Posts Tagged ‘buglife’

Wildlife at risk crossing roads & NFU apologise after Buglife expose misleading claims

July 10, 2014

Tonight as I was driving home along a nice stretch of road, which might better be described as ‘track’ and which runs parallel with the busy A18.  I slowed as I approached a moving ‘stick’ which was obviously a larva of some description.  Given that the vegetation on both sides of the road is rank grasses with vetches, bird’s foot trefoil, a few stands of St John’s Wort and even a bit of ragwort, so maybe an eggar of some description, but I certainly didn’t expect the beauty below.  One side of the road is a substantive drainage ditch (currently being extracted to irrigate agricultural crops) the other side is another drainage ditch but this one, the North Engine Drain is a SSSI and part of the series which make up the Hatfield Chase Ditches SSSI and which are sympathetically managed for their wildlife interest.  This particular one (NED) had been ‘managed’ earlier in the year (the first time for a few years) in such a manner that would have delivered both drainage and wildlife benefits.


140710 Emperor larva hrk 300


Emperor Moth Saturnia pavonia is generally a speacies of moorland and heaths, it is present on both Thorne and Hatfield Moors.  But in the vicinity of Hatfield Chase drainage ditches?  This handsome beast made it across the road to safety and survived risk of predation by corvids or other hungry creature foraging to feed a family.  As noted by a writer for the Guardian perhaps the bigger risk might be posed by vehicles?  I have been unable to definitively establish if the larva is poisonous or if it is just unpalatable because of the spines and crusty ‘warts’ and uses the colouration and pattern to fool potential diners.  Do let us know if you are aware of a paper or such which provides an answer.

Various authors list food sources of the Emperor as being mostly woody plants including heather, but also bramble, meadowsweet, hawthorn, blackthorn, alder buckthorn, sallows and birches.  Some of these species are present in the area but it would need to be both very athletic and agile.  Waring & Townsend (2003) Field Guide to the Moths of Great Britain & Ireland also include fens, field margins, woodland rides, mature sand dunes and other open scrubby places.  UK Moths website describe the ‘warts’ as being yellow but Manley (2008) British Moths and Butterflies A Photographic Guide show an example similar to today’s find, with pink ‘warts’.



Readers might recall that we have featured the issue of bees and neonictinoids on this blog.  Well, here we are again ….

The NFU have recently made erroneous claim attributing losses in crop yields in Sweden to insects.  But give Guy Smith, their Vice-President his due, he was quick to apologise about the tweets and various news reports.  It should be noted that these were made after Buglife, the invertebrate champion for ‘the small things that run the planet’. 

This embarrassing incident comes not long after Syngenta had to back down with their threats to sue the UK for upholding the EU ban on the use of neonictioids.  David Cameron and Owen Paterson were in favour of dropping the ban, but the critical mass of community campaigning through epetitions and the like caused a rethink …. for now.  The NFU and other representatives of agri-industrial interests have supported the Syngenta campaign, and this is the second time that their claims have been found to be erroneous (no doubt to the embarrassment of both the BBC and Farmers Guardian who reported the NFU claims made by Smith) and as Matt Shardlow says this latest revelation comes on top of two recent reviews of scientific evidence that have failed to find improvements in crop yields as a result of neonicotinoid use and the failure at a recent House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee of a Bayer spokesman to name a single published, peer reviewed scientific paper showing that neonicotinoids improved crop yields.

Who can we, the public and tax payer trust when it comes to honest and robust science?  It’s not unreasonable to expect corporations to promote vested interests but surely to exhibit credibility it must be accurate and honest?  Similarly, Government should be open and transparent and above all beyond reproach, demonstrating exemplary integrity in their conduct?  They are after all funded through public taxation even if their political party is in receipt of funds from third parties?



Beetling about …. “Reviews”

January 23, 2014

2013 saw a considerable volume of reports which catalogued the decline of species and habitat loss.

So, it is pleasing to report that another NERC commissioned Report has just been published.  A review of the scarce and threatened beetles of Great Britain NERC134 is now available as a download.  ISBN 978-1-78354-050-1.

The report’s foreword informs the reader that Natural England commission a range of reports from external contractors to provide evidence and advice to assist us in delivering our duties. The views in this report are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of Natural England.

