Sunday, 20 December 2015

Butterflies and Moths, Squirrels and Pine Martins,

Butterfly Conservation have published their report The State of
UK's Butterflies 2015

This report, the fourth on the state of the UK’s butterflies, comes at a time of particularly dramatic change. Agricultural intensification and other land-use changes have caused extensive wildlife declines in the UK, which show few signs of recovery despite the best efforts of conservation organisations and substantial government expenditure.
Now, in the age of austerity and with drastic cutbacks in government funding for the environment, the prospects of halting the decline of wildlife and achieving the Aichi Biodiversity Targets set by the global Convention on Biological Diversity for the year 2020 look poor.
In addition, new research findings suggest more significant negative impacts of climate change and pesticides on our wildlife than had previously been realised, threats to essential ecosystem services such as pollination as a result of biodiversity decline, and an increased awareness of the importance of nature for human health and well-being.
Set against this bleak backdrop are some significant changes for the good. Participation in long-term recording and monitoring of the UK’s butterflies has never been stronger. In addition, new schemes such as the Wider Countryside Butterfly Survey and Big Butterfly Count have been successfully established, enhancing knowledge of the changing fortunes of our butterflies and involving tens of thousands of new recorders.

Download the whole report here.

For a related, though rather different, read try Michael McCarthy's The Moth Snowstorm.

McCarthy warns us off ecosystem services and reminds us of the joy of nature.

The 'snowstorm' of the title refers to the masses of moths that motorist used to encounter at night 40 years ago, now but a distant memory.

Another brilliant and beautiful book of loss is Horatio Clare's Orison for a Curlew, the search for the Slender-billed curlew, Numenius tenuirostris, perhaps the world's rarest bird.

More than rare in Lincolnshire, but with signs of recovery elsewhere in the British Isles, is the Pine Marten, Martes martes.  The realisation that reintroduction of Pine Martens could tip the balance against grey squirrels in favour of reds is encouraging to those who look to a re-wilding of our land. Follow these links for the story: 

Rewilding - It's all about bringing nature back to life and restoring living systems

Imagine our natural habitats growing instead of shrinking. Where space for nature is expanding beyond small pockets of reserves. Imagine species diversifying and thriving, instead of declining. That’s rewilding.

We could be a country in which bare lands spring back to life and are filled once more with trees and birdsong. We could be surrounded by the thrum of insects, colourful butterflies and moths, wildflowers and fungi. We could have beaver, boar, lynx, wolf and bluefin tuna all at home in Britain. Where they belong. Living with us. And that’s just the start.

Rewilding offers hope for wildlife, for humanity, for the planet. It’s our big opportunity to leave the world in a better state than it is today. To turn our silent spring into a raucous summer

Happy Christmas, Biff Vernon

Friday, 4 December 2015


A group of LAG members  walked a few metres from the car park to a sandy ridge where we set up the telescopes. The tide was definitely out with waves breaking on the water’s edge about a kilometre away. But there were exciting flashes of flickering white across the intervening sand and lagoons as small flocks of Dunlin, Knot and Oystercatchers wheeled up and back in the sunlight. However, the species that held our attention, for nearly an hour was the Brent goose. Skeins of these small, elegant black geese with their white rumps flew in from the sea at various heights and whirled around the marsh as others flew out to the water’s edge and back: a memorable sight! RWW

Thursday, 12 November 2015

London Bee Summit

Hi All,

A few notes on yesterday’s Bee Summit in London.

There were about 80 attendees at the Royal College of Physicians near Regents Park. It was organised by the Friends of the Earth and WI and was the second Bee Summit. Various stakeholders were represented: WI, FoE, BugLife, The Wildlife Trusts, NFU, Highwayd England, RSPB, CEH, Universities of Leeds, Reading, Newcastle, Soil Assoc, some locl authorities, the Landscape Institute, beekeepers, M&S, Waitrose, farmers, RHS and PAN UK.  The first Bee Summit lobbied Rupert Charles Ponsonby, 7th Baron de Mauley (the then Under Secretary of State for DEFRA) to set up the National Pollinator Strategy which was published by DEFRA last November. 

This second summit was for the Bee Coalition (including the WTs) to present on case studies of action taken on the ground since 2013; to report on what we have learned from research in the meantime and to comment on the NPS and make recommendations for Government in the areas that are thought to be weak in commitment to the initial aims set out in the first summit. FoE has launched the ‘Policies for Pollinators’ report on behalf of the Bee Coalition which highlights the issues facing pollinators and shortcomings in the NPS which need addressing.

