Top three seabirds to look out for on Springwatch tonight

 

The Farne Islands get a starring role in Springwatch this month. Gwen Potter, National Trust’s Countryside Manager for the Northumberland Coast, shares her top three birds to look out for on your TV screens.

Over the coming weeks we’ll be sharing the Farne Islands with BBC’s Springwatch.

Presenter Iolo Williams will present a daily update for the popular wildlife show from the Farne Islands. Viewers of the popular wildlife show will get to see the very best wildlife the islands have to offer.

Home to around 85,000 pairs of seabirds and a small team of rangers, the Farnes are a haven for wildlife.The islands lie roughly two miles off the Northumberland coast, near Newcastle-upon-Tyne.

Here are three of my favourite Farne Island seabirds you should look out for on Springwatch tonight.

A puffin on the Farne Islands, Northumberland.

Puffin

  1. Puffin

The Farnes’ most famous resident. Often pictured with its multi-coloured beak, carrying lovely shining fish to their burrows. They can often be seen peeking out timidly from their burrows. We rarely walk on the areas off the boardwalks – there are so many burrows underground that the ceiling can frequently collapse!

DID YOU KNOW – Puffins’ distinctive red and grey beak becomes duller once the breeding season comes to an end. Their winter plumage is rarely seen, as these birds head out to sea for the winter – only returning to land to breed the following spring.

The Farne Islands, Northumberland.

Arctic Tern

  1. Arctic tern

From mid-May until fledging these angel-like birds will dive-bomb us and peck us in the head as well as poo-ing on us – all in a bid to protect their chicks. There is a finely judged ‘hat on’ date when all rangers avoid venturing out to prevent undue disturbance and don a hat to move through the colony.

The terns nest everywhere – on paths, boardwalks and anywhere else they can get in.

They may look delicate, but these birds fly thousands of miles each year. An Arctic Tern ringed on the Farne Islands in 1982 was spotted in Melbourne, Australia three months later – a distance of over 10,000 miles.

Eider nest

Nesting Eider duck

  1. Eider duck

A dumpy, chunky bird – and my current favourite on the Farnes. The males look handsome in a classical way, with black green and white feathers like a sports kit. Their soft moaning call shatters the illusion of ‘sleekness’ they initially appear to project. Being a true sea duck, they mainly eat molluscs and crustaceans, with a specially adapted gut to crush and excrete the shells.

The beautiful pale blue eggs are incubated by the female at all times. These ladies nest wherever they fancy – in doorways, under benches or generators – and just stare at you, confused, if they’re disturbed. We count the eider’s eggs by gently lifting these genteel birds from their nest. Their docile nature is probably why eider down was so easy to harvest!

One of the island’s female ducks has taken against our ranger Tom, aggressively nipping his ankles whenever he passes on the boardwalk!

TOP TIP: Watching Springwatch? See if you can spot the Shag’s long necks vibrating. These petrol green seabirds use it as a way to regulate their body heat – similar to a dog panting.

Watch Springwatch on BBC2 at 8pm, 30 May to 17 June.

A version of this blog originally appeared on the Huffington Post.

Red squirrel study launched to assess scale of disease

Wildlife experts have launched a project to better understand how British red squirrels are affected by a form of leprosy.

The study will investigate how the disease is passed between squirrels and how conservationists can help control its spread.

Leprosy was first identified in red squirrels in Scotland in 2014, caused by the bacterium Mycobacterium lepromatosis, although the disease is believed to have been present in the squirrel population for centuries.

Post-mortems have since revealed that the disease is also affecting squirrels on the Isle of Wight and Brownsea Island, off the south coast of England. The risk to people from the disease is very low.

The new research study will take place on Brownsea Island, in Poole Harbour, Dorset, which is home to around 200 red squirrels. The island location allows researchers to study the impact of leprosy in a contained environment.

The disease is believed to have been present on Brownsea for many years but researchers have only recently diagnosed it as leprosy.

Little is known about how the bacteria is spreading among red squirrels. The disease causes swelling and hair loss to the ears, muzzle and feet.

Researchers from the University of Edinburgh are working with the National Trust and Dorset Wildlife Trust on the project.

Vets will use humane traps to capture the squirrels for health checks. They will take blood samples and other clinical samples for analysis before returning the animals to the wild.

