Wildlife at British RSPB reserves

This video series from Britain is called RSPB and Nature Reserves.

From Wildlife Extra:

RSPB records successes and declines of species on its reserves

Although best known for their work to conserve birds, the RSPB in fact monitors a broad range of species. They have recorded a staggering 16,006 species across their 212 reserves covering 150,000 hectares (370,000 acres) of wildlife habitats in the UK, and a very substantial 97 per cent of these species are not birds.

The organisation has reviewed how the diverse wildlife on its reserves has fared during 2014, and has reported instances of both successes and species declines.

It has been a good year for the rare Ladybird Spider, which has benefitted from good numbers of its beetle prey. The spider, which gets its name from its bright red body and the black spots of the male spider, was thought to be extinct until a small number were rediscovered in 1980 at a site in Dorset. They have been reintroduced to several more sites in Dorset, including at RSPB Arne, where a higher number of the spiders’ distinctive webs were observed.

There has also been success for the Water Vole in Scotland where they have recolonised RSPB’s Insh Marshes. Their numbers decreased by a concerning 90 per cent over the past four decades due to the introduction of the American Mink, who preys on the small mammal. Their increase in numbers at Insh Marshes is thought to be a result of work done by the Scottish Mink Initiative, who are working to remove the mink from northern Scotland and have put in place measures to control mink in Cairngorms National Park.

There was also a noticeable increase of Irish Lady’s Tresses on some RSPB reserves. The flower is a rare orchid more commonly seen in North America, but has been seen in higher numbers in northwest Scotland and Northern Ireland.

The last success story reported by the RSPB was of the Marsh Fritillary, which saw a good year on the Scottish island of Islay where two reserves provided the lightly grazed meadows needed by the insects.

But the news wasn’t all positive, and there were a number of declines of certain species reported.

The Great Yellow Bumblebee, one of Britain’s rarest bees, is found on 13 RSPB reserves in the north and west of Scotland. It is reported to being doing well on Tiree in the Inner Hebrides, but the population on the island of Coll has decline. RSPB scientists think that it is due to a lack of early flowers such as red clover at the time the queens emerged in June.

Britain’s most endangered butterfly, the High Brown Fritillary, was also found to be in decline, with numbers down by around 80 per cent since the 1970s. It is now found at 50 sites in Wales and in the west of England, where the caterpillars feed on violets. Last year a count of these butterflies in Leighton Moss found 78, but during 2014 only four were found. The reason for this dramatic decline is not clear as the habitats appear in good condition.

Numbers of black-and-blue striped Southern Damselfly also saw a drop at several sites in East Devon, while on Havergate Island in Suffolk the nationally scared Yellow Vetch (a member of the pea family) vanished from the area following severe winter storms.

Commenting on the findings, RSPB Conservation Director Martin Harpersaid: “Last year’s State of Nature report showed that 60% of UK species are declining. This year some have done well, largely because of a combination of good weather and the right management of a network of protected areas, such as our nature reserves. These can help wildlife flourish even if the intervening countryside is inhospitable. Climate change is already having an impact on wildlife and this affects decisions on our reserves. It also intensifies the call for more, bigger and better connected protected areas. Our best sites must be protected and budgets to support wildlife-friendly farming must be bolstered.”

Saving hen harriers in Britain

This video from Britain is called Hen Harrier Facing Extinction; BBC Inside Out.

From Wildlife Extra:

RSPB take action to protect Hen Harriers

Hen Harriers continue to be under threat in the UK

In a European Union-supported project, the RSPB are working toward creating a safe and sustainable future for the endangered Hen Harrier in the UK.

The organisation’s five-year programme, named the Hen Harrier Life+ Project, will focus on direct conservation action as well as community engagement and raising awareness among the public about the plight of the bird of prey.

The project will focus on seven sites in northern England, and southern and eastern Scotland that have been designated as Hen Harrier nesting sites under the European Union Birds Directive.

These are areas where the birds frequently come into conflict with humans. In northern England, and in southern, central and eastern Scotland where land is managed for Red Grouse hunting, Hen Harriers are frequently shot in spite of being legally protected.

