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


National Parks UK and Mission Explore launch new adventure children’s book for National Parks Week - National Parks UK

Today (25 July) marks the beginning of National Parks Week, the UK National Park family's annual celebration of Britain's breathing spaces.  Taking place between Monday 25 July and Sunday 31 July, this year's National Parks Week theme is ‘adventure’.

To get the Week off to a flying start, National Parks UK are launching their new adventure children’s book. National Parks UK have teamed up with Mission Explore to produce the pocket sized book filled with challenges and adventures for children to try out and keep a record of when they are in one of the UK’s 15 National Parks.

Parks UK. Each member of the UK National Park family is a unique place, ideally suited for discovery, curiosity and creativity.Mae'n amser mentro! It's time to explore!"”

The book will be sold at a cost of £5.00 per copy and for this the reader can expect to be entertained by over 90 fun-filled pages, jam-packed with weird and wonderful ideas of things to do whilst at a National Park. It is aimed at encouraging children to explore the enormous world of the National Parks and engage them with all the brilliant things that are on offer throughout the UK. The book is available from outlets in the National Parks or online at www.nationalparks.gov.uk/missionexplore

 “Our book challenges the owner to become an extreme explorer, natural navigator and wildlife watcher in one of our 15 awesome National Parks.” Said Kathryn Cook, UK Director, National Parks UK.  “Missions range from simple tasks to more challenging ones. An example of a simpler task would be ‘Eat like a local’, encouraging children to try food produced by local businesses. At the other end of the scale there are challenges to ‘Go on a poo hunt’ and ‘Get stung’. Go explore our UK National Parks and have fun!  

All of the challenges were voted for by schoolchildren from all over the UK and the favourites were selected to be published.


Lynx UK Trust select Kielder and Borders as their preferred trial reintroduction site - Lynx UK Trust

After several months of consultations with national stakeholders and ongoing research, the Lynx UK Trust, who are leading efforts to reintroduce Eurasian lynx to the UK, have identified Kielder Forest as their preferred site for a trial reintroduction, and will now begin local level consultations across the region. 

It was just over a year ago that the Lynx UK Trust announced their hopes to reintroduce Eurasian lynx to the British Isles. Suggesting five potential sites for a trial reintroduction they introduced many people to these mysterious and beautiful forest cats that shy away from human contact, and offer a pivotal role in the ecosystem controlling an unchecked deer population overgrazing our forests.  After several months of autumn and spring consultations with national stakeholders including farming unions, wildlife groups and statutory agencies the Trust have now identified Kielder Forest, spanning Northumberland and the Scottish Borders, as their preferred site for a trial reintroduction to take place. 

A range of research was carried out alongside consultations, and is presented in a site selection document commissioned by the Trust and produced by AECOM, identifying several key factors favouring Kielder:

  • Largest area of continuous forest largely contained from sheep farming
  • Economically deprived area, where the gross value added by each individual lynx to the economic product of the region is up to £15,000
  • Low human population density and few human barriers and threats such as roads and railways.

“Within the team we always suspected Kielder had the right mixture,” comments Dr Paul O'Donoghue, Chief Scientific Advisor for the Trust, “but it was important to really investigate what each site offered and to pay real attention to what stakeholders were telling us. Balancing up the many factors Kielder has continually stood out as a place where the lynx can flourish and bring huge benefits to the local community.”

Access the full press release here (PDF)

Site selection report from AECOM is available here (PDF)


Reaction: NSA calls for full and independent consultation of any lynx release licence application – National Sheep Association

Image: NSA report Following today’s (Monday 25 July) announcement by Lynx UK Trust that it has identified Kielder Forest as a suitable location for releasing lynx into the British countryside, the National Sheep Association (NSA) is stressing the need for the correct steps to be taken and any licence application to be fully and independently consulted on.

Image: NSA report

Phil Stocker, NSA Chief Executive, says: “We are dismayed that Lynx UK Trust is still pursuing plans to release lynx, as we do not share their belief that the UK has any suitable locations. We are too small an island and too densely populated.”

Download the NSA report on the wider consequences of the introduction of Eurasian lynx to the UK.


