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


South American super-nannies welcome new arrivals – National Trust

Nannies for the new arrival might be on one famous couple’s minds, but nervous mothers in one part of North Wales are resting easier thanks to their two male super-nannies from South America.

An Alpaca to watch over ewe. Credit Wynn OwenAn Alpaca to watch over ewe. Credit Wynn Owen

Alpacas from the Andes are guarding a flock of sheep at the National Trust’s in hand farm, Hafod-y-Llan in North Wales.

In a first for the conservation charity, the two male alpacas, affectionately called Bill and Ben, though their real names are Hernandes and Zapata, are currently guarding a field of 50 ewes and their lambs from predators including foxes.

Arwyn Owen, farm manager at Hafod-y-Llan said: “I first saw alpacas and llamas guarding sheep when I visited Australia four years ago.

“They are so good at guarding lambs because they are ever-watchful and very aware of what’s going on.  As soon as they sense or hear any distress they run towards the noise which frightens predators away.


The importance of unstructured nature play – Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh

image: Royal Botanic Garden Edinburghimage: Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh

In my previous blog about our Nature Play: Nature Conservation project I explained some of the things we found out from observing children taking part in unstructured play sessions in a wild corner of the Demonstration Garden in the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh. Last week I presented these findings at the International Botanic Garden Education Congress at Missouri Botanic Garden which gave me the opportunity to reflect on why we did this work. I also want to a provide link below to the report and show film that we have produced.

Play has an important role in human development, just as it does in many other animal species. There is also evidence that open-ended and unstructured play we encouraged during the Nature Play project, in particular, stimulates children’s curiosity and imagination and develops their creativity. Patrick Bateson and Paul Martin in their book on Play, Playfulness, Creativity and Innovation point out that many great artists and Nobel laureates, including Pablo Picasso and Alexander Fleming, had a playful and exploratory approach to life continued into adulthood.


100 voluntary organisations across the UK have joined forces to call for the protection of Europe’s natural environment - Wildlife and Countryside Link (part of Joint Links)

EU legislation – the Birds and Habitats Directives – exist to protect the most important wildlife species and habitats in the UK and Europe.  However, these laws are now under review and at risk of being weakened.

Today, the ‘Joint Links group’, representing 100 voluntary organisations across the UK, has published a position statement warning that the European Commission’s REFIT ‘Fitness Check’ of the Birds and Habitats Directives is the single biggest threat to UK and European nature and biodiversity in a generation.

The organisations raise concerns that the Directives are under threat of being weakened by those who mistakenly regard them as a block on business and economic growth.  In the current political context any revision of the Directives would expose them to prolonged uncertainty and leave the long-term future of Europe’s biodiversity vulnerable to short-term political priorities.

Chair of the Joint Links’ Habitats and Birds group Kate Jennings, (RSPB), said: "The Habitats and Birds Directives are the foundation of nature conservation across Europe and are scientifically proven to be effective where properly implemented.  The Directives deliver demonstrable benefits for nature, as well as significant social and economic benefits.  For over 30 years they have protected some of our best loved and most iconic landscapes from the Scottish Flow County to the sand dunes and marshes of the north Norfolk coast.  They are essential to the protection of species large and small, from the basking shark and the harbour porpoise, to the Dartford warbler and the hazel dormouse.  The strength of support from 100 voluntary organisations across the UK shows how significant the Directives are insafeguarding Europe’s biodiversity. Uncertainty over the future of the Directives resulting from the ‘Fitness Check’ review could be bad for nature, bad for people and bad for business.”

The Joint Links group’s response to the EC consultation sets out a huge volume of evidence that demonstrates the effectiveness of the Directives in protecting nature, providing huge benefits for people and providing a stable framework for responsible businesses.

On 30 April the European Commission launched its public consultation on the Directives. Voluntary organisations have also today launched the ‘Nature Alert’ electronic tool, enabling the public to have their say in one easy click   

Nature Alert!

In Europe, vital laws protect our most precious nature. Our wildlife and most valued natural places all depend on these rules.

Sadly, right now the European Commission is considering undermining these laws, undoing years of progress.

The European Commission is asking for our opinion and now is the time to make our voices heard.

