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


UK moths battling unfair reputation – Butterfly Conservation

Around three quarters of the UK population (74%) have some negative opinion of moths, with many people believing the majority eat clothes and are pests, a study has revealed.

A YouGov poll for wildlife charity Butterfly Conservation revealed that 64% of people associated moths with eating clothes and one in three (33%) with being pests.

Moths have long suffered an unfair reputation as the devourers of clothes despite the fact that only two out of more than 2,500 UK species are known to regularly feed on some fabrics. And rather than being pests, the vast majority of moths play important roles in the food chain and as pollinators.

Research found that 17% of people thought moths were ugly and 12% believed they were scary. But, some held more positive views with one in five people (21%) believing moths were important and almost a third 29%) that they were interesting.

In a bid to make the UK mad about moths Butterfly Conservation is launching #MothsMatter, a campaign to overturn their unfair reputation.

Moths Matter will reveal how moths are a key food source for many other species, how they are fascinating and beautiful and how they play an important role as pollinators of wildflowers and garden plants.


Seabird success! - The Landmark Trust

Super news for seabird numbers on Lundy

An exciting new study led by the RSPB has revealed that the total number of seabirds on the island of Lundy has now tripled to over 21,000. Key species such as Manx shearwater have increased from just 297 pairs to more than 5,500 and puffins from 13 to 375 birds. 

A juvenile Manx shearwater on Lundy. Photo by David PriceA juvenile Manx shearwater on Lundy. Photo by David Price

This growth over the past 15 years has been the result of the island being declared rat-free in 2006. The eradication of rats was necessary after evidence from other important seabird islands revealed that the biggest threat to burrow-nesting birds such as Manx shearwaters and puffins on Lundy was predation of eggs and chicks by rats.

In 2002, a partnership between Natural England, The Landmark Trust, the National Trust and the RSPB was formed to eradicate the rats on Lundy, which are not native to Britain but imported unwittingly on ships visiting the island or from shipwrecks.

Lundy Warden, Dean Jones said 'It is exciting to see this level of recovery in Manx shearwaters, one of our most important seabirds. In spring, the island comes alive at night with the sound of these amazing birds. The increase in puffins, guillemots and razorbills is also very encouraging for the future of seabirds on Lundy and we are maintaining our vigilance to ensure rats cannot return to the island.'


Antibiotics found in some of the world’s rivers exceed ‘safe’ levels, global study finds – University of York

Concentrations of antibiotics found in some of the world’s rivers exceed ‘safe’ levels by up to 300 times, the first ever global study has discovered.

Researchers looked for 14 commonly used antibiotics in rivers in 72 countries across six continents and found antibiotics at 65% of the sites monitored.

Metronidazole, which is used to treat bacterial infections including skin and mouth infections, exceeded safe levels by the biggest margin, with concentrations at one site in Bangladesh 300 times greater than the ‘safe’ level.

In the River Thames and one of its tributaries in London, the researchers detected a maximum total antibiotic concentration of 233 nanograms per litre (ng/l), whereas in Bangladesh the concentration was 170 times higher.


The most prevalent antibiotic was trimethoprim, which was detected at 307 of the 711 sites tested and is primarily used to treat urinary tract infections.

The research team compared the monitoring data with ‘safe’ levels recently established by the AMR Industry Alliance which, depending on the antibiotic, range from 20-32,000 ng/l.

Ciproflaxacin, which is used to treat a number of bacterial infections, was the compound that most frequently exceeded safe levels, surpassing the safety threshold in 51 places.


2018’s extreme weather led to a tough year for the UK’s bumblebees – Bumblebee Conservation Trust

2018 was a tough year for many of the UK’s 24 bumblebee species according to a report released today by the Bumblebee Conservation Trust.

The new report summarises trends in the UK’s bumblebee populations, using data gathered every year from 2010 by a country wide network of hundreds of ‘BeeWalker’ citizen scientists.

The cold weather of the ‘Beast from the East’ in late February and early March delayed the beginning of the 2018 bumblebee season. Most bumblebee species got off to a slow start and only reached normal numbers in July, suggesting bumblebee queens were late out of hibernation and subsequently slow to produce big numbers of bumblebee workers.  As a result many of the UK’s bumblebee species declined more quickly than normal as the year progressed, particularly as the summer heatwave reduced the available food as flowers wilted in the unusual warmth.

