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


Barratt Developments and RSPB breathe (wild)life into new build housing - RSPB

Barratt Developments has joined forces with the RSPB to set a new benchmark for nature-friendly housing developments – the first national agreement of its kind in the UK.

The partnership between the UK’s best known homebuilder and Europe’s largest nature conservation charity comes at a time when much of the UK’s urban wildlife is in trouble – with around 60 per cent of bees, birds, bugs and mammals in decline.    The first development to pioneer the new approach will be at Kingsbrook, Aylesbury Vale, where 2,450 new homes, new schools and community facilities will be designed to reverse this trend and put nature at the heart of the proposals. The development is one of the biggest Barratt sites currently in planning.

Around 50 per cent of Kingsbrook will be green infrastructure, including orchards, hedgehog highways, newt ponds, tree-lined avenues, fruit trees in gardens, bat, owl and swift nestboxes and nectar-rich planting for bees.  The development will also include 250 acres of wildlife-rich open space, the size of 100 football pitches, accessible to all residents of the Vale.

Barratt Developments and the RSPB have signed an agreement to incorporate some of the principles developed for Kingsbrook across its future developments. This will include reviewing its landscaping and planting guidance to enhance wildlife habitats.

Welcoming the partnership, Mike Clarke, Chief Executive of the RSPB, said: 'With hundreds of thousands of homes needed in the next few years, now is the time for conservationists and homebuilders to pull together to ensure the wildlife is boosted rather than ousted in the process. 

'We are confident that many positive steps can be taken to build wildlife into new housing developments, giving nature and people a home and increasing quality of life, and all relatively simply and cheaply.'

Mark Clare, Barratt Developments Group Chief Executive added: 'Working with the RSPB we can make the built environment and shared areas of our developments as nature friendly as possible and at the same time, the developments will become more attractive places to live."    


New hope for precious land at Lodge Hill - Wildlife Trusts

Lodge Hill area is the only one in the UK to be designated for nightingales

The calling-in (power of the Secretary of State to take the decision-making power on a particular planning application out of the hands of the local planning authority for his own determination) of a decision to build on one of the most important wildlife areas in the country, home to the largest population of nightingale in England, is today welcomed by The Wildlife Trusts

Nightingale credit:  Amy LewisA public inquiry will be held into the Lodge Hill case and according to the Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG): “ministers’ decision will be made after consideration of a planning inspector’s report and other relevant matters.”

Nightingale singing (credit:  Amy Lewis)

Stephen Trotter, The Wildlife Trusts’ Director, England, said:  “We are pleased to hear the Lodge Hill decision has been called-in and hope for the right outcome from ministers in due course.  The protection and recovery of the natural environment should be at the heart of all planning decisions."

John Bennett, Kent Wildlife Trust’s Chief Executive, said:  “Kent Wildlife Trust welcomes this decision.  We have put in a huge amount of work over a long period to draw Medway Council’s attention to Lodge Hill’s real value – its wildlife.  Development here would be a big step backwards in environmental protection. We remain convinced that Medway should be working with the Government and its advisors to find a sustainable solution to their housing need, and we remain willing to help them achieve this.” 

View the DCLG statement here.


Lewis and Harris goose management scheme set for take-off - Scottish Natural Heritage

A new three year pilot project to manage the greylag goose population of Lewis and Harris has been launched this week, Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) confirmed today.

The initiative sees funding of a co-ordinated shooting effort to allow islanders to control geese. Its aim is to reduce agricultural damage seen by crofters and farmers while maintaining a sustainable goose population. Shooting commenced on 16 February and will continue through to 31 March. A further round of shooting is planned for the autumn.  This pilot scheme is being trialled in Scotland with the support of Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) and is guided by the National Goose Management Review Group (NGMRG).   Similar projects are underway on Uist, Coll and Tiree, and Orkney. These have growing populations of greylag geese which cause significant damage to silage and other crops.

The aim is a sustainably managed goose population which generates income for local people. Landowners, farmers and township clerks in Lewis and Harris have been asked for permission to access their ground for shooting. Access has been permitted across most of the area in question.

Stornoway-based Roddy MacMinn of SNH confirmed: “It is clear that the greylag goose population on Lewis and Harris has increased significantly in recent years. Since we began an annual count in 2010 numbers have increased by more than 45%, and we now estimate the population to be in the order of 5850 birds.  We are responding to a request from the local goose management group to help them manage that goose population to a more sustainable level.  The work will be undertaken by experienced volunteer shooters following established best practice methods, and overseen by staff within SAC. Our initial target is for an additional 2200 geese to be shot this year as we aim to deliver a significant population reduction by 2017.”

