Cull of Ashdown Forest Deer.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/uk-england-sussex-43006793/ashdown-forest-deer-cull-necessary-to-save-lives

Controversy has just hit the tv screens of Sussex after the the BBC SEToday article concerning the culling of deer on the Ashdown Forest…

After having hunted lynx and the wolf to extinction, the fact is, that Man is now the top predator.  I have some knowledge of this subject…  On a large area of land neighbouring Ashdown Forest, in which I was involved in the course of my work, culling commenced some five years ago.  The removal of selected deer including old and injured animals by experienced stalkers, has led to the remaining deer population now being in a healthier condition with them having more to eat.  A second bonus has been that the woodland and flora are now starting to recover from decades of over-grazing – I have witnessed that with my own eyes.

Thirdly, this has locally reduced the numbers of deer involved in road traffic accidents.  This came close to me several years ago when my wife narrowly escaped serious injury from involvement with a deer – within an urban 30mph speed limit area.  This collision wrote-off her car.

Bees Can Breathe a Sigh of Relief This Week

Government rejects bee-harming pesticide application

Bees can breathe a sigh of relief this week.

The government has rejected an application to use bee-harming neonicotinoids (neonics) by the National Farmers’ Union (NFU).

We couldn’t have done this without you.

Thousands of you emailed your MPs to keep bee-harming pesticides out of our fields – thank you.

The NFU failed to convince ministers because they didn’t have enough evidence to show that farmers need banned neonics.

They need to face the facts – there’s now a long list of scientific evidence showing the threat bees face from neonics.

April Sightings  – All and Sundry

Up until the early part of the month (including the winter), I’ve been surprised just how tolerant of people that the dozens of turnstones that wintered/rested on the beaches of St.Leonards and on the ironwork of Hastings pier are.

Moving on, a couple of days ago, many of the birds in the centre of the town flew-up and seemed uneasy for a few minutes; I scanned the skies and sure enough, a couple hundred yards away and high up, was a circling sparrowhawk.

Went for a lovely walk with a friend in the Iden area on Sunday, April 9th – that really warm day.  We walked through an area of working coppice with a beautiful display of bluebells and lesser celandine.  After refuelling, on the return leg we saw two swallows, one settled on a nearby telephone wire giving out that gorgeous trilling song as if to say, ‘well, I’m glad to be back.’  Walking along part of the banks of the Military Canal, we were treated to a short, announcing blast from a cetti’s warbler emanating from out of the bordering reeds.

Back at home, somewhere not far from the house, there seems to be a pair of goldfinches possibly nesting; lovely to sit on the steps by the front door and watch them frequently pass over with their singing, resembling a bunch of high-pitched jangling keys.

April 26th and on a walk near Matfield in Kent, we came across a small meadow which was stunning!  It had thousands of cuckoo flower in full bloom, a real high-point in the day.

I’m now able from my window, to take an interest in the shipping passing down the Channel – ships being a subject that I’ve been fascinated by since a child.  I’m surprised by the sheer number of container ships passing by with quite a number owned by the MSC shipping company – the second largest container fleet in the world with 490 ships, four of which are the largest in the world.

The ill-fated Crystal Jewel anchored off Newhaven, after its encounter with the tanker British Aviator in fog off Beachy Head back in Sept 1961.

 

 

News from ‘British Wildlife,’ January 2017

Flooding.  Two reports have recently been published concerning streamlining and enhancing of the countries response to do with flooding and associated issues: these are by Prof. Dieter Helm, Chairman of the Natural Capital Committee and EFRA’s Future Flood Prevention.  they cover such issues as: natural capital systems, flood defence, remunerating landowners for ‘Payments for Ecosystem Services’ (PES), ending the current dysfunctional organisational structure in favour of a more holistic structure, building on floodplains and insurance of building liable to flooding, protection of soils.  See  http://bit.ly/2exR8kg  and  http://bit.ly/2fghJPD.