Red squirrels have drastically declined in the UK with fewer than 140,000 thought to be remaining on our shores. The main threat to their numbers is from habitat loss and the squirrelpox virus, which is deadly to red squirrels.

Lead researcher Professor Anna Meredith, of the University’s Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies, said: “The aim of our study is to find out how and why red squirrels catch leprosy, and how it affects both individuals and populations.

“This disease appears to have been in squirrel populations in Scotland and England’s south coast for some time. With this research, we aim to help conservationists better understand and manage the disease in this iconic species.”

Brownsea Island is managed by the National Trust. A large nature reserve on the island, comprising lagoon, reedbed and woodland habitats, is managed by Dorset Wildlife Trust.

Angela Cott, National Trust’s General Manager on Brownsea Island, said: “Bringing together academics and conservationists, this research project represents a significant first step towards deepening our understanding of a complex disease in British red squirrels.

“Many thousands of people visit Brownsea every year, enjoying the island’s wonderful wildlife. Brownsea will remain open whilst the research project takes place.”

Dr Simon Cripps, Chief Executive of Dorset Wildlife Trust, said: “Dorset Wildlife Trust is very pleased to hear Brownsea Island will be involved with a study of national importance.  At last we may be getting closer to understanding why this much loved British species is struggling to survive.  We hope that the research on red squirrels on Brownsea Island will help us to better manage and restore their remaining populations.”

For press information please contact:
Tom Seaward, Assistant Press Officer, 07810 814848 or tom.seaward@nationaltrust.org.uk

New EP captures sounds of Marconi’s Lizard

A new four-track EP, Marconi and the Lizard, by musician and producer Joe Acheson is released today following a week-long National Trust sound residency on the Lizard in Cornwall in August 2015.

The first-ever National sound residency, which was based at the hut where Guglielmo Marconi broadcast the ship-to-shore radio transmission on the beautiful south Cornish coast, was part of the Sounds of our Shores project that ran during the summer of 2015.

Joe Acheson said: “It was a privilege to record sounds that are disappearing from the Lizard, such as the old foghorn and the decommissioned spark transmitter.

“Making music that is so deeply-connected to one specific location brought its own resonance to the project. Like the food philosophy, ‘what grows together, goes together’, sounds from one place naturally work well with each other.”

Download an exclusive FREE track from Marconi and the Lizard

Joe Acheson, Credit National Trust, Steven Haywood

Acheson spent a week exploring a coast full of coves and cliffs in wild summer weather to capture the sounds of the most southerly part of the UK.  Taking inspiration from the Cornish landscape and the people who work in it, Acheson’s EP incorporates sounds of a now decommissioned lighthouse foghorn and fishermen chatting over ships’ radio.

Catherine Lee, National Trust Community and Volunteering Officer on the Lizard, said: “Joe Acheson’s recordings bring the rugged beauty of the Lizard to life. Living and working here you get used to the sounds of the weather and the sea. These familiar sounds which I never consciously notice jumped out of Acheson’s music.

“Acheson transports you back in time to 1901 to the Lizard of Guglielmo Marconi. History seeps into the compositions, with the lighthouse spark generator which has now been taken out of use and lobster pot weaving, a traditional practice now only used by a select few. These sounds might have been lost to history had they not been recorded, shared and celebrated as part of the National Trust’s first ever sound residency.”

Sounds of our Shores was a collaboration between the Trust, British Library and National Trust for Scotland. The project saw more than 680 sounds uploaded on to a crowd-sourced sound map, helping to capture a sonic journey around the 10,800 miles of UK coastline. All of these sounds have now been added to the British Library Sound Archive.

 The EP will be available for digital download from the Tru Thoughts website and to stream on Spotify. The RRP for the EP is £2.50, with individual tracks priced at 79p.

Bluebells at Dockey Wood, Ashridge Estate

On two weekends in early May, the National Trust plans to charge visitors a small amount to enter the woodlands at Dockey Wood on the 2,000 hectare Ashridge Estate in Hertfordshire. Entrance for National Trust members will be free.

Dockey Wood is noted for its spectacular bluebell displays, with thousands coming into bloom at the end of April and early May. However, in recent years large visitor numbers has led to trampling of the flowers and compaction of the soils – which has in turn meant that bluebell numbers are declining.

