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Bumblebee survival

Bumblebee survival

by Chris ~ 19 April, 2017 ~ comments welcome

The warmth of recent days has seen bumblebee queens foraging among the Spring flowers.    They have emerged from hibernation.  They now need to feed and then find a place to create a nest.  The queen will then lay eggs, which will become ‘daughter workers’.  Later in the season, males and new queens hatch – they will leave the nest / colony.  The new queens that are fertilised will hibernate after they have fed (heavily hopefully) on nectar and pollen from available flowers.

Researchers at the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, the University of East Anglia, the Zoological Society of London and University College London, have been studying different generations Read more…

A threat to bluebells ?

A threat to bluebells ?

by Chris ~ 3 April, 2017 ~ comments welcome

Spring brings a variety of blue flowered plants such as bluebells, hyacinths and squills in our woodlands, parks and gardens.  Bluebells are ‘easily’ recognisable. However, there are different types of bluebells. The bluebell that is native to the UK has the Latin or Linnaean name of Hyacinthoides non scripta.  The Spanish bluebell (H. hispanica) is also to be found, and this hybridises with the native form,  giving rise to intermediate types.

The native bluebell has deep blue and scented flowers that hang from an elegantly arching stem. It is found in abundance in many deciduous woodlands and hedgerows across the UK, though it is unusual or rarer in parts of East Anglia and Scotland.  The capacity of the Spanish Bluebell to hybridise with the native form has been seen as a threat to the native Bluebell – but now another concern has been ‘identified’. Read more…

Rehoming red squirrels

Rehoming red squirrels

by Chris ~ 31 March, 2017 ~ comments welcome

There are a number of established red squirrel populations in Scotland, and there are other suitable forested areas where they could live.  However, they are unlikely to make their way to forested areas near Kinlochewe and Plockton because they avoid crossing large areas of open ground (habitat fragmentation ?, need for wildlife corridors), and travel between trees.   Consequently, the charity “Trees for Life” has developed The Red Squirrel Reintroduction project.   Their aim is to establish ten ‘new’ populations in the north west Highlands – in order to increase the number and the range of the red squirrel. Read more…

Squirrelpox (SQPV) - how it spreads.

Squirrelpox (SQPV) – how it spreads.

by Chris ~ 22 March, 2017 ~ 3 comments

It is well known that the native populations of the red squirrel have been depleted in significant numbers over the last century  This is in part due to habitat loss, and competition with and displacement by the grey squirrel but also the insidious squirrel pox virus has been at work. Research workers at the Queen’s University, Belfast have been investigating how this virus passes from animal to animal.

Though grey squirrels carry the virus, they seem to be relatively immune to its effects.  However, they pass out the virus in their urine.   The virus can persist in the environment for some time, especially if the conditions are dry and warm. Read more…

old forest

Białowieża- “a national treasure for Poland and an international treasure for us all”

by Lewis ~ 19 March, 2017 ~ comments welcome

Białowieża is a forested area that lies on the border of Poland and Belarus.  It includes some 1500 sq km of some of the tallest trees to be found in Europe, including towering hornbeams.  It is a species-rich area, with carnivores such a lynx and wolves, 120 bird species (including the three toed woodpecker and pygmy owl), 60+ mammal species including the bison!  The area has been described as a “national treasure for Poland and an international treasure for us all”.

The tracts of forest are special as they have never been felled, though it would be wrong to think of the woodland as ‘primaeval’  like the original ‘wildwood’. The woodland / forest supports a community through tourism, timber, hunting, honey and mushrooms, not to mention scientific researchers and the staff associated with the National Park.  However, only 105 square km of the forest has been designated as National Park or a Unesco Heritage Site. Read more…

Woodlands and Forests in the Netherlands

Woodlands and Forests in the Netherlands

by Lewis ~ 15 March, 2017 ~ comments welcome

(The % of land covered by woodland or forests varies tremendously from country to country – throughout Europe.   The nordic countries such as Norway and Sweden, have large forests and therefore a high % cover, but others such as the U.K., Ireland and the Netherlands are amongst the least ‘wooded’.

At present, the % woodland in the Netherlands is about 11%.  In part, this is due to the fact that the Netherlands is Europe’s most densely populated country (with 394 people per square kilometer).  There is a network of small and medium sized cities spread across the country; much of the land is used for agriculture.  However, the State Forestry Commision has developed a (3 billion euro) plan to increase the country’s wooded / forested areas by some 100,000 hectares. Read more…

Trees and flood mitigation

Trees and flood mitigation

by Chris ~ 10 March, 2017 ~ comments welcome

With the changing nature of our climate, so extreme events have become more frequent.  The last fifteen or so years has seen significant episodes of flooding.  Flooding used to be a relatively unusual event in the U.K.   In consequence,  efforts are now being directed at finding ways of mitigating the effects of extreme rainfall.

The risk of flooding is associated with changes in our climate (notably rainfall patterns) and the techniques of land management have changed with the mechanisation of agriculture,  the creation of simplified (larger) field systems, land drainage, increased stock densities etc.  The U.K. landscape / countryside has altered significantly over the last fifty years.   Read more…

The national forest revisited

The national forest revisited

by Chris ~ 6 March, 2017 ~ comments welcome

The National Forest scheme has celebrated its 25th anniversary.  It was and is a bold project, focusing on some 500 square kilometers of central England (parts of Derbyshire, Leicestershire and Staffordshire).  Whilst the area included farmland and some pockets of ancient woodland, e.g. Charnwood Forest to the east and Needwood Forest to the west, it also included many abandoned industrial workings such as opencast mines, quarries, clay pits and spoil heaps.

Some 8.5 million trees have been planted to date and now the area generates income through tourism Read more…

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