CJS Logo & link to homepage

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


Record breaking numbers of migrant bird arrive on Tiree - RSPB

A record breaking 2,270 black-tailed godwits have arrived on the Isle of Tiree this spring, the highest number thought to have ever been counted in Scotland at one time.

These large wading birds often stop off in the Hebrides in April and May to refuel during their long migration to Iceland, where they breed.

The Isle of Tiree typically only sees a few hundred godwits, in their brick-red finery, dropping in to feed around the well-grazed loch edges and wet grasslands. The previous record was 1,320 birds back in 2013.

The new record, set in April 2017, almost doubles that, representing some 5% of the entire Icelandic breeding population. One of the flocks was spotted on an RSPB Scotland reserve, but the largest was recorded in a tiny field at Kilmoluaig, totalling 1,750 birds.


Environmental groups call for a new approach to deer management – Scottish Wildlife Trust

A coalition of environment charities including the Scottish Wildlife Trust is urging the Scottish Government to move towards a modernised system that will help deliver national targets on biodiversity, climate change and woodland expansion.

Red deer in woodland © Lister CummingRed deer in woodland © Lister Cumming

This call comes ahead of a Scottish Parliament debate on 2 May 2017, which follows over four years of intense scrutiny of the current arrangements by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) and the cross-party Holyrood committees responsible for the environment.

The Trust’s Head of Policy Maggie Keegan said: “Overgrazing and trampling by deer has had a profound effect on the health and connectivity of Scotland’s ecosystems, especially in the uplands. We urge the Scottish Government to take on the committee’s recommendations on deer management. There is no time to lose to halt the loss of biodiversity and meet our 2020 targets.”


Light pollution has serious impact on coastal wildlife, research shows – University of Exeter

Scientists have recognised for some years that light pollution from buildings, vehicles and streetlights is a growing phenomenon that impacts on the behaviour and success of many animals including migrating birds, hunting bats and the moths they try to capture.

As the human population grows the problem is due to worsen and even remote coastal areas are now being affected by civilization’s tell-tale glow-in-the-sky. Turtles, disoriented as they return to their nesting beaches, or confused hatchlings struggling to find the sea, are iconic examples.

Dogwhelks are highly important inhabitants of the seashore. Image courtesy of Kelvin Boot (PML)Now, a new study conducted by scientists from the University of Exeter and the Plymouth Marine Laboratory and the University of Exeter looks at the true extent to which light pollution is affecting key marine wildlife in the UK.

Dogwhelks are highly important inhabitants of the seashore. Image courtesy of Kelvin Boot (PML).

The research team set up a series of laboratory experiments to determine whether the less well known, but highly important inhabitants of the seashore were also affected. Using the dogwhelk (Nucella lapillus), a key seashore species that modulates biodiversity and community structure of our coasts, they kept one group of dogwhelks in artificially-lit night sky conditions, while a control group experienced a more natural night/day cycle.

The research showed that those dogwhelks kept under artificial lighting conditions were less likely to seek out shelter and spent longer seeking food – putting them at exposed risk to predators and placing them in more stressful conditions. The study showed, for the first time, that night time light changes species interactions at the heart of the way in which natural food chains work, raising concern about how generalised these impacts may be for natural marine wildlife.


'Shocking' levels of PCB chemicals in UK killer whale Lulu - Hebridean Whale & Dolphin Trust

A member of the small West Coast of Scotland group of killer whales – found dead and stranded on the Isle of Tiree in the Hebrides, Scotland, last year – had one of the highest levels of polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) pollution ever recorded in the species, said the Scottish Marine Animal Stranding Scheme today.

The adult killer whale – identified by the Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust as a well-known animal named ‘Lulu’ – died from becoming entangled in creel rope in January 2016, but subsequent analysis undertaken over the past year has shed further light on her case.  Analysis of Lulu’s blubber revealed PCB concentrations 80 times higher than the accepted PCB toxicity threshold for marine mammals. High PCB levels are linked to poor health, impaired immune function, increased susceptibility to cancers and infertility.  Work, undertaken in collaboration with the University of Aberdeen, found that Lulu was at least 20 years old. Based on analysis of the ovaries, it appears that she never reproduced, despite being much older than the average age for maturity in killer whales.

These findings do not bode well for Lulu’s small pod. This small group is usually seen off the west coast of Scotland, and numbers only eight individuals. These individuals never interact with other groups of killer whale, nor has a calf been recorded within the group in the 23 years it has been monitored. 

