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


No certification, no sale of rodenticides from 1st October 2016 – Barn Owl Trust

According to latest government figures, 87% of Barn Owls contain rat poison so the following announcement really is good news…

No certification, no sale of rodenticides from 1st October
From 1st October farmers, gamekeepers, pest controllers and their employees buying professional rodenticide packs for use outdoors will need to show either an approved certificate of competence or document confirming membership of an approved farm assurance scheme.  Without documentation from that date onwards, all sellers including those online are prohibited from completing the sale under the conditions of the UK Rodenticide Stewardship Regime.
The Campaign for Responsible Rodenticide Use (CRRU) reports to HSE for implementation of the stewardship regime. In addition to new conditions of sale, CRRU UK chairman Dr Alan Buckle says the way rodenticides are used must change if we are to reduce the occurrence of residues in wildlife. “For many years it was thought best practice to set out bait points on farms, shooting estates and around rural premises, then keep them permanently topped up with rodenticide,” he says. “We now believe this practice is responsible, at least in part, for the contamination of wildlife that we now see so widely in the UK. Of course, there is no risk if rodenticides are not used. So it must be a high priority in all outdoor rural locations to make them as inhospitable as possible to rodents. This is done by reducing harbourage and preventing access to foodstuffs. It is simply not acceptable to provide ‘bed and board’ for rodents and solve the problem by repeatedly poisoning them with rodenticides.”
CRRU UK has recently published a new guideline about safer and effective alternatives to permanent baiting, when it may be justified and, if it is, how to do it most safely.

Here’s our advice on how to control rats as safely as possible.


Woodland Trust reveals Tree of the Year contenders 

29 of the UK’s finest trees have been revealed by the Woodland Trust as it searches for the next Tree of the Year. The shortlisted entries include the dying original Bramley apple tree, a tree whose trunk has swallowed up a bicycle and the Brimmon Oak, which will see a road diverted around its base thanks to campaigners. 
A panel of experts in each country whittled down nearly 200 public nominations to create shortlists based on the nominees’ story, how they would make use of a care grant and visual appeal of the tree; 10 trees were chosen in England, seven in Wales and six in both Scotland and Northern Ireland. 

Bowthorpe Oak, Bourne, Lincolnshire. Nominated by Sue Cork (image: Julian Height)Bowthorpe Oak, Bourne, Lincolnshire. Nominated by Sue Cork (image: Julian Height)
This 1,000-year-old tree stands in a field at Manthorpe, near Bourne. Its hollow trunk has been used for parties; at one point, it is claimed, three dozen people managed to stand within it.

The Trust, with support from players of People’s Postcode Lottery, is now inviting the public to vote for their favourite tree in each region before October 10, with the winners going forward to the European Tree of the Year competition in early 2017. 
The winning tree in each country will benefit from a “Tree LC” care grant of £1,000, with any tree reaching over 1,000 votes receiving a grant of £500. The grant can be used to arrange a health check from an arboriculturalist, provide interpretation or educational materials or simply just hold a celebratory event in honour of the tree.
To see all the shortlists and vote for your favourite tree visit www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/treeoftheyear


New Hen Harriers Satellite Tagging Project Website Launched by HOT - Hawk and Owl Trust

The Hawk and Owl Trust have just launched a new dedicated website to provide details of its Hen Harriers Satellite Tagging Project – an initiative to help save English hen harriers from extinction.

The website – hawkandowl.org/HHST/ – will track the actual flight paths of two hen harriers fitted with satellite tagging ‘backpacks’. In turn the Trust will publish – with a suitable time delay and disguised location data – the information up/down loaded to the satellite so that they can monitor their progress and ascertain an understanding of harrier movement from their birth areas, their dispersal across heather uplands and their communal roost sites in winter where they are most vulnerable to persecution.

The project contributes towards a six-point plan, initiated by the government, to restore the population of English Hen Harriers which are close to extinction.

Under the umbrella of its Upland Stakeholder Forum (USF) the UK Govt. Dept. Defra established a hen harrier sub-group with the remit of looking “specifically at the issues surrounding hen harrier populations in England”.

The Hawk and Owl Trust is providing active support to two actions within the six-point plan: 1. Monitoring of populations in England and UK and 4. Nest and Winter Roost Protection.

As part of this recovery plan Natural England, on behalf of the Hawk and Owl Trust, have recently satellite tagged two juvenile female hen harriers from the Scottish borders.

The satellite data received, when the tagged harriers have left their natal area, will be displayed on our new website where you will be able to follow the fortunes of the Hen Harriers, which have been named Sorrel and Rowan. 