The Commission’s consultation asks several questions and below we have suggested the answers that best protect nature.

Fill in the form and add your voice. 


RSPB commend Environment Agency for protecting rare Broads wildlife - RSPB

Swallowtail butterfly on lilacCatfield and Sutton Fen are home to large populations of rare swallowtail butterflies (Image: John Markham, via RSPB)

The RSPB commends the Environment Agency’s decision to refuse two water abstraction licence renewal applications that were threatening rare wildlife found on two sites of international and national importance found in The Broads.

In November 2014, the Environment Agency announced that they were minded to refuse the abstraction licenses, after which followed a 28 day public consultation.  During the consultation period, local individuals and organisations were invited to submit their views to the Environment Agency for consideration in advance of a final decision.

The RSPB supported the decision to refuse the licences and presented significant evidence that strengthened the case for refusing the licences. The evidence presented was scrutinised by Natural England who agreed that refusing the licences was the only option available to the Environment Agency.

Butterfly Conservation's Catfield Fen nature reserve and the RSPB’s Sutton Fen nature reserve are internationally recognised for their special wildlife. The sites are fully protected as an important part of the Ant Broads and Marshes Site of Special Scientific Interest, which also forms part of The Broads Special Area of Conservation and Broadland Ramsar site. Catfield Fen is exceptionally rich in wildlife, and is one of the most important UK sites for water beetles and wetland plants. The site is a stronghold for UK species such as the rare fen orchid, which have now disappeared from the majority of the UK.

Water has been abstracted adjacent to Catfield since 1986 to irrigate arable crops. Recent evidence indicates that the site has become more acidic, and drier, and this is threatening some of the country's rarest species.

Tim Pankhurst, Regional Conservation Officer with Plantlife, the lead organisation for the conservation of fen orchid, stated: “The importance of Sutton and Catfield Fens for the conservation of fen orchid cannot be overstated.  Not only will damage from water abstraction threaten the years of conservation work we have been undertaking with our partners but the very survival of fen orchid as a UK species.”

Phil Pearson, RSPB Senior Conservation Officer for the Eastern region, said: “We are delighted that the Environment Agency has taken action to protect crucial wildlife habitats and wholeheartedly support their decision. Catfield Fen and Sutton Fen are the 'best of the best' within one of Europe’s most important wetland sites and as a result are protected by the EU Habitats Directive for their rare fenland wildlife.  This decision is a significant milestone in the restoration of Catfield Fen. The Environment Agency’s decision illustrates their commitment to protecting the natural environment from deterioration caused by taking water from the environment.”


Farmer's action illustrates failures in the planning system - CPRE

It has been reported that a farmer in Sussex has rebuffed an offer for his land 100 times its current value – partly based on a desire to protect the countryside for future generations. CPRE welcomes such commitment to the countryside, but also argues that this case once again illustrates the failures of our planning system in encouraging aggressive, speculative development. Graeme Willis, senior rural affairs campaigner at the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), comments:

“This seems exceptional on a number of levels. We recently heard of a case where an offer of 20 times the current value of land was turned down, so 100 times is very significant. It is also extremely admirable that the farmer in question has reportedly rebuffed the offer for quality of life and community reasons. He has sought to preserve the countryside for the generations after his – and has placed these considerations above financial incentives.

“It is invidious that so many landowners are put in this position by highly speculative land acquisition – especially where there is huge community opposition and no planning permission.


CPRE brownfield campaign shortlisted for Charity Awards - CPRE

The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) has been shortlisted in the environment and conservation category of the 2015 Charity Awards.

CPRE has been shortlisted for its work on promoting brownfield first - encompassing its Waste of Space online campaign to crowdsource brownfield sites for housing, and its report on identifying brownfield land for housing in England, From wasted space to living spaces.  With greenfield and Green Belt land under threat from development - amidst a dire shortage of affordable housing - CPRE sought to highlight the availability of suitable brownfield land in places where people want to live and to provide clearer and more accessible evidence for a ‘brownfield first’ policy.

The Charity Awards, the charity sector’s most prestigious awards programme, will announce its 10 category winners and two overall winners on 18 June.