There is a growing concern amongst many cetacean scientists that, unless a much more proactive approach is taken to assessing and decontaminating PCB-contaminated sites to stop these pollutants leaching into the marine environment, then the effects we’re seeing with this small group of killer whales on the west of Scotland could become evident in many more of our iconic marine mammal species.

Dr Lauren Hartny-Mills, the Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust’s Science Officer, said: “Monitoring the West Coast Community of killer whales is a concerted effort, with sightings reports and photographs from the public, wildlife operators and fishermen helping us better understand the group’s movements, range and social interactions. Anyone can help and if you are lucky enough to encounter a killer whale (or indeed any whale, dolphin or porpoise) please report it to us HERE


Restocking underway at Cwmcarn Forest - Natural Resources Wales 

Saplings ready for planting (image: NRW)Around 170,000 new, young trees are being planted at Cwmcarn Forest, as Natural Resources Wales (NRW) begins restocking areas which have been felled in recent years.

Saplings ready for planting (image: NRW)

The new trees have been grown from seeds that were previously collected locally from Abercarn. They will cover approximately 80 hectares of land across the southern part of the forest and will include a mixture of conifer and native broadleaf.  By planting a mix of different trees, it is hoped that the forest will be more resilient to climate change and disease in the future.  And while it might look different in years to come, it will mean it can remain an enjoyable place to visit in the future, while continuing to provide commercially marketable timber for local trade. 

The felling operation in Cwmcarn Forest continues as NRW battles to remove over 160,000 larch trees which are infected with Phytophthora Ramorum, or larch disease as it is known.  To date, approximately 30% of infected trees have been removed from the forest. 


‘Inner city’ seals may suffer hearing loss - University of St Andrews

Seals may experience hearing loss from underwater vessel noise, according to new research from the University of St Andrews.

The study, led by ecologist Esther Jones, compares seals inhabiting the UK’s busy shipping lanes to humans living in noisy cities.

In a new paper published by the Journal of Applied Ecology, the St Andrews researcher says the noise can affect how sea mammals such as whales, dolphins and seals find food and communicate with each other.

(Image: Esther Jones, CREEM)(Image: Esther Jones, CREEM)

Dr Jones, a Research Fellow in the University’s Centre for Research into Ecological and Environmental Modelling (CREEM), said: “Like humans living in busy, noisy cities, some seals live in areas where there is a lot of shipping traffic and associated noise. The UK has some of the busiest shipping lanes in the world, and underwater noise has been increasing over the last 30 years.”

The St Andrews team developed maps showing the levels of risk of exposure to vessel traffic for grey and harbour seals around the UK.   The researchers found that 11 out of 25 Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) associated with seals had a high risk of overlap between seals and shipping.

The team then investigated the underwater noise levels generated by vessels that individual animals were exposed to in the Moray Firth, on the north-east coast of Scotland, using predictive acoustic noise models.  For 20 out of the 28 animals observed in the study, the levels of predicted noise were high enough that temporary hearing loss could occur (termed Temporary Threshold Shift, or TTS). Predictions from the acoustic models were compared to measurements from sound recorders to verify their accuracy.  Although there was no evidence that seals were exposed to ship noise levels high enough to cause permanent hearing damage, some sites were sufficiently noisy that seals living there could experience TTS in hearing ability.

Access the publication: Jones, E. L., Hastie, G. D., Smout, S., Onoufriou, J., Merchant, N. D., Brookes, K. L. and Thompson, D. (2017), Seals and shipping: quantifying population risk and individual exposure to vessel noise. J Appl Ecol. doi:10.1111/1365-2664.12911


Neonicotinoid pesticide reduces egg development in wild bumblebee queens - Royal Holloway, University of London

New research published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B has found that wild bumblebee queens are less able to develop their ovaries when exposed to a common neonicotinoid pesticide

The research was conducted by Dr Gemma Baron , Professor Mark Brown from the School of Biological Sciences at Royal Holloway, University of London and Professor Nigel Raine, (now based at the University of Guelph).

The study investigated the impact of exposure to field-realistic levels of a neonicotinoid insecticide (thiamethoxam) on the feeding behaviour and ovary development of four species of bumblebee queen.

