British birds, other wildlife, need people’s help


This video from Wiltshire, England is called Busiest bird feeder in the UK?

From Wildlife Extra:

Birds and other wildlife still need your help

Berry good year – but don’t be fooled

October 2013. Despite it being a bumper year for berries, the RSPB is asking people to carry on putting out food for garden birds because some of the fruits aren’t yet ripe enough to eat.

The charity is warning people not to think that the mild weather and fruit-filled shrubs mean garden birds will be able to get enough natural food to sustain them. And with the Met Office warning this week of dropping temperatures and possible widespread frost, putting out extra food for the birds in your garden will become even more important as the month goes on.

Ian Hayward, from the RSPB’s wildlife enquiries team, said: “Many people think that you don’t need to put out food for birds during mild weather and when there appears to be lots of berries available. However, not all of the berries out now are ripe enough for birds to eat – most won’t be taken until after the first frosts and ivy berries won’t start forming until much later in winter – so it’s still important to supplement the natural food with things like seed mixes, mealworms and suitable leftovers from your kitchen.

“A number of birds that visit our gardens at this time of year are migrants that have flown here from Scandinavia and Eastern Europe to spend the winter, so they have a lot of refuelling to do!”

Other wildlife

Ian continued: “October is a great time of year to do all sorts of jobs to give nature a home in your outside space. You can plant bulbs ready to attract bees and other insects next summer; build or buy a hedgehog shelter, ready for them to hibernate in; dig a pond or tidy up your existing one; or put up nest boxes in time for next spring.”

But for those who don’t fancy getting a bit of hard work this weekend, there’s a good excuse.

“Holding off on pruning your hedges is a great way of helping wildlife without actually having to do anything. Leaving them until around February next year means the berries will be able to be eaten throughout the winter.”

The RSPB has launched a campaign to help tackle the crisis facing the UK’s threatened wildlife. Giving Nature a Home is urging the nation to provide a place for wildlife in their own gardens and outside spaces. The charity hopes to inspire people across the UK to create a million new homes for nature.

60 per cent of the wildlife species have declined in the last decade

The launch of the campaign comes after 25 wildlife organisations, including the RSPB, released the ground-breaking State of Nature report revealing 60 per cent of the wildlife species studied have declined over recent decades.

Many garden favourites were among the creatures shown to be in serious trouble including starlings, hedgehogs, some butterflies and ladybirds. All are in danger of further declines unless more is done to provide better habitats.

Rare stone curlews killed by cold spring


This is a video of a stone curlew calling in France.

From Wildlife Extra:

Stone curlews dying of starvation on arrival from migration

Rare birds found dead in Wiltshire as wildlife struggles through cold spring

Wildlife is suffering the effects of an exceptionally late spring with rare birds found dead and summer warblers absent from the countryside.

The bodies of nine stone curlews – one of the UK’s most threatened birds – have been found in fields in Norfolk, Suffolk and Wiltshire in the past few days. The birds are believed to have returned from their wintering grounds in Africa and Spain and struggled to find enough food to survive. The bodies weighed around 300g, compared to a healthy weight of 450g.

Nick Tomalin speaking for the RSPB in Wiltshire said; “It was very sad to find several dead birds that our local team have ringed as chicks in the last few years. We’ve weighed the birds and the indication is, as with birds in East Anglia, they may have starved due to the cold weather on arrival in the UK”

This follows the deaths of hundreds of puffins and other seabirds off the coast of Scotland and North East England two weeks ago as a result of continuous freezing conditions and stormy seas making it hard to find food. Elsewhere there have been reports of short eared owls and barn owls found dead after cold weather hampered their ability to hunt.

Now is the time of year the UK sees an influx of migrant birds returning to our shores to build nests and breed, however nature enthusiasts have reported very little activity. Reports of chiffchaffs, willow warblers and blackcaps have been scarce sparking fears from conservationists after last year’s poor breeding season.

Meanwhile many species are behaving like winter is still here. Winter migrants like waxwings, fieldfares and redwings are still present in large numbers in the countryside and show little signing of heading north. The winter evening spectacle of starling murmurations – large flying flocks of birds gathering to roost – can still be seen in some areas.

RSPB conservation director Martin Harper said: “I can’t remember a spring like this – nature has really been tested by a prolonged period of very cold weather.

“We should be hearing the sound of chiffchaffs calling from the trees – a classic sign that spring is here – but that isn’t the case. Some may have stalled on their migration route, while for others the severe lack of insect food available means they are conserving what little energy they have.

“The discovery of nine stone curlews is a stark reminder of how fragile this species is. This amounts to around one per cent of the total UK population of these birds but the total number of deaths is likely to be higher. Many of these birds are only here because of the dedication of farmers who have been creating safe habitats for them in key areas.

“We are still getting calls from members of the public about strange sights in their gardens as birds like yellowhammers and reed buntings struggle to find enough food in the countryside. But we are also hearing about a steady trickle of swallows making their way up through the country and with temperatures on the rise the situation could start to look different in the coming days.”

