Saving Suffolk’s Species
Brown long eared bat
Fen raft spider
Great crested newt
Little whirlpool ram
Silver studded blue
Small leaved lime
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Saving Suffolk’s Species Action for local wildlife, led by local people has always been, and still is, Suffolk Wildlife Trust’s great strength. The stories here demonstrate the lasting impact, for the county’s wildlife, of this local commitment – and a sense of how different Suffolk could have been without the far sighted individuals who established Suffolk Wildlife Trust over 50 years ago. Across the county, the Trust’s achievements are made possible by the generous and enthusiastic backing of our members. We can all take pride in the difference Suffolk Wildlife Trust has made for these local species - their survival is a tribute to your support as a member. Thank you
Adder Vipera berus
Among reptiles the adder is a cool temperature specialist. While our other two native snake species reach the edges of their global range in Britain, all of mainland Britain falls within the global span of the adder. In Suffolk adder are mostly found on the well-drained soils of the Brecks and Sandlings Heaths. The adder is our only native venomous snake. Their bite is used to immobilize prey which consists chiefly of small mammals such as voles, mice and shrews. Lizards can also be taken together with the odd slow worm and perhaps even weasels and moles. Amphibians such as frogs and newts and birds too have also been reported as prey items. Adders usually go out of their way to avoid human contact and only use their venom as a last means of defence - usually if caught or trodden on – and even that is extremely rare. Adders are protected by law against being killed or injured through human activity. Adders are a relatively watchable reptile, particularly during spring when males spend several weeks basking, often in the same location near hibernation sites. Most are distinctively marked with a dark zigzag running down the length of the back and an inverted 'V' shape on the neck. Males are generally white or pale grey, while females are pale brown. Some can even be entirely black and can be mistaken for other species. The major threat to adder is habitat loss and fragmentation. The adder's habitat needs are complex; areas are needed for basking, feeding and mating. Cover from predators and good hibernation sites are also critical to survival. Adder are often restricted to habitat islands - a problem for a small snake with limited migratory abilities. Inbreeding can make them genetically vulnerable to environmental change and disease so linking habitat is crucial to their conservation. Suffolk Wildlife Trust actively manages its Sandlings reserves for a wide range of species including the adder through protection, restoration and recreation of heathland. Typical of this work is the Trust's partnership with the Forestry Commission in the management of the northern part of Dunwich Forest, which is opening up the conifer blocks to encourage a more diverse plant life. This will greatly benefit the adder population. The Trust’s Living Landscape approach aims to link up prime sites which will greatly increase the area of suitable habitat. Have you seen an adder? Visit www.suffolkwildlifetrust.org where you can add your adder sightings to an online map. The Trust is working with Suffolk Amphibian and Reptile Group to explore the use of predictive mapping techniques to help target future survey effort more effectively. 5
Ant lion Eurolean nostrus
Lurking in the sand of Suffolk’s coastal heaths are creatures which have been described as ‘demons in the dust’. They are the larvae of a member of the lacewing family that prey on small invertebrates which stray into their traps. The ant-lion detects the movement of woodlice, ants and other prey using tiny hairs on their body and either wait for them to fall to the bottom of the trap or flick up sand to knock them down. These unlucky creatures are grabbed in the larva’s powerful pincers and the juices sucked out of their bodies. The traps – often the only sign of ant-lion - are conical pits formed by the insect flicking sand outwards with its head. They are found in colonies in loose, dry sand at the base of small, south facing sandy cliffs protected by overhanging vegetation or on the root-plates of fallen trees. The larvae take two years to mature in the ground where they pupate and later emerge at the end of summer as winged adults. Following this they have a brief life, dying once they have mated and laid eggs in the sand. The Suffolk Sandlings is the only confirmed breeding area in Britain for this unusual creature and so the Trust’s leading role in restoring heathland habitat over the past two decades has been hugely important. Ant lion has now been found on a number of Sandlings heaths and in local gardens. Populations are monitored by counting the number of pits and new sites are being added all the time as interest and knowledge of this species grows. Ant-lion are found on Suffolk Wildlife Trust’s Sandlings reserves – Sutton & Hollesley Heaths, Blaxhall Common and Sizewell Belts. Habitat management includes maintaining open eroding sandy cliffs and providing some protection from trampling. At Sizewell Belts we had a problem with rabbits digging up ant-lion habitat so the wardens gave them a helping hand. Sand was piled on to concrete against a south facing barn wall which prevented the rabbits burrowing. As a result we had over 1000 ant-lion pits so they obviously love their new home! 7
Badger Meles meles
With its distinctive black and white striped head the badger is a handsome and well-loved British mammal, but one rarely seen by most people. It is nocturnal, spending most of the day within its sett. Badgers are very sociable and live in groups with colony size and territory determined by food availability. Surprisingly for such large and powerful animals, their diet is primarily earthworms, but as omnivores they also eat fruits, cereals, small mammals and insects. A badger sett can easily be distinguished from dens of other mammals such as fox, because of the shape of the entrance hole and the large mound of spoil which is often deposited in front. As much of Suffolk is an arable county, many of our badger setts are found in hedges and scrub. We have fewer woodland setts than other places although when woods occur on better-drained sands and gravels, setts are often found in old pits or banks. Badgers have not always been as common in Suffolk as they are today and in the past were persecuted to the brink of extinction. Since the 1980s our badger population has increased, partly because of legal protection through the Protection of Badgers Act 1992 which has led to improvements in adult survival. It may also be due to the frequent wet autumns and mild winters over the past 15 years which has encouraged more productive breeding. However, badgers are vulnerable to road traffic and in Suffolk more than one hundred are reported to be killed by vehicles each year. Suffolk Wildlife Trust has played its part in promoting the conservation of badgers by setting up the Badger and Other Mammals Group. This group records badger distribution, studies their ecology, raises awareness and provides advice concerning badgers and other mammals. suffolkwildlifetrust.org/badger-group Although badgers are difficult to see, the Trust’s Margaret Grimwade Badger Hide to provides people with a unique opportunity to observe these secretive animals in their natural environment. The badger hide viewing season runs from April to September on Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings. It costs £7.50 per adult, and £2.50 for children aged 7 and above. For more information, or to book part or all of the hide please ring 01473 890089.
