Tag Archives: woods

Save Britain’s Barn Owls

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A petition has been launched to save Britain’s Barn Owls, which are dying off in their thousands. The changing climate and a loss in their natural habitat is part of the picture, but these iconic birds are also being killed by powerful rat poisons used on farms across the country.

In 2013 across Britain, the number of Barn Owl nests varied between 45 and 95% lower than normal. Changing climate and habitat loss is part of the picture but Barn Owls are also being killed by powerful rat poisons used on farms across the country. Indeed, the latest scientific research shows that 84% of Britain’s Barn Owls feed on poisoned prey. Some die as a direct result.

The Barn Owl Trust has launched a petition which calls on the Government Minister responsible for the review, Mike Penning, and the Health and Safety Executive to impose stricter controls on these powerful poisons, restricting where and how they are used and throwing a lifeline to our owls.

So please sign to stop the petition and help protect one of the best-loved symbols of Britain’s wildlife.

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Pic: The Barn Owl Trust

New early warning system to protect trees

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Tree health experts have secured nearly a million pounds of EU funding over four years to develop the  LIFE+ ObservaTREE, an early warning system of pest and disease threats to the UK’s trees.

Led by the research agency of the Forestry Commission, the project will help to identify tree health problems earlier, and enable members of the public and voluntary bodies to play a greater role in protecting woodland health by reporting incidents.

The UK has seen an increase in the incidence of new tree pests and diseases over the past decade, partly due to the expansion and globalisation of trade in live plants and wood products. Trade routes can act as pathways for the introduction of new pests and diseases, and ObservaTREE will enable vigilance for new threats to be stepped up. The project’s partners include the Food and Environment Research Agency (Fera), the Woodland Trust and the National Trust.

The Woodland Trust’s Dr Kate Lewthwaite said: “We are delighted to be part of this project and will recruit and train a network of volunteers and tree health ‘champions’ from a wide spectrum of backgrounds – from ordinary citizens to those already working in forestry, horticulture and arboriculture.

“These volunteers and champions will support Forest Research scientists by acting as a first line of response to reports of tree pests and diseases sent in by the public from their localities. They will do this by responding to, screening and helping to investigate reports of suspected pest and disease threats.”

Weird and wonderful whitebeams

Summer time is when to spot diseases such as ash dieback

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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Freezing weather endangers British wildlife

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Britain’s long cold spell is threatening ever greater numbers of animals, birds and insects. The length of the current cold spell is unprecedented, with temperatures are unlikely to return to their average level until the end of April. By that time, a great deal of harm could have been done to the nation’s wildlife.

A report in The Observer warns that the freezing weather is particularly affecting creatures that are already struggling to survive the loss of their habitats and changes in climate, including:

  • Hedgehogs that are still hibernating. “The weather is not yet warm enough to wake them,” said Fay Vass, Chief Executive of the Hedgehog Preservation Society. “Usually they would be up and about by now. The problem is that the longer a hedgehog remained asleep, the weaker it gets and the less energy it has to restore itself to wakefulness. In general, the longer the cold weather lasts, the greater the number of animals that will not wake up at all. Hedgehogs that have already woken up are having a hard time finding any food.
  • Seabirds along the east coast are also badly affected, struggling to catch fish in the current stormy conditions. Puffins, guillemots, razorbills, cormorants and gulls are all affected.
  • Owls and small birds, such as goldcrests, long-tailed tits and wrens, which mainly feed on small insects, are finding the current cold weather very tricky.
  • Frogs have spawned only for their ponds to have frozen over, while many plants and insects are emerging late, which has a knock-on effect on species that feed on them.
  • Butterflies wake-up in April and, if it is still freezing, that could have very serious consequences for their ability to get food.

The RSPB says everyone can help by making sure their bird feeders are regularly topped up, and The Hedgehog Preservation Society recommends that nature lovers leave plentiful water supplies and food, either meaty cat or dog meals or specialist hedgehog food.

UK’s endangered turtle doves given Hope!

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Turtle doves are one of the most endangered birds in the UK, but the population here has been given a boost by the creativity of a 6-year-old girl from Sheffield.

Operation Turtle Dove, a partnership project to save this bird on the brink of extinction, launched the competition to find names for their two logo birds. And thanks to Alice Stavert-Dobson, they are now christened as Heart and Hope.

Alice (pictured below with her sister) said: “I chose ‘Heart’ to represent love and ‘Hope’ because I hope turtle doves will still be here in the future. I was really pleased to win the competition and I can’t wait to go and see the turtle doves this summer in Pensthorpe Nature Reserve.”

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Turtle doves are currently embarking on a long journey back to the UK after spending the winter in Sub-Sarahan Africa and should  arrive back in the UK around the middle of April. The threat to this iconic bird is real. Changes in modern day agricultural practices have been attributed to the loss of arable plants in farmland, which produce the early seed source turtle doves need on their return to the UK.

