Thursday, 13 November 2014

Climbing and Birdwatching in The Lake District by Rod Booth

The bird life of the English Lake District needs the support of all who love the region. All birds and their eggs and nests are protected by the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. Certain rare or more endangered species are further protected by increased penalties under the 1981 act and must not be intentionally or recklessly disturbed when nesting. These birds are listed in the act and are referred to as Schedule 1 species: the Schedule 1 bird species that scramblers, walkers and climbers may most commonly encounter on crags in the Lake District is the peregrine falcon. Ravens, though not Schedule 1 birds, also need care and protection.
Peregrines are the largest falcons in the British Isles. They can be recognized by their distinctive profile, often sighted from the crag, as they plummet groundwards to seize some unsuspecting prey. Seen from below, they are pale coloured birds with dark tips to the tail and wings. Their call is a piercing shriek, once heard never forgotten! When the peregrine is disturbed this is uttered repeatedly for long periods. Peregrines hunt over a variety of habitats, catching medium-sized birds, mainly feral pigeons, by swooping at speeds of up to 200 km an hour to seize them. The preferred nesting sites of peregrines in the United Kingdom are inland crags, such as in the Lake District.
Peregrines are fairly common in the Lake District, which is one of their most important European habitats, but they are rare elsewhere. In fact the United Kingdom supports approximately 14% of the European population. Of these, in Cumbria and the Lake District, there are usually about 85 nesting sites which hold one or more birds each year and approximately 65 pairs attempt to breed each season. This is 6% of the UK's total population and is considered to be the densest breeding population in the world. The Cumbrian birds are especially important because of the population numbers and productivity which is enabling the birds to spread and re-colonise other areas in the UK.
They are particularly vulnerable to the weather, disturbance, poor food supply and illegal activities such as shooting, poisoning, and egg and chick theft. In 2000 in the Lake District there were 83 occupied territories on which 46 pairs reared 111 young. However, in 2002 only 32 young were reared and this was the worst recorded breeding season for 30 years, predominantly due to appalling weather, but also to increased robberies. Climbers can assist by reporting any suspicious characters they see near peregrine nest sites.
Ravens are very large black birds, similar to a rook but a third bigger. They have distinctive deep "pruk-pruk" call and are great aerial acrobats, with skill in soaring and tumbling. Ravens, while not protected in the same way as peregrines and eagles, are still under potential threat from increased disturbance, and there are some voluntary restrictions in the Lake District on their account. Their nests are very large piles of twigs.
Bird Restrictions are agreed annually between the local climbers' committee, the National Park Authority and English Nature. The area of crag agreed to be avoided can vary depending upon various factors including the layout of the crag. Some pairs also vary their choice of nesting site each year either within a crag or between different crags and so agreements may change from year to year. In general, they only apply to the most popular rock-climbing crags but this does not mean that people are necessarily allowed to climb or scramble on all other crags during this period; even where a crag is not subject to a restriction, if you suspect a bird (particularly a peregrine) is nesting on it, you should avoid it.

About the Author

The Lake District Guide contains hundreds of pages of information on Lakes hotels and other accommodation, as well as restaurants, walks, places to go and things to do. In fact, we have all the information you'll need for a great holiday in the Lakes. Find us at http://www.lake-district-guides.co.uk

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Discover the Derbyshire Dales in England by Chris Sabian

