Isle of Wight bee-eaters rewrite the record books

Bee-eaters nesting on the Isle of Wight have raised eight chicks – the most successful breeding attempt by these birds, normally found in the Mediterranean, on record in the UK.

Three chicks have now fledged from one nest, on National Trust land, and another five chicks have fledged from a second nest.

Bee eater

Bee-eaters on the Isle of Wight. Credit Danny Vokins.

An adult bee-eater was first spotted at Wydcombe on 15 July by National Trust dragonfly survey volunteer Dave Dana. And chicks were first sighted a month later on the 15 August. There were originally thought to be nine chicks but one has not survived.

Dave Dana, a National Trust Volunteer on the Isle of Wight, said: “I’d just come from counting golden-ringed dragonflies at a stream and I thought ‘that bird looks a bit different!’

“Its flight path seemed almost triangular. I didn’t really appreciate the bird until I got home and looked at the photos. I’d always wanted to see a bee-eater in this country but I never thought it would turn out to be a major wildlife event.”

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A greener future – letter to the Daily Telegraph

Ten leading environmental and conservation NGO CEO’s signed the below letter that appeared in the Daily Telegraph today. This letter is about putting the Greener Britain agenda on that of all of the main political parties in the run up to the 2015 General Election.

Sir,

Working together, the leading organisations from the environment and conservation sector have jointly developed seven goals for our next government that would have a profoundly positive impact on our country and the way we live.

From making an ambitious 2015 global climate change deal a key foreign policy priority to protecting vast areas of our oceans, both near and far from home; from an ambitious plan for nature’s recovery to making the energy efficiency of our homes an infrastructure priority; these and our other ideas are an exciting programme for the future.

Environmental policy making has been challenging in the last few years and the biggest challenge to achieving a greener Britain has been the hesitant approach of our political leaders. Some might feel that government can no longer tackle our biggest environmental problems; that we should leave international leadership to someone else; that our communities have become less interested in the nature around them and the quality of the green spaces they use.

We disagree. We know individuals and organisations with ambition and purpose have changed the world for the better, and that it will happen again. We also believe our political leaders can help us achieve it. It’s not certain that we will secure a global agreement to slow climate change next year in Paris. But a good agreement is more likely in 2015 than it has been for many years. It’s not certain that we will reverse the decline in British wildlife and countryside, but we are a country of nature-lovers, many millions of people are members and supporters of our organisations, and there is no shortage of ideas about how to ensure nature’s recovery.

We offer our political parties these ideas as they develop their general election manifestos, as a recipe for a greener, fairer, better Britain.

Yours faithfully,

Shaun Spiers, Chief Executive, CPRE
Mike Clarke, Chief Executive, RSPB
John Sauven, Executive Director, Greenpeace UK
David Baldock, Executive Director, IEEP
David Nussbaum, Chief Executive, WWF UK
Helen Ghosh, Director General, National Trust
Stephanie Hilborne, Chief Executive, The Wildlife Trusts
Matthew Spencer, Director, Green Alliance
Stephen Joseph, Executive Director, CBT
Andy Atkins, Executive Director, Friends of the Earth

Seabirds on National Trust coastal places

We take a look at four of the key seadbird species found on National Trust land across England, Wales and Northern Ireland:

Sandwich tern

The report reveals that National Trust land is hugely important for Sandwich terns, with nationally significant colonies at Blakeney Point in Norfolk, Farne Islands, Cemlyn Lagoon, Green Island and Brownsea Island Lagoon.

Sandwich tern in flight at Blakeney Point in Norfolk

Sandwich tern in flight at Blakeney Point in Norfolk

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Study reveals threats to UK breeding seabirds

UK breeding seabirds are under threat from a triple whammy of extreme weather, predators and human disturbance, a new National Trust report has revealed.

Puffins on the Farne Islands off of the Northumberland coast

Puffins on the Farne Islands off of the Northumberland coast

The study of seabird sites along the Trust’s 742 miles of coastline was carried out by the conservation organisation to evaluate the importance of National Trust locations for seabirds and to recognise the issues that impact breeding success.

Following the findings, the report calls for more regular monitoring to help detect any changes in seabird colonies, which can happen over a short period of time, and a greater awareness of human impact on breeding populations.

The most prevalent potential threat to seabirds was identified as the effect of extreme weather. This was evident in Blakeney in Norfolk this winter when the severe tidal surges changed the beach profile forcing more than half of the little terns to nest in low areas. The high tides that followed in mid-June caused the nests to flood, resulting in a very poor breeding season, with only 10 fledged young from 108 breeding pairs

Little terns at Long Nanny in Northumberland faced a similar threat. To help combat the problem, National Trust rangers spent three months between May and August providing a 24 hour watch on the nesting birds by camping next to their breeding site.

