CJS Logo & link to homepage

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


Otter believed to have taken up home on the Rother - South Downs National Park

Camera trap image of otter (image: SDNP)South Downs rangers are excited to have captured new footage of an otter, left on a camera trap on the river Rother near Rogate on 11 April 2018. This is the first time an otter has been recorded at this particular site in many years.

(image: SDNPA)

Volunteers first noticed otter prints on a mink raft a few weeks earlier and the camera was installed to try and capture the animal on film. As the footage was caught a couple of weeks after the prints were spotted Rangers are confident that the otter is probably now resident here.

The camera trap had been put in place to monitor whether invasive species American mink, which threatens our native wildlife, was at large in the area.

Click through for recorded camera trap footage.


Health for Life pilot project at Countess of Chester Country Park hailed a success with huge improvements in physical and mental well-being - The Land Trust

A two year Health for Life activity programme at the Countess of Chester Country Park has been hailed a great success by project funders and the park’s owners, the Land Trust, after seeing huge improvements in participant’s physical and mental well-being.

The £70,000 programme, which was funded by the Cheshire Wirral Partnership NHS Trust, The Big Lottery, The Mersey Forest and Cheshire West and Chester Council, saw nearly 700 different events and sessions organised at the park for the public and NHS staff from the nearby hospital.

Nordic Walking at Countess of Chester Country Park as part of the Health for Life project (Image: The Land Trust)Nordic Walking at Countess of Chester Country Park as part of the Health for Life project (Image: The Land Trust)

These activities ranged from Nordic Walking and hedge-laying to buggy walks and a popular weekly park run, which attracts more than 300 runners every Saturday morning.

Working with the Natural Health Service Centre of Excellence, which includes both the University of Liverpool and Liverpool John Moores University, the activities were academically evaluated. This measured their health and wellbeing at the start and end of an 8 -12 week programme.

In virtually all cases, people reported spending more time outdoors and feeling healthier and happier as a result. There was a dramatic reduction in the time participants spent sitting each day, with a corresponding leap in vigorous physical exercise of nearly 60 per cent.


New Nower Wood Learning Centre Celebrates First Anniversary! - Surrey Wildlife Trust

Surrey Wildlife Trust is celebrating the first year of its rebuilt Nower Wood outdoor learning centre, with record numbers of visitors and a nomination for two coveted building awards.

Since opening on 20th April 2017, the £1.2m flagship learning centre has helped the Trust grow its efforts to educate and inspire people of all ages about wildlife. The building has already served over 10,000 visitors - 3000 more annual visitors than before the rebuild.

The Trust is proud to announce that the new building has also been shortlisted for Best Public Service Building and Best Educational Building in the ‘South East LABC Building Excellence Awards 2018’. 

Nower Wood Learning Centre (image: Jon Hawkins / Surrey Wildlife Trust)Nower Wood Learning Centre (image: Jon Hawkins / Surrey Wildlife Trust) 

The Trust’s Outdoor Learning Manager, Louise Shorthose, said: “The woods and the centre really do have a wow factor now as you arrive on site and walk up the steps. It’s really reinvigorated the feeling at our educational nature reserve.  The new facilities have enabled us to remain open for educational activities all year, where previously the outdoor toilets froze in the winter. We have, for the first time, been able to host a broad range of winter events including a Christmas themed schools programme and adult learning courses.”

The modern facilities replaced out-dated, leaking wooden huts from the 1970s and are much more accessible for those with special educational needs and disabilities. There have been 125 school visits and 55 adult learning courses throughout the year – the centre has even hosted 60 birthday parties!


New proposals for a wilder Britain - critical moment to reverse the decline of nature – The Wildlife Trusts

Today (Tuesday 1 May) The Wildlife Trusts publish a new report which shows how new laws could lead to the creation of nature recovery maps and reverse decades of wildlife declines.