Why the RSPB is withdrawing support for the Hen Harrier Action Plan - Martin Harper's blog, RSPB Community

The voluntary approach of the Hen Harrier Action Plan has failed, leaving licensing as the only viable option.

I’m generally very patient.  My natural preference is to build partnerships and work to make positive change from the inside with those who want to abide by the law and deliver progress.

However, sometimes that approach simply doesn’t work and there can be no clearer example of that right now than hen harriers, where illegal killing of this rare bird remains its most significant threat.

The RSPB played a full part in the production of Defra’s Hen Harrier Action Plan and despite disagreeing with certain points (notably brood management), welcomed its publication earlier this year. However, at the time, I noted the need for immediate progress to help build trust in the approach.

Unfortunately this has not happened.  

All of this adds up to a picture which shows that the commitments made in the Hen Harrier Action Plan are not being delivered. People are still breaking the law and not enough is being done within the grouse shooting community to effect change.

Some will argue that we should be more patient as behavioural change takes time.  But the hen harrier does not have time on its side and the longer hen harriers remain on the brink, the greater public antipathy towards intensive grouse shooting will become.

Hen harriers and other birds of prey in our uplands will not recover without a completely different approach.  

We have therefore decided to withdraw our support from Defra’s Hen Harrier Action Plan.

We have come to this conclusion because we believe that reform to protect the hen harrier will only come through licensing of driven grouse shooting where, for example, crimes committed on estates managed for shooting should result in the withdrawal of their right to operate.  

A licensing system isn’t about tarring everyone with the same brush, or blaming a whole community for the actions of the few.  Quite the opposite: it is effectively a targeted ban that will stamp out illegal activity and drive up the environmental standards of shooting.


Reaction: BASC disappointed as RSPB quits hen harrier programme

BASC has expressed disappointment at the RSPB’s withdrawal from the Hen Harrier Action Plan but rejects the society’s claims that licensing grouse moors will benefit the raptor.

The Hen Harrier Action Plan, produced by stakeholder organisations working with Defra and Natural England, seeks to increase the number of hen harriers through the implementation of six initiatives. These include a reintroduction programme, nest and winter roost protection and diversionary feeding.

The RSPB has now abandoned the programme just seven months after its introduction, but BASC believes sustained co-operation between organisations remains the only way forward for hen harriers.

Glynn Evans, BASC’s head of game and deer management, said: “We are saddened that the RSPB has walked away from the recovery programme before it even had a chance to bed in. They have left before the development of some aspects of the plan could begin. There is no way the success or otherwise of such a scheme can be accurately assessed after only seven months. A lot of work went into establishing the six long-term actions which stakeholders and groups believed would help stabilize then, ultimately, increase population levels of these rare birds."


Reaction: RSPB pull out of Hen Harrier Recovery plan - Moorland Association

Statement by Moorland Association director, Amanda Anderson: “We are disappointed by RSPB’s decision to pull out of Defra’s Hen Harrier Action Plan. We remain committed to seeing more harrier breeding on more grouse moors and will continue to work with partners. The new upland brood management and lowland reintroduction elements of that plan are still being scoped. Until they are implemented we cannot judge how successful they are in achieving that goal. We wish to reiterate our total abhorrence of any act of wildlife crime and support of prosecutions."


Reaction: Countryside Alliance statement on RSPB withdrawal from Hen Harrier Action Plan

 Fortunately, the implementation of the Hen Harrier Joint Action Plan can continue without the RSPB, and whilst we are disappointed at its announcement, we are also grateful that the Hawk & Owl Trust, as a member of the Hen Harrier Joint Recovery Plan, will be able to fill any gap in the expertise that might otherwise have resulted from the RSPB’s departure. There has never been any excuse for the illegal killing of birds of prey, and the implementation of the Hen Harrier Joint Action Plan has created a clear way forward for both hen harriers and the rural economy, and it should be given a chance to do just that.

It is extremely disappointing that the RSPB has chosen to withdraw from the Hen Harrier Joint Recovery Plan – a plan that goes a long way to resolving one of the most divisive issues in upland conservation by securing a future for the hen harrier alongside economically viable driven grouse shooting. The Hen Harrier Joint Action Plan (HHJAP) took years to produce, bringing together key stakeholders who care deeply about the future of the uplands, and uniting them behind a long term strategy. Now, less than seven months after the plan was published by Defra, and having given it no time at all to work, the RSPB has jettisoned it in favour of a policy that is entirely of its own invention, and one that has no support from landowners.


