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


logo: BWPAThe British Wildlife Photography Awards 2018: A Celebration of British Wildlife 

The British Wildlife Photography Awards proudly announce the winners for 2018. The awards celebrate both the work of amateur and professional photographers and the beauty and diversity of British wildlife. Winning images are chosen from thousands of entries in fifteen separate categories including a category for film and two junior categories to encourage young people to connect with nature through photography.


The Overall Winning Image

Ghostly contrails reveal the flight paths and wing beats of Daubenton’s bats. An infrared camera and lighting system that were 14 months in development overcame the challenge of photographing the high- speed flight of these small mammals in the dark. The in-camera double exposure caught the foreground bat milliseconds before insect intercept. As these bats are a protected species they were photographed in the wild following advice from the Bat Conservation Trust and Natural England.

“No other image in my portfolio had been so clearly conceived and yet so difficult to achieve. My artistic intent was to capture this extraordinary little bat’s speed of movement and hunting flight path, but the journey to success was littered with disappointing failures. Fortunately, fellow photographers encouraged imaginative experimentation and taught me to anticipate setbacks as a reasonable price for ultimate success.  In hindsight, I experienced a huge gradient of emotion. There were the lows felt during months of long, cold and exhausting dusk-to-dawn sessions, sometimes waist deep in water and often without getting a single useable image. And then the natural highs of those light bulb moments, when new ideas blossomed, problems were solved and the project inched closer towards the potential to win this exceptional accolade.” – Paul Colley.

Naturalist, Author and Wildlife TV Producer Stephen Moss comments; “Once again, this collection of images from the British Wildlife Photography Awards leaves us in awe of the skill, patience and artistry of the photographers whose work is showcased here. The extraordinary range of subjects, species and habitats, and the imaginative way they are portrayed, leaves us in no doubt that we in Britain are fortunate to be home to some of the most talented photographers in the world.


View all the winning Images, including the video winner and a selection of highly commended entries on the BWPA website.


CJS has been delighted to support and sponsor the Awards since they first launched.  We have been sponsoring the Botanical Britain category for many years.  This year it's been won by another wonderful image.

Kelp Bed at Dawn (Oarweed), Kingsgate Bay, Kent, Robert CanisKelp Bed at Dawn (Oarweed), Kingsgate Bay, Kent, Robert Canis


We often forget the algae family when it comes to plants, they don’t comprise the expected root, stem and green leaves combination but are an intrinsic part of the eceosystem, especially in marine environments.

This lovely image is beautifully balanced with the water channel leading your eye through the photo to the sea and horizon beyond without distracting from either the main subject of the kelp itself or distorting the reflections on the milky water.  The kelp blades have not yet begun to dry out and the watery sheen on the blades reflects the sky and, if you look carefully, the photographer too!  

Another watery image was highly commended by the judges, freshwater this time of a chalk stream, the image is half above and below the waterline giving the appearance of a split screen with both halves in perfect focus showing the green underwater foliage and above the surface the lovely white flowers of the water crowfoot which almost merge into the clouds in the clear blue sky above. Another highly commended image in our category is breath taking -  literally if you're a hay fever sufferer like me! - featuring a cloud of windblown pollen from a pine tree. A very simple composition but with incredible detail.


Congratulations to all the award winners but from CJS a special congratulations to the five winners of our category.


We have been posting more details throughout the week - for all the information and the lovely images please follow the BWPA2018 tag on our blog or across social media to see other people's reactions.


£5 million project to turn former coal mine into woodland - Woodland Trust

Lodge House (Photo: Chris Belton/WTML)The Woodland Trust is hoping to acquire a 162 hectare site in a post-industrial area of Derbyshire.  
In an estimated £5 million project the charity is looking to turn the site, which was open cast mine, into an important natural habitat by planting 260,000 trees and creating one of the area’s largest new native woodlands.

