November 29 2013
Annual Corporate Event a Roaring Success
Shropshire Wildlife Trust held an event for its corporate partners in Whitchurch on Wednesday 20th November. The Trust has worked with a range of businesses over many years to help deliver corporate social responsibility, biodiversity plans and community engagement programmes and has taken an increasingly strategic role with large corporate projects across the county.
The event this year was run in partnership with Befesa; Europe’s leading aluminium waste recycler, who have a factory in Whixall and have been corporate partners of the Trust for a year. Over 60 delegates attended, including representatives from Veolia, Saint Gobain, Lafarge Tarmac, Tudor Griffiths Group and Ricoh to name just a few.
During the event, 4 companies joined as new corporate members and will receive support from Shropshire Wildlife Trust with biodiversity planning at their Shropshire based sites.
More information about corporate membership can be found here
November 15 2013
National Harvest Survey Launched
Volunteer surveyors are being sought from across England for an exciting new project to record the current distribution of harvest mice in the UK. Little is known about the status of our smallest mouse species, although it is assumed that numbers will have plummeted since the last large scale surveys of the 1990s.
Harvest mice are dependent on habitat that provides suitable nesting potential, which has declined dramatically as farming has intensified. Numbers will have also been negatively impacted by the recent extreme winters and wet summers, with much of the suitable habitat becoming waterlogged in recent years. These factors combined, plus the impact of agricultural chemicals has left our countryside far from ideal for harvest mice.
Finding harvest mice can be very challenging and unlike surveys for other small rodents, the use of small mammal traps has been largely unsuccessful, despite various attempts at testing new methods of attracting the mice into traps. However, finding evidence of their presence is possible. This tiny species (only weighing up to 3g) has the ability to weave intricate tennis ball sized nests in areas of reed and long grass and this latest survey aims to encourage more people to look for nests when they are out and about in potential habitat areas.
Participants will be given an instruction pack including the precise methodology, details of obtaining landowner permission where appropriate and other useful information. There is a limited timescale for this survey, with volunteers being asked to conduct searches in November and December this year and in 2014. If you are interested in getting involved with the survey, members of Shropshire Mammal Group are coordinating things in Shropshire. This provides an excellent opportunity for anyone interested in native mammals to try their hand at field survey work and the data they collect will be invaluable in determining whether these tiny mammals occur more commonly than expected! November 1 2013
Wildlife quiz winners
“Cool!” was the response from children invited to take part in summer holiday fun quiz sheets at the Boathouse in Ellesmere. The hugely popular quiz sheets, devised by David Farncombe, chairman of the Ellesmere branch of Shropshire Wildlife Trust, were designed to encourage children to discover more about nature and have fun at the same time. And they certainly achieved their aim: “We were astounded by the depth of knowledge and imagination shown by the participants,” commented Cath Price, one of the Shropshire Wildlife Trust Membership and Interpretation Officers based at the Boathouse.
It was a close run thing, but two very worthy winners emerged: Finlay Holden in the 8 – 12 category from Leeds but visiting family in Oswestry at the time, and Isla Macpherson aged 6 (pictured), from Shrewsbury in the 7 and under category. Lady Cossons, President of Shropshire Wildlife Trust, offered her hearty congratulations to them both and presented Isla with a certificate and a prize of wildlife books at the Boathouse.
Visitors to the Boathouse can find out information about their local wildlife and wild places, talk to Shropshire Wildlife Trust staff and join as a member, 10.30 – 3.30 daily. Throughout the half term and summer holidays there are lots of events to participate in. Autumnwatch Returns
Autumnwatch returned to our screens this week and there have been several appeals for members of the public to send in their sightings of species such as hen harriers, urban foxes and general mammal sightings. We have a wealth of amazing wildlife in Shropshire, so it would be great for us to contribute our records to some of the great recording schemes happening across the UK. You might only have seen something as common as a robin or rabbit, but you can guarantee that someone out there will be collecting the records in. With all of those records combined, experts are able to examine the health of British wildlife and make sure that improvements are made to ensure that key species will be around for future generations to enjoy. Visit the Autumnwatch website for more details.
October 18 2013
Pilot badger culls fail
As the latest results from the pilot badger cull in Gloucestershire are announced, The Wildlife Trusts are renewing calls for the Government to drop badger culling from its proposed strategy to tackle bovineTB in England.
