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


logo: BWPAThe British Wildlife Photography Awards 2015

A Celebration of British Wildlife   

The British Wildlife Photography Awards proudly announce the winners for 2015.  The Awards celebrate both the work of amateur and professional photographers and the beauty and diversity of British wildlife.

Winning images are chosen from thousands of entries in sixteen separate categories including a special film category for Wildlife in HD Video and three junior categories to encourage young people to connect with nature through photography.

“The British Wildlife Photography Awards has become one of the most anticipated events in the wildlife photography calendar. The bar in wildlife photography has already been raised to unimaginably high levels of sophistication, innovation and artistic vision, yet the standard somehow continues to get better and better. This latest collection of images is testament to the sheer level of interest in wildlife in Britain and, above all, the remarkable abilities of our wildlife photographers”. Mark Carwardine, zoologist, writer, photographer and broadcaster. 


Paul Wilkinson, competition judge and The Wildlife Trusts’ head of Living Landscape, said: “Photographers around the UK continue to be inspired by this competition and enter fabulous imagery which demonstrates a passion for, and a connection to, our wonderful wildlife.  Each work illustrates the many different ways in which we can connect with wild places and wild creatures.  Worlds collide in Barrie Williams’ beautiful and evocative image, which demands a double-take, affording a unique insight into the habitat and behaviour of gannets.  The British Wildlife Photography Awards continue to offer the natural world with the recognition, and reverence, it deserves.”


"Sea cliffs provide a haven from potential predators, a place for birds to breed, hunt and safely raise the next generation. This vertigo-inducing shot shows guano-stained rocks, the bustle of lower ledges with birds packed tightly and gannets hunting over the inky seas below. The judges felt it was the unique perspective of this shot and its ability to reveal something new about seabird life that made it such a firm favourite." Matt Swaine Editor, BBC Wildlife Magazine. 


Winner: Botanical Britain, category sponsored by CJS - Tim Hunt  “Fairy Moss”, Penryn, Cornwall, England  Winner: Botanical Britain, category sponsored by CJS - Tim Hunt  “Fairy Moss”, Penryn, Cornwall, England


David Pressland, Toads on RoadsThis year we're giving an honourable mention to Documentary Series simply because  it's local to us.


David Pressland, “Toads on Roads”, North York Moors National Park, North Yorkshire, England  


And if you'd like to find out more about Toads on Roads then read the article in CJS Focus on Volunteering (Feb 15 edition) about the Toad Crossing patrol at Osmotherly.


And the rest of the news:

Five innovative conservation, heritage and amenity projects in England and Wales shortlisted for our Park Protector Award - Campaign for National Parks

Five innovative and important conservation, heritage and amenity projects are in the running for the Campaign for National Parks’ prestigious annual Park Protector Award, sponsored by the Ramblers Holidays Charitable Trust.
They have been shortlisted following judging of a total of 15 projects that were nominated. The winning entry – to be announced at the end of the month, will receive £2,000 at a parliamentary reception in London on 21 October.
Fiona Howie, Campaign for National Parks Chief Executive, said she was delighted by the variety and impressed with the quality of projects entered this year: “We have had some excellent, innovative projects which have shown how working in partnership with others can have a real and lasting positive impact on communities across our National Parks.”
Award sponsors, Ramblers Holidays Charitable Trust judge Dr Jeremy Colls added he was pleased with the range of projects nominated this year: “These are generally strong projects which reflect well on the diversity and utility of work within the National Parks.”
The five shortlisted projects are:
• Brecon Beacons Dark Sky Reserve
• Fell Futures – Lake District National Park
• Fen Raft Spider Project – The Broads
• Hay Time Project – Yorkshire Dales
• Neptune’s Army of Rubbish Cleaners – Pembrokeshire Coast


Parks Alliance takes major step forward thanks to National Lottery grant - Heritage Lottery Fund

View of Bute Park, one of the many parks funded under the Parks for People programme (image: HLF)View of Bute Park, one of the many parks funded under the Parks for People programme (image: HLF)

