Monthly Archives: May 2013

Former football star becomes an eco warrior

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Gary with his eco friendly hybrid car. Pic: Getty

Former Manchester United star Gary Neville has co-founded Sustainability In Sport with the aim of helping clubs and supporters become more eco friendly.

He’s also become an eco-building developer, including designing his own zero-carbon home. “I’m driving a plug-in hybrid Vauxhall Ampera,” Neville told The Metro newspaper recently. “I’ve put three tanks of petrol in it in eight months, which I’m proud of, and I really do want to do as much as I can for the environment. I want to promote green issues as much as possible and make people aware.”

Even before retiring in 2011, Neville, who is now a Sky TV pundit, was embracing a green lifestyle with plans for an eight-bedroom underground eco home. “The key for me is to live in a low-impact house that performs the best it can,” he said.

“There have been some criticisms over the design but I’m not really bothered about it. I’ve got thick skin; I’ve been criticised all my life. It was more to do with erecting a wind turbine but I take great pride in the fact there are now three wind turbines that have gone up within a mile of the site since mine got through planning. I don’t know whether people just slipped theirs under the radar while I was getting battered but it’s a positive thing.”

Neville also donated the proceeds from his farewell testimonial match with Manchester United to Sustainability In Sport. “Sport is a very important element in society and there is an environmental impact,’ he says. ‘I’m not saying get rid of anything because there is so much good that comes out of sport, so much enjoyment, but sensible decisions can be made at zero cost that add even bigger positives environmentally, so clubs actually save money.”

Neville, who is now on the England team coaching staff, is hoping some of his fellow footballers will come on board and join the cause, but says: “It has to be someone who is actually looking to improve. What you don’t want is people doing it for the wrong reasons; you have to believe in it and want to do it.”

Cold Spring

Hagbourne Wildlife

The Met Office are now suggesting that this will be the coldest spring for 50 years; what the long-term effect will be remains to be seen, but at the moment it looks as though most of nature is carrying on as usual, though anything up to five weeks late.

Cold wet weather isn’t great for photographing bugs and butterflies, but here are a few shots I’ve taken recently:

A Dock Bug (common, but I had never seen one before):
Dock Bug (Coreus marginatus)

A Green Shieldbug – one of several shieldbug species that I hope are still here:

Palomena prasina (Common Green Shieldbug)

and a Speckled Bush Cricket nymph – we usually have loads of these, a couple of weeks earlier than this year:

Speckled bush cricket (Leptophyes punctatissima) nymph

Meanwhile a nearby field was cut for silage, and at least 20 Red Kites turned up to feast on (I think) worms.

What do red kites eat?

The local kestrel came along, too:

Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus)
Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus)

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60% of UK species in decline, warns new report

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UK nature is in trouble – that is the conclusion of a groundbreaking report published this week by a coalition of leading conservation and research organisations.

Butterflies and moths have been particularly badly affected – almost three quarters of UK butterfly species have decreased in population during the last decade and the number of the UK’s larger moths has crashed during the past 40 years.

Scientists from 25 wildlife organisations have compiled a stock take of our native species and found that 60% of the species studied have declined over recent decades. More than one in ten of all the species assessed are under threat of disappearing from the UK altogether.

The unique report, based on scientific analysis of tens of millions of observations from volunteers, shows that from woodland to farmland and from freshwater streams to the sea, many animals, birds, insects, fish and plants  are in trouble.

The causes include the intensification of farming, with the consequent loss of meadows, hedgerows and ponds and increased pesticide use, as well as building development, overfishing and climate change.

The State of Nature report was launched by Sir David Attenborough and UK conservation charities at the Natural History Museum in London on Wednesday, while simultaneous events were held in Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast.

Sir David Attenborough said: “This groundbreaking report is a stark warning – but it is also a sign of hope. For 60 years I have travelled the world exploring the wonders of nature and sharing that wonder with the public. But as a boy my first inspiration came from discovering the UK’s own wildlife.

“Our islands have a rich diversity of habitats which support some truly amazing plants and animals. We should all be proud of the beauty we find on our own doorstep; from bluebells carpeting woodland floors and delicately patterned fritillary butterflies, to the graceful basking shark and the majestic golden eagle soaring over the Scottish mountains.

“This report shows that our species are in trouble, with many declining at a worrying rate. However, we have in this country a network of passionate conservation groups supported by millions of people who love wildlife. The experts have come together today to highlight the amazing nature we have around us and to ensure that it remains here for generations to come.”

Dr Mark Eaton, a lead author on the report, said: “This report reveals that the UK’s nature is in trouble – overall we are losing wildlife at an alarming rate.These declines are affecting our insects, such as our moths, butterflies and beetles, the most, but other once common species, like the lesser spotted woodpecker, barbastelle bat and hedgehog are vanishing before our eyes.

“Threats including sweeping habitat loss, changes to the way we manage our countryside, and the more recent impact of climate change, have had a major impact on our wildlife, and they are not going away.

