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Monday, March 24, 2014

CPRE campaign

Extract from CPRE web site;  http://www.cpre.org.uk

The Government’s planning reforms are unnecessarily damaging the countryside and undermining local democracy while failing to prioritise the regeneration of urban areas, concludes a new report launched by CPRE.
Community Control or Countryside Chaos? analyses the impact of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) on the countryside in the two years since it was adopted.  The research has found that the reforms are forcing local councils to accept major developments against their will in all parts of the country from Devon to Derbyshire and Suffolk to Staffordshire. 
It reveals plans for over 700,000 houses in the countryside - including 200,000 allocated for the Green Belt. As a consequence, the countryside surrounding towns and villages across England is under siege (see page 10 of our report). Sites already earmarked for housing are being left undeveloped while councils are under increasing pressure to allocate more and more land for future development.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Latest News from the Heart of the Levels

March Madness!

Roger Dickey, Group Chair, tweeted last week that 8 hares had been spotted boxing in the mist outside the Trust's reserve at Great Breach Wood.  What a cue for the group's talk in Somerton this week by Peter Thompson on the Brown Hare


Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Blog page views

Should reach 40 000 page views sometime this month which is surprising since I don't do much to promote the Blog. Thank you to all who visit and hopefully find it interesting.

Kingfisher, copyright, Darin Smith


I'll add a comment on our Heart of the Levels committee meeting last night.
It was very pleasing to see three of our four new committee members quickly becoming at home with us and playing a positive and constructive part in our discussions. We have a volunteer to assume the role of chair with our full approval  and support.  It was very encouraging to those of us who have been with the Group since its start up in 2005. The future looks very much brighter now but of course the problems facing the Somerset Wildlife Trust and ourselves in helping to support nature conservation are as great as ever.

Storm damage on the East Coast. RSPB Reserves hit.


Before a change of subject here is a lovely photo of a scarce in ( in England)  Red Squirrel. Copyright Darin Smith. Click on the picture to get a full screen image.

After thinking about threats to wildlife in the Arctic I was surprised to read the letter shown below, received as a member of the RSPB and which as all conservation groups need to do is asking for financial help to try to restore the damage done in the recent surge tides in the North Sea and along the east coast.  Houses were also  destroyed by the severe weather and tide conditions so humans suffered together with the wildlife. It makes interesting reading!



Appeal

Help us recover from the worst storm in 60 years

Hide falling into water after storm surge
Although events like the weekend storm surge along East Anglia's coastline are to be expected, I hadn't fully braced myself for the aftermath.
As the full impacts of the storm hit us on Thursday night, it quickly became apparent that this was going to be devastating. Homes, businesses, landmarks and habitats were suddenly going to be hit by a wall of water. I went to bed on Thursday night feeling helpless and sick with worry about our precious coastline.
I'm e-mailing you today to ask for your help.
We're setting up an emergency fund that we can use to get our nature reserves back into shape and repair the damage caused by the worst storm in 60 years. A donation from you, whatever you can afford, will go a long way to help us restore these precious homes for nature.