 Shaun Spiers, chief executive at the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), said:  “I am delighted that CPRE has been nominated for improving awareness of the many brownfield sites suitable for development."

 Tania Mason, group editor at Civil Society Media which organises The Charity Awards, congratulated Campaign to Protect Rural England on making the highly-coveted shortlist: “We had an almost record number of entries this year  and the standard was excellent, so Campaign to Protect Rural England should be very proud to have made the shortlist. For 16 years The Charity Awards have been identifying and celebrating the fantastic work that UK charities do, and the rigorous judging process ensures that only the very best-run charities make it through. We wish Campaign to Protect Rural England all the very best of luck on the night.”


Public asked to report rare hen harrier sightings - Scottish Natural Heritage

People in Scotland are being urged to report any sightings of one of Britain’s rarest and most threatened birds of prey, the hen harrier.

Hen harriers used to be a familiar sight on Scottish moorlands, but the latest numbers indicate there are only around 500 pairs. Factors affecting the birds’ survival include illegal persecution, a loss of nesting habitat and feeding ranges, and foxes, crows and other predators eating eggs and young.

In response, the Partnership for Action Against Wildlife Crime Scotland (PAW Scotland) has set up a ‘Heads Up for Harriers’ group. It is raising awareness of this majestic bird, determining the current number of hen harriers in Scotland, and identifying specific threats to their survival, so resources can be directed to safeguard and ultimately increase the population.

Professor Des Thompson (Scottish Natural Heritage), Chair of the Heads Up for Harriers Group, said: “Several national surveys of hen harriers have found they are faring well in some areas, but declining or absent all together in others. In some places, there are no harriers at all because of persecution and a range of other factors. Working within PAW Scotland, we’re trying to develop a clearer picture of the distribution of harriers, and the work needed to improve their prospects.  Although we receive a lot of records from members of bird groups, we need to add to these to get a complete picture of how hen harriers are faring in Scotland. This will help us improve our understanding of where harriers are seen and then remain to nest, move on or die for natural or persecution-related reasons.”

For more information including how to report sightings click here.


CCRI helping to protect Britain’s uplands - The Countryside and Community Research Institute

The Countryside and Community Research Institute (CCRI), at the University of Gloucestershire, has contributed to the creation of a new organisation called the Uplands Alliance, which has been formed to help protect Britain’s uplands.

The Uplands Alliance will be officially launched at the National Centre for the Uplands Conference at Newton Rigg College, Penrith, on Wednesday 13 May.

CCRI Director, Professor Janet Dwyer, is a member of the Uplands Alliance steering group, which aims to promote better communication between practitioners, researchers and policy makers with a view to improving the sustainability of the English uplands and their management.

At the launch event, Professor Dwyer will be convening a workshop to discuss ‘options for sustainable and successful farm businesses in the uplands’, with the help of colleagues from Newcastle University, Cumbria Fells and Dales, Eblex and the National Trust.

Professor Dwyer said, “The charismatic landscapes of the British uplands have long been valued by many people for multiple reasons.  They provide vital ecosystem services and are an important

source of drinking water, timber and food production. They provide access to the natural environment for recreation and cultural enjoyment, provide a habitat for many species of wildlife and they play a key role in climate regulation. Shaped by altitude, latitude, soils and climate, the uplands have been influenced by people over thousands of years and it is vital that they are supported by sustainable and viable land management.”

Other Steering group members include leading spokespersons from a range of NGOs and universities and colleges. The Interim Chair of the Uplands Alliance is Professor Michael Winter from Exeter and the President is Lord Inglewood. Julia Aglionby, Chairperson for the Foundation for Common Land, also played a key role in bringing the group together.


Tackling a 'ticking' timebomb  - NHS Highland

‘Citizen science’, state-of-the-art technology and funding from the European Space Agency (ESA) are to combine in a pioneering Scottish Highlands project to tackle tick bites and Lyme disease.

The ESA has awarded €250,000 to a consortium to test the feasibility of LymeMap, a phone app and web-based system that will help to identify tick hot-spots.

Through LymeMap, information and advice on ticks and Lyme disease will be available to members of the public, healthcare professionals, tourist organisations and bodies working outdoors or pursuing leisure pursuits.