The Parks Alliance, the UK’s voice of parks, has been awarded £9,600 by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) to establish a not-for-profit membership organisation that represents the people and organisations that create, maintain, invest in and use the public green spaces at the heart of UK life. The project, called ‘Creating A National Voice for Parks’, will provide the basis for establishing a wider and connected community network of those who support the aims of The Parks Alliance. The HLF grant will enable The Parks Alliance to research best practice membership models and recommend the best membership model to achieve financial sustainability.Speaking about ‘Creating A National Voice for Parks’, Mark Camley, Chairman of The Parks Alliance, said: “We know how much people value parks as 68 per cent of users consider spending time in their local park essential to their quality of life. This project will take us one step closer to ensuring parks in the UK are enhanced and their contribution to quality of life is protected. It will help all those organisations associated with parks and green spaces to prosper, and all those involved in maintaining and creating parks and green spaces will gain new skills and insight.” 


Desperately Seeking Speedwell! - Plantlife

Ground breaking project aims to return rare wildflowers to Norfolk site of international importance.
Plantlife is working with Thetford Town Council on a conservation project to restore 165 acres (67ha) of unique habitat at Barnham Cross Common, in Breckland.

The Brecks is one of the top four classic places in the UK for wild plants. It is home to more than 120 nationally rare and threatened wildflower species that enjoy the unusual and dry 'continental' climate of this region.

Despite this being an internationally recognised botanical hot spot, characterised by an unusual combination of mobile, sandy, chalk-rich soils which support plants that rarely occur elsewhere in the UK, most of Breckland's wildflower 'specialities' such as Sickle Medick (Medicago sativa) and Tower Mustard (Turritis glabra) are disappearing.

This is because of a decline in suitable habitat which has arisen from changes in land management practices and a loss of traImage: Spring Speedwell © Fornax/CC BY-SA 3.0ditional grazing regimes. Many local birds, and invertebrates dependent on this habitat such as woodlark, grey carpet moth, lunar yellow under-wing moth and the brush-thighed seed-eater beetle are threatened by its decline.

Tower Mustard has declined by 70% since the 1930s and Spring Speedwell (Veronica verna) is known to be located at only 13 sites in Breckland.

Image: Spring Speedwell © Fornax/CC BY-SA 3.0

Wall Bedstraw (Galium parisiense) has declined by 45% since the 1930s as the ancient walls it often calls home have been cleaned, rebuilt or demolished.

Tim Pankhurst, Conservation Manager at Plantlife says "The Brecks is known as a Mecca for its rare wildflowers and Barnham Cross used to be one of the best places to see Breckland species. Despite best efforts this is no longer the case - intervention is needed to halt the decline facing this culturally important habitat, here, and beyond the project site."


Putting nature at the heart of plans for farming and for water – Cumbria Wildlife TrustImage: Longhorn cattle (credit: Helen Davies)

Image: Longhorn cattle (credit: Helen Davies)

Environment sector sets out visions for farming and for water in two influential publications

Voluntary organisations have come together to produce ambitious visions for England’s farmland and the country’s water. Wildlife and Countryside Link (Link) - a coalition of 46 voluntary organisations – has produced two significant publications. Farming fit for the Future and Water Matters put restoration of the natural environment at the heart of plans for the future management of farmland, rivers, lakes and wetlands in England.

Link’s Director, Dr Elaine King, said: “Farming and water are so closely linked. We therefore want the Government to take an integrated approach to ensuring that our land and water can provide us with life’s essentials: healthy food, clean drinking water, protection from flooding, secure livelihoods and access to beautiful green and blue spaces with thriving nature. Specialists on water and agriculture, from across Link’s member organisations, have contributed their expertise to simultaneously create powerful visions for farming and our water, at a time when action needs to be taken to reverse the decline in our natural environment.”

The overarching themes addressed in Water Matters and Farming fit for the Future include pollution, climate change, long-term planning, and restoring wildlife and the countryside.


