For those interested in our invertebrate friends (not me, I confess!), Spring is an excellent
time to visit Canvey Wick, “Britain’s Rainforest” and Buglife’s first nature reserve.
Described as "a brownfield rainforest" by Natural England officer Dr. Chris Gibson, survey
results have shown the Wick, which was developed as an oil refinery site in the 1970s,
supports over 1,400 species of invertebrate.
The East Thames corridor is particularly rich in invertebrate species and Canvey Wick is one
of the most diverse and species-rich sites in that area, with nationally significant groupings.
It also has the most important remaining population of the Shrill carder bee in the Thames
region and perhaps in all of the UK.
So far 30 Red Data Book (RDB) endangered species and 3 species previously thought to be
extinct in Britain have been found here. These treasures include:
Brown-banded carder bee (Bombus humilis)
Canvey Island ground beetle (Scybalicus oblongiusculus)
Scarce emerald damselfly (Lestes dryas).
It's not just invertebrate enthusiasts that will be happy, for the rest of us there are some
spectacular orchids, lizards, water voles, and several species of birds including skylarks.
Visitor Information: - Location: Northwick Road, Canvey Island, SS8 0LD. Entry: Free. Opening Hours:
Reserve open at all times; car park gates open from 9.00am until 5.00pm
The Lark Ascending
For centuries, the skylark has inspired the works of our greatest composers, poets and
writers. And in the First World War, the song of the lark reminded those men in the
trenches of home and brought them some small relief.
As this season’s flowers already start to bloom, a familiar sign of spring is the skylark.
For us in Essex, this small bird and its unique, uplifting song can most easily be experienced
at Essex Wildlife Trust’s reserves at Two Tree Island, Abberton Reservoir and Thurrock
Thames Nature Park.
Male larks can be seen hovering at heights of up to 300m, rising vertically to defend
territories (they are ground-nesters) or to attract mates.
In a world that even more so now is constantly changing and always evolving, the skylark
continuously and consistently epitomises the British countryside, our heritage and
culture... Appearing on Channel 4 in the early 90’s and local radio also helped us on our way. Over the past 20 years our reputation for excellence and professionalism has been achieved solely by ‘word of mouth’ and our goal now is to bring our knowledge and experience to a wider audience.
Our aim is to help everyone feel confident in the kitchen whilst learning techniques in a home environment. From sitting round the table with your family and loved ones to entertaining, good food is the one thing that brings us all together. We are passionate about what we do and hopefully that enthusiasm will ignite your interest and encourage you to widen your own knowledge in the kitchen.
The Ramblers Association is urging walkers, historians and enthusiasts to help identify 10,000 miles of historic footpaths that are missing from the map in England and Wales and could be lost forever if they are not identified before 2026.
A new online tool divides the official map into 150,000 1km squares so users can compare historic and current maps side by side, spot any differences and submit missing paths.
Under English common law, rights of way do not expire but the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 required all rights of way to be recorded.
Jack Cornish, the project’s manager, said: “Our paths are one of our most precious assets.
They connect us to our landscapes – ensuring we can explore our towns and cities on foot and enjoy walking in the countryside – and to our history and the people who formed them over the centuries. If we lose our paths, a little bit of our past goes with them. This is our only opportunity to save thousands of miles of rights of way and time is running out.”
To join in and help map Essex’s “lost” footpaths visit www.ramblers.org.uk.
The Woodland Trust is calling on UK residents to demand climate action with trees and woods. You can help make their “Emergency Tree Plan” recommendations a reality by signing their online petition at www.woodlandtrust.org.uk
Those toads that make it to the breeding ponds join a frenzy of thrashing bodies, as each male vies to fertilise the strings of toad spawn produced by the larger females.
Sometimes the female will disappear beneath a ball of male toads and may even drown. So excitable are the males that they will grab each other, though they are soon warned of their mistake by shrill piping calls.
Toad spawn – unlike that of frogs – is poisonous to fish, so tadpoles can survive in larger fish-stocked lakes and pools than frogs.
Toads are less common than frogs in small garden ponds though, and many urban populations have been wiped out by traffic. Traffic also prevents the movement of toads into built-up areas, meaning that in-breeding can also be a problem.
Contact Froglife for advice on how to help your local toads and the Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Trust have more information about roads and our responsibilities to toads.
You can follow BBC Earth on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
Toads are normally solitary creatures, but during the spring period, from early February through to early April (depending on weather variables), they will join with hundreds of other toads to migrate to their ancestral breeding ponds, crossing anything in their path. Sometimes this involves crossing busy roads, and the inevitable confrontation with motor vehicles on a dark, damp night during rush hour, rarely ends well for the toads. Indeed, there are reports of huge declines at crossing sites, which is further contributing to the national declines that have been reported in populations of this native amphibian (Petrovan and Schmidt 2016).