Derbyshire Dales National Nature Reserve consists of parts of five separate limestone valleys in the Peak District National Park - Lathkill, Cressbrook, Monk's, Long and Hay Dales. These represent some of the best examples of wildlife habitat and geology in the White Peak area of Derbyshire and are perfect to explore on foot or cycle.
Several long-distance paths run through or close to the Reserve, including the Limestone Way and the Monsal Trail. The Reserve is well served by rights-of-way. There are Youth Hostels at Bakewell,
Youlgreave, Elton, Ravenstor (near Tideswell), Hartington and Buxton, as well as a number of camping barns and campsites.
Each Dale is an adventure on its own and provided the weather is on your side you will truly be amazed at the awesome beauty that will unfold. It's like being in a different world.
Long Dale
Cut off from roads and habitation, Long Dale is like a lost valley. Follow the footpaths across adjoining fields and you will find its steep, grassy slopes - a swathe of green unbroken by rock or scree. The only company you should expect are the sheep and cattle that graze the dale from summer through to Christmas. Left unchecked in the earlier part of the year, however, the dale is awash with colour by May and June.
Here are blankets of early purple orchid, yellow cowslip and wine-red betony. There are also dense patches of purple heather growing on the north facing slopes, a feature largely peculiar to Long Dale. The acid soil blown on icy winds 10,000 years ago has settled and stayed here and the heather serves as a colourful reminder of this Ice Age past.
In the bottom of the dale is Mouldridge Mine, one of the many lead workings scattered across the Peak District. Yet this is no industrial wasteland. The waste hillocks provide an important habitat for alpine pennycress and spring sandwort or 'leadwort', two plants tolerant to the toxic soil.
Long Dale is situated 6 miles south of Bakewell, near the village of Elton.
Hay Dale
This is a more shallow and gentle affair, framed by a stately avenue of mature wych elms at its northern entrance. East of the path the slope is covered in daleside grassland plants. Home to the Peak District variety of the brown argus butterfly, this is a habitat that supports up to 30 different species of wildflower per square metre. Elsewhere in the dale are scatterings of heather and bilberry.
Continue to the middle of the dale and the scenery changes to reflect the key role that mining has played in the area. Near to the footpath is an 'adit' or horizontal tunnel and close by a rail track and mineral cart,all 19th Century in origin.
Hay Dale is situated 8 miles NW of Bakewell, between the villages of Wheston and Peak Forest.
Lathkill Dale
With its steep, grassy slopes, meandering river and ancient woodlands, Lathkill Dale is now a place of quiet beauty. But, this was once a place of industry, fuelled by a headlong rush for lead. You can still find evidence of those mines and workings scattered among the woods and slopes. Although now absorbed into the natural landscape, they form part of the essential character of the dale.
Lathkill today offers a mix of wildflower-rich daleside grassland and scrub, ancient woodland and plantations of timber. These habitats make the dale a rare treasure trove of wildlife from water voles and the brown argus butterfly, to plantlife such as Jacob's ladder and yellow archangel.
The limestone cliff faces and rocky outcrops in the dale tell of another story. 350 million years ago, the whole White Peak area formed part of a tropical lagoon, complete with coral reefs and volcanoes. As a result, the dale is now rich in fossils and rock forms that tell us much of how the landscape was formed.
Lathkill Dale is situated 2 miles SW of Bakewell, between the villages of Over Haddon, Monyash and Youlgreave.
Cressbrook Dale
Semi-ancient woodland and soaring cliffs in the south of Cressbrook Dale quickly give way to flower-rich scrub and sweeping limestone grassland further north. It's the perfect haven for wildlife.
But signs of man's intervention are to be found across the dale. Lead waste hillocks or 'rakes can be found high up on Wardlow Hay Cop, sharing the hill with an ancient burial mound. At Peter's Stone there is a huge limestone block on which Derbyshire's last gibbet swung in 1812.
Today, Cressbrook mainly draws naturalists and walkers. Wardlow Hay Cop is now an inviting place, covered by mountain pansy, eyebright and thyme. Spring sandwort or 'leadwort' has reclaimed many of the old lead spoil heaps, while the grassy slopes encircling Peter's Stone are known as the northernmost stronghold of the dwarf thistle.
Cressbrook Dale is situated 7 miles NW of Bakewell, between the villages of Wardlow and Litton.
Monk's Dale
Higher and in a colder part of the White Peak than the other dales, Monk's Dale is in some ways a relic of the Ice Age.
Here, the limestone walls close in and provide shelter from the sun. In this environment, plants that existed in the frozen ground 10,000 years ago still live on in splendid isolation.
Monk's Dale is also less accessible than dales such as Lathkill, the path uneven and rock-strewn for much of its length. The daleside grassland, scrub and scree that make up its southern portion are rich in wildflowers. In contrast, the thick woodland to the north is a world of mossy boughs and broken limestone blocks.
There are also signs of human habitation. The remains of an early native settlement straddle the path and some say that the remnants of a chapel are hidden within the dale.
Monk's Dale is situated 9 miles NW of Bakewell.
For more details on the Derbyshire Dales try www.peakdistrictview.com

About the Author

Chris Sabian Website: www.peakdistrictview.com
Chris Sabian has lived and worked in the Peak District all his life. He is a travel writer.

