Dreaming of Butterflies

So many butterflies at Queendown Warren in Kent on a warm Bank Holiday Monday, they spun before my eyes as I fell asleep.

marjoren and wild flowers at Queendown Warren

Marjoram, knapweed and harebells at Queensdown Warren. A good source of nectar for butterflies

 

Chalkhill blue

Chalkhill Blue

Brown Argus Queensdown Warren

Hundreds of Brown Argus were laying eggs yesterday

silver

Silver spotted skippers were harder to spot but this one was obliging.

adonis blue butterfly

The eye popping Adonis Blue is easier to see.

small copper on marjoram

My favourite butterfly, a Small Copper, the only one I have seen this year.

Autumn ladies tresses Queendown Warren

It is easy to miss this tiny orchid while enjoying the butterflies but Autumn Ladies Tresses is one of the speciality plants of the site.

Salt Festival, Folkestone

salt festivalThe Salt Festival is a quirky new festival about the sea and the environment taking place in Folkestone, Kent between the 29th September and the 2nd October. I am delighted to be part of a fascinating programme of walks and talks, boat trips and sea swims. It is frankly the festival I would pull together if only I were that enterprising.

Join me on the 30th September for a walk from the Martello Tower on the cliffs to discover the wild side of Folkestone which begins at 2.30pm. In the evening I am on stage with Jay Griffiths, author of Wild, an elemental journey, to discuss the sea as a frontier.

Take a look at the Quarterhouse website for more information on the fantastic events taking place over the four days.

Around the corner and down the road.

top of Darland Banks

Entering Darland Banks,  Kent

A short hop from the local shopping centre is the fabulous Kent Wildlife Trust site of Darland Banks. A great place for orchids and butterflies, including the Adonis blue. I gave up trying to get a photo of one but did manage to snap these other beauties.

 

bee and burnet on knapweed.jpg

Bee and Burnet Moth

common blue.jpg

Common blue

brimstone.jpg

Brimstone feeding on scabious

unknown moth.jpg

Not as colourful but still beautiful, a little moth

 

 

 

 

 

Natural England on its knees

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copyright MLP

Natural England, English Nature and it’s many predecessors was once a organisation you would feel proud to work for. I remember feeling that only those at the top of their game would be likely to get work with them.

Then things changed, whispers within the conservation sector grew that Natural England were increasingly employing people who did not have the character to really make a stand for nature. I attended meetings with Natural England staff where people proposed terrible developments to wildlife rich areas and wondered why I was the only one making a fuss. Now I know. It was the beginning of the end for what was once a highly respected organisation that were the last line of defence against all of those who would seek to destroy our countryside.

In the last few years everyone has known that Natural England is on its knees. It still employs a few people of excellence but they are increasingly demoralised. It’s local offices are a ghost town, it’s work is more often than not farmed out to others.

An article in today’s Guardian sounds the last bell. Natural England’s budget is to be cut, it’s staff reduced further, it’s resolve to take people to court weakened, it willingness to be paid for by developers increased. Now we have an organisation  who is happy to turn a blind eye to outrageous contraventions of European law such as the peat bog burning at Walshaw Moor in which they dropped out of a case after the landowner spoke to a government minister. Now we have what the government wants, no one to stand in their way while they plough, burn and build over our SSSI’s and National Parks.

Who is there to stand up for nature now?

Read The Guardian article here.

 

A Year in the Life of an Environmental Consultant – July 2016

July 2016 – Working in partnership

Carol and Sue Buckingham examine divided sedge

Carol and Sue Buckingham examine divided sedge

July began with an excellent day of survey work alongside County Recorder, Sue Buckingham on the Ash Levels, to the East of Canterbury in Kent. The Ash Level Feed Dyke is one of the most botanically rich drainage dykes managed by the River Stour Internal Drainage Board and therefore it is important to get management right to ensure that rare plants can flourish. Carol Donaldson surveyed the watercourse in 2010 and was keen to return to see how changes in management had affected the channel. Sue’s expert knowledge helped to identify a range of uncommon plants such as divided sedge, rootless duckweed and tubular water dropwort.