The current Minister for DEFRA, George Eustice MP has a farming background from Cornwall. He attended to give a 10 minute address.  We were disappointed that he arrived late and left almost immediately afterwards.  He ran through the elements of the NPS but didn’t give us any of the assurances we are pressing for.  He insisted that forthcoming DEFRA cuts should not affect pollinators because Pillar 2 of the CAP should be adequate while other departments within DEFRA will be encouraged to ‘work closer together.’

Matt Shardlow, CEO of Buglife pointed out that the Governments ‘framework ‘ for monitoring and further research was not a commitment to direct any funding or to create policy. BugLife are well informed of the neonic studies so far and have synthesised a number of articles you can find here.

FoE Director Craig Bennett called for leadership from central Government in the form of policy and support which has not been forthcoming.

The science reported by Geraldine Wright from Newcastle University was very worrying concerning neonicotinoids.  The evidence that they have a bad effect on bees at even low, field level concentrations is now building strongly and residence time in soil and uptake by subsequent plant growth (even pollen and nectar strips!) is now a major concern requiring further research.  It was made clear that farming attitudes still wish to use neonicotinoids prophylactically rather than not at all or in a threshold based approach as part of Integrated Pest Management. Prof Simon Potts from Reading illustrated how pollinator-dependent crops and bee species ranges and phenology are forecasted to disconnect dramatically by 2050 given current climate change.

The Landscape Institute pushed for GI and cited its online publications that can be used to support local planning authorities and local plans.

Waitrose remains proud of its neonicotinoid-free Leckford Farm owned by the John Lewis Partnership.

The RSWTs main contribution to the Bee Coalition is the work around Bees Needs.

What we’ve been doing in Lincolnshire with Life on the Verge and the Meadow Network Project is really valued by researchers at Reading and the CEH who approached me personally.

A lot of the cited pollinator action on the ground by FoE groups was biased towards cornfield annuals in urban areas but at least it was noted that his has been very successful in just 2-3 years in raising the public’s awareness of the plight of pollinators. 

This second summit was at least a good chance to share knowledge and provide mutual encouragement for a variety of initiatives.
Big gains made so far but big challenges ahead with lots to lobby for.

Mark Schofield, Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust

Coinciding with The Bee Summit  was the launch of a new book, A Field Guide to the Bees of Great Britain and Ireland by Steven Falk, illustrated by Richard Lewington.

A superb book, and the authors' websites are worth a visit too:

Here's a film of one our solitary bee species, a male Wool Carder Bee (Anthidium manicatum) patrolling his patch of Marsh woundwort....and some rare footage of a female carding the wool inside a nest that has been exposed.  YouTube

DEFRA Budget Cuts

Following Monday’s announcement regarding severe cuts across DEFRA, the RSPB and The Wildlife Trusts have come together to highlight what it could mean for the environment

Stephen Trotter, The Wildlife Trusts’ Director, England, said: ‘Even before yesterday’s announcement, the Government was only investing a tiny proportion of our national income in environmental stewardship and the restoration of wildlife habitats – its already far below the levels that we need. It will now be reduced to such low levels that there are real question marks over whether the Government can continue to deliver its most basic functions and responsibilities for the natural environment. When everything we depend on comes from the natural world this makes no sense for the economy and it makes no sense for the health and wellbeing of our society.

The UK has been running up a massive environmental deficit over recent decades and which future generations will have to pay off. These cuts are a false economy and will undermine and jeopardise the future growth and development of the economy. I fear this is a missed opportunity for Government to start paying off the environmental debt that we’re leaving to our children and grand children. We are now faced with the extremely worrying prospect that Government no longer has the ecological literacy or functionality that society needs if we are to build a genuinely sustainable future.‘.

Read more at Wildlife Trusts News.
and Mark Avery's blog.


Rick Hill has taken on the responsibility for looking after Muckton Wood where the pond has been neglected over the past few years. Rick hopes to restore the pond to its former glory. After the two November sessions he will assess the situation and possibly plan further work early in 2016.
Rick would welcome some help with the pond clearing from 0930 to 1130 hrs on the two Sundays in November. You need your wellies but tools and gloves will be provided.
Call Rick Hill on 01507 601123 / 07981 227284 if you are interested in helping.

Many thanks to those of you who supported the Information Coffee Morning last month. The raffle raised over £100 and £289 worth of LWT goods were sold.