The project will also trial the sale of goose meat under licence. Trained hunters and hotels and restaurants will be licenced to sell the meat generated by the pilot. Butchers and retail premises may also be licenced if they apply to SNH.  This will encourage sustainable use of the carcasses, give financial benefit and supply a healthy, protein rich and locally sourced food for islanders.


Police and RSPB appeal for help to identify wildlife criminals - RSPB

In May 2014, a video camera deployed by RSPB Scotland staff to monitor a goshawk nest at Glenochty, Strathdon, Aberdeenshire on land owned by Forestry Commission Scotland, and within the Cairngorms National Park, captured footage revealing a group of men repeatedly visiting the area in what appears to be an attempt to kill the birds and destroy the nest.

Police Scotland’s Aberdeenshire and Moray Divisional Wildlife Crime Liaison Officer, Mike Whyte, said "Police, RSPB and other organisations continuously work together in response to the illegal activities of a handful of individuals who operate outwith accepted practices.  In this case it is in direct conflict with one of the UK Wildlife Crime priorities, Raptor Persecution, an offence which by its rural geographic location is one that is historically difficult to detect".

Ian Thomson, Head of Investigations at RSPB Scotland, said: “This video footage captured by our camera shows what appears to be an illegal incident involving the deliberate targeting of one of our rarest and specially protected birds of prey. We are appealing to anybody with information about this incident to contact the police on 101 or on Crimestoppers as a matter of urgency. On account of serious concerns about the impacts of illegal activity on the Scottish goshawk population, RSPB Scotland is now offering a reward of £1000 for any information that subsequently leads to a successful conviction in this case.”

CNPA Statement on Raptor Persecution - Cairngorms National Park Authority

In response to the video footage released today (17/2/15) by Police Scotland of what appears to be an attempt to target a goshawk nest in Strathdon, the Cairngorms National Park Authority released the following statement:

"We are extremely disappointed and frustrated to see what appears to be a clear attempt to target a protected raptor species in the Cairngorms National Park. The Cairngorms should be one of the best places in Scotland for raptors. We urge anyone with information about this incident to contact the police as a matter of urgency."


RDPE programme document 2014 to 2020 - defra policy paper 

Formal programme document setting out, in detail, what the Rural Development Programme for England will achieve between 2014 and 2020.

This programme document was adopted by the European Commission on 13 February 2015. It follows the format laid down in the EU Implementation Regulation (EC 808/2014) .

The programme document consists of 19 main Chapters and various annexes.

Download the document here (pdf) 


Latest beaver trial reports published - Scottish Natural Heritage

Numbers of beavers living in the wild in Argyll have remained stable in spite of high kit mortality, according to one of a series of reports published today (18 February) by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH). Other findings were that the beavers have had an impact on rare lichens in the area but have hardly used local rivers and streams.

The four independent scientific studies describe the ecology of the beavers and their effects on the environment during a five-year trial reintroduction, which took place in Knapdale Forest near Lochgilphead and finished last May. Scottish Ministers will decide later this year whether to reintroduce beavers to Scotland, after considering the results of the Scottish Beaver Trial along with other beaver research. The trial was run by the Scottish Wildlife Trust and the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, on land managed by Forestry Commission Scotland. During the trial the beavers were closely monitored by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) in partnership with a number of other independent organisations.

  • The beavers have established themselves at Knapdale and the population appeared to be stable up to the end of the trial, according to monitoring work carried out by the University of Oxford.
  • Researchers at the University of Stirling found that the beavers, surprisingly, have had little effect on rivers and streams in the trial area. Although they have explored many of the streams, nearly all of their activity has been concentrated around the lochs. The study concluded that evidence from Knapdale suggests that few dams will be built on streams when there are a small number of beavers and they have easy access to lochs with wooded shores.
  • Another study shows that although beavers have had little effect on most lichen habitat at Knapdale, they have had an impact on lichens that grow on Atlantic hazelwoods. While the felling is very localised, affecting just over half of hazel trees within 60 m of lochs inhabited by beavers, there is concern that this may eventually cause a temporary or permanent loss of some the nationally and internationally important lichen habitat in the area. Suitable management might be needed in the future if beavers were allowed to stay in Scotland.
  • Dragonflies were using the small clearings created by beavers felling trees. They also found that dragonfly numbers may be falling at one loch that had changed substantially because of a beaver dam. But the researchers concluded that the five years of the trial was too short to fully evaluate the impact of the beavers.