Organisations take action to regulate grazing at Greenham Common - BBOWT

West Berkshire Council, the Berks, Bucks & Oxon Wildlife Trust and the Greenham and Crookham Commons Commission are working together to ensure that the correct number of livestock are grazing on Greenham Common.

Cattle at Greenham Common. image Rob ApplebyCattle at Greenham Common. image Rob Appleby

Cattle and ponies have been a part of Greenham and Crookham Commons for hundreds of years, with only a few decades when the Commons were used by the military. Cattle do a great job of eating grass and bushes to create perfect conditions for the rare wildlife that lives on the Common; part of the Common is protected as a Site of Special Scientific Interest because of the wildlife habitats.

Some local residents have Commoners’ Rights that include grazing cattle on the Common. Each Commoner is allowed to graze a specific number of cattle, which is determined by a Register of Rights. However, some of the Commoners, and farmers who lease the rights from other Commoners, currently have more livestock on the Common than they have the right to. In some cases the leases have expired, and the cattle should not be grazing on the Common.

Wildlife experts and visitors to the Common have raised concerns that there are too many cattle grazing there, especially during the winter. This leads to over-grazing, damage to the fragile habitats, and a loss of wildlife.

West Berkshire Council, which owns the land, the local Wildlife Trust, which looks after the land on behalf of the Council, and the Greenham and Crookham Commons Commission, which is responsible for maintaining the Register of Rights, have agreed to write to the Commoners and farmers asking them to remove any livestock that should not be there. The letters will be sent before the end of July.

Chris Tufnell, Chair of the Greenham and Crookham Commons Commission, said: “Some of the Commoners who are grazing the correct number of cattle are calling for us to take action against those who have too many cattle. It’s not fair that the grass is being eaten by cattle that shouldn’t be there.”

This is not a new problem. The remains of a ‘pound’ are located to the south of the common, which archaeologists have dated to at least the 1800s. This would have held trespassing livestock that were seized from the common by the ‘Pound Keeper’ who is listed in the 1841 census for Greenham.


If you want to see rare birds then Derbyshire is the place to be! Two reported sightings from Derbyshire Wildlife Trust

Sabine's gull at Carr Vale, image: Dave CameBird more commonly seen in the Arctic Circle spotted in Derbyshire for first time in 19 years

Sabine's gull at Carr Vale, image: Dave Came

A Sabine’s gull has been visiting Derbyshire Wildlife Trust’s Carr Vale Nature Reserve near Bolsover this month.

This is the first time one has been seen at this reserve and only the seventh ever to be recorded in Derbyshire, the last being in 1997 at Ogston reservoir almost 20 years ago!


Caspian tern at Carr Vale, Richard TaylorCaspian tern causes a splash at Derbyshire nature reserve – seen in the UK less than 300 times

Caspian tern at Carr Vale, Richard Taylor

Caspian terns are extremely rare visitors to the UK. Nick Brown of Derbyshire Wildlife said, “We think there are only around 290 records of Caspian terns in the UK and most of these sightings have been coastal. It is extremely rare to see one in Derbyshire, this is only the 9th record. I was lucky enough to see one at Willington Gravel Pits in 1993!”


Human ‘super predator’ more terrifying than bears, wolves and dogs – Western University         

badger-western-uni-26Bears, wolves and other large carnivores are frightening beasts but the fear they inspire in their prey pales in comparison to that caused by the human ‘super predator.’

A new study by Western University demonstrates that smaller carnivores, like European badgers, that may be prey to large carnivores, actually perceive humans as far more frightening. Globally, humans now kill smaller carnivores at much higher rates than large carnivores do, and these results indicate that smaller carnivores have learned to fear the human ‘super predator’ far more than they fear their traditional enemies.

These findings by Liana Zanette and Michael Clinchy from Western’s Faculty of Science, in collaboration with celebrated British biologist David Macdonald from University of Oxford‘s Wildlife Conservation Research Unit (WildCRU) and others, were published this week in Behavioral Ecology.