A devastated landscape

All along the East coast, we have battled with the elements for centuries. And our team are well drilled in dealing with this kind emergency - sluice gates are lifted to prevent seawater getting into the freshwater habitats, livestock is moved to higher ground, and footpaths are closed. The safety of our visitors and staff are our paramount concern. This drill was being tested to the max.
As it all unfolded, there was a strange mixture of emotions.
Sadly, the most extensive damage was at our Snettisham, Havergate and Dingle nature reserves and it was with a heavy heart that I drove along the Beach Road to see my colleagues at Snettisham.
As a Regional Director I know that I am not supposed to have favourite reserves, but Snettisham holds a special place in my heart. My grandparents had a caravan in a park adjoining the reserve and this is where I began birdwatching. The access track was impassable and the shingle bank where thousands of wading birds roost safe from disturbance had been breached. Some of the chalet owners who live and holiday next to the beach were clearing up with shovels rather than brooms. It was extremely heart wrenching to see.
The shingle beach had been completely stripped away. In the summer it is a riot of yellows, pinks and blues but this time the seaweed was strewn up where the shingle beach used to be and silt mud covered the path. There was a profusion of plastic barrels, bottles and rope.
Snettisham is normally two gravel pits separated by a causeway footbath. Having been topped up with millions of gallons of seawater it was now one massive lake.
The first hide was still in tact. Looking from the window I could see that another hide had been rolled 180 degrees and was now tilted at a 45 degree angle - any view from the hide slots would now just be of the sky. One hide had completely disappeared!
I went into Shore Hide. The hide door had a strand line that came up to the door handle. Inside the hide was strewn with seaweed and the sheer force of the water had shattered one of the windows and punched a massive hole through the front of the hide.
The pits at Snettisham are important in the summer for breeding birds such as black-headed gulls, which nest on a number of islands. It will be important to get rid of the water in readiness for their return. It is at this time of year when the pits at Snettisham come alive. When the tide covers the mudflat of The Wash tens of thousands of waders come into the pits to roost – one of the most remarkable sights in nature. They stand in a massive huddle on the concrete and shingle banks of the gravel pits. These banks have now been eroded by the force of the tide.
On arriving at Snettisham I saw a flock of knot fly from over the pits and out to The Wash. Knot roost in large numbers at Snettisham. I wonder where they roosted last night? Like their namesake, King Canute, the knot weren't able to turn back the power of the tide.
Water rushed over the river wall at RSPB Blacktoft Sands causing damage to our reception centre. The Marshland sluice needs repairing, and no-one has manged to get out to Reeds Island yet. We can only assume the lagoons have been completely destroyed.
At RSPB Saltholme the banks that protect the reedbeds from the damaging effects of saltwater have been weakened. And the footpath and boardwalk to the seal viewpoint is still under a lot of water, so we don't even know the extent of the damage there yet.
RSPB Titchwell suffered at the hands of the tide, but had it not been for the Coastal Change project a few years ago the site would have been completely devastated. As I walked along the westbank path to witness the effects for myself, it was clear the site's infrastructure had taken the full force.
The sea wall was covered with weeds and plastic canisters dragged up from the sea. Benches were strewn with debris and the iconic boardwalk was in tatters. This was just the beginning.
Beyond the seawall our boardwalk onto the beach had fared less well - it was twisted and contorted. I had been at Titchwell the week before and had wandered along the beach next to the 30 foot sand dunes. These had been completely flattened by the surge.

Help us repair the damage

The devastation to some of our nature reserves has been immense, and as I write this we're still not sure of the full impact. But it will take a lot of hard work and resources to put it right and restore these homes for nature. Insurance covers some of the costs of the damaged hides, but not the cost of repairing habitats.
We are still assessing the damage, but estimate that the cost of repairs could be over £300,000. That is why we're setting up an emergency fund that we can use to get our nature reserves back into shape and repair the damage caused.
Please help us rebuild from the worst storm in 60 years.
Thank you.
Paul Forecast Regional Director, Eastern England
DONATE TODAY





Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Greenpeace Gazprom banner at Real Madrid press conference

Greenpeace in Denmark did this neat trick shown below in the video clip.





Extracts from The Guardian.


Arctic oil spill is certain if drilling goes ahead, says top scientist

Russia's push for exploration will devastate pristine Arctic, warns expert analyst of BP's Deepwater Horizon oil spill
Greenpeace pointed out that the Arctic is the habitat for "a diverse range of unique wildlife", including 17 species of whale – such as the endangered narwhal, 90% of the remaining population of which lives in Baffin Bay – as well as polar bears, Arctic foxes, seals, hundreds of species of seabirds and millions of migrating birds. There are also 4m people who live in the Arctic, descendants of indigenous communities who have lived there for thousands of years. "The impact of a spill on these communities and already vulnerable animal species would be devastating and long-lasting," the group said.


Wednesday, November 13, 2013

South Somerset Climate Action Group

Before getting to something more serious I've just selected this photo I took in our garden some time ago to remind me why I keep making these posts on anything which effects the countryside around me.
Not the best wildlife photo but good enough to illustrate my point! A butterfly described as scarce in England so I was lucky to see it and have a camera nearby!

Brown Hairstreak,    Thecla betulae










I've just been reading an email from Joe Burlington who runs the South Somerset Climate Action  Group. Its been running for several years now and does really effective work to spread the word about Climate Change and Global Heating.

You may find his blog interesting and the groups current programme of event,talks and discussions.

Here is a link:http://  www.southsomersetclimateaction.org.uk/about/

I'll Post some more information soon.

Here is an extract from the email:

"Tuesday 26 November - Will your solar pv keep your lights on in a power cut? Yes, but ...5.30 for 6pm. End at 7.30 discussion may continue until 8pm.  Suggested donation £3 (includes refreshments)
Jon Lewes, Coordinator, LocalGen Home Energy Centre, 8 Ditton Street, Ilminster, Somerset TA19 0BQ. Parking available round the corner. t.   01460 250986  m. 0751 8039458, www.localgen.org.uk 

Later on Tuesday 26 November: CLIMATE UPDATE: Dr Stephan Harrison of University of Exeter “MAKING SENSE OF: Floods in Summer - Floods of Information - Floods of Uninformed Debate” The Williams Hall, Stoke St Gregory TA3 6EU .  8.15 Doors open for refreshments at 7.50pm .. after Transtion Athelney’s AGM which starts at 7.30.
Stephan will be looking at: certainty, uncertainty and probability; the difference between climate and weather (Was flooding on the Somerset Levels last Summer ‘caused by’ climate change?); recent developments; how complex science is communicated; land surface warming compared with increased energy in the climate system, which intensifies extremes.

