English pro-badger campaigner Sue Chamberlain, RIP

This video from England says about itself:

6 May 2013

Meet a couple of sweet and mischievous baby badgers at the Secret World Rehabilitation Wildlife Centre in the English countryside for jam sandwiches and bottled milk.

By Lesley Docksey in Britain:

Indomitable badger campaigner Sue Chamberlain dies

Thursday 11th February 2016

Dorset’s wildlife protectors thought it was bad enough when the badger cull arrived last year. Given that the level of bovine TB in Dorset had been falling since 2012 — without resorting to the needless and unscientific killing of badgers — people found it hard to believe that Natural England had given the go-ahead for culling.

Dorset for Badger & Bovine Welfare (DBBW) and the Dorset Hunt Saboteurs moved from frantic sett mapping to equally frantic organising of setting up Camp Badger (for those who came from across the country to help protect the badgers) and organising nightly “wounded badger patrols.”

Central to it all was a remarkable woman, Sue Chamberlain. On January 13 this year, however, Dorset’s badgers were left reeling from another blow as Chamberlain lost her battle with cancer.

The founder of DBBW, Andrew Butler, wrote this heart-breaking tribute: “In May 2013 there was a meeting at Dorchester town hall to discuss the impending badger cull and the possibility of it coming to Dorset. All eyes were focused on the stage, where the stars of the movement against the cull including Brian May and the head of the RSPCA spoke. But it was in the crowd, listening quietly and unassumingly, that the real lynchpin of the group to protect Dorset’s badgers sat — she just didn’t know it yet.

“Sue Chamberlain came to the very first meeting of what became DBBW and she didn’t miss a single one from that moment on. In fact it was Sue who organised the meetings; setting the dates, letting people know, answering the emails, posting on Facebook, circulating minutes… and that was just the beginning.

“We cannot overstate just how much Sue did to grow, maintain and keep the group grounded. Sue was our rock; our administrator, our merchandise queen, our fundraiser, co-ordinator, liaison with the authorities, the person who got things done, who made sure that when the badger cull came to Dorset everyone knew where they needed to be in order to save as many animals as possible. Sue could be out in the field one night, and on the phone dealing with any problems that arose all the next day. Nothing was ever too much trouble, no problem was insurmountable.

“This is all the more remarkable given that Sue was fighting her own private battle against cancer, and on Wednesday January 13 it became the fight she could not win, and the animals and a great many people lost a true and brave friend.

“Sue, we love you and miss you. Rest well, you more than earned it.”

Not many of the people turning out for the wounded badger patrols or phoning in reports knew that Sue had cancer. Her dedication to badgers, her energy and wish to be fully involved gave no sign of it.

At her funeral, which her family rightly dubbed a thanksgiving service, the village church was packed with people whose lives Sue had touched, for whatever interest Sue took up, she became fully involved. She was the greatest co-ordinator and bringer-together of people one could ever meet.

Pews were stuffed, people stood in the aisle and at the back of the church and all were greeted with Queen’s music as Sue was a supporter of Brian May and his Save Me Trust. The village hall could barely cope with the numbers who gathered after the service to share tea, cake, wine and their memories of Sue.

Among the mourners were representatives of Dorset Police, in full dress uniform. She ensured that Dorset went into the culls with a police liaison team already in place and supportive of how the wounded badger patrols were going to operate.

This made Dorset’s first cull far less difficult for patrollers than either Somerset or Gloucester and the team remains in place for the duration.

DBBW is coming to terms with just how much she did, reorganising themselves to cover all her many roles. One thing is certain — they will be stronger and even more active in their protection of badgers.

Think of it as a lasting memorial to an amazing person.

Ladybird spiders in Dorset, England

This is a ladybird spider video from Turkey.

By Peter Frost in Britain:

Strictly not for arachnophobes

Friday 15th January 2016

PETER FROST reports on the interminable and complex initiative to re-establish the ladybird spider – once thought extinct in Britain –in its natural habitat of a Dorset heathland

One of Britain’s rarest and most colourful spiders the Ladybird spider (Eresus sandaliatus) was thought to be extinct in Britain for over 70 years, until a tiny population was rediscovered on a tiny patch of land, barely 50 yards square, in Dorset in 1980.