National Grid provides update on Visual Impact Provision (VIP) project to reduce the visual impact of overhead lines in AONBs and National Parks

Latest stage of a £500 million project to reduce visual impact of electricity infrastructure in protected landscapes

Plans to reduce the visual impact of electricity infrastructure in nationally protected landscapes across England and Wales have reached a new landmark, following decisions by the project’s independently chaired Stakeholder Advisory Group.
In November 2014, twelve sections of high voltage lines in eight Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs) and National Parks were shortlisted as having the most significant landscape and visual impact, following a study overseen by leading landscape expert Professor Carys Swanwick. (read this one here.)  Since then, National Grid and independent landscape consultants have done further technical work with considerable and highly detailed input from local stakeholders in each location. This has enabled the Stakeholder Advisory Group to prioritise four projects from the shortlist.
The Stakeholder Advisory Group’s decisions were made after a rigorous review of each shortlisted section of line. Members at a two-day meeting considered each project using a set of five guiding project principles from the Visual Impact Provision project’s policy.  These four projects will be taken forward over the next 12 months for detailed technical feasibility works which will include environmental studies, archaeological studies and engineering work ‘on the ground’. There will also be further significant engagement with local stakeholders and communities.
National Grid transmission lines which have been prioritised in protected landscapes are:

  • Dorset Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty near Winterbourne Abbas
  • New Forest National Park near Hale
  • Peak District National Park near Dunford Bridge
  • Snowdonia National Park near Porthmadog

Using a £500 million allowance made available by Ofgem until 2021, National Grid plans to reduce the visual impact of sections of high voltage overhead lines in these locations. A range of different ways of doing this has been considered in each location.
Given the sensitive nature of these protected areas, replacing existing overhead lines with underground cables has generally proved to be the preferred option both technically and in discussion with local stakeholders. 



Campaign for National Parks welcomes latest developments to reduce the visual impact of overhead lines in National Parks  

Fiona Howie, Campaign for National Parks Chief Executive, welcomed the announcement: “After what has been a very rigorous process, which we have been delighted to be part of, it is exciting to know which areas have been prioritised for next steps. There is still a long way to go but this major projects will have a real impact on the ground in terms of removing visually intrusive overhead power lines and pylons in some of our most treasured landscapes.
“All of the areas on the shortlist are priorities for action. It is just that not all of them can be progressed at this time. We know there is a desire within the affected areas, National Grid and the Stakeholder Advisory Group to secure future funding so more of these schemes can be progressed in due course. We hope this is the first of many tranches of funding for this innovative project so in future more and more designated landscapes can benefit.”


Whilst elsewhere:

Lake District threatened by the largest planned electricity infrastructure project in the UK - Open Spaces Society

The Open Spaces Society is one of a number of organisations* that are supporting Friends of the Lake District’s campaign against National Grid’s proposals for a 24km long powerline using 50m tall pylons in the west of the Lake District National Park. This would be a huge infrastructure project anywhere in the UK, but to have this length of overhead line running through one of England’s most unique, important and well-loved landscapes would be damaging in the extreme to the character of the Lake District National Park. National Grid have said that, because there is already a line of pylons in the area, new pylons would not be damaging to the landscape; however, the proposed pylons will be nearly double the height of the existing pylons.

In a public consultation last year, National Grid presented an option where the cables could be run south of the new power station by going offshore. This was the most popular option in the consultation responses as it avoided damage to the landscape and wildlife of the National Park and was also highlighted as the best option for the environment in National Grid’s own Environmental Statement. However National Grid has chosen the onshore south with tunnel route as NuGen, the Moorside power station developer, effectively vetoed the offshore route on technical grounds (which are disputed) leaving the onshore south route as the only option on the table.

At the moment, National Grid is refusing to discuss undergrounding of the powerline in the west of the Lake District and has only put forward different overhead line routes as “mitigation”. None of these alternative routes would avoid damaging the unique coastal landscape of the Lake District National Park. This “mitigation” is no mitigation at all if we are offered no alternative to overhead lines.