In 2016 coal production at Lodge House open cast mine ceased and the mine was closed. Since then, work on the site has included filling in the mining area and improving the path and bridleway network.  The land sits in a fantastic position; south of Heanor and adjacent to the very popular Shipley Country Park, which itself is near to the Derbyshire Wildlife Trust's Woodside Farm.  Together, these three areas would make more than 500 hectares (nearly 1,300 acres) of connected, wildlife friendly space for people to enjoy.

Lodge House (Photo: Chris Belton/WTML) 

The site, currently owned by the Howarth Group, already boasts a wealth of paths and bridleways. The charity will look to retain these as well as planting trees to increase biodiversity and improve the experience visitors can have on site.

The Trust is initially buying a quarter of the land – thanks to a cash boost from The Veolia Environmental Trust, through the Landfill Communities Fund and Pears Foundation – but it will need to raise further funds to buy the remaining land. The charity will be launching a fundraising campaign in the New Year to help raise the cash. 


Researchers assess the value of National Parks to our health and happiness - University of York

Researchers have for the first time put a price on the value of taking a break from our overloaded modern lives to spend time in one of the UK’s National Parks.

The study, by researchers at the University of York, estimates that for every £1 invested, the North York Moors National Park generates approximately £7.21 of health and well-being benefits for visitors and volunteers.

National Parks play an important role in connecting people with nature, raising activity levels, facilitating outdoor recreation and providing space for tranquillity. Credit: Russell Burton.The study adds to a growing body of evidence about the benefits of connecting with nature and is the first to calculate the social return on investment in terms of the impact upon health and well-being of people using National Parks. 

National Parks play an important role in connecting people with nature, raising activity levels, facilitating outdoor recreation and providing space for tranquillity. Credit: Russell Burton.

The research marks an important first step in understanding how National Parks can measure their impact on society.

Co-authors of the study, Professor Philip Linsley and Professor Robert McMurray from the Management School at the University of York, said: “Our report highlights the value National Parks provide through their role in connecting people with nature, raising activity levels, facilitating outdoor recreation and providing space for tranquillity, among other things. However, while this figure is important, it can never truly convey what a National Park means to individuals, communities and indeed the nation. It is therefore important that the results of our study are considered carefully alongside stories of what it means to be a visitor or volunteer in a National Park.”

The researchers calculated the social return on investment in the North York Moors National Park by assigning monetary values to the impacts upon health and well-being for visitors and volunteers who engaged in activities funded through the National Park grant from Defra. 

 Read the report (pdf) Linsley, P & McMurray, R (2018). North York Moors National Parks Authority: Measuring Health and Well-being Impact. York: The York Management School. Download here.


Four rare hen harriers disappear on Scottish grouse moors – RSPB

RSPB Scotland is appealing for information following the suspicious disappearance of four satellite tagged hen harriers over the last 10 weeks.

All of the birds were tagged at various nest sites, three this summer and one in 2017, in Scotland and Northern England as part of the RSPB’s EU-funded Hen Harrier LIFE project. The last known locations of all four birds were over land managed for grouse shooting.

Satellite tagging technology is increasingly being used to follow the movements of birds of prey, allowing scientists to identify areas important for their feeding, roosting and nesting. The tags are fitted by licensed, trained fieldworkers and are designed to transmit regularly, even after a bird has died. In all four cases, the tags had been functioning without any issues before they suddenly and unexpectedly stopped transmitting, suggesting criminal interference has taken place.


Scots want their scenic landscapes better protected - National Trust for Scotland

A new survey finds overwhelming support for greater measures to protect Scotland’’ most scenic landscapes.

A survey commissioned by conservation charity the National Trust for Scotland reveals overwhelming support for greater measures to protect Scotland’s most scenic landscapes.

The online survey of a sample of 1,229 people representative of Scotland’s population by age and gender was commissioned by the Trust from Mark Diffley Consultancy and Research to mark four decades of National Scenic Areas.