Read the paper: Clinch, M. et al Fear of the human “super predator” far exceeds the fear of large carnivores in a model mesocarnivore. Behavioral Ecology (2016) doi: 10.1093/beheco/arw117


South Scotland Golden Eagle Project secures £1 million Heritage Lottery Fund boost - Issued by Scottish Natural Heritage on behalf of the South of Scotland Golden Eagle Project
A new project to help golden eagles in the South of Scotland has received initial support of more than £1 million from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

The scheme aims to boost numbers of the iconic bird to up to 16 pairs in Dumfries and Galloway and the Scottish Borders – with the potential to release eagle chicks into the wild in the years ahead. CCTV ‘eagle cams’ will give the public an opportunity to keep an eagle eye on the chicks as they grow. At present, there are only two to four pairs in the south of the country with limited nesting success.

Golden Eagle in flight (image Copyright Laurie Campbell via SNH)Golden Eagle in flight (image Copyright Laurie Campbell via SNH)

In 2008, Scottish Land & Estates and RSPB Scotland formed a joint proposal to work together to try and understand what was limiting the golden eagle population in the South of Scotland. Detailed ecological work was carried out and a report on the findings was published in 2014 by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH).  Following an approach by Scottish Land & Estates, RSPB Scotland and Buccleuch to the Minister, a partnership was formed to take forward work to reinforce the population; the Langholm Initiative, SNH and Forestry Commission Scotland have subsequently joined the partnership. The partnership will now begin a public consultation involving a wide range of stakeholders.

This new project builds on a 2014 SNH report, which found that southern Scotland could potentially support up to 16 pairs. Presently, there are only two to four pairs, with limited nesting success. Work is planned to examine how food supplies could be improved and nest sites be made secure, identify additional habitat management measures that may be needed, and if necessary, consider prospects for bringing eaglets into the area for release to reinforce the existing population.

Dr Cat Barlow has been appointed as project manager, and is currently forming a small support team. The team will focus on identifying areas/sites and management measures which should benefit the birds. Guided by the National Species Reintroduction Code, the team is undertaking a formal assessment of habitat and other management measures to reinforce the population.

Details of the public consultation will be made available shortly on the project’s website, www.goldeneaglessouthofscotland.co.uk . In addition, the project team will hold meetings with the main stakeholders in south Scotland, and will develop a formal and detailed project plan for consideration by the HLF over the winter period.


New chapter for Coigach and Assynt Living Landscape Partnership - Scottish Wildlife Trust 

Ben Mor Coigach (image: Richard Williams, via Scottish Wildlife Trust)Ben Mor Coigach (image: Richard Williams, via Scottish Wildlife Trust)

Coigach and Assynt Living Landscape Partnership has received funding worth £2.9 million from the Heritage Lottery Fund, with additional support from other funders, to enable delivery of a wide range of projects over the next five years.

This support will enable Project Partners to deliver twenty eight projects that will collectively enhance the area’s natural, built and cultural heritage. Highlights include: creating and expanding native woodland, offering outdoor learning to all local schools, major repairs to the approach and summit paths of Suilven, and work to excavate and stabilise the Iron Age Clachtoll Broch.

Jonathan Hughes, Chief Executive, Scottish Wildlife Trust said: “With these generous awards from HLF, the Lund Fund and many others, we now have the opportunity to achieve something very special for the landscapes, the wildlife and the communities of Coigach and Assynt. Through seeking to work in true partnership with local communities, neighbouring landowners and fellow conservation charities, the Scottish Wildlife Trust has already achieved so much more than it ever could by going it alone. Having been personally involved in this project from the beginning I’m thrilled this funding is now in place and look forward to seeing work on the ground becoming a reality in the months and years ahead.”

A team of six staff will be employed to assist in the delivery of the individual projects, ensure the overall scheme has a meaningful and lasting impact, and to encourage wide community engagement and involvement with the scheme, through a range of volunteering and training opportunities and an outreach programme.


The humble stick revealed as the must-have toy for summer - National Trust

Recent research has shown that children are now spending only half as much time playing outdoors as their parents’ generation did. If you’re concerned that your kids aren’t getting enough time out in the fresh air then help is at hand – in the form of the simple stick.

