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the.southend.communitynews@gmail.com   - editor David Wilson  07714772707 -   Journalist, melaniejanette@gmail.com     07917730238

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By Melanie Taylor-Thomas

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IN October Ben Bradley, MP for Mansfield is launching a campaign to save Britain’s pollinators in connection with Buglife, the charity devoted to the conservation of insects and other invertebrates.

Ben’s Protection of Pollinators Bill which has been printed in the House of Commons, asks the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) to help bees and other insects by protecting their habitat and supporting the creation of “pollinator corridors”.

The Bill is based on previous ground-breaking work by Buglife which has pioneered an innovative scheme called B-Lines which is a series of planned “insect pathways” or pollinator corridors running through our countryside and towns. These paths are formed of wildflower-rich habitat stepping stones which link existing wildlife areas together, creating a network that weaves across our landscape allowing bees and other pollinators to roam freely across large areas.

 While the Government has undertaken some important steps to help insects, including the creation of the National Pollinator Strategy, support has focused on temporary habitats, and patches of protected countryside. Although these provide benefits, pollinators are not free to fly far and wide as they naturally would- instead they are currently confined to small pockets. Ben's Bill calls for the creation of B-Lines as a solution to this problem.

The Bill is designed to help support pollinators including bees, butterflies, wasps and moths. More than two thirds of Britain’s pollinators are in decline and 35 of the UK’s bee species are currently under threat of extinction. The loss of wildflower-rich habitat is one of the main threats to their survival.

Ben’s Bill puts a duty on Defra to bring forward a map outlining a continuous national network of pollinator corridors (B-Lines) containing spaces rich in wildflower habitat. It also asks public authorities in England to help to improve the connectivity of wildflower-rich habitats within the B-Lines Map.

 Second reading of the Protection of Pollinators Bill is scheduled to take place on Friday 26th October 2018.

 Commenting, Ben Bradley MP said:

 “I am delighted to bring forward a Private Members’ Bill to help protect our bees and other pollinators. Bees and other insects are crucial for Britain’s bio-diversity and for food sustainability. Many people don’t realise how important bees are for our economy too. Pollinators are vital for businesses that rely on insect-pollinated crops including cider producers and food manufacturers, with studies suggesting that pollinators are worth nearly £700 million to UK food production annually.

 We are lucky to have some of the most beautiful countryside and parks in the world but I want to ensure that we join up these areas to allow insects to roam freely and to help further protect our green spaces. Together with Buglife I want to take the opportunity to create a buzz about the importance of bees and other pollinators. I hope that the British public will back our campaign to implement B-Lines across the country.”

Commenting, Matt Shardlow Chief Executive of Buglife said:

 “Bees are amazing animals, but they are in real difficulties, being stranded on fragments of flower-rich habitats and under pressure from rising temperatures.  This is Parliament’s opportunity to reverse the terrible decline in pollinators and secure the ecology and productivity of our countryside.  With a national B-Lines map we can link-up our bees by restoring meadows and thus enable our pollinators and other wildlife to move through the countryside again.”

 

Save Britain’s Bees and Insects

The Environment Agency has joined with Essex Wildlife Trust (EWT) to restore valuable saltmarsh and coastal defences in the Blackwater Estuary at the Trust’s Abbotts Hall Farm nature reserve.

The pilot project involves installing coir structures within selected creeks to encourage sediment accumulation and plant growth, protecting the saltmarsh habitat. A team of dedicated volunteers and employees from both EWT and the Environment Agency have already braved the cold weather to install 14 of the coir structures. Each structure consists of 3 to 6 coir rolls, made from a sustainable coconut waste product, held together with hessian rope that is secured in the saltmarsh with chestnut stakes.

 Saltmarshes provide ecosystem services such as reducing flood risks and the effects of storm surges. These key habitats also provide an important feeding ground and refuge for nationally scarce plants, insects, juvenile fish species such as Bass and Gobies and internationally important numbers of birds, such as Shoveler and Dark-bellied Brent Geese.

   Marshland epitomise the Essex coastline but in recent years the extent and quality of Essex

Saltmarshes has been declining due to development, rising sea levels and an increase in the frequency of storms. This joint project uses an experimental and low-cost approach to try and combat this. The progress of the project will be monitored to see if this technique is successful and if it has the potential to be used at other saltmarsh sites as an effective restoration technique.The historic Blackwater Estuary is a 5,538 hectare Site of Special Scientific Interest and a designated Ramsar Wetland of International Importance. Oysters have been harvested from the estuary for more than a thousand years and there are still remains of fish weirs from the Anglo-Saxon era.

 

More information about this project and the work of the Trust can be found at www.essexwt.org.uk.

Restoring Saltmarshes in the Blackwater Estuary

Oak forests provide a habitat rich in biodiversity; they support more life forms than any other native trees. They host hundreds of species of insect, supplying many British birds with an important food source. In autumn mammals such as badgers and deer take advantage of the falling acorns.