The system will use GPS technology to provide information on a user’s location as well as details such as the location’s height, temperature and ground cover. The person will be able to upload information on ticks and this – together with data from GPs and NHS Highland’s National Lyme Borreliosis Testing Laboratory at Raigmore Hospital, Inverness – will help to produce maps showing where they are most prevalent.

 “Lyme disease is the most common vector-borne human disease in the UK, and the number of cases reported in Scotland has increased ten-fold in the past 10 years,” said Roger Evans, a clinical scientist with NHS Highland, one of the agencies collaborating in the project. “If it is not diagnosed and treated properly, it can lead to a severe and debilitating disease. Unfortunately, health organisations have limited effective tools at their disposal to reduce the incidence of Lyme disease. Resident and visiting populations need an approach that will help them prevent getting Lyme disease and manage exposure to ticks. From a health and safety and an economic point of view, organisations and businesses that employ people exposed to infected ticks also need a better tool for preventing the disease. We believe that by using the latest technology and what’s commonly called citizen science we can create an interactive and accurate Lyme disease identification and risk management system.”

Professor George Gunn, project leader and head of Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC)’s Epidemiology Research Unit, said: “This is an exciting opportunity for Scottish organisations to work together to make a tangible difference to the health of those working outdoors and outdoor enthusiasts who are most likely to be exposed to ticks. The ERU has particular expertise in data analysis and will be using this to create risk maps that vary by season and which will be used to help minimise the risk of ticks to users.”

The one-year study will test the technical and commercial feasibility of LymeMap. If it is successful, and subject to funding, the project is expected to move to a demonstrator phase before being commercialised. There are plans to extend the system to other diseases that can be passed between animals and humans, as well as to other countries, again if funds are available.


Community asked to be eyes and ears of new river project – Scottish Natural Heritage

A Riverwatch scheme is set to launch in collaboration with The Strathnaver Museum in Bettyhill this week.

It will provide additional surveillance and protection to the populations of pearl mussels in the Rivers Naver and Borgie.

The Riverwatch initiative is part of the Pearls in Peril project which aims to safeguard freshwater pearl mussels, a critically endangered species threatened by illegal pearl fishing that has taken place over Scotland. The scheme relies on using the local community and river users as volunteers to protect pearl mussels by increasing awareness and vigilance.

Freshwater pearl mussels have historically been fished for the pearls they can produce, similar to an oyster. However, they very rarely contain pearls and they are fully protected under law ¬- it is a crime to kill, injure, take or disturb freshwater pearl mussels. Over the last 2 years there has been evidence of suspected illegal pearl fishing taking place across Northern Scotland.

Natalie Young, of the Riverwatcher project, said: "Pearl fishing has been a significant part of the River Naver and Borgie’s cultural history, once fished professionally for its pearls. "However the species is now in such decline that from 1970 to 1998 that pearl mussels became extinct from an average of two rivers every year in Scotland. Currently the North of Scotland holds some of the most important populations of mussels in Europe, the Riverwatch scheme will work with local communities, land owners, fishery boards and Police Scotland to implement co-ordinated action to reduce and report illegal activities affecting freshwater pearl mussels in the North."


Chalara found in the wider environment in the sheltered area of northwest Scotland – Forestry Commission Scotland

Environment Minister, Dr Aileen McLeod has called for continued effort to adapt to the presence of Chalara dieback of ash in Scotland as Forestry Commission Scotland confirmed the presence of this disease at three locations in the “sheltered area”. 

The “sheltered area” was established in 2013 as part of the Commission’s Chalara Action Plan as it offered some prospect of delaying the arrival of the disease in mature woodlands in north-west Scotland.

Two of the locations where the disease has recently been confirmed are in Morvern, whilst the third is in Glen Nant, a Site of Special Scientific Interest and National Nature Reserve south east of Oban.

Dr McLeod said; “Forestry Commission Scotland and the forestry sector have worked extremely hard over the past three years surveying, investigating and managing ash woodlands in a bid to slow down the rate of spread of this disease and prevent new points of infection from recent plantings, particularly in the sheltered area. The sheltered area’s comparative remoteness offered some prospect of delaying the arrival of the disease but, regrettably, this now appears not to have been the case. I have asked Forestry Commission Scotland to review the Chalara Action Plan, with advice from the Scottish Tree Health Advisory Group, to assess what more can be done to promote adaptive action and to consider the appropriateness of current actions within the sheltered and buffer areas.”