We conducted a survey which showed that 84% of parents believe that playing outdoors makes their children more imaginative and creative, while 96% felt it was important for children to have a connection with nature.

These findings are supported by Child Developmental Psychologist Dr. Sam Wass, who  said ‘Being outdoors, with space to run around, is something that benefits all children… they have to use their imagination and their own creativity much more they do when they are indoors, watching screen media. [These] are vital life skills that will help children stay attuned to nature and to the environment throughout their adult lives.’

The survey also analysed the benefits of a range of toys, with the simple stick voted the best for fuelling children’s imaginative play and creativity.


10 things you can do to help the sea this National Marine Week (23 July – 7 August) - Wildlife Trusts blog

Grey seal (image copyright Alex Mustard/2020VISION via Wildlife Trusts)Grey seal (image copyright Alex Mustard/2020VISION via Wildlife Trusts)

In the UK, you’re never more than 70 miles from the coast – but even if you can’t make it to the seaside this National Marine Week, there are still lots of small, easy things to do to help our amazing UK marine life. Emily Cunningham tells us more...

1. Say no to single use: bags, bottles and coffee cups

2. No Straw, thanks

3. Ban the microbead

4. Choose Phosphate-free detergent

5. No more Balloon or Sky Lantern releases

6. Only flush the 3Ps

7. Check for misconnections

8. Do a 2 minute beach clean (or street clean) 

9. Become a Friend of MCZs!

10. Choose sustainable fish

Every summer, Wildlife Trusts across the UK join together to celebrate the amazing marine wildlife found all around the coasts of the UK. This year we’re taking you to the REAL rocky horror show – a celebration of all the weird and wonderful characters found in our rockpools. You can learn more at wildlifetrusts.org/rockpools


And here's some marine focused news for National Marine Week. 

Extensive population of carpet sea-squirt found off Herne Bay - Marine Biological Association

Carpet sea-squirt (MBA)We have recently received a video of an extensive subtidal occurrence of the non-native carpet sea-squirt (Didemnum vexillum).

Shot by Debbie Phillips, a member of Canterbury Divers, during a drift dive off Herne Bay on the north Kent coast earlier this month, the footage shows an extensive population of the sea squirt, in places covering over 50% of the sea bed.  D. vexillum was first found in the UK in 2008 and was first reported on the shore in north Kent in 2011, but an extensive subtidal occurrence on the open sea bed is a worrying further step in the colonisation of UK waters by this invasive species.

View the video on YouTube


Have scientists discovered a new species of whale? - Whale and Dolphin Conservation

A new species of beaked whale may have been discovered, according to a new paper published in Marine Mammal Science.

It follows the discovery of a dead whale that washed up on a beach in Alaska in 2014. Initially it was thought to be a Baird's beaked whale but it soon become clear that the creature, which measured over seven metres long, was a different species altogether.

Having compared the skull and DNA with that of whales known to inhabit the North Pacific, along with an analysis of records from whaling fleets, the authors of the report believe it is likely to be an entirely new species, one that Japanese fishermen called "karasu" or raven, due to its black colouration. Samples were also compared with the remains of other whales matching a similar description that were held in the the US and Japan, which turned out to be this new species.

At the moment, the whale has still to be formally named and recognised throughout the scientific community, but the possible discovery of a new species of 25ft long whale once again highlights how little we still know about life in the oceans. As with some other species of beaked whale, the challenge for scientists now is to observe the whale alive in the wild and find out how many there are and where they inhabit.


Old-Fashioned Horse Power Moves Mighty Oaks! - Surrey Wildlife Trust 

Daniel Brown and Tooky  (credit: Surrey Wildlife Trust)Daniel Brown and Tooky  (credit: Surrey Wildlife Trust)

Heavy horse power was brought in to move two giant oak trees at a woodland nature reserve near Guildford. The 200-year-old oaks, which were blown down in storms in March, are destined for use in the restoration of a local boardwalk.

Surrey Hills Horseman Daniel Brown and his comtois horse Tooky worked in perfect harmony as they tackled the removal job at Cucknell’s Wood – a Surrey Wildlife Trust site near Shamley Green, Guildford.  As a crowd of volunteers and locals looked on, Tooky flexed his muscles to shift two tonnes of solid English oak – the traditional way.