'Green exercise’ in England benefits health to the tune of £2.2 billion a year – University of Exeter

Physical activity in natural environments, or ‘green exercise’, is estimated to provide health benefits of £2.2 billion a year to the English adult population, according to new research published in the journal Preventive Medicine.

Researchers from the University of Exeter Medical School and Public Health England analysed data from the world’s largest study on recreational visits to natural places, such as parks, woods and beaches. They estimated that over 8 million adults in England engage in green exercise each week, resulting in over 1.3 billion green exercise visits a year.

‘Green exercise’ is estimated to provide health benefits of £2.2 billion a year to the English adult population.‘Green exercise’ is estimated to provide health benefits of £2.2 billion a year to the English adult population. (image University of Exeter)

Green exercise was defined in the study as nature-based activities of moderate to vigorous intensity and lasting over 30 minutes. Examples included dog walking, running, horse riding, outdoor swimming and mountain biking. Because physical activity needs to be regular and sustained to benefit health, the team focused on those who reported regularly meeting government guidelines for physical activity (i.e. 5 x 30 minutes each week). They then worked out what proportion of these people’s weekly physical activity took place in natural settings and estimated the benefits to health associated with their levels of green exercise if sustained across the year.

Dr Mathew White, of the University of Exeter Medical School, is lead author of the research. He said: “We’ve known for a long time that regular physical activity is good for health and reduces the burden on health services. We have now worked out approximately how much physical activity regularly takes place in England’s natural environments and how much this benefits adult health across the population. Ultimately these benefits will translate into savings for the NHS, highlighting the need to both maintain and promote our natural environments for exercise and health.”


Asian hornet identified in Gloucestershire - DEFRA

There has been a confirmed sighting of the Asian hornet in the Tetbury area of Gloucestershire

Photograph of the Asian hornet identified in GloucestershirePhotograph of the Asian hornet identified in Gloucestershire

The National Bee Unit has confirmed a sighting of the Asian hornet in the Tetbury area of Gloucestershire – the first time the hornet has been discovered in the UK.

The Asian hornet is smaller than our native hornet and poses no greater risk to human health than a bee. However, they do pose a risk to honey bees.

Work to identify, destroy and remove any nests is already underway, which includes:

  • setting up a 3 mile surveillance zone around Tetbury
  • opening a local control centre to coordinate the response
  • deploying bee inspectors across the area who will use infrared cameras and traps to locate any nests
  • readying nest disposal experts who will use pesticides to kill the hornets and destroy any nests


Much maligned false widow spider found in Notts – Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust

Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust has today announced that the false widow (Steatoda nobilis), thought to be the most venomous spider in the UK, has arrived in Nottinghamshire following a steady northward shift in its range. It was found last weekend at the Trust’s Attenborough Duke of Burgundy-butterfly on cowslip. © Mark V Pike/PlantlifeNature Reserve by Tim Sexton of Attenborough Nature Centre. 

Image: Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust

Originally from the Canary Islands, the spider first appeared on the south coast in 1879 - having been accidentally introduced via shipments of bananas. For many years it was restricted to the warmer southern counties however, it is believed that milder winters over the last decade have enabled the population to expand its range.

Speaking about the find Tim said: “Whilst sightings north of Bedfordshire are still infrequent, the false widow reached Leicestershire in 2014, so it was only a matter of time before they appeared in Notts. I’ve been looking for them at Attenborough for the last year, although before the weekend I had only found their smaller cousin, known as the rabbit hutch spider (Steatoda bipunctata).”


Viridor launches project to help save endangered wild flowers - Plantlife

New collaboration with Plantlife to help save UK native species

Duke of Burgundy-butterfly on cowslip. © Mark V Pike/PlantlifeDuke of Burgundy-butterfly on cowslip. © Mark V Pike/Plantlife

One of the UK’s largest recycling and renewable energy companies, Viridor, is collaborating with international conservation organisation Plantlife, to help save endangered UK wild flowers.

The Natural Capital pilot project, launched during #GlobalGoals Week, aims to increase the populations of meadow clary, a rare flower which needs help to prevent it disappearing, as its natural ecosystem has been lost.  The flower species is now found as a native population at twenty-one locations in the UK.

The project will also establish Butterfly Meadows of wild flowers at Viridor sites to help the UK’s most threatened wildlife group. Through employee and stakeholder engagement, the programme will nurture and support flowers, such as Yellow Rattle, Field scabious and Betony and butterfly species, such as Ringlet, Small copper and Marbled white.