RSPB Scotland responds to Council decision on T in the Park

RSPB Scotland has responded to the official decision by Perth and Kinross Council to approve the planning application for T in the Park at Strathallan Castle, under strict conditions for the next three years. 

A spokesperson for RSPB Scotland said: “Perth and Kinross Council has taken the final decision that T in the Park can go ahead at Strathallan Castle this July and in the following two summers. The very strict conditions required by RSPB Scotland have been included for the event which is welcome, but the focus must now be on making sure that these will be fully adhered to, to minimise the risk of any disturbance to birds and other wildlife at the site. DF Concerts must implement their plans for reducing disturbance immediately, and ensure there will be strict monitoring of Strathallan, on the weekend of T in the Park, but also during preparations for the event and the clean-up afterwards.”


T in the Park approved - our reaction Woodland Trust

Scotland's biggest music festival, T in the Park, will go ahead despite our concerns for the impact on woodland surrounding the site at Strathallan Estate. 

We're disappointed by the decision taken by Perth and Kimross to approve the festival, which demonstrates a disregard for the impacts on the woodland surrounding Strathallan Estate. This long established woodland is home to a number of species including bats, red squirrels and ospreys.

While we are not against the festival, these woods are too valuable for wildlife to hold an event of this size in such close proximity due to impacts including artificial light, noise and litter, which are too great for this sensitive site. 

Festival organisers now have permission to hold T in the Park at Strathallan for the next three years and we’ll be watching closely to ensure that they stick to the conditions imposed.


Protecting cliff-nesting raptors in Scotland - Scottish Natural Heritage

Climbers and conservationists are working together to safeguard some of Scotland’s birds of prey from accidental disturbance.

Climber on Lednock Crag near Comrie. Credit picture to Kev Howett.Cliff nesting raptors – such as golden eagles and peregrines – are very vulnerable to disturbance, especially when starting nesting activity. Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) were first made aware of nests being disturbed in Glen Doll, in the Angus Glens. But it soon became apparent that these were not isolated incidents. So, along with the Mountaineering Council of Scotland (MCofS), a new system was set up to protect cliff-nesting raptors.

Climber on Lednock Crag near Comrie. (Image Credit Kev Howett, via SNH)

MCofS already had an excellent ‘traffic light’ system on their website, which informs climbers which crags have nesting raptors and should be avoided, and which ones are safe to climb. But the system relies on up-to-date reports to be effective, and those in the ornithological field are sometimes reluctant to share information on raptors for fear of deliberate persecution or of unintentional disturbance by others such as eco-tourists.

So, SNH put MCofS in touch with the Scottish Raptor Study Group (SRSG). Now, some of the 12 regional RSGs provide MCofS with regular updates for their website, with plans for more to contribute in the future. The climbers themselves are also encouraged to report any raptor sightings to MCofS, which in turn are passed on to the SRSG to add to their records.

Andrea Partridge, Mountaineering Council of Scotland access officer, said: "The aim of the traffic light system on our website is to provide climbers with enough information so that they can make a responsible and informed decision on where to go climbing. Already this year, several climbers have reported nest sites direct to the MC of S and these have also been added to the list. I would urge climbers to always check the website before they set out to go climbing but also to be aware that there may be other nesting raptors that haven't been recorded and to be prepared to change plans if there is any risk of disturbance."

Patrick Stirling-Aird of the SRSG added: "The Scottish Raptor Study Group welcomes the ‘traffic light’ system on the Mountaineering Council of Scotland's website and hopes that all climbers will check this part of the website for the useful information that it provides. With careful planning, rock climbing and raptor conservation can co-exist happily together."

