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


Beast from the East could spell doom for garden birds at crucial time - RSPB

With the Met Office forecasting ‘exceptionally cold’ temperatures for most of the UK this week, the RSPB is asking people to think about their garden birds by topping up garden feeders, putting out fresh water and providing shelter.

After benefiting from mild January conditions, which saw temperatures reach 15°C in parts of southern England, birds will now struggle to deal with the cold snap, which comes at a crucial time when they need extra energy. Prolonged periods of cold weather leave birds vulnerable as natural food sources become harder to come by and water sources freeze over. 

At this time of year, birds are starting to think about finding a mate and building nests to raise a family, which means they need plenty of food and water.

To keep their energy up during the colder months, the best way to help garden birds is by providing them with a variety of food, but fatty food will be especially helpful. For example, fat balls or homemade bird cakes, which only take a few minutes to make and can be a great children’s activity, are perfect for your feathered friends. These can be made cheaply with kitchen scraps and lard. If you prefer, seeds, fruits or dried mealworms are also among birds’ favourite snacks.

Another vital support for vulnerable birds is fresh water for drinking and bathing. Finding sources of water can be hard for birds when there’s been a frost, but with a simple trick you can help to keep a patch of water ice-free. The RSPB recommends floating a small ball, such as a ping-pong ball, on the surface of the water as a light breeze will stop an area of water from freezing.

Finally, providing shelter from the harsh weather is extremely important. Putting up a nestbox will give birds a great place to roost in and shelter from the elements before the warmer spring arrives.


New report points to 30% decline in water vole distribution - The Wildlife Trusts

National treasure ‘Ratty’ needs urgent help to survive

A new analysis of data collected over ten years by a network of experts led by The Wildlife Trusts has revealed that water vole distribution has declined dramatically. There has been a 30% decline in the places where these river mammals once lived across England and Wales during the survey period 2006 - 2015.* While the new analysis reveals a slight increase in distribution in recent years – thanks to some successful conservation efforts by The Wildlife Trusts and others – the full data covering the whole ten years paints a bleak picture.

(image: Neil Aldridge)(image: Neil Aldridge)

Great conservation efforts have been made to ensure a future for this mammal: The Wildlife Trusts and many other individuals and groups carry out river restoration and reintroductions of water voles across the UK. At a local level, these projects appear to have been successful; however, these successes are not enough to reverse the national distribution trends.

Habitat loss, water pollution and built development have led to massive declines in the number of water voles since the 1960s – this has been exacerbated by predation by North American mink which were introduced to Britain for fur farming in the twentieth century. The water vole is the UK’s most rapidly declining mammal and has been lost from 94% of places where they were once prevalent.* The latest data revealing a ten year decline of 30% shows an ever-worsening situation: their range is continuing to contract.


Wildlife Charity ‘Appalled’ by Irresponsible Behaviour at South Walney Nature Reserve - Cumbria Wildlife Trust

Cumbria Wildlife Trust is calling for people to have more respect for our natural wild places following the trespass by the driver of a Landrover which got stuck in the sands off the Trust’s South Walney Nature Reserve on Sunday 25th February.

The driver illegally drove on to the nature reserve, across the protected beach and onto the sand in an area that is populated with seals, ignoring ‘no entry’ signs and removing a log barrier to gain access. South Walney Nature Reserve is protected under several conservation designations: it is a Site of Special Scientific Interest, a Special Area of Conservation and a Special Protection Area.

“It is illegal, dangerous and damaging to take cars onto the sands. There is damage to the vegetated shingle from the vehicle itself, then there will be further damage from the vehicles that are going down to remove it, and if it cannot be removed there is serious risk of pollution from the petrol tank and oil as it rusts away. If the vehicle cannot be recovered it will potentially remain as eyesore for years”, explains Sarah Dalrymple, South Walney Warden. “I am appalled that some people think this is acceptable behaviour. The police are now dealing with the matter.”


Once-in-a-generation opportunity to shape future farming policy - defra

Reducing direct payments could free up £150 million for the environment and other public goods.

Farmers, landowners and food producers have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to shape the future of English farming and the environment, with a consultation launched today (27 February) by Environment Secretary Michael Gove.