The charge – £3 for adults and £1 for children over the age of five – will be made over two weekends: 30th April – 2nd May and 7th – 8th May, 10:00-16:00. Entry will be free for members of the National Trust.

The Trust has created a designated visitor route through the bluebells in a bid to offer them further protection. Fencing has also been erected at the entrance to the woods to prevent erosion to the woodland’s bank and ditch.

The money raised from entrance fees over the two weekends will go directly towards conservation of wild flowers and trees at Dockey Wood and the wider Ashridge Estate.

Lawrence Trowbridge, Lead Ranger at the Ashridge Estate, said: ‘The countryside at Ashridge is free and it can be accessed at any time, any day of the year.

‘We want to ensure that as many visitors as possible can experience the bluebells at Dockey Wood, while also protecting them for future visitors to enjoy.

‘Over the past few years we’ve noticed that the bluebells are being damaged by trampling and the soil that they grow in is being compacted. This means that the overall numbers of bluebells are reducing, which is concerning.  The measures we are taking are all about conserving this wonderful spectacle for many years to come.’

Lalenya Kukielka, Visitor Experience Manager at Ashridge Estate, told the Daily Telegraph: ‘We see around 2,000 cars per day – although not all to Dockey Wood – at weekends in peak bluebell season. The popularity of bluebells and the numbers of visitors at bluebell time has definitely increased in recent years.

‘I took one phone call today from a lady from Lichtenstein who was travelling to Ashridge to see the bluebells. Local photographers advertise the bluebell woods as a backdrop for family portraits and the visitor centre takes many enquiries about large group visits.

‘The reaction to our measures to manage footfall at Dockey Wood has been reassuringly positive. Most people, particularly those who come regularly to Ashridge understand that something needed to be done to protect the bluebells.’

About Ashridge Estate

Ashridge is a 2,000 hectare estate in the Chiltern Hills, comprising woodland, commons and chalk downland. Entrance to this countryside estate is free to all visitors.

Visitors can see Bluebells free of charge elsewhere on the Ashridge Estate. Download our Bluebell Walk here: https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/ashridge-estate/trails/three-in-one-bluebell-walk-at-ashridge.

About Bluebells

Bluebell Hyacinthoides non-scripta is a plant particularly associated with ancient woodland where it may dominate the woodland floor in spring to produce carpets of violet–blue flowers. It is protected under UK law. Bluebells tend to grow in lightly acid soils and to get the most of the spring sunshine, they flower quickly – just before the trees growing above them are in full leaf. They can grow quickly during this period by using the nutrients stored in their bulbs. As bluebells are adapted to woodlands, the young shoots are able to penetrate through a thick layer of leaf litter found on the woodland floor. They cannot however penetrate heavily compacted soils and the bulbs eventually die.

Visitors can see Bluebells at many National Trust places. Late April and early May is the best time to see these wild flowers. Find a Bluebell wood near you at https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/lists/bluebell-woods-near-you.

For press enquiries contact Tom Seaward, Assistant Press Officer, tom.seaward@nationaltrust.org.uk or 01793 818544

Celebrating thirty years as World Heritage sites

On World Heritage Day this Monday (18th April) three iconic National Trust landscapes and places will celebrate thirty years as UNESCO World Heritage sites.

Established in the 1970s by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), the World Heritage Convention recognises places of natural or cultural interest that are of international importance, protecting them for future generations.

The United Kingdom joined the UNESCO scheme in 1986.

In that year seven places in the UK were granted World Heritage status. They included three iconic landscapes now in the care of the National Trust: Giant’s Causeway, Stonehenge and Avebury Landscape, and Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal Gardens.

Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland was the only place awarded World Heritage status in 1986 for its importance as a natural landscape.

Formed over millions of years, the Giant’s Causeway is famous for its tall basalt columns. The columns inspired one of the legends associated with Finn McCool (or Finn mac Cumhaill), the fair haired giant who – it is claimed – built the causeway in order to do battle with Benandonner, a Scottish rival.

View across part of the Giant's Causeway, Co Antrim

View across part of the Giant’s Causeway, Co. Antrim. These basaltic columns were formed during a period of violent geological activity. (C) National Trust Images/Joe Cornish

Eleanor Killough, National Trust Learning and Visitor Experience Manager at Giant’s Causeway, said: “It is a privilege to assist in managing such an important landmark. Those of us who work here know how much the causeway is valued both by international visitors and the local community.”