This innovation by Viridor complies with the aims of the first global Natural Capital Protocol, a voluntary collaboration launched on 13 July by the Natural Capital Coalitionto allow businesses everywhere to benefit from understanding their relationships with nature and to contribute to the common good.

Viridor will connect nature and climate change to business operations, people and the community by actively involving regional operations and employees at various sites. The company hopes to deliver 1,500 hours of volunteering by March 2017.

Inder Poonaji, Sustainability Director at Viridor, said: “As nature becomes more fragmented as increased urbanisation and the demand for infrastructure grows, less land is available for biodiversity and ecosystem services. With key species under great threat, there has never been a more poignant time to implement a project of this nature. 


Buglife concern as first Asian hornets confirmed in England

Matt Shardlow, Chief Executive of Buglife commented. ”It’s arrival is of huge concern, our pollinators are currently in decline from pesticide use, loss of habitat and climatic change, this voracious predator now could push some species beyond the tipping point and into extinction.  It seems likely to have arrived as a stowaway, the same way they reached continental Europe. Again the UK’s lax biosecurity rules are highlighted; routes for invasive species must be tightened so that these problems species are kept at bay.”


Striking findings for Heads Up for Harriers project this year – Scottish Natural Heritage

The ‘Heads Up for Harriers’ project has recorded some striking findings this year, despite a noticeable drop in nesting activity compared to last year.

Hen harrier on nest with chicks (image: SNH)Hen harrier on nest with chicks (image: SNH)

Cameras have shown four more birds to have fledged in 2016 compared to 2015, despite fewer nesting attempts.

Building on the success of 2015, the Partnership for Action Against Wildlife Crime Scotland (PAW Scotland) project was expanded from five to thirteen participating estates across Scotland.  The thirteen estates participating in the project have cameras installed on their land to monitor hen harrier nests. The cameras record images both on the nest and within the immediate area, to help better understand the reasons for nesting failure and improve hen harrier breeding success in the future.  Despite the greater coverage this year though, the numbers of nesting attempts, and therefore the number of monitored nests was down, from last year. There were five successful nests across three estates, fledging a total of fourteen birds. Last year, three successful nests fledged 10 birds, with three nests failing (one due to bad weather and one due to fox predation).

Scott Smith, Heads Up for Harrier Project Officer for the South of Scotland, said “Hen harriers rely predominately on voles as a food source during pre-laying and throughout the breeding season. Vole populations are cyclical, with approximately five-year cycles. Low vole numbers have an adverse effect on hen harrier breeding numbers and productivity brood counts are also lower during these low cycles. It appears there was a crash of vole populations in the South of Scotland this year, which had a noticeable impact on the number of breeding attempts we have observed.”

As in previous years, the nest cameras have proved invaluable in determining reasons for failure, including a dramatic example of fox predation on one of the nests in Southern Scotland. Footage shows five healthy chicks (which appeared ready to fledge) being attacked by a fox, which visited the nest over the course of three days. The feisty chicks were able to fend off the fox, but unfortunately one was fatally injured and found dead near the nest.


SNH and farmers work to save rare Highland newt – Scottish Natural Heritage

The eggs of a rare species of newt have been found in specially created ponds on a Black Isle farm in the Highlands.  The discovery is significant as it was feared at one point that the Highland great crested newt was in trouble.  The species was shown by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) and the University of Salford to be genetically distinct from those in Scotland and Europe.

There are only around 30 known ponds with breeding Highland crested newts in the region, though habitat creation projects under SNH’s Species Action Framework (SAF) have led to another three ponds being colonised within one year.   The SAF work with landowners and land managers resulted in ponds being specially created to form suitable habitat for the species.   The ponds’ design and siting was based on careful study but even so, the speed with which the newts have moved into their new homes has surprised and delighted those involved with the project.

Jeanette Hall of Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) found the eggs - she was one of the scientists who first helped show that the newts were native to the Highlands.

She said: “The SAF project was designed to help species that may otherwise have been in trouble, and we are very grateful to the land managers and farmers who gave so much of their time and set aside land for these newt ponds to be created. Without them, this work would not have taken place.”

In the past the great crested newt bred in ponds created for cattle to drink from, but with few such ponds nowadays, populations have become isolated, leaving the newts vulnerable to extinction.


Search to find UK's Best Park launched by Fields in Trust

A nationwide search to find the country's favourite local green space nominated and selected by public vote

Do you think that your local park, playground or playing field is the best in the country? Here's your chance to prove it. Fields in Trust have launched a campaign to find the UK's Best Park, as voted by YOU! This unique award is open to all public green spaces across the UK through a simple online nomination. It might be that your local park is great for a Sunday afternoon stroll, your neighbourhood playground is a hive of activity for children, or a nature reserve provides a stress-free space to relax. This is your chance to help your favourite space gain the recognition it deserves.