* The BMC, Campaign for National Parks, CPRE, Friends of the Lake District, John Muir Trust, Open Spaces Society, Power Without Pylons


Support for Friends of the Lake District's pylons concerns over pylon plans in the west of the National Park - Campaign for National Parks 

The Campaign for National Parks is one of a number of organisation that are supporting the Friends of the Lake District’s campaign against National Grid’s proposals for a 24km long powerline in the west of the National Park.
In a statement supporting the Friends of the Lake District, we have said: “Our National Parks are national treasures that are loved but also need to be defended. We know that they play a vital role in protecting our valuable landscapes, wildlife and key environmental resources. But we also know they contribute significantly to people’s wellbeing and are attractive for recreation.
“While we acknowledge they are living and working landscapes, development within these areas must be appropriate. Development on the scale of the proposed North West Coast Connections  route will have significant impacts on the west of the Lake District. It is essential that National Grid works with organisations like Friends of the Lake District to development proposals that will minimise the visual impacts of, and therefore the damage caused by, the overhead lines and pylons on this stunning landscape.”


Crisis in global oceans as populations of marine species halve in size since 1970 - WWF

Marine species around the world, including populations of fish critical to human food security, are in potentially catastrophic decline according to research published today.
WWF’s Living Blue Planet report, an updated study of marine mammals, birds, reptiles and fish, shows a decline of 49 per cent in the size of marine populations between 1970 and 2012. As well as being disastrous for ecosystems, these findings spell trouble for all nations, especially people in the developing world who depend heavily on the ocean’s resources.

Many species essential to commercial and subsistence fishing – and therefore global food supply – are significantly depleted due to over fishing.  Global population sizes of the Scombridae family of food fish that includes tunas, mackerels and bonitos have fallen by 74 per cent.  Declining stocks of bluefin and yellowfin are of particular concern. Some species found in UK waters, including the vulnerable porbeagle shark and the critically endangered leatherback turtle, have also undergone precipitous declines.

Porbeagle shark (Lamna nasus) captive, Nova Scotia, Canada, (image digitally manipulated)  Copyright:© naturepl.com / Doug Perrine / WWFPorbeagle shark (Lamna nasus) captive, Nova Scotia, Canada, (image digitally manipulated)  Copyright:© naturepl.com / Doug Perrine / WWF

While over-exploitation is identified as the major threat to ocean biodiversity, the study finds that climate change is causing the ocean to change more rapidly than at any other point in millions of years. Rising temperatures and increasing acidity levels caused by carbon dioxide are further weakening a system that is already severely degraded through overfishing, habitat degradation and pollution.
Dr Louise Heaps, Chief Advisor on Marine Policy at WWF-UK said: “As well as being a source of extraordinary natural beauty and wonder, healthy seas are the bedrock of a functioning global economy.  By over-exploiting fisheries, degrading coastal habitats and not addressing global warming, we are sowing the seeds of ecological and economic catastrophe.  But there are clear steps that all governments can take to restore our oceans.  Creating networks of well-managed Marine Protected Areas is a proven way to enable wildlife and habitats to recover. Pushing for a strong global deal on climate change would help the seas sustain life far into the future. Taking serious steps to implement this year’s Sustainable Development Goals in the UK and abroad could help build a global economy that values natural capital, respects natural habitats and rewards responsible business.
It’s not all bad news in the UK. Recent assessments from the North Sea have shown that just over 50% of assessed stocks, including herring and haddock are being fished sustainably. Progress is being made in the designation of Marine Protected Areas, but the UK Government must do more to ensure delivery of a coherent and well-managed network of sites. Scotland has recently set a good example by proposing management measures that should ensure proper protection of sites.
Current gaps in the network in England include seagrass sites - home to two species of seahorse - and protection for mobile species such as sharks, skates and rays, which are identified as being in trouble on a global scale in this report.

Download the full Living Blue Planet 2015 report here (PDF)


 You can read more about seagrass habitats and conservation in an article by Dorset Wildlife Trust in our CJS Focus on Marine and Coastal Environments here.


Almost 300 of England's most important wildlife sites at risk from fracking - RSPB

Langford Lowfields is one of 9 RSPB reserves at risk from fracking (Image: Ben Hall, RSPB)Langford Lowfields is one of 9 RSPB reserves at risk from fracking (Image: Ben Hall, RSPB)

The RSPB has warned that almost 300 of England’s most important wildlife sites are at risk from fracking after completing a full analysis of the areas of land that Government have offered to energy companies to explore for oil and gas. 