Alison Gardner from the RSPB said: “It is distressing to learn that we have lost nearly 60 per cent of our turtle doves in the five years to 2010.  If this decline continues we could be down to fewer than 1000 pairs by 2020, with complete UK extinction a real possibility.

“The fantastic work of Operation Turtle Dove aims to make a real difference. Project partners are working with farmers to implement a bespoke seed rich mix which will be available to turtle doves on their return in Spring. Our new turtle dove logo names reflect these birds so beautifully and we want to secure their future so children like Alice and her sister Thea will be able to enjoy their gentle ‘purring’ way into their adulthood and beyond.”

Where to watch red squirrels in the UK

Tammy Tour Guide

The red squirrel is one of Britain’s iconic species. With its rusty-orange coat, tufted ears and bushy red tail this cute creature is everyone’s favourite small mammal.

But it’s also one of the most elusive of our wildlife species not least because it is now confined largely to northern England, Scotland and parts of Wales.

Sadly this beautiful creature is now absent in most of southern England except for a small colony on the Isle of Wight and two small islands in Poole Harbour.

So imagine my joy last week when we saw not one but three very active red squirrels on a trip to Grasmere in the English Lake District.

They were a few feet away from the camper van, running up and down trees, chasing each other and feeding on a large cache of nuts!

I’m lucky enough to live in northern England so I’ve seen red squirrels before…

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England’s forests saved from private ‘sell off’

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There is a great deal of relief after the Government has shelved controversial plans to sell off England’s publicly owned woodlands to the private sector. The    u-turn was made after 500,000 people signed an online petition against the unpopular proposal.

Speaking last week, Environment Secretary Owen Paterson announced that the nation’s public forests would remain publicly owned and held in trust for future generations by a new public body. “I want to put the future of our public forests on a clear and firm footing,” he said. “Our forests and woodland will remain secured in public ownership for the people who enjoy them, the businesses that depend on them and the wildlife that flourishes in them.”

The Forestry Commission will be given extra funding of £3.5m this year to make up for not selling forestry land and an additional £2m has been found  to help the commission deal with ash dieback.

Hen Anderson, of campaign group Save Our Woods, welcomed the Government’s response, saying it was vindication of the 500,000 who signed the online petition. “Very positive,” she said. “Two years ago they were flogging off the lot, but a half a million people kicked them in the pants.”

But some charities have criticised the lack of any timetable for setting up the new trust body and said the important work carried out by the Forestry Commission remained endangered by heavy budget cuts.

The RSPB said: “While these proposals are encouraging, they won’t help if our woodlands are starved of funding and effective management in the long term.”

 

New action plan to tackle ash dieback disease

The Department for the Environment has unveiled a new action plan to tackle the outbreak of ash dieback, but admits it cannot eradicate the disease.

More than 100,000 newly planted and nursery trees with ash dieback have already been destroyed, but mature trees will not be burned because they are important for other wildlife and may help identify resistant strains.

Some 129 sites are now confirmed as being infected after an unprecedented nationwide survey involving around 500 people. Fifteen of these are in nurseries, 50 in recently planted sites and 64 in the wider countryside.

Cases have now been reported in Sussex, Berkshire, Lincolnshire, Yorkshire, Bedfordshire, Northumberland, Norfolk, Suffolk, Kent and Essex. Several National Trust sites, including Ashridge in Hertfordshire, have put up signs as an extra precaution to prevent the disease spreading.

Under the latest measures, affected new and young trees will be destroyed immediately and the search for the Chalara fraxinea fungus that causes ash dieback fungus will widen to include towns and cities.

Defra officials have worked with the Forestry Commission and other agencies to find the best way to contain the spread of the disease. The public, along with foresters, land managers and environmental groups, will be told how to spot ash dieback and what to do if they find it. Experts are also searching for trees that have a genetic resistance to the disease that could provide stock for a new breeding programme.

Environment Secretary, Owen Paterson, admits it is impossible to wipe it out now that it has been found in mature trees but insists the ash can still be saved.

“If we can slow its spread and minimise its impact, we will gain time to find those trees with genetic resistance to the disease and to restructure our woodlands to make them more resilient,” he said. “We now have a window of opportunity for action because the disease only spreads in the summer.

“Wildlife and countryside groups will play a major role in minimising the impact of the disease and so will the general public, especially when it comes to spotting other areas where the disease has taken hold.”

RSPB Conservation Director, Martin Harper, said: “The plan is a vital part of stopping the spread of this disease. However, it is essential we do not divert resources away from other vital environmental services. Money must be found from central government coffers or we will simply be robbing Peter to pay Paul.”