Bombus Terrestris Bee (image: Royal Holloway, University of London)Bombus Terrestris Bee (image: Royal Holloway, University of London)

Lead author Dr Baron said, “We consistently found that neonicotinoid exposure, at levels mimicking exposure that queens could experience in agricultural landscapes, resulted in reduced ovary development in queens of all four species we tested.  Impacts of neonicotinoid exposure on feeding behaviour were species-specific, with two out of four species eating less artificial nectar when exposed to the pesticide. These impacts are likely to reduce the success of bumblebee queens in the spring, with knock-on effects for bee populations later in the year”

As the first to examine the impacts of these chemicals across multiple bumblebee species, this study is an important contribution to understanding the potential costs of using this class of insecticides.

Dr Baron explained, “Previous studies have focused on a single bumblebee species and examined impacts in workers and established colonies. Bumblebee populations rely on spring queens to succeed, and by looking at the impacts of thiamethoxam on multiple species of spring queens, we have gained a step-change in our understanding”.

Read the paper: Gemma L. Baron, Nigel E. Raine, Mark J. F. Brown. General and species-specific impacts of a neonicotinoid insecticide on the ovary development and feeding of wild bumblebee queens. Proc. R. Soc. B 2017 284 20170123; DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2017.0123. Published 3 May 2017  


Osprey chicks return against the odds - Cumbria Wildlife Trust

Cumbria Wildlife Trust is delighted to learn that two osprey chicks, which were raised at Foulshaw Moss Nature Reserve near Witherslack, have survived into adulthood and returned to the north of England for the summer.

Blue V3 (right) at Kielder, Northumberland. Photo: Forestry Commission EnglandA male osprey was spotted flying above the South Lakes last month and was identified by its leg ring as Blue 7A, one of three chicks raised by a pair of breeding ospreys at Foulshaw Moss Nature Reserve three years ago.

Blue V3 (right) at Kielder, Northumberland. Photo: Forestry Commission England

Then earlier this week the Trust was informed by Kielder Ospreys in Northumberland that a female, Blue V3 (pictured above, right), was spotted on their web cam, trying to land on an already-occupied nest. As the photo shows, the incumbent female dispatched Blue V3 very dramatically! Blue V3 hatched at Foulshaw Moss Nature Reserve in 2015 and it seems she was attempting to return to her ‘grandparent’ nest, as one of her parents hatched at Kielder.

Paul Waterhouse, Reserves Officer at Cumbria Wildlife Trust explains the significance of these sightings: “This is exciting and important news for us as these sightings are the first confirmation we’ve had that any of the osprey chicks raised at Foulshaw Moss Nature Reserve since 2013 have survived into adulthood. Unfortunately 60-70% of osprey chicks don’t reach maturity - the arduous 2000-mile migration from the UK back to Africa or Iberia claims most of them. We’re delighted to see that at least two chicks have made it into adulthood, against the odds, and returned to the north of England. It also shows how invaluable the leg rings are, as they enable us all to identify the ospreys individually, keep tracks of their movements and understand the life history of these wonderful birds of prey.”

The parents of Blue 7A (White YW and Blue 35) recently returned to nest at Foulshaw Moss Nature Reserve and Paul thinks that Blue 35 has laid at least one egg. Another female osprey (AK1) from Loch Eye, Easter Ross in Scotland has also been seen at the nature reserve recently, giving rise to speculation that she also may be looking for a future breeding ground.


Countryside Alliance raises awareness of the risk of wildfires - Countryside Alliance

Wildfires have the capability to devastate farmland, wildlife and protected habitats, as well as the lives of people living and working in rural communities. The risk at spring time is particularly prevalent as dead vegetation left over from the winter, higher temperatures and lower humidity levels can come together with deadly affect. The Countryside Alliance wishes to raise the awareness of the risk and potential damage of wildfires, and educate on the measures that can be taken to reduce those risks.

Wildfires in the UK are fortunately few and far between; however, their ability to start in rural locations under difficult conditions adds a risk that rural fire and rescue services have to be prepared for. Successful partnerships and groups have been formed in high risk areas with great success; promoting cooperation and collaboration on wildfire issues.

Jack Knott, Countryside Alliance Campaigns Manager, said: “Wildfires can have potentially devastating impacts on farming and local communities, wildlife and protected habitats. It is essential that all steps are taken to reduce the risk, this includes increasing education for those that enjoy our beautiful countryside. Raising awareness is the key to reducing risk.

