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


£10k gift to fix a fell - Lake District National Park

One of the Lake District’s best loved but blighted fell paths has been given a £10,000 boost by a mystery benefactor.

Walla Crag, above Keswick, is used by tens of thousands of walkers, who for years have had to navigate across a notorious 20-metre wide quagmire to get to the 1,000ft summit and a ‘sensational viewpoint’.

Now, thanks to the anonymous local donation, work has been completed. Ancient techniques utilising existing sub-soil up to 10,000-years-old have been used, leaving a natural dry route to the panoramic peak.

Fix the Fells ranger for the Lake District National Park, Richard Fox, said he had been staggered by the generosity of the gift, but not surprised that someone locally wanted to put right a troublesome blot on the landscape. He explained: “The path at this point was 10 times wider than it needed to be, a really horrible area of ever-spreading wet bog which people had to plough through. This is a well-loved and much-used route, particularly for those living and staying in Keswick.  It’s one of the few where you get that wonderful high fell feeling with very little effort, so you don’t have to be particularly fit or agile to reach the top and relish its unfolding sensational views. While every Lake District view is the nicest in many respects, this really is one of the best, taking in Catbells, Derwent Water, Buttermere fells and Causey Pike.  I can imagine that someone who really loves the place wanted to make a real difference to all those who walk here by removing an unsightly and boggy obstacle, leaving Walla Crag to Bleaberry Fell a truly perfect experience.”

Fix the Fells has repaired over 200 fell routes across the Lake District and depends on donations and legacies to continue the work. During this week’s UK National Parks Week (27 July – 2 Aug), Fix the Fells volunteers will be undertaking work parties at Coniston Old Man, Ullock Pike, Honister and Kirk Fell.

Richard said £10,000 was a massive contribution and there was an enormous debt of gratitude. He added: “We have now completed the work thanks to a method thousands of years old which utilises sub soil, in this case boulder clay deposited 10,000-years-ago by retreating glaciers. No material was brought in at all, the technique simply rearranged naturally occurring soils so the top one became the well-drained, hard-wearing, boulder clay.


Orkney goose management project enters fourth year - Scottish Natural Heritage

A project to manage resident geese populations in Orkney is set to enter its fourth year, Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) has confirmed.

The Orkney greylag goose adaptive management pilot will allow local people to control the resident greylag geese population. Licensed shooting takes place with experienced local guns in August and September before migratory birds from Iceland arrive in October. This will keep the population down to reduce impact on farming while preserving the species’ conservation interest.

Geese taken as part of the pilot project will be recorded and numbers monitored in summer.

The aim is a sustainably managed goose population which generates income for local people. The pilot project last year saw the continuation of the sale of wild goose meat through licensed outlets in Orkney. And the licensed sale of meat will resume again this year from August to July 2016.

Resident greylag geese in Orkney have increased over the past 20 years. The goose count in August 2014 recorded 22,911 birds.

Wild goose meat is available only from licensed sellers in Orkney. The pilot project is being trialled in Scotland under the auspices of SNH and advised by the National Goose Management Review Group (NGMRG).

Gail Churchill, SNH’s Orkney operations manager, "This active management work will help us meet our nature conservation obligations by maintaining a sustainable and stable resident greylag goose population. It has the support of the British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC) who will be working closely with all of us involved in this new form of adaptive management control.”


European bird protection law saves threatened species - RSPB

The European Union’s Birds Directive – often believed to be one of the world’s most progressive and successful nature conservation laws – has had a huge impact in protecting Europe’s most threatened bird species – including many in the UK, says new research by the RSPB, BirdLife International and Durham University.

Avocets are one of a number of specially protected species which are doing well in the UK and Europe Image: David TiplingAvocets are one of a number of specially protected species which are doing well in the UK and Europe Image: David Tipling 

The research, which is being published on Tuesday 28 July 2015 in the journal Conservation Letters, reveals that the most consistent single determinant of a species’ fate is whether it is afforded the highest level of protection under the Birds Directive or not. In the language of The Birds Directive this means whether a species is listed under Annex 1 or not. 

The research also shows that Annex 1 species fare better in those countries which have been EU members for longer.