Members of the LAG committee are investigating the possibility of setting up a Wildlife Watch Group for children in the area. To do this a leader is required. A typical Wildlife Watch leader is someone who enjoys working with children, who is enthusiastic and is concerned about wildlife and the environment, and who enjoys being out of doors. No specialist knowledge is required.Such a person may not yet be a LWT member so please spread the word. Both the LWT and nearby Watch leaders will give support and training for the role.
For more information contact Avril Huke on

At 1100 hrs on 2 November I was sweeping up leaves in my garden in Louth when I heard the honking of geese. I looked to the east and saw tiny specks in the sky that continued to fly south for the next two minutes. These were skeins of Pink-footed geese on their way to overwinter in the Wash. A spectacular sight on our own doorstep. Who needs Autumnwatch!? I have also seen Redwings on the berries in the trees by the side of the Charles Street tennis court.
Are these harbingers of a hard winter? Please let me know of any similar sightings.

Best wishes
Ray Woodcock Chairman Louth Area Group LWT

Sunday, 18 October 2015


About 80 people came along to the Information Coffee Morning in Louth where they had time to meet like-minded people, including the Mayor of Louth and LWT CEO Paul Learoyd, for a chat whilst enjoying coffee and biscuits. The presence of wildlife Volunteer-Wardens from Donna Nook, Red Hill and Toby’s Hill together with those from our woodland sites and verges explaining how the local wildlife sites are maintained proved very popular.
Sales of LWT wildlife publications, Christmas Cards and gifts went well. Visitors were able to look at wild flower seeds look under a microscope whilst the slightly salty smell of the shore line attracted people who had seen many shells and seaweeds washed up by the tide but had never looked at them carefully nor wondered what they were 
Many thanks to those who visited and especial thanks to those LAG members who helped on the day. RW

Sunday, 11 October 2015


Managing the Wash Reserves for Wildlife - Working in a Wader Wonderland. Toby Collett.

The Louth Area Group of the Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust started it's Autumn season of talks at the Conoco-Phillips Room on the 9th of October with a talk by Toby Collett, warden at the RSPB Reserve at Frampton.

Before the talk started we had a little round-up of what's been going on and what people have been seeing.  Wildflower seed collection at Red Hill, the departure of blackbirds and other seasonal bird movements and the ratio of a redshank's leg to bill length were discussed.  Toby demonstrated how to call back a buzzard by whistling.  Now we know.

Frampton Marsh comprises a mature saltmarsh managed by Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust and, the main subject of Toby's talk, a freshwater wetland managed by the RSPB that is now one of the country's best sites for seeing waders with 34 species recorded.  Since 2006 the RSPB has been converting some arable land into a combination of reed-beds, wet grassland and scrapes with islands.  The early years of the site's development are recorded in the Bird Guides by the Paul French, the warden in 2010. 

Toby stressed the experimental approach to dynamic management that is possible in this new reserve.  Managing the various inter-related habitats requires regular changes, for example ensuring by cutting that the reed beds offer various stages of maturity, with dense thickets for bearded tit nesting and edges from which bittern can hunt for roach and eels.

Carefully controlling water levels, changing them with the season, is key to the dynamic management. Allowing vegetation to build up and then flooding to kill it off provides nutrients to the mud for the all-important bloodworms, the larvae of the non-biting midges, the Chironomids.  These are found in great abundance and provide the bulk of the food for wading birds.  Maximising the abundance of Chironomids and ensuring their availability for the birds by changing the water levels seems to have been a great success, evidenced by the flocks of thousands of birds over-wintering here.

For Toby, a vital aspect of the RSPB's management of the reserve is to plan for a future of climate change, providing the diverse habitats that meet the needs of what may be changing populations of birds in years to come.

Saturday, 26 September 2015

Seed Collecting and a Coffee Morning

Eleven of us turned up at Red Hill on this wonderfully sunny morning. Our aim was to collect the seeds of the Autumn gentian flowers which was a delicate process. One had to identify the flower and then gently shake the seeds into a container whilst protecting them from the breeze. The seeds are so tiny and after an hour I had only collected about an egg-cupful. I was relieved to learn that was about as many as most of the others had obtained.
Harry Turner was very pleased and told us that the seeds were very valuable. They will be planted in the meadow adjoining the Coronation Meadow. RW 

Each year the main fund raising event for LAG is the October Coffee Morning. In order to extend the interest and to attract more visitors we shall be having an Information Coffee Morningwhich will involve:-
A time to meet like-minded people for a chat whilst enjoying coffee and biscuits.
An opportunity to learn how the local wildlife sites are maintained as you meet the volunteers who carry out this work. Volunteers from Donna Nook, Red Hill, Toby’s Hill and our woodland sites have agreed to come along.
There will be a Raffle.
You will have a chance to purchase wildlife publications, Christmas Cards and gifts.
You will be fascinated to see how wild flower seeds look under a microscope.
You are welcome to bring your seashells for identification as you see what the tide has washed up.
The admission including refreshments will be £1.50 and there will not be a charge for children.
We do need Raffle prizes and a few helpers on the day. So please let me know if you can contribute.
With very best wishes
Ray Woodcock Chairman LAG

Monday, 21 September 2015

Seed Collection and Frampton Visit

Harry Turner tells me that the weather will be good on this Friday 25 September and that he has a lot of Autumn gentian seeds that need collecting. It is just a matter of shaking the seeds from the seed heads into a small plastic box - not bags. If you are able to help, please come along at 10.00 am to Red Hill for about an hour.
Harry and the LWT Mid-Lincs Warden, Kevin James really appreciate our help. This has enabled Harry to sow 4 acres of land with the Cowslip seeds that we collected last month.