“Remaining vigilant, especially during spells of hot dry weather, whilst enjoying the British countryside is essential. Furthermore, disposing of litter correctly, in particularly smoking materials, can help prevent wildfires.”


UK wildlife haven created at Chester Zoo - Act for Wildlife

The Nature Reserve first opened in 2013 and is located outside the boundary of the main zoo near the visitor entrance.  It currently spans around 10,000 square metres of land, and contains an amphitheatre, a wildlife pond and a new woodland with 150 native trees. The site will grow to more than 50,000 square metres, creating and enhancing important fragile habitat.

Surveys have shown that the site is already home to lots of British wildlife, from rare polecats and the sharply declining hedgehog, to a range of bee and butterfly species and the great crested newt. Birds including reed-bunting, grasshopper warbler and skylark are already known to nest in the area, and threatened harvest mice were introduced to the area by conservationists at the zoo in 2002 and 2003.

Sarah Bird, Chester Zoo biodiversity officer, said: “We’re transforming land that has been used for agriculture into a more natural landscape that will feature wildflower meadows, ponds, beetle banks, trees and reedbeds. We will link into a strip of wetland along the canal, which is designated as a Local Wildlife Site for the animals and plants already present. We want to make a really great wildlife corridor allowing species to live at the reserve, and move through the landscape when they need to.

“We hope visitors will enjoy this oasis for UK wildlife when it opens in 2018. As well as helping threatened species, we want it to reconnect people with the natural world and inspire further conservation action.”

The Chester Zoo Nature Reserve is being part funded by WREN through the FCC Community Action Fund via a Landfill Communities Funding agreement.


Greenpeace ship sets sail on ocean plastic expedition around Scotland - Greenpeace

Today (5 May), Greenpeace’s ship the Beluga II sets sail on a two-month scientific voyage around Scotland’s coastlines, investigating the impact of ocean plastic pollution on some of the UK’s most beautiful landscapes and iconic wildlife.

With studies showing that 90% of seabirds have ingested plastic, scientists and campaigners aboard the vessel will explore the front line of plastic pollution, from gannets and razorbills on the Bass Rock, to basking sharks in the Hebrides and seabird colonies on the Shiant Isles.

Throughout May and June, the crew and scientists from Greenpeace’s Research Laboratories, based at Exeter University, will be aboard the Beluga II to carry out sea surface sampling for microplastics, survey remote beaches for pollution and investigate seabird nests for plastic during hatching season.

The expedition will take in sites of stunning beauty and biodiversity, including the Bass Rock, Gunna Sound, Mull, Rùm, Eigg, Skye, and the Shiant Isles in the Outer Hebrides. Along the way Greenpeace will work in collaboration with organisations such as the Scottish Seabird Centre, the Marine Conservation Society and others.

Ariana Densham, oceans campaigner at Greenpeace UK, said: “With 12 million tonnes of plastic ending up in our oceans every year, there’s never been a more important time for us to understand the impact of plastic pollution on our most loved wildlife. We’re thrilled to be working with some brilliant organisations as we tour some of the most breathtaking locations in Scotland, and the research which we will be doing – from sampling wildlife feeding waters for microplastics to beach surveys and documenting plastic pollution in seabird nests – will add to the growing body of knowledge on ocean plastic pollution. "

Tom Brock OBE, Chief Executive of the Scottish Seabird Centre, added: “As the world’s largest northern gannet colony, the Bass Rock is of international significance and the ideal starting location for this vital research and environmental campaign by Greenpeace. Controlling our interactive live cameras on the Bass Rock from our Discovery Centre, we often see plastics in the nests of gannets and other seabirds. It is essential that action is taken to minimise marine litter and to better understand the impacts to our seas and wildlife. This Greenpeace expedition will help to highlight this threat to Scotland’s outstanding marine environment and wildlife, and reinforce the need for change.”


Convictions for bat crime at Leamington Spa Magistrates Court - Bat Conservation Trust

On Tuesday 11th April 2017 Magistrates sitting at Leamington Spa Court heard a case relating to the destruction of a bat roost. In passing sentence, in the opinion of the Bat Conservation Trust, they did great disservice to bat conservation and the wider fight against wildlife crime.

Mr Keith Marchington aged 72 years the owner of the property in question and Mr Samuel John Taylor aged 33 years a builder contracted to renovate the property both pleaded guilty to the offence and were fined just £83 and £153 respectively. Both were ordered to pay £135 costs and a £30 victim surcharge.  BCT have not made public comment on this case before now and instead have been trying to understand what factors may have influenced the magistrates in their decision to impose what are clearly inappropriate sanctions.