Friday, 7 November 2014

How to Observe Wildlife without Leaving Home by Emma Snow

While lumbering herds of elephants and stalking Bengal tigers capture the imagination of most animal lovers, we often neglect the nature closest to us. Sometimes we need a reminder that we are part of a habitat, and that the miracle of life exists under our very noses. Educator and naturalist Carolyn Duckworth has said, "If you want to understand and become connected to your environment, keeping a field journal is one of the fastest ways to accomplish this goal."
Studies have found that children today consider nature to be somewhere else-on TV, videos, in the National Geographic only. But in reality, a genuine connection to wildlife around the globe is only an extension of a connection to the earth right where you stand. Good naturalists don't gain their knowledge from formal schooling, they get it in the field, by direct observation. And this observation can start right in your backyard or at the park down the street.
This article will offer pointers for keeping a nature journal. It draws heavily on the program laid out in the book Keeping a Nature Journal: Discover a Whole New Way of Seeing the World Around You by Clare Walker Leslie and Charles E. Roth.
The tools needed to start nature journaling are simple and inexpensive. One needs a notebook and something to write with. Experimentation will reveal your personal preferences for lined or clear paper, binding type, size, and lead or ink. As you gain experience you may add a small set of watercolor paints or colored pencils. If you use pencils you may need a sharpener, or you can use mechanical pencils, which yield more technical-looking drawings. You may also use a collecting bag for objects that you want to draw and study indoors. (Although you should collect only fallen objects, where permission is given).
There are no hard and fast rules for nature journaling, although entering observations using a heading is good practice. For your heading you may include your name, the date and time (it doesn't have to be an accurate clock time), the place, weather conditions, your first impressions, wind direction (use a compass for this), and cloud patterns and cloud cover.
To get started you may find this sequence of observations helpful, as it gets you in the habit of observing all around you:
Start by looking at the ground. Get a close up view of individual objects. Try to draw one or more in your journal, labeling each item. Take no more than five minutes per object, and give size measurements (you don't need a ruler, just estimate.) For further learning, try writing at least one question about each object. Now stand up and draw what comes into view at eye level. Label the object and describe what it's doing, or what it is part of. Look up from where you are standing. Record what you see above, and how it makes you feel.
Nature journals are not just for artists. Don't worry if your renderings look like scribbles. The point is that you are connecting to your environment.
Some questions you may use to direct your journaling, and deepen your connection to the life around you are:
What are the trees in my neighborhood? When do they bloom? What do their fruits and seeds look like? What insects use the trees? When do they shed their leaves? How do their seeds get to new sites to grow? What birds live in my neighborhood? What is their activity at various times of the day? How do different species of birds interact with each other? What kinds of insects gather around the light at my doorway each night throughout the year? When and where do mushroom species appear in my neighborhood?
Using questions like these you may find yourself discovering both the landscape you live on, and the landscape that lives in you. Those who keep a journal know that journaling is a form of journeying, and a well-kept journal can become a treasured record of where we have been, what we have seen, and what we have felt as we've interacted with the world.
You don't have to visit the glaciers of Alaska, or India's jungles, or the savannahs in Africa to connect to Mother Earth, although who of us wouldn't jump at the chance? Start by putting roots down right where you stand.
"It seems only natural that we should value most what we are in contact with everyday...yet the reverse is often true. We appear to place a higher value on rare animals and plants and spectacular views and far-flung places. Of course both are important because they fulfill different needs. But the every day places desperately need our attention-partly because they are changing so fast, and not always for the better, and also because tremendous benefit is to be gained from a personal involvement with your own locality." ~The Parish Maps Project, London, England, 1987

About the Author

Emma Snow has always adored wild animals. Emma provides content for Wildlife Animals http://www.wildlife-animals.com and Riding Stable http://www.riding-stable.com.

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Wild Snowdonia: Ten Top Spots for Watching Wildlife in Snowdonia

