it would historically have been- and with it see all sorts of wildlife, from wetland birds, to water voles and freshwater insects, move back in.”


Northern Powergrid project to improve North York Moors scenery - North York Moors National Park

Northern Powergrid, the company responsible for running the region's electricity network, has started construction work on an £18 million investment project which will improve the power network between Malton and Whitby and enhance the famous North York Moors scenery.

Work is underway to create a new, modern underground cable network to improve the quality and reliability of electricity for thousands of local people and remove overhead power lines and 108 existing tower structures spanning some 20 kilometres.

More than 60% of the work will take place within the North York Moors Site of Special Scientific Interest and the removal of the existing tower structures will help improve views across this already outstanding area of natural beauty.

The first stage of the project sees Northern Powergrid install 20 kilometres of underground cable along the A169 route through the North York Moors National Park. Once complete the 108 towers will be carefully dismantled and removed restoring the natural landscape. The route crosses the North York Moors Special Interest Area and the North York Moors Special Area of Conservation, which are specially protected sites of European and National importance.

This multi-million pound investment is part of a wider £3 billion investment programme over the next eight years by the company; the scheme will significantly improve the local electricity infrastructure, increasing reliability and enabling Northern Powergrid to restore supplies faster should power cuts occur.

Northern Powergrid, and its contractors (Interserve), recognise that it will be taking place within an area of significant environmental value and will work to protect the land throughout the work.

To see the original press release from Northern Powergrid Click Here


Hedgehog Awareness Week 2015 - British Hedgehog Preservation Society

Hedgehog Awareness Week runs from 3rd-9th May 2015 and hedgehoggy events are being organised all around the country!

Hedgehog Awareness Week is organised by the British Hedgehog Preservation Society and takes place every year.  It aims to highlight the problems hedgehogs face and how you can help them.

This year efforts are focussed on gardeners – there is so much that gardeners can do to help the hedgehog, very simple things like:

  • Ensuring there is access into the garden (all that is needed is 5” square gap).
  • Checking areas before strimming or mowing.
  • Moving piles of rubbish to a new site before burning it.
  • Ensuring netting is kept at a safe height.
  • Checking compost heaps before digging the fork in.
  • Stopping or reducing the amount of pesticides and poisons used.
  • Covering drains or deep holes.
  • Ensuring there is an easy route out of ponds and pools.

BHPS Chief Executive, Fay Vass, Said “There is so much the gardener can do to help hedgehogs, and with hedgehog numbers in decline it is more important now than ever..” 


Scotland tops on European map - Scottish Natural Heritage

A new map of Scotland’s land and freshwater habitats, adopting the European classification standard, has been unveiled by Scottish Natural Heritage today (8/5/15).

Based on best current information, the map is designed for use at national and regional scales as an aid to managing land and freshwaters in Scotland.
Susan Davies, SNH's chief executive said: “This ground-breaking accomplishment puts Scotland at the forefront of the UK and on the European map – quite literally. It achieves an ambition of ours to support policy objectives and to make data publicly available.”
An early use could be in support of Rural Development Programme Farm Environment Assessments under the new Agri-Environment Climate scheme. This aims to benefit biodiversity, improve water quality, manage flood risk and mitigate and adapt to climate change. The map will also help in other ways to plan and measure work on restoring ecosystems, as set out in the 2020 Challenge for Scotland’s Biodiversity.

Ed Mackey, SNH knowledge and information unit manager, said: “We now have a consistent baseline for policy applications such as ecosystem health assessment, natural capital accounting and habitat network analysis.  We are also on the way to filling in local-scale detail, including mapping our most prized habitats of European importance: 51 habitats listed on Annex I of the Habitats Directive, including blanket bog, oakwood and the flower-rich machair of the Western Isles – plus eight in our surrounding seas.

“The adoption of European standards means that the map can be accessed and used by anyone, anywhere. This makes it easier to work together, saves money, and helps Scotland to fulfil international commitments to safeguard wildlife by 2020.”

The map is publicly available to download from SNH Natural Spaces, subject to an Ordnance Survey Public Sector (Scotland) End User Licence, and to view through Scotland’s Environment Map View.


Trio of threatened breeding birds of prey vanish in unexplained circumstances - RSPB 

Male hen harrier in flight carrying twigsThree nesting male hen harriers have vanished in Lancashire in as many weeks in unexplained circumstances.  

The disappearance of the birds leaves just one active nest remaining in the Bowland Estate. (Image: Andy Hay via RSPB)

Lancashire Police and the RSPB are appealing for any information that could uncover the fate of these rare upland birds of prey. The RSPB is also putting up a £10,000 reward for any information which leads to a conviction.

The first of the birds disappeared from its nest three weeks ago from the United Utilities Bowland Estate and a further two males on active nests have not been seen since last Thursday (30 April).