“As the global temperature continues to rise to this is another reminder that we must ensure our landscapes are in the best state possible to help wildlife cope with the increasingly unpredictable weather it will bring.”

Four of the stone curlews were found dead in Norfolk, one in Suffolk and three in Wiltshire. There are around 400 pairs in the UK and the last two years have seen poor breeding seasons.

The RSPB has just received four years of funding from the EU LIFE+ programme, for three stone-curlew advisers who will be helping landowners to create more safe nesting habitat, allowing the population to become more self-sustaining, more resilient and able to cope with adverse weather conditions.

The RSPB is asking people what differences they have noticed about this spring? Tweet us at: @natures_voice or tell us on Facebook.com/RSPBLoveNature.

April 2013. Latest results from the BTO Garden BirdWatch survey have revealed that British Hedgehogs are emerging from hibernation very late this spring. This weekly survey, which covers mammals as well as birds, shows that Hedgehog emergence is roughly a month behind what was seen in 2011 and 2012. The long winter may also have led to increased levels of overwinter mortality: here.
Cold spring: What does this mean for flowers? Here.

British great bustards, new study


This video is called Great Bustard (Otis tarda), Wiltshire, UK.

From Wildlife Extra:

Bird poo study to help Britain’s Great bustards thrive

December 2012. Scientists at the University of Bath are studying the droppings of Great Bustards to help understand their diet and nutrition with the aim of boosting their survival in a conservation project to reintroduce the birds to the UK.

Reintroduced

Great Bustards, the world’s largest flying birds and the county mascot for Wiltshire, became extinct in the UK in 1832. The LIFE+ Great Bustard Reintroduction Project is a partnership between the Great Bustard Group, RSPB, Natural England and the University of Bath, which has been working together to establish a self-sustaining population of Great Bustards in southern England.

The reintroduction project has been regularly rearing chicks imported from Saratov, Russia and releasing them once they are fully fledged at a secret location on Salisbury Plain. For the first time this year, they have also successfully hatched chicks from eggs brought over from Russia.

As part of the conservation project, Scott Gooch and Dr Kate Ashbrook from the University of Bath LIFE+ project monitoring team have been collecting droppings of the released birds to monitor what they prefer eating and how their diet changes through the year.

Little known about diet

Scott Gooch explained: “Relatively little is known about the diets of Great Bustards living in the UK. Watching bustards in the wild can give you information on where they prefer to feed and how much of their time they devote to feeding, but by examining their droppings under a microscope we can discover the quantities of different insects and plants in their diet and how this changes across the year.”

Understanding what the birds eat in the wild will help the development of targeted habitat management for Great Bustards in the UK.

Dr Ashbrook explained: “The success of this reintroduction project depends on whether there is enough food to support great bustards through the autumn and winter.

“We believe there is, but it is important to monitor their diet so we can ensure there is sufficient suitable habitat for them as the population grows, and to establish more through agri-environment management if needs be.”

THEY may be the heaviest flying animal, but that doesn’t stop great bustards getting around. Satellite tagging shows some migrate 4000 kilometres each year. Their secret? Long layovers: here.

A recent study has revealed that the Asian subspecies of great bustard, one of the world’s heaviest birds, migrates over 2,000 miles round-trip between its breeding grounds in northern Mongolia and its winter range in Shaanxi province, China. The discovery was made by a team of scientists led by Arizona State University biologist Mimi Kessler: here.

Genetic structure in Iberian and Moroccan populations of the globally threatened great bustard Otis tarda: a microsatellite perspective: here.

British war department’s cruel animal experiments


This video from Britain says about itself:

May 17, 2012

During 2004, two UK television documentaries were produced which investigated the past activities of the UK Government’s Biological Warfare facility at Porton Down, Wiltshire.

The programmes revealed that scientists from Porton Down had used the UK as a vast outdoor laboratory during the Cold War. From 1950 to 1975, Porton scientists had clandestinely sprayed massive amounts of live bacteria (Serratia marcescens, E. coli MRE162 and Bacillus subtilis) and several tons of chemical compounds (such as Zinc Cadmium sulphide) over large parts of the UK.

The first programme shows – how Royal Enfield workers in an underground factory at Westwood Quarry were repeatedly exposed to an opportunistic pathogen in the early 1950s; how members of the public travelling on a regular railway train on the Salisbury-Exeter line were sprayed with live bacteria by Porton scientists while travelling through a tunnel; how the city of Salisbury was ‘attacked’ during August of 1960 with large amounts of a cadmium compound: and how Porton sceintists conducted the large, and now infamous, series of experiments – known as the Lyme Bay Trials.