In the six weeks of the pilot cull in Gloucestershire, 708 badgers were killed, representing just over 30 per cent of the estimated local badger population of 2,350. The Government’s pilot culls had aimed to remove at least 70% of the population. Estimates of the badger population in each pilot area have been significantly reduced twice and still the pilot culls have failed to meet the conditions set out in Defra’s guidance to Natural England. The original population estimate in Gloucestershire was 3,644 in autumn 2012.
Both pilot badger culls in Somerset and Gloucestershire have failed to meet the key test of ‘effectiveness’. In both areas, the removal of at least 70% of the estimated badger population in the six-week licence period has not been achieved. It is possible for the bovineTB problem to have been made worse, due to the ‘perturbation effect’.
With an extension granted in Somerset and under consideration for the pilot badger cull in Gloucestershire, The Wildlife Trusts believe this failure to meet required targets should lead the Government to abandon its culling policy.
Paul Wilkinson, Head of Living Landscape for The Wildlife Trusts, said:
“Defra’s flawed badger cull policy remains a tragic distraction from tackling this devastating disease.
“The pilot culls have clearly proven that the necessary criteria cannot be met; there has been a failure to cull the target numbers of badgers and a failure to do so within the set timeframe. These failures, combined with huge uncertainties over the badger population’s true size in the cull zones, carry very real implications for remaining badger populations. They also run the risk of further spreading the disease from disrupted social groups of badgers, known as the perturbation effect. The granting of extensions to licences to cull by Natural England is simply not justifiable. Defra set out its strategy for a six week period; it has been a complete failure and the cull should be pulled.
“We are reiterating our calls for the Government to focus efforts on badger and cattle vaccination, stricter cattle movement controls and improved biosecurity.”
The Wildlife Trusts strongly oppose the pilot badger culls and any proposals for rolling out culls beyond this year. This scale of culling of a native mammal, which is a valuable part of the ecosystem, is simply not justified by the small potential reduction in bovine TB incidence in cattle.
Badger cull extension application in Gloucestershire
The badger cull in Gloucestershire ended this week. The cull company has applied for an extension to Natural England.
The pilot badger cull in Gloucestershire ended this week.
In the six weeks of the the pilot cull 708 badgers were removed. This represents just over 30 per cent of the revised local badger population of 2,350.
The Chief Veterinary Officer has advised that the period of culling this year should be extended to achieve the earliest and greatest possible impact on bovine TB in Gloucestershire. Natural England is therefore considering an application for an extension from the cull company in Gloucestershire.
The pilot culls in Gloucestershire and Somerset have been testing the safety, humaneness and effectiveness of controlled shooting as a means of reducing badger numbers and therefore reducing the high levels of disease in these areas.
The early indications from Gloucestershire are that, as in Somerset, the pilot has been safe and humane. The Independent Panel of Experts will now consider all of the information from these pilots before the government decides on next steps.
Natural England are currently considering the application to extend the licence in Gloucestershire and a decision is expected shortly.
October 7 2013
Shropshire in 50 years: a green and pleasant land?
Shropshire Wildlife Trust had its 50th birthday last year, so it got us thinking: what will Shropshire be like in 50 years? Will it be a mass housing estate or will nature win back some ground? Will children visit the countryside through 3D computer glasses or will they be out there with our People and Wildlife team playing in the mud?
We’ve set out what we think might happen in Making space for nature: a 50 year vision for Shropshire’s natural environment but we want to hear your views. Please download a copy of the draft document and let us know what you think.
September 16 2013
TB – an alternative to the cull
Shropshire and Cheshire Wildlife Trusts are carrying out a badger vaccination programme in part of north Shropshire and south Cheshire.This is to demonstrate a viable alternative to the government’s proposed cull for tackling bovine TB in badgers.
No one wants TB.Not in cattle, badgers, people or any wildlife.Unfortunately it has become prevalent in dairy herds and the case for eradication is beyond doubt.Today’s solution?Shoot badgers.But wildlife experts, leading scientists and a growing army of people say it will just make matters worse.
To understand why, you need to understand badgers.They live underground in social family groups of, on average, five animals.They are loyal to their defined territories that provide their favourite food, earthworms, which are plentiful in cattle pastures.