National Scenic Areas (NSAs) were first identified by the then Countryside Commission for Scotland in 1978. This followed publication of Highland Landscape by W H Murray, commissioned by the National Trust for Scotland in 1962, which was the first national assessment of Scotland’s most scenic areas. It came from a strong desire to protect the beauty of Scotland’s landscape and enable ‘economic’ and ‘amenity’ factors to be weighed evenly on the scales. 

Among the findings of the survey are:

  • 95% strongly/tend to agree that scenic areas are vital for tourism;
  • 91% strongly/tend to agree that scenic landscapes make them proud to live in Scotland;
  • 92% strongly/tend to agree that there should be restrictions on large-scale industrial development in Scotland’s most important landscapes;
  • 84% strongly/tend to agree that the planning system should include more measures to protect National Scenic Areas

This is a strong consensus voice. Location, social background, age and gender made virtually no difference to the opinions expressed through the survey.

It was also clear that respondents were unaware of or confused by the many different designations intended to protect landscapes in Scotland: for example, 88% were ‘definitely aware’ of National Parks whereas the percentage for National Scenic Areas was only 20% and 23% for Wild Land Areas.


Wildlife experts concerned for natural environment as oil well drilling in Poole Bay begins - Dorset Wildlife Trust

Short Snouted Seahorse (image: Paul Naylor)Corallian Energy limited has been granted consent to drill the Coulter Appraisal Well in Poole Bay, starting this month.  However, Dorset Wildlife Trust (DWT) still has concerns, despite positive comments from Corallian over limiting the dumping of oiled drill cuttings on the seabed in an area with vulnerable features and bird foraging.

Short Snouted Seahorse (image: Paul Naylor)

Following DWT’s concerns, all contaminated cuttings will now be safely disposed of onshore and the drilling will occur during the winter to reduce impact on migratory species, spring and summer time spawning fish and foraging seabirds. 

DWT continue however to be worried about the remaining drill cuttings that will be discharged on the seabed with the potential to impact species within the vicinity.  Short-snouted seahorses (protected under the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981) are recorded within the licenced area in Poole Bay.

Experts from DWT are also worried that drilling will occur with a potential risk of pollution, albeit small, in such a highly prized natural environment.  DWT Chief Executive, Dr Simon Cripps said, “Poole Bay is not the place for such activities.  The time, effort, money and research necessary to conduct such a project would be better used on renewable energy alternatives and not drilling in such a sensitive area.”This is particularly relevant just a few weeks after the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued a stark warning on the consequences of carrying on burning fossil fuels as we are today.   Peter Tinsley, DWT Living Seas Manager says: “Globally we already have enough oil and gas to go way beyond the IPCC target – we don’t need to explore for more.”


Beavers to return to Essex for the first time in 400 years - Environment Agency

A pair of beavers will be heading to a new home in North Essex as part of a pioneering natural flood management scheme for East Anglia.

It is hoped the Eurasian Beavers will improve biodiversity and help to reduce local flood risk as part of a new approach to flood prevention at the historic Spains Hall Estate, just upstream of the picturesque village of Finchingfield.

The Environment Agency is working in partnership with Spains Hall Estate, the Essex & Suffolk Rivers Trust, Essex Wildlife Trust and others, with funding from partners including the Anglian Eastern Regional Flood and Coastal Committee (RFCC).

The whole story will be captured in a documentary series, due to be screened next year, overseen by renowned wildlife filmmaker Russell Savory for independent film company Copper Productions. The beavers will have a territory covering 4 hectares, with plenty of trees to get their teeth stuck into and a boundary fence helping to keep them safe. Beavers have not been found in Essex for 400 years since they were hunted to extinction, although they have been reintroduced in small numbers in other parts of the country in recent years.

A second element of the project will involve man-made natural flood management measures being introduced on a separate strand of Finchingfield Brook at Spains Hall Estate. As well as helping to slow the flow after heavy rain, the scheme should also create wetland that will slowly release water in drier periods. 


