News archive

March 2017

Thursday, 23 March 2017

Tern Island (Church Norton) project this spring

Tern Island (Church Norton) project this spring

There was a super turn out of volunteers to help clear Tern Island of weeds. Approximately 20 helpers, some coming as far as London and Kent, along with a few from Chichester RSPB, turned up on a very blustery day with the odd shower of rain coming and going.

The work party, led by Jan from the RSPB centre at the Ferry Pool, made their way along the shingle spit to a point where the water was supposed to be low enough so that we could cross the channel wearing wellington boots. For some reason the water levels were higher than expected. This was thought to be something to do with the way the harbour entrance has been changing lately thus causing the outflow to slow down. Luckily one observant volunteer, who had the shortest pair of wellingtons, spotted a different route which enabled us to cross over onto the mud flats. From here it was a slippery hike, supporting ourselves with garden forks, to the island itself.

Once there the work parties aim was to clear the breeding area of various weeds and leave a clean graveled area where the returning Terns prefer to breed. Only the breeding spot is cleared, the rest of the island is left with low lying grass / weeds to allow cover for the chicks to avoid predation from the larger gulls once they have hatched.

The volunteers worked strenuously for a couple of hours and then beat a retreat to avoid getting stranded with the turn of the tide. You can see from the attached photograph the result of the weed clearance and how hard everyone worked. Hopefully the last of the weeds will be cleared when the final work party takes place in a couple of weeks time.

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Eastbourne AND Brighton Downs - saved!

Eastbourne AND Brighton Downs - saved!

By Phil Belden

Conservation Advisor to the Sussex Wildlife Trust

A major relief and heartfelt thanks to you all for the hard work put in to express your love of our downland and showing your grave concern. At the beginning of March, Eastbourne Borough Council took the bold step to reverse its decision, in response to the huge public outcry and agreed not to sell the Eastbourne Downs (well of it, some 3,000 acres).

Now, Brighton & Hove City Council (BHCC) has agreed not to sell the two key sites that remained on its disposals list, the internationally rare chalk grassland escarpment at Plumpton and the foot-slope field of the Devil's Dyke estate at Poynings.

On 21st March, BHCC issued this Interim statement from its cross-party Downland Policy Review Panel (with the full recommendation to go to its Policy, Resources & Growth Committee on 4 May 2017):

"The council has been considering the sale of two small downland sites at Poynings and Plumpton ... previously approved by committee in 2014 and 2016 ... After reviewing the situation, a cross party Policy Review Panel has taken the view that the sites at Poynings and Plumpton should not be sold at this time."

"The panel's recommendation was made after councillors looked at the council's approach to the Downland Asset Management Policy and heard evidence from expert witnesses. The sale of the sites was due to generate an estimated £360,000 and if approved at committee would result in a shortfall of the projected budget ... As part of the process, the panel looked at the funding strategy for the Stanmer Park Restoration Project because the income from the sale of the sites was previously linked to securing the £3.9m Heritage Lottery Fund awarded to this innovative renovation. The panel's view was that the fundraising strategy for the Stanmer Project is currently anticipated to over-achieve its target, allowing the plans to now continue without the need to sell the two sites."

The Policy Review Panel will still meet and has invited the Sussex Wildlife Trust to attend - Tony Whitbread our Chief Executive has accepted.

When the South Downs National Park was progressing towards designation the phrase was coined "The People's Park". The recent Brighton and Eastbourne campaigns have re-affirmed this accolade and re-awoken in our elected representatives' minds the passion people have for protecting our beloved South Downs.

This is a BIG THANKS to everyone - without your actions we would have certainly lost these valuable assets. Now the constructive work with our local councils begins, to secure the long-term public benefits from these public assets: for our wildlife, cultural heritage, drinking water supply, public access, quality of life ... and more.

Thursday, 9 March 2017

Adult female blackbird on garden lawn

Birdwatching  good for your well-being!