The weather forecast for next Sunday looks promising too and the migrant birds have started to arrive on the Marsh. The venue is well signed off the A16 south of Boston. Please meet in the car park MR TF 365392 at just before 1100 hrs. There is a charge of at least £2 for parking to help towards the upkeep of the RSPB site. Toilets are to be found in the Visitors’ Centre where we shall meet at 1100 hrs for a site briefing by Dr Chris Andrews.
We then explore the Marsh. If you wish, you may make your own way round the pathways or you can straggle along slowly with me! Bring your binoculars and telescopes as well as your lunch. There are plenty of large hides and grassy banks that will make good picnic spots.
Best wishes
Ray Woodcock Chairman LAG

Monday, 14 September 2015

Ted Smith

I regret to announce the death of Ted Smith CBE, President of Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust. He died yesterday, Sunday 13th September, at Boston Hospital. His daughters Alison and Helen were with him.

Ted, a founder member of the Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust is also described as the architect of the modern Wildlife Trust movement.

Sir David Attenborough said in 2012 “Ted is quite exceptional. This countryside of Britain may not be as rich as Ted knew it as a child in the 1920s and 30s but it is immeasurably better than it would otherwise have been without him and The Wildlife Trusts. I believe that work will continue and be increasingly important to all of us living in this beautiful but crowded archipelago."

Back in the 1940s Ted Smith recognised the urgent need to save Lincolnshire’s most special places for nature. He fought to save our unspoiled coast, ancient meadows and heaths and to halt the destruction of native woodland. Ted campaigned on almost every front from saving roadside flowers from being sprayed with chemicals to pressing for legislation to protect otters.

His influence extended far beyond Lincolnshire. He travelled the length and breadth of Britain, lecturing on his vision for nature and for local Wildlife Trusts to champion it. Most importantly, he saw the need for local nature organisations which could own land and for them to derive support from a wide section of the community.

A short film about Ted was made in 2012

I offer my deepest sympathy to his family and to his friends and colleagues, he will be so greatly missed. Dear Ted, rest in peace.

Paul Learoyd Chief Executive
Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust

Thursday, 27 August 2015

The Last Cuckoo

Jane and I were at Donna Nook yesterday On the way down the approach road we saw a Little owl on a sign post. A good start for a walk on a lovely sunny day. As we went long the path  in the lee of the dunes we kept sighting a small raptor resting on the path and flying into the bushes. We reckoned the bird was a juvenile Cuckoo - its identity  has been confirmed by the LBC. I wonder if was recently fledged and was stocking up with insects before flying south to the tropics.

It was a good day in a poor summer for butterflies. We saw the usual Large whites with Meadow browns and lots of common blues.  

Wednesday, 26 August 2015


The Wildlife Trusts Position Statement Neonicotinoid Insecticides 

The Wildlife Trusts are calling for an outright ban on the use of all neonicotinoid insecticides.

There is a growing body of evidence to show that neonicotinoids have a detrimental effect at sublethal doses on insect pollinators; pose a serious risk of harm to a wide range of beneficial invertebrate species in soil, vegetation, aquatic and marine habitats; and pose a severe risk to the wider environment and delivery of essential ecosystem services. For these reasons, The Wildlife Trusts believe that the continued use of neonicotinoids in the UK represents an unacceptable risk to insect pollinator populations and ecosystem health.

We urge the Government to retract its opposition to the EU ban, recognise the scale of the risks posed by the continued use of neonicotinoids and place a permanent moratorium on the use of all neonicotinoid insecticides.

Key points

  • Neonicotinoids, which are used as an insecticide on crops such as oil-seed rape, are harmful to a wide range of invertebrates, including pollinators such as honey bees and bumblebees.
  • Pollination is a vital ecosystem service that maintains biodiversity and sustains agricultural crop yields. It is estimated that a collapse in pollinators would cost the UK economy c. £1.8 billion per year.
  • We could see a collapse in ecosystems across the agricultural landscape and beyond if pollinators become scarce.
  • The risk of environmental contamination is high and the impacts of neonicotinoid pollution have already been documented in the Netherlands, where high levels of imidacloprid pollution have been linked to declines in insectivorous farmland birds. 
Download the full Position Statement

Wildlife Trusts website report

Friday, 31 July 2015

Dear Mr Cameron...