Image: The Wildlife TrustsImage: The Wildlife Trusts

The Wildlife Trusts' new report Towards a wilder Britain – creating a Nature Recovery Network shows how a Nature Recovery Network can be established by mapping out important places for wildlife which need to be protected as well as key areas where habitats should be restored. The Wildlife Trusts believe new laws are needed, including an Environment Act, to ensure this happens. Local Authorities should be required by law to produce local Nature Recovery Maps to achieve the new Government targets to increase the extent and quality of natural habitats – and turn nature's recovery from an aspiration to a reality. The report will be launched at an event for MPs in Westminster.

This comes at a critical time for wildlife. It coincides with the final week of two key government consultations which present a rare opportunity – the first in living memory – to influence the future of both national farming and planning policy and how these impact on nature in England. Precious wild places and the species that depend on them have suffered steep declines over the past 70 years; intensive farming and urbanisation have been significant causes.

Now the public has a chance to call for change – so that planning rules, farm support and regulation work together towards the recovery of nature and wildlife. The Wildlife Trusts are urging people to respond to both consultations. The Government’s 25 Year Plan for the Environment proposes the creation of a Nature Recovery Network. To take this forward Nature Recovery Maps should be at the foundation of future farming and planning policy, guiding habitat creation by farmers and housing developers to ensure it achieves government targets for wildlife’s recovery.


30 year river study finds overlooked extinction crisis – Cardiff University

Global change is causing freshwater species to be lost twice as fast as in any other ecosystem, and new research, which studied Welsh rivers Image: Cardiff Universityand streams for over 30 years, has found that the number of specialist invertebrates are dwindling.

Image: Cardiff University

Cardiff University researchers monitored fourteen streams at the Llyn Brianne Observatory, collecting data from the headwaters of the River Tywi in Wales since 1981. The data revealed that specialist organisms, like predatory flatworms, certain stoneflies or caddis larvae, are in sharp decline, as their precise needs make them vulnerable to changes in climate.
Not only is the change in their environment causing their numbers to decrease, but once these species become scarce they have limited ability to recolonise their previously occupied habitats.
The study, completed by Cardiff University’s Water Research Institute, Cardiff University School of Biosciences, University of Trento, German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research and the Computer Science Department at Martin Luther University, not only shows that specialist invertebrates are declining, but it potentially gives an early warning of bigger changes to come.
Professor Steve Ormerod, Cardiff University School of Biosciences, said: “Freshwater ecologists are seriously concerned at the plight of the world’s rivers, lakes and wetlands, and at the rate at which they’re losing plants and animals of many types. Yet, many people are unaware of this ongoing tragedy hidden beneath the water surface. Our results show that the build up to species extinction can start in a subtle way, for example, where climate change causes numbers to decline before sudden disappearance. We’ve already lost one species like this across large areas of Wales, the flatworm Crenobiaalpine, whose specialism is predation in cool-water streams.”


Living Seas Wales Awarded National Lottery Support! - North Wales Wildlife Trust

North Wales Wildlife Trust and The Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales have received a confirmed grant of (£587,600) from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) for their exciting 3 year Living Seas Wales project! Thanks to money raised by National Lottery players, the project will use awe-inspiring technology for their ‘Sea Wales’ 7D augmented reality family experience, immersive skills and learning opportunities to build connections, sculpt attitudes, change behaviour and inspire action to benefit the natural heritage of our coast and sea.

The project will provide participants with opportunities to learn about, enjoy and contribute to the conservation of the marine environment, its conservation and how they can impact on its future; whether they live on the coast, use the marine environment for work or leisure, or live inland and visit the coast on holiday.

Dr Sarah Perry, Living Seas Manager for South Wales says, “We are delighted that we have this opportunity to work in partnership with our colleagues from North Wales Wildlife Trust to work together to raise the profile of the marine environment around Wales. Through hard work and dedication this project comes to fruition at exactly the right time; 2018 is Wales’ Year of the Sea it couldn’t be more timely. We look forward to an exciting few years ahead as part of the Living Seas Wales project and the opportunities for all this project will bring”.