Barbastelle bat Barbastella barbastellus
The barbastelle bat is unmistakable if seen at close quarters. Its short black ears join across the forehead giving its head a peculiar squarish shape. As bats go, it is medium sized and lives in woodlands where there is plenty of dead and damaged trees. The barbastelle tends to roost in storm- split branches and behind loose bark – as these tend to be temporary features its chosen woodland habitat needs to be dynamic. The compulsion to ‘tidy up’ woodlands, which removes dead wood and damaged branches, is a continual threat to these animals. One of Britain’s rarest bats, the barbastelle is currently listed as endangered or vulnerable in most European countries. The first known breeding colony was discovered in 1996 in Norfolk. The bat has a restricted distribution being confined to England north to Yorkshire and Wales. Prior to 2004 most Suffolk records relate to single animals in hibernation with the exception of six animals discovered hibernating in a purpose-built site in January 2002. They are remarkably tolerant of cold weather and have been noted as entering hibernation sites only when the temperatures drop well below freezing for long periods. Since 2004 advances in bat detectors, particularly when used in conjunction with computer sound analysis, have enabled the Suffolk Bat Group – one of the Trust’s specialist groups - to survey a number of potential new sites. Ancient woodland and park land have been the target habitats and barbastelles have been found on every occasion. In Suffolk Wildlife Trust’s Captain’s Wood reserve at Sudbourne, which members helped us to buy in 2005, barbastelles were the second most common species recorded; they have also been found at Arger Fen & Spouse’s Vale near Assington. Very few breeding colonies have been located in the county but as a tree dwelling species that moves roosts regularly this is not surprising. Detector work has so far shown that they are probably widespread in Suffolk, albeit in very small numbers, where there is suitable habitat. The Trust comment on planning applications that are likely to have an adverse impact on bats or where opportunities exist to enhance the environment for them. Such applications can include barn conversions, where there is a bat roost that may be affected, or development proposals that may damage or destroy significant foraging or commuting habitat. We also seek the inclusion of bat friendly features in the design of new development such as the incorporation of roosting opportunities or the inclusion of good landscape planting to provide additional foraging or commuting habitat. 11
Barn owl Tyto alba
Barn owls are perhaps the most loved of all British birds. Their ghostly silhouette, seen silently floating over a meadow, marsh or field margin is a view of Suffolk’s landscape which many people treasure. Although barn owl are seen hunting at dawn, dusk and even overnight , they don’t see well in the dark and rely on their sharp hearing to locate prey. Despite its dramatic folk name as 'the harbinger of death' the barn owl is stunningly handsome and one of the most evocative of all our Suffolk birds. Barn owl is predominately sedentary and site faithful – the same pair will use the same location year after year. With soft unwater-proofed feathers which quickly become saturated in the rain, barn owl need sheltered nest sites and roost sites for the male, to breed successfully. As one of the UK’s driest counties, Suffolk is a natural stronghold. Since the 1930s barn owl numbers have plummeted with populations falling by almost 70% over 50 -60 years. By the turn of the century, the Suffolk population had dropped to only 100-125 pairs, mainly in north east Suffolk. This decline was due to loss of habitat and a shortage of nest sites. Traditional nest sites such as mature trees and agricultural buildings were lost, due in part to Dutch elm disease and the demolition or conversion of old farm barns. Fortunately barn owls take readily to nest boxes and since 2006, working with Suffolk Ornithologists group, Suffolk Wildlife Trust has transformed the fortunes of barn owl in Suffolk, through an intensive nest box programme. Supported by a network of trained volunteers, the Trust is now monitoring over 1300 barn owl boxes and barn owl have spread from their stronghold in NE Suffolk into central and western Suffolk. As a result barn owls are now seen in places where they have been missing for generations. The nest box programme continues and in time we aim to link up Suffolk’s barn owls to the populations on the Cambridgeshire borders. Feeding opportunities and the availability of good hunting habitat is also critical to the barn owls’ survival and in siting nest boxes we assess the quality of the habitat and advise landowners and community groups on grassland management to ensure the box will be viable. Suffolk’s open grassland habitats of meadows, marshes and the widespread adoption of grassy headlands on farms provide ideal hunting areas. Grassland needs to be rough, thick and tussocky with a deep litter layer to attract small mammal prey such as the short-tailed vole. This habitat allows barn owl to survive and breed as a typical family needs to eat around 10,000 vole sized small mammals every year in order to thrive! If you’ve seen a barn owl please add your sighting to our online map 13
Bell heather Erica cinerea
There are three species of heather found on Suffolk’s Sandlings Heaths. Cross leaved heath (Erica tetralix) a blue- grey leaved plant of wetter soils, ling or common heather (Calluna vulgaris) which forms a mass of purple flowers during August and September, and bell heather (Erica cinerea) meaning ashen-grey referring to the colour of the woody stems. Bell heather starts to flower in June coinciding with the emergence of silver-studded blue butterfly. Its drooping reddish purple flower clusters and heady sweet nectar attract the male butterflies which feed and roost on its clumps. Well adapted for life on the dry acidic Sandlings, the heather has dark green glossy leaves arranged in whorls along a wiry stem - a bit like a tiny bottle brush. The leaf edges are rolled under with the gap between protected by tiny hairs to reduce moisture loss. Heathers have established a relationship with fungi which live in their roots and fix nitrogen from the air in the poor sandy soil making nutrients available for the plants to use. As the nectar reserves are situated deep within the flower, creeping or short-tongued insects cannot access this sweet treat which is reserved for long-tongued bees and butterflies which go on to pollinate the plant. Brushing through the dark green glossy cushions of bell heather, surrounded by the hum of bees and the honey scent from the reddish-purple flowers, is one of the delights of a midsummer walk across Blaxhall Heath or Hollesley Commons. Yet these evocative sites are only fragments of what there once was. Our aim is to reconnect these with neighbouring sites, on a landscape scale to create the largest unbroken tract of heathland in Suffolk. As part of this, in 2012 Suffolk Wildlife Trust took on the restoration and management of 175 acres of heathland in Rendlesham Forest, working in partnership with the Forestry Commission. Suffolk Wildlife Trust’s Sandlings team, together with volunteers, now manages over 1300 acres of heathland. Hebridean sheep and Exmoor ponies are the heart of the Trust’s Sandlings team. Conservation grazing is critical to maintaining both the health of the heather and to control the growth of competing scrub. These hardy breeds are very well suited to the Sandlings environment .Other management includes creating bare ground by rotovating areas every year, forage harvesting heather to create a mosaic of different age structures and clearing birch and pine scrub. This work helps to conserve and expand the habitat on which bell heather, and the wildlife which lives on it, depends. 15
Black poplar Populus nigra ssp. betulifolia
The native black poplar is one of our rarest trees. There are thought to be less than 8,000 mature specimens in Britain, with around 430 in Suffolk. It can grow to 30 metres and is identified by its leaning trunk, often with bosses (bumps under bark) and large arched boughs. The timber was used for carts, cruck-framed buildings and floorboards - especially around fireplaces, as it is highly fire-resistant. The black poplar has great wildlife value - especially for insects such as the poplar hawk moth - and provides nesting sites for owls and roosts for bats. It is associated with wet meadows, river valleys, streams, ditches and farm ponds. For the tree to regenerate naturally male and female trees must grow fairly close together, and fertilized seed must fall on bare mud or silt which must remain moist until autumn for the seedling to establish. This habitat has become very rare due to floodplains being drained for agriculture or development and so now the tree is usually regenerated from cuttings. Distinguished botanist and black poplar enthusiast Edgar Milne-Redhead, who was a Suffolk Wildlife Trust trustee and volunteer from the early 70s to his death in 1996, carried out a survey of black poplars in Britain for The Botanical Society of the British Isles from 1973-1988. He was keen to re-establish the tree across Suffolk by encouraging the planting of cuttings and arranged to have seed collected from a female tree growing next to a male tree in Cheshire. The seedlings were donated to the Trust in the 1970s for planting on reserves. The county register of native black poplars is held by Suffolk Biological Records Centre with Suffolk County Council’s Senior Ecologist, Sue Hooton, acting as the recorder. Sue is Chair of the Suffolk Black Poplar Group who organise DNA testing of ‘Cheshire seedling’ black poplars surviving on our reserves. As all these trees proved to be new clone types the key action now is to plant out cuttings in secure locations such as suitable Trust reserves, to minimise the risk of losing this unique genetic material. To mark the Trust’s 50th birthday the Stowmarket local group planted black poplar saplings close to an existing mature specimen on the banks of the River Rat at the Museum of East Anglian Life. Other specimens grow on the following reserves - Carlton Marshes (Sprat's Water), Redgrave & Lopham Fen, Norman Gwatkin reserve, Cornard Mere, Bromeswell Green, Martin's Meadows, Norah Hanbury-Kelk reserve.