‘Terning’ the tide – protecting a small seabird from multiple threats - RSPB

  • The UK’s second rarest breeding seabird, the little tern, benefits from nest site protection at vulnerable beach sites.
  • Nearly 3000 chicks have fledged over five years as a result of conservation.
  • Further funding now needed to build on the back of current success and give species a long-term future.

The UK’s second rarest breeding seabird has been given a helping hand by a five-year project to protect them at coastal sites where they nest on beaches.

The project funded by EU LIFE has resulted in almost three thousand little tern chicks successfully fledging at 26 sites around the UK over the past five years as well as identifying the main risks to the tern population and ways these could be reduced.

The little tern – one of our rarest and smallest breeding seabirds – nests on open sand and shingle beaches around our coasts between May and August each year. Their numbers have declined by almost a fifth since 2000 due to reduced breeding success and to the many threats they are exposed to on our beaches.

In 2013, ten partner organisations began working together nationally and regionally, with 50% funding from the EU LIFE Nature funding programme, to identify the reasons for little tern declines and to implement trial solutions with the aim of beginning to turnaround the fortunes of the species.

Threats to the nesting terns were found to include recreational disturbance, the impact of predators, a lack of suitable


Rare beetle discovered at second site in Wales - Buglife

The Blue ground beetle (Carabus intricatus), a rare and globally threatened beetle, has been discovered at just its second known site in Wales, coinciding with the launch of a new project aimed to protect it and the ancient woodland habitat in which it is found.

(image: Buglife)(image: Buglife)

Funded by the National Lottery, the ‘Blue Ground Beetle Project’, led by the invertebrate conservation charity Buglife Cymru, and in partnership with The Woodland Trust (Coed Cadw), will deliver habitat management work at Coed Maesmelin ancient woodland in Skewen, Neath Port Talbot, to improve habitat conditions for this extremely rare beetle. Surveys for Blue ground beetle will also been conducted in other suitable woodlands within the vicinity, and it is hoped that these will uncover further populations of this threatened beetle. Growing to over an inch long, the Blue ground beetle is a large and distinctive beetle with metallic blue markings, long legs and sculptured wing-cases. It has always been considered a rarity in Britain, and was once even thought to be extinct - until it was rediscovered in Dartmoor in 1994.

Until recently, the Blue ground beetle was seemingly confined to just handful of UK sites in Devon and Cornwall. In 2012, however, the beetle was discovered in a woodpile of a garage by a member of the public in Skewen. After contacting Buglife, the specimen was confirmed to be the Blue ground beetle and subsequent surveys found it to be present in nearby Coed Maesmelin - an ancient oak woodland owned and managed by The Woodland Trust (Coed Cadw). Until its discovery at Coed Maesmelin, it had never been recorded in Wales.


RFS Insight Report into Planting for Resilience - Royal Forestry Society

Climate change, Ash Dieback and damage by grey squirrels are driving UK woodland owners to diversify the species of trees they are planting.

Cover of Insight Survey: Changing woodland reportWhile some are reverting to familiar varieties such as Cherry and Wild Service Tree that have fallen out of favour in recent times, others are planting exotic alternatives such as Eucalyptus and species from the Americas and continental Europe.

These changes have emerged in an Insight Survey by the Royal Forestry Society of members managing woodland in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, which has found that more than 60 different species are now being planted to mitigate threats to tree resilience.

Chief Executive Simon Lloyd said: “The species list represents a snap shot of those being chosen by respondents but does not include some like Tulip Tree (Liriodendron tulipifera) which the RFS knows is also being planted as an alternative to Ash. There is concern that some woodland managers are gravitating to species based primarily on personal preferences rather than making more evidence-based choices suitable for their locations and soil types as well as for their particular management objectives. A scatter gun approach risks the sustainability of woodland in the long term. Whether land managers choose to go down the novel route or stick to more tried-and-tested choices probably depends a little on how willing they are to try new ideas. Species like Cherry and Sweet Chestnut have known qualities and end markets, whereas the early adopters are choosing more unusual and exotic alternative species are relatively untested in woodlands in the UK. As confidence in the performance of these new species grows, we can probably expect to see an uplift in their popularity. Overall, this Insight Survey suggests the messages of preparing now for climate change are being heard.”