Dr Fiona Sanderson is an RSPB scientist, working for the RSPB Centre for Conservation Science, and lead author of the paper. She said: “We analysed information on all bird species breeding across the European Union. Our findings confirm that species with the highest level of protection under the Birds Directive, such as Dalmatian pelican, spoonbill, griffon vulture and greater flamingo, are more likely to have increasing populations, and that these results are most apparent in countries that have been members of the European Union for longer.”

Read the paper here: Sanderson, F. J. et al (2015) Assessing the performance of EU nature legislation in protecting target bird species in an era of climate change. Conservation Letters. DOI: 10.1111/conl.12196


Stressed young birds stop learning from their parents and turn to wider flock – University of Cambridge

Juvenile zebra finches that experience high stress levels will ignore how their own parents forage and instead learn such skills from other, unrelated adults. This may help young birds avoid inheriting a poor skillset from parents – the likely natural cause of their stress – and becoming trapped by a “bad start in life”.

Highly-social zebra finches learn foraging skills from their parents. However, new research has found that when juvenile finches are exposed to elevated stress hormones just after hatching, they will later switch strategies and learn only from unrelated adult birds – ignoring their parents’ way of doing things and instead gaining foraging skills from the wider network of other adult finches.    

Image: Zebra Finches (Merijn Loeve)Researchers say that spikes in stress during early development may act as a cue that their parents are doing something wrong, triggering the young birds to switch their social learning strategy and disregard parental approaches in favour of acquiring skills exclusively from other birds in the flock.

Image: Zebra Finches (Merijn Loeve)
This stress cue and subsequent behavioural change would then allow the juveniles to bypass a “potentially maladaptive source of information” – possibly the result of low-quality parental investment or food scarcity at birth – and consequently avoid a “bad start in life”, say the researchers.

The changes this stress could create in the patterns of individuals' social interactions may impact important population-wide processes, such as migration efficiency and the establishment of animal culture, they say. The new study is published today (23 July) in the journal Current Biology.

Read the paper here: Farine, D. R., Spencer, K. A. & Boogert, N. J. (2015) Early-Life Stress Triggers Juvenile Zebra Finches to Switch Social Learning Strategies. Current Biology. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2015.06.071


Stirling study highlights noise threat to Atlantic cod – University of Stirling

Atlantic cod could be at risk from noise created by wind farms and other off-shore developments, according to new University of Stirling research.

Image: University of StirlingA study carried out by the University’s world-leading Institute of Aquaculture found that Atlantic cod exposed to noise levels common in land-based aquaculture facilities exhibited significantly reduced rates of egg production and fertilisation.

Image: University of Stirling

But the researchers believe this could also have implications for Atlantic cod in the wild. Dr Andrew Davie, of the University’s world leading Institute of Aquaculture, said: "We need to be cautious as our study focused on the noise generated in enclosed, on-shore aquaculture facilities, while in wild context cod have greater opportunity to escape from noise disturbances. However, as noise generated by off-shore engineering and shipping increases, the soundscape of our oceans is undoubtedly changing and the implications for native fish stocks needs to be investigated. Given that the shallow banks of the North Sea populated by Atlantic cod are also popular proposed sights for off-shore wind farms, and that the noise levels these can create are comparable to those used in our research, the potential harm they pose to Atlantic cod in the wild is a concern.”


Green Bridges: A literature review (NECR181) – Natural England

Published 27 July 2015

The aim of the project is to identify and analyse evidence to inform understanding of the cost effective design and positioning of green bridges and similar infrastructure (including retro-fitting green features to existing grey bridges) to address landscape, access and ecological severance, connectivity and integration issues on the road and rail transport network, and to maximise the delivery of landscape benefits and ecosystem services.


Where is the Common Blue? – Butterfly Conservation

Common Blue Butterfly via Butterfly ConservationConservationists are seeking the help of millions of holidaymakers heading to the coast this summer in a bid to solve the mystery of a disappearing butterfly.