Since then no other populations have been detected. It is believed to have once been found in Cornwall and the Isle of Wight but no more.

The spider gets its name from the bright red body of the male decorated with four large ladybird-like spots. The male body is 6-9 mm long excluding legs. The male’s legs are bright black with white stripes. The female is larger, 10-16 mm excluding legs and totally velvety black. She rarely leaves her nest. Young spiders too are velvety black.

The species lives in burrows with silk trip-wires covered with dense fluffy threads that radiate outwards to catch their prey, which includes large insects like devil’s coach horse and violet ground beetles.

The male only emerges for two weeks in May to breed. Having found a burrow containing a female he plucks at the trip wires in a way that distinguishes him from prey. This protects him from becoming a meal.

After mating, the female lays up to 80 eggs in a cocoon in her burrow during the summer and guards them until the spiderlings hatch in July or August.

She feeds them on regurgitated food and finally, rather ungratefully, the young spiders eat their own mother. Females only breed once.

The spiderlings disperse to make their own burrows in the following April, and take three or four years to reach breeding age.

The Ladybird spider is still so endangered in Britain that it has been possible to count each individual spider in Dorset, the only place it has managed to keep a small but determined eight-legged foothold.

The spider can only live on lowland heathland — and this is its main problem. Our native heathland has suffered drastic decline over the last century, being ploughed up for agriculture and forestry, or built over.

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) reserve at Arne, just four miles from Wareham, Dorset, is a great place to see avocets and little egrets but it is just as important for its preservation of the native heathland in its original form and, of course, the Ladybird spider.

Arne boasts over 250 species of spider and hundreds of insect species including the threatened silver studded blue butterfly and the Purbeck mason wasp which is only found in Dorset.

As well as insects and spiders the heathland is also home to endangered reptiles such as smooth snakes and sand lizards, and rare birds such as the Dartford warbler, stonechat and nightjar.

The Ladybird spider’s long life-cycle, very specific requirements and the fact that it is not good at colonising new sites have all added to its vulnerability.

When it was first rediscovered in 1980, the last remaining site supported just seven individual spiders, but successful habitat management has resulted in the population expanding to its current level of nearly a thousand individuals.

Over the last five years other colonies have been established on Dorset heathland. Spiders have been carefully released onto new sites — increasing their populations in Dorset from one to eight. But there is still a lot of work to do.

For a start conservation charities like the RSPB want to establish at least 20 Ladybird spider populations in the wild.

If this spider is to thrive we need to continue the programme of releasing spiders onto new sites and to monitor existing populations to ensure that they are healthy and doing well. The habitat needs to be managed to ensure that the sites remain in the right condition for the spider.

In 2011, it was first released onto the RSPB’s Arne reserve. Surveys here carried out this year show that the spiders are doing well and are now expanding outside of the original release areas.

During the original translocation, scientists used an ingenious low-tech method of transferring the spiders. They used recycled empty plastic mineral water bottles which are an ideal shape and size for the spiders to make their nests in.

The bottles are filled with heather and moss and captured spiders from the donor site placed inside and monitored while they settled in and made a web. The bottles were then buried in holes in the ground offering some protection but allowing the spiders to venture out to colonise adjacent areas.

Toby Branston, RSPB Dorset reserve ecology manager told us: “It’s great to see this incredible little spider doing well in its new home. The hard work has started to pay off. Searches this year have found five new webs away from the release sites as well as others in their original bottle-homes. A great sign that the spiders are feeling settled here at Arne.”

Scaly cricket in England, video

This video from England says about itself:

2 September 2015

Scaly Cricket, Pseudomogoplistes vicentae, Chesil Beach, Dorset, UK, September 2015.

This is a rare species in Britain, first recorded there in 1949.