Surrey Wildlife Trust Ranger Leo Jennings said horses had been chosen rather than heavy machinery, because of their minimal impact on the ancient woodland and ability to access tricky sites.

“The ideal solution for ancient woodland sites with soft soil is heavy horses,” he said. “These gentle giants can turn on the spot, they have an infallible traction control system, they can step over obstacles and they do not wheel-spin! Although they sometimes work more slowly than machinery, they leave barely any mark and this is vital to ensuring the structure of the ancient woodland soil is not destroyed and is a far more appropriate tool for a nature reserve. Sometimes the old ways are the best.” 

The huge oaks will now be processed at the Trust’s own sawmill at Norbury Park, near Dorking, before being used to rebuild a rotting boardwalk at the Trust’s nature reserve on Chitty’s Common, near Guildford.  


National forest estate offers ideal habitats for Scottish Wildcats. - Forestry Commission Scotland

Building artificial dens to try to encourage Scottish wildcats to settle and breed on Scotland’s national forest estate is just one of the measures being taken in a multi-agency conservation project to save the ‘Highland tiger’. The first national conservation effort to halt the loss of wildcats and restore viable populations in the Highlands, Scottish Wildcat Action is an ambitious five-year project involving more than 20 leading professional conservation organisations, including Forest Enterprise Scotland, SWT, SNH and RZSS.

wildcat camera trap (image: Forestry Commission Scotland)wildcat camera trap (image: Forestry Commission Scotland)

Kenny Kortland, Species Ecologist with Forest Enterprise Scotland, said; "Wildcats prosper in a mosaic of habitats -  in Scotland they tend to select areas with forests for them to shelter in, but with adjacent open areas or grass and scrubland nearby for hunting. Well managed, commercial forests - with mixed age classes of trees and grassy clear-fell areas and riparian zones - are thought to be ideal for wildcats, so it makes sense that we would have a part to play in this project. We’ve helped the team build up their knowledge local sightings and of our forests - some of which, like Clashindarroch and Glen Doll forests, are huge and in remote areas. Hundreds of hectares have already been surveyed with camera traps, and these have recorded a wide range of species – including wildcats.”

The surveys also found that in most cases Scottish wildcats were sharing territory with or were living adjacent to feral cats, hybrid cats and un-neutered pet cats, presenting a huge risk of further hybridisation and of disease being passed into the wildcat population.


100 mile donation towards National Park paths - Lake District National Park 

To help with the extra wear and tear from hundreds of pairs of running feet during this weekend’s Lakeland 100 event, organisers will be donating £10,000 towards the much needed path repairs on the 100-mile route.

The Lakeland 100 is an annual running event in the Lake District, covering 100 miles around the National Park in 40 hours. The £10,000 donation will be spent on essential repairs to Welter Beck bridge near Ullswater and on footpath repair work in Langdale

Lake District National Park Project Ranger, Phil Clague, said: “It is fantastic when the organisers of large events are willing to give towards maintaining the precious landscape which they use.  High numbers of people can have a real impact on the tracks and trails of the National Park. The Lakeland 100 donation will help to address this – and will bring welcome improvements for everyone using these paths.”

Marc Laithwaite of Lakeland 100 said “The Montane Lakeland 50 and 100 is now in its ninth year and since it started in 2008, we have been dedicated to giving back to the local community and the Lake District National Park. We have funded several repair projects and this year, we’re excited to be part of a three year project to improve the footpath in Great Langdale valley. The fact that this section of footpath is on the event course, means that the competitors can see first hand how their contributions are being used to make a difference for all outdoor enthusiasts. We are keen to ensure that our event continues year after year and giving back is a critical part of the process. If we want this stunning landscape to be accessible for years to come, then it’s everyone’s responsibility to help.” 


Priority marine life catalogued - Scottish Natural Heritage

A colourful and intriguing catalogue of some of Scotland’s most important marine wildlife has been published today (Thursday 28/7) by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH).

Flame shell bed, (image copyright: Ben James via SNH)Flame shell bed, (image copyright: Ben James via SNH)

Illustrated with photos and maps, the catalogue describes Scotland’s 81 Priority Marine Features (PMFs). PMFs are the habitats and species considered to be conservation priorities in Scottish waters, many of which are star attractions for thousands of wildlife tourists that visit Scotland each year.