Bluebell Hyacinthoides non-scripta
The bluebell is undoubtedly the Nation’s favourite flower. This is probably not surprising given that the UK is home to 50% of the global bluebell population and consequently our woodlands are the envy of Europe. While thought of as a woodland plant, bluebells are frequently found on verges and under hedges a legacy of the days when Suffolk was far more wooded than it is today. Bluebells generally prefer lighter soils and are most abundant in the south and east of the county but can also be found elsewhere on clay soils that don’t become waterlogged. However, the bluebell is almost completely absent from Breckland despite their sandy soils. Bluebells do most of their growing before the woodland trees come into leaf and reduce available sunlight. The first bluebell leaves appear in January and usually by late April/early May the plants are in full bloom. Dry warm springs result in flowers appearing a good fortnight earlier; when it’s un-seasonally cold and wet however, flowering is delayed. Keep an eye on the Trust’s website in spring for flowering updates. Bluebells can literally carpet the woodland floor. Poets in the past have likened the sight to a shimmering lake - the most amazing spectacle. It’s possible to experience this incredible show first hand by visiting a number of Suffolk Wildlife Trust woodland reserves. The most stunning are seen at Reydon Wood, Captain’s Wood and Arger Fen & Spouses Vale but Bradfield, Combs, Groton and Bonny Woods are also well worth a visit. Walking through acres of bluebells on a mild spring day is 19
Brown long-eared bat Plecotus auritus
Common and widespread, the brown long-eared bat is second only to the pipistrelle in distribution both nationally and in Suffolk. It’s this little bat’s extremely long ears, which can sometimes be curled like a ram’s horn, which easily distinguishes it from other Suffolk species. In hibernation close examination may reveal the ears folded back beneath the wings, but the long ear lobe known as the tragus remains erect looking like a small ear. Found in a wide variety of sites from modern houses and churches to timber- framed barns, ice houses and chalk tunnels it is the only species found regularly in both summer and winter. They readily use bat boxes - some 65 individuals were discovered in one Thetford box a few years ago! Nursery colonies are usually located in lofts where the animals cluster along the ridge board, giving rise to a characteristic line of droppings on the loft floor. They have a characteristic slow, fluttering flight with occasional hovering pauses and are more frequently seen than heard because of their very quiet echolocation sounds picked up by bat detectors. Moths form a significant part of their diet but they also take other insects such as flies and mosquitoes. Once caught the prey is taken to be consumed at a favourite perch - often a porch or similar covered site - where the only evidence of bat activity will be a pile of discarded moth wings and occasionally a few droppings on the floor. Brown long-eared bats rarely cross areas of open ground and tend to forage within 1-2km of the roost site using hedgerows, tree lines and banks as navigation routes. Destruction of such features may well have a negative impact on the species by isolating the feeding areas from the roosts. Their habit of flying low and picking prey off the ground means they may fall prey to cats. In some cases felines become very adept at catching bats and over the course of a summer one animal can seriously deplete a colony. Like other bat species adapted to living in houses, long-ears are susceptible to disturbance from building work and to chemical sprays used in timber treatment. All bats are protected by law and advice should be sought from Natural England if there is any likelihood they could be affected by building works or tree felling. Suffolk Wildlife Trust works on conserving this bat by commenting on planning applications that are likely to have an adverse impact or where opportunities exist to enhance the environment for them. Such applications can include barn conversions and other residential work where there is a bat roost that may be affected, or development proposals that may damage or destroy significant foraging or commuting habitat. We also seek the inclusion of bat friendly features in the design of new development such as the incorporation of roosting opportunities or the inclusion of good landscape planting to provide additional foraging or commuting habitat.
Common lizard Zootoca vivipara
Like all reptiles, the common lizard is ‘cold-blooded’, which means that it is dependent on external heat sources to raise its body temperature. It is an adaptable species, with probably the largest range of any land-living reptile and is able to live in relatively cool, northern climes. Common lizards bask in the sun to raise their body temperatures and it is then that they are most noticeable to the naturalist. On a hot day lizards soon achieve temperatures of about 30oC at which point they move off in search of cover. Common lizards are also well-adapted to surviving the cold of northern winters and can survive almost half of the water in their bodies freezing! One reptilian adaptation to cooler climates is viviparity – giving birth to fully-formed young rather than laying eggs. Reptile eggs need warm environments for successful development. Common lizards effectively retain their eggs until full-term, so that the mother can incubate them by seeking warm spots where she can bask in the sun. Viviparity does not allow the production of as many young as egg-laying mainly because egg-layers can produce several clutches per season. In some parts of its global range common lizards do lay eggs and clutch weights may be as much as 80% of the female’s body weight. The species prefers habitats where there is a mix of vegetation cover and open areas such as heathland, dune, scrub, woodland edge and brownfield sites (formerly developed areas that have since fallen into disuse). They can also be found in relatively damp habitats such as fen, where they can sometimes be seen on the edges of boardwalks that provide them with basking spots. Like all native reptiles, common lizards have declined in numbers as their favoured habitats have been replaced by intensive farmland and urbanisation. However they are doing well along the coast and in the heathland areas of the Sandlings and Brecks at Suffolk Wildlife Trust reserves such as Sutton & Hollesley Commons and Snape Marshes. We bought Snape Marshes in 2009 and it has proved to be an important site for reptiles, as well as giving a beautiful display of orchids. Buying a new nature reserve is one of the most powerful ways in which Suffolk Wildlife Trust protects wildlife for the future and it is thanks to our members that we are able to react quickly to seize opportunities to buy land.
