Good wildlife news from Dorset, England


This video from England is called Dorset Wildlife Trust Nature Reserves.

From Wildlife Extra:

1,500 acres of wildlife-rich land purchased in Dorset

April 2014: Nearly 1,500 acres of outstanding wildlife habitat has been bought by Dorset Wildlife Trust and its partners as part of a new conservation project in east Dorset, Poole, Bournemouth and Christchurch, called ‘The Great Heath Living Landscape’.

The areas purchased include: Lytchett Bay, Upton Heath, Holes Bay, Parley Common and Ferndown Common. These sites provide habitats for many rare and threatened species, including the Dartford Warbler and all six UK reptiles, including the nationally rare smooth snake and sand lizard. This purchase mean two outstanding areas of natural heritage; the New Forest National Park and the Wild Purbeck Nature Improvement Area can be linked together.

DWT’s Director of Operations, Brian Bleese said: “The purchase of this land is a real investment in the future of Dorset’s heritage, and will make a huge contribution to the quality of our natural environment for decades to come. We are very excited about taking the project into the next phase to help local people and communities benefit from the wealth of wildlife around them.”

The Great Heath Living Landscape is a partnership of Dorset Wildlife Trust, the Erica Trust, Poole Harbour Commissioners, Borough of Poole, Dorset County Council Countryside Service and Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Trust. The project is supported by Bournemouth Borough Council. Christchurch Borough Council, East Dorset District Council and Natural England.

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Play about World War I on English stage


This video from Britain says about itself:

An August Bank Holiday Lark Trailer

24 February 2014

Northern Broadsides and the New Vic Theatre mark the centenary of the start of the First World War with the world premiere of Deborah McAndrew’s moving new play An August Bank Holiday Lark.

Set in the idyllic summer of 1914 rural Lancashire, everyone in the community is excited about Wakes week; a rest from field and mill and a celebration of the Rushbearing Festival with singing, courting, drinking and dancing. The looming war barely registers … but it will.

By Susan Darlington in England:

Theatre: An August Bank Holiday Lark

Thursday 17th April 2014

A new play movingly evokes the loss of community and tradition in WWI, says SUSAN DARLINGTON

An August Bank Holiday Lark

West Yorkshire Playhouse, Leeds

4 Stars

It’s unlikely that Michael Gove will approve of An August Bank Holiday Lark.

Commissioned to commemorate the centenary of WWI, Northern Broadside’s latest play certainly doesn’t celebrate it as a “just war.”

Rather, Deborah McAndrew’s gentle tale depicts the kind of village life creaking under the weight of holidays to Blackpool and votes for women even before the arrival of Kitchener‘s recruitment drive.

In the Pennine mill village where the play is set in 1914, the greatest worry is finding eight Morris men for the annual rush-cart festival and securing trim for the squire’s hat after an incident involving the neighbour’s chickens.

The war seems a distant threat yet it is an opportunity for top clog dancer Frank (Darren Kuppan) to prove his worthiness to wed the squire’s daughter Mary (Emily Butterfield) and a chance for young men to make a stand for “ideas.”

The poignancy of this vanishing community is beautifully captured during one of the key scenes when a rush-cart – a towering wagon piled with cut reeds and flowers – is constructed before the audience.

Accompanied by Conrad Nelson’s joyous music and exhilarating clog-dancing choreography, the festive spirit is such that when the cart is paraded around the stage with hapless jockey Herbert (Mark Thomas) waving from the top, the audience waves back.

Fast-forward a year and the community has been torn apart, with the lives of young millworkers lost in the Dardanelles and the women left behind contemplating a life without a sweetheart.

This shift in mood is powerfully signalled by Barrie Rutter as the squire. Having spent the first act being a parody of his larger than life persona, now he is a broken man symbolising the loss of life, community and tradition.

This sombre note contrasts sharply with the bantering humour earlier and, while the plot may occasionally be spread thinner than dripping, the play is superbly evocative and poignantly acted throughout.

Highly recommended.

Tours until June 14, details: www.northern-broadsides.co.uk.

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Heron island in England bought by conservationists


This video is called Little Egret and Red Deer in the marshes, UK.

From Wildlife Extra:

Heron island bought by RSPB

April 2014: An island in the River Ouse has been bought by the RSPB for £47,500 reports BBC News. Hook Island, near Goole, East Yorkshire, is a 19-acre (8-hectare) Site of Special Scientific Interest that is home to a wealth of wetland birds including herons.