Martin Gaywood, from SNH, who led the independent scientific monitoring of the trial said: “It’s essential that any species reintroduction project is properly managed and monitored. The independent monitoring of the Scottish Beaver Trial has helped us understand how beavers behave in a Scottish environment. We’ll be sending a report on the trial and a number of other beaver studies to the Scottish Government in late May. This means that their decision on the future of beavers in Scotland will be based on the best information available.”

Online copies of the reports are available online.


Update on our Falconry for Schools project - Countryside Alliance

The last academic year for Falconry for Schools was a very busy and successful one, with the project delivered to 26 schools. Owing to the popularity of the project and the interest shown from other schools, there is a current waiting list of approximately 30 schools desperately wanting the project to be delivered in their school. Two other falconry centres, one in County Durham and one in Shropshire are also eagerly waiting to receive their Falconry for schools kits and training and it is hoped that some schools in Wales and Norfolk will also experience the programme in 2015. 

The project is also working with the ‘Artificial Nest Project in Mongolia School links Programme’, run by Nicola Dixon at International Wildlife Consultants Ltd. Schools that have gone through the Falconry for Schools project, are then introduced to the school links programme on falconry, which joins schools via the internet between the UK, Mongolia, UAE and USA. This is a fantastic extension to the F4S project. Dr Nicholas Fox OBE, has also shown his support for the F4S project and describes the project as ‘a chance for children to get up close to birds of prey’ and ‘a life changing experience that triggers an interest in the natural world’. He also describes the relevance to the school’s curriculum, ‘Maths – how much does a hawk weigh? History – how old is falconry? Geography – where did falconry start? Children that may have had difficulties at school can be transformed overnight’.

A teacher from a school that were lucky enough to have the birds visit them in 2014, also sent in a letter of support for the project, describing it as an ’excellent short course on falconry’ and ‘an exciting resource’. The school linked the experience to a history project about castles and medieval life and the visit was also relevant to the science work based around the book “The Owl Who Was Afraid of the Dark”, and adaptations necessary for hunting and catching their prey. By the end of the birds’ visit, the children were able to appreciate a little more the Red Kites hovering over their playing field. 


The Environment Agency has moved one step closer to winning its war against a tiny yet destructive invasive fish - Environment Agency

The Environment Agency has moved one step closer to winning its war against a destructive invasive fish which has been wreaking havoc in the country’s lakes and ponds. Topmouth gudgeon outcompete native fish for food and habitat, and spread disease.

Topmouth gudgeon impact native fish by outcompeting them for food and habitat (image Environment Agency)At their peak, a decade ago, topmouth gudgeon had been found widely spread across the UK at 23 locations. But after today’s (17 February) operation, and through the Environment Agency’s targeted removal, there are now just three remaining sites in England.   This is not the first time that the Environment Agency has led the complete removal of an invasive species. The fathead minnow was eliminated in 2008 followed by the black bullhead catfish last year.

Topmouth gudgeon impact native fish by outcompeting them for food and habitat (image Environment Agency)

Sarah Chare, head of fisheries at the Environment Agency, said:  "Invasive species pose a serious threat to our native wildlife and cost the UK economy a massive £1.8 billion a year. Topmouth gudgeon are on our hit list of the UK’s most damaging invasive species and despite only being tiny have devastating effects on fisheries and angling.  While Britain’s rivers are the healthiest for more than 20 years, rivers and ponds that harbour non-native species can have their water quality and ecology affected and could fall short of tough EU targets.

It is not certain how the topmouth gudgeon first found their way to the ponds in Hackney but experts believe it is likely that they were dumped illegally. The Environment Agency is urging people who own fish that the apparently harmless action of releasing unwanted fish into a local pond can have disastrous long-term effects on the environment and other animals within it. 


Some success for major moorland project - Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust

The Langholm Moor Demonstration Project, one of the most important projects in the British uplands, has published its seven-year review which outlines what progress this unique 10-year project has made to date against its key targets.

The number of nesting hen harriers exceeded the project target for 2014 and thereby is helping to deliver the objectives of the Langholm and Newcastleton Hills Special Protection Area notified under the EU “Birds” Directive. The moor also supports healthy populations of raptors and short-eared owls whilst black grouse numbers have also increased significantly. However, red grouse numbers have not yet recovered sufficiently to allow driven shooting and this has compromised the desired compatibility between red grouse and raptors. One of the main objectives of the project is to improve grouse production such that grouse shooting again becomes viable enough in economic terms to support moorland management.