The MCofS site is at www.mcofs.org.uk/nesting-bird-warning.asp


Warm weather boost for butterflies - British Trust for Ornithology

Despite variable weather so far this spring, all it takes is a few days of warm sunshine for butterfly numbers to rocket. The British Trust for Ornithology’s (BTO) Garden BirdWatch results show that this is exactly what happened at the beginning of April, with new records reached for some species.Small Tortoiseshell by Dawn Balmer/BTO

Small Tortoiseshell by Dawn Balmer/BTO

The numbers and time of year that butterflies emerge from hibernation is dependent on the weather, and this spring was no exception. Unsettled weather throughout March meant that reports of butterflies were much lower than in previous years. However, when a spell of dry, warm weather happened at the beginning of April the butterflies took advantage of it and reports shot through the roof.  

Both Brimstone and Small Tortoiseshell butterflies were reported from about a quarter of BTO Garden BirdWatch gardens at the beginning of April 2014, but this year Small Tortoiseshell was seen in almost 40% of gardens, a record for April, and Brimstone was seen in a third of gardens – the highest proportion of gardens since recording started in 2003.  

However Peacock was the biggest surprise seen in over half of BTO Garden BirdWatch gardens compared to only a third in April 2014, and another record for butterfly reports in April. Sadly the good weather did not last, however, and reports of butterflies dropped off quickly. 

Clare Simm from the BTO Garden BirdWatch team commented, "As you can see, the BTO Garden BirdWatch is not just about birds. Our volunteers provide us with vital information on other taxa too, helping us to understand how important gardens are as a habitat for all wildlife. If this unsettled weather continues, it may be bad news for butterflies so we need to keep an eye on how they fare over the rest of the year."


London and Surrey people reminded about caterpillar pest in oak trees - Forestry Commission

People in parts of London and Surrey are being reminded not to approach caterpillars of the oak processionary moth (OPM), which are now emerging in oak trees in these areas.

Procession of oak processionary moth (Thaumetopoea processionae) larvae on trunk of oak treeProcession of oak processionary moth (Thaumetopoea processionae) larvae on trunk of oak tree

They are also advised to keep children and animals away from the caterpillars and their nests, because the caterpillars’ hairs can cause itching skin rashes and other health problems. The public is also urged to report any sightings.

Affected areas include boroughs in West and South-West London, Bromley and Croydon and southern parts of Lewisham in South London, and Elmbridge and Spelthorne in Surrey.

The Forestry Commission, councils and land managers are tackling the pest with a carefully controlled programme of tree treatment and nest removal. Ian Gambles, the Forestry Commission's Director England, said the public could play an important role in helping to control the pest by reporting sightings, but advised caution. “We need reports of the caterpillars or their nests from the public or others, such as gardeners, tree surgeons and ground-care workers, who work or relax near oak trees,” he said. “However, they should not try to remove the caterpillars or nests themselves. This needs to be carefully timed to be effective, and is most safely done by specially trained and equipped operators.”

Mr Gambles explained that extra surveying last year had revealed a greater outbreak area than was previously known, so the Commission had had to focus its control effort on the outer boundaries of the outbreak areas to limit spread of the pest and protect unaffected areas. He added: “We are therefore encouraging oak tree owners and local authorities to continue helping to minimise the population and impacts in the core areas by finding and removing infestations.  Many of them have given us strong support for several years, but we have produced on-line guidance to help those who are dealing with this pest for the first time.”

Sightings must be reported to the Forestry Commission, preferably with its Tree Alert on-line form available from www.forestry.gov.uk/opm.

Maps of the ‘core’ and ‘control’ areas are available in the oak tree owners’ manual at: www.forestry.gov.uk/opmmanual .

Further information is available from www.forestry.gov.uk/opm.


Call for action after hen harriers vanish - Lancashire Wildlife Trust

The Lancashire Wildlife Trust is calling for an urgent investigation after the devastating news that three male hen harriers have vanished from nest sites in the Forest of Bowland.

Hen Harrier, juvenile male © Mike WatsonHen Harrier, juvenile male © Mike Watson

Anne Selby CEO of the Wildlife Trust at The Wildlife Trust said: “We are devastated to hear this sad piece of news. We are proud to have the hen harrier breeding in Lancashire."  She added: "The Bowland Fells in the north of the county are its last remaining stronghold in England. There should be many more pairs in Bowland and across the country, but persecution is seen as being largely responsible for driving down their numbers to this sorry state."