Pesticides and Bees.  Recent report written by the Uni of Sussex’s Dave Goulson and available on the Soil Association’s website at  http://bit.ly/2fSepfQ  draws a surprising conclusion.  A majority of the toxic cocktail of chemicals detected in honey and nectar from honey bee and bumblebee nests, seems to be coming via wild flowers such as poppies, hawthorn, buttercup and hogweed even when oilseed rape is in flower.

Weedkillers and Rare Plants.  A study recently completed in western France confirms previous work that herbicides on arable crops are eliminating rare arable flowers and having little bearing on the farm crop yield.  It suggests that current yields could be maintained with an approximate cut of 50% in the use of herbicides.  See  http://go.nature.com/2fSrhCy

Bats and Wind Turbines.  More work is required as to why wind turbines are killing more bats than was previously expected according to the Uni of Exeter.  Better mitigation is required and to discover wht bats are drawn to turbines.  See  http://bit.ly/2fSiwbB

New Threat to Earthworms.  An invasive flatworm which can measure up to 7cm has now been found in the UK and is also spreading on the continent.  It feeds on earthworms and land snails.  It is thought to have arrived on horticultural produce from Brazil.  the Obama worm was first discovered in 2008 on Guernsey.  See http://bit.ly/2fzw9fv

Concern Over Mediterranean and Climate Change

http://science.sciencemag.org/content/354/6311/465?utm_source=sciencemagazine&utm_medium=twitter&utm_campaign=6311issue-8699

A warming limit for the Mediterranean basin.

Pollen cores from sediments provide rich detail on the history of vegetation and climate in the Mediterranean during the Holocene (the most recent ~10,000 years). Guiot and Cramer used this information as a baseline against which to compare predictions of future climate and vegetation under different climate-change scenarios. Vegetation and land-use systems observed in the Holocene records may persist under a 1.5°C warming above preindustrial temperature levels. A 2°C warming, however, is likely over the next century to produce ecosystems in the Mediterranean basin that have no analog in the past 10,000 years.

Abstract.

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Paris Agreement of December 2015 aims to maintain the global average warming well below 2°C above the preindustrial level. In the Mediterranean basin, recent pollen-based reconstructions of climate and ecosystem variability over the past 10,000 years provide insights regarding the implications of warming thresholds for biodiversity and land-use potential. We compare scenarios of climate-driven future change in land ecosystems with reconstructed ecosystem dynamics during the past 10,000 years. Only a 1.5°C warming scenario permits ecosystems to remain within the Holocene variability. At or above 2°C of warming, climatic change will generate Mediterranean land ecosystem changes that are unmatched in the Holocene, a period characterized by recurring precipitation deficits rather than temperature anomalies.

 

 

Ranscombe Farm Reserve on TV.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0071ms1

Ranscombe Farm (@Ranscombe_Farm)

Interesting piece on the BBC’s Inside Out yesterday about the Ranscombe Farm nature reserve in Kent.  It presents a brilliant farmer/conservationist working relationship.  I was glad to see that it also ‘banged the drum’ on the relationship between atmospheric pollution and the threat to biodiversity.

Birling Gap Observations

A couple of days ago I stopped-off at Birling Gap to have my lunch…

I noticed while standing at the top of the steps that go down to the beach, how grey and course the shingle appeared.  Presumably this indicated that this material is of relatively newly exposed flint.  There was a large cliff-fall mid-way along the Seven Sisters back in the summer which no doubt has contributed,it now completely dispersed by the sea.  Shingle is in the main, of a brownish hue due to exposure over time to iron compounds in the seawater.

Large cliff fall along Seven Sisters during May captured by tourist Wang-Feng.

Large cliff fall along Seven Sisters during May captured by tourist Wang-Feng.

The land to the east of Birling Gap appears much improved from the now regular winter pony grazing.  This week there were still a number of plants still in flower. Scrub clearance by National Trust staff and volunteers has also had a marked effect on this once un-managed area.