The analysis showed that 293 Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) have been included in the 159 oil and gas licences that the Government have offered to energy companies to date. An SSSI is a conservation designation given to a protected area in the UK, often protecting a certain species or habitats.  

Martin Harper, RSPB Conservation Director, said: “In February Amber Rudd, Energy and Climate Secretary, specifically promised to ban fracking within all SSSIs, but this promise seems to have been forgotten. We simply don’t understand why SSSIs, some of the UK’s best and most sensitive wildlife sites and landscapes, aren’t being offered full protection from fracking, when National Parks, World Heritage Sites and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty are being excluded from fracking completely.  The Government still has a chance, before these fracking licences are finalised, to fulfil its promise and protect SSSIs – and the RSPB is urging them to do so.”  

Fracking could result in habitat loss and fragmentation, in noise and light disturbances and even chemical pollution, all of which could harm wildlife, watercourses and habitats.  

Fracking needs planning permission but the RSPB does not believe that the existing legal protections for Sites of Special Scientific Interest are strong enough to protect them from damage that can be caused by fracking. It believes it would be simplest for the Government to completely rule out fracking in, under or near sites in order to prevent any possible damage to them.   The total area of SSSIs within the licences blocks totals 10,722 hectares, which is less than one per cent of the total area offered to fracking companies. 


Rare seabird makes a comeback in West Country - Natural England

Thanks to two seabird conservation projects, the rare storm petrel has this year made a comeback in the West Country, breeding at new locations on the Isles of Scilly and for a second year on Lundy.  Up until last year the only place they nested was on a few outer rocks and islands in the Isles of Scilly. This year though, following the removal of rats that prey on chicks, the birds have been found nesting successfully on the inhabited islands of St Agnes and Gugh. They have also nested successfully on Lundy for a second year, where rats were removed 10 years ago.

The removal of rats from both St Agnes and Gugh on the Isles of Scilly, and from Lundy, is the result of a successful partnership between a wide range of conservation organisations and is part of a global effort to restore island seabird populations. As well as storm petrel, the work has benefitted Manx shearwater, guillemot and puffin. On Lundy puffin numbers have increased from 13 in 2000 to 80 in 2013, and shearwaters from 328 occupied burrows to 3,451 in the same period. On the Isles of Scilly last year, Manx shearwater bred successfully on St Agnes and Gugh for the first time in living memory.  

On the Isles of Scilly, Senior Seabird Ecologist Vickie Heaney said: “I have monitored St Agnes and Gugh for storm petrel nest sites for 15 years, and never had any response. They successfully nest on the nearby seabird island of Annet, which has no rats, but as their eggs and chicks would be predated on St Agnes and Gugh it appears they did not attempt to breed. After witnessing the prospecting behaviour of adult storm petrels over the years, we were thrilled to hear them calling back for the first time from six sites on St Agnes in July when they should be sitting on eggs. In order to prove successful breeding we returned to these sites in early September and were over the moon to hear the calls of hatched chicks from the within the nest sites.”


Leaf-mining moths threaten horse-chestnut trees in Scotland and Ireland - CEH

A leaf-mining moth, which damages the UK’s iconic horse-chestnut trees, has been recorded for the first time in Ireland and Scotland. In response, a team of scientists have launched ‘LeafWatch’ a mobile phone app and are asking for help from the public to map the northwards spread.

The moth, called Cameraria orhidella, is on the advance. It first arrived in the UK, in London, in 2002 and had reached Newcastle in 2010, where it temporarily stopped. However, last year it was reported in Dublin and Belfast and, for the first time, was spotted in Scotland. With the LeafWatch smartphone app anyone in the UK or Republic of Ireland can now record damage caused by the leaf mining moth and help scientists to monitor its spread.

Dr Michael Pocock, organiser of the Conker Tree Science project and an ecologist at the UK’s Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, said, “New records of damage caused by the leaf-mining moth are really valuable to help us understand the way it is spreading. We are interested to know where it is, and where it isn’t. We need people to get involved right across the country and so created this citizen science app so that anyone can contribute to science.”