 Of those who responded, almost half are already planting more species than five years ago, and of those who are not, 63% are actively planning to do so in the next five years. Only 14% said they were not considering diversification.

 Among popular broadleaved varieties listed by respondents were native species such as Wild Service Tree, Cherry, Field Maple, Hornbeam and Lime alongside ‘familiar’ non-natives such as Sweet Chestnut and Black Walnut. There were also early adopters of less familiar species like Eucalyptus, Italian Alder and Southern Beech.  More than 20 conifer species were mentioned, with known timber producing species such as Douglas Fir predominant but with some lesser known species also being tried, including Chinese Fir and Swamp Cypress.

Download the report (PDF)


Single-use. Is the 2018 word of the year the new taboo? - Marine Conservation Society

An independent study commissioned by Sky Ocean Rescue has found that nearly six in 10 Brits believe single-use plastic will become a social taboo by 2021.

The research has been revealed on the day the Collins English Dictionary announced ‘single-use’ is the 2018 Word of the Year.

The Sky Ocean-commissioned research also revealed that seven in 10 think single use plastics should carry cigarette style warning labels whilst almost three quarters of those questioned have reduced the amount of single use plastics they use over the last year.

It also suggested that swigging from a single-use plastic water bottle will soon become as unacceptable as smoking, with consumers supporting use of tobacco packet shock tactics to drive change.

Collins Dictionary lexicographers named single-use the word of the year, after a four-fold rise in its use over five years – which they suggest is down to widespread news coverage.

But despite the increased awareness boosted by programmes like BBC1s Blue Planet II and the Sky Ocean rescue coverage and campaigns, many people still use single use plastic items without a second thought because they’re so much a part of our daily lives. Almost two thirds (64%) of those questioned admitted to still buying or accepting single use plastics multiple times a week.

Four in 10 (42%) say they now feel embarrassed being spotted with single use plastic items and almost a third (29%) have even called others out for using these disposable items. 


Decline in shorebirds linked to climate change, experts warn - University of Bath

Research from the Milner Centre for Evolution has found that nest predation of shorebirds in the Arctic has trebled over the last 70 years 

Climate change could be responsible for a substantial decline in populations of shorebirds, say researchers from the Milner Centre for Evolution at the University of Bath, following a study published in Science analysing population data over a period of 70 years.

Historically, the rates of nest predation - eggs being stolen from nests by predators – are higher in the tropics, presumably due to higher variability of potential predators.

To counter this, shorebirds such as plovers and sandpipers migrate to the Arctic to lay their eggs as a safe place in which to build their nests and raise their young. Tropical birds, on the other hand, tend to have longer lifespans and longer periods of seasonal reproduction so their populations can generally withstand higher nest predation.

Red Fox with an egg in its mouth (image: University of Bath)However an international team of researchers, led by the Milner Centre for Evolution at the University of Bath, has found that rates of daily nest predation have increased globally, but this is particularly marked in the Arctic, where they have increased threefold in the last 70 years. 

A sharp increase in nest predation in the Arctic and North Temperate zones has caused a substantial decline in shorebird populations in these regions. (image: University of Bath)

The data suggest that the marked increase in nest predation in the Arctic and North Temperate Zone, in contrast to a smaller change in the tropics and Southern hemisphere, is linked to climate change.

The reasons for the increase in nest predation however are still unclear. The authors suggest it could be due to shift in the diet of predators towards eating more eggs instead of other food sources or perhaps change in predator species composition.