The project is charged with demonstrating how to resolve conflicts between moorland management for raptors and red grouse, maintaining the hen harrier population as a viable component of the Special Protection Area, increasing the populations of moorland breeding wading birds and songbirds and extending and improving the heather moorland habitat beyond its state in 2002.

Other salient points from the review are:

  • The targets of expanding the area of heather and improving heather condition have both been met
  • The population targets have not been met for wading birds, despite some population increases, but have been met for meadow pipits
  • Stakeholder engagement has led to a better understanding of moorland management which integrates a viable game shooting enterprise with raptor management and of practicable and acceptable options to resolving current management concerns.
  • There is a strong partnership between game management and raptor conservation interests.

The report of the Seven Year Review of the Langholm Moor Demonstration Project is now available on the project’s website


Fresh aims to protect Uists’ wader birds and stimulate local economy - Scottish Natural Heritage

Internationally important numbers of breeding wader birds help support the rural economy of the Outer Hebrides, the board of Scottish Natural Heritage recognised today.

The Uists have nesting waders in the form of dunlin, ringed plover, redshank, snipe, lapwing and oystercatcher. But they have been in decline since the mid-1980s partly due to predation by non-native hedgehogs, introduced in the 1970s.

Efforts to stem the decline by removing hedgehogs have been in progress since 2004. Since 2007 the translocation of hedgehogs trapped by Uist Wader Research (UWR) has been undertaken by Uist Hedgehog Rescue (UHR), a coalition of animal welfare and wildlife organisations that supports non-lethal control. The coalition comprises British Hedgehog Preservation Society, Hessilhead Wildlife Trust, International Animal Rescue and OneKind. And proposals to mount a fresh drive to help some of Europe’s most important numbers of wader birds by removal of non-native hedgehogs from the Outer Hebrides were today backed by community leaders.

Research in 2012–2014 showed that introduced non-native hedgehogs were predating the eggs (and occasionally small chicks) of these birds and that this was having a major impact on hatching success on waders in European Special Protection Areas (SPAs) in South Uist. Wader species continue to show declines in South Uist. A range of options were presented to the Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) Board at its meeting in Inverness today. These include removal; clearing the hedgehogs from areas of European importance for wading birds, or leaving the hedgehogs to breed.

“Species such as internationally important, lapwing, dunlin, ringed plover, redshank and snipe are among those most affected. Action is proposed to counter the worrying decline in key wader species in the Uists,” Ian Ross, the SNH chairman, confirmed today. "Managing invasive non-native species is a high priority in the islands and is recognised in the Outer Hebrides Community Planning Partnership’s Single Outcome Agreement (SOA). This would represent not only an investment in the natural heritage, but also the character, culture and economic future of the islands. The hedgehogs are a non-native invasive species introduced by man in the 1970’s and are now having an extremely damaging impact on nest sites, predating on eggs and chicks.The Board was asked for its support in principle to develop an EU LIFE funding bid with a view to starting removal work in 2017 if this is successful. We will now develop a detailed project proposal aimed at removal of the introduced hedgehogs.We and our partners are committed to removal of the hedgehogs which are trapped safely and humanely, and removed from the Uists to the mainland.”

We published an article about the Uist Wader Project in CJS Focus in June 2012, read: The Humble Hedgehog – an alien?  here.


Isle of Wight childminder receives national recognition for Forest School play scheme - Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust

Isle of Wight childminder receives national recognition for Forest School play scheme via Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife TRust(image via HIWWT)

A Newport childminder has received national recognition for helping young children’s development by getting them active outdoors.

Kerry Hiscock, of Lugley Bugs Childcare, received accredited Level 3 Forest School training from the Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust (HIWWT) in 2014. Kerry submitted evidence to the Government on the benefits of Forest School, using the example of Jamie - a child in her care who has now blossomed. 

Impressed by her work, a government minister has invited Kerry to share her experience with him and other childcare professionals at a London event in March. She’s also making the case for more government funding for disadvantaged children to be able to access this kind of essential support.

Forest School is a unique child-led learning process which supports all areas of learning and development. 

Kerry Hiscock, of Lugley Bugs Childcare said: “Childminders have a key role to play in children’s development - we can get young children ready not just for school, but also for life. The Trust’s great Forest School training helped me develop a programme that I’ve seen help children like Jamie.”

