The other site where the bee is doing well is the RSPB’s Rainham Marshes site in Essex.
The bumblebee is a priority species for conservation in England and Wales following significant declines since the 1950s.
Once widespread across southern England and Welsh lowlands, with localised populations in central and northern England, the species is now nationally scarce with populations restricted to five isolated locations in southern England and south Wales.
Like many of our bumblebees, numbers of this small, straw coloured bumblebee with distinctive black stripes, have suffered due to the huge losses of flower rich habitats since the end of the second world war.
Named after its high pitched buzz, the charismatic Shrill carder bee is part of our natural heritage and along with other species provides crucial pollination for crops that were conservatively valued at £430M by the UK National Ecosystem Assessment
Sinead Lynch, Conservation Manager at the Bumblebee Conservation Trust, said: “With the National Trust being one of the largest landowners of flower-rich grasslands, its involvement is crucial for the conservation and recovery of the species.
“Choosing champion sites in our ‘Back from the brink Shrill carder bee recovery project’ helps to highlight and celebrate where the species are doing well and gives us great case studies to help people to learn about the positive management of the species which in turn helps to secure its long term future.”
With 97 per cent of flower rich grasslands lost over the past 70 years including the wildlife, culture and history they sustained, the National Trust has had a particular focus since 2015 on restoring priority habitats such as flower rich meadows to our countryside, crucial for pollinators and the wildlife they support.
To date the conservation charity has created over 1,000 hectares (2,471 acres) of flower rich grasslands as part of its strategy for nature’s recovery that will be key to reversing the fragmentation of wildlife rich habitat in the countryside and mitigating the impacts of climate change.
Mark Musgrave, the National Trust’s Lead Ranger at Lytes Cary Manor says: “The work we did with volunteers included the planting out of hundreds of plugs of white dead nettle and comfrey by volunteers.
“We have been propagating white dead nettle as it’s an important nectar source for adult bees. Over the winter our volunteer planted hundreds of white dead nettle and comfrey as well as a mixture of wildflowers from seed which will act as a wider source of nectar and pollen for foraging worker bees, including yellow rattle and black knapweed.
“We are looking at places where we can plant more comfrey, another fantastic nectar source, and will be protecting key sites with flowers known to be good for the bees.”
John Butler who has been a volunteer at Lytes Cary Manor since 2012 said: “It has been a fantastic project to be involved with. I really hope this work will inspire others to play their part.”
Just one tree can provide food, shelter and habitat for many creatures.
Animals that live in trees are known as arboreal, and animals that rely on both trees and other habitats are called semi-arboreal.
Some examples of animals that use trees as a habitat include many species of bird, squirrel and insect.
People who study trees are sometimes called ‘dendrologists’. This comes from the Ancient Greek word ‘dendron’, meaning tree. Some trees are of particular interest to dendrologists.
Some of these are called ancient trees. A tree is classed as an ancient tree when it is particularly old for its species. The age that a tree must reach before officially being called an ancient tree is different depending on the species. The tree with the longest lifespan is the yew tree, living for over 4000 years! One of Britain’s most famous trees is an English oak tree located in Sherwood forest, which is thought to be approximately 1000 years old. Legend has it that this was the tree under which Robin Hood and his merry men slept!
Even in the late winter months when the landscape can still appear a barren, signs of new life are appearing and it can be a surprisingly good season to spot winter wildflowers.
Throughout the year in the British countryside, swathes of wildflowers provide an essential food source and habitat for pollinators, such as bees which in turn pollinate fruit crops.
Wildflowers can be found growing all over the UK and in a range of different habitats. Despite common perception, they can also grow in shaded areas such as woodlands.
Yellow star of Bethlehem
Green-backed petals open to reveal umbels of yellow blooms that are easily overlooked among the lesser celandines. It is locally common on limestone soils.
The only native violet that’s fragrant, this is always the first to flower. Creeping stolons root at their tip, so old plants form large patches in hedgebanks.
Similar to wild strawberry, this blooms earlier and its petals don’t touch one another. Fruits are dry and inedible. It is very common on woodland edges.
Mistletoe is a common plant found in many homes in the UK around Christmas.
Where does mistletoe grow?
Mistletoe grows in the branches of trees – such as lime, poplar, hawthorn and, predominantly, cultivated apple.
It never grows in the ground and is semi-parasitic. Like many plants, it produces its own food using photosynthesis, but it also extracts minerals and water from a host tree.
While the plant grows all over the UK it is most abundant in the south and west Midlands and east Wales. Typically mistletoe is commonly spread by birds through their poo which sticks to the tree and the mistletoe berries consumed by the bird start to grow.
What does the word mistletoe mean?
Taken from two Anglo Saxon words, ‘mistel’ and ‘tan’, the word mistletoe can be translated to mean ‘dung on a stick’.
Where does the Christmas tradition of mistletoe come from?
The tradition of hanging mistletoe dates back to the ancient Druids who believed the plant brought good luck and helped protect against evil spirits. In Norse mythology, mistletoe symbolised love, which is where the custom of kissing under the mistletoe originates from. The ancient Greeks used mistletoe for medicine as a pain reliever and for conditions such as ulcers.
Mistletoe history and traditions
‘Gathering of mistletoe among the Druids in Gaul: Druid climbed the oak, a weapon of gold sickle and cut the mistletoe’
There are up to 1,500 species of mistletoe around the world. For many of us, the most familiar is European mistletoe (Viscum album) which is often used to decorate our homes at Christmas.
