Connecting for Nature

Keeping Yorkshire folk in touch with their local biodiversity news


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Climate Change Woodland Management Guidance

daylight forest nature park

Photo by Valiphotos on Pexels.com

I’ve just picked up on a new guidance document published this month from DEFRA / Forestry England. It provides some clear and in some cases shocking info on the impacts of projected climate change on England’s forests and woodlands.

Whether your interest is in protecting ancient native woodlands, managing existing woodlands or planting new woodlands and plantation forests, there are some stark messages in here.

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/managing-englands-woodlands-in-a-climate-emergency

I’ve had a skim. There are some useful summary infographics and it’s quite readable and quite succinct (16pages). I’d urge you to take a look at it yourself, but some take-home messages I’ve pulled from it if you are in a hurry –

  • Foresters and woodland managers have to think on long timescales.
  • Climate change is here, it’s real and will continue happening for decades, however much action governments take to respond to the climate emergency.
  • Projected climate change will exceed capacity for forests to naturally change / species to migrate, so human intervention is required to help them adapt.
  • We should expect wetter, milder winters, longer growing seasons, warmer, drier summers, more drought, more extreme rainfall events.
  • Wet places could get wetter, dry places drier.
  • This will affect tree establishment, regeneration and even cause loss of some mature tree stock.
  • Think about diversity of new woodland plantings, both in species composition and genetic diversity.
  • Consider sourcing some stock from 2-5 degrees latitude south to include in planting.
  • Think about more autumn / early winter planting to avoid establishment problems in spring droughts.

You may find some other interesting details in the guidance, particularly some specifics of tree species. It also mentions the added uncertainties of tree diseases and mortality and the the increasing importance of biosecurity for tree health.

On a local basis I realise that I’ve already been a party to discussions about species composition of new woodland plantings in relation to ash dieback and in Scarborough Borough we are leaving out ash from our new tree planting mixes, and having to speculate as to the future canopy dominant species – Oak? Sycamore? Hornbeam?

We maybe need to think much more, however, about the bio-geography of woodlands in the face of climatic change and in the provenance of our tree stock as we embark on the inevitable flurry of enthusiasm for planting trees. Others have also mentioned the concern about valuable grassland habitats being lost to over-zealous new woodland planting too and that’s a subject I may return to another time.


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Greening the Cinder Track with Betty’s

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Cinders Volunteers hard at work tree planting north of Bent Rigg Lane, autumn 2018.

Today marks the official start date for a modest conservation enhancement project led by Whitby Naturalists Club to Green the Cinder Track. The club successfully applied to the ‘Trees for Life’ fund run by Betty’s (of tea rooms fame in York, Harrogate and Ilkley.) Betty’s, through their charitable trust the Three Ridings Foundation seek to support small and medium community-led projects addressing conservation, habitat and environmental criteria. More info on the Betty’s Trees for Life grants, including how you can apply are available on my updated CFN blog post here (and spoiler alert – its not just tree planting but a range of habitat enhancements are eligible.)

Meanwhile, here is some more detail on the Greening the Cinder Track project – due to be completed end of March 2020. The info below is taken from the grant application by Whitby Nats. I suppose if you are thinking of applying for next year, (by 25th Nov 2019 or by June 2020) this might be helpful as exemplar of a successful application, so I’ve reproduced it pretty much as is, apart from inserting a few handy hyperlinks to other blog posts and external links.

 

GREENING THE CINDER TRACK

What needs will your project address and what opportunities for improvement will your project create?