This weekend, visitors to Giant’s Causeway can celebrate thirty years of the site’s World Heritage status with trails, family craft activities and music from around the globe.

Wiltshire’s Stonehenge and Avebury, also celebrating its thirtieth year as a World Heritage site, is one of the best places in northern Europe for prehistoric monuments, most famously Stonehenge and the stone circle at Avebury. The National Trust cares for the Avebury stones and much of the grassland landscape that surrounds Stonehenge.

All this year visitors can walk this ancient landscape with the Avebury 50km walking challenge.

Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal Gardens in North Yorkshire boasts a more recent history. The magnificent Cistercian monastery – dissolved by Henry VIII in 1539 – was later incorporated into the elegant water gardens of John Aislabie, a socially ambitious politician of the eighteenth century.

Since being designated a World Heritage site in 1986, Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal Gardens has welcomed nine million visitors.

Sarah France, World Heritage Coordinator and Conservation Manager at Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal Garden, said: “With 800 years of human history in one landscape, Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal World Heritage Site has a wealth of stories that offer a fascinating window into the past. It is a truly unique place; breathtakingly beautiful throughout the seasons.”

Celebrate thirty years of world heritage with the National Trust this weekend

Giant’s Causeway World Heritage Day

Giant’s Causeway Co. Antrim, Northern Ireland

Sun 17 April; 9:00 – 19:00

Take a 2-hour guided walk with a National Trust conservation expert and plant wildflowers, or join us in the Visitor Centre for a themed-treasure trail, crafts and world music with Belfast musical ensemble, Los Dramaticos.  Normal admission applies; National Trust members free admission. Book online for discount at www.giantscausewaytickets.com. To book a place on the guided walk call: 028 2073 3419.

Avebury 50km Walking Challenge

Avebury, Wiltshire

Throughout 2016

Discover eight walks in Stonehenge and Avebury’s ancient landscape, finding out more about the area’s wildlife and archaeology on the way.  Totalling 50km, each of the eight walks varies in length from between 3km (approx 2 miles) to 9.5km (approx. 6 miles). Registration for this self-led challenge costs £10, with all money going towards conserving these special landscapes. Register before the end of 2016 and you will be entered into a prize draw, with the chance to win £300 voucher to spend with our partners Cotswold Outdoor.

Exhibition: Thirty years of World Heritage Site

Fountains Hall, Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal Gardens, North Yorkshire

Sat 16 April – Wed 29 June; 10:30 – 17:30

Find out about the achievements and challenges involved in maintaining the World Heritage site at a special exhibition in Fountains Hall (Saturday 16 April – Wednesday 29 June). Exclusive to this weekend (16 – 17 April, 11am – 4pm), try designing your own landscape garden and discover what life as an eighteenth century gardener would have been like at our historical gardeners’ tent.

 

Springwatch comes to Stackpole

The National Trust’s Stackpole Estate will be in the spotlight this Friday as the coastal Pembrokeshire estate hosts BBC’s Springwatch at Easter.

The Easter special of the wildlife programme will see presenters Chris Packham and Michaela Strachan explore the estate and wider Pembrokeshire for early signs of spring.

As the coast and countryside begin to burst into life and colour, the Springwatch special follows the diverse flora and fauna, the conservation stories behind the landscape and the volunteers who dedicate their time to looking after special places like Stackpole.

The Trust hosted a beach clean at Freshwater West as part of the show, working in partnership with Keep Wales Tidy, Marine Conservation Society, Natural Resources Wales and Pembrokeshire Coast National Park.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Michaela Strachan speaks to Rhian Sula, Visitor Experience and Community Officer at the National Trust’s Stackpole Estate

Speaking about the programme, Mike Greenslade, the National Trust’s Manager of Stackpole, said: “We’re delighted to welcome Springwatch at Easter to Stackpole and are excited for the team to discover the seasonal sights, sounds and stories.

“Spring is when the estate truly comes alive and we hope that the show will help encourage more people to come and explore the landscape for themselves.”

The broadcast of Springwatch at Easter will see the launch of the BBC’s Do Something Great season, encouraging people to take action for nature.