Telford Town Park (image: Fields in Trust)Telford Town Park (image: Fields in Trust)

At a time when the UK's parks are seeing a dramatic reduction in funding for upkeep and maintenance and childhood obesity is identified as a growing concern, the UK's Best Park award will highlight the vital role of local parks and green spaces - for play, relaxation or sport - and help ensure they are protected from closure or building development.

UK's Best Park is a unique award open to all local green spaces across the UK. A simple online nomination form allows anyone to suggest their favourite local green space. This will be followed by a public vote to identify a shortlist with the winner announced at the Fields in Trust Awards Ceremony on 30th November.

Fields in Trust Chief Executive Helen Griffiths said: "Parks and open spaces are arguably the most universal of all public services. They are used by the entire community from pre-school children through to retired adults - our nation's parks and green spaces are places to enjoy life experiences, whether that's reaching a personal sporting milestone, teaching grandchildren to cycle, engaging with nature, having a first kiss or simply walking a much loved dog.

"Our Awards help recognise the role that our parks play in our communities, bringing people together and creating a safe outdoor environment that everyone should be entitled to. We want to celebrate them and invite all park users to vote for their favourite green space."

Nominate your park here.


Final phase of large bog restoration project completed - Buglife

Fannyside Muir Cell-bunded pools near Palacerigg Country Park © Dave Beaumont RSPB via BuglifeFannyside Muir Cell-bunded pools near Palacerigg Country Park © Dave Beaumont RSPB via Buglife

Wildlife Charity Buglife Scotland and partners Forest Enterprise Scotland, North Lanarkshire Council and the Scottish Wildlife Trust have completed the final phase of a large bog restoration project at Fannyside Muir, near Cumbernauld.

More than 80% of Scotland’s bogs have been lost or damaged in the last 200 years, mainly by drainage for agriculture, forestry and commercial peat extraction.  As part of their Slamannan Bog Restoration Project, Buglife Scotland have restored over 210 hectares of damaged bog at Fannyside Muir by blocking old ditches and removing trees to encourage peat-forming Sphagnum moss to recolonise the site.  Over 4100 dams have now been installed and 25 hectares of conifers and scrub have been removed by volunteers and contractors.

Twenty-seven hectares of shallow bog pools have also been created for dragonflies and other wildlife, including rare Taiga bean geese that roost on the bog in winter.  Prior to restoration work only 11% of site was in favourable condition (ground water within 10cm of surface).  Following restoration, the monitored sections of Fannyside Muir are holding an extra 258 million litres of rain water (on average), and over 90% of the site is suitable for peat-forming Sphagnum moss to recolonise. 

The project has provided volunteering and training opportunities for 56 volunteers, who contributed over 396 volunteer hours helping with tree clearance, ditch blocking and monitoring.  More than 650 species of invertebrates, plants, mosses, fungi, birds, mammals, amphibians and reptiles have been recorded from the bog


Scientific publications

Josefsson, J., Hiron, M., Pärt, T. & Eggers, S. (2016) Sensitivity of the farmland bird community to crop diversification in Sweden: does the CAP fit? Journal of Applied Ecology. DOI: 10.1111/1365-2664.12779


Davy, C. M., Mastromonaco, G. F., Riley, J. L., Baxter-Gilbert, J. H., Mayberry, H. and Willis, C. K.R. (2016), Conservation implications of physiological carry-over effects in bats recovering from white-nose syndrome. Conservation Biology. Accepted Author Manuscript. doi:10.1111/cobi.12841


Kueneman, J. G.  et al (2016) Probiotic treatment restores protection against lethal fungal infection lost during amphibian captivity Proceedings of the Royal Society B. DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2016.1553


S. L. Cox, P. I. Miller, C. B. Embling, K. L. Scales, A. W. J. Bicknell, P. J. Hosegood, G. Morgan, S. N. Ingram, S. C. Votier. Seabird diving behaviour reveals the functional significance of shelf-sea fronts as foraging hotspots. Royal Society Open Access Published 21 September 2016.DOI: 10.1098/rsos.160317


Thomas, V.G., Gremse, C. & Kanstrup, N. Non-lead rifle hunting ammunition: issues of availability and performance in Europe.  European Journal of Wildlife Research (2016). doi:10.1007/s10344-016-1044-7


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