Fen raft spider Dolomedes plantarius
The fen raft spider breaks many of our spider stereotypes. It is large, beautiful and found not in dry dusty corners, but on sparkling water surfaces in our richest wetlands. One of our rarest species, fen raft spiders were first discovered in the UK at the Trust’s Redgrave & Lopham Fen reserve in 1956. With dark, cigar-shaped bodies highlighted by white or cream go-faster stripes, and reaching lengths of 23mm, the fen raft spider is a striking animal. It lives around the margins of water bodies such as fen pools and grazing marsh ditches where it sits and waits for prey. It is a formidable hunter above and below water, taking prey much larger than itself, including large dragonfly larvae and even sticklebacks! Water is essential for breeding as well as for hunting. An elaborate courtship ritual of bobbing and leg tapping is translated through vibrations in the water surface. The eggs are laid into silk sacs that are immersed in water in hot weather. When they hatch, the hundreds of tiny spiderlings are guarded by their mother in a huge silk ‘nursery’ web built in stiff-leaved vegetation above the water’s edge. For a species so dependent on a permanent supply of clean, still or slow moving water, the drainage and pollution of many of our wetlands spelled near-disaster. At Redgrave & Lopham Fen, former abstraction of water from the chalk aquifer had reduced the population to perilously low levels. The spiders have poor powers of dispersal and so, even with the restoration of the habitat and water levels, recovery has been very slow. To reduce the vulnerability of the surviving populations, in 2010 Suffolk Wildlife Trust began a spider recolonisation programme led by Dr Helen Smith from Natural England and funded by the BBC Wildlife Fund. In a three year programme, thousands of baby spiderlings were reared in captivity and released at the Trust’s Castle Marshes reserve and Carlton & Oulton Marshes further down the River Waveney, creating the UK’s first new populations. Future releases will introduce raft spider to more new sites in East Anglia. Fen raft spiders will never be common but, over the next decade, we hope that they will become less rare – no less a special species but one with a much more secure future and which many more people can enjoy. 25
Frog orchid Dactylorhiza viridis
Frog orchid can be found on unimproved, short grassland and prefers chalky soils. In Suffolk it was once reasonably common on old horse pastures and on the edge of quarries, but many sites were ploughed when tractors took over from horse power. By the 1980s it was thought to be extinct in the county, but was happily rediscovered at Suffolk Wildlife Trust’s Winks Meadow in the 1990s. Winks Meadow is now believed to be the only location for frog orchid in Suffolk, and it certainly seems to thrive here with a record number of 47 spikes reported in summer 2010. Green in colour and small in stature, the frog orchid is a difficult plant to find. However if you’re lucky enough to catch it in flower (usually late May/early June) you will see that the flowers live up to its name – resembling small frogs on the stem! In common with other orchids the flowering of frog orchids is unpredictable and may vary from year to year. Traditional management to maintain short, thatch free grass sward is critical to the frog orchid’s survival. To this end Winks Meadow is either cut for hay and aftermath grazed or summer cattle grazed. This benefits other wildflowers too, including green-winged orchids, sulphur clover, early purple orchids, twayblade and cowslip. Winks Meadow is a SSSI for its flora and is managed under a Natural England Environmental Stewardship Agreement which helps to fund annual work such as the hay cut and rotational management of the hedges. Winks Meadow is open at all times but the best times to go are May and June. When you visit please keep to the edge of the meadow to protect the wildflowers and the hay.
Gadwall Anas strepera
Gadwall are medium-sized ducks with muted colours. Although they seem drab from a distance on closer inspection the male - which is grey-brown with white belly and black rump - shows a remarkable pattern of intricate markings. In flight flashes of white, chestnut and black can be seen on the wing. The bill is slate-grey and the legs and feet are yellow. Female gadwalls have a mottled brown appearance, a yellowish bill with dark spots and a smaller white patch on the wing. These ducks prefer open wetlands particularly wet grasslands. Their courtship displays often involve groups of males swimming round in small circles, calling and sometimes jostling each other. Often there will be a female at the centre! Gadwall nest relatively late in May in tall, emergent vegetation near water. One egg a day is laid until there is a clutch of 7 – 12 which are then incubated for about 26 days. The gadwalls’ diet is made up of aquatic vegetation. The ducks are often seen with their bottoms in the air feeding on seeds and leafy pondweed. Aquatic invertebrates such as crustaceans and midges are also taken. Increases in non-breeding numbers in the UK seem to have been caused by corresponding growth in the population of continental breeding birds. However this species is still Amber listed and so has been targeted for conservation action. Suffolk Wildlife Trust’s wetland reserves are at the forefront of conservation efforts for gadwall and other wildfowl. Trimley Marshes is nationally important for gadwall, with birds also depending on other Trust reserves, including Hazlewood Marshes, Dingle Marshes and Lackford Lakes. 29
Glow worm Lampyris noctiluca
The common glow worm is not at all worm-like but is a beetle up to 25mm long. Only the wingless females glow strongly, to attract the flying males. Each individual female has an adult glowing life of only a few weeks - once mated she turns off her light, lays her eggs and dies. Adult glow worms do not feed so they only live for 14 days or so. In Britain, the glow-worm is fairly widespread but local in distribution. The beetles are usually found on grassy slopes, verges and hedge banks on heaths and in open grassland - especially in chalky and limestone areas. People are often surprised to discover glow worms in their garden or along footpaths and railway embankments. They are rarely found on cultivated agricultural land. The glow worm needs a comparatively open area where the females can display to attract a male in June, July and August. The larvae need good habitat and a supply of small snails and slugs to feed on (which they paralyse before sucking them dry!) in order to thrive. After one or two summers the larvae mature into adults and are ready to mate. There is a suggestion that light pollution may distract male glow worms from finding females as they compete with artificial lighting. Other causes of glow worm decline are changes and loss of habitat, use of pesticides and changes in land use such as cessation of grazing. Many of Suffolk Wildlife Trust’s nature reserves provide just the right habitat for glow worms. The beetles are present on Blaxhall Common, Carlton Marshes, Redgrave & Lopham Fen, Roydon Fen and Newbourne Springs. Glow worms are one of many species benefiting from the large-scale coastal heathland restoration undertaken by the Trust over the past 25 years. Open heathland has been restored by clearing trees and scrub and is maintained by pony and sheep grazing. The Sandlings Living Landscape vision aims to increase the amount of heathland within the Sandlings and link heathland areas creating more habitat for species like glow worms. 31
Great crested newt Triturus cristatus
The great crested newt is Britain’s most strictly protected amphibian. It is the largest of our newts with mature females reaching up to 16 cm (6.5 inches) in length. The name comes from the male’s elaborate courtship regalia – the jagged crest that runs down his back during breeding season. It is also known as the warty newt because of its dark black-brown colour with ‘warty’ darker spots and bright orange-yellow belly with dark blotches. Although this newt breeds in ponds, it spends much of its life foraging and overwintering on dry land, hugely dependent on nearby rough grass, hedges and good habitat links to other ponds. Suffolk (along with Cheshire) boasts the highest density of ponds in England – and is the county stronghold for the great crested newt. However the Trust’s three year Suffolk Pond survey produced some alarming data about the state of Suffolk’s ponds and the status of great crested newts. It showed just how critical pond restoration and appropriate management is to rejuvenate dwindling newt populations, especially those on the verge of local extinction in parishes with very low pond densities. Analysis of the pond survey data provided a unique snapshot of 900 of Suffolk’s 22,000 estimated ponds. Whilst over 14% of the ponds surveyed contained great crested newts, large and thriving populations were only recorded at a handful of ponds – sunny, well vegetated ones with good surrounding habitat. In most cases they were merely hanging on in silted, shaded, neglected ponds with one or two newts laying a few eggs on occasional plants. Our survey showed that the vast proportion of Suffolk’s ponds were in fact unsuitable for newts due to heavy shade and organic matter, or the presence of predatory fish or damagingly high duck populations. The great crested newt is long-lived and extremely mobile travelling up to one kilometre in search of good pond habitat. Because of this, sensitive restoration of neglected ponds can quickly result in newts moving into a previously unsuitable pond – and result in a turnaround in the fortunes of this species locally. As a result of our pond survey work Suffolk Wildlife Trust gives targeted pond restoration advice to landowners with follow-up visits to monitor success. Between 2006 and 2010 we offered advice for 84% of ponds restored with Natural England grant aid. Early monitoring of 50 of these and other ponds showed that just one year after pond restoration, breeding great crested newts had returned to 23% of ponds where there had previously been none.