In studies of badger populations disease spread is limited.Some groups have TB, some don’t.TB doesn’t readily spread between groups – unless there is severe disturbance
Culling destabilises badger populations, creating unoccupied territories causing more badger movements and a higher rate of TB transmission between ‘stressed’ badgers. This then increases the likelihood of transmission to cattle.This is known as the “perturbation effect”.
What we know is that with a cull there will be a short-term increase in TB in cattle in some areas.What we don’t know is what, if any, will be the net benefit after five years of culling as the method being used this time is different from that in previous culling trials.
A lot is made of disease reduction programmes in other countries.It is simply bad science to assume that these lessons can be applied to the UK when there are different wildlife hosts and different cattle management strategies.
So with a basic understanding of badger ecology culling, as a TB containment strategy, flies in the face of all logic.It will cause badgers to roam further causing more badger to badger and badger to cattle infections.
Vaccinating badgers – in the absence of a cattle vaccine – is most effective in reducing infection in badger populations.This is why we are vaccinating badgers.
We are working in partnership with government, local vets and farmers, plus other wildlife organisations.This summer we have vaccinated badgers on 1000 hectares and are delighted that a growing number of farmers see this as a better option than culling.As we gather evidence it is becoming clear that the costs of culling and vaccinating are similar, taking into account the cost to the taxpayer of policing in cull areas.
Considering this, the estimated £6 million cost of the culls would achieve better results if invested in vaccination.Culling will give us fewer badgers, but a higher prevalence of TB in those remaining.Vaccination would be a massive step towards TB herd immunity in badgers.
We recognise that vaccination alone won’t solve the problem so we’d also like to see more support for biosecurity on farms.This is a range of measures to keep badgers away from housed cattle and feed stores.
If the pilot cull is deemed to be a humane and effective badger control method it is likely to be rolled out to other TB hot spots.Owen Paterson is calling for it to come to Shropshire.
This would be disappointing as there will have been scant time to assess its impact on TB in cattle and the perturbation effect of free shooting.If the cull does reach Shropshire we will certainly not allow culling on Shropshire Wildlife Trust’s nature reserves.However, we will continue to support Defra by providing data on the vaccination of badgers to be fed into their TB eradication strategy.
Culling badgers is clearly far from being the best long-term, sustainable solution to bovine TB in cattle and badgers.The methods used in the culling pilots hold the potential to exacerbate the problem.Science and logic tells us that the social structure of badger setts needs to be left intact and the problem – TB not badgers – is best tackled by vaccination and improved biosecurity.We agree with Lord Krebs who led previous government badger culling trials: “culling is not a viable policy option”.
Bovine TB is a complex issue.For more scientific information visit http://www.shropshirewildlifetrust.org.uk/Badgers+and+bovine+TB
Helen Trotman is a zoologist working for Shropshire Wildlife Trust, leading on badger vaccination.She previously worked on MAFF’s randomised badger culling trials and Defra’s badger vaccine field trials.
July 22 2013
T&W local plan
Time is running out to respond to the draft local plan produced by Telford & Wrekin Borough Council. The Trust has prepared a response and details are in the attached document. We would encourage residents to take part and have their say. Comments summary
June 4 2013
Don't cull the carrier
Shropshire Wildlife Trust says it is ‘bitterly disappointed’ as the Government confirmed a trial cull of badgers will go ahead this summer, but added that its own alternative vaccination programme in the region will now be expanded.
Environment Secretary and Shropshire MP Owen Paterson made the announcement at the NFU annual conference, confirming that the trial postponed from last autumn will now proceed from 1st June 2013.
The culls are designed to test the 'controlled shooting' method of culling badgers, even though free shooting of badgers will be also permitted. The pilot culls will not measure the impact on bovine TB. They are due to take place in Gloucestershire and Somerset and a reserve area has also been identified in Dorset.
Shropshire Wildlife Trust however, says the move goes against a vote of almost 150 MPs, and 160,000 members of the public who last year backed plans for a re-think on the issue of bovine tuberculosis (bTB) in cattle and are opposed to a cull of wild badgers.