The first Scottish record of the leaf-mining moth came last September when it was noticed near Loch Tay by Dr Nigel Straw, an entomologist at Forest Research, who has been tracking the moth’s spread over the past decade. No other records have been confirmed in Scotland so far. Although records can be made from anywhere in the UK or the Republic of Ireland, the scientists especially welcome records of presence (and absence) of the leaf-miner from Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, and the north and south-west of England. All records will contribute to the Conker Tree Science citizen science project, running since 2010, which has already produced scientifically valuable results.


New trees for Peak District - Peak District National Park

Thousands of new trees are to be planted in the Peak District National Park through a partnership with the Woodland Trust.

Tree planting, Peak District National Parkimage: Peak District National Park

The Peak District Small Woodland Creation Scheme will run from October for the start of the 2015/16 planting season with potential for a further two years. The aim is to establish a total of at least eight hectares (equivalent to ten football pitches) of woodland each year, with each hectare containing up to 1,000 native trees.

The new areas will be planted at no cost to landowners or farmers as all trees, tree guards and associated fencing will be supplied or funded through the scheme.  Eligible locations include farm shelterbelts and woodlands providing opportunities for wildlife, recreation, landscape enhancement and small scale wood fuel provision.
Suzanne Fletcher, countryside and economy manager at the Peak District National Park Authority, said: “We are really excited by this partnership with the Woodland Trust which could mean up to 8,000 new woodland trees in each year. Planting trees on upland farms can provide shelter and shade for livestock, and crops, reduce soil erosion on farms by helping water infiltration rates and reduce the risk of flooding. In time, these woodlands could also provide wood fuel and timber for sale or personal use.

“There are many additional benefits for the national park, including important new habitats for upland birds and improvements to the landscape.’’

Native tree species including beech, small leaved lime, field maple, English and sessile oak can be planted, depending on location, exposure of the site and soil conditions. Alternative species include alder, bird cherry, goat willow, mountain ash, silver birch, holly, whitebeam and crab apple, as well as shrubs like hawthorn, guelder rose, hazel and dogwood.


New guidance supports the tidal energy sector and helps protect marine wildlife - Scottish Natural Heritage

Guidance from Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) to help the offshore renewables industry ensure the right development goes in the right place goes out to public consultation today (18/9/15).

High energy tidal environments are attractive to marine mammals, fish and diving birds, and are used as locations for tidal stream energy projects.

Operational tidal turbines may pose a collision risk to marine wildlife. For single turbines the risk may be low, however for larger turbine arrays, the risk may increase.

SNH has produced guidance to support developers undertaking collision risk assessments, and is launching a 12-week public consultation to gather industry and interested parties’ views.

The guidance describes three models which can be used to estimate the number of animals likely to collide with tidal arrays. It also provides a step-by-step process of estimating animal densities at collision risk depth.

Chris Eastham, the SNH officer who led the project, said: “Our role is to provide advice and guidance to developers, consultants and consenting authorities on potential impacts of marine energy installations and how these might be avoided or minimised.

“Our current knowledge of how marine wildlife interacts with tidal turbine arrays is limited, but this guidance will provide greater confidence to developers undertaking collision risk assessments and, importantly, help protect our marine wildlife”.

Consultation closes 10 December 2015.

Read the documents and take part here.


Scientific Publications: 

Gramza, Ashley, Teel, Tara, VandeWoude, Susan & Crooks, Kevin.  Understanding public perceptions of risk regarding outdoor pet cats to inform conservation action.  Conservation Biology. DOI: 10.1111/cobi.12631


Norum, JørgenKvernhaugen, Lone, Karen, Linnell, JohnD.C., Odden, John, Loe, LeifEgil & Mysterud, Atle.  Landscape of risk to roe deer imposed by lynx and different human hunting tactics. European Journal of Wildlife Research DOI: 10.1007/s10344-015-0959-8


Wang, Yicheng, Önal, Hayri  Optimal design of compact and connected nature reserves for multiple species. Conservation Biology. DOI: 10.1111/cobi.12629


James S. Adelman, Sahnzi C. Moyers, Damien R. Farine, Dana M. Hawley Feeder use predicts both acquisition and transmission of a contagious pathogen in a North American songbird Proceedings Royal Society B DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2015.1429


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