Common Blue Butterfly via Butterfly Conservation

The Common Blue is the most widespread of the UK’s blue butterflies but in recent years its numbers have declined and in 2012 reached its lowest level on record. As part of this year’s Big Butterfly Count, Butterfly Conservation has teamed up with the National Trust to ask the public to look out for and record the Common Blue on the coast.

It is thought that the butterfly may be faring better on coastal sites than inland as habitats by the sea tend to be relatively unspoilt due to their inaccessibility. Modern intensive farming, forestry and building development has reduced the wildflower habitats needed by the Common Blue – factors believed to be behind the butterfly’s decline. Results from this summer’s Big Butterfly Count will provide key information to finding out the importance of coastal sites for the Common Blue.

Butterfly Conservation Head of Recording, Richard Fox, explains: “Sunny cliffs, sand dunes and coastal grasslands provide perfect conditions for the Common Blue’s main caterpillar foodplant - Common Bird’s-foot-trefoil. As a result, some of the UK’s largest Common Blue colonies occur around our spectacular coastline. The combination of butterflies, sea and sky provide a beautiful blue backdrop to time spent on the coast. Sadly, Common Blues are not as common as they once were and we need the public’s help to locate remaining colonies.”

Matthew Oates, the National Trust’s specialist on butterflies, said: “This is a great opportunity to add some useful butterflying to your family seaside holiday while you are out on a walk along the coast or wandering through some sand dunes. Common Blues love the extra heat of sunny coastal grasslands and also like to breed in farm fields sown with White Clover along the coast. We’d love to know where our top coastal Common Blue colonies are, and what else you may see. The National Trust owns some seriously good seaside holiday butterfly sites, like Ballard Down in Dorset, Compton and Brook Downs on the Isle of Wight, Kynance Cove in Cornwall, and Whiteford Burrows on Gower.”


Study shows bee-friendly crops create a hungry gap for rarer bees – Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust

A new study published in Biological Conservation identifies that we need to rethink the type of special flowering crops that we grow to help our ailing bee populations. This latest research study by Thomas Wood from Sussex University and funded by the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT) and the Natural Environment Research Council, is another crucial piece in the jigsaw that will help to improve the farmed environment for a range of bees, wasps and other important pollinating insects.

The three-year study is investigating whether current pollinator-friendly management provided the right conditions for all pollinating insects not just bumblebees, and whether it helped increase the diversity of all farmland bees and wasps. Interestingly, the study showed that although bumblebees and honeybees foraged widely within sown flower habitats that are recommended within flower-rich agri-environment schemes, the majority of bee species preferred naturally occurring wild plants such as hogweed, cat’s ear, and scentless mayweed, which are not currently included in pollinator mixes. These plants are commonly found in uncultivated areas of farmland such as field margins, access tracks and hedgerows.

Thomas Wood explains the significance of this study, “It is now widely acknowledged that pollinators provide a crucial service in pollinating our crops, thus helping to put food on our table. As a consequence much energy and resources are being directed at schemes that are supposed to prevent further declines of our important pollinating communities. However, as our study reveals, the current provision of flowering habitats, which includes species such as red clover, bird’s-foot trefoil and knapweed are predominantly aimed at bumblebees, which have large colonies and longer foraging range and not the wider bee and wasp communities. So far there has been very little assessment on the response of other wild bees to these options, despite the fact that these other bees make up the large majority of species diversity.”


International team fits satellite tags to keep tabs on UK's rarest raptors - RSPB

Conservationists from the Netherlands and UK have teamed up to fit satellite tracking devices to three Montagu’s harriers in East Anglia this month, in an effort to learn more about the UK’s rarest breeding bird of prey

East Anglia is an extremely important region for Montagu’s harriers, with three out of just seven nesting attempts in the whole of the UK so far this year being recorded in the East of England.

Researchers from the Dutch “Montagu’s Harrier Foundation”, together with conservationists from the RSPB, fitted one male and two female Montagu’s harriers with the lightweight tracking devices, which will last for the lifetime of the birds and relay real time location data back to the team.

Mark Thomas, who leads on Montagu’s harrier conservation work for the RSPB, said: “This is an exciting and important application of satellite tracking technology that will help us to monitor their movements and locate their feeding areas to understand more about these harriers’ not just here in the UK, but in their wintering grounds in Africa and on their migratory journey in between.”

