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Making a Shrill Carder Bee Kazoo

You Will Need: scissors, a drinking straw (preferably biodegradable material), two small rubber bands and one larger, thicker one, plus two lollipop sticks. Pens for decoration - optional.

  1. cut 2 pieces of straw about 1 inch/2cm in length
  2. take the larger rubber band and put it around 1 lolly stick
  3. take the 2 pieces of straw and tuck one underneath the rubber band at one end - and lay one on top of the band at the other end. This can be a bit fiddly so hold tightly!
  4. lay the second lolly stick on top – this will help to keep all the bits together!
  5. secure the sticks with the small rubber bands, one at either end
  6. Now you're done – you can decorate the lolly sticks with pens, stickers etc..

Hold each end of the kazoo and put to your lips. Blow lightly to make a vibrating, buzzing sound – you can change the pitch by blowing more strongly or by moving the straws closer together.

 

Have fun!

 

Outdoor Studios

South-east artists for Back from the Brink.

 

 

 

 

Would you like to help these incredible species? There are numerous ways in which you can:

  • Why not volunteer for Back from the Brink? Check out our events page for opportunities near you.
  • Help us to spread the word of this species, and the others we will be helping over the next 3 years, by sharing our message across our Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube pages. Follow us: @naturebftb.
  • Finally - help support the work we do across England by donating. Our impact will be greater with your help.

 

 

2019 has been another busy year for Limestone’s Living Legacies so here’s a little look back over some of our highlights from this past year!

  • After trying and failing in 2018 to locate the Rock-rose Pot Beetle at its two known Gloucestershire sites, we finally found it on both sites in 2019. This has been possibly the most elusive of our rare species, but thanks to Liam from Buglife and some intensive days of surveying, he finally found it on both sites. A huge relief to know it still exists here and we’re now looking forward to returning in 2020 to see if we can find more.

 Andy Brown

  • Surveys for Cotswold Pennycress, one of our target plant species have also been successful this year. Having been known from 13 sites previously, our surveys with the help of Plantlife have added another three new sites to the list. Work to clear encroaching scrub from some of the key areas for this species has also taken place this year in the hope that this will help the plant to spread further.
  • We had a great day back in the summer with Kew Garden’s Millennium Seed Bank team collecting Pasqueflower seed. The Pasqueflower is known from a handful of sites in the Cotswolds but has seen declines in recent years due to lack of grazing. Although we have now got grazing back onto one known Pasqueflower site, we were also able to collect around 6000 seeds from one of the best sites in the county. These are now safely stored back at the Millennium Seed Bank and could provide a ready source of seed should we decide to try reintroductions to the Cotswolds in the future.

  • Our Rugged Oil Beetle surveys are now in full flow having started again in October and already our intrepid volunteer surveyors have discovered another new site to add to the list. This now takes us up to eight new Rugged Oil Beetle sites since our surveys started in 2017. This shows the importance of surveying as this is likely to be a result of under recording, but it also shows just how important an area the Stroud valleys are for this beetle. It is still nationally rare but clearly has a stronghold in this part of the Cotswolds.

Emma Burt

 

  • Targeted paddock grazing, which began in 2018 has now been introduced to six Duke of Burgundy sites and two potential Large Blue reintroduction sites in order to restore the grassland habitat for these rare butterflies. At the same time 210 Marjoram plants and 4000 marjoram seeds were planted at one of the potential Large Blue reintroduction sites to increase the amount of food plants available for the Large Blue caterpillars.

 Keith Warmington, BC.

 

  • A 72m2 scrape was created with the help of contractors this year to help Juniper. Juniper berries need to land on bare soil in order to germinate so this new expanse of bare ground will help the surrounding mature bushes produce the next generation of Juniper seedlings. It should also help Rugged Oil Beetles by providing the bare ground for solitary bees on which they rely, to make their nests.

 Jennifer GIlbert, BftB.

The Limestone's Living Legacies project is based in the Cotswolds and consists of numerous sites and is made up of a partnership of conservation organisations.
If you're interested in getting involved next year - meeting like-minded people, getting outdoors and doing something amazing for our rare wildlife - why not come along to a project day? Get in touch here, or keep an eye on our events page!