The government’s proposals will see money redirected from direct payments under the Common Agriculture Policy (CAP), which are based on the amount of land farmed, to a new system of paying farmers “public money for public goods” - principally their work to enhance the environment and invest in sustainable food production.

Other public goods which could be supported include investment in technology and skills to improve productivity, providing public access to farmland and the countryside, enhanced welfare standards for livestock and measures to support the resilience of rural and upland communities.  In line with its manifesto commitment, the government will continue to commit the same cash total in funds for farm support until the end of this Parliament in 2022.  It has today set out proposals for an ‘agricultural transition’ lasting a number of years beyond the implementation period during which direct payments would continue, providing stability and certainty for farmers as they prepare for the new system.  At the same time, however, reductions to direct payments to the largest landowners first could free up around £150 million in the first year of the agricultural transition period, which could be used to boost farmers delivering environmental enhancement and other public goods.


Responses from CPRE & NFU

CPRE welcomes agriculture proposals

CPRE has welcomed the Government’s proposed direction on future agricultural policy published today (27 February) and urged it to resist calls to simply maintain the status quo.

The consultation sets out a new direction for a countryside where food production goes hand-in-hand with delivering benefits for the wider public. The proposals take on board many of the recommendations CPRE made in New Model Farming, published just after the EU referendum.  

‘This is the first time in a generation we have had the chance to set our own agricultural policy and is a fantastic opportunity for this Government to revitalise our countryside and enhance our cherished farmed landscape,’ said CPRE head of rural affairs Belinda Gordon. She added: ‘While it is true that the consultation contains little that Michael Gove hasn’t trailed in previous speeches, it is important that this positive vision isn’t diluted. CPRE will be urging the Government to maintain current levels of funding but re-direct them to ensure we have a dynamic, healthy countryside with even more beautiful landscapes for all to enjoy.


Productive British farms are key to delivering for food and the environment, NFU says

NFU President Minette Batters has today (27 February) reinforced British farming’s unique role in producing safe and traceable food and enhancing the countryside as the government opens a consultation on future farming policy.

Mrs Batters said that profitable, productive and resilient farm businesses are key to delivering the public goods that Secretary of State Michael Gove referred to when announcing the proposals for 'agricultural transition'.

Mrs Batters said: "Good quality, safe and traceable food is a public right and we believe it is a public good for generations to come.  British farmers have world leading standards in food production, animal welfare and environmental stewardship and we are committed to delivering those standards now and in the future, in the face of unprecedented change for the industry.  In order to keep delivering for Britain, farm businesses need to be productive, profitable and resilient to volatility.  This must be at the forefront of government policy if we are to have a farming sector that feeds us, cares for our countryside and delivers economic benefits."


The future for food, farming and the environment - defra consultation

Seeking views on our proposals for future agricultural policy in England.

Leaving the European Union and the Common Agricultural Policy will give us the chance for reform. We want to know your thoughts on the future of agricultural policy in England.

This consultation closes at 11:45pm on 8 May 2018

Click through for documents and to respond


Peatlands to be restored in the North West - Environment Agency

Environment Agency secures £160,000 to restore peatlands across Greater Manchester, Merseyside and Cheshire

Sykes Moor and Peak Naze peatland (image: Environment Agency)Sykes Moor and Peak Naze peatland (image: Environment Agency)

Work is underway to restore peatlands to their natural state across Greater Manchester, Merseyside and Cheshire after £160,000 of funding was secured through the Department Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

The Environment Agency will be working with a number of partners including Cheshire Wildlife Trust, Warrington Borough Council and United Utilities at six sites.

The funding will be used to restore upland and lowland peatlands to their natural state by increasing their capacity to prevent carbon entering the atmosphere, reduce flood risk by slowing the flow of rain water and creating habitats for vulnerable wildlife.  Natural England has been advising the partners about the best design for the schemes, and approving methods used on the Sites of Special Scientific Interest.  By blocking drainage ditches, building peat bunds and working with the local topography, the work will help keep water on the sites, encouraging the typical bog plant species and discouraging the dry-loving grasses and birch.

They provide 70% of our drinking water. Peatlands cover 11% of England’s landscape and they provide a great habitat for a wide range of wildlife and birds including merlin, dunlin and golden plover. They also provide 70% of our drinking water and reduce greenhouse gases by locking away at least 3.2 billion tonnes of CO².