 Flower and leaf buds of English oak and sessile oak are the foodplants of the caterpillars of purple hairstreak butterflies.

 The soft leaves of English oaks breakdown with ease in autumn and form a rich leaf mould beneath the tree, supporting invertebrates, such as the stag beetle, and numerous fungi, like the oakbug milkcap. Holes and crevices in the tree bark are perfect nesting spots for the pied flycatcher or marsh tit. Several British bat species may also roost in old woodpecker holes or under loose bark, as well as feeding on the rich supply of insects in the tree canopy.

 

How we use oak

 Oaks produce one of the hardest and most durable timbers on the planet, even its Latin name, Quercus robur, means strength. However, it takes up to 150 years before an oak is ready to use in construction. It has been a prized hardwood timber for thousands of years, was the primary ship building material until the mid-19th century and remains a popular wood for architectural beams. Modern uses of English oak include flooring, wine barrels and firewood.

 Traditionally the leaves, bark and acorns were believed to heal many medical ailments including diarrhoea, inflammation and kidney stones.

 Historically humans also collected acorns and processed them into flour for bread making. These culinary techniques have mostly died out following the domestication of wheat production 10,000 years ago, leaving the harvest for wild birds and mammals.

 Tannin found in the bark has been used to tan leather since at least Roman times.

 Toxicity: Tannic acid in the leaves is poisonous to horses if consumed in excess, damaging the kidneys. Acorns are poisonous to horses and cattle, though swine can consume them safely in moderation.

Mythology and symbolism

 

The oak is held in high regard across most cultures in Europe. The oak was sacred to many gods including Zeus (Greek), Jupiter (Roman) and Dagda (Celtic). Each of these gods ruled over thunder and lightning, and oak trees are prone to lightning strikes as they are often the tallest living feature in the landscape.

 Druids frequently practised and worshipped their rituals in oak groves and cherished the mistletoe that frequents oak tree branches. Royalty has had a long association with oak trees too; ancient kings adorned themselves with crowns of oak leaves, King Charles II hid from his pursuers in an oak tree at Boscobel House and Roman Emperors were presented with crowns of oak leaves during victory parades.

  In England the oak has for centuries been a national symbol of strength and survival. It has played an important part in our culture – couples were wed under ancient oaks in Oliver Cromwell’s time, the festive Yule Log was traditionally cut from oak, it features on the 1987 pound coin and is the inspiration for the emblem of many environmentally focused organisations, including the Woodland Trust.

The Mighty Oak

This year’s Great British Spring Clean has already inspired more people to join the tidy-up than had been originally targeted.

The Keep Britain Tidy group had hoped for half a million participants to join in between now and 23 April. As Southend Community News posts this update, the figure already stands at 524,128.

There is still plenty of time to participate and join individuals, businesses and local organisations to “wage war” on litter pollution and help collect and dispose of rubbish from streets, parks, public spaces and beaches.

There are three ways to do this: -

Sign-up and host your own clean-up

Join a clean-up near you  Pledge your support.

 

Despite being – or perhaps because we are – a dense urban area our parks, green spaces and foreshore areas are very important to the residents of Southend, so there is plenty of

opportunity to get involved and help “keep the parks green and the beaches clean”.

Full details of this year’s campaign, which is being fronted by BAFTA-winning naturalist,

writer and television presenter Steve Backshall, can be found at www.keepbritaintidy.org.

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WILDLIFE hospitals and rescue centres are calling on the public for people to provide shelter in their sheds and garages for the UK’s favourite mammal. Record numbers of “hoglets” have been born during 2019 due to the warm autumn, meaning many are too late to start

the hibernation process. Hedgehog admissions to rescue facilities are already up 22 per cent this year.

 The hedgehog is Britain’s only spiny mammal. Their highly specialised coat – which is used to defend them against predators such as badgers and foxes - contains around 6,000 creamy-brown spines concealing greyish fur on their underside, relatively long legs and a short tail.

 The species is a distant relative of shrews and has changed little in the past 15 million years.

 Primarily nocturnal, they can be found in most habitats although absent from wetlands and some outlying islands.

 Hedgehogs are listed as a UK ‘Priority Species’ and have protection under the Wildlife and Countryside Act (1981) and The Wild Mammals (Protection) Act (1996).

Although the decline in hedgehogs in towns and cities across the UK appears to be slowing down, as revealed by the most recent State of Britain’s Hedgehogs report, this year’s RSPB

 Big Garden Birdwatch revealed that the South East is far behind the rest of the UK in garden sightings. Less than half of the region’s respondents reported a hedgehog sighting compared with the national figure of over 70%.

 So, if you find a sick, injured or baby hedgehog - OR could volunteer to be a “foster-carer” - call the South Essex Wildlife Hospital on 01375 893893. For advice about hedgehog welfare visit the www.hedgehogstreet.org website or call visit 01584 890801.

  Meanwhile -  In the first instance, should you find an injured hedgehog, wear thick gardening gloves to scoop it up by holding it in both hands round the middle. Put it into a cardboard box lined with newspaper and provide a small towel or tea towel for it to hide under.