Their persecution by humans is a long-running story, and in 1900 the birds became extinct on the British mainland. Although they have been making a comeback in the British Isles, their population still has a long road to recovery.

Between 2004 and 2010, the National Hen Harrier Survey recorded an 18 per cent decline in the UK Hen Harrier population. By 2013 the birds had experienced their worst breeding season in England for decades, failing to rear chicks anywhere in the country. But in 2014 things began to look up for the birds in Britain; at the Langholm Moor Demonstration Project, 46 young fledged from 12 nests. However the birds fared less well in England where there were four Hen Harrier nests, but due to natural deaths and unexplained disappearances of three birds that were satellite-tagged, only nine of the 16 chicks that fledged are thought to still be alive.

Hen Harrier LIFE+ Project will be working with landowners and the shooting community to raise awareness about the birds in order to ensure their future. It will also link up with and support the work of PAWS Raptor Group ‘Heads Up for Hen Harriers’ project, which includes the Scottish Government, Scottish Natural Heritage, and conservation and landowning interests.

Blánaid Denman, Hen Harrier LIFE+ Project manager, explains: “The project is not about RSPB fixing things on our own but about bringing together a whole conservation community, from organisations to individuals, working together to secure a future for hen harriers in our uplands.”

As well as working with volunteers and other organisations in order to actively monitor the birds in the wild, the project is also working with gamekeeping students, professional gamekeepers, and landowners.

Defra, the RSPB and other stakeholders are currently working on drafting an emergency recovery plan for Hen Harriers in England. Although the final plan is still to be agreed, the initial draft received widespread support from the shooting community.

Hen harriers in Groningen, the Netherlands: here.

Ireland: Investigation after protected hen harrier shot dead in Kerry: here.

A young female Hen Harrier known to thousands of people who had followed her since her first flight from a nest in east Kerry two years ago was recently found shot dead. ‘Heather’, who was named by local school children in Duhallow, captured the imaginations of all who followed her progress as she travelled throughout the country, before recently returning to the south-west where it was hoped she would breed for the first time this spring: here.

Hen harriers in Drenthe, the Netherlands: here. Hen harriers in Groningen: here.

British badger killing postponed

This video is called European Badgers (Meles meles) in mid Wales – May 21st, 2011.

From the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds in Britain:

It’s time to vaccinate badgers

Last modified: 23 October 2012

The Environment Secretary’s announcement today about the postponement of the badger cull has been welcomed by the RSPB.

Martin Harper is the Society’s conservation director. He said: “These culls have proved to be extremely divisive. The science suggests that culling will not deliver the solution to this serious and urgent problem. Today’s announcement suggests that farmers and badgers will be in exactly the same situation next summer.


“This window gives Owen Paterson an opportunity to lead the Government out of this muddle by embracing a vaccination programme, giving a lifeline to livestock farmers and badgers.”

For the Badgers’ Sake, Let’s Ensure This Stay of Execution Becomes a Permanent End to the Cull: here.

BADGERS are being cruelly tortured and a special police crime team is investigating Gloucestershire people who are encouraging the activity: here.

A Shropshire wildlife group says it has evidence badgers have been illegally shot and then dumped on the roadside to make it look like they were roadkillL: here.

Wildlife endangered in British colonies

This video is called Wildlife Falkland Islands.

While the British government spends lots of money on war-mongering sabre-rattling in the remnants of its empire, it lets its overseas historical monuments like Captain Scott’s hut rot, and presides over ecological disasters.

From BirdLife:

Seabird species face extinction in remote UK islands

Fri, Mar 30, 2012

They are more exotic than the gulls, gannets and terns of Britain’s home coastlines, but many of the fascinating and charismatic species of birds on the remote shores of UK overseas territories are now close to extinction. In a report to the government, the RSPB (BirdLife in the UK) warns 33 species of birds, including penguins, parrots and albatrosses, are now critically endangered across the remnants of the empire. And that means we have a duty to fulfil.