Kathy Grogan, HIWWT Education Officer said: “Forest School is a unique child-led learning process which supports all areas of learning and development and gives children unrivalled access to nature throughout the seasons. As practitioners we’re able increase children’s self-confidence, self-esteem and resilience, enabling them to become motivated, independent learners. It has been thrilling to assess last year’s cohort of trainees delivering Forest School in placements across the Island, and to see local children reaping the benefits. I’m very proud of all of them and this national recognition is a credit to Kerry’s work.”

If you're interested in Forest Schools there are short courses listed here, or Search the Directory for Forest Schools


SNH: Advice in planning yields better results for people and nature

Scottish Natural Heritage’s (SNH) engagement in the planning system is delivering benefits for people and nature, its Board heard on Thursday 19 February.

The Board considered material on how SNH ’s performance is helping to get the best possible development in the right places and create better places for people and nature.

The material included feedback from the Scottish Government, the views of customers and research on outcomes.

Overall, the key findings were:

  • SNH’s collaborative approach with stakeholders and other agencies is welcomed;
  • Planners and developers are particularly positive about SNH’s advice and guidance
  • SNH’s engagement is making a difference to people, nature and landscapes, particularly when its advice is early in the planning process.

Ian Ross, SNH’s chairman, said: The planning system provides a key tool for SNH to make a positive contribution to sustainable economic growth. The studies show we have played a significant role in helping to deliver good quality development in the right place.”

Download the reports.

Planning for development - customer survey 2014

Measuring SNH's influence on the outcome of development proposals


As National Nest Box Week draws to a close:

New homes for threatened birds across the Galloway Hydro Scheme - RSPB 

RSPB Scotland has been working with ScottishPower to give nature a home along the Galloway Hydro Scheme.

Dozens of specialist nest boxes have been put up for birds like pied flycatchers and barn owls, with nesting ledges providing alternatives for crag-nesting species such as kestrels and peregrines.

Male pied flycatcher at nestboxPied flycatchers return to breed in the UK’s native woodlands each spring (Image: Andy Holt, via RSPB)

RSPB Scotland’s Chris Rollie said: “What woodland birds really need is old trees with cavities and natural holes formed over time, but that’s just what many of our woodlands are missing. By putting up high quality nest boxes, we’re providing the next best thing and supporting many species, some of which are scarce and under threat.  Pied flycatchers, for example, are long distance migrants that overwinter in Africa and return to breed in the UK’s native woodlands each spring. Numbers have declined significantly in recent years, especially in England, and our populations in Galloway are becoming increasingly important. Research has shown that populations can be increased by providing nest boxes, particularly ones that offer good protection from predators.”

Another issue the scheme hopes to address is the disturbance of owls and raptors, which regularly nest on or close to Galloway Hydro installations. By providing them with alternative nesting sites away from people, it is hoped their chances of breeding successfully will be improved.

Graeme Dickie of ScottishPower said:  “We have a long-standing relationship with the RSPB, who lease wetlands from ScottishPower on their Ken-Dee Marshes reserve. We also liaise closely over Loch Ken water levels during the waterfowl breeding season and with regard to owls and raptors breeding on or near our installations. We are grateful to the Iberdrola Foundation for its contribution to the RSPB which will help towards the enhancement of biodiversity in this way.”



Natural injustice reports, reports on wildlife crime - Scottish Environment Link

A Review of the Enforcement of Wildlife Protection Legislation in Scotland Natural Injustice Paper 1 (PDF)

Eliminating Wildlife Crime in Scotland Natural Injustice Paper 2  (PDF)


Scientific Publication

Enticott, Gareth (2015) Public attitudes to badger culling to control bovine tuberculosis in rural Wales. European Journal of Wildlife Research  DOI: 10.1007/s10344-015-0905-9


McCracken, Morag E. et al  Social and ecological drivers of success in agri-environment schemes: the roles of farmers and environmental context. Journal of Applied Ecology DOI: 10.1111/1365-2664.12412


Christopher J. Ellis, Ancient woodland indicators signal the climate change risk for dispersal-limited species, Ecological Indicators, Volume 53, June 2015, Pages 106-114, ISSN 1470-160X, DOI: 10.1016/j.ecolind.2015.01.028.


Gaston, Kevin J., Duffy, James P., Bennie, Jonathan  Quantifying the erosion of natural darkness in the global protected area system.  Conservation Biology DOI:  10.1111/cobi.12462


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