All three of the nests affected are on the United Utilities Bowland Estate, where the company has been working in partnership with farmers and conservation organisations for many years. Historically this has been the safest area for the nesting birds, but the males roam further away when hunting for food, exposing them to more dangers.

Tim Mitcham, Head of Conservation at The Lancashire Wildlife Trust, said: “It would be very unusual for three birds to disappear from natural causes If the birds have been deliberately killed, then this is an illegal act and and investigation is required.’’
Stephen Trotter, The Wildlife Trusts’ Director, England, added: “This is very worrying and depressing news. Scientific estimates indicate that moorland in England could support at least 41 breeding pairs of hen harrier sustainably – and another 41 or so breeding pairs could live in other habitats – around 82 pairs in total; sadly it now seems we might only have one pair remaining.

Mrs Selby said: “We are asking anyone with information about the disappearance of the male birds, or anyone who may have seen any unusual activity whilst walking up on the Bowland Fells in the past three weeks, to contact the police. Experience tells us that a serious crime has been committed, the perpetrators of which, must be brought to justice before they achieve their aim of removing the hen harrier permanently from the English countryside.”

The RSPB is offering a £10,000 reward for information which leads to a successful conviction if a crime has been committed.


Read the original news from RSPB here along with reaction from Natural England


Land Reform, Analysis of consultation responses. - Scottish Government

Most land reform proposals received over 70 per cent support from respondents, according to the consultation analysis published today (15/5/15).

The analysis showed that:

  • 75 per cent of respondents agreed with the proposal to set up a Land Reform Commission
  • 87 per cent of respondents agreed with the proposal to introduce a land rights and responsibilities policy
  • 88 per cent of respondents agreed with the proposal to improve information on land, its value and its ownership
  • 71 per cent of respondents agreed with the proposal to remove the exemption from business rates for shooting and deerstalking

The recent consultation on land reform received 1269 responses from organisations, individuals and campaigns.

Minister for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Dr Aileen McLeod said: "Land is one of our most valuable assets and our vision for land reform is for a stronger relationship between the people of Scotland and the land of Scotland, where ownership and use of the land delivers greater public benefits. Through the Land Reform Bill, one of our key aims is to remove barriers to communities’ sustainable development by ensuring greater collaboration between communities and land owners.  The Scottish Government is committed to meaningful land reform and we have been carefully considering the responses to the consultation alongside other evidence to shape the development of the Bill."

The consultation analysis report can be found here.

The consultation research findings can be found here.


The Proportion of Scotland's Protected Sites in Favourable Condition 2015 - Scottish Natural Heritage

Scottish Natural Heritage has today (15/5/15) released the latest figures tracking the proportion of Scottish protected natural features in favourable condition.

The main findings show that of the over 5,000 Scottish natural features on protected nature sites, 79.3% are in favourable condition. This figure represents a 0.5 percentage points rise in the proportion of natural features in favourable condition between 2014 and 2015. There has been a 7.9 percentage points increase since assessment reporting began in 2005.

There are three broad types of protected features: earth science, which covers geological outcrops and landforms, fossil beds and caves (97.7% in favourable condition); species (76.2% in favourable condition) and habitats (77.2% in favourable condition). All saw an increase in the proportion of features in favourable condition since last year (species less than 0.1 percentage points; earth science 0.3 percentage points; and habitats 1.1 percentage points). Of the individual feature types which are monitored, some feature types showed an increase in the proportion of features in favourable condition, some remained stable, whilst others decreased. Of particular note were woodland features where the proportion of natural features in favourable condition rose by 2.5%.

Invasive species and over-grazing are the main challenges to improving condition from unfavourable to favourable. The proportion of assessments recording invasive species as a negative pressure has risen for the past 3 years to 19.7% in 2014/15. This includes both non-native species, such as rhododendron in woodlands, and native species, such as birch encroaching on to raised bog habitats.

The fall in the proportion of assessments recording over-grazing by wild herbivores and/or domestic stock to 18.1% is a mark of the improving condition of woodland features during 2014/15.

The full statistical publication can be accessed here.