Views:  Monbiot in the Guardian – Ken Clarke’s response – Quakers - Joe Burlington
……………."


And Joe ends with this comment:  

"My anger? The government and energy companies refer to ‘green subsidies’ - as though they were deplorable - rather than a feeble but necessary step in the right direction. At the same time, the fossil fuel industry is receiving tax breaks and other financial benefits that are extensive and are being increased. I have asked our MP for details. I await his response!"

Joe has been campaigning for a long time to increase awareness about all these related issues and is clearly very frustrated!



Monday, November 04, 2013

Area Group meeting

This is a beautiful plant which I saw growing at the side of one of our local water ways  , its called Flowering Rush ( Butomus umbellatus ) Its in my top ten of local wild flowers and quite rare round here. Seen during one of our local Botany Group field expeditions!


This afternoon two of our committee are attending one of the regular meetings of representatives from all the nine volunteer area groups within the Somerset Wildlife Trust.  I've been to several of these over the recent years and they always give an opportunity to share news , meet friends in other groups and to discuss common problems around the county.
Hot topics this time , common to most voluntary groups are:
recruiting volunteers to help run the groups programme of activities,
succession arrangements to assist a change of leadership of the group,
ways of communicating with the wider membership in our part of Somerset,
coping with responsibilities such as providing first aid cover for walks and other Health and Safety issues,
keeping up to date with wildlife conservation projects and debates
and many other issues from time to time.

The social contact is very important to maintain motivation. Its sometimes difficult to remain positive and optimistic with so many threats to wildlife in all its forms which are many and serious.



Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Starlings in Somerset


The RSPB provides this information about the roosting sites for Starlings


For information on the roosting starlings please phone the Avalon Marshes Starling Hotline - 07866 554142. Please do not leave enquiries on this number, as it is an automated service and they cannot be answered.
You can also find out more about the location and receive an automated email, by emailing starlings@rspb.org.uk.
The starlings use sites managed by three different organisations - the RSPB (Ham Wall), Natural England (Shapwick Heath) and Somerset Wildlife Trust (Westhay Moor). There is very little parking available at any of the sites, so avoiding the weekend rush will greatly improve your visit.
Whenever you come, please follow any parking instructions given and avoid stopping on narrow verges or blocking gateways. There is no parking for coaches other than at The Avalon Marshes Centre situated between Shapwick and Westhay villages. Parking for the western end of Shapwick Heath is also at The Avalon Marshes Centre.
Please take care not to disturb the wildlife or other visitors, by keeping noise to a minimum and obeying rules about dogs and restricted access.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Oil drilling in the Arctic. Does it matter to me?

This is not a matter which our wildlife group has discussed and is entirely my own initiative.

Does it matter to me?  Yes it does Its a no brainier!  So much so I support Greenpeace in their campaign to stop it happening.
I've sent off my small contribution by signing their petition. Very few people will read this, very few will take any action. I don't know,  but I hope someone does.

This is a letter from Greenpeace.


Hi there,
I've just signed a petition to help free 30 people being held in Russia for peacefully protesting against Arctic oil drilling. Can you help as well?
http://bit.ly/18f2HOR
When activists attempted to scale energy giant Gazprom’s oil rig in September, the company made a call to Russian special forces to intervene. 24 hours later, armed commandos had illegally boarded the Greenpeace ship the Arctic Sunrise and arrested all 30 people on board. All 30 people are now in prison facing trumped-up hooliganism charges.
Gazprom clearly has influence with the authorities and it now must step up and help to release the Arctic 30. But it will only do that if it feels pressure from places where it is affected the most: its financial partners.
Gazprom is on the brink of signing an important deal with Shell, who have promised to provide technology and expertise to their Arctic drilling programme. Gazprom also depends on maintaining good relationships with the companies it sells its oil and gas to overseas, which make up a whopping 65% of Russia’s income from exports.
Shell and other companies will think twice about partnering with a company that is involved in silencing peaceful protest. Asking Shell and Gazprom’s other partners to put pressure on Gazprom will help free the Arctic 30.
Please join me and sign the petition.
http://bit.ly/18f2HOR
Thanks!