Our coasts and seas are home to around 8,000 animal and plant species and the PMF list is used to help target marine conservation work in Scotland. The list includes 55 species, ranging from small and relatively stationary creatures such as the heart cockle, fireworks anemone and northern feather star, to large highly mobile animals like the minke whale, Risso’s dolphin and common skate. The 26 habitat types on the list include maerl and flame shell beds, serpulid aggregations, cold-water coral reefs and seamount communities.  The descriptions cover each feature’s characteristics, environmental preferences, distribution and status.

Produced in partnership with Marine Scotland and the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC), Descriptions of Scottish Priority Marine Features can be downloaded free of charge from the SNH website. 


Licence for buzzard control - Natural England

Natural England issued a licence last night (28/7/16) permitting the control of up to 10 buzzards to prevent serious damage to young pheasants.

The licence is time-limited with stringent conditions and is based on the law, policy and best available evidence. It follows rigorous assessment after other methods had been tried unsuccessfully over a 5-year period.

It is stipulated that the licence must be used in combination with non-lethal measures and only on buzzards in and immediately around the animal pens - not on passing birds. These conditions are designed to make the licensed activity both proportionate and effective and we will continue to work with the applicant to assess this.


Reaction: Bad news for a Friday: RSPB reaction to Natural England issuing license to control up to 10 buzzards - Martin Harper's blog, RSPB Community

Many of the readers of this blog will remember ‘buzzardgate’, the subsequent u-turn and the licences granted to control buzzards in 2013.  

The thorny issue of licenses for buzzard control reappeared today when Natural England issued a licence permitting the control of up to 10 buzzards to “prevent serious damage to young pheasants”.

The killing of a recovering British bird of prey to protect an introduced gamebird for the benefit of commercial interest is wrong.  The decision sets a worrying precedent. What will be next? Red kites, peregrines, hen harriers?


Reaction:Grant of Buzzard Licence - National Gamekeepers Association

The NGO has issued the following statement in response to Natural England announcing earlier today that it has issued a licence for the control of up to 10 buzzards to prevent serious damage to young pheasants.

Buzzards are now very common and widespread, with a UK population of at least 300,000. Their numbers are increasing faster than virtually any other British bird. Like all wild birds, they are protected by law but can also be controlled under licence for certain well-defined purposes. They have, for example, been shot at UK airports for many years.

The law has allowed for licences like this since 1981 and Natural England, the Government's licensing authority, issues hundreds of licences every year for a wide range of species, many of them much less common than the buzzard. NE is not allowed to issue any licence that would harm the conservation status of the bird concerned.

We are making no further comment on the particulars of the licence that NE has granted today.


London’s stunning stag beetles: globally endangered but still strong in south London - London Wildlife Trust

The stag beetle, Britain’s largest beetle, is globally-endangered and is rare or extinct across much of Britain, but they’re hanging on in London’s parks and gardens, especially in south London.London stag beetle by Julie Ramsden

London stag beetle by Julie Ramsden

London Wildlife Trust has been asking the public to record sightings of stag beetles via their website, and has received over 800 sightings this year, with the majority of reports coming from south London. This has been one of the ‘best’ years for records since the Trust started collecting stag beetle sightings in 1997, and further helps to identify priorities for their conservation,

Mathew Frith, director of conservation at London Wildlife Trust said: “The skewed distribution of stag beetles across London still isn’t fully understood, so the more sightings we can record the better. Beetle friendly sites can be found all over London, and yet we get the majority of our reports from gardens, parks and streets in the south." 

"We do know that the beetles can be quite site-specific as the females rarely take to the air, so their dispersion is slow and can be constrained by rivers as well as roads, buildings and other artificial obstacles. What is very obvious though is that many Londoners are awed by this amazing animal and have shared their excitement with the Trust. This gives us confidence that efforts to protect and conserve their habitats – woodlands with lots of dead wood – will continue to secure public support.”

If you have seen a stag beetle in London you can share your sighting with the Trust online here. 


Largest ever study reveals globally protected areas benefit broad range of species - University of Sussex

The world’s protected areas do benefit a broad range of species – scientists from a collaborative research project led by the University of Sussex have discovered for the first-time.