Predation from rats, foxes and mink was also identified as a problem at nearly all sites. The managed removal of predators is now a priority for the Trust and more regular monitoring will help to detect any issues early on.

In 2001 Manx shearwaters on Lundy Island, Devon were barely able to breed because of the threat from predators. A partnership project was established to remove them and by 2004, once the predators had been eradicated, the shearwaters have made a spectacular recovery.

Lundy has since been designated the first Marine Conservation Zone in England and hosts nationally significant numbers of Manx shearwater, with 1% of a total UK population of 295,045.

The third most common risk to breeding success was found to be human disturbance by walkers and their pets.

If nests are disturbed it can displace seabirds, leaving the young vulnerable to predators. However, even if they are not displaced, seabirds can become stressed when disturbed which can greatly impact their wellbeing.

The National Trust is encouraging walkers and visitors to the coast to be aware of the potential impact of disturbing nesting seabirds during the breeding season.

Dr David Bullock, Head of Nature Conservation at the National Trust, said: “Seabirds are part of what makes the British and Irish coastline so special.

“A seabird colony is an assault on your senses; it has a unique smell; distinctive calls, such as that of the Kittiwake, which sounds just like its name; and they are a fascinating sight as they lift off from the cliff.

“Our emotional connection with these birds along with what they tell us about the health of our seas means that it is vital for us to look after the places where they nest.”

Autumn Fruits

MRO in Knepp shepherds hut colour NH - CopyIt might still be August, but National Trust nature and wildlife expert, Matthew Oates, tells us why the signs of autumn are already on show.

“The signs are everywhere.  This is going to be a bumper autumn for nuts, seeds and berries, and most of these fruits are appearing remarkably early too.

“The hedges are already well-reddened with hips and haws, from wild roses and hawthorns.  A superb blackberry crop is developing, though it needs more sun and the tap switching off.  Many Blackthorn tangles are purple with sloe berries, awaiting the first frosts before they can be gathered.  Crab Apple jelly is also nicely on the menu for this autumn. Holly and Rowan berries are profuse and absurdly well advanced – in many districts these have been showing red since early June.  There should be a plentiful supply of Holly berries for Christmas, unless hungry birds eat them first.  Elder berries are developing well, as the summer was not dry enough for the bushes to abort their fruits, as happens in drought years.

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Four bee-eater chicks take to the air

Four bee-eater chicks have fledged on National Trust land on the Isle of Wight thanks to aTwo juvenile bee-eaters, credit Andy Butler joint protection operation by the National Trust, the RSPB and Isle of Wight naturalists. It is the first time the birds, who usually nest in southern Europe, have bred successfully in the UK for 12 years.

Three of the chicks fledged last week and the fourth has tried out its wings in the last couple of days. If these survive, this will be the most successful ever bee-eater breeding attempt in the UK. The last successful attempt, which resulted in two chicks, was in county Durham in 2002, the first for 50 years.

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Dorset hillfort is the ideal home for nature

National Trust wildlife adviser Simon Ford tells us more about the rich wildlife that can be found at the newly acquired Hambledon Hill in Dorset:

“Hambledon Hill sits high above the River Stour in south-east Dorset. It has been cut from a steep chalk escarpment and the deep ramparts have provided the ideal environment for many species of plants and animals to thrive. They have also protected the wildlife from being lost to the plough. With 360 degrees of deeply incised banks, this has meant that whatever the weather, there is always some shelter from the elements.

A beautiful bee orchid caught in the summer light at Hambledon Hill. Credit: National Trust Images/Ross Hoddinott

A beautiful bee orchid caught in the summer light at Hambledon Hill. Credit: National Trust Images/Ross Hoddinott

The mix of species is very diverse, but includes characteristic chalk downland plants such as horseshoe vetch, harebell, common rockrose, squinancywort, salad burnet, common milkwort, small scabious, wild thyme and stemless thistle. Early purple, bee, pyramidal, common spotted and autumn lady’s tresses orchids have been recorded as well as notable species such as felwort, dwarf sedge, early gentian, bastard toadflax and meadow saxifrage.

Twenty-eight species of butterfly have been recorded including Adonis Blue, Chalk-Hill Blue, Brown Argus, Dark Green Fritillary, Grizzled and Dingy skipper, and Green Hairstreak. Glow worms are frequently recorded and there are records of white legged damselfly.

Brown hares are commonly seen and the grassland has a good population of skylarks, buzzards, kestrels and meadow pipits, while the scrub attracts blackcaps, white-throats, chiff chaffs and willow warblers.

The site is so important that it has not only been declared a Site of Special Scientific Interest but also a National Nature Reserve.

To ensure the site continues to be of top nature conservation value, the priority will be to maintain the correct grazing and to stop scrub from dominating the steep hillside.”