Not bad for an Octogenarian…

27 May

June article for the Cliffhanger.

The national treasure that is Sir David Attenborough has been very busy of late. Not only has he been ‘tweeting’ every day on Radio 4 (tweet of the day) with one bird being discussed every day for 2 minutes with some 265 episodes, he has just launched a major review of the state of our environment entitled State of Nature covering the UK and our overseas territories.

As you may expect, the report makes quite mixed reading with some birds, animals and plants doing well with others almost disappearing from our countryside. On the downside

  • Turtle Doves have declined by 93% since 1970
  • Hedgehogs have declined by around a third since the millennium
  • The small tortoiseshell butterfly has declined in abundance by 77%in the last ten years

And we have seen this in the village withy, for example, Hedgehogs being really quite scarce. One species of plant, the Corn Cleaver, used to occur in arable fields but efficient farming methods, including herbicides, mean this plant is only found in three locations in the UK.

It’s not all bad news and there are two great examples in the village. Around the village there seem to be increasing numbers of House Sparrows. They have declined by some 70% but around the High Street and nearby they do seem to be in greater numbers. This year, for the first time as far as I am aware, there is a colony of Starlings nesting in the Blackthorn on the Cliff. The noise from these gregarious birds is quite something when they fly in to feed their chicks.

We are also fortunate that some of the more cryptic species (I mean that they are hidden) seem to be holding their own. Slow Worms, for example, seem to be around the village in reasonable numbers. These legless lizards often occur in gardens and burrow into the soil in search of slugs and worms. They have a number of quite amazing characteristics – they give birth to live young, they can discard their tail if attacked and then grow a new one and can live up to 30 years in the wild. Their main predator are cats against which they have no defence. They can be seen in gardens and in grassy areas but can be very hard to spot The photo was taken on the Cliff in May this year and I have seen them on the steep parts of the Cliff.

Slow Worm on Sherston Cliff May 2013

Slow Worm on Sherston Cliff May 2013

 

Overall the State of Nature report makes quite difficult reading and it makes a very valid point that different parts of nature need different types of help. If, for example, we want to help Barn Owls we can put up more nesting boxes as the lack of suitable nesting sites can limit their ability to increase in numbers. Helping migrating birds or insects is much more complex as it may, for example, be really important to protect sites in west or North Africa where they stop over while migrating.

So what can you and I do to help? The first place to start is to get out and understand what we have around us. Join The Wiltshire Wildlife Trust or Butterfly Conservation or Buglife or the British Trust for Conservation Volunteers – they all offer ways of helping make a difference either through physical activities or more sedate one such as helping raise funds or helping in visitor centres.

We do have fantastic local wildlife which can be really quite surprising – just look for slugs mating at this time of year – quite amazing (if somewhat gross….)

 

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One Response to “Not bad for an Octogenarian…”

  1. churford June 1, 2013 at 4:20 pm #

    Hi, does State of Nature have anything to say about the strength of rook colonies?

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