It is good that these reports are produced, previously we understand that they were largely staff projects but times have changed as Natural England has ‘evolved’.  One might lament the haemorrhaging and departure of science, to be seemingly replaced by the new more recent priorities of engagement and access?

Further background rationale to the series is provided “Making good decisions to conserve species should primarily be based upon an objective process of determining the degree of threat to the survival of a species. The recognised international approach to undertaking this is by assigning the species to one of the IUCN threat categories.

The degree of threat is an interesting concept?  A case might be offered that such an assessment in itself might be subjective?

NERC134 was commissioned to update the threat status of beetles from the named families from work originally undertaken in 1987, 1992 and 1994 respectively using the IUCN methodology for assessing threat.  It is expected that further invertebrate status reviews will follow.”  Its Natural England Project Manager – Jon Webb,  With the Contractor –  Buglife (project management), and K.N.A. Alexander (author)

The report is published by Natural England under the Open Government Licence – OGLv2.0 for public sector information. “You” are encouraged to use, and reuse, information subject to certain conditions.  The Forum heartily endorses the concept of recycling, but alongside a plea for ongoing survey and monitoring.

Here’s to more such reports, but to re-iterate the need for site science to provide an understanding of change, losses and gains to inform management operations to deliver best practice for key habitats and the species dependant upon them.

For a list of other downloadable NERC Reports click here.

I just wonder how much notice the politicians who make decisions about our natural environment take of these reviews?  Or, conversely given some of the titles above, were they influential in their commissioning in order to assist the development of ‘projects’?

Reports 003, 013, 085, and 118 are certainly interesting topics for advisers on nature conservation to be commissioning as they appear to drift into other arenas out-with the organisational remit of when it was created, but evolution is a natural process …. the Nature Conservancy Council became English Nature and they evolved into the current Natural England in 2006 a hybrid which saw an amalgamation with the Rural Development Service and the Countryside Agency ….


Brownfields, greenfields, NNRs & what of the future?

November 3, 2013

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A packed hall in the Whisby Nature Park Education Centre saw around 70 delegates listening intently to a range of speakers delivering Buglife’s second Brownfield Conference on Halloween (31 October).

Presentations from the eight speakers included interesting case studies which illustrated a wide range of work, from industry to Buglife’s own Stepping Stones project.


A typical industrial site, although this is the Cemex cement factory at South Ferriby in North Lincolnshire.

For me it was the planning dimension and the interaction of Defra agencies, particularly Natural England which raises concerns.  In terms of planning, brownfield has traditionally been the preferred option over greenfield for develpment.  However, brownfield sites have been havens for many rare and threatened species hence a dilema for conservationists as well as planners and not forgetting government.

Now that Natural England have a centralised ‘advice function’ (my words not their title per se), when a Local Planning Authority submits an application into the Defra agency, they have to make a response in a short timeframe, if they are short staffed with staff who are not aware of colleagues on the ground with local knowledge, so do not make contact with them to fully appreciate or understand the application and any nature conservation issues which might not be evident from a developers or consultants submission then there can be problems?  Developer friendly environmental consultants and there are many, create tomes of reports which generally fail to do any more than scratch the surface of the biodiversity interest of a site beyond rejurgitating copious text from statutory guidance or local development frameworks, perhaps a desk top search for data from natural history societies or Local Records Centres (who in turn rely on local naturalists), very rarely any fieldwork in an appropriate season.  Now that NE make available much of their planning and development advice on line and they also offer a Discretionary Advice Service so a money making consultancy by any other name, there appears to be very little consistent and meaningful communication or correspondence.

West Thurrock Marshes is an interesting case.  Despite the judgement going against Buglife it did accept that the NERC Act was an important consideration in such cases.  It also highlighted failings in the Biodiversity Duty, the court system, planning policy and SSSI system.

The presentation provided a synoptic overview of the work which can be found in “The state of brownfields in the Thames Gateway” in more detail, certainly worth a read.

We heard from industry representatives who had worked with conservation organisations and Defra agencies to create easily managed sites which provided suitable habitats for rare and threatened species.  There is clearly much useful work being undertaken, but is it sustainable and who will ensure its longevity in perpetuity?