Harvest mouse Micromys minuitus
Since the 1970s the harvest mouse has suffered a huge decline in numbers due to land use changes and habitat loss. It is the UK’s smallest rodent weighing about the same as a 20p! These tiny mice have golden fur with a pale belly and a semi-prehensile tail. Their small size and excellent climbing ability enables them to occupy the stalk zone of grasses during the summer and autumn months, building characteristic woven nests up to a metre above ground level. These are most visible in autumn when they stand out as withered grassy balls. As the vegetation dies back in late autumn and winter, the mice switch to a more terrestrial lifestyle. Their diet is varied and includes flowers, insects, seeds and berries. Breeding starts in May and can last until December, although this is weather dependent. Several litters with 4-5 young are born each season. Harvest mice occupy a wide range of habitats - they can be found in rough and tussocky grassland, ungrazed and uncut meadows, reedbeds and riparian margins as well as roadside verges and arable field margins, but rarely occur in cereal crops. In the arable landscape field margins and beetle banks are of particular importance. In 2009-2011, Suffolk Wildlife Trust undertook the county’s first comprehensive harvest mouse survey. This was done using an innovative approach of mapping harvest mouse distribution through the bones found in barn owl pellets, coupled with nest searches. The survey showed that although they are more widespread than previously thought, harvest mice are not as common as they used to be and remain extremely vulnerable to habitat loss. It appears that mice living in areas linked to other natural habitats do better than those living in isolated pockets. Using the insight gained through the field research we have offered landowner advice and training on ways of encouraging harvest mice. Farmers are advised to leave rough grass margins around their fields and on other areas of the farm. Wild bird and game cover crops containing millet also seem to attract them.
Hazel dormouse Muscardinus avellanarius
The dormouse is one of our most attractive and endearing native British mammals with its large eyes, golden fur, and thick bushy tail. It is known as the hazel, or common, dormouse to distinguish it from the introduced edible or fat dormouse Glis glis. It feeds on pollen and nectar in spring, insects in summer and fruit and nuts in autumn so a flowering and fruiting shrub layer is critical for its survival. Although present in some of our ancient woodland reserves, dormice are rarely seen because they are nocturnal and secretive and live at low density. They are excellent climbers and spend half of the year in the tree and shrub canopy with the remaining period in hibernation in a nest at ground level. The nest is woven from honeysuckle bark and leaves. Over the past 100 years it has undergone a national decline in both distribution and numbers due to habitat loss, deterioration in habitat quality and fragmentation of populations which has led to localised extinctions. Until recently we knew very little about the remaining dormouse populations in Suffolk, so in 2002 the Essex and Suffolk dormouse project was launched to undertake surveys. We needed this information so we could assess the status of the dormouse in order to safeguard the species for the future. Until recently the principal survey tool was to look for hazelnuts displaying the characteristic hole made by a dormouse, but this only works where hazel is growing. The real breakthrough came by using specially designed tubes in which the dormouse likes to make a summer nest and resulted in over twenty new sites being discovered! This work revealed that dormouse is now found mainly in the south of Suffolk, within clusters of ancient woodlands usually linked by species-rich hedgerows. The key to good dormouse habitat is diversity in the shrub layer combined with a good three-dimensional structure. However, many sites are isolated and there is still a real risk that fragmentation of the populations could lead to localised extinctions. Suffolk Wildlife Trustâ€™s priority at our nature reserves is to increase the amount of dormouse habitat and improve habitat connectivity. Nowhere illustrates this ambition better than Arger Fen & Spouses Vale. Thanks to Trust members a successful land purchase campaign to extend the reserve, will mean dormouse can increase and spread. The Trust is also working with landowners around our reserves to re-connect dormouse populations by advising on hedgerow and woodland management. Gaps in connectivity are identified and hedgerows planted to link up ancient woodlands. This will help strengthen populations to secure the long term future of this highly charismatic creature. Â 37Â
Hedgehog Erinaceus europaeus
Hedgehogs are one of our most popular and instantly-recognised mammals. They are born covered only in skin, developing white spines soon after birth which are quickly replaced by the familiar brown spines. Fossils suggest that hedgehog-like creatures have been on the Earth for about 15 million years. The hedgehog’s diet is varied consisting of insects, slugs, snails, worms and caterpillars and anything else they find palatable. They are active mainly at night and may travel up to a mile to search for food, which they locate with their well-developed senses of hearing and smell. During the day they will usually sleep in a quiet hedge or an out-of-the-way spot in a garden. During hibernation, from around late October to early April, hedgehogs’ metabolism almost slows to a standstill but the odd warm day may wake them from their slumber enticing them away from their nests. To survive the winter it is crucial for them to build up their weight in autumn, as any hedgehog weighing less than a pound will not survive. Suffolk Wildlife Trust is concerned that hedgehogs are not as numerous as they once were and has carried out surveys to investigate this. Although hedgehogs are very popular visitors to our gardens, our 2010 Hedgehog Survey showed that fewer of our gardens are being visited by this charming animal. The causes of this apparent decline are not yet clear, but there are a number of steps that we can all take in our gardens to help boost hedgehog numbers. Over-tidiness reduces the availability of shelter and natural food supplies; hedgehogs will appreciate rougher areas of garden. By leaving small amounts of food when hedgehogs are out and about at dusk you may also be rewarded by some excellent views. Try leaving some drinking water together with dog or cat food or raw minced meat rather than bread and milk, which are harmful to hedgehogs. These delightful mammals need all the help they can get to survive our cold winters and somewhere safe to hibernate is essential. You can provide log piles in a secluded corner and may well be rewarded with your very own resident animal! Another hedgehog survey is planned for autumn 2014 which we will ask members to help us with. 39
Lapwing Vanellus vanellus