See you there,

 

Jennifer Gilbert

Colour in the Margins Outreach Officer

 

 

Would you like to help these incredible species? There are numerous ways in which you can:

  • Why not volunteer for Back from the Brink? Check out our events page for opportunities near you.
  • Help us to spread the word of this species, and the others we will be helping over the next 3 years, by sharing our message across our Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube pages. Follow us: @naturebftb.
  • Finally - help support the work we do across England by donating. Our impact will be greater with your help.

 

Saving Seed for the Future – How Farmers in Cornwall are Helping Scarce Species

Two advisers from FWAG South West in Cornwall spent a drizzly but fascinating day on the north Cornwall coast, helping staff from Plantlife and Kew collect thousands of seeds from a rare arable plant, to become part of the vast genetic resource at the Millennium Seed Bank (MSB).

A farmer near Newquay has been working with the RSPB to deliver conservation management on clifftop arable fields to provide habitat for vulnerable farmland birds such as Corn Bunting and Skylark.  The management that is being carried out, supported by a HLS Agri-environment Agreement, has also provided perfect conditions for threatened arable plants to thrive.

The Small-flowered Catchfly (Silene gallica) is one of the target species of the Colour In The Margins project, which is part of the Plantlife Back From The Brink initiative.  With project officer Hannah Gibbons, Steph and Jenny from the MSB and a number of other volunteers and NT officers, we spent the day learning about the importance of a national seed bank, how seed collections are made, and the importance of working closely with farmers and landowners to ensure that our vulnerable wildlife is preserved for future generations.

Taking seed collections is not as simple as first thought! First you have to assess the population (there were hundreds of plants in just the one field), then you calculate the number of seeds available, then you do some basic ‘quality checks’ on the seeds – and after a bit of maths, you know how many seeds you can safely and sustainably collect, to be taken up to MSB, cleaned and checked and stored away for years.

The field we were working in was a sanctuary for arable plants as well as supporting nesting Corn Buntings (which had all safely fledged before we were allowed access) – we saw quite a few late pollinating insects, even in the damp and windy conditions! This field over winter will also continue to provide food for birds and mammals, and will protect the soil from erosion.  Truly delivering multiple benefits. And a few passers-by were very interested to hear about what we were doing!

Thanks to everyone involved for such an interesting and educational day and we’ll be looking to see what more we can do to support future events and collections.  If you have a population of wildflowers on your farm and would like to collect some seeds for posterity, or want to know more about using local seeds to enhance grasslands and margins, do invite us out for a farm visit!

 

Becky Hughes - Farm Conservation Adviser

FWAG South West

To find out more about about FWAG in Cornwall, please visit www.fwagsw.org.uk or head to their Twitter page @FWAGSouthWest

 

Would you like to help these incredible species? There are numerous ways in which you can:

  • Why not volunteer for Back from the Brink? Check out our events page for opportunities near you.
  • Help us to spread the word of this species, and the others we will be helping over the next 3 years, by sharing our message across our Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube pages. Follow us: @naturebftb.
  • Finally - help support the work we do across England by donating. Our impact will be greater with your help.

 

 

Our Pine Marten project has had a busy 2019 -

here are some of their highlights!

 

Continued to record evidence of Pine Martens on camera traps in forests in Northumberland and Cumbria.

37 volunteers have helped with surveying and monitoring Pine Martens.

We ran a creative workshop to make feeder boxes for pine martens. 64 people attended and made 21 boxes.

We’ve also facilitated training workshops for volunteers in partnership with Revitalising Redesdale, Forestry England and Red Squirrels Northern England.

New den boxes have been installed to provide safe den sites for Pine Martens to rest and breed in. Unfortunately, there’s been no evidence of Pine Martens breeding in the boxes this year.

Fingers crossed for 2020!

 

Lizzie Croose

Senior Science and Research Officer

Vincent Wildlife Trust

 

Would you like to help these incredible species? There are numerous ways in which you can:

  • Why not volunteer for Back from the Brink? Check out our events page for opportunities near you.
  • Help us to spread the word of this species, and the others we will be helping over the next 3 years, by sharing our message across our Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube pages. Follow us: @naturebftb.
  • Finally - help support the work we do across England by donating. Our impact will be greater with your help.

