British marine life surveyed by divers for conservation

This video is called British Sea Life.

From Wildlife Extra:

Wildlife Trust divers survey UK marine life to make case for protection

Divers from the Wildlife Trusts have undertaken exploratory scientific surveys in a bid to better understand the UK marine environment and help protect it for the future.

Five professional divers and marine ecologists, commissioned by The Wildlife Trusts, are gathering evidence and data from areas where existing knowledge about marine habitats is limited.

This summer, marine scientist Dominic Flint is leading the team of divers in recording any interesting finds in five survey areas around England.

They are surveying and photographing the sands and gravels, the rock types and forms, the seaweeds and animals attached to the rocks, crabs and other creatures that crawl over the seabed and the fish that swim above, round and through them.

Joan Edwards, The Wildlife Trusts’ head of Living Seas, says: “By deploying a dive team we hope to be able to propose new areas for inclusion in the third phase of Marine Conservation Zones, which should be designated in 2016.

“Gathering data in the marine environment is notoriously difficult and time-consuming.

“We hope our activity will help to strengthen the existing evidence base and provide information about areas where little, or nothing, is currently known.

“We have to do this to ensure these places can be included in future discussions over marine protection, and their conservation secured.

“This will be our last opportunity to secure an ecologically coherent network in England.”

The Wildlife Trusts, at the forefront of practical marine conservation and data submission, is the first non government organisation to commission a dive team to gather such evidence.

All the data gathered will be submitted to Natural England.

All the dives are weather dependent. They have started in the south west of England with plans to move along the Channel and in to the North Sea, where it is hoped new and exciting marine life will be found.

The dive team surveyed The Manacles Marine Conservation Zone in June. It was designated in 2013 for its wide range of habitats: from rocky reefs to vertical rock faces with large cobbles and boulders grading into sandy sediment – as well as to protect the maerl beds, sea-fan anemone, spiny lobster and stalked jellyfish found here.

The rocky reef is home to several important and well-known species such as pink sea fan, cup coral and the beautiful jewel anemone.

The Manacles was also designated to allow the Maerl beds found there to recover. Maerl is a type of seaweed which forms a hard skeleton and, if suitably protected, forms extensive beds which act as shelter and nursery areas for many other marine animals, including commercially-important species of fish and shellfish.

They are very slow to develop and unlikely to return if they are irreparably damaged; as such they are treated as a non-renewable resource vital to sustainable fisheries.

In July, the team explored a number of areas within St Ives Bay in Cornwall; an open sandy bay which features the Hayle estuary, framed by rocky headlands and reefs.

This is an area known to be important for mobile species from seabirds to bottlenose dolphins, which call in from time to time.

During this exploratory dive, the team recorded more than 130 species on and around rich rocky reefs, all teeming with life and colour.

The densely encrusted rock forms were swathed in a rainbow carpet of sponges, sea squirts, anemones and seaweeds; providing a playground for nudibranchs, crabs, northern cowrie – a small sea snail – and lobster.

Within the sand, they saw burrowing brittlestars, tube anemones and a painted goby.

Throughout the dive, the team swam below shoals of bass, sand eels, the odd Ballan Wrasse and Sunfish, the largest bony fish there is.

The Wildlife Trusts have been campaigning vigorously for the proper protection of UK seas for many years.

With government commitments for protecting the sea yet to be fully met, urgent action is still needed to turn our over-fished, over-exploited, and currently under-protected waters back into a healthy and sustainable environment.

Marine mammals in River Thames, England

This video says about itself:

31 October 2007

BDMLR Medics, Bob Archell and Emma Webb meet Miranda Krestovnikoff to talk about marine mammals in the Thames Estuary.

From the BBC:

Marine mammals thriving in Thames

By Rebecca Morelle, Science Correspondent, BBC News

20 August 2015

Ten years of public sightings show that large marine mammals are regularly found in the River Thames.

The Zoological Society of London (ZSL) has received records of 2,732 animals over that period.

Seals were the most common animal seen, with many spotted around London’s Canary Wharf, probably because many people spot them from its skyscrapers.

In addition, the public reported 444 porpoises and dolphins on the river, and 49 whales.

Joanna Barker, ZSL’s European conservation projects manager, said: “Many people looking into the Thames see a murky, dirty environment.

“But, actually, beneath the waves, it is full of life. We have a huge range of fish and invertebrates, and also top predators.”

