A pair of colourful and rare bee-eaters that have set up home on National Trust land on the Isle of Wight have become only the third record of this European bird to breed successfully in the UK in the last century.
Bee-eaters, which would normally be found nesting in southern Europe, were last recorded breeding in the UK in 2002, when a pair nested in a quarry in County Durham and two young successfully fledged. Before that, two pairs were recorded raising seven young in a Sussex sand-pit in 1955.
Bee-eaters, with their kaleidoscopic plumage, are one of the most beautiful birds in Europe.
The bee-eaters, which were discovered on the Island in mid-July, have set up home in the sandy hills of the Wydcombe Estate on the south of the Island in a small valley where the soft ground, rolling landscape and stream access provides ideal conditions for their nest burrow. The burrow could be up to three metres long.
Ian Ridett, National Trust Isle of Wight Ranger, said: “We have set up a 24-hour surveillance operation around the site to protect these rare visitors, as any unhatched eggs could be a potential target for egg thieves.
“We have had incredible support from the RSPB, Isle of Wight Ornithological Group and our volunteers and staff, some of whom have travelled from the mainland to help.
“The hot temperatures since spring have helped an above average arrival of bee-eaters, with more than ten seen along the south coast since May. With rising temperatures, the varied landscape and bountiful supply of insects on the Wydcombe Estate was obviously enough to tempt the bee-eaters to nest here.”
The adult birds have been spotted delivering food into the nest which indicates that the eggs have hatched. The chicks will not leave their underground nest site for another fortnight or so, so the number of chicks hatched is still not known. Bee-eaters traditionally lay clutches of four to nine eggs, and the first chick sighting is eagerly anticipated.
Matthew Oates, National Trust nature and wildlife expert, said: “The bee-eater is arguably the most stunning bird on the British list; it looks tropical.
“It’s really exciting to have these bee-eaters breeding on National Trust land, and we are pulling out all the stops to help the chicks safely fledge, whilst keeping the public up-to-date with their progress. As our climate changes it’s likely that we’ll see increasing numbers of new visitors on our shores.”
Keith Ballard, the site manager at the RSPB’s Brading Marshes reserve on the Isle of Wight, said: “It’s the stuff of dreams to have a rare nesting event like this on the Isle of Wight; and it’s looking like the initiative by the National Trust rangers to make the nest site safe is going to lead to success for these birds.
“There was a very real threat that these nesting birds could have been targeted by egg thieves, so it’s been quite a nervous period over the last 12 days. It has been a pleasure for the RSPB staff and volunteers to help with this operation.”
Further information on the Wydcombe bee-eaters can be found on Ian Ridett’s blog or by calling the estate office on 01983 741020.
A designated public viewing point has been identified overlooking the birds’ favourite feeding area so that visitors can get the best possible sightings of the exotic looking creatures. This will be carefully managed though, as the birds’ wellbeing and welfare takes priority.
The Government is announcing today a bidding process for licenses on fracking – new rules will exclude World Heritage Sites, National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) from the round of licenses except in ‘exceptional circumstances’.
Forty per cent of the land owned by the National Trust is in the National Parks of England and Wales and the conservation charity owns large areas of land in AONBs. Here is the Trust’s reaction to the announcement from Richard Hebditch, Assistant Director, External Affairs:
“It’s right that the Government has recognised the concerns about fracking in special places like national parks and AONBs. We welcome the new planning guidance which will makes clear that applications should be refused in these areas other than in exceptional circumstances.
“But it’s not just national parks and AONBs that could be at risk but other special places too, which is why we’d like to see this approach extended to nature reserves and other wildlife sites like Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) as well.
“This is a significant change in approach from DECC. We hope it will reflect a much more cautious approach that recognises the risks of turning some of the most special places in the country over to industrial scale extraction of shale gas and oil.”
Below is a statement from the National Trust about the presence of Asian super ants at Hidcote, Gloucestershire.
David Bullock, Head of Nature Conservation for the National Trust, said: “The ants themselves pose little direct threat to us as they don’t bite people or pets, but their habit of creating super-colonies means they pose a threat to native species by out-competing them for food and space, and their attraction to electrical circuitry means they could pose a fire risk.
“At Hidcote we are actively managing the ants in critical areas to make sure we don’t export them. We are encouraging research on their ecology and behaviour with a view to gaining a better understanding of how we can manage for the ants in the future.”