There are six projects across the Greater Manchester, Merseyside and Cheshire that have secured this funding, part of a Defra peatlands restoration pot of £500,000, with further projects around the country.


Record numbers of common dolphin sightings off Scotland’s west coast - Hebridean Whale & Dolphin Trust

Sightings of common dolphins across the Hebrides have reached a new record high according to research conducted by marine conservation charity, Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust.

Common dolphin spotted from Silurian (image: HWDT)Evidence collected during marine research expeditions on the Trust’s specialized research yacht Silurian in 2017 has revealed a dramatic 24% increase from the previous year’s already record-breaking figures.

Common dolphin spotted from Silurian (image: HWDT)

The findings were made in a research season running from April to October 2017, part of the charity’s unique long-term citizen science project monitoring whales, dolphins and porpoises – collectively known as cetaceans – and basking sharks in the Hebrides.

“We have never documented so many sightings of common dolphins off Scotland’s west coast before. Our findings highlight the importance of on-going monitoring and research to strengthen our understanding of what is taking place in Hebridean waters. It is hard to say what is causing this increase, but a rise in sea surface temperatures linked to climate change could be playing a role.”   Dr Lauren Hartny-Mills, Science and Policy Officer

During 2017, the Trust recorded 93 sightings of common dolphins – its highest total ever, up from 75 sightings in 2016. The encounters included a total of 1,340 individual animals – down from 2016’s high of 2,303, due to smaller group sizes and fewer super pods.

Over the past two years, the charity has also recorded a higher than average number of sightings of white-beaked dolphins – with 14 sightings of 74 individuals in 2017. Generally preferring colder, deeper waters in the North Atlantic, white-beaked dolphins have distinct white noses. These fast, acrobatic swimmers are usually spotted further away from the coast – favouring sites around the Outer Hebrides, and usually seen in groups of five to 20 individuals.


Dearth of data spawns uncertainty over extinction risk to amphibians - ZSL

Conservationists are calling for increased effort towards assessing the extinction risk faced by the world’s amphibians, after it transpired that gaps in current data mean that the conservation status of almost two-thirds of species is unknown.  

A new study, led by international conservation charity ZSL (Zoological Society of London) alongside scientists from the Australian Museum and the IUCN Amphibian Red List Authority, calls for urgent action to plug these knowledge gaps, particularly in the face of ongoing habitat loss and degradation that continues to detriment amphibian populations worldwide. 

Lead author Benjamin Tapley, curator of herpetology at ZSL, said: “The last time that we had a near-complete overview of extinction risk in amphibians was over 10 years ago, in 2004, when the IUCN’s ground breaking Global Amphibian Assessment was published. Since then, more than 1,700 amphibian species have been discovered - but the extinction risk of most of these new species simply isn’t known.”

Already understood to be one of the most threatened groups of animals on the planet, the paper illustrates that over the last 12 years, the assessment of extinction risk of amphibians has not kept up with the discovery of new species and that many existing assessments are now out of date. The new report found that 61.3 percent of all known amphibian species have either not had their extinction risk evaluated, or are suffering from out-of-date information. 


Infectious disease in hoverflies linked to honeybee health - Royal Holloway University of London

In research published on 28 February, 2018 in ‘Biology Letters’, scientists from Royal Holloway, University of London, Oxford University and Cornell University have shown for the first time that viruses that are harmful to honeybees are also present in hoverfly pollinators.  

Image: Royal Holloway University of LondonImage: Royal Holloway University of London

Infectious diseases have been identified as a key driver of bee population declines. The new research suggests that hoverflies (Diptera: Syrphidae) are exposed to the same diseases, and may move the infections around when they feed from the same flowers as the honeybees.

Unlike honeybees, hoverflies are very mobile, and can undertake large-scale annual migrations. Thus the study suggests hoverflies have the potential to spread diseases throughout landscapes, or even across entire continents.

Global declines of insect pollinators jeopardise the delivery of pollination services in both agricultural and natural ecosystems.

It has been well documented in the past the importance of infectious diseases in bees, but the study shows for the first time the extent to which the diseases are shared with other pollinator groups.