In spring, grey herons raise their chicks on the 19 acre site, while in the winter months hundreds of golden plovers and lapwings roost there after spending the day feeding on the mudflats of the Humber Estuary. Little egrets – a rare type of heron – are sometimes seen on the island and the RSPB hopes they may eventually form a breeding colony.

Pete Short, RSPB’s Humber Sites Manager, said: “The Humber Estuary is a Site of Special Scientific Interest and one of our most important places for wildlife but it’s under serious threat from inappropriate development and recreational disturbance. Through buying Hook Island, which is part of this Site, we can help protect this special place and make it an even better home for nature.”

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Blind African refugee beaten up in Britain


This video from England says about itself:

Who killed Jimmy Mubenga? Protest outside G4S AGM, London 6 June 2013

By Ryan Fletcher in Britain:

Friday 11th April 2014

A disabled asylum-seeker told the Star yesterday that he was beaten by staff tasked to deliver him to Heathrow airport for deportation.

Alain Kouayep Tchatchue was delivered to Heathrow early on Saturday from nearby Harmondsworth Immigration Removal Centre.

Visually impaired Mr Tchatchue claimed that when he refused to board a flight to Cameroon, from which he fled because he is bisexual, he was attacked.

He alleged that the two staff responsible for taking him to the airport dragged him back to the transportation van, punched him repeatedly in the ribs and then left him in the van for over three hours with his hands and feet tied.

Mr Tchatchue claimed that the two staff told him “they were just doing their job.”

Speaking to the Star from the detention centre yesterday, he said: “I couldn’t see properly and was screaming ‘please help me.’

“They tied my feet together and handcuffed me. I could feel them putting pressure on my neck.

“They untied my feet after three hours but I was handcuffed for over four.”

Eventually Mr Tchatchue was returned to the detention centre after it was decided he was too ill to travel.

He has subsequently put in a complaint to the police, but said he was still suffering with mobility problems in his shoulder for which he has needed painkillers all week.

He told the Star: “I am very scared and upset. Even now I can’t sleep. This is a very difficult time in my life.”

Mr Tchatchue fled Cameroon after having a relationship with a man and said that reports about his sexuality had appeared in the local press there and he would be in danger if he was deported.

Manchester Metropolitan Church pastor Andy Braunston has been campaigning on Mr Tchatchue’s behalf.

He said: “Alain is a blind man who uses a white stick to get around and who has fled here because of fear of the violence of the state in Cameroon.”

The Metropolitan Police and the Home Office were unavailable for comment.

Britain: We musn’t lose the gains made by black workers over the last decade in an austerity-led backlash, says GLORIA MILLS: here.

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English anti-fascists against nazi march plans


This video from Britain says about itself:

Many English Defence League (EDL) supporters have extreme views, and many have shown to support Nazism. Here is a compilation showing EDL supporters giving the Nazi salute.

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

Yorkshire anti-fascist network mobilizes against EDL march in Rotherham

Tuesday 8th April 2014

Sheffield-based group fights back against rising tide of far-right demonstrations and attacks on Muslims, immigrants and the left

Anti-fascists in South Yorkshire are mobilising to oppose a visit by the fascist English Defence League (EDL) in May.

The dwindling far-right street group plans to descend on Rotherham on Saturday May 10.

But Sheffield Anti-Fascist Network is readying a counter-demonstration.

The group said: “The last few years have seen a wave of demonstrations by far right groups, as well as an increase in attacks on Muslims.

“The new fascists primarily target Muslims but also expand their hatred to anyone who isn’t white, to immigrants, the left and trade unions.

“Their supporters have gone on the rampage and violently attacked Asian-owned businesses, students demonstrating against tuition fees and have been convicted of arson attacks on mosques.”

The EDL has carried out a number of assaults in South Yorkshire, including an attack on a Muslim stall and assaults on anti-fascists.

For more information on the counter-demonstration visit Twitter @SheffieldAFN or email sheffieldafn@riseup.net.

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Otters in Norfolk, England


This video is called Wild otters in Thetford, Norfolk.

By Peter Frost in England:

The otter‘s welcome return

Saturday 5th April 2014

PETER FROST tracks an otter in the backwaters of the Broads National Park and uncovers an interesting quirk of history

The tiny electric launch, the Electric Eel moved silently away from the jetty at How Hill on the river Ant in the heart of the Norfolk Broads National Park. We soon left the main river taking a tiny reed-fringed backwater.