Living Seas is The Wildlife Trusts’ vision for the future of UKs seas. Within Living Seas marine wildlife thrives from the depths of the ocean to the coastal shallows. We know our seas are at a turning point and as well as our advocacy work with the Welsh Government and Welsh politicians, we believe that local people, local communities and coastal visitors are the key to help reverse the decline in marine wildlife.


Rare reptile given second chance at RSPB reserve – RSPB

With summer just around the corner one of the UK’s rarest reptiles is looking forward to a brighter future after a project between the RSPB and ARC saw 21 sand lizards given new homes at RSPB Farnham Heath in Surrey.

Native to the UK, the short-legged reptile grows no bigger than 20cm in length and needs sandy ground in sunny spots to dig burrows for egg-laying, shelter and sunbathing. Females are a sandy-brown colour with rows of dark markings along the back, but males have exotic green flanks which are at their brightest during the summer, making them easy to spot. They are the UK’s only egg-laying lizards; other species give birth to live young.

Sand lizards were first reintroduced to Farnham Heath in 2012 in an attempt to boost the dwindling UK population. However, three years ago a fire started by an illegal camper destroyed a good portion of the restored heathland at Farnham, killing some of its rare wildlife. Since then the damage has slowly been repaired and colonies of sand lizards, field crickets and other species are being brought back to safeguard their future as a UK species.

In partnership with ARC, 21 sand lizards bred on a nearby site were relocated and released on sandbanks created especially for them.


Help stop government proposals to remove protection for wildlife - Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust

42,000 Local Wildlife Sites in England are at risk of losing their protection under HM Government’s new draft planning rules. This is a huge concern. Please ask the government to reverse this decision.

Local Wildlife Sites are recognised in national planning policy which protects them from being developed for housing, roads or industry.  Even with this protection, some are lost each year.

From ancient woodlands and flower meadows to wildlife oases in our cities, Local Wildlife Sites (LWS) are quiet places where wildlife thrives.

Now, the Government is proposing to take all reference to Local Wildlife Sites out of the National Planning Policy Framework. 

This means removing protection for all Local Wildlife Sites.

This means ‘unprotecting’ 5% of the country’s land area – that’s an area of wildlife-rich land the size of Devon. 

In Leicestershire and Rutland this means ‘unprotecting’ 1,000 Local Wildlife Sites covering well over 3,000 hectares.

We believe this could be a disaster for our wildlife.  We cannot let this happen.

If the Government is to achieve its ambition to be ‘the first generation to leave the environment in a better state than it found it’, it must reverse this proposed change to the planning rules.  Because our LWS lie at the heart of nature’s recovery. 

A recent survey of over 5,000 LWS showed that 16% had been lost or damaged in the last five years and loss to development was a significant cause within this. This is happening even with the basic levels of protection - imagine what could happen when there’s none.


Wildlife Trust identifies potentially devastating impacts of Oxford to Cambridge Expressway on wildlife and natural environment – BBOWT

Bernwood Meadows by Rhea DraguiskyThe Berks, Bucks & Oxon Wildlife Trust has identified the likely impacts of the Government’s proposed Oxford to Cambridge Expressway corridors on designated wildlife sites and the natural environment between Abingdon, Oxford, Aylesbury and Milton Keynes.

Bernwood Meadows by Rhea Draguisky

The Trust is calling for Highways England to carry out a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA), as instructed by the EU Habitats Directive, to enable a full public consultation on the proposals for all three corridors. Read Executive Summary of Trusts' response to Highways England.

Neil Clennell, the Wildlife Trust’s Director of Conservation & Education for Oxfordshire says: “If the SEA is not undertaken before a preferred corridor is selected, the opportunity to fully scrutinise the comparative impacts of all possible Expressway routes will be lost.”