A letter has been written to the Prime Minister by environment and conservation groups representing millions of people to register their “major concern” at the cancellation or weakening of 10 green polices since he was re-elected.

The letter has been signed by the heads of ten organizations, including Stephanie Hilborne OBE, Chief Executive of the Wildlife Trusts.

and read Adam Vaughan's article in the Guardian here.

Monday, 27 July 2015


25 JULY 2015
Yes, it was July, despite the fact that we were all wearing winter gear! The weather did clear but the East Anglian ‘lazy wind’ stayed for the whole visit. (According to my Norfolk grandfather, ‘Tha’s lazy ‘cause it don’t go round you. It just go through you.’) Nevertheless there were breaks from the wind in the lee of the embankments and shelter between the banks of wonderful, whispering, green reeds and rushes. I felt it was a more thought provoking outing than our usual meetings as we did have the chance to discuss conflicting views of LWT fenland management whilst we probably learned more about what we did not see than what we did see.
Our erudite and philosophical guide, John Oliver, had a huge bag from which he produced - in the style of a magician - animal skulls, bird’s feet and owl pellets to illustrate his statistics of what had been seen during the year. The second skull in from the left, just past the fox, shows the huge ridge on a badger’s skull that gives an anchorage point for its strong jaw muscles. John was having to balance the ‘wildlife management’ of the fen with the long established agricultural opinion of some local farm workers who remembered   the area as one that had produced arable crops. There were also 37 badges in 5 setts on site, again these creatures – with their cuddly image - are not popular with everyone.
Our gentle two hour stroll took us past the eponymous Willow Tree of the Fen. This huge hollow tree had been reduced in size with sections of its trunk being made into seats for use in the outdoor education area. Here school children are being encouraged to collect and identify specimens of wildlife, have a camp fire and learn about how their ancestors made best use of this wetland area. We reached a ‘bird seed’ flower field and were encouraged by John to walk into the waist-high crop of Fat hen, Redshank, Cornflower, Field marigold and Phacelia to enable us to be aware of the plethora of insects in all their stages that live on these plants. On our return to the visitors’ centre we saw from a large poo that badgers eat cherries and had a good view of all Willow Tree fen from the embankment of the river Glen.

The site is not well signed but it is worth a visit. I think we should go again in a couple of years in the winter time to see the waders from the hides where the views will have been cleared of reeds and rushes. Well done LWT for taking on Willow Tree Fen and for appointing such an excellent manager/warden/presenter. RW

National Marine Week

25th July - 9th August 2015
Summer is simply not complete without a visit to the coast...
so why not head down to the shore and join us in celebrating UK marine life?
This year we're championing dolphins - did you know that several species of dolphin
can be spotted from our shores? Take a cliff-top walk, watch sea birds soar and
see what else you might spot as you soak up the sounds of the lapping seas. 
National Marine Week (25 July - 9 Aug) offers endless opportunities to day-trippers
and holiday-makers keen to discover dolphin delights, whilst savouring our shorelines.
The first rule of dolphin-watching is to be patient! 
It’s best on a calm day, keeping the sun behind you to avoid the glare from the sea. 
A disturbance of the water’s surface is often the first sign but look out for large flocks
of excited seabirds gathering overhead too; a sure sign there are plenty of fish about. 
If you're keen to learn more about our incredible Ocean Giants,
please visit our campaign page.

What's On?
Check out the events your local Trust is running here or visit your local Trust's webpage.

Can't make it to the coast?
Join us in spirit by following our Living Seas blog or keeping up to date on Twitter.

Share your sightings and coastal adventures with us @action4ourseas

Friday, 24 July 2015


8 members of the LWT were among 12 members of the Louth U3A Fauna, Flora and Ornithology group who visited RIMAC last Wednesday.
As a group we are often very fortunate to meet enthusiastic and knowledgeable wildlife experts. Today was no exception. John Walker, the retired RIMAC warden, not only had the above attributes but he also had charisma and a wonderful way of telling the story of this area of saltmarsh, freshwater marsh and sand dunes. We learned about the history of the people who collected the salt and how the geography of the large area had changed in the last 2,000 years. 
I have visited RIMAC many times and have read lots about it but did not know that the small pools in the middle of the freshwater marsh had been caused by WWII Home Guard soldiers using the area for hand-grenade practice!