The spring specialist Early bumblebee (B. pratorum) had a particularly bad year, its worst since the near-constant rain of 2012. Several other species, normally common in people’s gardens. had poor years, including the Garden bumblebee (B. hortorum), the Buff-tailed bumblebee (B. terrestris), the Heath bumblebee (B. jonellus), and the White-tailed bumblebee (B. lucorum aggregate)

The full BeeWalk annual report can be downloaded here.


Rare butterfly returns after 52-year absence - Butterfly Conservation

Logo: Grizzled Skipper - Iain H LeachA rare butterfly has been reintroduced to a site in Derbyshire where it’s not been seen for 52 years, thanks to an ambitious project by the National Trust and wildlife charity Butterfly Conservation (BC).

The Grizzled Skipper has declined by 55% across the UK over the last 40 years and disappeared from its former stronghold in Derbyshire – the National Trust’s Calke Abbey near Ticknall – in 1967.  

Grizzled Skipper - Iain H Leach

A joint project was launched between Butterfly Conservation East Midlands, Natural England and the National Trust to re-establish the Grizzled Skipper in Derbyshire and bring the butterfly back to Calke Abbey.

Vital conservation work has also taken place at the property over the last year to restore the habitat in preparation for the arrival of the new Grizzled Skippers.

The butterfly needs lots of sunny, open areas to thrive and breed, so some tree cover has been removed and grassy areas have been raked to expose bare soil. This encourages the growth of the caterpillars’ food plant, wild strawberry and at least 600 strawberry plants have been added to the estate over the last year.


30 Days Wild returns for a fabulous fifth year – The Wildlife Trusts

Thousands take up challenge to go wild every day in June

The Wildlife Trusts’ annual challenge – 30 Days Wild – calling on everyone to go wild every day in June starts this weekend. This year looks set to be bigger and wilder than ever and so far a record number of 60,000 people, families, schools, businesses and care homes throughout the UK have signed up to receive a free pack of ideas and to take part.

30 Days Wild encourages everyone to enjoy nature in our neighbourhoods through daily Random Acts of Wildness: listening to bird song, gazing at butterflies, growing borage for bees and making the most of our parks, gardens and school grounds. Evidence shows that taking part can also make us happier and healthier.


Common crane successfully breeds at Wicken Fen for the first time in at least 120 years - National Trust

A rare common crane chick has hatched at the National Trust’s Wicken Fen nature reserve in Cambridgeshire for the first time since the conservation charity acquired the nature reserve in 1899 and started species records.

(credit Michael Holdsworth)(credit Michael Holdsworth)

The Trust suspects that it could actually be the first chick to be born at the reserve in over 500 years. 

The common crane is on the UK’s amber conservation list and is one of Britain’s rarest breeding birds with only around 54 pairs recorded in 2018.  

The adults can grow to over one metre tall and are mostly grey with a black, white and red feathered head.  There is a small breeding population in Norfolk, and small numbers pass through Britain in spring and autumn. But, at Wicken, cranes can actually be seen at any time of year.

Martin Lester, countryside manager at Wicken Fen said: “UK cranes typically nest in wetland habitats using materials found in the area.  As with most species, the female does most of the incubation and cares for the chicks when they’re young. The successful breeding of this chick is a reflection on the conservation work that we have been carrying out particularly over the last 20 years.  This work includes extending the reserve, and allowing diverse habitats to evolve that have resulted in the return of other species such as otters and water vole.”


Leading retailers not embracing wet wipe ‘flushability’ standard - Marine Conservation Society

MCS says that own-brand ‘flushable’ wet wipes, which can be bought from 10 leading High Street retailers and supermarkets, can’t carry the new ‘Fine to Flush’ logo - which denotes an official UK water industry standard identifying which wet wipes are safe to be flushed down the toilet.

These ‘flushable’ wipes are marketed under a range of descriptions - from moist toilet tissue, dispersible wipes, to toddler training wipes - but could be contributing to sewer blockages, so-called ‘fatbergs’ and marine pollution. MCS says it strongly urges the public not to buy these wipes and to choose alternatives.