David Elliott, Head Ranger on Black Down, West Sussex, tells us about the ranger team’s latest project:
This year on Black Down a very important project has been taking place – we’ve reintroduced a species.
The species in question is the Silver Studded Blue Butterfly. This kind of thing doesn’t come along every day, in fact it’s only the second time I have seen it in my career. In fact it is only the second time the National Trust has ever reintroduced a butterfly to a site where it has disappeared, and I am a little bit excited about it!
The Silver Studded Blue is a proper little marvel. It makes its home on heathland, but it needs heathland in really good condition in order to be able to survive. Heaths have been disappearing at an alarming rate for more than a hundred years. The type of varied age structure within the heather that this butterfly needs is even rarer.
Back in May 2013 a seminal report was published by twenty-five of the leading nature organisations in the UK charting the decline of species across the UK in recent decades.
The National Trust has now joined this family as it seeks to celebrate the beauty of the natural world and work with partner organisations to reverse and slow down the rates of species decline.
National Trust Head of Nature Conservation Dr David Bullock is on the State of Nature steering group and other Trust staff from the wildlife and countryside adviser’s community will be involved.
According to the report, the State of Nature, 60 per cent of species have declined in recent decades and one in ten species are at risk of disappearing all together from these islands.
Dr David Bullock, Head of Nature Conservation at the National Trust, said: “The State of Nature report was a wake-up call to us all – about the fragility of nature and about the role of people in protecting the special places that nature calls home.
“We will bring our rich experience as major landowners and as naturalists to the table; working in partnership with other leading wildlife organisations.
“This coalition is a really important movement for the future of nature in the UK – a chance to think big and bold about how we secure the future of our species and habitats for future generations to enjoy.”
Across England, Wales and Northern Ireland the Trust cares for 250,000 hectares of land (the same size as Derbyshire) and 742 miles (1300km) of coastline. Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire, one of the first places acquired by the Trust in 1899, has an amazing 8,500 species and the Farne Islands off of the Northumberland coast is England’s largest seabird colony.
The Trust is working to look at how we manage land (uplands, lowland areas and the coast) as we grapple with the huge challenges of climate change. We’re thinking big about the challenges of managing large land holdings such as the High Peak Moors in Derbyshire, working with the Woodland Trust to restore ancient woodland at Fingle Woods in Devon and are planning species introductions and re-introductions in Surrey.
David Bullock, concludes: “At the heart of everything that the Trust does is connecting people and places. There is a real passion and interest in the natural world in the UK and the State of Nature coalition can play an important role in connecting and reconnecting people to the wildlife where-ever they live.”
You can follow the fortunes of wildlife at National Trust places by following the hashtag #NTnature on twitter or visiting: http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/nature
An excavation in Dovedale, Derbyshire has unearthed a hoard of Late Iron Age and Republican Roman coins, the first time coins of these two origins are thought to have been found buried together in a cave in Britain. Continue reading
Despite the disappointing news announced this morning about the un-successful bid by the the National Trust to acquire a section of iconic estuary and coastline in Devon, it has been able to celebrate the full acquisition of Fingle Woods on the edge of Dartmoor with the Woodland Trust today.
The two charities have reached the £3.8m funding target which means the entire 825 acre site is now fully in their care. Continue reading
Mark Harold, South West Regional Director for the National Trust said: ‘Today (3 July 2014) we have been informed by the agents acting on behalf of Evan’s Estates that we have been unsuccessful in our bid to purchase Bantham Beach and Avon Estuary in South Devon.
‘We are extremely disappointed at this decision. We, along with many thousands of people who have contacted us over the past few weeks encouraging our involvement in its future, care very passionately about Bantham. We believe this is a very special place, held dear in the hearts of many, not only locally, but also those who have fond memories of childhoods and family times spent there.
‘We will of course continue to care and protect for ever and for everyone the 40 miles and 3,000 hectares of the South Devon coast we already care for. We would also want, if possible, to work with any future owners of Bantham Beach & Estuary and ensure that this beautiful location is continued to be enjoyed by the many thousands of people who have told us how much it means to them.
‘We would like to thank everyone for their support of our fundraising appeal. As a charity the Trust relies on the generous support of its supporters who help us care for some of the most beautiful and vulnerable stretches of coastal land in the country.’