News from ‘British Wildlife,’ April 2017

BATS.  Two interesting facts on long distance migration of bats have been made known.  In December 2013, a specie of Pipistrelle was found in northern Netherlands, having been ringed in Somerset some three years earlier.  The second involved one being trapped during October 2015 in East Sussex, it having been ringed as a sub-adult two months earlier in Latvia.  In its first year of life, this bat had made a journey of 1,460km over a period of some seven weeks.

COUNTRYSIDE STEWARDSHIP.  England’s agri-environment scheme is said to be a shambles.  With an inflexible start date of 1st January, some farmers are being left financially high and dry because their previous HLS Scheme ends after 1st January, they then being out of pocket for 11 months.  Complexity of CS and insufficient Natural England staff to administer the scheme are making matters worse.

PESTICIDES and GAMEBIRDS.  Work carried out in Sussex by the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust have shown that foliar insecticides and insecticidal seed dressings are having a significant effect on the species of insect that are important food sources for young game birds.  No wonder many of our farmland bird species are struggling!

PESTICIDE BAN.  Meanwhile, perhaps France is showing the way forward, for there will be a total ban on pesticide use in public gardens, parks and forests.  As from 2019, this ban will be extended to prohibit use in private gardens (apart from use by professionals).  This seems a good idea when seeing the amount shelf space devoted to pesticides in our garden centres (not to mention the stench coming from them).  Many people reach for their killer of choice without a clue of the environmental damage some of these concoctions can have!

NITROGEN.  The Plant Link UK network has issued a new report, ‘We Need To Talk About Nitrogen…’ and it has the backing of the National Trust, Woodland Trust and the RSPB.  It highlights the serious damage that nitrogen deposition is having upon the UK’s semi-natural habitats and wildlife.  I’ve been banging on about this problem for years, one which partially instigated my setting-up in the 1990’s of conservation grazing by ponies in Sussex.

Prof Mark Sutton from the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology has been appointed Chair of the International Nitrogen Initiative.  Prof Sutton said that ‘in the EU alone, the fertilizer value of nitrogen losses from agriculture is around 14 billion Euros per year, equivalent to losing 25% of the European Agricultural Policy (CAP) budget (or 10% of the entire EU budget) up in smoke or down the drain.’

DEFRA DEFICIENT.  There’s a widespread feeling in Westminster that DEFRA will not be up to the job of sorting out the huge amount of environmental law and new agricultural regulation following Brexit.  Since 2006 the department has lost 2,285 members from its core staff. It has also suffered from crippling and on-going cuts to its budget.  Put in context, currently the Civil Service is leaner than it has been since the Second World War and simply does not have the capacity to deal with the gargantuan task of leaving the EU.

Tories and Labour Not Being Honest With Voters

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-40057115#

Tories and Labour not being honest with voters: IFS  [Abrided].

By Chris Johnston, May 26 2017.

Neither the Conservatives nor Labour are being honest with voters about the economic consequences of their policy proposals, an influential think tank has warned.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies said the Tories had very few tax or spending commitments in their manifesto.

Labour, in contrast, was proposing very big increases in tax and spending.  However, the IFS said Labour’s plans for paying for its proposed expansion in state activity would not work.

IFS deputy director Carl Emmerson said neither manifesto gave voters an honest set of choices or addressed the long-term challenges the UK faced.

“For Labour, we can have pretty much everything – free higher education, free childcare, more spending on pay, health, infrastructure. And the pretence is that can all be funded by faceless corporations and ‘the rich’,” he said.

“There is a choice we can make as a country to have a bigger state – that would not make us unusual in international terms. But that comes at a cost in higher taxes, which would inevitably need to be borne by large numbers of us.”

Meanwhile, the Conservatives offered spending cuts the party had already promised, Mr Emmerson said.  “Additional funding pledges for the NHS and schools are just confirming that spending would rise in a way broadly consistent with the March Budget,” he told a briefing in London on Friday.

“Compared with Labour, they are offering a relatively smaller state and consequently lower taxes. With that offer come unacknowledged risks to the quality of public services, and tough choices over spending.”

The IFS said the Tory plans “imply at least another five years of austerity, with the continuation of planned welfare cuts and serious pressures on the public services including on the NHS”.

Labour’s calculations that £49bn a year could be raised from the wealthiest individuals and companies were flawed and would raise £40bn at most in the short term, and less in the long term, it said.

May Sightings

And so the cool, dry spring continues without much prospect of change until towards the end of May…

May 6th and during the evening there was a group of 7 swifts hawking for insects in the cold easterly wind, high over St.Leonards old town.  Still numbers of turnstones along the beach.  May 8th and as I sat down to my breakfast, 6 swallows flew across the street at window height in that purposeful, determined flight behaviour that characterises swallows on migration, heading north-westwards.  I wished them well.

May 8th.  There’s still a reasonable population of english elms in the vicinity of the station at Pevensey.  Also nearby, are a number of trees (poplar?) with thriving plants of mistletoe high in their crowns; nice to see.

May 18th.  In the following pic, scrub-bashing with a difference!  These fellas are removing dense ivy from off the cliff face at Rock-A-nor at Hastings in order to attach steel mesh safety netting as can be seen above them.  They’re working from off ropes using pneumatically powered equipment.

 

On the same day in the evening, saw this amazing ‘barley-twist’ cloud formation.

May 24th.  There were 10 swifts over St.Leonards old town as I sat having breakfast. Went for a walk in Ham Street Woods National Nature Reserve in Kent, a lovely wood but unfortunately there appears to be not a lot of coppicing now going on – how this wood was traditionally managed.  Saw this tree which many years ago had suffered severe trauma, survived and prospered!

Nearby the entrance to the woods stands a row of four Victorian(?) cottages.  I thought they were very unusual in that the upper storey is clad all around the entire block with butt-jointed slates with strips fixed over the vertical joints.

On this jaunt I travelled by train and spotted just west of Winchelsea good and bad farming practice – the latter almost certainly contravening government/EU regulations by cultivating as close to a watercourse as physically possible.  The adjacent water must be receiving a very unhealthy cocktail of fertilizer and chemicals  First, good practice with 2 metre wide uncultivated headlands on a neighbouring farm and then the bad.  Apologies that the second doesn’t make the point very obvious but the train was going quite fast! Stile and post are on nearside of watercourse.

In the evening, saw my first painted lady butterfly; it was in beautiful condition and probably had not long arrived from across the Channel.  About 10 swifts screaming high overhead mid-evening.  I’m not religious but full marks to the Pope for giving Trump some serious reading matter today!