In the case of the first nest, a young male arrived almost immediately and took the place of the vanished bird, thereby securing the safety of the eggs.  The other two nests were not so fortunate; in the absence of males to provide them with food, the females were forced to abandon their eggs resulting in the failure of both nests.

Hen harriers are England’s most threatened breeding bird of prey with only four successful nests in the whole country last year, two of which were on the United Utilities Bowland Estate. With the number of breeding birds so low, the failure of the two nests will have a serious impact on the hen harrier’s future in England.   The disappearance of the birds leaves just one active nest remaining in the Bowland Estate, putting the future of hen harriers even further in jeopardy.

RSPB and United Utilities staff and volunteers, who have been monitoring the nests on the estate, are extremely concerned and upset by the sadly expected disappearance of the birds. Lancashire Police are investigating the matter.

In most circumstances, it is very unusual for male hen harriers to abandon an active nest; a  2008 government-commissioned report found that it almost never happened in most places (note 2). However, the report also revealed that nearly seven out of ten of the nesting attempts which failed on grouse moors, did so following the disappearance of an adult.

Nesting males are not only the hen harriers that have gone missing in the Bowland area in recent times. Last September, two young satellite tagged birds stopped transmitting only weeks after fledging from nests on the United Utilities Bowland Estate. 

Lorraine EllwoodRural Policing and Wildlife Co-ordinator, said: Lancashire Police , “We are working very closely with the RSPB, United Utilities and the private estates within Lancashire and were hopeful for a successful breeding season.  We are all disappointed with what has happened but will continue to work together despite this set back. ”

Anyone with information about either of the birds should contact Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 or, alternatively, call the RSPB’s confidential hotline on 0845 466 3636.


Three male hen harriers have vanished in Lancashire. - Natural England

Natural England is very concerned to hear of the missing male hen harriers from Bowland in Lancashire. Given the perilous status of the species, this represents a major setback for this year’s breeding season. We will continue to offer our support to the police to find out what has happened to these birds.


Power up for World Migratory Bird Day - Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust

More of our homes are being powered in a bird-friendly way due to WWT and its supporters.

This weekend is World Migratory Bird Day, which is urging people across the world to embrace bird-friendly energy.

WWT are showing how that can be done. At WWT Martin Mere Wetland Centre, we’re working with the local electricity company to research flight lines of birds and to hang deflectors at key points on power lines to reduce collisions – as per the photo. Early results suggest collisions could have halved. Big and red and hangs on power lines at Martin Mere to warn birds. The spiral that is, not Tom Clare our wonderful warden…

Big and red and hangs on power lines at Martin Mere to warn birds. The spiral that is, not Tom Clare our wonderful warden…(image WWT)

Meanwhile at Steart Marshes and at Welney Wetland Centre, we’ve worked with electricity providers to bury power lines underground at collision hotspots. Further east in the North Sea, we’re tracking swan migratory routes and flight heights, to help plan offshore wind farms that won’t get in their way.

Power lines are a major cause of death for migratory birds, with an average of 100,000 collisions per year in the Africa-Eurasia region of which around 10 per cent are electrocuted. Larger species like swans and geese are particularly susceptible because they’re less able to swerve quickly enough.

Nearly a quarter of the world’s bird species are migratory and 317 migratory species are considered threatened or near threatened. World Migratory Bird Day aims to raise awareness of issues that affect these birds.

The campaign is organised by two international wildlife treaties administered by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) – the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS), and the Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds (AEWA).


2015 general election result reactions

Friends of the Earth: Following the news that the Conservative Party has won a majority of seats in the 2015 General Election, statement from Friends of the Earth’s Chief Executive Andy Atkins

BASC issued two statements:

BASC identifies parliamentary majority in favour of shooting

And  BASC pledges to work with all parties to enhance the value of shooting in Britain 

RSPB: Some reflections on the new Government's ambitions for nature. Martin Harper, RSPB Conservation Director blog.


Scientific Publications

Liu, Jun, Feng, Chao, Wang, Deli, Wang, Ling, Wilsey, Brian J. & Zhong, Zhiwei.  Impacts of grazing by different large herbivores in grassland depend on plant species diversity. Journal of Applied Ecology. DOI: 10.1111/1365-2664.12456


Inclán, Diego J., Cerretti, Pierfilippo, Gabriel, Doreen, Benton, Tim G., Sait, Steven M., Kunin, William E., Gillespie, Mark A.K. & Marini, Lorenzo. Organic farming enhances parasitoid diversity at the local and landscape scale. Journal of Applied Ecology. DOI: 10.1111/1365-2664.12457 


Sánchez-García, C., Buner, F. D. and Aebischer, N. J. (2015), Supplementary winter food for gamebirds through feeders: Which species actually benefit?. The Journal of Wildlife Management. doi: 10.1002/jwmg.889


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