 

The days are shortening and the temperature is falling. This is a signal to deciduous (broadleaf) trees that it is time to close down for the winter, conserve energy and prevent it from losing precious nutrients.

A tree is sensitive to its surrounding environment and responds to changes by hormones which in autumn switch from growing mode to conserving mode. This retains some of the chemicals that are in the leaves which the tree draws back into the main stem and uses again.

As the green chlorophyll is removed this is when some of many other chemicals in the leaf are revealed and the yellow carotene and red anthocyanins show through, producing a final display of rich colours before they are also absorbed and the leaf  is finally shed, from the base of the leaf stalk call the abscission point.

Many of the fallen leaves rot down, helped by water, micro organisms and worms  that enrich the surrounding the soil which the tree uses again in future years. This illustrates just how efficient a tree is and that it wastes very little over its long life. Losing its leaves also conserves energy and prevents the freezing weather from damaging the tree.

The ancient trees have been going through this process for centuries  despite their ageing frame which actually slowly becomes a valuable place for animals to hibernate. The bark is waterproof and the inside of the tree offers a wide choice of niches for fungi, insects, birds and even mammals to hide away from the cold weather.

High winds are also less likely to blow an old tree over if it has  a broad canopy and low branches which help dampen the impact of high winds.

Autumn is also a time of rest and rejuvenation   so despite the dark months ahead, even in autumn the signs of spring are already being seen on the tree. These are the buds and catkins ready and waiting to burst into life as the spring light begins to return.

Paul Rutter

Ancients of the Future Project Officer for Back from the Brink.

 

Would you like to help these incredible species? There are numerous ways in which you can:

  • Why not volunteer for Back from the Brink? Check out our events page for opportunities near you.
  • Help us to spread the word of this species, and the others we will be helping over the next 3 years, by sharing our message across our Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube pages. Follow us: @naturebftb.
  • Finally - help support the work we do across England by donating. Our impact will be greater with your help.

 

Woodland Birds Creative Writing

Even if you've never been to Northamptonshire, there is a good chance you've heard of Rockingham Forest. This was once a hunting forest covering over a third of the county; it now exists in isolated patches dotted through a farmed landscape, giving people like me the opportunity to walk in nature and breathe in some good air.  The perfect setting, then, for a creative writing workshop.

It was a privilege to be asked to run a session in Fineshade Wood under the aegis of a Back from the Brink Project, which as the name suggests is concerned with the conservation and restoration of rare plants, bats, birds, reptiles and butterflies. Our focus was birds and we began with a short guided walk led by Liz, who works for the project. After the recent torrential rain, I was relieved that we had glorious sunshine, although it was a bit nippy. Liz gave us lots of information about what was going on in this patch of woodland. We stood in silence to take in the atmosphere, connecting with our senses and enjoying the cackling of rooks and the call of pheasants.

Back in the warm, I gave the participants some exercises to do to help get the creative juices going, and read various extracts of published works - poetry, fiction and non-fiction - by way of example. Then I suggested some prompts and off they went. Despite some of them saying 'I'm not really a writer', they all produced some lovely work and I hope they will carry on doing so.

From my point of view there were two equally important aims of this workshop:

To encourage participants to create a piece of writing based on the birds in the woodland and the environment in a wider sense.

To bring awareness of the work of Roots of Rockingham, Back from the Brink and all the groups involved in restoring and managing this network of woodland sites, creating more habitat in which a range of vulnerable species can thrive, and to stimulate engagement in this work.

I think on both counts we had a successful morning.

You can find out more about Julia and read her blogs here

 

Julia Thorley - Creative Writer and Author

Guest Blogger

 

Would you like to help these incredible species? There are numerous ways in which you can:

  • Why not volunteer for Back from the Brink? Check out our events page for opportunities near you.
  • Help us to spread the word of this species, and the others we will be helping over the next 3 years, by sharing our message across our Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube pages. Follow us: @naturebftb.
  • Finally - help support the work we do across England by donating. Our impact will be greater with your help.