One answer to this problem is the Froglife ‘Toads on Roads project’. Running for over 20 years now, the project has enabled dedicated individuals to help the toads during peak crossing times, on warm (> 5oC) and wet evenings during the spring migration. These ‘toad patrollers’ gather up the migrating toads and other amphibians, put them in buckets, and transport them safely to the other side of the road. There are many of these patrols across the country, and you may have seen the distinct ‘toad crossing’ warning sign at important crossing areas (ARC (2009), Common Toads and Roads: Guidance for Planners and Highway Engineers (England))
You can join an existing patrol or, if you find an unmanned toad crossing area you would like to register, then contact Froglife to find out more about setting one up.
Before setting out make sure that you have completed a risk assessment for the site. Our blank template is attached here: ARG UK Toads on Roads Risk Assessment.
Making our gardens wildlife friendly doesn’t necessarily mean that we have to leave them to grow into wild jungles. Every space, whether it’s a huge estate or a busy family garden, can give a home to nature.
There are lots of simple things we can do to help the animals we share a space with, from making sure that they have access to different habitats, to nurturing well-stocked feeding grounds for them.
A wildlife friendly garden is accessible to everyone whatever space we’ve got, whether we’re maintaining an established garden, or creating a new one altogether.
Here are some key factors for a great wildlife-friendly garden.
Even the smallest of gardens can offer up a huge variety of different habitats for wildlife. There are lots of ways we can introduce, or let nature create, a diverse range of homes for nature in our outdoor spaces.
It’s good to create as many habitats as possible without cramming too much in. Think about the space you have available and focus on making these microhabitats as good as they can be.
You may not even realise that some of the most common unassuming garden features can house thriving worlds of wildlife.
Lawns for example, especially areas of un-cut long grass, are an important habitat for all sorts of insects and minibeasts, not to mention a feasting ground for the hungry birds which feed on them.
Borders, filled with flowering plants and shrubs, give nectar rich food to butterflies and bees, as well as seeds, berries and cover for birds and small mammals.
Trees, and hedges offer roosting and nesting sites for birds and mammals, as well as valuable shelter and cover from the elements and possible predators.
Ponds and water features can be a habitat for a huge variety of animal life, from amphibians and invertebrates to bathing garden birds.
Even woodpiles, compost and trimmings, the decomposing and discarded off-cuts from your garden, can be incredible places for animals to live, feed and hibernate.
Our gardens can be busy worlds of wildlife heaving with nature
Wildlife can make its home in our gardens in many different ways. There are lots of things we can do, from planting to maintenance, that will make them as welcome as possible.
Another essential feature of a wildlife friendly garden is a variety of places for the different animal residents to forage and feed.
Of course, we can provide food for some of them, such as birds and hedgehogs, but there are lots of ways which we can help nature provide too.
A range of plants which flower and seed at varied times throughout the year, will provide food for the animals and insects that are active and feeding over different periods.
Berry bushes and fruit trees will give another source of valuable and irresistible seasonal food. Ivy is a great source of autumn nectar for insects and late winter fruit for birds.
An array of colourful nectar-rich flowers will attract bees, wasps, butterflies and other insects.
If you create a garden which is full of minibeasts and insects, you’re also providing wealthy feeding ground for insect-eating birds, grub-hungry chicks and minibeast-eating mammals like hedgehogs and bats!
A source or clean safe water is as important as food, whether it’s a larger pond or a small dish.
One of the best things you can do to help butterflies and moths, is to make sure their caterpillars have the right plants to feed on. A variety of different host plants will attract a more varied range of butterflies and caterpillars.
Towns and cities are busy, noisy places, but it’s here that most of us live and encounter nature day-to-day. We know the importance of connecting to nature for our own health and wellbeing, and by monitoring wild mammals, it gives us an indication of the ‘green health’ of our communities. So whether you have hedgehogs under your hedges, squirrels in your school grounds or even a pine marten on your patio, join in with Living with Mammals this spring. Learn more and sign up below then start recording sightings each week from 30th March 2020.
Hedgehogs are declining in Britain. In fact, a third have been lost since the millennium. The cause of their decline is complicated and it seems likely that several different factors are at play.
Hedgehog Street has information about the problems facing hedgehogs, and how to help them. The best thing you can do is follow our top tips for a hedgehog-friendly garden.