The park ranger spotted it first – they always do – something slender, sleek and shiny swimming across the river. First guess was a mink, common enough to be a real pest in these waters.

It moved fast and looked bigger than a mink. As it scrambled on to the bank the whiskers and bright button nose made it plain this was that rarest of Broadland’s mammals – the wonderful otter (Lutra lutra).

After years of living on the brink of extinction in Britain, otters have made a dramatic comeback, and not just in the Broads.

You have a greater chance of seeing an otter on our riverbanks than at any time for half a century. Today otters are being spotted in virtually every river in every county.

Back in the 1970s, otters were nearly extinct. They have made an extraordinary comeback – and one linked to other improvements in our rivers, streams, canals and other water courses.

Otters are playful and affectionate with their young, they float on their backs with pups on their stomachs. You may be lucky and see one sitting on the river bank meticulously eating a fish. A large dog otter or a pregnant female might eat as much as four pounds (2kg) of fish a day.

Much of the otter‘s popularity can be traced back to two important books about the species – Henry Williamson‘s 1927 novel Tarka the Otter and Gavin Maxwell‘s Ring of Bright Water.

Maxwell’s book, first published in 1960, was made into a popular film in 1969 when otters had almost disappeared from both English and Welsh rivers and were quite rare in the Scottish rivers where Maxwell had set his book and film. The film and book helped to win over public opinion in favour of the otter.

At this time the few surviving otters were still being hunted with packs of hounds. The murderous so-called sport was not made illegal until 1978.

Another major factor in the otters’ decline was the widespread use of DDT and other agricultural chemicals. They drained from farmland and poisoned waterways.

Those chemicals accumulated in fish and amphibians and poisoned the otter at the top of the riverbank food chain.

These chemicals, along with untreated sewage and industrial pollution, effectively killed our rivers.

The rivers too were being dredged and straightened, while banks were being tidied up and steel and concrete pilings were installed, replacing the soft otter-friendly reed fringes. It is hard to dig a holt in a concrete bank.

Those of us who wanted to see British otters had to journey north to Orkney, Shetland or the Highlands.

Banning DDT and the gradual improvement in river water quality started to make the news, although it was usually the return of fisherman’s salmon that made the headlines. But as the salmon returned, so did the otter.

Today even lucky city folk might see an otter on a early morning canal towpath walk.

European mink in the Netherlands: here.

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Stop burning British peatland, RSPB says


This video from Ireland says about itself:

A video on the carnivorous plants that can be found at the IPCC headquarters, the Bog of Allen Nature Centre, Lullymore, Rathangan, Co. Kildare. Visit the centre to experience our greenhouse full of venus flytraps, pitcher plants, sundew, butterwort and cobra lillies.

By Martin Harper of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds in Britain:

Our uplands: a burning desire for action

7 March 2014 6:23 AM

I live and work in the flatlands of Eastern England but I love walking in the hills. I have walked large stretches of the long distance footpaths of England, and in recent years, I have been lucky to go and see some of the work that we do in the uplands – working with others such as United Utilities to restore fabulous places like Dove Stone in the Peak District and with our tenant farmer at Geltsdale in the North Pennines. For me, alongside the inspiration that comes from being in wild places, it has always been the wildlife associated with the spongy wonders of peat bogs that hold me in thrall.  Getting up close and personal with Sphagnum mosses and carnivorous sundews should not be limited to those that visit botanic gardens.

The walkers amongst you will know that our peatlands are not in great condition.  You can see for yourself the scale and extent of damage to peatlands from afforestation, drainage, overgrazing and burning.  This was documented by the Adaptation Sub-Committee last year (see Figure 4.5 here).  And, as I wrote in my first blog of the year (here), just 10.5% of the 162,000 ha of blanket bog designated as SSSI are in favourable condition in England.

In the late 1990s, the RSPB with many others successfully campaigned to end the extraction of peat from lowland raised bog SSSIs and to get trees off the internationally important bogs in the Flow Country.  Today, we should be applying the same urgency to restore internationally important peatlands in the hills.  This would not only help wildlife, but also fulfil our legal obligations to restore these sites whilst safeguarding nature’s free services that well-managed peatlands provide – such as locking up carbon, providing clear drinking water, and keeping water for longer on the hill to prevent downstream flooding.