The northern lapwing, with its black and white appearance and rounded wing shape in flight, is a distinctive and beautiful bird even without its splendid crest. At close quarters you can see that the lapwing is not just black and white but iridescent purple-green with rich chestnut patches above and below the tail, giving a truly handsome appearance. Sadly, the lapwing is on the Birds of Conservation Concern (BoCC) red list. Numbers have declined continuously on lowland farmland since the mid-1980s, probably due to changes in agricultural practices including loss of rough grassland and mixed farms, conversion to arable crops, increased drainage and the switch from spring to autumn sown crops. Lapwing need bare ground or short vegetation for nesting between mid-March and June - autumn sown crops have grown too high by the start of the nesting season. Short grassland created by cattle grazing enables them to have a good all round view of predators. Twenty years ago the Trust created Trimley Marshes wetland reserve almost entirely from arable land alongside the River Orwell. Lapwing and redshank were the two target breeding species we had in mind when we created the reserve as neither of these birds had bred here due to the intensive way the land had been farmed. Trimley Marshes is now a wonderful mosaic of wet meadows and open grassland grazed by cattle and sheep which provides ideal nesting and foraging habitat for waders. Controlled water levels and flooding via sluices and foot drains have increased the invertebrate value of the marshes to benefit lapwing and other waders. Lapwing are present all year round on the reserve with large flocks of several hundred, often boosted in number by migrants from Europe, finding a safe roost here during the winter months. Our habitat restoration work has been very successful as we now have at least 12 pairs of lapwing breeding here annually and it’s such a pleasure to watch their tumbling display flights over their territories in spring and hear their ‘peewit’ cries. We also have at least 12 pairs of redshank breeding annually which is great news. Lapwing and redshank breed in smaller numbers at Carlton Marshes, Dingle Marshes, Hazelwood Marshes and Lackford Lakes.
Little whirlpool ram’s-horn snail Anisus vorticulus
This tiny freshwater snail is both a national and international rarity found at Suffolk Wildlife Trust’s reserve at Carlton Marshes - an important UK site for this species. With a shell diameter of only 3.5 -6mm it’s devilishly difficult to spot and identify as it looks similar to the very common Whirlpool Ram’s-horn snail. It’s very exacting requirements means that the snail is only found on grazing marshes in well-vegetated open ditches fed by clean, slightly calcareous water. Over the last 60 years land use changes have had a major impact on the distribution of this little animal. Over-frequent mechanised ditch clearance and the conversion of grazing marshes to arable farming, together with the associated lowering of water tables and enrichment of ditch waters by artificial fertilisers, have all taken their toll. As a consequence UK populations have been reduced to a handful of places where conditions remain suitable. The Waveney Valley is one such site where some pockets of good habitat support strong populations. To ensure this rare snail continues to thrive, the ditches at Carlton Marshes are managed in a particular way which also favours many other rare aquatic invertebrates, including dragonflies. The ditches are only cleaned out when necessary, and then only in small sections, so that the snails can recolonize cleared sections from the uncleared stretches. Other Trust reserves in the area, such as Castle Marshes, also support this species. Continuing work with neighbouring landowners involves creating and restoring suitable habitat for these rare little snails. 43
Marsh harrier Circus aeruginosus
Who could fail to be inspired by the glorious sight of a marsh harrier gliding gracefully over a Suffolk reedbed, its wings held in a shallow V? Yet in the early 1970s this sight was unimaginable for most of us, with the UK population of this majestic bird down to a single breeding pair. The recovery of the marsh harrier can be attributed to the creation of larger areas of reedbed, especially on nature reserves - which offer greater protection - together with the reduction in the use of damaging pesticides. The hard work put in by Suffolk Wildlife Trust, along with similar organisations, has played a large part in ensuring that we in this region can all now enjoy seeing this wonderful bird. Thanks to this work the UK's marsh harrier population now stands at over 350 breeding pairs, with Suffolk and Norfolk being the stronghold of the species. The Trust has for a number of years steadily increased and worked to improve its areas of reedbed - the marsh harrier's favourite breeding habitat. This effort can clearly be seen in the creation in 1999 of a new reserve at Hen Reedbeds near Southwold. Although primarily created to encourage bittern, another endangered species, the efforts at Hen Reedbeds have been rewarded by the presence of between three and six nests per year over the past 13 years. Other Trust reserves with breeding marsh harriers include Dingle Marshes, Hazlewood Marshes and Carlton Marshes. Although essentially summer migrants, since the mid-1980s a number of marsh harriers (over 100 in recent years) have over-wintered on the Suffolk coast rather than in Africa, so we now have a good chance of seeing them all year round. This over-wintering population is bolstered every year by migrant birds arriving by April and staying until September or October. Marsh harrier is present all year round at the Trust's Trimley Marshes reserve near Felixstowe and is regularly seen at Castle Marshes, Lackford Lakes and Redgrave & Lopham Fen. The marsh harrier's future is now more secure than it has been for many years and the Trust will continue to work hard to ensure that future generations will be able to enjoy one of our most rewarding wildlife experiences.
Norfolk hawker Aeshna isosceles
The Norfolk hawker is a splendid dragonfly of early summer. With a striking tan-brown with green eyes and clear wings, a well defined yellow triangle at the base of its abdomen gives the dragonfly its Latin name. Norfolk hawker frequent ditches and dykes in good quality fen and grazing marsh. In the 19th century it was patchily distributed throughout the wetter parts of East Anglia. Following fen drainage and habitat degradation its range shrank. Towards the end of the 20th century surveys showed it to be restricted to parts of the Norfolk Broads and in Suffolk along Waveney Marshes. This made Norfolk hawker one of Britain’s rarest dragonflies and it is now protected by law. There are a number of reasons why Norfolk hawker has never been abundant. Britain is at the northern edge of the species’ European range so climate is probably a limiting factor. The species is also associated with dykes having just the right water flow and quality and the presence of the plant water soldier. To aid the spread of the Norfolk hawker Suffolk Wildlife Trust has been working to improve and maintain grazing marsh and associated dykes, and link habitat. Last decade we bought 215 acres in 13 separate blocks to piece together the wetland landscape and realise our aim of creating a Broads Living Landscape. At 370 acres Carlton & Oulton Marshes are now the largest wetland complex in the Suffolk Broads. Since the 1990s the Norfolk hawkers’ range has been increasing in Suffolk. At first just a few individuals were found in coastal areas near the Waveney, but the spread continued with colonisation of several coastal sites from Minsmere, via Sizewell, down to North Warren near Aldeburgh. There have also been recent sightings near Snape. Suffolk coastal numbers now make up a significant proportion of the total UK population.