This new MCS research, is all the more shocking in the light of a YouGov poll conducted on behalf of MCS2 which revealed 72% of people in Britain said they used wet wipes in 2016. Household cleaning wipes were used by 43% of people in Britain, baby and toddler wipes by 36%, facial and skincare wipes by 35%, and moist toilet tissue were used by 24% of Brits.


Local charities could receive £1 billion in deposits from cans and bottles - Campaign to Protect Rural England

CPRE survey shows 20% of people would donate deposits to charity with a deposit return system.

A reverse vending machine in action in Norway (image: CPRE)One in five people (20%) using a UK-wide deposit return system would donate deposits they’d paid on drinks cans and bottles to charity all of the time, according to a new survey carried out by ICM Unlimited and published today (30 May) by the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE). This could result in annual donations of more than £1 billion to good causes.

A reverse vending machine in action in Norway (image: CPRE)

A further 19% of respondents said they would donate their deposits most of the time, and more than a third (34%) would donate at least some of the time. This could lead to a further £1.3 billion in donations to local charitable causes from the deposits on glass and plastic drinks bottles and aluminium cans, the analysis by CPRE found. 

The donations could be even higher if drinks cartons and pouches are also included in England’s deposit system – something which environment secretary Michael Gove is currently considering.

The countryside charity states that by including an option for the public to donate their deposits – something that is part of most other deposit systems around the world – we could build on the huge success of the carrier bag charge, which, as well as reducing plastic bag usage by over 80%, raised £66 million for good causes in 2016/17.


Some songbird nests are especially vulnerable to magpie predation - new study suggests - Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust

(image: GWCT)A NEW study has revealed a range of factors that cause a variation in predation by magpies on farmland songbirds.

(image: GWCT)

Researchers from University of Exeter and the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT) placed 460 artificial nests on typical farmland in Warwickshire to study predator behaviour.

They found magpies were the most common predators, accounting for 70% of visits where the predator could be identified.

Nests inside magpie breeding territories were predated by magpies more often, especially late in the season when magpies themselves had young in their nests.

Intriguingly, some specific nest locations were repeatedly highly predated.

The findings come amid controversy over the rules governing which birds can be killed to protect wild birds, crops and livestock.

Read the paper: published in the European Journal of Wildlife Research, is entitled: “Predation of artificial nests in UK farmland by magpies (Pica pica): interacting environmental, temporal, and social factors influence a nest’s risk.”


England's Marine Life Protected With Blue Belt Expansion - defra

Environment Secretary Michael Gove has today created 41 new Marine Conservation Zones, marking the most significant expansion of England’s ‘Blue Belt’ of protected areas to date.  

A picture of Birling Gap looking over the Beachy Head West MCZ. (Credit: Natural England.)A picture of Birling Gap looking over the Beachy Head West MCZ. (Credit: Natural England.)

Environment Secretary Michael Gove has today created 41 new Marine Conservation Zones, marking the most significant expansion of England’s ‘Blue Belt’ of protected areas to date.

Stretching from Cornwall to Northumberland, the new protections safeguard 12,000 square kilometres of marine habitat, an area almost eight times the size of Greater London. Today’s announcement follows the government’s manifesto commitment to create a Blue Belt of marine protection for Britain’s overseas territories and its own coast, and builds on the ambition of the 25 Year Environment Plan.

The rare stalked jellyfish, short-snouted seahorse and blue mussel beds are among the species and habitats that will benefit from the protections.

With 50 zones already designated in 2013 and 2016, the UK now has 355 Marine Protected Areas of different types, spanning 220,000 square km – nearly twice the size of England.

Environment Secretary Michael Gove said: " The UK is already leading the rest of the world by protecting over 30% of our ocean - but we know there is more to do. Establishing this latest round of Marine Conservation Zones in this Year of Green Action is another big step in the right direction, extending our blue belt to safeguard precious and diverse sea life for future generations to come."



Expanded Blue Belt welcomed - But Government must champion its protection - Wildlife and Countryside Link

Conservation and environment groups welcome the new Marine Conservation Zones but warn they will be little more than 'paper parks' without effective management and well-resourced enforcement

The conservation sector welcomes the announcement by Defra today of 41 new Marine Conservation Zones. Nearly doubling the number of conservation zones in English and Secretary of State Waters is a big step forward, but 12 charities, co-ordinated by Wildlife and Countryside Link, are warning that without effective management and well-resourced enforcement these sites will be little more than ‘paper parks’ and sea life will continue to decline.