Health and disease in relocated wild animals - Natural England

Conference celebrates 25 years of the Zoological Society for London and Natural England’s partnership on the Species Recovery Programme.

Red kite © Andy Neale / Natural EnglandAn international conference reviewing and celebrating the role played by translocation - transferring species to suitable sites - in the conservation of wild animals, is being held at the Zoological Society for London (ZSL) on 14 to15 May 2015.

Red kite © Andy Neale / Natural England

The event marks a partnership between ZSL and Natural England, which spans a quarter of a century. During this time, 23 species including cirl bunting, field cricket and the dormouse have been given a better chance of survival because of translocation under Natural England’s Species Recovery Programme. In some cases this involved the reintroduction of species, such as the red kite, pool frog and large blue butterfly, which had previously been lost from England.

The Species Recovery Programme involves working with a wide range of partners to target conservation action at those species identified as most in need of help. Ongoing habitat loss has meant that many wildlife habitats are now severely degraded and fragmented. As a consequence, 500 species have been lost completely from England over the past 200 years, including the mouse-eared bat, the Essex emerald moth, and Ivell’s sea anemone.

Many of our native species are in decline, with more than 240 species now known on fewer than 5 sites including the reintroduced corncrake and short haired bumblebee. The scale of loss means that human intervention is sometimes needed to support the survival of species and to enable them to move between areas of habitat which can support them.

The conference focuses on the vital role of health surveillance to successful translocations, by increasing the success rate and minimising the risk of adverse effects on other species. The importance of taking disease risk into account when moving species from place to place is now widely recognised, and has been reflected in protocols and guidelines such as those published by the International Union for

While many challenges remain, we are learning more about this complex subject all the time – and we are in a far better position to meet these challenges than we were 25 years ago.

For further information see:

the symposium ‘Health and Disease in Translocated Wild Animals’, on ZSL’s website

the Species Recovery Programme offers targeted conservation action for species most in need


Survey shows a quarter of Brits believe the Dodo still roams the planet - WWF

One in four Brits surveyed by WWF-UK think the Dodo still exists.

WWF asked 2,000 adults in the UK about their knowledge of endangered species and found 26 per cent thought the Dodo still roamed the planet.   Despite becoming extinct over 400 years ago, 14 per cent of the respondents believed this flightless bird is currently under threat from hunters. 19% of respondents also listed the population of the dinosaur Brachiosaurus as endangered, and 14% as not endangered.
Hundreds of people also wrongly deemed the grey squirrel, crane fly, swan, flamingo and Friesian cow (a typical breed of cattle) as endangered species1. In contrast, a similar number of those surveyed also described endangered species such as the Asian elephant, mountain gorilla, fin whale, green turtle, Bengal tiger and giant panda as ‘not endangered’2. 
Rachel Bloodworth Head of Public Engagement at WWF-UK, said: “It’s great to see that nearly 60% of those surveyed were concerned about declining wildlife populations and believe they should do more to protect them.  It’s also encouraging that nearly two fifths of those polled said they’re interested in environmental issues and would actively like to know more.  The survey suggests that there is an appetite in Britain to learn more about the state of the planet and its incredible wildlife. Yet the results also show that we need to do more to help people feel empowered to protect our precious species." 


Scientific Publications

Clavero, M. & Hermoso, V. (2015) Historical data to plan the recovery of the European eel. Journal of Applied Ecology. DOI: 10.1111/1365-2664.12446


Mládková, Pavla, Mládek, Jan, Hejduk, Stanislav, Hejcman, Michal, Cruz, Pablo, Jouany, Claire & Pakeman, Robin J.  High nature value grasslands have the capacity to cope with nutrient impoverishment induced by mowing and livestock grazing. Journal of Applied Ecology  DOI: 10.1111/1365-2664.12464


Ellen Brooks-Pollock & James L. N. Wood Eliminating bovine tuberculosis in cattle and badgers: insight from a dynamic model. Proceedings of the Royal Society b: Biological Sciences. DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2015.0374

Wallach, A. D., Bekoff, M., Nelson, M. P. and Ramp, D. (2015), Promoting predators and compassionate conservation. Conservation Biology. doi: 10.1111/cobi.12525


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