Welcoming the BBC’s focus on volunteering Helen Timbrell, Volunteering & Community Involvement Director at the National Trust, said: “The National Trust relies upon the help of more than 60,000 volunteers to look after the special places in our care.

“Our places offer volunteering opportunities for everyone: from looking after rare breed cattle at Wimpole Home Farm in Cambridgeshire to helping to keep Pembrokeshire’s beaches free of plastic litter with the local community at one of our drop-in beach cleans.

“With the natural environment facing some real challenges over the coming years it’s more important than ever that we all get out and Do Something Great for nature.”

Springwatch at Easter will be broadcast on Good Friday (25th March) at 9pm on BBC Two. The programme will be repeated on Easter Sunday (27th March) at 6pm.

For more information on spring at National Trust places in Pembrokeshire, please visit nationaltrust.org.uk/pembrokeshire

MCS: litter on our shores increases by a third in one year

Beach litter increased by more than a third in just one year, according to Marine Conservation Society (MCS) figures released today.

Run over one weekend last September, the Marine Conservation Society’s Great British Beach Clean saw thousands of volunteers survey and remove more than 275,000 pieces of litter from 340 beaches in England, Wales, Northern Ireland, Scotland and the Channel Islands. Last year fourteen National Trust beaches took part in the survey.

Now in its 22nd year, the Great British Beach Clean allows us to identify trends in the amount and types of litter washing up along the coast. Volunteers count and collect every item of litter found along a 100 metre line on a beach.

Problem of plastic

Compared to the previous year, 2015 saw an increase of over 40% in the number of plastic bottles found by Beach Clean volunteers.

The sheer number of bottles found during the Beach Clean has convinced the MCS to lobby UK and devolved governments for a deposit return scheme which would offer consumers a financial incentive for returning single-use plastic, glass and aluminium drinks containers.

Responding to the MCS results Phil Dyke, the National Trust’s Coastal and Marine Adviser, said: “The MCS’s latest Beach Clean results show just how big a problem marine litter continues to be. As an organisation that looks after more than 750 miles of coastline in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, we have first-hand experience of the environmental and visual impact of litter on our shores.”

Unusual National Trust finds

Fourteen National Trust places took part in the MCS Great British Beach Clean last September, including Freshwater West in Pembrokeshire, Woolacombe in north Devon and East Head, west Sussex. At Formby on the Merseyside coast volunteers collected 62kg-worth of rubbish. A small plastic bin made an ironic find for volunteers at Woolacombe beach in Devon. Volunteers at East Head, Sussex, were surprised to find 6kg of micro-plastic (measuring 3mm in diameter) on an otherwise pristine-looking beach.

2015 saw the National Trust celebrate the 50th anniversary of our Neptune coastline fundraising campaign. Over the year our staff and volunteers uncovered some unusual pieces of litter at Beach Cleans across the country:

  • 23 bags of plastic bottles at Chesil Beach, Dorset
  • A toilet seat at Ayrmer Cove, south Devon
  • Dumped gazebo at Northey Island, Essex
  • A small plastic penis at Trenow, Cornwall
  • Diving flippers, a chaise longue and underpants at Blakeney and Brancaster on the Norfolk coast

Pink bottles

Plastic litter has long been an issue for the National Trust, but it only occasionally hits the headlines.

This happened earlier in the year when thousands of pink bottles appeared along the Cornish coastline from a container that had been lost at sea.

National Trust staff worked closely with local volunteers and other agencies to clear and dispose of over 7,000 bottles – with the manufacturer covering the disposal costs.

But as the bottles began to disappear so did the media.

poldhupollution Steve Haywood 4

Ranger Justin Whitehouse removes pink bottles from Poldhu Beach (c)National Trust Images/Steve Haywood

National Trust Area Ranger on the Lizard, Justin Whitehouse, said:  “Litter doesn’t go away. If you visit a beach and there’s little evidence of plastic litter, it’s more than likely because somebody, usually a volunteer, has been there already and cleaned it.

“Plastic never biodegrades; it just breaks down into smaller pieces, presenting a growing threat to wildlife. But by doing our bit and reducing the amount of plastic we use or taking two minutes to pick up litter whenever we head to the beach, we can start to reduce this threat to our landscape and wildlife.”

Taking part in the beach survey really helps to track trends with the litter turning up on our beaches. Sign up now for the next Great British Beach Clean on 16th – 19th September 2016.