Dr Emily Bailes, Post Doctoral Research Assistant at Royal Holloway, who led the research, said: “We have seen a decline in bees in the UK for several years, but this study shows for the first time that hoverflies may be moving these diseases much further than bees normally would.

“This is because of their annual migrations across Europe. This could expose local bee populations to new strains of the diseases and make them more likely to become infected, much like different flu strains in humans. We therefore need to think of ways to limit this transfer between species."


Pushing back the American Mink invasion of Scotland – University of Aberdeen

A study aiming to discover why American Mink, an invasive species, choose to settle Image: University of Aberdeenin areas where they do and therefore discover ways to more effectively prevent their spread, was published today in the Journal of Applied Ecology.

Image: University of Aberdeen

Invasive species present a daunting challenge to conservationists because of the scale in which their impact plays on biodiversity.  Despite current emphasis on prevention and early action, many of these species have become well established and their spread is overwhelming native species.

Scientists have now found that the way individuals attempt to recolonise areas that have been previously cleared of this unwelcome species can be predicted, helping to focus control effort to the areas most at risk.

The research, led by scientists at the University of Aberdeen, has taken place of the last decade. Scientists worked alongside conservation practitioners and many members of the public acting as volunteer citizen conservationists who sought to push back the invasion of Scotland by the American mink.

Professor Xavier Lambin, who led the research, said: “Mink originally escaped from fur farms  all over rural Scotland since 1962 and are devastating to bird and mammal species living along waterways, including the water vole, a species with high cultural value in the UK.  This is of huge concern to conservationists."

Access the paper: Melero Y, Cornulier T, Oliver MK, Lambin X. Ecological traps for large-scale invasive species control: Predicting settling rules by recolonising American mink post-culling. J Appl Ecol. 2018;00:1–11. 


Man-made earthquake risk reduced if fracking is 895m from faults - Durham University

The risk of man-made earthquakes due to fracking is greatly reduced if high-pressure fluid injection used to crack underground rocks is 895m away from faults in the Earth’s crust, according to new research.

The recommendation, from the ReFINE (Researching Fracking) consortium, is based on published microseismic data from 109 fracking operations carried out predominantly in the USA.

Jointly led by Durham and Newcastle Universities, UK, the research looked at reducing the risk of reactivating geological faults by fluid injection in boreholes.

Microseismic data

Researchers used microseismic data to estimate how far fracking-induced fractures in rock extended horizontally from borehole injection points.

The results indicated there was a one per cent chance that fractures from fracking activity could extend horizontally beyond 895m in shale rocks.

There was also a 32 per cent chance of fractures extending horizontally beyond 433m, which had been previously suggested as a horizontal separation distance between fluid injection points and faults in an earlier study.

The research is published in the journal Geomechanics and Geophysics for Geo-Energy and Geo-Resources.


Green light for community woodland in Carron Valley - Forestry Commission Scotland

Forest Enterprise Scotland has approved plans under the Community Asset Transfer Scheme (CATS) to transfer land to create a new community woodland in the Carron Valley.
The plans, proposed by community body Valley Renewables Group (VRG) and supported by the Community Council and local residents, will develop a woodland area for local events and provide walking and adventure trails.     In addition, the woodland will provide timber for home heating for 20 homes, helping to reduce fuel poverty. Under the CATS programme, communities are given the opportunity to purchase, lease or use the National Forest Estate if it provides benefits for local people.
The Valley Renewables Group was set up initially as a development trust to administer community funds from the Craigengelt Wind Farm and is now managing benefits from other windfarms in the area. The Group intends to invest income from the wind farm into to the new community woodland which will promote health and well-being through a range of activities.
Margaret Porter, chair of the Valley Renewables Group:  “This is an important and exciting milestone for our small, dispersed community, and will be our first community owned asset. Currently, we have no social facilities and this will give us a permanent base for community activities and events. We’ll be working to provide improved access to the forest, sustainable community wood fuel, up-skilling and educational opportunities, and an increased range of habitats for local people and visitors to enjoy. This represents a huge opportunity for our community to focus on a long-term project, to create jobs and to move forward together.”

A part-time woodland manager will be employed for the first two to three years in order to get the woodland properly established.