Oak polypore Buglossoporus pulvinus
Although this rare fungus has only been recorded in six counties, England is the global stronghold for the species and it has become extinct through most of Europe. In Suffolk it is found in Staverton Park and in Suffolk Wildlife Trust’s reserve at Captain’s Wood near Sudbourne which the Trust bought in 2005 to safeguard its future and open to the public. The veteran oaks in this marvellous ancient wood pasture, provide just the right habitat for oak polypore fungus to live. Officially classified as Endangered in Britain the oak polypore is specially protected under Schedule 8 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. Like much of our native wildlife it is the loss of habitat and changes in agricultural practices that are the main reasons for its scarcity. The fruiting bodies of the oak polypore appear in summer but don’t last long, which makes monitoring difficult. It is a heartwood rotting species that requires exposed, seasoned wood of mature or dead veteran oak trees so it is restricted to medieval forests, deer parks and wood pasture; habitats which ensure a long continuity of mature oak. The stemless bracket-like fruiting bodies have a smooth upper surface, which feels velvety when young. As the fruiting body matures, pores develop on the underside and the colour changes from white to pale-yellow. As it matures it changes to brown with a white border. At Captains Wood, the Trust’s first priority for conservation is to safeguard the veteran trees in the woodland and to manage the wood pasture habitat. New generation oaks have been planted from acorns that have been gathered from within the woodland to ensure habitat and genetic continuity.
Oxlip Primula elatior
A Suffolk oxlip wood in spring is wonderful with its carpet of graceful, nodding, creamy yellow flowers and delicate apricot scent. It wasn't until 1842 that research identified the oxlip as a separate species. Until then it was thought to be a cowslip/primrose hybrid. Although common in Europe oxlips are nationally scarce in the UK. Almost exclusively a plant of damp ancient woodland atop boulder clay, the best local sites are found where the borders of Suffolk, Essex and Cambridgeshire meet. Like many of our wildflowers, the oxlip has suffered from loss of habitat with meadows and woodlands being grubbed up for agriculture after the Second World War. A newer threat however now exists in the form of deer grazing. The explosion in the deer population has put remaining oxlip populations under additional stress. Yet despite the pressures oxlip is resilient and individual plants long-lived. Even where woods have been replaced by conifers, small numbers of oxlip survive along ride edges and in neglected corners. At Suffolk Wildlife Trust we are doing our best to encourage the oxlip. The ancient woodland practice of coppicing opens up the woodland floor and encourages the conditions in which oxlip thrives. There are magnificent displays at Bull’s Wood and at Bradfield Woods in April and May. In 2010 we bought the last 16 acres of Bradfield Woods, to bring all the ancient woodland into conservation management.
© Oxlip image above copyright Roger Jones and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence
Silver-studded blue Plebejus argus
The silver-studded blue is one of the UK’s rarest butterflies. It gets its name from the light blue reflective scales found on the underside of most adults. They are found in close-knit colonies as they seldom fly far, but when together in large numbers on a hot day they make a wonderful spectacle, fluttering and shimmering over carpets of purple heathers and yellow gorse. This butterfly has a fascinating relationship with a species of black ant. The butterfly's eggs are deposited close to the ground on larval food plants such as heather, bird’s-foot trefoil and gorse. When ready to pupate, the larvae are carried to the underground nest by the ants. The adult butterfly emerges from its chrysalis in late June and crawls out of the nest in the company of a cluster of ants. These protect the vulnerable butterfly while it dries its wings for flight. The silver-studded blue is typically a butterfly of well-managed lowland heath, Britain's rarest habitat. Loss and fragmentation of such heathland due to development and lack of management has led to colonies of the butterfly being trapped in isolated pockets. Although widely distributed in England at the start of the 20th century, the silver-studded blue had become extinct in most counties. In Suffolk, where it was once widespread, the silver-studded blue is now confined to a few heathland sites in the Sandlings at Sutton & Hollesley Commons and Blaxhall Common. Suffolk Wildlife Trust has been working hard to sustain and improve these populations with careful management and heathland restoration to link colonies. Habitat management involves maintaining and creating bare soil and short vegetation with a high proportion of bell heather - the favoured food plant of larvae and adults - to produce a warm microclimate for the ants and larvae.
Slow worm Anguis fragilis
Strangely the slow worm is not a worm and neither is it slow! A type of legless lizard it is one of Suffolk's four reptile species. Slow worms have a firm, copper coloured cylindrical, smooth body with a fine stripe down the back. The undersides are usually black and unlike snakes, slow worms have distinctive and movable eyelids. Adults are typically 30 - 50cm long. You stand a reasonable chance of seeing one if you know where to look. Favourite haunts include heathlands, disused allotments, woodland rides, railway embankments, churchyards and even gardens. As they rely on the outdoor temperature to control body heat, they are dependent on weather conditions. Sunny days with patchy cloud or a sunny spell after rain are often the best times to spot slow worms, as they come out to bask on a log or south-facing slope. They emerge from hibernation once the weather warms up around March. Mating takes place and the young are usually born in late August or early September. Juveniles have just a few weeks of activity before the temperature drops and its time to seek shelter underground. Sometimes called the 'gardeners friend', slow worm are partial to slugs but will also eat a range of garden pests including snails, caterpillars and ants. They in turn are eaten by predators such as stoats, weasels and birds of prey. In urban areas cats can unfortunately kill significant numbers. Slow worm, along with all other species of reptile, have declined drastically largely as a result of habitat loss in the countryside. Urban areas now provide important refuges, with derelict plots in towns likely to be colonised with open, rough grassland and scrub - valuable reptile habitat. Dumped materials such as garden refuse, concrete or metal act as perfect basking sites. With changes in planning policy, focusing on the need for brownfield development, many of these sites may now be under threat. While Suffolk Wildlife Trust supports development at sites where there is no wildlife interest, it is important that we do not allow urban or rural sites which support important reptile populations to be destroyed. Suffolk Wildlife Trust comments on planning applications that are likely to have an adverse impact on reptiles or where opportunities exist to enhance the environment for them. Such applications normally involve the clearance of land for new development, including brownfield sites which can be important areas for species such as slow worm and common lizard. It is important surveys are carried out before development goes ahead so we can establish which reptile species are present and design suitable mitigation measures. We also seek the inclusion of enhancements for reptiles in the design of new development - this can involve measures such as the incorporation of basking, foraging and hibernating opportunities in to landscaping and open space areas. Suffolk Wildlife Trust’s reserve at Snape Marshes is a good place to spot slow worm, grass snake and common lizard.
