Monday, 22 July 2013

Fear of wild fires rise

A leading wildlife charity has joined forces with emergency services to warn of the rising risks that fire is posing to some of the region's most treasured landscapes. More than a month of hot weather has left parts of the countryside dry and vulnerable to wild fires. Devon Wildlife Trust has become concerned enough about the risk of wild fires affecting its nature reserves that it's now teamed up with Devon & Somerset Fire & Rescue Service to promote a message about safe and responsible use of rural areas. Steve Hussey from Devon Wildlife Trust said: 'Wild fires can be devastating for wildlife, as well as potentially dangerous for people and damaging to farmland. Heathlands, with their coverings of dry gorse and grass, are particularly vulnerable when the weather remains hot for several weeks. At present many heathlands are in 'tinder-box' condition.' Steve continued: 'Fires can quickly spread and overwhelm sites, leaving a trail of destruction in their wake. They are especially threatening to the region's precious heathlands and their wildlife. This is a habitat which has declined by more than 80% in the last 200 years. The few remaining heaths are key places for rare wildlife which includes Dartford warblers, common lizards and adders.' Devon Wildlife Trust is asking people to take special care on all its 48 nature reserves but especially on its heathland sites which include Chudleigh Knighton Heath and Bovey Heathfield nature reserves near Bovey Tracey, and Venn Ottery and Bystock nature reserves in East Devon. The charity is now working with Devon & Somerset Fire & Rescue Service to promote a message which combines responsible use of the countryside with vigilance. Paul Slaven of Devon & Somerset Fire & Rescue Service said: 'We want to remind people to be mindful of the impact and damage that wild fires have on the environment. These fires also a have a further impact, tying up valuable fire resources for some time.' The fire service is advising people to be vigilant in rural areas and follow this simple advice:
* extinguish cigarettes and other smoking materials properly;
* never throw cigarette ends out of car windows;

* don't leave bottles or glass in the countryside - sunlight shining through glass can start fires; take them home or put them in a waste or recycling bin;
* avoid using open fires (including barbeques) in the countryside;

* if you see a fire in the countryside, report it immediately;
* don't attempt to tackle fires that can't be put out with a bucket of water - leave the area as quickly as possible and call 999.
Devon Wildlife Trust's Steve Hussey concluded: 'We are doing our bit to protect our wonderful countryside from the risk of fire. Our staff and volunteers are remaining vigilant, cutting fire breaks and ensuring that fire-beaters are in position. But with 48 nature reserves in Devon we have a lot of ground to cover. That's why the public's help is so important. What we're asking people to do is follow the good advice of the Devon & Somerset Fire & Rescue Service.' The appeal for vigilance comes after recent reports of wild fires in other parts of the country including East London, Essex and Kent. In 2011, a large wild fire also destroyed a third of Dorset Wildlife Trust's Upton Heath nature reserve near Wareham killing many rare plants and animals.

Thursday, 18 July 2013

Hot enough to put the washing out. Fold and remove after use!!

Heard a constant cheep, cheep this morning as I was making the coffee. Looked out the window and thought I'm sure I'd brought all the washing in, then realised all was not quite as it seems. This little fella had just fledged and he stayed, cheeping away for 15 minutes. I was beginning to think he was stuck, as I believe they can't fly when they first leave the nest but decided not to assist. Sure enough he eventually (with encouragement from Dad) flitted back into the shade under the Apple tree.The garden birds have been busy since February when nest-building started. I saw my first blackbird fledgling back in the beginning of June so it is easy to think that the breeding season is over when in fact all the birds are back in the nest with another brood. So spare a thought for our little feathered friends, especially in this hot weather, hold back on the hedge trimming, leave a long grassy border round the lawn and leave out lots of  water. I have been watching the Blackbirds in my garden splashing around in a large shallow, tin-foil plate, a successful makeshift bird bath. I put it in the shade beside a bush so they could "wash and go". I have watched as they lazed, feathers akimbo, in the sun and while they had fun tossing a pile of grass I'd left after mowing the lawn, presumably they were searching for insects. All in all wildlife love it when we aren't too tidy.
Spare a thought for wildlife as the Southwest Sizzles - Read all about Devon Wildlife Trust's 6 Point Plan 
It is against the law to knowingly disturb or destroy a nest. For advice on wild birds and the law check out the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