For example, lemmings, a key part of the Arctic food web have experienced a crash in numbers due to altered snow cover as a result of increased ambient temperature instability over several decades. With a lack of lemmings at many Arctic locations, predators may be searching for alternative prey in bird nests.

The authors also suggest that changes in vegetation or changes in behaviour or distribution of nest predators such as foxes may also be a factor contributing to the increased predation of shorebird nests. 

Access the paper: Vojtěch Kubelka, Miroslav Šálek, Pavel Tomkovich, Zsolt Végvári, Robert P. Freckleton, & Tamás Székely (2018) Global pattern of nest predation is disrupted by climate change in shorebirds. Science. DOI: 10.1126/science.aat8695 


A team of marine scientists have discovered a very rare shark nursery, 200 miles west of Ireland while investigating Ireland’s deep ocean territory - Marine Institute

The announcement was made at the INFOMAR Seabed Mapping Seminar in Kinsale today, where video highlights were debuted of this rare occurrence, discovered during the recent “SeaRover” survey by the Marine Institute’s remotely operated vehicle (ROV) Holland 1 deployed onboard the ILV Granuaile. The INFOMAR Programme is a Government of Ireland initiative, funded by Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment and is a deliverable under Project 2040, Ireland’s National Development Plan.

shark nursery(image: Marine Institute)

Koen Verbruggen, GSI Director said “We are delighted that this discovery has been unveiled at todays’ event, demonstrating the importance of mapping our seabed habitats in understanding and managing our vast and valued ocean resources.  Our data and team continue to make significant contributions to harnessing our ocean wealth.”

Very large numbers of egg cases, commonly called mermaids purses, were filmed on the seafloor at depths reaching 750 m. Such large concentrations of egg cases, are rarely recorded and indicate females may gather in this particular area on the seafloor to lay their eggs.

A large school of Blackmouth catshark (Galeus melastomus), abundant in the northeast Atlantic were present at the site, and it is likely the eggs are of this species. A second more unusual and solitary species, the Sailfin roughshark (Oxynotus paradoxus) was also observed. “Both species are of scientific interest as Ireland has an obligation to monitor deepwater sharks under the Marine Strategy Framework Directive”, said Maurice Clarke from the Fisheries Ecosystem Advisory Services at the Marine Institute.

“No pups were obvious at the site and it is believed that the adult sharks might be utilising degraded coral reef and exposed carbonate rock on which to lay their eggs. A healthy coral reef in the vicinity, may act as a refuge for the juvenile shark pups once they hatch. It is anticipated that further study of the site will answer some important scientific questions on the biology and ecology of deep water sharks in Irish waters,” explained David O’Sullivan.

Click through to view footage from the SeaRover.


Pollution in cities damaging insects and ecosystems - University of Sheffield 

High levels of pollution found in many of the world’s major cities are having negative effects on plants and insects, according to new research from the University of Sheffield.

The study, published in Nature Communications, reveals that plants exposed to high levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) – similar to levels recorded in major urban centres – are able to better defend themselves against herbivorous insects.

Led by Dr Stuart Campbell from the University’s Department of Animal and Plant Sciences, the research has discovered that plants exposed to increased levels of pollution produce more defensive chemicals in their leaves.

Results from the study show that insects feeding on these leaves grew poorly, which suggests high levels of air pollution may be having cascading negative effects on communities of herbivorous creatures.

Dr Campbell, who is also part of the P3 Centre – a centre of excellence for translational plant science at the University of Sheffield, said: “Nitrogen dioxide is a pollutant that causes severe health problems in humans, but our research has found that it may also be having a significant impact on plants and insects. 

Read the paper: Stuart A. Campbell & Dena M. Vallano.  Plant defences mediate interactions between herbivory and the direct foliar uptake of atmospheric reactive nitrogen. Nature Communications volume 9, Article number: 4743 (2018)  doi: 10.1038/s41467-018-07134-9  (Open Access)


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