Just 50 years ago, the Thames was so polluted it was declared “biologically extinct”, too dirty for anything to survive there.

But the public sightings confirm that the river is springing back to life. And many animals are venturing further into the English capital’s waterway.

Seals were seen as far upstream as Teddington and Hampton Court Palace, in south west London.

And dolphins and porpoises were spotted at Teddington Lock, with large pods spotted close to Kew Gardens and Deptford.

A whale even visited central London in 2006, but the bottle-nose did not survive. Other, healthier whales have been seen around Gravesend in Kent.

“The fact we get so many sightings in central London suggests the fish stocks are moving in to support these marine predators,” said Miss Barker.

In addition to the public’s reports, the team at ZSL has also been conducting detailed seal surveys along the greater Thames Estuary.

For the last three years, they have used planes and boats to count the number of seals along the river.

The scientists estimate there are about 670 harbour seals along the estuary. The number of grey seals is not known, however they appear to be doing well in this stretch of river.

“We do think this area is really important,” said Miss Barker.

“It’s quite sheltered compared with the North Sea, and there is a whole different range of environments and habitats for the marine mammals to use.

“So we think that London and the Thames Estuary is an important environment for these species.

“And we are keen to get more sightings year on year, and to build up a better picture of the places that marine mammals are using.”

The public are being asked to send their marine mammal sightings to ZSL.

Human bacteria kill English hedgehog

This video from England says about itself:

In the gardens of London during the hours of darkness in springtime, a strange and fascinating ritual is taking place – hedgehog mating. This entertaining clip shows David Attenborough examining how these prickly creatures get intimate. From the BBC’s Life of Mammals.

From Wildlife Extra:

Human sore throat bacteria found to have led to the death of a hedgehog

A post mortem carried out by the Zoological Society of London’s (ZSL) Institute of Zoology has, for the first time, identified that a human sore throat pathogen was responsible for the death of a wild hedgehog.

The free-living European hedgehog (Erinaceus europaeus) was found dead in northern England and a post-mortem examination and detailed laboratory testing confirmed the presence of the pathogen Streptococcus pyogenes, typically found in humans with sore throat or rash-like symptoms.

The pathogen was characterised as emm 28, a strain associated with invasive disease in humans. The discovery is the first known report of this human pathogen in a hedgehog, and in any free-living wild animal, as confirmed by gene sequencing.

The pathogen was determined to be the cause of death in the hedgehog, the bacteria having likely entered the body via a tooth root abscess, before spreading to other tissues.

A paper, written by Lydia Franklinos, a wildlife veterinarian within ZSL’s Institute of Zoology, and published in EcoHealth, hypothesises that the case may have resulted from the transfer of infection from human to hedgehog via anthroponotic infection, or reverse zoonosis.

It is thought that the opportunities for direct and indirect contact between wild hedgehogs and humans could be a possible explanation for this unexpected finding.

Franklinos says: “While it is more common to hear about zoonotic diseases originating from wildlife, we rarely encounter disease transferring from human to animal, as appears to be the case here.

“We need to be vigilant, and continue to monitor the threat to wildlife from humans and their activities.

“The hedgehog is in decline in the UK, and I would encourage further research on the pathogens of hedgehogs to better understand disease threats to the species in order to inform conservation efforts.”

The post mortem was carried out as part of Garden Wildlife Health (, an initiative which aims to monitor the health of, and identify disease threats to, British wildlife.

English Lost Colony in North Carolina, new research

This video from the USA says about itself:

4 October 2014

Roanoke: The Lost Colony

Josh Bernstein investigates America’s oldest missing person’s case– the Lost Colony of Roanoke Island. In 1587, over 100 settlers landed in the New World to build England’s first permanent colony in North America. But, three years later, they had vanished. Did they starve to death? Were they killed by natives? Were there any survivors? Josh travels across two continents to examine the archaeological evidence. He flies high above Roanoke Island in a powered paraglide to scan the terrain; climbs and cores a cypress tree to find out what the climate was like when the colonists disappeared; and conducts a new DNA study that reveals groundbreaking evidence about the fate of the lost settlers.

From daily The Independent in Britain:

Rupert Cornwell

Sunday 16 August 2015

Carolina’s Lost Colony: The fate of the first British settlers in America was a mystery… until now

Out of America: They arrived two decades before the Mayflower landed in Massachusetts, but the 115 colonists then vanished

There are places, on America’s mid-Atlantic seaboard, where you can still imagine the coastline as the first English settlers must have seen it, more than 400 years ago. No boat marinas, no highways, no beachfront houses for rent: just reeds, marshes and shimmering expanses of water where the sea meets the sky, and the hazy outline of pristine forests.