Hedgerows criss-cross over our countryside providing vital habitat for our wildlife as well as acting as corridors for species dispersal.
The hedgerows of the UK are invaluable to our wildlife, providing home to many of our native animals and corridors to travel for others. Both of these are important to the maintenance of many species.
Hedgerows are so teeming with life that one study counted 2070 species in one 85 metre stretch. Even this was thought to be an underestimate, as many taxonomic groups were not thoroughly sampled.
We appear to be winning the battle against the outright loss of hedgerows, but evidence points to a worrying decline in hedgerow condition through poor management. If this persists, these hedges too will perish, dealing another blow to the chances of survival for all those that currently call them home.
Although the rates of direct hedge removal have been reduced, we are still seeing the loss of hedges through mismanagement. With many farmland species now marginalised to hedgerows, it’s time to look at the issues that are threatening them.
1. Neglect – under management
Hedgerows do require management in order to stop them developing into a line of trees. A line of trees doesn’t sound like a bad thing, but these become gappy and lose all the low shrubby cover that they need to provide our wildlife with shelter, food and corridors to travel.
The last countryside survey saw a massive 9% increase in the number of hedges that had been lost to this over a decade. Once a hedgerow has become a line of trees, it is very difficult to bring it back to being a hedgerow, and it will have lost many of its wildlife credentials by that point anyway, so it’s essential to prevent this structural decline.
Over half our ‘priority species’ mammals make significant use of hedgerows for food and to travel through the landscapes.
2. Inappropriate Cutting – over management
On the opposite side of the spectrum, over-managing a hedge can also threaten our hedges. Cutting a hedge too often, and at the same height, not only reduces value of the hedge to wildlife, but also threatens the future of the hedge structure. This leads to gaps forming in the hedge which impacts their value as wildlife corridors. Cutting every year will also significantly reduce the number of flowers and fruits for wildlife to enjoy, as many of our native berry bearing species only flower on growth that is two years or older.
The timing of hedge cutting is also of huge importance to wildlife. No hedge should be cut in bird nesting season, and ideally we should wait until January where possible to trim, as this means the hedgerow berries can keep feeding our wildlife through the winter.
84% of our farmland birds rely on hedgerows for food and protection, and for over half of these a hedge is their primary habitat.
Ploughing too near a hedge not only destroys the herbaceous vegetation that usually grows at the base of the hedge, but it can damage the roots of the shrubs and hedgerow trees that make up the structure of the hedge. This can kill the trees and lead to the loss of parts of the hedge as the root systems are no longer able to support them, especially in times of drought.
4. Direct removal
Although the rates of direct removal have slowed in recent years, hedgerows can still be removed, with council permission, for agriculture or development. Any removal reduces how well connected the hedgerow network is.
Birds, bats and butterflies all use hedges as foraging and commuting habitats
Herbicides sprayed too close to the hedge, or in windy conditions can kill off plant diversity, especially at the base.
Over 500 native plant species have been recorded as being supported by hedgerows
Pesticides similarly can cause a decline in the number and diversity of insects available, which can have a knock on effect on the wildlife that they feed.
Over 1,500 different insect species have been found feeding on or living in hedgerows, they provide a huge food resource for our birds bats and other mammals.
Fertilizers can cause a change in the type of plants growing at the hedge base. Many wildflowers do not thrive in enriched soils because enrichment causes the domination of aggressive nutrient loving plants such as nettles and docks at the expense of natural diversity.
Molds eg empty yogurt pots
Lard to bind the other ingredients together
Especially when natural sources are low.
Making cakes for the birds is great, sticky fun and the mix of fat, seeds and mealworms is irresistible for many garden birds!
Hang them from your garden trees, or on your balcony and watch your neighbourhood birds discover them.
Wild birds are understandably timid at first, but especially in the depths of winter, these seedy birdcakes won't last long!
Carefully make a small hole in the bottom of your mould or yoghurt pot. Thread string through the hole and tie a knot on the inside. Leave enough string so that you can tie the pot to a tree or your bird table.
If using lard, allow the fat to warm up to room temperature, but don’t melt it. Then cut it up into small pieces and put it in the mixing bowl.
Add the other ingredients to the bowl and mix them together with your finger tips. Keep adding the seed/raisin/cheese mixture and squidging it until the fat holds it all together. This bit can get quite sticky!
Fill your yoghurt pots with bird cake mixture and put them in the fridge to set for an hour or so.
Hang your speedy bird cakes from trees or your bird table. Watch for greenfinches, tits and who knows, maybe even great spotted woodpeckers if you're lucky!