Stop badger killing in England

This video shows a badger and a black roe deer, in the Veluwe region in the Netherlands.

By Jay Tiernan and Lesley Docksey in Britain:

Badgering for unfair culls

Wednesday 26th August 2015

Dorset farmers, aided by the NFU, are blaming wildlife for bovine TB despite their own mistakes, explain JAY TIERNAN and LESLEY DOCKSEY

THE unscientific badger culls will soon see a third year of killing in Somerset and Gloucestershire, with the government and the National Farmers Union (NFU) insisting it must be done because badgers infect cattle with bovine tuberculosis (bTB).

All farms with an outbreak of bTB are placed under restrictions including cattle movement controls. Coming on top of the costs and upset of TB testing, restrictions cost farmers money. They are unpopular, but they work.

Despite the failure of the 2013-14 culls, and ignoring majority scientific opinion that supports controls on cattle rather than wildlife, it seems that the culling will extend to Dorset, the NFU having announced it has submitted a formal request for licences to cull there.

On becoming chair of the Dorset branch of the NFU in 2012, farmer Paul Gould immediately called for a badger cull, based on exaggerated claims of the connection between badgers and bTB. His successor Trevor Cligg carried on the disinformation campaign to persuade Dorset how necessary a badger cull is.

Facts have been abandoned. In May Cligg said bTB was “rife” in Dorset. In July on Radio Solent he said that “there are significant levels of TB in Dorset’s badgers.” No studies have been done that support this.

Will farmers doubt him? Not if they believe what one farmer recently stated as a fact: that you know if there are infected badgers living in a sett because “their lavatories are outside.” But all occupied badger setts have their latrines close by.

Badgers are clean animals who won’t dirty their living space. Are humans judged diseased because we use lavatories?

Cligg also claimed that the rate of increase in bTB in Dorset is worse than anywhere else in the country. Clearly Defra’s statistics for Dorset are not good enough. They show that the number of bTB tests on cattle has almost doubled since 2008. They also show that between January 2012 and December 2014:

– New incidents of bTB have dropped by 12 per cent
– Herds under restriction have dropped by 13 per cent
– The number of bTB-infected cattle slaughtered dropped by 37.25 per cent, and
– Of the 31,733 infected cattle slaughtered last year, Dorset accounted for a tiny 2.3 per cent.

All this with no badger cull. Annual testing and cattle movement controls that prevent the disease spreading are working. Such methods almost eradicated bTB in the 1960s. It can be done again.

Those are the facts. Now for the false claims.

Cligg and Gould, assisted by NFU Chairman Meurig Raymond, have been ramping up the disinformation for some time. Local media have been full of sob stories about the bTB outbreak on Gould’s farm.

Gould is now in charge of organising the Dorset cull.

Having noticed the statements made by the NFU, Stop the Cull decided to test the facts behind Gould’s claims, made last year, about his infected cattle.

“These cows were grazing in a field that has no other cattle nearby,” said Gould. “But we have badgers on the farm.

There is a sett 50 yards that way [Gould pointed across the yard] and there is around 100 yards of badger sett in that hedge.”

His son Andrew said that as he rounded up the young heifers for their bTB test, two badgers were running around the cows’ feet.

This seems unlikely. Badgers are not known for running around cattle, in the daylight and in the presence of humans.

Raymond pitched in: “The terrible situation Paul finds himself in reinforces the need for action to be taken on all fronts to tackle bTB … This disease has come from one place — and one place only.”

Stop the Cull used the new bTB mapping website to see if Mr Gould was still struggling with bTB. What it found was surprising. Mr Gould’s herd tested clear of bTB just six months after having the infected cattle killed, and have remained disease-free.

So cattle controls do stop the reinfection of bTB.

But where did the disease come from? According to the NFU it could only be badgers. Further research showed that a neighbouring farm’s herd had gone down with the disease just months before (also now clear without badger culling). So should we blame badgers? Stop the Cull took a closer look at an aerial photograph and was surprised again.