Neonicotinoids: risks to bees confirmed - European Food Safety Authority

Most uses of neonicotinoid pesticides represent a risk to wild bees and honeybees, according to assessments published today by EFSA. The Authority has updated its risk assessments of three neonicotinoids – clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiamethoxam – that are currently subject to restrictions in the EU because of the threat they pose to bees.

These new conclusions update those published in 2013, after which the European Commission imposed controls on use of the substances.

For the new assessments, which this time cover wild bees – bumblebees and solitary bees – as well as honeybees, EFSA’s Pesticides Unit carried out an extensive data collection exercise, including a systematic literature review, to gather all the scientific evidence published since the previous evaluations.

The team also applied the guidance document developed by EFSA specifically for the risk assessment of pesticides and bees.

Jose Tarazona, Head of EFSA’s Pesticides Unit, said: “The availability of such a substantial amount of data as well as the guidance has enabled us to produce very detailed conclusions. There is variability in the conclusions, due to factors such as the bee species, the intended use of the pesticide and the route of exposure. Some low risks have been identified, but overall the risk to the three types of bees we have assessed is confirmed.”


Responses from Buglife and Scottish Wildlife Trust

EU Regulatory Scientists Confirm Neonics harm bees - Buglife

The European Food Standards Authority has published its scientific reviews of the evidence linking the use of three neonicotinoid insecticides to bee harm and decline.  The Authority reviewed nearly 1,000 papers and concludes that clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiamethoxam all pose a high risk to wild bees and honeybees – in fact nearly 600 high risk pathways are confirmed.

 Bombus humilis (photo: ©Sam Ashfield via Buglife) Bombus humilis (photo: ©Sam Ashfield via Buglife)

Member States are now expected to vote on a proposal to extend and broaden the existing ban - which was only on flowering and spring sown crops.  The ban must be broadened because the persistent insecticides have been confirmed to pose a risk to bees when dust from seed planting contaminates wild flowers and insects, and when wildflowers near crops take up some of the c.95% of the chemical that ends up in the soil.

 “While it is good news that the regulators have definitively concluded that neonicotinoids pose a high risk, it is a tragedy that our bees, moths, butterflies and flies have been hammered by these toxins for over 15 years, causing severe declines in wild pollinators and the pollination services they undertake.  Not only should EU countries now ban their use entirely, they should also urgently approve and implement EFSA’s bee risk assessment process so that the blunder is not repeated.” Said Matt Shardlow, Buglife CEO.


Further evidence shows bees at risk from neonicotinoid pesticides - Scottish Wildlife Trust

Our Chief Executive Jonny Hughes said: “We welcome the publication of this important evidence-based study. People in Scotland care about bees and banning harmful neonicotinoids is something we can do to help them. Pollinators are an essential part of our environment. Without them we wouldn’t have seeds and fruit that many other animals rely on for food. And when you consider that crop pollination has an estimated value of £43 million per year to Scotland’s economy, it is clear that the use of agricultural pesticides that harm pollinators could have serious hidden costs in the longer term. This comprehensive assessment should provide more than enough evidence for the Scottish Government to show its support for a full ban of the use of these harmful chemicals.


Position Statement: the reintroduction of the lynx to Britain - Mammal Society

Eurasian lynx (Lynx lynx) in winter birch forest, Norway (image: ©Scotlandbigpicture.com via Mammal Society)Eurasian lynx (Lynx lynx) in winter birch forest, Norway (image: ©Scotlandbigpicture.com via Mammal Society)

The northern or Eurasian lynx, Lynx lynx, was once a native British species. Exact dates of its extinction in the UK are not known but radiocarbon dating of fossil remains have shown that this large feline is likely to have been present in the wild in the British Isles until the early Medieval period, and perhaps even more recently via unconfirmed records. 

The reintroduction of lynx to the UK has been much discussed in recent years and applications for the reintroduction of animals that were once locally or nationally extinct can be controversial.  However there are now examples, from both the UK and elsewhere in Europe, illustrating that well-managed programmes can be successful for species ranging from beaver to kite.  Additionally, pressure to restore ecosystem functionality, the growth of the rewilding movement, and the legal imperative to consider reintroductions of extinct species to EU states under the Habitats Directive mean that that discussion of lynx reintroduction is timely.