 

 

The Healing Power of the Poppy

Two of the c. 70 species of the poppy within the genus Papaver have been responsible for two very influential but different tasks during the past century; Papaver rhoeas and Papaversomniferum (Opium Poppy). They have a rich history of medical, scientific and economic importance.

The flowers of the field poppy have long been used as a pain killing drug for soothing mild aches and a mild sedative/relaxant, an expectorant for treating catarrh and coughs, as a digestive, and even for reducing the appearance of wrinkles and in lipstick! More recently, chemical extracts from the petals of P. rhoeas have recently been tested for potential in the prevention of skin cancer (Ennamany et al., 2013).

The white latex of the opium poppy contains far greater quantities of potent narcotics than that of the field poppy, which has led to its importance in medicine but also to its exploitation through illicit trade. From 1914, morphine ampules were needed in huge quantities to aid millions of soldiers injured in the bloody battles of the First World War. This sudden and important demand temporarily halted advances made in preceding years concerning the regulation of opiates. The poppy also has symbolic ties to Remembrance Day from the First World War. The poppy’s origins as a symbol of remembrance lie in the First World War poem “In Flanders Fields by Canadian officer John McCrae, first published in December 1915.

The Spring of 1915 was the first time that warm weather began to warm up the countryside after the cold winter at war in 1914-1915. In the region around Ypres in Belgian Flanders the months of April and May 1915 were unusually warm. Farmers were ploughing their fields close up to the front lines and new life was starting to grow. One of the plants that began to grow in clusters on and around the battle zones was the red field or corn poppy (its species name is Papaver rhoeas). It is often to be found in or on the edges of fields where grain is grown.

The field poppy is an annual plant which flowers each year between about May and August. Its seeds are disseminated on the wind and can lie dormant in the ground for a long time. If the ground is disturbed from the early spring the seeds will germinate and the poppy flowers will grow.

This is what happened in parts of the front lines in Belgium and France. Once the ground was disturbed by the fighting, the poppy seeds lying in the ground began to germinate and grow during the warm weather in the spring and summer months of 1915, 1916, 1917 and 1918.

The symbol of the poppy helps people remember those lost in the war and honour their sacrifice for us.


This 1890 painting by Robert Vonnoh (1858–1933), called “In Flanders Field,” depicts how beautiful red field poppies appeared in the late 19th-century. Today the original work is part of the permanent collection at The Butler Institute of American Art.

 

Zoe Morrall

Colour in the Margins Outreach Officer

 

 

Would you like to help these incredible species? There are numerous ways in which you can:

  • Why not volunteer for Back from the Brink? Check out our events page for opportunities near you.
  • Help us to spread the word of this species, and the others we will be helping over the next 3 years, by sharing our message across our Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube pages. Follow us: @naturebftb.
  • Finally - help support the work we do across England by donating. Our impact will be greater with your help.

 

We recently ran a creative workshop as part of our Pine Marten Project to make feeder boxes for Pine Martens at National Trust’s Cragside in Northumberland.

What exactly are feeder boxes?
They are wooden boxes which can be filled with food, such as peanuts, and installed on a tree. A camera trap can be trained on the box to record Pine Martens and any other species, such as Red Squirrels, that visit them. If the videos and photos from the cameras are good enough quality, we can even start to distinguish individual Pine Martens and determine how many martens are in the area. Pine Martens haven’t yet been recorded at the Cragside Estate, but are known to be in other woodlands nearby, and it’s hoped that these feeder boxes will help us to determine when Pine Martens move onto the estate.
Pine Martens are still rare in Northumberland, so any information we can gather on the population will be hugely helpful in conserving the species.

(c) Robert Cruikshanks

The workshop was organised with Sian Hughes and Sarah Jane Richards; artists who are working with Back from the Brink to deliver Community Art events such as this which promote conservation through art.

It was great to have almost 70 people come and build a feeder box!
Building the boxes involved drilling pre-cut pieces of wood together, so many children got to have a go at using a drill for the very first time! (fully supervised of course!).
When they were built, the boxes were then painted and everyone was able to make their own mark by painting them with their choice of colours and templates! All of this was overseen by “Scottie”, our taxidermy Pine Marten from Scotland. He proved to be a real hit particularly with the children, who had never seen a Pine Marten “in the flesh” before. It was a wonderful day and great to see such a range of people getting involved in conservation!