So it must have been when John White returned to Roanoke Island for the last time. He was well acquainted with the area – part of what is now North Carolina, guarded by the barrier islands today known as the Outer Banks. White had made a first reconnaissance mission there in 1585. Two years later, he was back, as governor of a new permanent colony sponsored by Sir Walter Raleigh. But the going was hard, and soon White sailed back to England to organise further supplies.

Unfortunately, there was the small matter of the Spanish Armada to contend with. No ships were available and the fate of a few score intrepid settlers at the rim of the known world was of little import compared with the survival of the Queen’s realm. Only in 1590 could White return to Roanoke. But when he got there – nothing. The 115 colonists had vanished, among them his own daughter and son-in-law, and their infant daughter Virginia Dare, the very first child born to English settlers in the New World, on 18 August 1587.

But what had happened? The departure seemed orderly. The buildings had been carefully dismantled; the only clues left were the letters C-R-O-A-T-O-A-N carved on a post, seemingly a reference to Croatoan, the old name for Cape Hatteras, the extreme southeastern point of the Outer Banks, 50 miles to the south, or to the Croatoan Indians who inhabited coastal North Carolina.

Thus was born the saga of the “Lost Colony”, a mystery for the ages that still provides welcome distraction to American children plodding through their country’s history. Theories abound: that the colonists were slaughtered by hostile Indians; that they died of famine or disease; that they were assimilated, voluntarily or involuntarily, by tribes; even (this being America) that they were abducted by aliens.

But in the most basic historical terms, Roanoke matters. The settlement, whatever its fate, was the first established by the English in North America, predating Jamestown by 20 years, and the arrival of the Mayflower on the hard shores of Massachusetts by more than three decades. Like Jamestown, the colony was a commercial venture, designed to exploit the vast imagined riches of the New World. Instead, it disappeared from the face of the earth. Until now, that is.

For many years, archaeological digs around Hatteras have yielded some tantalising clues: coins, gun parts, a signet ring and various other artefacts from the 16th and 17th centuries. But the real breakthrough came in 2012, as the British Museum scrutinised a watercolour map in its collection called Virginea Pars, on which John White apparently started work in 1585, during his first visit to the area.

The map itself is both beautifully executed and remarkably accurate. What followed, however, might have been lifted from Treasure Island. In the middle of the map, some 50 miles west of Roanoke, is a patch. Using imaging technology, museum experts found that beneath the patch was a blue and red star, possibly denoting a fort.

The location, on the edge of the mainland on the other side of Albemarle Sound, more or less fitted in with a reference that White himself made later to an intended and more permanent destination, about which the new settlers were talking as early as 1587. Why the spot had been covered by a patch is a mystery in itself. Perhaps it was to keep such a plan, of obvious military significance, secret from Spain, then the leading colonial power in the Western Hemisphere.

So, the researchers focused attention on an impoverished corner of North Carolina called Merry Hill, notable mainly for an Arnold Palmer-designed golf course. The area, called Site X, had been looked at before, but this time the digs yielded some particularly telling finds. Last week, the First Colony Foundation, the group which has been sponsoring the excavation, provided the first details.

No evidence of a fort has come to light, nor of the “Cittie of Raleigh” that the Elizabethan courtier-adventurer-poet intended as centre of his project. But the location makes sense, strategically placed at the confluence of two rivers. And the items unearthed by the archaeologists fit in with the period, including bits of guns, a nail and an aglet (a small metal sheath protecting the end of shoelaces) – and, above all, fragments of a type of English pottery known as Surrey-Hampshire Border ware, of which shipments to America stopped in 1624 when the Virginia Company of London was wound up.

None of this amounts to conclusive proof. The discoveries, however, are the most credible suggestion yet that the “Lost Colony”, or part of it, survived after 1587 and after Roanoke, for a while at least. Scholarly opinion is now shifting from the view that the settlers were simply exterminated towards the theory that they were assimilated by neighbouring tribes – this would bear out local lore, about the odd native who was strangely pale-skinned and blue-eyed – and that perhaps the settlers split up, with some heading south to Hatteras, and others moving west to Site X.