The Mammal Society considers that Lynx reintroduction to Britain is a realistic proposition.  However, it should only be undertaken once management and funding structures are in place to minimise risks to human interests, the environment, and animal welfare. 

Read the full Mammal Society Position Statement on lynx reintroduction here


London parks and green spaces innovating in the face of funding cuts - Parks for London

The Good Parks for London report, published by Parks for London and launched on 28th February 2018, shows that despite funding cuts, London Boroughs are working hard to protect and enhance

London’s parks and green spaces;

For the first time, the report has drawn together a series of criteria to evaluate how well London Boroughs continue to protect and invest in their parks and green spaces. The report aims to become an effective tool for improving good practice, raising quality standards and encouraging collaboration among London Boroughs.

Parks for London, the charity that is committed to safeguarding London’s parks and green spaces has taken the initiative to compile this report as funding pressures on Local Authorities continue across London.   In the face of continued cuts to local government, Parks for London remains concerned that our vital parks and green spaces will suffer detriment, which will have adverse impacts on the communities that use these spaces every day.

Criteria used to assess London parks and green spaces, includes public satisfaction, the number of green flags awarded, collaboration with other Boroughs and community partnerships.   The report also acknowledges that local authorities are not the only organisations that manage significant areas of parks & green spaces in and beyond London and includes contributions from the Lee Valley Regional Park Authority, Peabody’s Thamesmead Estate, The Royal Parks, Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and landscape contractors, working in London.   Those Boroughs that top the Good Parks for London table are those that have gone the extra mile, and continued to invest and innovate despite challenging circumstances.

This inaugural report sets out the current standing of Boroughs across London, but it is hoped that this sharing of information will encourage London Boroughs to strive to improve their services in the coming years.

Downlaod the Good Parks for London report


Yet another rare hen harrier goes missing - Durham Constabulary

Missing hen harrier Marc (image via Durham Constabulary) Durham Constabulary and the RSPB are appealing for information following the disappearance of a satellite-tagged hen harrier near Middleton-in-Teesdale.
The harrier, named Marc, was one of a nest of two chicks tagged as part of the EU-funded Hen Harrier LIFE+ project in July this year from a nest in the Scottish Borders.

Missing hen harrier Marc (image via Durham Constabulary)

Marc’s tag had been transmitting regularly, showing no signs of any problems, until it suddenly stopped on the afternoon of 5 February.   Data from Marc’s tag indicated he had been in the same area of upland farmland since late November before moving 10km North West on 27 January to an area of driven grouse moor, from here he posted several positions on the 5 February until 2.04pm, after which the tag inexplicably failed to send any further data.

A Durham Constabulary spokeswoman said: “We are very concerned at the disappearance of one of these iconic birds of prey. Hen harriers are fully protected by law and raptor persecution is a national wildlife crime priority. We urge you to come forward if you have any information about the disappearance of this bird.”
If you have any information relating to this incident (ref 163 2022018), call Durham Constabulary on 101 or the confidential Raptor Crime Hotline on 0300 999 0101. All calls are anonymous.


Storm waves can move boulders we thought only tsunamis had the power to shift - Elsevier 

Storms may be more powerful – and more damaging – than previously shown 

It’s not just tsunamis that can change the landscape: storms shifted giant boulders four times the size of a house on the coast of Ireland in the winter of 2013-14, leading researchers to rethink the maximum energy storm waves can have – and the damage they can do.

In a new paper in Earth Science Reviews, researchers from Williams College in the US show that four years ago, storms moved huge boulders along the west coast of Ireland. The same storms shifted smaller ones as high as 26 meters above high water and 222 meters inland. Many of the boulders moved were heavier than 100 tons, and the largest moved was 620 tons – the equivalent of six blue whales or four single-storey houses.

It was previously assumed that only tsunamis could move boulders of the size seen displaced in Ireland, but the new paper provides direct evidence that storm waves can do this kind of work. According to the UN, about 40 percent of the world’s population live in coastal areas (within 100 meters of the sea), so millions of people are at risk from storms. Understanding how those waves behave, and how powerful they can be, is key for preparation. It is therefore important to know the upper limits of storm wave energy, even in areas where these kinds of extreme wave energies are not expected.