The Trust undertook a successful deployment of the BCG badger vaccine at a nature reserve in north Shropshire last autumn, and say the process will be rolled out across additional locations this summer, with several more landowners in on-going discussions to vaccinate badgers on their land.
Helen Trotman of Shropshire Wildlife trust said “It’s heartening to see the interest in vaccination as an alternative method of controlling transmission risk from badgers and we will continue to work to support those that want to deploy it on their land. We know it reduces the disease burden in badgers without any of the detrimental effects seen from culling”.
“What we want to see is a raft of measures, with vaccination sitting at the centre, allowing us to maintain stable badger populations and build badger immunity to bTB from within, whilst continuing to break the link through other measures like monitoring and the development of an effective cattle vaccine.”
The Trust is continuing with its public appeal to support its vaccination programme in Shropshire, which already has the backing of Chester Zoo who have provided trapping equipment, and local veterinary practice, Lambert, Leonard & May.
May 22 2013
State of Nature - 60% of UK species in decline, groundbreaking study finds
UK nature is in trouble – that is the conclusion of a groundbreaking report published today by a coalition of leading conservation and research organisations.
Scientists working side-by-side from 25 wildlife organisations have compiled a stock take of our native species – the first of its kind in the UK. The report reveals that 60% of the species studied have declined over recent decades. More than one in ten of all the species assessed are under threat of disappearing from our shores altogether.
The State of Nature report will be launched by Sir David Attenborough and UK conservation charities at the Natural History Museum in London this evening (Wednesday, May 22), while simultaneous events will be held in Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast.
Sir David Attenborough said: “This groundbreaking report is a stark warning – but it is also a sign of hope.
“For 60 years I have travelled the world exploring the wonders of nature and sharing that wonder with the public. But as a boy my first inspiration came from discovering the UK’s own wildlife.
“Our islands have a rich diversity of habitats which support some truly amazing plants and animals. We should all be proud of the beauty we find on our own doorstep; from bluebells carpeting woodland floors and delicately patterned fritillary butterflies, to the graceful basking shark and the majestic golden eagle soaring over the Scottish mountains.
“This report shows that our species are in trouble, with many declining at a worrying rate. However, we have in this country a network of passionate conservation groups supported by millions of people who love wildlife. The experts have come together today to highlight the amazing nature we have around us and to ensure that it remains here for generations to come.”
Dr Mark Eaton, a lead author on the report, said: “This report reveals that the UK’s nature is in trouble - overall we are losing wildlife at an alarming rate.
“These declines are happening across all countries and UK Overseas Territories, habitats and species groups, although it is probably greatest amongst insects, such as our moths, butterflies and beetles. Other once common species like the lesser spotted woodpecker, barbastelle bat and hedgehog are vanishing before our eyes.
“Reliable data on these species goes back just fifty years, at most, but we know that there has been a historical pattern of loss in the UK going back even further. Threats including sweeping habitat loss, changes to the way we manage our countryside, and the more recent impact of climate change, have had a major impact on our wildlife, and they are not going away.
“None of this work would have been possible without the army of volunteer wildlife enthusiasts who spend their spare time surveying species and recording their findings. Our knowledge of nature in the UK would be significantly poorer without these unsung heroes. And that knowledge is the most essential tool that conservationists have.”
Visit The Wildlife Trusts for full details of State of Nature coalition partners and download the document and supplements for England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales.
April 30 2013
Bees face a brighter future as pesticides banned
A decision to restrict the use of neonicotinoids, has today been welcomed by The Wildlife Trusts.
The European Commission has placed a temporary suspension on these dangerous insecticides. It is expected that the ban will come into effect from 1 December 2013 and will restrict the use of the three most common neonicotinoids (Imidacloprid, Clothianidin and Thiamethoxam) on crops which are ‘attractive to bees’.
Paul Wilkinson, The Wildlife Trusts’ Head of Living Landscape, said:
“The EU’s ban on three neonicotinoid insecticides is extremely welcome. Whilst it provides some respite for our bees, we need more action to reverse the decline in bees and other vital pollinators. The continued opposition of the UK Government is very disappointing and of great concern to those of us who value the natural environment and its contribution to food production.”