'Spare a thought for wildlife as South West sizzles'

As the region enters the third week of what is turning out to be a real 'barbeque summer', a leading local wildlife charity is asking people to spare a thought, and a little time, to help nature handle the heat. While news that the sun is here to stay may bring a smile to the tanned faces of the South West's holidaymakers, hoteliers and ice cream sellers, Devon Wildlife Trust is asking us to take a few simple, practical steps which may make all the difference in the struggle for survival of the animals that inhabit our gardens. Speaking for Devon Wildlife Trust, Steve Hussey, predicted some losers in the coming weeks if the hot and dry weather persisted: 'Hot weather can place wildlife under stress. The yellow stems of dry grasses provide fewer calories to grazing animals. The heads of wildflowers go over the top more rapidly denying nectar-seeking insects a food source. Worms bury themselves deep in the soil, beyond the reach of birds. Oxygen levels in rivers and streams drop as their levels fall. These and many other side-effects of the sizzling weather can have a harmful impact on our wonderful wildlife.' Steve continued: 'The effects of this long dry-spell will compound the stresses already placed on our wildlife by what was a very cold spring. That's why it is important that we all think about how we can lend the animals in our gardens a helping hand.' Now Devon Wildlife Trust has put together a six-point plan designed to do just this. It provides easy things that people can do on their own patch to help wildlife:
1) Make available constant and fresh sources of water in your garden. Leave the water at different heights - off the ground in bird baths and in saucers at ground level - to cater for birds and small mammals. Keep water sources topped up throughout the day - evaporation will see them empty quickly. Do a final top up at dusk to provide water for nocturnal animals such as hedgehogs.
2) Leave out windfall or over-ripe fruit. The high energy and water content of apples and soft fruits will prove very popular will garden birds, mammals and insects.
3) Let your grass grow. Frequent cutting will increase evaporation rates from grass stems. Leaving it long will provide higher calorific content for grazing animals to munch on and offer a place in the shade for mini-beasts.
4) Falling water levels in ponds are not necessarily a concern. But dried out ponds can have an impact on aquatic wildlife ranging from dragonfly larvae through to frogs. You can top up your pond, but only use rainwater and not tap-water. This will also save you money!
5) Leave trimming hedges for a few more weeks. Garden hedges, shrubs and untidy corners are great hiding places for garden birds and insects. A hedge's dense foliage will offer deep green shade from the powerful sun and give protection from predators.
 6) Finally, plan ahead by planting some drought-tolerant species of plants such as rosemary, thyme, sage and lavender. The long blooming and nectar-rich flowers of these plants will attract bumblebees, moths and butterflies in coming years.
 Devon Wildlife Trust believes that if people follow this six-point plan then the South West's garden wildlife will be in a better place to cope with what promises to be a long, hot summer. However, the charity's Steve Hussey was keen to stress there were positives to the sizzling summer: 'One benefit of this long, hot summer weather is that it offers a real encouragement to us all to get out and enjoy our region's wonderful wildlife. And if you find the prospect of venturing out potentially all too hot and bothering, then nature has conveniently provided a series of beautiful places for you to cool off in. From snorkelling and rockpooling in the seas around our coast, through paddling in a moorland stream, to walking in the dappled shade of an oak woodland - it's at times like this that we really begin to appreciate what nature does for us!'
Photo 'Keep your garden's bird bath topped up during the sizzling summer weather. Copyright Tom Marshall'

BioBonanza for B10 on Northam Burrows

The Northam Burrows Team are running a BioBonanza for B10, celebrating ten years of North Devon’s Biosphere Reserve. on Tuesday 27 August 2013 9am – 4pm at Northam Burrows Visitor Centre, Westward Ho! This will be a fun and fact filled day on this special, protected area of North Devon’s Biosphere Reserve. Activities will take place in the fabulous inflatable North Devon Biosphere dome and out on the Burrows:
  • Bird Walk and Moth Trapping (9.00am-11.00am) 
  • Flower Trail (11.00am-1pm) 
  • Arts and Crafts (12.00pm-4.00pm) 
  • Rockpooling (2pm-4pm) Meet at the Westward Ho! Slipway
In the Northam Burrows Visitor Centre you will be able to add your chosen words to the B10 word cloud and there will be an opportunity to enter the B10 prize draw with lots of lovely prizes donated by local Biosphere supporters including; a wildlife cruise on the Ilfracombe Princess and a trip to Lundy on the MS Oldenburg.