The neighbouring farm’s breakdown was now significant. The fields that farm’s cattle use are only separated from Gould’s cattle by a hedge. A gap in the hedge line between the fields may be a water trough. The signs are that the neighbour’s cattle are going to that gap frequently. Whether the gap is a trough or a wire fence, it is a place where the two herds have face-to-face contact, the most common way of passing on tuberculosis.

Also, local information suggests that, despite the bTB outbreak, biosecurity measures are still lacking on Gould’s farm, and the neighbour’s beef cattle are currently in a field adjoining Gould’s dairy cattle.

The evidence does not support Gould and Raymond’s claims. As there was an obvious local non-badger source of infection, will the pair now concede that killing badgers is a waste of time? Or will they carry on hoping to convince people that it’s not down to bad farming practice but the fault of the badgers?

So there you have it. Total disregard for the scientific data and official statistics: at best, wild unsubstantiated claims; at worst, downright distortion; and all because blaming wildlife is easier than letting better farming practices, testing and cattle controls sort out the problem.

English little terns fly over 60,000 miles

This video from England is called Chesil Beach Little Terns June 2014. It shows a chick being fed.

From Wildlife Extra:

Little Tern‘s air miles equal two and a half times round the world

Wildlife conservationists studying rare Little Terns nesting on Chesil Beach in Dorset have discovered that two of them have notched up more than 60,000 miles each during their annual African migrations.

Given that the circumference of the earth is 24,860 miles, that means these small birds have travelled the equivalent of two and a half times round the world.

The discovery was made during the fitting of new colour rings to the Chesil Little Terns in conjunction with the EU LIFE Little Tern Project.

Thalassa McMurdo Hamilton, Little Tern Project Officer says; “Steve Hales, a local bird ringer, carried out the colour ringing with Luke Phillips of the RSPB.

“As the ringing got underway we noticed some of the adults were glinting silver on their legs – they already had a metal ring on – and luckily, we managed to catch a few of these.

“We excitedly wrote down the ring number and Steve went home to check the BTO [British Trust for Ornithology] records to see how old they were.

“A few hours later Steve revealed, incredibly, that he had ringed these birds at Chesil Beach in 1999 and 2000 – making these adults 15 and 16 years old!”

Steve Hales says “Handling a bird which I had ringed as a week-old chick on the same beach 16 years ago was very rewarding.

“It emphasised just what an age some of our smaller seabirds can reach. The next three years of colour ringing the Little Terns under the EU LIFE partnership will hopefully produce other exciting discoveries.”

The Chesil Beach Little Tern project is in its sixth year and, with the number of breeding pairs increasing, project staff were delighted to be included in the national ringing project.

Thalassa adds: “I was amazed to discover that these birds are returning here where they were first reared and that they are still breeding after 16 years.

“They are such small birds – an adult weighs the same as a tennis ball – and deal with lots of stress during chick rearing so I couldn’t believe they were so old.

“They are much tougher than we think, as these birds have travelled over 100,000km in their lifetime which is astounding.”

“Being able to identify individuals at a colony has huge benefits to this species, the second rarest breeding seabird in the UK.

“It allows conservationists to understand the movement of Little Terns between different colonies, how faithful they are to their breeding colonies and, moreover, we can learn more about adult and juvenile survival.

“These questions remain largely unanswered and so armed with this information we will be better able to conserve this species.

“We’ve made a great start in 2015 and we will hopefully ring many more over the next few years, and gain an insight into these tough Little Terns, at the only colony in the southwest of England.”

Marc Smith, Dorset Wildlife Trust Chesil Centre Officer says: “It is great to know that that these Little Terns are returning to Chesil Beach, even after such a long time.

“It just goes to show how important this area is for this rare little bird. The colony has been very successful over the last three years, with well over a hundred fledglings.

“Hopefully we will be seeing many of these return in the years to come.”

The Chesil Beach Little Tern Project is a partnership between RSPB, Natural England, Crown Estate, Portland Court Leet, Dorset Wildlife Trust and the Chesil and Fleet Nature Reserve.