A herd of ponies were grazing on Eastbourne BC’s Belle Tout area, the first of the autumn/winter grazing of four sites within the Birling/Beachy Head area this season.

 

Week Ending June 18th.

Well, what ever happened to flaming June?

Have been charmed lately by three pairs of ‘tame’ wood pigeons that seem to think they have a right to keep dropping into my small garden despite there being often being two cats about.  Actually, they perform a very good service in that they mop-up the dropped seed from to suspended bird feeders, so reducing the risk of rats etc.  (When I lived in Hartfield, a family of badgers were often attracted by the dropped seed and therefore created a ‘no-planting’ zone in that area of the garden!).

During the evenings particularly of late, these pigeons spend a lot of time in a nearby ash tree browsing on the younger leaves towards/at the top of the tree.  I have not witnessed that before.

In the Ashdown Forest SSSI area, I have for a number of years been keeping an eye on a small colony of butterwort – eight plants within an area little bigger that the laptop I’m writing this on.  This year, one plant has two flower spikes on it; image attached.  These tiny plants are insectivorous and are rare in southern England, they only being found in wet conditions on acid soils.P1000097

Week Ending Saturday, May 14th

Thursday.  We gathered in the 15 ponies which have for the past three months, been grazing chalk grassland on the National Trust’s Gayles Farm property, perched midway along the Seven Sisters.  Just two of us managed the whole operation in readiness for our haulier Bob’s arrival at midday, to transport them up to the RSPB’s Broadwater Warren Reserve near Tunbridge Wells for the summer.

Saturday.  At Pippingford Park, on the Ashdown Forest SSSI, the commencement of growth of the dominant native purple moor-grass is always later than the other heathland sites we graze in Sussex.  In bloom at the moment are heath milkwort, lousewort and petty whin.

Petty whin.

Petty whin.

Below, ‘Jimmy’ showing off his 4 x 4 skills in order to graze the new growth on one of the many acid, wet flushes on Pippingford.  Six years of constant grazing are transforming this large area, it having a particularly good effect on increasing the specialised flora that live in these very wet areas.

P1000086

Week Ending, Saturday, May 8th

Monday.  Well, it was Bank Holiday and the weather gods took full advantage of this fact!

Tuesday.  And spring returned with a gorgeous day.  As I drove back over Ashdown Forest mid-morning, a solitary swallow flew high over the road with that characteristic care-free flight action that is so pleasing.  My heart went up to this small, solitary traveller from South Africa.

wild garlic (uck)

Wild garlic in bloom above the River Uck today.

 

We moved the ponies at Berwick on to fresh grazing taking in the old, grassed-over chalk pits on the side of the downland escarpment.  This area used to be good for orchids but is currently grossly neglected with bramble and thorn bushes gaining a footfold.  Late afternoon and I watched a whitethroat in a thorn bush at close quarters, singing its heart out to its mate in a nearby young wayfaring tree.

Wednesday.  Did my ‘annual’ walk for 90 (yes, 90!) ten year olds from a Hailsham school at the Seven Sisters Country Park.  the weather was kind for the third year running and they were a great bunch of kids shepherded by nice teachers and helpers.

Sadly, there was a absence of chalk grassland flowers and of the early butterflies one would have expected, if one were taking this walk years ago.  The slope where the early spider orchids ought to be in flower has been tightly grazed until recently and on a cursory inspection, there were no flower spikes.  Perceived wisdom is that grazing should cease before the end of winter for this specie.  A pioneer patch of the invasive tor grass is being full rein to spread.  So sad.  There appears to be few concessions to encourage the flora and fauna on this important area nowadays…

orchid.early spider

Early spider orchid photographed on this site years ago.

Spotted during the early afternoon, two swifts wheeling about, high above Crowborough.  Reports of others seen elsewhere today for first time.