If the creature appears unwell – or is cold - you might provide it with a hot water bottle (or a drinks bottle filled with warm water) wrapped in a tea towel.

If you will have it for any period of time before it can be taken to a rescue centre, offer it dog or cat food in a shallow bowl, plus a non-tip dish of fresh water.

 

Protecting hedgehogs in your garden; -

 

Leave some areas of wilderness where hedgehogs can search for insects.

 Do put out water for drinking and a bowl of dog or cat food around dusk. Do NOT put out bread and milk.

Install a hedgehog house – you can make these yourself – in a quiet part of the garden.

Check if your hedgehog is limping or appears injured, and in late Autumn look out for

underweight hedgehogs. Contact your local rescue centre.

 Do NOT pick up fit hedgehogs – it causes them to become stressed.

Don’t leave black sacks lying around. Don’t use slug pellets or any chemicals that could poison hedgehogs and other wild animals.

Check before lighting a bonfire to see if a hedgehog or other wild animal has moved into it or under it and – for the same reason - don’t fork over compost heaps.

 Do not spray hedgehogs with dog or cat flea sprays. These are detrimental to hedgehogs’ health.

Species in the Spotlight -Hedgehogs

 

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Moles (Talpa europaea) belong to the mammal family Talpidae. Moles are very common throughout Britain, however, they are rarely seen as they spend almost their entire life underground. The Mole pre-breeding season population is estimated to be around 31,000,000.

Male moles are called ‘boars’ and female moles are called ‘sows’. A group of moles is called a ‘labour’.

 

Mole Moles measure around 14 centimetres in length and have a 2.8 centimetre tail. Moles are built highly adapted for their underground digging way of life. A mole can dig its way through an amazing 14 metres of soil in just one hour.

Moles have a cylindrical body, very strong shoulders and broad, spade-like fore limbs with claws. Its pink snout is hairless and extremely sensitive.

A moles body is covered in a soft, thick, silver-black fur, which hides the small eyes. In some cases, moles eyes are quite covered with fur and skin. This state of the eyes is probably due to gradual reduction from disuse also aided perhaps by natural selection. Moles have no external ears and have very poor eyesight, however, they have instead, excellent senses of smell and touch.

MOLE HABITATS

A moles preferred habitats are wooded hilly districts in the north and west of England, Wales and Scotland. A spherical ball located in the burrow in the centre of their territory is lined with dry grasses and leaves collected from the surface.

Moles are carnivores feeding almost exclusively small invertebrate animals living underground such as earthworms and the larvae of beetles and flies.

A mole may also occasionally catch small mice at the entrance to its burrow. Because their saliva contains a toxin that can paralyze earthworms, moles are able to store their still living prey for later consumption. They construct special underground ‘larders’ for just this purpose. Researchers have discovered such larders with over a thousand earthworms in them. Before eating earthworms, moles pull them between their squeezed paws to force the collected earth and dirt out of the worms gut.

 Moles sleep, feed and breed in their tunnels. Moles occasionally appear above ground at the top of one of their characteristic molehills, and even then usually only the head and pink fleshy snout is revealed.

Mole Hill

Moles have a well developed sense of orientation retaining a mental plan of their complex layout of underground tunnels.

The uniform texture of the fur allows it to lie in any direction, making it easier for the animal to reverse rapidly in the tunnels.

When the soil is shallow or subject to flooding, large molehills known as ‘fortresses’ may be formed. These fortresses can measure up to a metre in height and contain a nest chamber and several radial tunnels.

The moles tail is carried erect and the hairs on the tip give the mole information about its surroundings by brushing against the tunnel roof. Moles burrow in lawns, raising molehills and killing the lawn, for which they are sometimes considered pests. They can undermine plant roots, indirectly causing damage or death. Contrary to popular belief, moles do not eat plant roots.

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British Moles

If you can, take care not to disturb creatures hibernating in the corner of a shed, or under vegetation.

Leaves, dried stems and the seed heads of flowers provide shelter for over-wintering lacewings, ladybirds and other insects.

A pile of fallen branches is likely to have become home to a rich variety of wildlife, even a hedgehog. Instead of having a bonfire, rake rotting branches, grass clippings, fallen leaves into heaps and leave them to rot down naturally.

You seldom see any bare ground in nature, and it's a good principle to follow in your own garden. Leave as much of last years vegetation in place as possible.

If you have bare areas around shrubs, grow ground cover plants such as ivy and periwinkle.

Winter homes for wildlife

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Saving the small things that run the planet

THE

Encouraging robins

cemetery_robin

 

Robins are one of the first species to start singing in earnest, with the males marking out their territories in readiness for the coming breeding season. They are also fiercely territorial, and tend to drive away any rivals from their chosen patch. In contrast, other species, such as finches are much more gregarious and will happily feed together in a flock.

 

If you want to encourage a robin to breed in your garden try putting up an open-fronted nest box. You will need to protect it with chicken-wire to stop cats climbing in.