The Cinder Track is an old railway line, now a traffic-free route spanning 20 miles between Whitby and Scarborough. It is held in great affection by local people, and visitors from all over the country, as proved by the response to a recent plan to change the ethos of the trail. Maintenance of the track has been neglected over recent years, and a revised restoration plan has now been agreed to improve surface, drainage and visitor facilities, but there are no funds currently available to implement the plan. The track forms an important wildlife corridor, adding to the enjoyment of the many track users. Although there is some tree cover, recent surveys have shown there is little diversity, with willow and hawthorn the only species on some stretches. This project aims to improve the ecological value of the Cinder Track, by planting species particularly beneficial to wildlife at carefully chosen sites, providing habitat connectivity. Butterflies are of special interest, and foodplants for larvae of brimstone, white letter hairstreak, purple hairstreak and holly blue will take priority. Butterfly Conservation Yorkshire has already supported buckthorn planting at one site on the track; this project will provide a link to the brimstone breeding area in Scarborough. Nectar sources such as crab apple and wild cherry will also be planted. Other pollinators, birds and bats will also benefit. The track goes through the area of interest to the Yorkshire Turtle Dove Project, and will contribute to their effort to provide good Turtle Dove habitat.

 

How will you spend this grant to address the need and make the improvements outlined above?

The trees are to be planted on land owned by SBC, who have given their approval and permission. The National Park ecologist with responsibility for the Cinder Track has also approved the project. We will purchase the trees to be planted as bare-root ‘whips’ in winter, thus the season proposed for planting is Oct 2019 – Mar 2020. The trees will also need protection, due to the coastal location which can be exposed and the risk of browsing by deer and rabbits. We propose stakes and tree tubes as these are more robust. Planting will be done by a newly formed group of conservation volunteers, who will also be able to remove the tubes in a few years, when the trees outgrow them. Our species list leads with Alder Buckthorn, the principal foodplant of the Brimstone butterfly, wych elm for White-Letter Hairstreaks, oaks for Purple Hairsteaks and holly for Holly Blue. Nectar trees may include crab apple, wild cherry, field maple and dog rose. All are native species, and will be sourced locally. Trees will be grouped, ensuring landscape views are not impeded, sunshine is not excluded and rich flora grassland sites will be avoided. Since the project work will be done by an existing conservation volunteer group, we do not need to purchase tools, work gloves etc and can spend all of the grant on the trees and their protection, maximizing biodiversity benefits for the outlay.

 

What positive changes would this grant make to your local environment or the people that live in your local area?

The Cinder Track is already a valuable wildlife corridor between Scarborough and Whitby. No habitat management or improvement had been done for many years, and many of the self seeded willows that grow along the track are reaching the end of their life. The trees planted by this project will improve biodiversity, and ensure there is succession of tree cover. Selecting butterfly larvae foodplants will increase the populations of species of butterfly scarce in this part of Yorkshire, while the nectar sources will benefit other insects, and hence birds and bats. Breeding bird populations should increase with more food and nesting habitat, including turtle doves, known to breed close to the track. The area along the coast is important for providing shelter and food for migrating birds in autumn, and the tree species chosen will increase migrant bird cover, with fruits providing food. Many track users appreciate wildlife. The Cinder Track is used by people of all ages and all abilities, from local towns and villages and from all parts of the UK and overseas, travelling on foot, in pushchairs, on bicycles, in wheelchairs or on horseback. Wildlife sightings will improve their experience of using the track. There will also be scope for education visits from local and visiting school groups.

 

How do you see this project/activity progressing after this funding comes to an end or do you see this as a one off project/activity (please tell us how the project will be maintained if necessary)?

 

The Cinder Track is a permissive bridleway in the ownership of Scarborough Borough Council. A new group of conservation volunteers called ‘The Cinders’ was formed in autumn 2018 by a partnership between Scarborough Borough Council and North York Moors National Park volunteers service. About half the group members are also members of Whitby Naturalists Club. This group has begun meeting monthly to carry out habitat enhancement and management tasks along the length of the old railway. As such they are actively seeking worthwhile tasks to engage in. The referee for this Project bid is the Biodiversity Officer at Scarborough Borough Council and coordinates the programme for The Cinders. He is enthusiastic for The Cinders volunteers to carry out the planting work as well as any aftercare such as strimming and weeding around the trees, checking tree tubes and replacing any losses. The project and the volunteer tasks to plant and care for these trees will be featured in the local biodiversity blog, Connecting for Nature. Members of Whitby Naturalists will monitor butterflies and other wildlife along the Cinder Track, to observe the effect of the project. In future, further connectivity of habitat to the Redcar and Cleveland Coastal Pollination Corridor Project may be undertaken.