Why do people kiss under the mistletoe?
In the UK, the tradition of kissing underneath the mistletoe dates back to the 1700s but the Victorians continued the tradition of kissing under the mistletoe as it was thought to symbolise fertility and romance.
Is mistletoe poisonous?
Mistletoe won’t kill you but it contains a poisonous protein called phoratoxin, which if consumed can cause drowsiness, blurred vision, diarrhoea, vomiting and seizures. It is also poisonous to animals so make sure your pets don’t consume it. Despite this, mistletoe is a good food source for wildlife, with birds eating the berries and bees, butterflies and other insects consuming the nectar.
The snowdrop is a familiar spring flower, coming into bloom in January and flowering until March. Despite its long history in the UK, however, it may not actually be native here; it is a native of damp woods and meadows on the continent, but was not recorded as growing wild in the UK until the late 18th century. Nevertheless, it has certainly become naturalised from garden escapees, and white snowdrop 'valleys' can now be seen across the country.
How to identify
The snowdrop displays nodding, white flowers, each carried on a single stem. The narrow, grey-green leaves appear around the base of the stem. Snowdrop plants often form clumps.
GrasslandFreshwaterWetlandsWoodlandTowns and gardens
Did you know?
In Yorkshire, it was customary for village maidens to gather bunches of Snowdrops and wear them as a symbol of their purity on February 2nd, which was Candlemas - the feast of the Virgin Mary.
During the winter months, large numbers of starlings visit Britain from the continent, seeking out the relative warmth of our island climate. As dusk arrives, the starlings set off for their communal roost in one of the most staggering natural spectacles of all. Flocks arrive from all directions, gathering in the skies above their roost sites. As the numbers reach into the tens and hundreds of thousands, the ‘murmurations’ (the name for a flying flock of starlings) take on incredible shapes in the sky, contracting and expanding as one flock merges into another, and taking on a life of their own; swirling back and forth in ever more complex and beautiful patterns.
It's basically a mass aerial stunt - thousands of birds all swooping and diving in unison. It's completely breathtaking to witness.
We think that starlings do it for many reasons. Grouping together offers safety in numbers – predators such as peregrine falcons find it hard to target one bird in the middle of a hypnotising flock of thousands.
They also gather to keep warm at night and to exchange information, such as good feeding areas.
Where can I see them?
Walk along the river and you may see the flocks coming in from all directions swirling and turning before they land in the reeds.
Wrap up warm. Really warm. It can get surprisingly chilly standing waiting by a wintery reedbed, but it will be worth it, we promise. Arrive at least half an hour before the sun goes down, or even a bit earlier, and find a good vantage point where you can see both the roost site and the sky above. After you’ve had your fill and the last bird has dropped in to go to sleep, you can go back to that warm fire and cosy home. You may feel the cold, but we challenge you not to feel warm inside after a wondrous murmuration.
What should you feed garden birds?
Suitable seeds and grains (like nyjer, millet, oats, and sunflower seeds).
Only feed peanuts if they're unsalted, fresh and sold for human consumption or by a reputable feed shop. To protect chicks from being fed whole nuts and choking, provide peanuts in good quality mesh feeders.
Cooked pasta or rice, boiled potatoes, cheese, uncooked and unsalted bacon rind, raisins and sultanas.
Net-free fat or suet balls attract a wide range of species and provide a great boost of calories.
Apples, pears and soft fruits are popular and are a great autumn food.
Insects such as mealworms or waxworms.
Be careful! Grapes, sultanas, raisins and some artificial sweeteners are toxic to dogs.
Attract wild birds to your garden
Feed the birds in your garden, and help attract new ones, with bird feeders, wild bird food and bird baths.
When do they need extra food?
Birds will benefit from being fed during some of the hardest times of the year - not just in the winter months. Take a look at our visual guide on how to feed and care for garden birds for more tips on seasonal feeding.
Fresh water is essential
Keep water bowls full of clean water and make sure bowls and feeders are placed far away from bushes and other areas where predators might hide.
Many garden birds die each year through the transmission of diseases. It's important to clean all feeders weekly - water containers daily - and dry them before refilling.
Simple tasks like rotating feeding and drinking areas will help reduce the transmission of disease.
The Robin is one of the most familiar birds of the UK, regularly visiting gardens. Robins are also common in parks, scrub and woodland, making their presence known with a loud, territorial song. They sing from prominent perches right through the winter, when both males and females hold territories; indeed, they are fiercely territorial, driving off intruders and even fighting. During the breeding season, the female is allowed into the male's territory where she sets up a nest of dead leaves, moss and hair. Nests often crop up in the oddest of places, such as plant pots, old wellies and shelves, but Ivy and other shrubs are their natural choice.
Robins have been associated with Christmas ever since Victorian times; Victorian postmen, who were known as 'Robin Red-breasts' because of their red waistcoats, are thought to be the inspiration for so many Robins appearing on our Christmas cards. Whether it's the case or not, Robins certainly make themselves known in winter with their loud, aggressive song!
It might look delicate, but don’t be fooled. Primrose is a tough winter wildflower and blooms as early as late December through to May. It grows in damp, shady woodlands as well as grasslands and at the base of hedgerows.
Primrose is a favourite nectaring plant for brimstone and small tortoiseshell butterflies, and elsewhere in the country, is a food plant for the caterpillars of the rare Duke of Burgundy butterfly.