Each of the three proposed routes has the potential to have devastating impacts on the natural environment and nationally-important wildlife. The Wildlife Trust’s most serious concerns are for the complex of designated sites and nature reserves in the areas of Cothill Fen near Abingdon, Oxford Meadows, the Otmoor Basin including the RSPB reserve, and the Upper Ray Valley and Bernwood Forest in Buckinghamshire, which includes several Wildlife Trust nature reserves.


77% of Scots want farming to deliver for our environment and climate, poll suggests - Scottish Environment LINK

A poll of 1,000 Scots conducted by Survation on behalf of Scottish Environment LINK reveals overwhelming public support in favour of a farm subsidy system that delivers for the environment.

77% of respondents would like to see farm support be conditional to land managers showing that they are supporting wildlife and are reducing climate impacts.

The poll suggests that people want to see a variety of issues addressed by our farming sector such as reducing the use of pesticides and antibiotics, promoting organic production and increasing animal welfare. To pursue those objectives, farmers also need support to enhance skills and knowledge, sustain the sector in the long-term by supporting young farmers and enabling farmers to supply local shops, markets, schools and hospitals.

This poll confirms public support for Scottish farming as a sector and an appetite to see Scottish farmers thrive while enhancing our environment and landscape.

Commenting on the survey results, Pete Ritchie Leader of LINK’s food and farming subgroup said: “We knew the Scottish public were concerned about the environment, but this poll shows very high levels of cross-party support for a food and farming policy which delivers public goods and a strong local food economy.  The forthcoming Good Food Nation bill offers a great opportunity to refocus public support for farming on delivering public value.” 

Full survey results available here (PDF)


Cumbria’s trees join botanical bank at Kew Gardens - Cumbria Wildlife Trust

All eyes are on Kew Gardens this weekend as the world’s largest Victorian glasshouse re-opens to the public following a five year refurbishment.

While the famous botanical gardens may seem a long way from Cumbria, some of our local conservationists have just completed an important project with Kew, to help preserve some of the wonderful native trees found across our county. 

Isaac Johnston Conservation Apprentice, gathering elder berries at Sizergh (image: Cumbria Wildlife Trust)Isaac Johnston Conservation Apprentice, gathering elder berries at Sizergh (image: Cumbria Wildlife Trust)

The future of elder, crab apple, wych elm and rowan trees has been assured thanks to a two-year partnership between Cumbria Wildlife Trust and Kew Gardens. As part of the Millennium Seed Bank project, the Trust has provided Kew with thousands of seeds from some of our much-loved indigenous trees, to be used for research and conservation.

Thousands of seeds were collected during the project, between 2015 and 2017, including: elder at Sizergh Farm, raspberries at Lowther Castle’s ‘lost gardens’; wych elm at Cumbria Wildlife Trust’s Smardale Gill Nature Reserve, holly from Brigsteer Woods, blackthorn sloes from Rusland and hawthorn from Blawith, not forgetting rowan from Eskdale.


Government launches microplastics research to protect oceans - defra

The Government has pledged £200,000 to the University of Plymouth to research how sources of microplastics enter the UK's oceans. A new research project analysing the impact of tyres and clothing on the marine environment has been launched today by the Government.

Environment Minister Thérèse Coffey has pledged £200,000 for scientists at the University of Plymouth to explore how tiny plastic particles from tyres, synthetic materials like polyester, and fishing gear – such as nets, ropes and lines – enter our waterways and oceans, and the impact they have on marine life.

Following the government’s ban on microbeads, which is one of the toughest in the world, this comprehensive research will be used to improve our scientific understanding of how microplastics from other sources enter the oceans – whether through fibres released into waste water during a washing cycle, or car tyre friction on roads creating a dust of particles that make their way into the seas through sewers. The 11 month project will build on the research already underway – with some scientists estimating tyres contribute 270,000 tonnes of plastics per year while a single wash load of acrylic clothing could release over 700,000 microfibres into the ocean. This project will build on the substantial research already underway on marine plastic pollution and the impact of human activities on the marine environment. It will be used to guide future policy priorities as the Government continues in its fight against the scourge of plastics.