The study, which surveyed mental health in over 270 people from different ages, incomes and ethnicities, also found that those who spent less time out of doors than usual in the previous week were more likely to report they were anxious or depressed.

After conducting extensive surveys of the number of birds in the morning and afternoon in Milton Keynes, Bedford and Luton, the study found that lower levels of depression, anxiety and stress were associated with the number of birds people could see in the afternoon. The academics studied afternoon bird numbers  which tend to be lower than birds generally seen in the morning  because they are more in keeping with the number of birds that people are likely to see in their neighbourhood on a daily basis.

Common species such as Blackbird, Robin, Blue Tit and various corvids were seen during the study, but it was the number of individual birds (rather than species) seen that was linked to mental health quality. Previous studies have found that the ability of most people to identify different species is low, suggesting that for most people it is interacting with birds that provides well-being, rather than particular species.

University of Exeter research fellow Dr Daniel Cox, who led the study, said: "This study starts to unpick the role that some key components of nature play for our mental well-being.

"Birds around the home, and nature in general, show great promise in preventative health care, making cities healthier, happier places to live."

The positive association between birds, shrubs and trees and better mental health applied, even after controlling for variation in neighbourhood deprivation, household income, age and a wide range of other socio-demographic factors.

Recent research by Dr Cox and Professor Kevin Gaston, who are based at the Environmental Sustainability Institute at the Penryn Campus at the University of Exeter, found that watching birds makes people feel relaxed and connected to nature.

Thursday, 2 March 2017

Curlew standing on weed, County Cork, Ireland

Curlews and godwits - the vanishing tribe

Curlew, with their characteristic downward-curved bill and call evoking the wild British countryside, is a unique and much loved species. But these calls may not be echoing across our skies forever, and the problem is in no way confined to our shores. Seven out of the 13 wader species in the Numeniini (curlew and godwit) tribe are Near Threatened, Globally Threatened or Critically Endangered. This tribe's ground-nesting habits (making them susceptible to predation), and long, perilous migrations across the globe leave them especially vulnerable. Numeniini also tend to favour specialist habitats, making them likely to decline further as these habitats disappear. New collaborative research led by the BTO identifies the main reasons for these declines and suggests conservation measures that could be implemented to halt them.
The study synthesised expert knowledge to determine the severity of various threats both in the breeding and non-breeding sites of the birds across all the major global flyways. Threats differed between the breeding sites and non-breeding sites, and also between different populations of the same species across the globe. This is most likely due to the fact that populations are scattered across continents, with large distances between breeding and non-breeding sites meaning that the habitats in these areas and the issues affecting them can be very different. The factor with the greatest impact on population was the increase of large-scale development on important habitats, particularly in East Asia, Europe and the Americas, but climate change, hunting, pollution and the rise of intensive agriculture may also contribute to the decline. Numeniini populations face the greatest number of non-breeding threats in the East Asian-Australasian Flyway, especially those associated with coastal reclamation. Threats on the breeding grounds were greatest in Central and Atlantic Americas, East Atlantic and West Asian flyways. The planet's growing human population means many of these threats have noticeably increased in scale and severity in recent years.

The authors identified three three priority actions associated with monitoring and research: monitoring breeding population trends, deploying tracking technologies to identify migratory connectivity, and monitoring land-cover change across breeding and non-breeding areas. Two further priority actions focused on conservation and policy responses: identifying and effectively protecting key non-breeding sites across all flyways (particularly in the East Asian- Australasian Flyway), and implementing successful conservation interventions at a sufficient scale across human-dominated landscapes for species' recovery to be achieved. If implemented urgently, these measures in combination could to alter the current population declines of many Numeniini species and provide a template for the conservation of other groups of threatened species. While it is essential to strike a balance between people's economic needs and those of Numeniini, the future of the tribe depends on an international effort to invest in research, monitoring and targetted conservation action.