Just this month the Environmental Audit Committee slammed the lack of protection for these areas as part of its Sustainable Seas report – outlining concerns that “Government is doing little more than putting lines on a map’ with very few restrictions on harmful activities such as pulse fishing in many protected areas. This report coincided with the UN IPBES biodiversity report which showed the alarming declines in nature and the huge impact of human activities on the biodiversity of marine ecosystems.
Earlier this month Defra announced its failure to achieve healthy seas through the UK Marine Strategy, managing to meet just 4 of the 15 targets. The collective UK Governments’ admission that our oceans are in poor health is a wake-up call; we must grasp this once in a lifetime opportunity to turn the tide on biodiversity loss. The expanded network of Marine Protected Areas goes some way to safeguarding our seas from further harm but proper management and Government collaboration will also be key. Some of the new sites proposed cover areas in the Irish Sea but despite commitments, Scottish Government have delayed a public consultation for further MPA sites in Scottish waters for 4 years and Wales is yet to announce its own plans for MCZs.


New wave of protection for the sea announced today - The Wildlife Trusts

The Wildlife Trusts call for effective management of 41 new Marine Conservation Zones

Today The Wildlife Trusts welcome the news that the Government is designating a third phase of 41 new Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs).  This historic move will help protect the seas around our shores and follows on from previous announcements of 50 MCZs (in 2013 and 2016). It is the third of three phases promised by the Government in order to fulfil the remit of the Marine and Coastal Access Act.

Fireworks anemone, Irish Sea  (image: © Paul Naylor)Fireworks anemone, Irish Sea  (image: © Paul Naylor) 

Joan Edwards, Director of Living Seas at The Wildlife Trusts, says: “It’s fantastic news that now we have 91 Marine Conservation Zones – they will form a vital series of underwater habitats which can be nursed back to health. The Wildlife Trusts have been calling for the government to give real protection to a network of diverse sea-bed landscapes since 2009 and over 22,000 people joined our call for better protection of our seas during last summer’s consultation.  Huge thanks to everyone who has supported this change! Now we need to see good management of these special places to stop damaging activities such as beam-trawling or dredging for scallops and langoustines which harm fragile marine wildlife.”


41 New Marine Conservation Zones Welcomed By Marine Conservation Society 

But the real challenge is now making them matter for people and wildlife says charity .

The UK’s leading marine charity, the Marine Conservation Society (MCS), says it welcomes today’s announcement by the government of the creation of 41 new Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs), but warns that proper investment in their management and monitoring must be made if they are to benefit both people and wildlife. 
21,000 people took part in last summer’s MCS campaign urging Environment Secretary, Michael Gove, to be ambitious and designate 41 sites offered for public consultation at the time. 
“This is great news for marine wildlife and we are delighted that government has approved the protection of these special marine areas,” said Dr Jean-Luc Solandt, MCS Principal Specialist, MPAs.  “The UK has a growing network of more than 300 marine protected areas, but the government must now invest in proper management of these sites and keep them free of all activities that damage the seabed so that our spectacular marine wildlife can recover from decades of destruction and degradation.”  


Other news today:

Good news from our Featured Charity Canal and River Trust: Major Leap Forward For Montgomery Canal Restoration

Unique project protects rare wildlife as canal restored for boats 

Waterways and well-being charity, the Canal & River Trust has taken a major leap forwards this spring in the mammoth task to restore the beautiful Montgomery Canal on the Shropshire Welsh border. 

Thanks to a four-year, £4 million project, boats should soon be returning to a section of the canal near Oswestry for the first time since the canal was closed due to a breach in 1936.  

Dragonflies are abundant at the new Aston Locks nature reserve lakes. (image: CRT)Dragonflies are abundant at the new Aston Locks nature reserve lakes. (image: CRT)

The Trust, which cares for the Montgomery and 2,000 miles of canals, has been working with volunteers from the Shropshire Union Canal Society and contractors to upgrade nearly five miles (8km) of towpath, restore 1¼ miles (2km) of the canal to navigation from Maesbury to Crickheath and create a dedicated turning point for narrowboats, known as a ‘winding hole’. Construction of the winding hole has just been completed and the basin is currently being filled with water, which will take about three weeks. 