tubular water dropwort

Carol and Sue Buckingham examine divided sedge

Carol J Donaldson Associates have worked hard to forge links with other conservation organisations and submit all records to the British Trust for Ornithology and Kent and Medway Biological Record Centre. “Working with Sue Buckingham and Kent Field Club is good for everyone.” said Carol. “The Internal Drainage Board benefit from specialist recording skills and the recorders get contact with landowners and access to areas of land away from public rights of way.” This mutually beneficial partnership allowed Kent Field Club to survey another IDB channel in July and discover several plants of tufted sedge (Carex elata) which had not previously been recorded in this area.

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

bird ringer and kestrel copyright Ralph Connolly

Another mutually beneficial partnership has been formed with Kentish Stour Countryside Partnership. We volunteered our time in July to help with the barn owl ringing programme , visiting some of the many boxes installed by the partnership across East Kent. The day provided an insight into the life and death game sometimes played out unseen. We were amazed to discover two barn owls feeding on the remains of recently predated kestrel chicks. It was an extraordinary example of the food chain in action. Adult kestrels are feisty birds and the predated chicks were almost full grown. We can only speculate that this was a chance encounter where two barn owls had investigated the box and happened upon the chicks while the parent was away hunting.

presentation for Rhino Plant

Finally this month we conducted a training day for Rhino Plant operators on behalf of the River Stour Internal Drainage Board. The day was designed to give the operators who manage the drainage channels an insight into the survey work conducted on the marshes and an understanding of why decisions are made to change the way the ditches are cut and de-silted. It was an opportunity for both sides to learn about each others roles in maintaining the channels and work together towards getting a good balance between the needs of drainage and the needs of wildlife

A Year in the Life of an Environmental Consultant – June 2016

June 2016 – And the rain just kept on falling

surveying birds on Stoke Marshes during a break in the weather

surveying birds on Stoke Marshes during a break in the weather

In June it felt as if the rain would never stop as we battled to complete this year’s breeding wader survey, dodging showers and driving vehicles across sodden marshland fields.

The weather has hampered efforts to create ideal conditions for birds such as lapwing. A warm winter saw grass continue to grow and landowners struggle to create the short sward with tussocks that encourages birds to breed, This coupled with a cold early spring and rain late in the breeding season has meant that it has been a difficult year for wet grassland birds. Despite all of this, numbers of fledged birds were up on last year and it was fantastic to see that many farmers with breeding wader environmental stewardship options had taken on board the advice given during the autumn and that overall land was in better condition.

Rills such as this one near Conyer provide good habitat for breeding waders

Rills such as this one near Conyer provide good habitat for breeding waders

A new North Kent Marshes Capital Grants Scheme, administered by Kent Wildlife Trust, is a welcome investment and should help farmers have better control of water and the opportunity to create new scrapes and rills which will encourage more birds to breed. The RSPB, who oversee this work in partnership with Natural England, are pleased with the progress that has been made so far and we all look forward to seeing numbers of fledged chicks increase next season.

In June we were delighted to receive the news that the River Stour (Kent) Internal Drainage Board had voted to continued to work with Carol J Donaldson Associates and implement a plan of future work which we proposed to the board last year. This expanded programme will see us continue to survey drainage ditches across the catchment and advise on management but additionally will allow us to work with farmers to tackle problems such as diffuse pollution and soil run off as well as work alongside IDB staff to create a programme of enhancements to channels which will improve their value for wildlife and reduce flood risk.

We will also be working closely with the Environment Agency on joint initiatives to manage and enhance main river channels. To begin this work we undertook a water vole survey on the Sarre Penn, a small channel near Chislet outside of Canterbury. Following new guidelines issued by Natural England for water vole displacement we will return to this channel later in the year to conduct a second survey before deciding on appropriate enhancements.

water vole surveys are best conducted from within the channel.

water vole surveys are best conducted from within the channel.