John took us through the fence to see the relatively rare Natterjack toads that breed in the dark spaces adjacent to the shallow pools. He found one and showed us the distinctive yellow stripes that identifies this species. Jane thought it was prettier than the Common toad – maybe she was looking for a prince!
The orchids were just about finished but we did see Marsh hellebores together with a beautiful soft green Burdock. I had not noticed Pignut before whilst Dennis became aware of the magnificent, spherical seed head of Goat’s-beard. The Knapweed was emerging and proving popular with the six spot Burnet moth.  The Ragwort was in full flower often accompanied by the striped larva of the Cinnabar moth which feeds solely on this species. 
A couple of hours passed very quickly; even though we were glad of our waterproofs for much of the time. 
Ray W FFOer in Chief 22 July 2015

Sunday, 19 July 2015


Willow Tree Fen has been transformed from arable land to a more traditional fenland landscape of shallow meres, seasonally flooded pastures, hay meadows and reed beds. There will be a host of birds and a good array of wild flowers and if we have a sunny day we should see butterflies
We will meet at 11.00 pm on Saturday 25 July at the car park adjacent to the main entrance to this recently opened LWT siteJohn Oliver the S E Lincs Warden will take us round the reserve and his tour will last about a couple of hours.
The main path around the site is a hard surface farm track whilst the other paths are mown grass. There are toilets at the car park but no refreshment facilities so it may be a good idea to take a packed lunch and certainly something to drink.

I have taken the instructions, shown below, from the LWT website.
Willow Tree Fen is situated between Baston and Spalding on the road that connects the small hamlets of Tongue End and Pode Hole. The reserve can be seen on the north side of the road, midway between the two hamlets. The entrance is opposite Bank House Farm, from here take the small bridge over the Counter Drain and follow the track down to the buildings. There is a small car park. Please scroll down to see the Google Map. The grid reference is TF181213.
Do not follow your Satnav to get to the nature reserve – it will take you down a very rough track. There is no access to the northern part of Willow Tree Fen from the A151 or West Pinchbeck.

·         I hope that by now you will have seen the summer copy of LWT Lapwings magazine together with the LAG newsletter.
·         The newsletter contains one or two suggestions that you may care to follow during the school holidays. I have just read of another activity which could be very interesting and useful for all ages. This is the Big Butterfly Count, a project designed to locate and plot the density of the many beautiful lepidopterans that we have in the UK. Just go to for all the details. You could concentrate on the buddleias in your garden or the stinging nettles in the local hedgerow or spread your scope to any place that you visit.

Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Louth Area Group Evening Visit to Legbourne Wood 26 June 2015


This was the view that we had as we were briefed on the management of the wood by LWT Outer Humber Warden Rob Lidstone-Scot who spends his winters dealing with the seal colony at Donna Nook. The earth bank on the right is covered by a mass of Stinging nettles and Sticky Willy (Goose grass, if you don’t live in Lincolnshire!) whilst the left bank has a profusion of Hogweed, Dog rose, Hedge wound-wort and grasses interspersed with the delicate blue flowers of Green alkanet.

Legbourne Wood, covering 86 acres, is one of the few remaining ancient woodlands in eastern Lincolnshire and the largest of the Trust’s woodland nature reserves. These ancient woodlands contain more biodiversity than more recently planted woods. Beneath the canopy of Ash and Oak over 60 species of wild flowers have been recorded during an annual period. We are fortunate in the LAG to have at  half a dozen people who are able to identify many of the common species of wild flowers whilst at least one of us always has a guide book to hand! I have listed some species below. Gary Cooper, the volunteer warden at Toby’s Hill, accompanied Rob and pointed out Dog’s mercury and Wood sorrel as indicators of ancient woods and identified other flowers together with many of the grasses.

Rob described the ways in which the Legbourne site is arranged with small areas being thinned and managed by selective thinning to restore the traditional coppice with standards system. This means of providing large, straight trees creates open areas which is good for wildlife and enables some light to reach the woodland floor. Access through the woods is via cleared rides which are allowed to remain damp – or even muddy as we discovered.  

The task of administrative management pertaining to any of our LWT sites is not straightforward because of so many well-meaning agencies involved. I heard Rob mention the Forestry Commission, Natural England and East Lindsey District Council as well as the LWT. It becomes more complex when two of the agencies give conflicting advice or even directives as was the case in dealing with Ash die back disease.

We were a large group, 29 members and non-members plus Jack, a friendly, well behaved dog. Rob and Gary gave us briefings at two key points before allowing us to straggle along the paths covered in shady places by tiny ‘Mind-your-own-business’ plants.  As the sun dropped low on the horizon the light effects among the trees was magical. We eventually returned to the car park where Swallows and House martins flew overhead. The only other birds we saw were a single Wood pigeon and a couple of Carrion crows.