“The effect of the storms of winter 2013-14 was dramatic,” said Dr. Rónadh Cox, Professor and Chair of Geosciences at Williams College and lead author of the study. “We had been studying these sites for a number of years, and realised that this was an opportunity to measure the coastal response to very large storm events.” 

Access the paper: Rónadh Cox, Kalle L. Jahn, Oona G. Watkins, Peter Cox,Extraordinary boulder transport by storm waves (west of Ireland, winter 2013–2014), and criteria for analysing coastal boulder deposits, Earth-Science Reviews, Volume 177, 2018, Pages 623-636, ISSN 0012-8252, doi: 10.1016/j.earscirev.2017.12.014.


Brighter future for seabirds as Shiants declared rat free - RSPB
Internationally important seabird colony the Shiant Isles have been officially declared rat-free, thanks to a four-year partnership project to restore them as a secure haven for nesting seabirds. A month-long intensive monitoring check in February found no sign of rats. This means that none has been recorded there for two years, the internationally agreed criterion for rat-free status. 

Puffin on Shiant Isles (photo: Jim Richardson / RSPB)Puffin on Shiant Isles (photo: Jim Richardson / RSPB)

The EU LIFE+ funded Shiants seabird recovery project started in 2014 and is a partnership between the Nicolson family, custodians of the islands for three generations, Scottish Natural Heritage and RSPB Scotland. It has benefited from the help of many volunteers, and significant private donations.

Over the last four years the project has focused on making the islands a safe place for seabirds to raise their chicks by removing the invasive, non-native black rats that were found there. It has been a huge success and played an important role in developing future island restoration and biosecurity work in the UK.  Another key part of the project is a programme of research monitoring the response of the ecosystem to the removal of rats. It is anticipated that seabirds such as puffins, razorbills, and guillemots will see improved breeding successes which could eventually support population increases in these long lived seabirds breeding on the Shiants. It is hoped that Manx shearwaters and storm petrels will begin to nest on the islands as well.


Four months early - an exceptionally speedy spring! - Woodland Trust

Woodland Trust inundated with reports of early spring events

The Woodland Trust’s Nature’s Calendar project has received a wave of reports, which suggest spring events are happening early.

So far, 352 individual pieces of ‘unusual’1 data have been sent in by volunteers. The first of these – hazel flowering in Southampton on the 27th October 2017 - was the earliest recording of this event since the year 2000. The baseline average2 for hazel flowering is 2nd March. 

The influx of early records has continued well into February, with 13 records of red admiral butterflies. The earliest of these was 4th January in Salisbury. The baseline average is 7th May – making the occurrence four months early. Other species recorded include blackbirds nesting, snowdrops, frogspawn and red tailed bumblebees.

Charlotte Armitage, citizen science officer for the Woodland Trust, said: “We’ve been shocked by the sheer volume of early records received this year. However, they highlight the importance of Nature’s Calendar data. The public are providing us with information that helps us better understand how flora and fauna is faring in a fluctuating climate – and we need more people to sign up. With colder weather anticipated over the coming weeks, it will be interesting to see how some species react, having bred, bloomed or emerged early.”


Scientific Publications

Parker, S. S., Pauly, G. B., Moore, J., Fraga, N. S., Knapp, J. J., Principe, Z., Brown, B. V., Randall, J. M., Cohen, B. S. and Wake, T. A. (), Adapting the bioblitz to meet conservation needs. Conservation Biology. Accepted Author Manuscript. doi:10.1111/cobi.13103 


Coggan, N. V., Hayward, M. W. & Gibb, H. (2018) A global database and ‘state of the field’ review of research into ecosystem engineering by land animals. Journal of Animal Ecology. DOI: 10.1111/1365-2656.12819


Tréguier A, Roussel JM, Bélouard N, Paillisson JM. Is it a hindrance for an invasive aquatic species to spread across scattered habitat patches?. Aquatic Conserv: Mar Freshw Ecosyst. 2018;1–9. doi:10.1002/aqc.2887


Syposz, M., Gonçalves, F., Carty, M., Hoppitt, W. and Manco, F., Factors influencing Manx Shearwater grounding on the west coast of Scotland. Ibis. Accepted Author Manuscript. doi:10.1111/ibi.12594


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