The first Montagu’s harrier fitted with a satellite tag in the UK, also called Mark, returned to nest in the exact same field this year in which he had been fitted with the device in 2014, but not before revealing the whereabouts of a UK breeding “Monty’s” wintering grounds in Senegal and Mauritania for the first time via his high-tech backpack.


Surprising first data for rare British duck - WWT

Image via WWTBritain’s most threatened breeding duck has been tracked here for the first time to find out where it goes in winter – and the answer turns out to be rather surprising.

The first British common scoter ever to be caught and tagged in this country, Image via WWT

The tragically misnamed ‘common’ scoter – there are only about 40 British breeding pairs left – only nests in a tiny handful of places in the Scottish Highlands. The birds from a single loch seem very tight-knit and are quite likely to be related, so it was expected they might migrate together to a similarly small area to overwinter. But the first ever tracked birds have confounded Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust (WWT) researchers by disappearing off in four different directions. One travelled the short distance to the Scottish coast, one flew hundreds of miles south to the coast of Morocco and the other two went to completely different locations in the Irish Sea.

WWT Research Officer Ed Burrell said: “It feels like this mysterious species wants to keep flummoxing any human interest in them. But in fact their winter wandering gives us some clues to help solve their problems. The fact they stay apart in winter is a bit like the Royal family never flying together, it means they can’t all be affected by a single issue like a storm or oil spill. So that means that whatever is causing their decline is more likely to be in the summer when they’re all together in the Highlands. That helps us to concentrate our investigations. Their breeding sites are managed by Scottish & Southern Energy and Forest Enterprise Scotland, who along with RSPB Scotland and SNH are working with us to try to crack the question of why this British species’ future is so perilous.”


Half of Scotland’s wild flowers found on their road verges. - Plantlife

Flower filled verge, image via PlantlifeScotland's road verges are home to over 550 different species of wild flowers and are one of the most frequently viewed habitats in the country.

image via Plantlife

Plantlife estimates that 556 species of wild plants are found on Scottish road verges, including highly threatened flowers such as spignel and greater butterfly-orchid. This equates to half of all Scotland's wild flowers. Road verges also constitute one of the most frequently seen habitats in Scotland, giving millions of people every day direct contact with the changing seasons and colours of the countryside. Road users are also given a seated view into the astonishing changing landscapes and habitats of Scotland, from forests to moors.

For lots of people, the flower-filled verges they see on their daily commute or trip to the shops are their main contact with nature. 

In addition, 88% of these verge plants provide nectar and pollen for bees and other insects, making road verges essential refuges for insect life; bird’s-foot trefoil alone is a food plant for 132 species of insect. 

The good news is that Scotland's 9,386 ha of rural verges appear to be flourishing this summer and providing swathes of natural colour on Scotland's roads for its users to enjoy and providing a valuable haven and food bank to the country's wildlife. From primroses, which were voted Scotland's favourite wild flower, in spring, to swathes of meadowsweet and ox-eye daisies in out in summer, not to mention marsh orchids and devil’s-bit scabious that are also currently flowering, our verges are home to a huge variety of wild flowers and consequently a host of diverse wildlife. 

Dr Deborah Long, Head of Plantlife Scotland, explains, “Scotland's road verges are stunning, especially at this time of year when if you’re lucky you can spot melancholy thistle, ragged robin and meadow cranesbills. With a closer look you’ll see even more, brightening your journey.  It’s not just us enjoying the knapweed and scabious – bumblebees, hoverflies, butterflies are there too and reminding us all how important it is we recognise and celebrate our road verges. I’m proud to have these species growing here for everyone to enjoy on their everyday journeys to work or school."


Environmental groups call on PM's intervention as 10 green policies scrapped – The Wildlife Trusts

Red-tailed bumblebee Jon Hawkins Surrey Hills Photography image via The Wildlife TRustsWithin the first three months of the new government ten different environmental policies have been watered down or scrapped, according to analysis by a group of leading UK environment organisations.