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Brompton Wildlife Day 2019

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On Saturday 21st September families are welcomed in Brompton-by-Sawdon, Scarborough from 1-4pm for the second ever village ‘Wildlife Day’, a free event held to raise awareness of important wildlife species in the village and to raise funds for their conservation. The first such event took place in 2018 and was deemed a great success, with guest speakers, wildlife activities and themed refreshments available in the village hall. Enjoy an afternoon with friends & family and learn about Water Voles, Turtle doves, freshwater invertebrates and a host of other cool wildlife to be found in the parish of Brompton. Local wildlife groups will be in attendance to share their knowledge of the natural world. The event promises to be a fantastic community afternoon with the main hub of the event in the village hall, Brompton, opposite the primary school.

Further details from Parish Councillor and event organiser Alison Tubbs 07818 554430


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Pollinator Champions

cropped-img_5763.jpgIf your local authority or community group has done something to help protect pollinators, we want to hear about it!

Your project does not have to be dependent upon a large financial investment; instead it must simply bring improvement to the site, either through improving habitats and / or improving the user’s experience of the site.

The following criteria will be considered:

  • Dedication to supporting pollinators
  • Innovation and creativity
  • Promotion to others / awareness raising of Bees’ Needs
  • Evidence of beneficial impact to pollinators

You can nominate your local authority or community group for a Year of Green Action Bees’ Needs Champions Award by downloading and filling in this application form and sending it to greenflagawards@keepbritaintidy.org

The closing date for nominations is Thursday 26th September 2019.

 

(This post is shared from the Association for Local Government Ecologists forum.)


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Transform grants – but be quick about it

Malton station platformAre you looking for funding for a community environmental project, especially one focussing on habitats, species, reducing carbon emissions etc? Are you within 10miles of a Transpennine Express train route or station? Here is a quick heads up for ‘Transform Grants’ – the Transpennine Express Community and Environmental Grants. These come around every year it seems and always have a very short window for applications. They can grant up to £5,000 for a stand alone project. You have to get your skates on though it either closes 30th Aug or 27th Sept, depending how you read their guidance! (The website headlines imply deadline up to 27th Sept. but the guidance doc when you get into it says midnight on 30th  August!)  Also, welcome to the video age! Shortlisted projects must prepare a 30sec video pitch for the final selection process.

https://www.tpexpress.co.uk/about-us/community/transform-grants 

Some of the key guidelines lifted from the guidance doc:

To be eligible to apply for a Transform grant, organisations must be a: • Charity registered with the Charity Commission for England and Wales or the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator (OSCR) • Community Interest Company (CIC) registered in the UK with the Office of the Regulator of Community Interest Companies • Community Rail Partnership(CRP) • School, Parent/Teacherassociation or educational establishment.

To be eligible to apply for a Transform grant, proposed projects must be: • Located within 10 miles of any line of route served by TransPennine Express train services. A map of our network and services can be found on page 6 • New activity, above and beyond the day to day operations of the organisation. Grants cannot be utilised to cover or contribute to overheads/running costs (e.g. rent, transport) or act as a contribution to existing/larger projects. • Completed no later than 31st March 2021.

Unfortunately, we are unable to support any projects or organisation which: • Are associated with or promote a specific political party, or demonstrate a political bias • Are associated with or promote a specific religion or requires beneficiaries to be of a specific faith, convert to that faith or accept information or teaching about that faith as a condition of taking part in or benefitting from programmes and or services. • Could be deemed to have a controversial or negative impact on the reputation of FirstGroup PLC or TransPennineExpress.