Small-leaved lime Tilia cordata
The small-leaved lime is a native British hardwood and an indicator of ancient woodland. It has a distinctive smooth grey bark, with masses of sweet-smelling yellow flowers in spring which provide valuable nectar for bees and other insects. The tree has become rare due to poor regeneration from seed – it is thought that climate change and the tree’s sensitivity to air pollution are partly responsible. You can see small-leaved lime in two of Suffolk Wildlife Trust’s finest ancient woodland reserves Bradfield Woods and Groton Wood - in fact the latter is the best lime wood in Suffolk particularly notable for its small-leaved lime coppice. The Trust manages small-leaved lime by the traditional method of coppicing, where stems are cut at or near ground level to promote vigorous re-growth from the coppice stool. This ancient method of harvesting timber provides a sustainable supply of straight poles but its main use nowadays is as firewood. The bark, or bast-wood, is still used to make strong woven string and the seats of green wood chairs. Coppicing is carried out every 15-25yrs to allow new shoots to grow, with some maiden trees being left to grow to maturity. As the stools regenerate they provide a dense shrubby under storey which benefits a great variety of wildlife, especially migrant songbirds such as garden warbler, blackcap, willow warbler and nightingale together with small mammals. Interestingly the re-growth seems to be unattractive to grazing deer - not the case with most other coppiced trees! Newly coppiced areas allow more light onto the woodland floor resulting in carpets of wildflowers in spring and summer which in turn attract a variety of butterflies and other insects. By continuing this ancient tradition we are playing our part in prolonging the life of these trees and creating conditions in which wildlife and plants can flourish.
Stag beetle Lucanus cervus
The spectacular stag beetle is Britain’s largest terrestrial beetle. Males can be up to 7cm (2.5in) long with huge mandibles - like a stag’s antlers - for use in courtship displays and for wrestling other males. Females are smaller and do not have the large antlers. They have shiny black heads with chestnut wing cases and both sexes fly, although the females less frequently. You are most likely to see stag beetles in flight on warm evenings from May to August when the males are searching for a mate. Unfortunately this is when they are most vulnerable to being squashed by cars. The stag beetle has a fascinating lifecycle. The females lay their eggs underground next to rotting wood on which the larvae – which take up to six years to mature - feed. In autumn fully grown larvae construct a large, underground cocoon in which they pupate and metamorphose into adults. They remain underground until they emerge in mid-May but because adults do not eat their lifespan is only a few weeks - the male dies after mating and the female after laying her eggs. The stag beetle is classed as nationally scarce and has been declining due to the loss of subterranean dead and rotting wood in the countryside. It is mostly restricted to the south-east of Britain as it prefers areas with warmer air temperatures and low rainfall together with light, well drained soils. These enable females to dig down to bury their eggs and the newly emerged adults to find their way to the surface. With such a long lifecycle it is important that we create and protect stag beetle habitats on our reserves, as well as in our gardens and allotments, by leaving plenty of dead and rotting wood and by burying some of it. The Trust is lucky to have the help of Colin Hawes, the leading stag beetle expert in the county, who also works closely with The People’s Trust for Endangered Species. They recommend constructing log pyramids as ‘stepping stones’ to connect up sites where the beetle is already present and to enable the beetles to colonise new areas more easily. Visit www.ptes.org/ stagbeetles for more information The Trust works closely with the planning authorities, mainly in south-east Suffolk. We comment on planning applications highlighting where stag beetles may be present on land earmarked for development. There have been incidences where old hedgerows have had to be removed and on one occasion this has resulted in Colin ‘rescuing’ 30 stag beetle larvae! You may be lucky enough to spot stag beetles in flight on a summer evening at our Newbourne Springs reserve. . 59
Tree sparrow Passer montanus
This small farmland bird was once a common sight in the Suffolk countryside but by the turn of the century the tree sparrow faced extinction in East Anglia. Between 1968 and 1999 there was a 93% decline across farmland in Great Britain. The decline in populations has been mirrored in other farmland birds; the most likely cause is changes in farming practices. With agricultural intensification came increased pesticide use, habitat fragmentation and the loss of winter stubble as autumn sown crops replaced spring sown ones. The good news is that it seems the tree sparrows’ decline is a fairly straight forward one to reverse - all they need is bed and board. If they are in the area then they are quick to take advantage and move in if they are provided with food and suitable nest boxes. They’re quite at home in village gardens taking advantage of seed feeders, bird boxes, crevices in walls, shrubs and trees. Once you know what you’re looking for they are a simple bird to recognise. Unlike its larger cousin the house sparrow, the males and females of the tree sparrow share identical plumage. They have a distinctive chestnut brown head and nape, white cheeks and collar with a black cheek spot. Like the house sparrow the tree sparrow doesn’t have a true song and instead has a monosyllabic chirp similar to that of the house sparrow but at a higher pitch. They are gregarious and like to nest in groups and form larger winter flocks. If you have tree sparrows you can help by putting up next boxes and feeding them all year round. Being seed feeders they enjoy a mix of canary seed with white and red millet. Tree sparrows are a Biodiversity Action Plan species and are on the red list of birds of conservation concern in the UK. Agri-environment schemes offer options to landowners for farmland birds so they can add wild bird seed crops to their land, plant and improve hedges and scrub all of which the tree sparrow benefits from. Due to work carried out by Suffolk Wildlife Trust we are starting to see a change in the downward spiral for this bird especially in the west of the county. Suffolk Wildlife Trust works with a team of dedicated volunteers surveying, colour ringing and feeding birds to identify where the tree sparrows are and to try and bolster existing populations. The best place to see tree sparrows in Suffolk is in the west of the county. Lackford Lakes nature reserve near Bury St Edmunds is a good place. The best time to see them is November-April. We are also very keen to know of new populations, if you have seen them (especially a colour ringed bird) or think you have them in your garden or on your land then please contact us. . 61
Water vole Arvicola terrestris
Famed as Ratty in Kenneth Grahame’s novel The Wind in the Willows the water vole was once a familiar creature to be seen regularly on our rivers and ponds. Their chubby whiskery faces, blunt noses and small ears readily distinguish them from the brown rat, which also inhabits waterways. They are mostly vegetarian feeding on a wide range of plants, roots and tubers. Water voles don’t hibernate in winter but retreat underground where they store food only emerging when the sun shines. They need luxurious bankside vegetation particularly grasses, rushes and sedges, to provide food and cover from predators. Steep banks are also favoured which allow them to excavate extensive burrow systems. Over the last 20 years the species has suffered the most rapid and catastrophic decline in numbers of any British mammal due to habitat loss and predation by the non-native American mink. A national water vole survey carried out in the 1990s revealed the devastating news that water vole was on the point of extinction in several counties. This galvanised the Trust into action and water vole conservation became a high priority. Between 2003-2005 we surveyed all Suffolk river catchments which showed further dramatic decline - in 2003 the River Alde had no water vole at all on its main channel. However this is something of a success story. Suffolk Wildlife Trust’s Water for Wildlife officer has been working with landowners to improve wetland habitat management and implement mink control on all Suffolk’s rivers. Where this has been carried out water vole have successfully re-colonised rivers, ponds and lakes. Today these delightful creatures have now been recorded on every river catchment in Suffolk and are once again becoming a familiar and delightful sight along our riverbanks.
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