Red-tailed bumblebee Jon Hawkins Surrey Hills Photography. Image via The Wildlife Trusts

This list of recent policy reversals is shocking, and shows disregard for the health and wellbeing of current and future generations, as well as for the environment we all depend on

These range from support for renewable energy technology and tax exemptions for low carbon vehicles, which have existed for over a decade, to privatisation of the Green Investment Bank and the scrapping of the Green Deal, the establishment of both being achievements celebrated by the last Conservative-led government.

Protection for the natural environment has also been weakened with a u-turn on a ban on fracking in protected areas.  And the UK has cited an ‘emergency’ to exempt itself from an EU-wide ban on neonicotinoids.

Environmental leaders have called on the Prime Minister, as a matter of urgency, to clarify his government’s approach to environmental protection and climate security in what is a vital year for action on climate change. In a public letter to the Prime Minister, written in response to the findings, the heads of the UK’s leading environmental groups said: “We welcomed the Conservative manifesto commitment to ‘being the first generation to leave the natural environment of England in a better state than that in which we found it’.  Unfortunately, ten green policies which could have helped you to achieve these goals have been cancelled or weakened in the past three months.  These policies were developed over many years, often with cross-party backing, and with the support and involvement of many businesses and charities.  Only one of these decisions, to end subsidies for onshore wind, was a commitment from your manifesto.  We have, as yet, seen no positive new measures introduced to restore the health of our environment or grow the low carbon economy.”

Read the public letter to the Prime Minister (pdf)


Statement on the Government’s decision to allow the emergency use of neonicotinoids on Oil Seed Rape  - Bumblebee Conservation Trust

The recent announcement that the government has granted use of neonicotinoid pesticides on 5% of oil seed rape crops this autumn was one of immense disappointment for the Bumblebee Conservation Trust. We believe that this has now set a precedent for further emergency applications and that the UK Government has in effect lifted the EU temporary ban on the use of neonicotinoids.

We have written to the Secretary of State for the Environment, the Rt. Hon. Elizabeth Truss asking to see the data and case studies used to persuade to Expert Committee on Pesticides (ECP) to grant this derogation. In particular we have asked the government to justify this decision in light of:

1) Its investment in the development and implementation of a National Pollinator Strategy for England (of which we are both a signatory and member of the Pollinator Advisory Steering Group)

2) Defra’s ‘call to action’ to encourage the general public and industry to do more for pollinators

3) The considerable body of evidence demonstrating significant legal and sublethal effects of neonicotinoid pesticides on important wild pollinatos such as bumblebees and solitary bees.

To read the letter in full click here (pdf)


BBS results via BTOBBS results - some respite for Britain's Birds - BTO

BBS results image via BTO

Some stay, some go, but 2013 to 2014 was a good year for many of the UK’s birds. The latest results from the Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) brought some short-term, positive news for a suite of both migratory and resident species against a backdrop of long-term declines for many, long-distance migrants in particular. The BBS Report 2014 reveals the latest short and long-term trends for 110 species, focuses on increasing coverage in the uplands and takes a look at recording how birds were first detected during the 2014 surveys.

A huge thank you to all the dedicated volunteers who contributed to the survey in 2014. 

Download the full report here (pdf)



Log your ‘hog on The BIG Hedgehog Map – a new Hedgehog Street initiative - PTES

Hedgehog image via PTESA third of our hedgehogs have been lost in the UK in the last ten years and now over 34,000 volunteers are helping to stem the decline. But as Hedgehog Street, a national campaign led by British Hedgehog Preservation Society (BHPS) and People’s Trust for Endangered Species (PTES), enters its fourth year, the charities are calling on more people to help their efforts by launching The BIG Hedgehog Map online where people can record their sightings of hedgehogs (dead or alive) and pledge to make a hole in their garden fence.

Image via PTES

There are about half a million hectares of garden in the UK, a vast potential resource for hedgehogs. A simple action such as creating a small hole the size of a CD case in shared garden boundaries removes physical barriers for hedgehogs, which typically travel about a mile each night in order to gather food and search for a mate.