It was great to be able to welcome so many new faces, please come along again. Our next field trip is to the LWT Willow Tree Fen Reserve on Saturday 25 July.  Ray W

Some of the plants that we encountered:

Common nettle, Mind-your-own-business, Curled dock, Broad leaved dock, White campion, Ragged robin, Meadow buttercup, Common poppy, Bramble, Dog rose, Meadowsweet, Common vetch, Bird’s foot trefoil, White clover, Dog’s mercury, Wood sorrel, Herb Robert, Great willow herb, Hogweed, Fen bedstraw, (possibly Wild angelica), Hoary plantain, Green alkanet, Skull-cap, Hedge woundwort, Honeysuckle, Pineapple mayweed, Spear thistle, Goat’s beard, Nipple wort, Early purple (spotted) orchid, Common sedge, Common bent grass, Yorkshire fog grass, Oak tree, Ash tree etc! 

Saturday, 20 June 2015

The Pope and the Scientists

This week saw the publication of two important papers.  A group of scientists headed by Gerardo Ceballos provides more evidence that we are entering the planet's sixth mass extinction and Pope Francis published his encyclical, Laudato Si, in which he describes the predicament and offers solutions.

Here's the abstract of
Accelerated modern human–induced species losses: Entering the sixth mass extinction

by Gerardo Ceballos, Paul R. Ehrlich, Anthony D. Barnosky, Andrés García, Robert M. Pringle and Todd M. Palmer.

The oft-repeated claim that Earth’s biota is entering a sixth “mass extinction” depends on clearly demonstrating that current extinction rates are far above the “background” rates prevailing in the five previous mass extinctions. Earlier estimates of extinction rates have been criticized for using assumptions that might overestimate the severity of the extinction crisis. We assess, using extremely conservative assumptions, whether human activities are causing a mass extinction. First, we use a recent estimate of a background rate of 2 mammal extinctions per 10,000 species per 100 years (that is, 2 E/MSY), which is twice as high as widely used previous estimates. We then compare this rate with the current rate of mammal and vertebrate extinctions. The latter is conservatively low because listing a species as extinct requires meeting stringent criteria. Even under our assumptions, which would tend to minimize evidence of an incipient mass extinction, the average rate of vertebrate species loss over the last century is up to 114 times higher than the background rate. Under the 2 E/MSY background rate, the number of species that have gone extinct in the last century would have taken, depending on the vertebrate taxon, between 800 and 10,000 years to disappear. These estimates reveal an exceptionally rapid loss of biodiversity over the last few centuries, indicating that a sixth mass extinction is already under way. Averting a dramatic decay of biodiversity and the subsequent loss of ecosystem services is still possible through intensified conservation efforts, but that window of opportunity is rapidly closing.

The Pope devoted a substantial part of his encyclical to biodiversity.  He speaks to all of us and his writing must surely chime with those of us concerned for the wildlife in our own neighbourhood.