But restoration will not happen if we keep burning our peatlands.  In May 2013, Natural England completed its review of evidence of the impact of upland management practices including burning (see here).  In short, they concluded that burning vegetation on deep peat soils is preventing the recovery of the habitat and the species our protected sites are intended to look after.  For those communities, like those at Hebden Bridge, living in the foothills of intensively managed moors there are more pressing reasons why they cry “Ban the Burn“.

Today, we reveal the scale of burning on our internationally protected peatlands (see here).  There are at least 127 separate historic agreements or consents allowing burning of blanket bog on sites internationally important for birds and deep peatland habitats.  Defra has confirmed that all of these consents take place on grouse moors where burning is designed to provide optimum conditions for red grouse. We have compiled this information following our investigation into the management agreement that was struck between Natural England and Walshaw Moor Estate in 2012 (which I first aired here).

We have decided to put this information into the public domain for three reasons…

…first, we are encouraging Natural England to act on their evidence review and produce guidelines which bring an end to burning on our protected upland peatlands

…second, any public money that flows up the hill to support land management in the hills (especially finite agri-environment money) must be made to work harder for wildlife and protect nature’s free services.  Future agri-environment agreements which allow burning on deep peat would be a waste of tax-payers’ money

…third, we want to invite all landowners to end burning on deep peat and contribute to a national campaign for peatland restoration

We have also, this week, contacted Natural England for an update on any restoration that has taken place at Walshaw since the management agreement was struck in 2012.  I think it is in all our interests, especially those taxpayers that walk through Walshaw Moor on the Pennine Way,  to find out what progress has been made to block drains and improve the habitat on this internationally protected site.

If you would like to find out more about the detail of the Walshaw case and the wider concerns about burning on peatlands, please do visit our dedicated web pages here.

And do let me know what you think about the continued burning on peatland protected sites.

It would be great to hear your views.

A comment on this blog post, by ‘redkite’, says:

Absolutely right Martin. For too long owners of big tracks of uplands, especially grouse moors have had things too much their way. It is high time our upland peatlands are no longer subjected to burning, plantation forestry and other detrimental management just for the sake of a few more grouse to shoot.The value to the general public, yes in money terms, because of the ability of these peatlands to absorb large amounts of rain water, to provide much better quality drinking water and to “lock up” vast amounts of carbon, all free of charge, must, far, far out weigh the value of a few extra grouse for the shooters.

When in good condition, peatlands are also, of course, marvellous havens for wildlife including hen harriers when they are not illegally shot out the sky. Sound and sensible economics now needs to be applied to our uplands on behalf of everyone, and not for a few parties with particular interests, and to let nature heal the damage done. The general public and nature has been taken for “a bit of a ride” for a long time now and this now needs to be stopped.

Burning heather on a rotation of 7-20 years is part of the industrialisation of the upland landscape of parts of the UK. The main reason for doing it is to produce totally unnaturally high densities of Red Grouse which can then be shot in autumn for sport. It’s a quaint, particularly British, tradition: here.

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Lost English cuckoo found again in Africa


This video from England says about itself:

21 August 2013

Discover more about the story of cuckoos on Dartmoor and hear about an exciting project that will be tracking their migration to Africa.

From Wildlife Extra:

Lost cuckoo makes dramatic reappearance

March 2014: One of the migrating cuckoos being tracked by the British Trust for Ornithology on its migration to and from sub-Saharan Africa has been located after a three-month silence. Tor, the cuckoo that was fitted with its tracking device in Dartmoor National Park last May had ‘gone dark’ and was feared dead.

Tor’s satellite signal, that transmits for 10 hours every couple of days to reveal the location of the bird and, occasionally, its body heat measurement, was last received on 4 December, at which time he was on the Gabon/Congo border. It is not unknown for the transmitters’ batteries to degrade or for the birds to be under dense cover for extended periods which prevents the devices’ solar panels from charging them up, but usually there is only a period of a week or two before they spring into life again.

In this case, Tor stayed under the radar for an unprecedented amount of time until he resurfaced in early March in the Central African Republic.

The BTO has been satellite-tracking cuckoos on their migration since 2011 in order to find out their important stop-over sites and wintering destinations to and from Africa and so discover why we have lost more than half of our breeding cuckoos in the past 25 years. Last spring 15 cuckoos were tagged, most of which are now on their way back to the UK. Information from the project will help to form conservation strategies and initiate action.

To find out more about the project and follow the progress of this year’s cuckoos as they return to the UK, visit here.

You can also sponsor a cuckoo and help finance the research here.

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