Cyril Diver: a natural hero

National Trust wildlife expert Matthew Oates explores the life of naturalist and wildlife pioneer Cyril Diver.

“Few of Britain’s remarkable naturalists achieved as much as Cyril Diver (1892-1969). During the 1930s he and other volunteer experts meticulously surveyed, mapped and recorded the wildlife of the heath and dune system on the Studland peninsula, near Swanage in Dorset. They had a fantastic time, and also saved the site from development. A civil servant, Diver went on to draft much of our country’s initial wildlife legislation, and devise and lead the Nature Conservancy. This country owes him big time, yet he is largely forgotten.

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Cyril Diver and friends surveying Studland on the Dorset coast in the 1930s

Eighty years on, the National Trust has led a three year project to resurvey the peninsula, with close reference to the Diver archive material. As in the 1930s, specialist surveys were conducted by volunteers, both experts and beginners, though coordinated by a project officer. They had a fantastic time too, and have pioneered the citizen science approach to advanced wildlife recording, much of this in partnership with techy students from Bournemouth University. There is nothing naturalists love more than survey work, especially in a place as rich as Studland Peninsula.

The place has changed too, massively. Major changes commenced when Studland was taken over for tank training during the Second World War, and then when Rabbits died out to myxomatosis. A new sand dune has developed since the 1930s, and major changes to the ponds, swamps and mires have occurred.

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Cyril Diver in Dorset in the 1930s.

Recent surveys found 620 species of vascular plants – a quarter of the UK’s native flora, an increase from 465 in Diver’s time, though a few rarities have disappeared. Diver didn’t survey the lichen flora, due to a scarcity of experts, but recently over 340 lichen taxa have been found, including 29 major rarities. Insect-wise, today’s beetle surveys comfortably outscored Diver – 777 species, compared to 239, though 56 of Diver’s 239 were not re-found. Diver found 325 species of moth, the recent surveys found 611 but failed to re-find 105 on Diver’s list. And so on… . The recent surveys discovered two species new to Britain, though others may await confirmation. All this data will fascinate scientists, particularly climate change specialists, and will be celebrated at a conference at Bournemouth University on March 21st.

Now, more than ever, this nation needs its naturalists, to provide data to help us understand the burgeoning issues of climate change, new species colonisation and impending ecological change. We need more in-depth studies along the lines of the Diver Project, and to recruit and equip a new generation of inspired naturalists. The National Trust has a key role to play here, and will do so.”

2015: The year of the jellyfish

2015 was another challenging year for wildlife, with many new issues coming to the fore, say experts at the National Trust as part of its annual weather and wildlife review.

The conservation charity, which looks after almost 250,000 hectares of land in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, conducts the review across its places every year to help paint a picture of how the year’s weather has affected the nation’s wildlife against a long-term backdrop of decline for 60% of species in the UK.

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How is the mild weather affecting nature?

The autumn and winter of 2015 has seen some unseasonably mild weather with day time temperatures remaining in double figures far longer than usual – and even night-time temperatures have remained very high. 2015 is now the warmest year on record, thought to be the result of man-made climate change and El Nino. This mild weather has affected wildlife and the natural world at many of our places.

Narcissus 'California' growing in March at Cotehele, Cornwall.At Polesden Lacey in Surrey daffodils and daisies are in bloom, bats, which would normally be hibernating, are still flying around, as are insects such as bumblebees, ladybirds and wasps.

Strawberries are still fruiting in gardens in Devon and in the Chilterns our ranger team has seen flowers on holly trees, cherry trees in blossom, rooks starting to nest and the grass continuing to grow.

Crowd pleasers such as snowdrops and daffodils are flowering at Anglesey Abbey in Cambridgeshire. While on the South Downs, catkins are already opening on hazel trees and hawthorn has been spotted coming into flower.

Pete Brash, an animal ecologist for the National Trust, said: “The weather has been ridiculously mild which is having an impact on our wildlife. We’ve seen swifts, swallows and sand martins and there are a number of flowers in bloom very early including  dandelions and even cowslips.

“As we’re seeing the effects of climate change on our winters, nature is simply taking a gamble. If the swallows, for instance, can find sufficient food to maintain good condition then they can be first on the best territories ahead of breeding season next year. But, they have to weigh up the associated risks of staying and not being able to find sufficient food and warmth versus the risks of travelling 3000 miles.

“What could be a worry, however, is that long-range forecasts are predicting that January might see considerably colder weather on the way, which could cause problems.”

New nature reports: Nature needs us and we need nature

An ambitious long-term plan is needed to save nature as the Government considers its spending priorities.

We need a plan to help nature recover and everyone needs to play their part

We need a plan to help nature recover and everyone needs to play their part

That is the clear message from the Response for Nature reports published today by a coalition of leading conservation organisations, including the National Trust, RSPB and Wildlife Trusts.

The reports, each setting out a vision for restoring nature in England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland, will be launched at events in London, Cardiff, Belfast and Edinburgh this evening (Tuesday, 13 October).

They follow 2013’s State of Nature report, the first ever comprehensive stock-take of our native species. It revealed that 60% of the species studied had declined over recent decades. One in ten species were at threat of disappearing altogether.

Each of the reports launched tonight make key recommendations to which governments must respond to, to help restore nature in the UK.

A misty sunrise on Ibsley Common, New Forest, Hampshire, in August.