Loss of biodiversity
The earth’s resources are also being plundered because of short-sighted approaches to the economy, commerce and production. The loss of forests and woodlands entails the loss of species which may constitute extremely important resources in the future, not only for food but also for curing disease and other uses. Different species contain genes which could be key resources in years ahead for meeting human needs and regulating environmental problems.
It is not enough, however, to think of different species merely as potential “resources” to be exploited, while overlooking the fact that they have value in themselves. Each year sees the disappearance of thousands of plant and animal species which we will never know, which our children will never see, because they have been lost for ever. The great majority become extinct for reasons related to human activity. Because of us, thousands of species will no longer give glory to God by their very existence, nor convey their message to us. We have no such right.
It may well disturb us to learn of the extinction of mammals or birds, since they are more visible. But the good functioning of ecosystems also requires fungi, algae, worms, insects, reptiles and an innumerable variety of microorganisms. Some less numerous species, although generally unseen, nonetheless play a critical role in maintaining the equilibrium of a particular place. Human beings must intervene when a geosystem reaches a critical state. But nowadays, such intervention in nature has become more and more frequent. As a consequence, serious problems arise, leading to further interventions; human activity becomes ubiquitous, with all the risks which this entails. Often a vicious circle results, as human intervention to resolve a problem further aggravates the situation. For example, many birds and insects which disappear due to synthetic agrotoxins are helpful for agriculture: their disappearance will have to be compensated for by yet other techniques which may well prove harmful. We must be grateful for the praiseworthy efforts being made by scientists and engineers dedicated to finding solutions to man-made problems. But a sober look at our world shows that the degree of human intervention, often in the service of business interests and consumerism, is actually making our earth less rich and beautiful, ever more limited and grey, even as technological advances and consumer goods continue to abound limitlessly. We seem to think that we can substitute an irreplaceable and irretrievable beauty with something which we have created ourselves.
In assessing the environmental impact of any project, concern is usually shown for its effects on soil, water and air, yet few careful studies are made of its impact on biodiversity, as if the loss of species or animals and plant groups were of little importance. Highways, new plantations, the fencing-off of certain areas, the damming of water sources, and similar developments, crowd out natural habitats and, at times, break them up in such a way that animal populations can no longer migrate or roam freely. As a result, some species face extinction. Alternatives exist which at least lessen the impact of these projects, like the creation of biological corridors, but few countries demonstrate such concern and foresight. Frequently, when certain species are exploited commercially, little attention is paid to studying their reproductive patterns in order to prevent their depletion and the consequent imbalance of the ecosystem.
Caring for ecosystems demands far-sightedness, since no one looking for quick and easy profit is truly interested in their preservation. But the cost of the damage caused by such selfish lack of concern is much greater than the economic benefits to be obtained. Where certain species are destroyed or seriously harmed, the values involved are incalculable. We can be silent witnesses to terrible injustices if we think that we can obtain significant benefits by making the rest of humanity, present and future, pay the extremely high costs of environmental deterioration.
Some countries have made significant progress in establishing sanctuaries on land and in the oceans where any human intervention is prohibited which might modify their features or alter their original structures. In the protection of biodiversity, specialists insist on the need for particular attention to be shown to areas richer both in the number of species and in endemic, rare or less protected species. Certain places need greater protection because of their immense importance for the global ecosystem, or because they represent important water reserves and thus safeguard other forms of life.
Let us mention, for example, those richly biodiverse lungs of our planet which are the Amazon and the Congo basins, or the great aquifers and glaciers. We know how important these are for the entire earth and for the future of humanity. The ecosystems of tropical forests possess an enormously complex biodiversity which is almost impossible to appreciate fully, yet when these forests are burned down or levelled for purposes of cultivation, within the space of a few years countless species are lost and the areas frequently become arid wastelands. A delicate balance has to be maintained when speaking about these places, for we cannot overlook the huge global economic interests which, under the guise of protecting them, can undermine the sovereignty of individual nations. In fact, there are “proposals to internationalize the Amazon, which only serve the economic interests of transnational corporations”.24 We cannot fail to praise the commitment of international agencies and civil society organizations which draw public attention to these issues and offer critical cooperation, employing legitimate means of pressure, to ensure that each government carries out its proper and inalienable responsibility to preserve its country’s environment and natural resources, without capitulating to spurious local or international interests.
The replacement of virgin forest with plantations of trees, usually monocultures, is rarely adequately analyzed. Yet this can seriously compromise a biodiversity which the new species being introduced does not accommodate. Similarly, wetlands converted into cultivated land lose the enormous biodiversity which they formerly hosted. In some coastal areas the disappearance of ecosystems sustained by mangrove swamps is a source of serious concern.
Oceans not only contain the bulk of our planet’s water supply, but also most of the immense variety of living creatures, many of them still unknown to us and threatened for various reasons. What is more, marine life in rivers, lakes, seas and oceans, which feeds a great part of the world’s population, is affected by uncontrolled fishing, leading to a drastic depletion of certain species. Selective forms of fishing which discard much of what they collect continue unabated. Particularly threatened are marine organisms which we tend to overlook, like some forms of plankton; they represent a significant element in the ocean food chain, and species used for our food ultimately depend on them.
In tropical and subtropical seas, we find coral reefs comparable to the great forests on dry land, for they shelter approximately a million species, including fish, crabs, molluscs, sponges and algae. Many of the world’s coral reefs are already barren or in a state of constant decline. “Who turned the wonderworld of the seas into underwater cemeteries bereft of colour and life?”25 This phenomenon is due largely to pollution which reaches the sea as the result of deforestation, agricultural monocultures, industrial waste and destructive fishing methods, especially those using cyanide and dynamite. It is aggravated by the rise in temperature of the oceans. All of this helps us to see that every intervention in nature can have consequences which are not immediately evident, and that certain ways of exploiting resources prove costly in terms of degradation which ultimately reaches the ocean bed itself.
Greater investment needs to be made in research aimed at understanding more fully the functioning of ecosystems and adequately analyzing the different variables associated with any significant modification of the environment. Because all creatures are connected, each must be cherished with love and respect, for all of us as living creatures are dependent on one another. Each area is responsible for the care of this family. This will require undertaking a careful inventory of the species which it hosts, with a view to developing programmes and strategies of protection with particular care for safeguarding species heading towards extinction.