There, for now, matters rest. But as so often in attempts to unravel remote history, one discovery leads only to new hypotheses. What, for instance, happened to the settlers once they got to Site X? As Phillip Evans, president of the First Colony Foundation, almost reassuringly puts it: “The mystery of the Lost Colony is still alive and well.” And on both sides of the Atlantic, for in St Bride’s Church, off Fleet Street in London, you’ll find an enigmatic bronze of the child Virginia Dare, in the very place her parents married, before the voyage to the New World from which neither she nor they would return.

Bird news from Slimbridge, England

This is a series of videos about the Slimbridge Wetland Centre in England.

From the Slimbridge Wetland Centre in England today:

Wet waders

The Holden Tower

Bar-tailed Godwit 7
Curlew 170
Ruff 2
Redshank 40
Greenshank 1
Turnstone 15
Ringed Plover 20
Little Stint 2
Dunlin 70
Sanderling 5
Shelduck 70
Barnacle Goose 45

The Rushy

Wood Sandpiper 1 juvenile
Green Sandpiper 7
Black-tailed Godwit 49
Lapwing 3
Grey Wagtail 4
Common Crane 2
Wigeon 3
Teal 25

The Tack Piece

Teal 70
Shoveler 10
Green Sandpiper 7

The South Lake

Black-tailed Godwit 60
Redshank 41
Lapwing 15
Great crested Grebe 2

The Zeiss Hide

Whimbrel 1
Little Egret 2
Teal 40
Shelduck 15

Rare English beetles helped by miniature cottages

Scarlet malachite beetle

From Wildlife Extra:

Miniature cottages prove the ideal nurseries for rare beetles

A special design of miniature ‘beetle cottage’ is helping to promote the survival of one of the UK’s rarest beetles.

For the first time a Scarlet Malachite Beetle (Malachius aeneus) has emerged from a larvae found in one of these special cottages this summer.

The small but handsome beetle is not only incredibly rare, it is rather mysterious.

The beetle is found mainly in Essex, Cambridgeshire and Hampshire, although it was once found in counties across the south and east of England.

The reason for its decline is not known, but is thought to be caused by general habitat loss and intensive farming practices.

The adult beetles appear at the beginning of end of April/May, feeding on flowers in meadows and overgrown hedgerows, often in the vicinity of thatched/timbered cottages during the summer months.

As this traditional roofing material is becoming increasingly uncommon, conservation charity Buglife set out to establish substitute nesting sites in key areas in Essex to see if these amazing bugs would take up residence.

And sure enough, they have!

Vicky Kindemba, Buglife’s Conservation Delivery Manager, says: “The innovative use of cottage nurseries could help us to ensure the survival of this mesmerising species.

“Hopefully we can now help and inspire people to build more cottages in important meadows for the beetle.”

The project was funded by Ernest Kleinwort Charitable Trust and run in collaboration with natural history company Lifeforms, that co-designed the cottages with Buglife.

Ian Hughes of Lifeforms, and a Scarlet Malachite expert, says: “This exciting news confirms that the cottages work!

Scarlet malachite beetle cottage, photo Buglife/PA

“The Scarlet Malachite Beetle is in desperate need of our help to ensure its survival and this is an important first step in understanding how we can make this happen.”

This success gives entomologists a solid foundation to build upon to help understanding of the beetle’s fascinating ecology.

For more information about the Scarlet Malachite Beetle and to help with the Buglife survey click here.

Pacific salmon off English coast

This video is called Pink salmon or humpback salmon (Oncorhynchus gorbuscha).

From the Shields Gazette in England:

Unusual fish caught off the coast of South Shields

by Lisa Nightingale

Friday 07 August 2015

A non-native salmon species has been spotted in the waters around the North East.

The Environment Agency has received calls of unusual fish being caught – one by an angler on the River Tyne near Wylam and another two by licensed netsmen off the coast of South Shields.

It is believed the fish are Pink Salmon – Oncorhynchus gorbuscha – a native of the North Pacific basin and its surrounding rivers.

The Environment Agency’s Richard Jenkins said: “This is quite an unusual find in our waters and we’re keen anglers know we’re aware of the sightings and we’re investigating.

“I’d urge them to contact us if they see any non-native salmon in the waters, with a date, location and if possible a photograph, which would really help us identify them and build up a picture of where they are.

“At this stage we don’t think there’s likely to be a major impact on wild fish stocks.”

Anyone with information is asked to contact the environmental monitoring team at Northumberland, Durham and Tees via 0800 807060.