The latter experiments exposed millions of UK residents to massive aerosols of live bacteria (E.coli and Bacillus subtilis) during the years 1963-1975. The huge bacterial clouds were sprayed from an Admiralty ship – ETV ICEWHALE – and were carried onshore by the wind and sampled by Porton scientists up to 50 miles inland. Athough this research was meant to be of a defensive nature, the official Porton film of these experiments stated: “Whilst these trials were designed for specific research purposes, they demonstrated, in a striking way, the feasibility of small-scale biological warfare. An appreciable dose of viable bacteria was achieved over an area greater than 1,000 square miles, by the release of only 120 gallons of suspension”.

From the (Conservative) Daily Telegraph in Britain, about the British Department of War … oops-a-daisy … ‘defence':

Rise in animal experiments at defence laboratory

Almost 10,000 experiments were conducted on animals, including monkeys and pigs, at the Porton Down military research base last year, it has been revealed.

By Telegraph reporters

3:35PM GMT 18 Dec 2012

The number of animal tests carried out at the top-secret facility in Wiltshire increased by 300 since 2010 and by more than 1,000 since 2009.

Currently 21 licensed animal procedures are under way at Porton Down Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL).

Most of these fall into the “substantial” severity category which may cause “significant or prolonged animal suffering”.

Six of the projects cover work funded directly by US defence agencies.

The details were disclosed in a series of written answers from junior defence minister Philip Dunne.

He was responding to parliamentary questions tabled by Liberal Democrat MP Mike Hancock, the member for Portsmouth South.

Mr Hancock said he was shocked by the statistics which, until now, were never made generally public.

Last month the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection highlighted “disturbing and cruel” experiments at Porton Down, said to include live pigs being blasted with explosives and forced to inhale mustard gas, monkeys being infected with anthrax and guinea pigs being killed with nerve agent.

Mr Dunne, the minister responsible for defence science and technology, listed the number of animal procedures undertaken at DSTL Porton Down over the last three years.

The figure has risen from 8,452 in 2009 to 9,582 in 2010 and 9,882 last year, he revealed.

The animals involved were pigs, rabbits, monkeys and rodents.

All scientific experiments on animals, including those at Porton Down, have to be licensed by the Home Office under the proviso that suffering is minimised as much as possible.

Procedures are graded according to the severity of harm or suffering they inflict.

Of the 21 “active” projects at Porton Down, four are “unclassified”, three are “mild”, six are “moderate” and eight are categorised as “substantial”, said Mr Dunne.

A moderate procedure may cause animals a “noticeable degree of pain, suffering, distress or lasting harm”, according to the Home Office definition. Substantial severity “may cause a major departure from the animal’s usual state of health or well-being with significant or prolonged animal suffering”.

Mr Hancock said: “I was shocked to learn that almost 10,000 animal experiments are taking place at Porton Down every year, including ones inflicting substantial levels of suffering.

“The details were not included in the annual statistics published by the Home Office and many people will be totally unaware that this suffering is occurring.

“It is important that the Ministry of Defence routinely gives more information on its use of animals so the public can be fully informed.”

BUAV chief executive Michelle Thew said: “It is alarming that almost 10,000 animal experiments for military purposes took place in 2011 and that many animals were subjected to the most extreme suffering categorised by the Government.

“Some of the animal research conducted at Porton Down was even funded by the US defence agencies.

“The BUAV is calling for an end to the use of animals, including monkeys and pigs in these gruesome experiments. We need to ensure the safety of soldiers and civilians but the answer does not lay in blowing up or exposing animals to lethal chemical warfare and nerve agents.”

A REPORT published by the Ministry of Defence admitted that some trials of chemical agents on human volunteers at Porton Down from the 1940s to the 1970s involved “serious departures” from ethical standards: here.

Orchids, other flowers, in Wiltshire, England


This is a video about an Early Marsh Orchid, one of the 56 species of British orchids.

From Wildlife Extra:

Orchids blooming in restored Wiltshire grasslands

July 2008. On the rolling chalk grassland of Coombe Bisset Down the purple spikes of pyramidal orchids have appeared in a field 10 years after the land was reclaimed from arable farming by the Wiltshire Wildlife Trust.

So far only 25 plants have been spotted, but they signal the slow return of wild flowers to farmed land through careful management by hay cutting and grazing.

The orchid, Anacamptis pyramidalis, was among a multitude of other wildflower seeds such as small scabious, devil’s bit scabious, fairy flax, horseshoe vetch, eye bright, cowslips and red bartisia, first sown in 1998, and then in 2001, as the Trust sought to restore this patch of chalk grassland, which is a nationally important habitat.

Barley field

“Twelve years ago this field was full of swaying barley with not a flower in sight. Since we seeded the field and took over its management we have seen more and more wild flowers creeping in. This is the best year yet – we’ve even found one fragrant orchid, which usually takes a long time to colonise a place,” says Catherine.

See also here.

Orchid search launched on 60 UK farms: here.

Orchids and fungi — partners for life: here.

Three Thai orchids have been found to rely on a wide range of fungi to help them take carbon out of the soil instead of producing their own organic carbon. A detailed study of the relationship, published in the open access journal BMC Biology, also features stunning pictures of the plants: here.