Overall, we made 21 feeder boxes which will be put up with camera traps around Cragside to hopefully record Pine Martens in the area.
Watch this space for some footage!

Take a look at these helpful sheets! Download them here:

Instructions for PM box

 

Lizzie Croose, Sarah Jayne and Sian Hughes

Senior Science and Research Officer, Vincent Wildlife Trust & Back from the Brink artists for the North - SJ and Sian.

 

 

 

 

Would you like to help these incredible species? There are numerous ways in which you can:

  • Why not volunteer for Back from the Brink? Check out our events page for opportunities near you.
  • Help us to spread the word of this species, and the others we will be helping over the next 3 years, by sharing our message across our Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube pages. Follow us: @naturebftb.
  • Finally - help support the work we do across England by donating. Our impact will be greater with your help.

 

 

Red-hemp Nettle

It’s a cool blustery day at the end of September and whilst there’s still no immediate sign of colour change in the trees, there is an autumnal feel in the air. We’ve had a good long season of surveying this year, as we started early with such a dry and bright spring.

I’m standing in one of the top fields at Langley Vale First World War Memorial Wood in north Surrey. It’s up on the North Downs and I’ve got my back to Epsom racecourse and I’m looking at the spire of Headley Heath church. Hard to believe that the M25 motorway is between me and it, today you can’t hear the traffic but most days you can. Generally speaking, you’ve no idea it’s there but it borders one side of this convoluted 640 acre site. It’s a wonderful view and laid out in front of me is my beloved Langley Vale Wood.

To my right is the field where we had 4 Lapwing nests and dozens of Skylarks, those birds are associated with arable farming but have suffered so much with modern farming methods. Up on the horizon I’ve got ancient woodland. Between me and those mature trees there is a mixture of what will one day be coppice woodland and rows and rows of new saplings. However, what I’ve got in front of me right now is a large open field. Down at my feet I can see amongst other common plants the sprawling tendrils of Sharp Leaved Fluellen. Its delicate little yellow and purple flowers still merrily peeping out. I can see it again and again across this field. I reflect on the surveying year and I excitedly look forward to the report we will be writing in the coming weeks.


Lapwings (c) RSPB Images

So, what am I doing here? Well I run a project that is looking at the rare arable plants we have growing here in Langley Vale Wood. Back in 2014 I volunteered to help at this new Woodland Trust site, little knowing what plant gems were hiding here. I signed up to create a wood, knowing that there was something special about this place, but not realising that what I was about to get involved with would change my life.

This site has 40% of its 640 acres set aside as open space that will not be planted with trees. Here at Langley Vale we have some of the rarest arable plants in the country. Yes, we will have chalk grassland eventually in certain areas but right now we have the most amazing tapestry of arable plants that you are likely to see. We have a target list that me and my volunteers go out and look for each week. There are approximately 40 plants on the list all with an IAPA score. I don’t think there’s a field on site where there isn’t Field Madder and the Small Toadflax isn’t far behind. Poppies, Speedwells, Deadnettles, we have some of the rarities of the county. Back in the first years of our surveying I remember we searched for the elusive Night-flowering Catchfly. I can still remember the joy at finding it, penny numbers then but this year its numbers are in the 1000’s. It’s good to know we play some small part in its survival but I’m here today to see something even rarer.

I turn and head across the field to a patch of Red-hemp Nettle. It’s probably our rarest and most precious plant on site with just 30 or so plants spreading across the margin in this field. We sow no crop across this site now, we do still plough and manage the site so that we can give these beautiful plants the best chance in life that they can get. I am so proud of the work that the Woodland Trust are doing here and the way they have embraced these rare plants and have taken on the task of ensuring their survival. These plants are on a knife edge and what we do here will affect whether you and I can go out and see them in their natural habitat, in the fields where they belong.