The entire Snowdonia region is rich in wildlife; indeed, the Snowdonia National Park boasts more National Nature Reserves than any other UK National Park.
Gorse lines many of Snowdonia's roads and paths, providing an important habitat for birds and insects; birds of prey are often to be seen performing their aerial acrobatics overhead; and the 200-mile coastline is home to a huge variety of wildlife, from molluscs and fish to birds and sea mammals like seals, porpoises and dolphins.
While the entire Snowdonia region is a treat for wildlife watchers, there are several spots that are extra-special, and ideal for getting up close and personal with Snowdonia's wildlife; here are ten of our favourites.
1. Gwaith Powdwr Nature Reserve
At Penrhyndeudraeth, on the Dwyryd Estuary, is the Gwaith Powdwr Nature Reserve - a decommissioned explosives works, donated to the North Wales Wildlife Trust to be managed as a nature reserve. The Reserve's habitats - woodland, scrub, heathland, bare rock and open water - support a wide array of species including polecat, barn owl, the emperor dragonfly and seven species of bat.
2. Uwchmynydd
At the tip of the Llyn Peninsula is Uwchmynydd, one of the best places in Snowdonia to see the chough, a red-billed, red-legged member of the crow family whose image is the official emblem of the Llyn Peninsula. The Uwchmynydd area is a great place for spotting porpoises, dolphins and seals down in the sea below, and the headland at Braich Y Pwll is the only known location on the UK mainland of the spotted rock rose. Look out, too, for peregrine falcons, kestrels and puffins.
3. Enlli (Bardsey)
Enlli, or Bardsey in English - the burial place of 20,000 saints, according to tradition - is an island off the tip of the Llyn Peninsula where as well as discovering the island's long and fascinating history, you'll see a rich variety of seabirds, including kittiwakes, razorbills and the Manx shearwater. There are also rare species of plant on Enlli, including the rare ciliate strap lichen, golden hair lichen and rock sea lavender. Boat trips to Enlli depart from Aberdaron and Pwllheli - keep an eye out, during the trip, for porpoises, dolphins and grey seals.
4. Glaslyn Osprey Project
The RSPB's Glaslyn Osprey Project at Pont Croesor is a wonderful wildlife attraction for the whole family, where you'll be able to watch ospreys fishing and rearing their young. There's a large hide and three widescreen plasma monitors bringing you intimate views of the family life direct from the nest.
5. Shell Island
As its name suggests, Shell Island is a great place to find shells; there are around 200 varieties to be found on the beaches at Shell Island, including scallops and cowries. But it's also a great place to see wild flowers and plants, like wild strawberries and sea thrift.
6. Snowdon
The highest mountain in England and Wales, Snowdon is home to all sorts of fascinating wildlife. As well as the birds, which include skylarks, meadow pipits and peregrine falcons, the plant life on Snowdon is also very interesting. Look out for Arctic alpine plants, and the rare Snowdon lily.
7. Cors Geirch
Cors Geirch is an extensive wetland site between Nefyn and Pwllheli on the Llyn Peninsula. The wetland reserve is an important habitat for rare plants and invertebrates, notably the narrow-leaved marsh orchid and marsh fritillary butterfly, and is one of just a few rich fen sites in North Wales outside of eastern Anglesey.
8. Cwm Idwal
Wales' first National Nature Reserve, Cwm Idwal received its designation in 1954 and forms part of the Glydeiriau and Cwm Idwal Site of Special Scientific Interest. The cwm is home to several species of Arctic alpines and the Snowdon lily, ring ouzels and peregrine falcons, rare beetles and herds of feral goats.
9. Craig-yr-Aderyn
Speaking of feral goats, you may also see them at Craig-yr-Aderyn, also known as Bird Rock. Inland from Tywyn, Craig-yr-Aderyn sits in a valley that was once under the sea in Cardigan Bay. Although the sea is now miles away, Craig-yr-Aderyn is a great place to spot seabirds, including cormorants that still nest on this former sea cliff (this is one of only two inland cormorant nesting sites in Britain). Look out too for choughs, which also breed and roost here.
10. Coed-y-Brenin
We've talked about Coed-y-Brenin before, in its capacity as a top mountain biking venue. But the forests here are also great for a nature ramble. Coed-y-Brenin's wildlife includes deer, black grouse, red kite, pine marten and insects such as the pearl-bordered fritillary butterfly. Coed-y-Brenin's rivers contain the very rare pearl mussel - and if you're very lucky, you may even see flecks of Welsh gold.

About the Author

Steven Jones is Senior Tourism Services Officer at Cyngor Gwynedd Council, a Welsh local authority whose not-for-profit Snowdonia Mountains and Coast website provides visitors to Snowdonia with a wealth of useful information about the region. Visitors to the website can also find out more about things to do in Snowdonia.