Fay Vass, CEO of BHPS says: “To reverse the decline of hedgehogs we need to know where they are, and we need to maintain their living spaces. Please help by telling us when you see hedgehogs and make small holes in your garden fences to create hedgehog highways all across the country. By acting together we can really benefit the species.”


Extinct animal found alive and well at DWT nature reserve – Devon Wildlife Trust

An animal that has only been recorded once in the UK before and was thought to be extinct has been found alive and well living on a Devon Wildlife Trust nature reserve.
Rhaphium pectinatum image via Devon Wildlife TrustThe fly, Rhaphium pectinatum, was last recorded on 19 July 1868 when the renowned Victorian  entomologist George Verrall caught a male and female at Richmond in Surrey. In the decades since it was presumed that the fly was extinct, but now, nearly 150 years later it has been spotted again, this time at Devon Wildlife Trust’s Old Sludge beds nature reserve, near Exeter.
Rhaphium pectinatum image via Devon Wildlife Trust

The remarkable discovery was made by expert naturalist Rob Wolton who is a member of the Devon Fly Group and the Dipterists Forum which specialises in the study of flies. Rob said: ‘I took a recent trip to Devon Wildlife Trust’s Old Sludge Beds nature reserve on the outskirts of Exeter specifically to look for flies. Imagine my surprise when I examined my catch that evening to find it included a fly that was presumed extinct in Britain, not having been seen for 147 years!  Definitely one to add to the list of Devon specialities.’
Little is known about the handsome, metallic green coloured fly, apart from that it is part of the family Dolichopidiae, a group which is known as long-legged flies. Most members of the family live in tropical areas of the world. Rob explained: ‘The only other record of the fly was found near Richmond in London in 1868. Nothing is known about its biology, but it seems that it may like brackish (salty) conditions like those found at the Old Sludge Beds, and may even be associated with the extensive tidal reed beds nearby at the head of the Exe Estuary.  Finding the fly here demonstrates the importance of the work the Devon Wildlife Trust does looking after these unusual and special habitats.’

Conflict in the Uplands? Collaboration and consensus more like it! - The Moorland Association

AS one of the biggest celebrations of field sports in Britain gets underway attention is focussed on controversy in the uplands. Joining the CLA Game Fair at Harewood House, near Leeds, members of The Moorland Association (MA) – who are responsible for some of England’s rarest and most protected high ground – are reporting notable gains. They say it is an exciting time with effective upland partnerships working together. This has meant a fresh look at how a raft of benefits can be reaped from the fragile landscapes loved by millions.

MA director, Amanda Anderson, said while some were seeking to create conflict in the uplands by highlighting potential problems, others were dedicated to solving them and improving the beautiful land for all. She explained: “This is a very positive time marked by co-operation, cohesion and pioneering initiatives, benefiting not just the moors but wildlife and rural economies into the bargain. Government targets for setting these vulnerable areas on the road to recovery have been exceeded, the Uplands Alliance launched – bringing together all interested parties – and moorland management hailed for far-reaching peatland restoration action.” Mrs Anderson said £52.5 million was invested annually by owners on moorland conservation and protection and warned of the dangers of putting grouse shooting at risk. She added: “In the late 1990s, driven grouse shooting and habitat management stopped in the Berwyn Special Protection Area in North Wales which then saw serious declines in bird species. It’s a stark warning! Despite its conservation designations, lapwings became extinct, golden plover declined by 90 percent, curlew by 79 percent, black grouse by 78 percent and ring ouzel by 80 percent. The number of hen harriers, whose decline has frequently been blamed on moorland gamekeepers, fell by 49 percent after the management for red grouse was abandoned and gamekeepers lost. The message is simple, lose moorland keepers and expect lose-lose for conservation, livelihoods and visitors. Natural Resources Wales has since recognised the importance of managing vegetation and predator control and ploughed £240,000 into upland estates to replace the work of gamekeepers. This is a tiny, short-lived shot in the arm with tax payer’s money, and is not a long-term sustainable solution.”


Park Authority Welcomes Allt Duine Announcement - Cairngorms National Park Authority

The Cairngorms National Park Authority (CNPA) has welcomed the news that Scottish Ministers have refused the Allt Duine windfarm due to the unacceptable impact on the Cairngorms National Park and wild land.