The study, carried out by the University of Sussex working together with the Natural History Museum and the UN Environment Programme’s World Conservation Monitoring Centre, is the largest ever analysis of globally protected areas.  By analysing biodiversity samples taken from 1,939 sites inside and 4,592 sites outside 359 protected areas, scientists have discovered the protected area samples contain 15 percent more individuals and 11 percent more species compared to samples from unprotected sites.  The research was carried out by using a new global biodiversity database (the PREDICTS database) which contains data for approximately over one percent of all known species and spans 48 countries and 101 ecoregions - the most comprehensive biodiversity sample of terrestrial protected areas to ever be examined.

Largest study of biodiversity inside and outside Globally protected areasLargest study of biodiversity inside and outside Globally protected areas (image: University of Sussex)

Co-lead author of the study, Dr Claudia Gray, from the University of Sussex, said: “Previously, regional or global studies of protected areas have mostly used information from satellite photos, to look at changes in forest cover. Instead, we used a particularly exciting new dataset, which brings together information collected on the ground by hundreds of scientists all over the world.  We have been able to show for the first-time how protection effects thousands of species, including plants, mammals, birds and insects. This has provided us with important insights into these areas - which previous studies were not able to do.”

From the study, scientists also discovered protection is most effective when human use of land for crops, pasture and plantations is minimised. The results suggest that better management across the existing protected area network could more than double its effectiveness.

Read the paper: Claudia L. Gray, Samantha L. L. Hill, Tim Newbold, Lawrence N. Hudson, Luca Börger, Sara Contu, Andrew J. Hoskins, Simon Ferrier, Andy Purvis & Jörn P. W. Scharlemann  Local biodiversity is higher inside than outside terrestrial protected areas worldwide. Nature Communicationsdoi:10.1038/ncomms12306


National Trust rangers in Brecon Beacons call in helicopter help for essential path conservation work - National Trust

As the nation celebrates National Parks Week (25-31 July), National Trust rangers have called in helicopter support to carry out essential conservation work on footpaths on Corn Du, the second highest peak in the Brecon Beacons National Park, South Wales.

(copyright National Trust Images / Graham Bettiss)(copyright National Trust Images / Graham Bettiss)

Over two days earlier this month a fuel-efficient SD2 Squirrel helicopter flew 160 tonnes of local sandstone to rangers on Corn Du. One tonne of this ‘scalping’ stone will cover around two metres of footpath.

An estimated 300,000 people visit National Trust places in the Brecon Beacons every year. By regularly repairing footpaths, rangers from the conservation charity help minimise soil erosion on the hill and prevent damage to the rare plants that grow on the hillside, such as Purple Saxifrage, the most southerly arctic-alpine plant in Britain.

The National Trust cares for over 3,300 hectares (8,200 acres) and 43 miles of path in the Welsh National Park, including southern Britain’s highest mountain, Pen-y-Fan.

Rob Reith, National Trust Lead Ranger, has been repairing paths in the Brecon Beacons for thirty years. He said: “Protecting the landscape from erosion caused by walkers and the weather takes time and money. We’re able to perform essential path maintenance thanks to the generosity of our volunteers and supporters.” 


Scientific Publications

Stillfried, M. et al (2016) Do cities represent sources, sinks or isolated islands for urban wild boar population structure? Journal of Applied Ecology DOI: 10.1111/1365-2664.12756


Navarro, J. et al (2016) Feathered Detectives: Real-Time GPS Tracking of Scavenging Gulls Pinpoints Illegal Waste Dumping. Plos One. DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0159974


Zimmerling, J. R. and Francis, C. M. (2016), Bat mortality due to wind turbines in Canada. The Journal of Wildlife Management. doi: 10.1002/jwmg.21128


Lars Straub, Laura Villamar-Bouza, Selina Bruckner, Panuwan Chantawannakul, Laurent Gauthier, Kitiphong Khongphinitbunjong, Gina Retschnig, Aline Troxler, Beatriz Vidondo, Peter Neumann, Geoffrey R. Williams Neonicotinoid insecticides can serve as inadvertent insect contraceptives. Proceedings of the Royal Society: biological sciences  Published 27 July 2016.DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2016.0506



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