Not surprisingly most of these sites generally exclude the public unlike NNRs many of which are failing to meet their favourable condition status monitoring targets.  So, there is a conundrum, local authorities are not always managing their country parks as the public might like by allowing bikes, horses and unleashed dogs so that could now be an option for NNRs instead?  Will these new industrial reserves become the future for habitats and species conservation?

120901 Pit tip looking N hrk 141

A view of Thorne Moors SSSI, a Natura 2000 site and a National Nature Reserve from Thorne colliery pit tip.

Natural England’s Senior Technical Adviser outlined the creation of an inventory of open mosaic habitats on previously developed land and whilst this is not the presentation itself it is broadly speaking very similar.  Anyone looking to prepare a case for conservation of a brownfield site is certainly recommended to read the OHM Survey Handbook  Similarly it is useful to understand the statutory agency definition of Open Mosaic Habitats from the UK BAP Priority Habitat Descriptions, although the BAP system is now defunct, it is still understood by many so remains useful until fully updated post ‘evolution’.

There were copies of Planning for Brownfield Biodiversity A Best Practice Guide in delegate packs, and as with many of their publications and reports a useful tool to any local campaigners trying to put together a submission about a local planning application.  Please note that the planning section is out of date, and Buglife report that an updated version will be available shortly.


Thorne Colliery site, post demolition and illustrative of how quick nature heals scared landscapes.  See also an earlier blog post this year when a number of interesting species were discovered across the complex.

120901 f A marmoreus hrk 137

Araneus marmoreus pyramidatus, the Humberhead Levels is a stronghold for both colour variants of this species.  The colliery site hosts a population of the species.


Calluna vulgaris doing quite well on areas within the colliery complex.

The networking between the presentations, as often the case with such events was the useful bonus of attending a well run and informative conference, an enjoyable day.  Another refreshing aspect was that as an organisation their staff certainly did seem to ‘buzz’ and they invited delegates to contact them for advice and that’s not a common commodity these days.  Membership organisations are all too ready to take your money and hand out glossy PR but I can count on my fingers the number of organisations who actually do get down to grassroots and try to help empower or assist local casework.

So, well  done and thank you to the Buglife team!

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Invitation to a Brownfield Conference

October 14, 2013

Buglife Logo

Buglife, the invertebrate conservation trust are holding a

Brownfield Conference

On Thursday 31st October 2013: 10am – 4pm

at the Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust’s, Whisby Education Centre, Whisby Nature Park, Moor Lane, Thorpe on the Hill, Lincoln, LN6 9BW

With speakers from Buglife, Natural England, University of East London, Humber Industry Nature Conservation Association, and INCA (Teeside).

This one day conference will cover:

Why these sites are important for invertebrates and wildlife?

Key invertebrate species

UKBAP brownfield criteria & inventory

Planning policy & the NPPF

Management and mitigation

Case studies from Lincolnshire, Humberside, Teeside and the Thames Gateway.

To book a place please call Buglife on 01733 201210 or email

There is a conference fee of £10 and this includes lunch.

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Scorched Wings and Spectacles ….

May 29, 2013

Good moth nights at the moment are few and far between and even when the weather is such that intrepid moth-ers venture out there are no large counts or numbers of species recorded.

A couple of sessions recently on Thorne Moors produced 22 species on 19 May and 24 species on 26 May.  Some seven female emperor moths and a single male have been recorded so far this season.  Thanks to John Hartley for sharing the following fabulous images with us.

Scorched Wing

Scorched Wing

Green Silver-line

Green Silver-line

The superb head on shot (below) of the Spectacle, illustrates just how this moth acquired its common name.



Could I take this opportunity to encouarge our photographic contributors to consider submitting entries to Buglife’s photographic competition.  Winning entries will feature in their limited edition calendar, but ‘moor’ important from our perspective is that they will raise the profile of Thorne and Hatfield Moors.  There’s still plenty of time to take that winning entry, the closing date is not until 30 September.  Photographs will be judged on technical skill, diversity, originality and creativity of composition.  With two of the country’s largest lowland raised mires on your doorstep, a paradise totalling around 3,400 hectares there’s plenty of challenges and wonderful opportunities.

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Mark Avery

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a new nature blog

I write about politics, nature + the environment. Some posts are serious, some not. These are my views, I don't do any promotional stuff and these views are not being expressed for anyone who employs me.

UK and Ireland Natural History Bloggers

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