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Harvest Mouse

Urgent action is needed to save a third of all mammals currently at risk of extinction in Wales, The State of Mammals in Wales report has revealed.

Launched today (25 November) by the Mammal Society, the report examines for the first time in over 20 years the current situation for Wales’ species.

The report, commissioned by NRW, provides a species by species account of current population sizes and range trends as well as discussing threats and conservation opportunities. This information has been used to complete an International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red Listing assessment.

Based on this, we now know that across Britain a quarter of our native mammals are at risk of extinction. In Wales that number is 1 in 3. …

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Barbastelle © John Black

New research, just published in the journal Forest Ecology and Management, has assessed bat populations across broadleaved woodlands managed in different ways. The work not only reveals the management practices that are good for bats, but also highlights those structural characteristics that are beneficial to individual bat species.

Changes in woodland management have been linked to declines in birds and other wildlife but we know little about the impacts of such changes on our bat populations. All 17 bat species found breeding in the UK use woodlands and many are reliant on semi-natural broadleaved woodland. …

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Blue tit © Phil Pickin

The British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) has, for the last 25 years, run the Garden BirdWatch survey in which participants submit their records of garden birds to help the trust understand how these species are faring. The lockdown has allowed many people to reconnect with nature and participate more than ever, but evidence from survey has shown that some of our favourite garden species, such as the blue tit, have been struggling this year. The BTO think this is possibly due to the unusually warm spring.

The BTO have pointed out that, “this year’s spring, with the fifth-warmest April in over 100 years, meant that invertebrates, including butterflies and moths, got off to an early start. Caterpillars are an important food for blue tit nestlings, but in warm springs caterpillars develop early, and there are fewer available during the main blue tit nesting season, often leading to reduced survival of nestlings and smaller populations overall.” …

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Beaver © Nina Constable Media

As many will know I’ve been baffled by talk of beavers being culled in the UK rather than make use of their skills to manage waterlevels! Relocating would help reduce flooding and would be far less harmful to the environment than major building projects. So it was good to receive the following press release looking at just this subject.

Britain’s beavers could be major allies in tackling the climate and extinction crises — but without more public and government support face a fragile future, says Beaver Trust as it launches a new documentary film exploring the country’s relationship with the endangered but controversial species. …

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Peat bog © Mark Hamblin 2020VISION

Beavers, birds and butterflies will also benefit from almost £2 million Postcode Lottery funding announcement

The Wildlife Trusts across England, Scotland and Wales are to harness the power of nature to fight climate change, thanks to almost £2 million raised by players of People’s Postcode Lottery.

The money will be used to fund nature restoration projects which will help stabilise emissions from degraded land and maximise carbon storage through natural processes, locking up carbon in our peatlands, meadows, wetlands and at sea.

Wild habitats have a huge role to play in addressing climate change. A hectare of saltmarsh, for example, can capture two tonnes of carbon a year and lock it into sediments for centuries, but we are losing nearly 100 hectares of saltmarsh a year. …

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Barnacle geese © WWT

More proof (as if we needed more) of the impact of rising temperatures has been highlighted in a new scientific paper published in the journal, Science.

Rising temperatures are triggering changed responses in animal populations in the Arctic, which could have huge ramifications for the future of the northernmost region on earth.

The findings are explored in a new scientific paper Ecological insights from three decades of animal movement tracking across a changing Arctic, which is published in the prestigious journal Science tomorrow (November 6).

The data has been collected in a new Arctic Animal Movement Archive (AAMA), a collection of 201 terrestrial and marine animal tracking studies, spanning 21 years and growing. It includes the tracking data of high-Arctic wetland birds, supplied by conservation charity WWT. …

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An army of citizen scientists across the UK has provided scientists at the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) with new insights into the nesting habits of the House Martin, arguably our closest nesting neighbour.