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Don’t get a ticking off…

20190725_105121Following a couple of recent incidents in North Yorkshire forest district where individuals have potentially contracted Lyme disease from a tick bite, this is a timely reminder to read up on the advice about precautions against ticks for those spending any amount of time among forest and grassland vegetation, especially if bare-legged.

Tick bites are not common and only a small proportion of bites are by ticks infected with the disease. Even then, if the animal is removed correctly within a few hours of attaching to feed it is unlikely to pass on the bacterium. If you are unlucky enough to be bitten by a tick, flu-like symptoms and tiredness are a warning sign to look out for. See a doctor asap if it develops a spreading circular red rash, often like a bullseye target.

Please don’t be alarmed but remember simple sensible precautions: Check and inspect for ticks at the end of a day spent in the field, consider using insect repellant and most effective of all wear long trousers and long sleeves, paying particular attention not to have exposed skin between your footwear and clothing. Two useful links are below.

https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/lyme-disease/

https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/ng95/chapter/recommendations

 


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Beavering away in Cropton

 

Beaver Cam stills_day

The Cropton Beavers have been regularly captured by the fixed wildlife cameras in their enclosure on Sutherland Beck

An exciting ‘Enclosed beaver release trial’ got underway in Cropton Forest in April. Forestry England received a licence from Natural England to release two Scottish beavers into an enclosure centred on Sutherland Beck in their forest estate at Cropton. It is hoped the trial will demonstrate whether dams built by beavers can form effective and self-sustaining natural flood management (NFM) structures and whether beavers will adopt and maintain man-made structures on our behalf.  .

There are several regions in Scotland where there are now well-established wild populations of Eurasian beaver  including the renowned Knapdale release trial site and on Tayside. The breeding pair of beavers for Cropton were captured and removed from an area in Scotland where they were unwelcome, they were kept at Flamingoland zoo whilst the necessary health checks took place. The five-year trial will be closely monitored and will contribute to the national debate on beaver reintroductions, such as those in Scotland and in Devon.

Cropton Beavers Dam

Forestry England Ecologist Cath checks out one of the small dams built by the beavers since their release – these are providing Natural Flood Management benefits on the stream catchment. Note the beaver-gnawed tree in the foreground.

Man-made Natural Flood Management features, (typified by structures referred to as ‘leaky debris dams’)  are already deployed by Forestry England but are costly to maintain as they degrade over time. Projects such as the now famous ‘Slowing the Flow’ Project have established the benefits of NFM approaches, but it is hoped to learn more about the capacity that beavers, often called nature’s engineers, have to create and maintain systems of wood dams on a catchment scale. The small valley in which the beavers are at work is securely fenced and hidden wildlife cameras donated by NatureSpy have been installed to monitor the animal’s activities. Already the cameras have captured exciting scenes of beavers felling small saplings and dam building and even of the kits (young beavers) which the pregnant female gave birth to. Do check out the video showing the Beaver kits as featured on the BBC News website.

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A nocturnal still image from one of the NatureSpy video cameras installed to monitor the Beavers and their activities.

The Forestry England trial in Cropton has taken extensive baseline ecology surveys using volunteer local naturalists studying everything from bats and birds to ferns and flies. It is hoped that the baseline surveys will enable the impact of the beavers on the sites biodiversity to be analysed,  further monitoring of these species will be carried out throughout the 5 year trial.

The Project is part funded by the North York Moors National Park, North Yorkshire County Council and Forest Holidays. There is more info on the Cropton Beavers trial here on the Forestry England website.  You may also enjoy this press coverage: Yorkshire Post article on the Cropton release. 

 

 

 

Cropton Sutherland Beck

Sutherland Beck in Cropton Forest is part of the Derwent catchment.

Cropton beaver dammed pond

Since release in April the Beavers have already created ponds by damming up the stream. Naturalists are monitoring the local environment to see what effect the animals’ activities have on biodiversity.