“None of this work would have been possible without the army of volunteer wildlife enthusiasts. Our knowledge of nature in the UK would be significantly poorer without these unsung heroes. And that knowledge is the most essential tool that conservationists have.”

Fish scheme up for ethics award

Cattle transport, not badgers, really causes bovine tuberculosis

Dear Kitty. Some blog

This video from Britain says about itself:

Watch this cute badger cub run round in circles with excitement as it sets off for an evening outing.

From Wildlife Extra, about Britain:

Defra statistics show bTB soared after cattle imports

A case of foot in mouth for Defra as their own evidence reveals true cause of bTB outbreak

May 2013. Statistics released by Defra in a bid to explain why the badger cull must go ahead have, in fact, revealed the true cause of the bTB outbreak that they are trying to stop, say Care for the Wild.

bTB soared after Foot and Mouth controls relaxed

Figures show that incidences of bTB soared in 2000/2001, in certain areas. This correlates almost exactly with the relaxation of movement controls after the Foot and Mouth epidemic, which saw large numbers of herds restocked from the UK and across Europe.

Influx of untested…

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Vital European debate on wasteful fish discards

Fish Fight march, London, Britain - 25 Feb 2013

Campaigners protest outside Westminster. Photo: Rex Features

Crucial negotiations in Brussels in the next few days will decide whether the EU’s wasteful fish discards policy will come to an end.

Currently, millions of healthy fish back are thrown back into the sea each year after they have been caught, because of the way the EU’s quotas are managed.

But a ban on discards has gathered huge public backing since the TV chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall made it a personal campaign more than two years ago, highlighting the waste of the EU’s rapidly dwindling fish stocks. He has gathered the support of the UK fisheries minister, Richard Benyon, who will fight for the ban in an EU meeting starting on Monday.

This week’s battle will be intense. For the opponents of a ban, including Spain and Portugal, this is the last chance to scupper proposals that would mean the biggest shakeup of the EU common fisheries policy since it was brought in four decades ago.

Fearnley-Whittingstall, whose FishFight campaign has gathered more than 850,000 supporters, said that it was “crunch time” for the reforms that are needed to end the “crazy system”. He said: “We need a strong discard ban and a legally enforceable commitment to restore fish stocks to sustainable levels. To any sane person, wasting half a million tonnes of fine edible fish every year is simply unacceptable.”

A number of countries and MEPs want to keep the discards system because it allows their large fishing fleets to maximise profits. Fishermen discard parts of their catch when they have netted species for which they do not have a quota, because it leaves more room to take home the species they are after, or when they have exceeded their quota they often throw back smaller specimens. They also throw back lower-value species for which there is less commercial demand.

All of these measures allow fishermen to maximise their profits, taking ashore only the most valuable section of their catch and throwing the rest away – even though the discarded fish are healthy and edible. Reform would mean they have to land the whole catch, which should help to stop the plunder of the EU’s dwindling fish stocks.

If the reformers win the day, there could be a discards ban in place for many important species within a year, with the rest phased in over the next three to five years. Fishing rights would also have to be set according to scientific advice as to the “maximum sustainable yield”.

Fearnley-Whittingstall said: “The French and Spanish may have learned to profit from this crazy system down the years, but now it has to end. Kowtowing to their calls for compromise and threats of blocking reform is simply not an option.”

Gardeners urged to give nests a rest this Spring

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Pic by RSPB

If you are planning to do some gardening at the weekend be careful of nesting birds that may have made their home in trees, hedges, shrubs and in roofs.

With the long, hard winter now hopefully behind them birds have started making nests, but because of the prolonged wintry conditions and late start to spring, they are already up against it. The RSPB has warned that nest sites are at a premium thanks to many of the usual sites provided by trees, shrubs and hedging still being lifeless and providing no cover.

Val Osborne, the RSPB’s head of Wildlife Enquiries, said: “At this time of year there is normally is plenty of shrubbery for birds to make safe nests in and hide from predators, but the late start to spring has meant that many leaves are yet to come out.

“Instead of their usual spots, birds may opt to build homes in more unusual places as well as ivy and other evergreens, so gardeners should stay alert and be vigilant when pottering about this weekend. If you come across a nest, leave well alone – birds that are disturbed may decide to abandon their eggs or young for fear of the site not being safe.”

And for those of us ready to get started in the garden, the RSPB is asking to hold back on the hedge cutting to avoid destroying nests and baby birds.

“This is a crucial time for our feathered friends. They’ve already been through a lot – especially the migrants with their late arrival into the country and the terrible conditions they had to contend with – so we need to make sure we help them as much as we can through the breeding season. Leaving nests well alone, providing high-energy food and a good supply of water should do the trick.”

The RSPB is also warning us that birds could be nesting in our roofs, including house sparrows and starlings, so hold off on any repairs until the nest is no longer in use.  “Usually no damage is caused by nesting birds, in fact the only way you’d know they were there is because of all the chattering and cheeping they do, but most people find that endearing,” said Val.