The property in question was a bungalow and barn that were to be demolished and replaced by a new dwelling. There was a lengthy planning history relating to the site and survey work undertaken over a period of years identified and confirmed roosts of brown long eared and soprano pipistrelle bats.

The owner of the property Mr Marchington was advised on a number of occasions that he would need to obtain a licence from Natural England and would have to provide a bat house to which the bats could relocate. Despite this advice it seems that Mr Marchington decided to commence works during the spring of 2016 and asked an ecologist to obtain the required licence. When told that further survey work would be needed before a licence would be considered Mr Marchington, it was said, asked what the penalties for destroying a roost without a licence were and that he would be prepared to accept a fine. It was later found that the buildings had been demolished and the roosts destroyed. The matter was reported to the Police.

What this case does do is to demonstrate once again the need for guidance on the sentencing of wildlife crime. Working with other partners BCT are pressing the Sentencing Council to produce such guidance. This sentence can only assist in making the case. 


Nominations are now open for 3rd UK Awards for Biological Recording and Information Sharing - National Biodiversity Network

Building on the success of the previous two years, the National Biodiversity Network, the National Forum for Biological Recording and the Biological Records Centre are launching the third UK Awards for Biological Recording and Information Sharing.

The Awards recognise and celebrate the outstanding contributions made by individual adults and young people as well as by groups, to biological recording – which is helping to improve our understanding of the UK’s wildlife. 

These contributions can include anything from a significant number of records made in a year, the number of participants at a BioBlitz, plugging of gaps in knowledge in a specific area of the UK, through to the number of datasets available for download, technical innovation in recording wildlife or encouraging participation through the development of apps or games etc. 6 categories this year. 

Nominating someone for an award couldn’t be simpler, you can even nominate yourself! Just complete the appropriate Awards nomination form and return it to the National Biodiversity Network by 31 July 2017.


Scientific Publications

Medl, A., Stangl, R., Kikuta, S. B. & Florineth, F. (2017) Vegetation establishment on ‘Green Walls’: Integrating shotcrete walls from road construction into the landscape. Urban Forestry & Urban Greening. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ufug.2017.04.011


André Frainer, A., Polvi, L. E. Jansson, R. & McKie, B. G. (2017) Enhanced ecosystem functioning following stream restoration: the roles of habitat heterogeneity and invertebrate species traits. Journal of Applied Ecology. DOI: 10.1111/1365-2664.12932


Dainese, M. et al (2017) Managing trap-nesting bees as crop pollinators: spatiotemporal effects of floral resources and antagonists. Journal of Applied Ecology. DOI: 10.1111/1365-2664.12930


Connell, S. D., Fernandes, M., Burnell, O. W., Doubleday, Z. A., Griffin, K. J., Irving, A. D., Leung, J. Y.S., Owen, S., Russell, B. D. and Falkenberg, L. J. (2017), Testing for thresholds of ecosystem collapse in seagrass meadows?. Conservation Biology. Accepted Author Manuscript. doi:10.1111/cobi.12951


Jingwei Zhao, Wenyan Xu, Rujia Li, Visual preference of trees: The effects of tree attributes and seasons, Urban Forestry & Urban Greening, Available online 30 April 2017, ISSN 1618-8667, doi: 10.1016/j.ufug.2017.04.015.


Dorota Michalska-Hejduk, Michał Budka, and Bogumiła Olech Should I stay or should I go? Territory settlement decisions in male Corncrakes Crex crex. Bird Study doi: 10.1080/00063657.2017.1316700


Susanne Arbeiter, Elisabeth Franke, Angela Helmecke, and Franziska Tanneberger. Habitat preference of female Corncrakes Crex crex: implications for the conservation of breeding sites in a secretive species Bird Study DOI: 10.1080/00063657.2017.1318107


Christos C. Ioannou, Indar W. Ramnarine and Colin J. Torney High-predation habitats affect the social dynamics of collective exploration in a shoaling fish Science Advances DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1602682


Dennis, E. B., Morgan, B. J.T., Brereton, T. M., Roy, D. B. and Fox, R. Using citizen science butterfly counts to predict species population trends. Conservation Biology. Accepted Author Manuscript.


CJS is not responsible for content of external sites.  Details believed correct but given without prejudice.

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