Photos: Inflatable North Devon Biosphere Dome copyright North Devon Biosphere Reserve
Northam Burrows B10 BioBonanza Tuesday 27 August 2013 9am – 4pm
Northam Burrows Visitor Centre, Westward Ho! North Devon

Monday, 8 July 2013

North Devon's nature lands half million pound boost.....

Wildlife havens across north Devon will see the benefit of new funding secured by a leading local charity. Devon Wildlife Trust has secured half a million pounds to help its work for the future of some of the region's most valuable natural habitats. The funding from Biffa Award's Flagship Scheme, which will be paid over three years, is set to fund the charity's Working Wetlands project in its work to restore, re-create and re-connect the precious Culm grasslands of north Devon. The money was won under fierce competition as Biffa Award's Flagship Scheme funds only two, regionally significant projects each year throughout the whole of the UK. Devon Wildlife Trust's Land Manager, Matt Boydell, expressed his delight at the news: 'We have a track-record of working in north Devon's wildlife-rich Culm grasslands which stretches back more than 20 years. This funding will help us build on this. Our targets are ambitious: we plan to restore 780 hectares of grassland to make it better for wildlife including species such as the marsh fritillary butterfly and the lesser butterfly orchid. We plan to re-create more than 60 hectares of wildlife-rich grassland in places where it is now absent. We'll also be restoring more than a mile of Devon's hedges.' The funding is also allowing Devon Wildlife Trust to 're-wet' 400 metres of the historic Bude Canal at its Dunsdon and Vealand nature reserves, near Holsworthy. The canal's new water-bodies will then act as a vital wildlife resource for dragonflies, frogs, toads and grass snakes. Matt added: 'The funding is allowing us to do work for wildlife which would otherwise have remained beyond our reach. It will give us the opportunity to work with local volunteers, with local farmers and land managers, both on our nature reserves and across the wider north Devon countryside. It's very exciting news for us and for north Devon's natural environment.' Gillian French, Biffa Award Programme Manager, said: 'The Biffa Award Flagship Scheme is a unique opportunity for regionally significant projects to win vital funding. With only two Flagship grants available each year, competition is fierce. We look for truly inspired projects which aim to have a real and lasting impact, and which are either culturally pioneering, or, as in this case, are aiming to make significant progress for biodiversity. Devon Wildlife Trust's Working Wetlands project will play a vital role in recreating and protecting native Culm grassland and rare associated species in Devon, and we are delighted to help it come to life through the Biffa Award Flagship Scheme.'  
Marsh Fritillary Butterfly - photo copyright Chris Root

Monday, 1 July 2013

B10 Event: Torrington Commons Activity Weekend 6/7 July

Torrington Conservators are contributing to the B10 celebrations, marking ten years of North Devon’s Biosphere Reserve, with a weekend of fun and fact filled activites. The event will be held on Torrington Commons on Saturday 6 and Sunday 7 July 2013 from 11 am to 3 pm

Activities included will be:
  • Pond dipping
  • Craft activities – including paper making and paper craft
  • Leaf and flower identification quizzes – with £10 vouchers as prizes!
A chance to enter the B10 prize draw – a variety of fab prizes including:
  • A trip to Lundy,
  • Organic veg box from Marshford Organics,
  • A potters wheel experience from Tarka Pottery in Little Torrington and much more.
Matt Edworthy from the Biosphere Team will be there in the North Devon Biosphere inflatable dome, to let you know more about what the Biosphere Reserve is and does. The Torrington Conservators will be on hand all weekend to tell you all about the history and importance of Torrington Commons. This is a great opportunity to find out what treasures your local environment holds!
Torrington Commons Activity Weekend 6th and 7th July