The European Commission will review the conditions of approval of the three neonicotinoids within the next two years to take into account relevant scientific and technical developments. In January, a report by the European Food Safety Authority identified a ‘high acute risk’ to honeybees from Imidacloprid, Clothianidin and Thiamethoxam, and an unknown risk to other pollinators such as bumblebees and hoverflies.
17th April 2013
Run for the wild
The Bluebell Run for fell runners and an optional route for walkers takes place in Church Stretton on Sunday 12th May and funds raised will be shared between Shropshire Wildlife Trust, The Gorilla Organisation and AfriCat.
"Our hopes are that this event will raise awareness of the plight of wildlife both in the UK and around the world," said Anna Bartlett, one of the event's organisers.
Full details of Run for the Wild
5th April 2013
Save our bees
Shropshire Wildlife Trust welcomes today’s report by MPs that the use of pesticides containing neonicotinoids should be suspended.
Members of the Commons Environmental Audit Committee are calling for a moratorium on the use of these sprays. Since their introduction in 1991, a growing body of scientific evidence has been amassed, indicating that neonicotinoids have a detrimental effect on insect pollinators.
"Bees are a vital part of nature, beautiful and varied in themselves, and essential for the pollination of at least 30% of plants. They also form a vital part of the food chain for other species such as birds and amphibians," said Colin Preston, Director of Shropshire Wildlife Trust. "Insect pollinators provide a vital ecosystem service to the UK’s farmers and fruit growers. It is estimated that a collapse in pollinators would cost the UK economy c. £1.8 billion per year,"
"Shropshire Wildlife Trust is calling on Owen Paterson, Environment Secretary, to end his opposition to a Europe-wide ban on these chemicals," said the Trust’s director. "We believe a precautionary approach is vital to protect both wildlife and farm crops. "The Commons Committee has accused the Department of the Environment of "extraordinary complacency" in its handling of this issue.
Meres & Mosses Nature Improvement Area celebrates its first anniversary
Representatives from a conservation project in Shropshire and Cheshire are attending a special event in London today (26th March) to mark the first anniversary of England’s Nature Improvement Area (NIA) programme. Peter Moss OBE, Programme Manager for the Meres & Mosses NIA will be presenting the main achievements of the project to an audience which includes Wildlife Minister Richard Benyon, Professor John Lawton and Natural England chair Poul Christensen.
Commenting on the first year of the Meres & Mosses NIA, Peter Moss said: “Our team has been working closely with all of the partners and we’ve got to grips with a very complex and busy programme to protect and enhance the Meres & Mosses landscape. The groundwork is now in place, and a huge amount of conservation work and community work has already begun with more just around the corner. People will be seeing and hearing more about the NIA’s work over the next few months. Meanwhile, if anyone would like to find out more about how to get involved, or about how to apply for our community or farm grants, then please visit their website.
This is one of only 12 NIAs awarded funding by DEFRA from over 70 applications. Set up through the Government’s Natural Environment White Paper, it is a Defra-led initiative for which Natural England is now responsible. The Meres & Mosses NIA covers 400 sq km of North Shropshire and South Cheshire with a small area of Wales and Staffordshire.
Ninety five per cent of all UK’s wetlands have disappeared due to urbanisation, drainage and agricultural use. The Meres & Mosses area holds some of the best remaining examples of this special landscape, with habitats which support some of the rarest plants and wildlife in England. Several mosses are the strongholds of Britain’s biggest spider, the raft spider. Cole Mere is the only place in England where a real glacial relic thrives; the Least Water Lily. However, this habitat remains under threat from continued human pressure, coupled with lack of awareness about its international importance.
The NIA’s purpose is to:
- Enhance the natural environment
- Create more and better-connected habitats over large areas
- Unite local communities, landowners and businesses through a shared vision for a better future for people and wildlife, and to engage more people with nature
The Meres & Mosses NIA programme officially started in April 2012, and is being enhanced by a five-year Heritage Lottery Funded Landscape Partnership Scheme – the aim of which is to deliver similar outcomes in a slightly smaller geographical area. Our team has hit the ground running, despite atrocious ground conditions caused by last year’s excessive rainfall. Conservation work has begun on the three core sites of Cole Mere, White Mere and Brown Moss.