Farmers instrumental to the recovery of bats? - Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust  

Environmental measures farmers are putting in place for birds and bees could be aiding a popular farmland creature, a new study has revealed.

Over the past 12 months, scientists at the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT) have been studying bats across Dorset and Hampshire to understand how farming practices affect them. 

Research assistant Belinda Bown setting Sticky Traps (image: GWCT)Research assistant Belinda Bown setting Sticky Traps (image: GWCT)

AgriBats - a project funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund - has shown that providing agri-environment scheme (AES) habitats, such as wild bird seed plots or pollen and nectar plots, can benefit a range of foraging bat species.

All 18 species of bat found in Britain feed on insects such a midges, beetles and moths so AES habitats that support a wealth of insects should, in turn, help our bat populations.

Over the study more than 10,000 bat recordings were taken on 15 farms.

Recordings included several uncommon species such as barbastelles, Nathusis’ pipistrelles, lesser horseshoe and greater horseshoe bats.  Additionally, over 90,000 insects were identified from the same habitats, to understand why bats might be attracted to specific AES.

During the 20th century several European bat species experienced declines due to a combination of factors including loss of roost and feeding sites. Bat roosts in Britain are protected under legislation, but feeding sites are not, making them susceptible to land use change. As over 25% of land in Britain is arable farmland, GWCT were keen to understand how the impacts of agriculture on potential bat feeding sites can be reduced.


The 'value' of biodiversity - Newcastle University

Why conservation policies which value species based on their ‘usefulness’ are putting birds like the humble crow at risk.

Putting policies in place that are designed to protect biodiversity but are based on only one key species ‘value’ could inadvertently put some of our best loved wildlife in jeopardy, new research has shown.

The study, published today (3 May) in Scientific Reports, highlights the consequences of focussing on key specific conservation triggers such as the rarity of a species or its financial impact – for example the amount of weed seeds (which impact on crops) eaten by birds – without also looking at the wider, cultural value of a species and its importance to society.

Led by an international team of experts from Newcastle University, UK, the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences and the British Trust for Ornithology, the research categorised UK farmland birds according to three core values –  conservation priority value (measured in two ways by rarity and population decline magnitude), economic value (consumers of weed-seeds) and cultural value, measured through poetry.

They found that each ‘value’ prioritised different subsets of species and taking any one in isolation could potentially underestimate the importance of a species.

Skewed picture Senior author Mark Whittingham, Professor of Applied Ecology at Newcastle University, explained: “Considering one value in isolation gives you a very skewed picture of what’s important and what isn’t. Birds such as the chaffinch might consume large numbers of weed seeds which helps farmers, but they aren’t rare and compared to other species they barely feature in poetry. Conversely, the crow isn’t rare and isn’t particularly useful for eating weed seeds but we found it features frequently in poems down the ages which suggests it is intrinsically linked with society and culture. The question is how you put a ‘value’ on this.”

Read the study (pdf)


Scientific Publications 

Callcutt, K., Croft, S. & Smith, G.C. Predicting population trends using citizen science data: do subsampling methods produce reliable estimates for mammals? Eur J Wildl Res (2018) 64: 28. DOI: 10.1007/s10344-018-1189-7


Linton DM, Macdonald DW. Spring weather conditions influence breeding phenology and reproductive success in sympatric bat populations. J Anim Ecol. 2018;00:1–11. https://doi.org/10.1111/1365-2656.12832


Malin Thyselius, Paloma Gonzalez-Bellido, Trevor Wardill, Karin Nordström Visual approach computation in feeding hoverflies Journal of Experimental Biology 2018 : jeb.177162 doi: 10.1242/jeb.177162


Nicholas J. Balfour, Jeff Ollerton, Maria Clara Castellanos, Francis L.W. Ratnieks, British phenological records indicate high diversity and extinction rates among late-summer-flying pollinators, Biological Conservation, Volume 222, (2018) Pages 278-283, ISSN 0006-3207, doi: 10.1016/j.biocon.2018.04.028.


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.