Monday, 3 November 2014

Top Autumn walks in the South of England by Lee Smith

Although the south of England is a more densely populated than the north of England and property and land prices are averaged a lot higher, there are still plenty of splendid landscapes and woodland to enjoy in the autumnal period. And with the right outdoor gear, it can be an adventure but still a pleasure to explore stunning woodland walks at this time of year.
In the far south of England at Winchester there is the famous Keats' walk, named after the British poet John Keats as it was an inspiration for his poem €To Autumn€. You pass through the historic city of Winchester from its medieval buildings to ancient gates until you then reach the wonderful Water Meadows and green fields of the surrounding countryside.
Other forests in the far south of the isle that would be well worth a visit at this colourful time of year include the Ashdown Forest, the New Forest and the Forest of Dean.
The wild coasts of Devon and Cornwall also come into their own at this time of year. Lydford Gorge in Devon is an enchanting three mile circular walk along the River Lyd, taking in a stony ravine, oak woodland and a powerful waterfall. Like many uninhabited landscapes in England that need conservation, this area is managed and owned by the National Trust.
And autumn does not have to be all about trees. The coast near Snettisham in Norfolk for example, is a popular spot for wading birds that prefer to hang out on the beach the low tides than stay in colder eastern climes. There are even massive numbers of pink footed geese that can be seen at this time of year.
Even in the capital nature and peace and quiet can be found flourishing in autumn. Walks around Hampstead Heath in West London can be free of traffic noise, so you may not feel you are in the capital at all. It is like an island of beautiful countryside amidst the bustling metropolis. There are even a few swimming ponds and a zoo €" so plenty to amuse children of all ages.
So wherever you are based or intending to visit in the more populated south of England, there are many pockets of nature, wildlife and tranquility. Although the climate is generally milder than up north, it is still essential to equip yourself with the right outdoor gear such as hiking boots and waterproof jackets.

About the Author

Whites outdoors are outdoor gear specialists, with a wide range of premium outdoor clothing for the English weather such as hiking boots and waterproof jackets.

Sunday, 2 November 2014

Large Reserve To Be Made At Leavenheath

Suffolk Wildlife Trust are to create a 76 acre grassland reserve at Fords Heath near Leavenheath, Suffolk,  after successfully raising £110,000 reports the BBC.


Fords Heath lies just next to two existing Suffolk Wildlife Trust Reserves - Arger Fen and Spouse's Vale. The trust says the aim of this scheme is to link up the patches of habitats and manage them so that wildlife can move between them. 

Julian Roughton, chief executive of the trust, said: "Buying and enlarging nature reserves is one of the most powerful ways in which we secure a better future for wildlife.
"As the habitats mature it will become a haven for wildlife and a place for people to cherish."
The total cost of the buying Fords Heath was undisclosed, but the legacy came from Gerald Ford, a trust member from Essex.
His brother, Geoff Ford, said: "Gerald loved Suffolk - the county of his parents - and always wished to leave some permanent presence here.
"He was a life-long naturalist and would have been delighted to see his legacy being used to create a space for wildlife."

Friday, 31 October 2014

Careless And Improper Disposal Of Plastic Bags A Danger To Water Birds

RSPB Scotland has spoken out to urge people to take extra care when disposing of their plastic bags. The appeal came after a visitor to a Loch in North Uist, Western Isles, photographed a Red-Throated Diver with a plastic bag in it's beak.

The Red-Throated Diver is the smaller of the two breeding divers in the U.K, occurring on large bodies of water in Scotland. The bird has grey-brown plumage, and an up-tilted bill that makes it distinguishable from it's Black-Throated counterpart.

Jamie Boyle, site manager of the RSPB’s Uist reserves, said, “We urge people to take great care in the way they dispose of plastic bags or, indeed, any other rubbish, particularly balloons and Chinese lanterns. They pose a direct threat to our wildlife and it is depressing to think that plastic bags are even reaching remote lochans in a place like North Uist.
“Marine birds such as red-throated divers are particularly at risk both at sea and on their breeding grounds where they can mistake the bags for fish or mistakenly use it for nesting material. If it becomes entangled on their legs or heads it can prove fatal.”

 RSPB Scotland welcomed the Scottish Parliament's approval earlier this year of new regulations that will introduce a compulsory charge for single-use carrier bags. The 5p charge, applying to all retailers from October this year, will aim to reduce use of single-use carrier bags by 80%. The charge will apply to most single-use carrier bags (excluding some types of bag such as paper bags for prescriptions, and also 'bags for life') and is mainly aimed at tackling plastic bag usage. In Scotland, around 740m carrier bags were used in 2011 - or around 12 bags per person per month. A similar charge introduced in Wales in 2011 has led to a massive reduction in the use of plastic bags, and also generated significant funds for good causes. Scottish Regulations will be followed by a similar voluntary agreement between retailers to donate money raised to good causes, including schemes to tackle litter prevention.

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