The reports call on central and devolved governments to deliver an inspiring vision for nature, establish a network of special places for nature to help threatened species recover and improve the connection of young people to nature for their own health and well-being and for nature’s future.

Speaking tonight at the London launch, presenter of children’s programme Deadly 60 and Springwatch, Steve Backshall, will say: “The State of Nature report revealed where we are. Now we need a plan for where we should go. The Response for Nature document starts us on that long road.

“Action can’t be simply hived off to a single, hard-pressed department in Whitehall. It must run as a matter of course through every department, from Defra to the Treasury. Every individual, from top to bottom, needs to embrace it, and act on it.”

Puffins on the Farne Islands off of the Northumberland coast

Puffins on the Farne Islands off of the Northumberland coast

David Bullock, Head of Nature Conservation at the National Trust and co-author of the Response for Nature report, says: “We have to do more than simply halt nature’s decline. We need to reverse it once and for all.

“That can only happen if we are able to connect nature with people. If people understand why nature matters, they’re going to care. And if they care about nature, they’re more likely to act to protect it.”

Read the full Response for Nature reports at http://www.rspb.org.uk/responsefornature. You can join the conversation on social media using the hashtag #responsefornature

The sounds of our shores

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Imogen Tinkler, communications intern for the National Trust, looks back at some of the highlights from the ‘Sounds of our shores’ project

After three months, over 680 uploads and around 67,000 listens, the ‘Sounds of Our Shores’ project in collaboration with the British Library and the National Trust for Scotland has come to a close.

As well as encouraging people to get out and explore the seaside, the aim of this coastal sound map was to create a ‘snapshot’ of the UK coastline that could be preserved for future generations. Yet the sounds that we have received not only create a sense of what our shores sound like in 2015, but also reveal much about our relationship with the coast.

Waves crash against the rocks at Heddon's Mouth, North Devon.

Waves crash against the rocks at Heddon’s Mouth, North Devon. Credit National Trust.

One discovery we’ve made through this project is the sheer diversity of sounds that can be heard near the sea. On the soundmap, the classic noises of seagulls and waves breaking on the shore sit alongside some more unusual contributions, such as the roar of ‘The Deluge’ chain flush inside the (now disused) ornate Victorian toilets on Rothesay seafront in Glasgow.   Continue reading

A collection of wild words

Last week we posted a blog about gathering together wild words that capture our relationship with the natural world and we’ve had a great response from our members and supporters – thank you. Writer and naturalist Robert Macfarlane had put out a call for local and regional words, the autumn issue of the National Trust magazine, to include in the paperback edition of his book Landmarks, which will be out in spring 2016.

Here are some of the suggestions that have arrived in our in-boxes in the last seven days and there is still plenty of time (until the end of October) to add your favourites to the list by emailing magazine@nationaltrust.org.uk. You can tweet your words about the natural world using the hashtag #naturewords.

Ladybird on sunflower leaves at Lacock Abbey, Wiltshire, in June.

In Norfolk a ladybird is known as a ‘Bishybarnybee’

Wild words:
From Hampshire we have ‘emmits’ for ants

A few Norfolk Words:
Dodman is a snail
Bishybarnybee is ladybird
Mavish is song thrush
Sowpig is woodlouse
Spink is a finch

A Staffordshire wild word is ‘puthery’ -the intense stillness and humidity before a thunderstorm. Staffordshire

Words with possible multiple origins via south Oxfordshire, Somerset, Sussex, Buckinghamshire and Angus:
Frith: the darkness of a forest in the height of summer
Foggage: mossy grass (used by my Scottish grandmother)
Harkwell: a woodpecker
Lummy: round straw bale
Moorcock: a grouse
Tath: cowpats
Ughten: twilight in the morning
Whinnock: a little piglet

A nice Northumberland wild word – ‘Clarts’ meaning Muddiness under foot.

A collection of Staffordshire wild words:
‘Slang’ – a small wood, usually one that’s grown up around a Marl Pit
‘Marl Pit’- a pond or depression where in days gone by red clay or “Marl” was dug, either for pottery, brickmaking or to make sandy soils heavier and less acidic

In Cumbria a ‘lonning’ means a back lane, a green lane or much used track in rural locations

Some Lancashire dialect words:
Neddy is a Hare
Lops is Fleas
Moidie, mowdywarp are words for a Mole
Hay moo, hay rick are words for Hay stack
Clags, clart are works for mud
Plank platt are words for a bridge

Yorkshire wild words:
foss/ force means a waterfall
frozzed referring to face or fingers being very cold
clarty means dirty, muddy, sticky

And finally a ‘Spronky’ is a word to describe word root vegetables which have grown with multiple roots/don’t look particularly traditional

Wildlife on the Great Orme

Matthew Oates, National Specialist on Nature and Wildlife for the National Trust, shares his love for the Great Orme in North Wales and the wildlife that calls it home.

The Great Orme is a place of pilgrimage for British naturalists.  Try finding a botanist or a butterfly enthusiast who hasn’t been there, or at least one who doesn’t desperately want to visit.  It is also on the birders’ radar, for its increasing Chough population and because it is a place where rare migrants turn up.  Bat, beetle, lichen, moss, moth and marine wildlife enthusiasts also know and love the Great Orme, as do geologists, geographers and archaeologists. In effect, it is a wildlife paradise.

The Great Orme, 12/05/15. Photograph Richard Williams richardwilliamsimages@hotmail.com 07901518159

The Great Orme, Credit National Trust, Richard Williams

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