“Our overseas territories hold more threatened bird species than the entire European continent,” said RSPB official Graham Madge. “Yet only £1.4m a year is spent by the government protecting habitats that provide homes for these endangered creatures. We need to spend 10 times that amount to save them.”

The society’s report is part of a series of submissions to the Foreign Office, which is preparing a white paper on Britain’s strategy regarding its 14 overseas territories, including Montserrat, Bermuda, the Falklands, Tristan da Cunha and the atolls of the British Indian Ocean Territories as well [as] Gibraltar and a chunk of the Antarctic. The white paper will propose economic and political changes in policies for running these areas and will outline ways to use them more actively to bolster Britain’s defences.

The key concern for environment groups such as the RSPB is the need to improve care of the alarming number of threatened and endangered animals now found in these territories. “The overseas territories hold 85% of the threatened biodiversity for which the UK is responsible,” said Jonathan Glenn-Hall of the RSPB. A typical example is the Tristan albatross, which breeds almost exclusively on Gough Island, part of the Tristan da Cunha archipelago.

The albatross’s numbers have been destroyed by invasive species that have been brought to the island, in particular, rats, cats and pigs which eat albatross chicks. These invaders were eradicated several years ago in a campaign that only triggered a new threat to the Tristan albatross: mice. Without predators, mice on Gough Island have thrived and now grow to three times their normal mainland size. They burrow into the flesh of nesting chicks so that the birds bleed to death. Then the mice eat them. About 1,000 Tristan albatross chicks are thought to be killed each year this way. One recent survey has shown that, in 2008 numbers of Tristan albatross chicks that have managed to fledge is five times lower than normal.

“Invasive species – pests like rats and cats – are a major problem for the overseas territories,” added Madge. “The remnants of our empire consist mainly of the odd remote island on which a small number of species have settled and evolved into forms unique to that place. They have evolved in a little bubble and that makes them very vulnerable to threats introduced by humans and gives us a special responsibility for looking after them.” In the case of Gough Island, it is estimated that at least £5m will be needed to eradicate its giant mice and save the Tristan albatross from extinction. “We estimate that in total, Britain needs to spend £16m a year for the next five years to halt the worst threats to the habitats of its overseas territories,” added Glenn-Hall.

Birds are not the only concern, the RSPB admits. For example, on St Helena introduced plants such as bilberry and furze have pushed many native plants to the edge of extinction with the St Helena olive tree being declared extinct in 2004. “It is unthinkable that this would have been allowed to drop off into extinction if the last species had been found in Britain, but all too often the overseas territories are out of sight and out of mind,” added Glenn-Hall.

Other threatened species include the blue iguana on the Cayman Islands and turtles in the Caribbean which will lose many nesting sites as global warming melts ice caps and causes sea levels to rise. However, it is the importance of the bird populations of the overseas territories that is stressed by Madge, and in particular seabirds. When it comes to these, Britain is in second place among countries with the most threatened populations, he says. Only New Zealand has more endangered seabirds. “Thanks to our overseas territories, we outrank the US, Mexico, South Africa and other large nations when it comes to being responsible for saving endangered birds.”

Apart from feral invaders, ecologists have highlighted three other main dangers facing birds in overseas territories: climate change, poor planning controls and weak management of local fisheries. A typical victim of climate change is the Northern Rockhopper penguin, also found on Gough Island and suffering, not from mice, but from disruptions to its food chain brought about by global warming. Populations have declined by more than 90% in the last 50 years.

By contrast, the white-chinned petrel – which breeds on several South Atlantic islands including South Georgia and the Falklands – is suffering major population reductions because birds are getting caught in longlines towed by fishing vessels and being dragged underwater.

And in the Cayman Islands, uncontrolled development is destroying the habitats in which the Grand Cayman parrot and the Cayman Brac parrot breed, again with disastrous consequences for populations. “Many of these places rely on money brought by tourists who visit to see the exotic wildlife,” added Madge. “We have a responsibility to make sure that wildlife survives.”

Scientists have released footage of a newly discovered seamount in the Chagos Archipelago, which was established two years ago as the world’s largest no-take marine protected area: here.

UK’s most exotic natural treasures under threat from ‘legal neglect’: here.