The CNPA lodged its objection to the proposed windfarm near Kincraig in May 2011 in response to a Section 36 Scottish Government consultation on the proposal. The 31 turbines would have been sited just outside the Cairngorms National Park – the closest structure being 900 metres from the edge of the Park – and with tracks to the site within the National Park boundary.

The Park Authority objected to proposals on the grounds of the very significant impact it would have on the special qualities of the Park and particularly on the sense of wildness that people can enjoy here.

CNPA Board Convener Duncan Bryden, said: “We are extremely pleased that our concerns about this particular windfarm on the very edge of the Cairngorms National Park have been listened to by Ministers. This would have been the closest windfarm to the Park and was a wholly unacceptable proposal.


Young people given a voice in future of Northumberland National Park - defra 

The creation of the country's first National Park Youth Cabinet will give young and local people an active role in their National Park. 

Young people are to take their place at the heart of decision-making for Northumberland National Park with the creation of the country’s first National Park Youth Cabinet, Environment Minister Rory Stewart announced today (31/7).  The new cabinet will give local people aged 16-25 an active role in governing their National Park and encourage others to help look after it – today and for the future.

Environment Minister Rory Stewart said:  "With more than 90 million annual visitors to our National Parks they are an essential and very valuable part of rural life, bringing jobs and investment. It’s absolutely right young people – the future custodians of our natural world – have a say in how they are run.  Important projects like this make that happen, giving teenagers and young adults first hand understanding of their true value – not just in monetary terms – but as part of our precious natural heritage."

Glen Sanderson, Chairman of Northumberland National Park Authority, said: " We have enjoyed working with young people for a long time – through apprenticeships, training schemes, and our wide range of activities – and we genuinely value the creativity and inspiration that young people bring.  Our Youth Cabinet puts young people at the heart of what we do at the National Park as they are an integral part of the decision making process, and we listen and learn much from their views. National Parks are amongst Britain’s most valued treasures, and we are ensuring that we do all we can to encourage young people to learn about, explore, and care for our National Parks so that future generations can continue to enjoy these national assets for years to come." 


Rare bee-eaters breed in Cumbria - RSPB 

Two pairs of rare bee-eaters have set up home and are raising chicks at a quarry in Cumbria.

With their kaleidoscopic plumage, bee-eaters are one of Europe’s most striking and beautiful birds.

They are normally found nesting in southern Europe and are a very rare breeding bird in the UK. However, visits have increased in recent years, prompting speculation of colonisation.  Last year, two pairs successfully raised chicks on the Isle of Wight and prior to this, birds nested in County Durham in 2002, Herefordshire in 2005 and in Sussex in 1955.

The Cumbria bee-eaters are residing at Hanson UK’s Low Gelt sand quarry near Brampton in the North Pennines, where they have made nests by burrowing tunnels in the quarry banks. They were discovered by the quarry’s foreman who noticed the colourful birds flying amongst the site’s colony of nesting sand martins.  Hanson UK alerted the RSPB who quickly set up 24-hour nest protection programme in June.

Mark Thomas, from the RSPB, said: “Bee-eater sightings have really been on the increase in recent springs and we’re delighted to confirm they are breeding in the UK for the second consecutive summer. Pushed northwards by climate change, it is highly likely that these exotic birds will soon become established visitors to our shores thanks to partnerships like this one with Hanson.”


Scientific Publication

Shaffer, J. A. and Buhl, D. A. (2015), Effects of wind-energy facilities on breeding grassland bird distributions. Conservation Biology. doi: 10.1111/cobi.12569


Foltza, S. L., Rossa, A. E., Lainga, B. T., Rocka, R. P., Battlea, K. E. & Moorec, I. T. (2015) Get off my lawn: increased aggression in urban song sparrows is related to resource availability. Behavioral Ecology. doi: 10.1093/beheco/arv111


Girardet, X., Conruyt-Rogeon, G. & Foltête, J. C. (2015) Does regional landscape connectivity influence the location of roe deer roadkill hotspots? European Journal of Wildlife Research. DOI: 10.1007/s10344-015-0950-4


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