Red-hemp Nettle (c) Cath Shellswell, Plantlife

So, today’s task is to do a species population survey for Plantlife. We’d taken tissue samples of the Red-hemp Nettle a few weeks earlier for Kew to analyse but hadn’t done the quadrat bit as we’d had no takers from the volunteers to crawl on hands and knees! It’s the end of our surveying season, we’ve found all we think we’re going to find for this year but still we see Fluellens and Dwarf Spurge in our squares! Just as we are finishing up and heading back to the car the first few raindrops fall. We make it just in time. I look at our notes and check I’ve filled in all the boxes I’m supposed to. Suddenly I remember that I haven’t reported to our survey group the exciting news that today we found another Ground Pine. That makes 4 this year. The numbers may be small but it’s there again this year and that is down to the success of our little project, we are doing the right thing by these plants and we hope we will see it there again next year.

I knew so little about these plants when we started our walks through the fields back in 2014. Today I am fighting for their survival and with the help of a merry band of dedicated volunteers and the support of the Woodland Trust and Plantlife we will ensure they are here to stay.

I will be here at Langley Vale over the winter planting trees as we have 50,000 hedgerow plants to go in now that we have the planning permission for footpaths and the car park. We volunteers will continue to take out the miles of redundant old barbed wire fencing, the remains from when this site was a working farm. I will even be here leading guided walks for the Woodland Trust. Come and see for yourselves the work we are doing here but tread lightly, who knows what little plant may be under your feet.

 

Tish Johnson

Langley Vale Volunteer

 

 

Would you like to help these incredible species? There are numerous ways in which you can:

  • Why not volunteer for Back from the Brink? Check out our events page for opportunities near you.
  • Help us to spread the word of this species, and the others we will be helping over the next 3 years, by sharing our message across our Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube pages. Follow us: @naturebftb.
  • Finally - help support the work we do across England by donating. Our impact will be greater with your help.

 

Colour in the Margins is one of the many projects that is running under Back from the Brink, and whilst we are primarily focusing on 10 plant species, there are many secondary species that will benefit from our work with rare arable species, including 5 UK bat species - from the Soprano Pipistrelle to the Lesser Horseshoe Bat.

With Halloween fast approaching, I thought I’d share a little about each of these brilliant bat species and how you can help conserve them.

First up, we have the Soprano Pipistrelle.
This species is active between March and November, and can eat up to 3,000 insects a night! Generally, Pipistrelles are Britain’s smallest bat, brown in colour and have a fast “jerky” flight. Their population has declined in the last few decades, partly as a result of modern agricultural practices.

Next, we have the Brown Long-eared Bat. This bat's huge ears provide exceptionally sensitive hearing - it can even hear a ladybird walking on a leaf! They love moths, beetles, flies, earwigs and spiders – which they often eat in flight but the larger insects are taken to a “perch” usually found inside barns or porches.

The Grey Long-eared Bat is another species that is on the Colour in the Margins list – they are generally a little larger than the Brown Long-eared Bat and have a dark face.

They are only found in a few places in Southern England – not much is known about the habitat use of this species but recent radio-tracking studies have shown that they tend to forage over meadows and grasslands, up to 6km away from the roost. This species also has its own project within Back from the Brink, it’s that rare, and you can find out more here.

Greater Horseshoe Bat is one of our largest bat species, the size of a small pear!

Gareth Jones, BCT.

It is rare in Britain and is now confined to south-west England and south Wales. It is estimated that numbers of this species has declined by over 90% in the last 100 years - due to factors such as disturbance of roosts and intensive agricultural practices including loss of permanent pasture.

The Lesser Horseshow Bat is the last of the five species we are trying to conserve – this species is able to wrap its wings completely around its body while at rest, differing from the greater horseshoe bat whose face can usually be seen. They only weigh between 5 and 9g and are only the size of a plum -  one of the smallest British species!

If you want to know more about what Colour in the Margins is doing to help these species, take a look at our web page here, or why not follow us on social media @naturebftb.

If you want to find out more about UK bat species, please visit the Bat Conservation Trust website -  bats.org.uk.

 

Zoe Morrall

Outreach Officer for Colour in the Margins.

 

 

Would you like to help these incredible species? There are numerous ways in which you can:

  • Why not volunteer for Back from the Brink? Check out our events page for opportunities near you.
  • Help us to spread the word of this species, and the others we will be helping over the next 3 years, by sharing our message across our Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube pages. Follow us: @naturebftb.
  • Finally - help support the work we do across England by donating. Our impact will be greater with your help.