Over a two year period, members of the public across the UK were asked to help monitor the breeding behaviour of House Martins. The House Martin is a summer visitor to the UK that spends the winter months in sub-Saharan Africa, returning to build their cup-shaped nests under the eaves of buildings during April and May. During the last 25 years the House Martin has declined by 39% and is amber-listed as a bird of conservation concern but it is unclear what the drivers behind the decline might be.

By asking members of the public to provide information on the House Martins that were nesting on their properties or on nearby public buildings, scientists at the BTO hoped to gain some insights to how this delightful relative of the Swallow is faring in different parts of the country and whether breeding success differed in different parts of the UK.

Their findings were very interesting. House Martins arrived earlier in the east and began breeding earlier than birds in the west, possibly a benefit of drier weather in the east. Birds that used old nests from previous years or artificial nests had greater breeding success than those that built from scratch Substrate was also important. Birds that built nests on PVC as opposed to brick, concrete or wood had much lower breeding success — perhaps because nests were more likely to collapse on the PVC substrate.

Breeding House Martins did better in suburban settings and with the presence of freshwater. Although the amount of agricultural land had no influence, more young were produced by birds that bred close to livestock. Interestingly, there was no evidence of more young being produced in the north than in the south, despite the national trend showing a greater decline in House Martins in the south.

The study also reported the first triple brood attempts in the UK, whilst pairs of House Martins have been recorded undertaking three nesting attempts in a single summer further south in Europe it hadn’t previously been observed in the UK.

Dr Esther Kettel, lead author on the paper, said, “ Thanks to the effort of the thousands of volunteers that took part in the BTO House Martin survey we now have a much better picture of what helps House Martins breed successfully, but there is still work to do.”

She added, “ From our findings it is clear that one of the simplest ways to help House Martins in the short-term is to provide artificial nesting cups — this can save around ten days of nest building time, giving the martins that use them a head start on the breeding season.”

The BTO House Martin Survey was possible thanks to the generosity of members of the public who donated to the BTO House Martin Appeal. …

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Langholm Moor © David Lintern / John Muir Trust

The South of Scotland’s largest community buyout is set to go ahead following one of the most ambitious community fundraising campaigns ever seen — with the community of Langholm in Dumfries and Galloway raising the final funds needed in the nick of time.

A landmark community buyout agreement of £3.8 million for over 5,000 acres of land has been reached between The Langholm Initiative charity and Buccleuch — paving the way for the creation of a huge new nature reserve to help tackle climate change, restore nature, and support community regeneration.

Discussions will continue over the remaining 5,300 acres of land the community has expressed an interest in buying. …

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Red squirrel — courtesy of

Britain’s climate zones are shifting by up to five kilometres a year because of rising temperatures — with potentially catastrophic impacts for wildlife, says a new report by Rewilding Britain.

The shift — due to human-caused climate heating, and hundreds of times faster than the country’s natural climate warming at the end of the last ice age — is set to outpace many species’ ability to adapt and adjust their ranges.

But Rewilding Britain’s research also shows that a massive increase in restoring and connecting species-rich habitats across at least 30 percent of Britain’s land and sea by 2030 could help save a fifth of species from climate-driven habitat loss, decline or extinction. …

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Walkers enjoying woodland at Dunkeld Perthshire ©Lorne Gill/2020VISION

NatureScot recently announced that an increase in people visiting the outdoors, and engaging with nature, has continued after lockdown, according to a new survey.

NatureScot has published the second wave of research into how our relationship with the outdoors and nature has changed as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, carried out in partnership with Scottish Forestry, the Cairngorms National Park Authority and Paths for All.

The research was revealed as the nature agency launched its autumn Make Space for Nature campaign, encouraging people to take part in simple, fun activities to help nature thrive.

The latest survey of more than 1,100 people found that during the August to September period, levels of participation increased, with four fifths of adults (80%) visiting the outdoors at least once a week. …


Phil Pickin LRPS

Nature and environmental photographer, writer and blogger.

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