For the first time in a canal restoration, two nature reserve lakes have been constructed parallel to the canal channel at Aston Locks, near Queens Head, to provide a protective home for rare aquatic flora and fauna removed from the canal. Wildlife such as damselflies, dragonflies, otters, water voles, and rare aquatic plants like Floating Water Plantain Luronium natans  are now successfully colonising their new home.


Funding secures exciting addition to RSPB Marshside - RSPB

Thanks to funding from Biffa Award, the RSPB is taking even more birds under its wing on the Ribble Estuary after recently purchasing Crossens Inner Marsh, a wet grassland area adjacent to their existing Marshside reserve in Southport.

The marsh, which is already home to over-wintering birds such as wigeons, pink-footed geese, black-tailed godwits and golden plovers, covers an area about the size of 38 football pitches.  

Over £464,000 funding from Biffa Award enabled the RSPB to purchase the land and will also fund major improvements to the marsh, which will benefit rare and unusual wildlife including nesting lapwings, redshanks, and avocets - which are the emblem of the RSPB, along with brown hares. The habitat works, which will take place after the breeding season this summer, will also improve the control of water levels on the reserve helping to prevent prolonged flooding of the rare coastal grassland.

Tony Baker, Site Manager for the RSPB Ribble Reserves said: “Purchasing Crossens Inner Marsh is the final piece of the jigsaw for us, not only as an extension to our well known Marshside reserve, but also in the completion of the Ribble Estuary National Nature Reserve (NNR). We’re working in partnership here with Natural England who oversee England’s NNRs, which enables us to do more for nature by creating opportunities for bigger, better and more joined-up management of these vital wild spaces.”


Woodland Trust recognised for its work with volunteers - Woodland Trust

From wildlife whizzes to willing writers, public speakers to plucky photographers - the Woodland Trust has been recognised for the opportunities it gives to volunteers.

The charity has been awarded the Investing in Volunteers* Quality Standard after being assessed against a range of best practice standards and having proved to excel in the areas of recruitment, safety standards, management, support, recognition and value.

The charity has 3,226 roles for volunteers who undertake invaluable work for trees and woods and nature across the UK. Without them its fight to protect and create woodlands would not be as strong.

 Young farmer volunteers at Penn Wood (Photo: Natalia Szcyzgielska / WTML) Young farmer volunteers at Penn Wood (Photo: Natalia Szcyzgielska / WTML)

Paul Taylor, National volunteering manager at the Woodland Trust said: “We appreciate every volunteer that gives their time freely. They’re the lifeblood of the organisation. Every volunteer adds value to our organisation and helps us to achieve our goals. We have 3,226 volunteer roles which account for 174,000 hours of work, which is worth £1.7m annually. The scope of volunteering opportunities is broad; from office based roles such as researchers to trustees, to practical outdoor roles such as woodland working groups and tree health surveyors who highlight instances of tree disease - something that has been especially important in recent years with so many cases of ash dieback.”

That the Trust has been awarded this nationally recognised quality standard offers potential volunteers assurance that if they decide to volunteer that they can feel confident that the Trust will support them and value their contribution, and that they will always being treated with respect.


Scientific publications

Capstick, L.A., Sage, R.B. & Madden, J.R. Predation of artificial nests in UK farmland by magpies (Pica pica): interacting environmental, temporal, and social factors influence a nest’s risk. Eur J Wildl Res (2019) 65: 50. DOI: 10.1007/s10344-019-1290-6


Javier Rivas-Salvador, David Hořák, Jiří Reif, Spatial patterns in habitat specialization of European bird communities, Ecological Indicators, doi.org/10.1016/j.ecolind.2019.05.063.


Froidevaux, JSP, Boughey, KL, Hawkins, CL, Broyles, M, Jones, G. Managing hedgerows for nocturnal wildlife: Do bats and their insect prey benefit from targeted agri-environment schemes? J Appl Ecol. 2019; 00: 1– 14. doi.org/10.1111/1365-2664.13412


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