Habitat restorationOur farm adviser and wetlands restoration officer are working with landowners and partner organisations to mitigate diffuse pollution and identify opportunities for conservation work and habitat restoration. As a result, work is underway on seven other non-designated peatland sites and wildlife sites in Shropshire and Cheshire. This work is focused on restoring and improving the condition of habitats, habitat restoration and gaining a better understanding of how to manage sites in the future through the monitoring of water levels. They have also identified training opportunities for farmers in the NIA.
Landscape scale conservation
We are particularly excited about the prospect of working with the Cholmondeley Estate in Cheshire, as this is the main conservation effort within our NIA. The estate consists of parkland, woods, meres, degraded peatland and tenanted intense dairy farms. We believe this will give us a great opportunity to put into practice all aspects of the ‘landscape scale’ approach – which means improving the environment for everyone’s benefit over a large area, crossing farm boundaries, involving local communities and establishing the conditions for wildlife to thrive alongside intense agriculture. A proposal has been agreed between the NIA and the estate which will see work implemented in stages. The first stage will be habitat restoration and a feasibility study to tackle water quality (already underway). The second stage will focus on two Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) meres. It will provide a holistic approach to conservation throughout the catchments of these meres, working with farming businesses to maximise their business potential at the same time as providing a balance between agriculture and conservation. The third stage will provide a longer-term integrated plan for the whole estate. It will take into account biodiversity, farming, landscape, historic and community issues as resources allow. Training in diffuse pollution will also be provided for farm workers and apprentices. This project will then be a model which can be imitated and rolled out on a larger scale anywhere in the UK in the future.
Improving accessIn order to improve public access into some of the special places within the NIA, six circular extensions off the Shropshire Way and Sandstone Trail long distance paths have been completed. Three will be celebrated with guided walks during the Meres & Mosses sponsored Whitchurch walking festival in May this year. This will encourage local people to explore the special features of the Meres & Mosses landscape, such as Wem Moss (the home of carnivorous plants and the raft spider), Fenn’s Whixall Moss (the site of large scale peat digging until 1990 and also a reconstructed WW2 decoy for German bombing raids on Liverpool) and Bettisfield Moss where you might be lucky enough to see hobbies catching white-faced darter dragonfly. Details can be found at www.whitchurchwalkers.co.uk, www.shropshirewalking.co.uk and www.cheshirewildlifetrust.org.uk
Engaging local communities so they can learn more about the environment on their doorstep has produced some great results. A working group was formed at Cole Mere after a NIA-led community consultation, and it meets monthly to manage this special site. A survey group has been set up within it, trained to conduct otter surveys and water vole surveys. This group will monitor populations and explore previously un-surveyed sites where it is thought these creatures may be found. A similar consultation event is planned for Brown Moss.
Our community officer has formed a Down to Earth steering group in Whixall which will record local history, supporting the work of Natural England on Bettisfield Moss, and it will work with a local business to provide Corporate Social Responsibility days. He is also working with local councils going through town plans in Ellesmere and Whitchurch and the parish plan in Welshampton to encourage greater emphasis on the environment in all aspects of community development. In Ellesmere we are recruiting more people to join the existing four volunteer community conservation groups. In Welshampton we are helping to design and promote a local walking festival and a ‘green day’ event – to make it easier for local people to get out and explore their surroundings. In Whitchurch we are giving the water vole group resources to recruit more volunteers along with the Chesire water vole group. We are also working with Whitchurch Infants School to create new forest school activities on Wem Moss.
Awards and EducationMatch funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund will enable us to award community grants on a regular basis, which local project groups can apply for. Over the next four years we have a total of £50,000 to award. The first grant will be awarded this month and is supporting a project to help locals get more out of the Mere at Ellesmere by giving them greater access to boating.
Primary school education focusing on the special qualities of the Meres & Mosses has got off to a flying start with the delivery of our first John Muir Award package for Tilston School in Cheshire. A further seven schools will receive this education package up until 2017. To support this, a new hide and learning centre has just been opened at the Shropshire Wildlife Trust nature reserve at Wood Lane.
New interpretation boards will be on site at the Boathouse Visitor Information Centre in Ellesmere, and the distribution of information leaflets and grant application packs throughout the region will now commence. A Meres and Mosses NIA and Landscape Partnership Scheme website will be launched in April explaining how landowners, farmers and the general public can benefit from the NIA scheme, and how to get involved.