Wildlife News from Suffolk Wildlife Trust
WASP WONDER Time to rethink how we see wasps
WILDFLOWER MEADOWS Fragments of a lost Suffolk
SONG OF THE NIGHTINGALE Listening to the hymn of spring
Living Landscapes Living Gardens Living Seas
SPRING/ SUMMER 2019 ARD RICH Y ON E MAB ULCET D THE OF THE ES TON TINGALE NIGH
REBECCA COLE ALAMY
Concern for water vole
A new Trust study has shown mink still pose a threat to the county's water vole.
All the latest news from the Trust's reserves.
Song of the barley bird
Author Richard Mabey looks at the appeal and beauty of the nightingale's song.
Demonised and feared, Hawk Honey explains why wasps deserve a closer look.
12 The wonder of wasps
28 Butterflies without borders
Patrick Barkham reveals the long journey many species make to reach our back gardens.
16 Step back in time
Steve Aylward explores how Suffolk still holds meadows capable of transporting us back to a different, wilder time.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the meeting that saved Bradfield Woods. Matt Gaw looks at a turning point in Suffolk's conservation history.
20 Bradfield Woods
24 Campaign for a wilder future
Collective action is vital to secure legislation to protect our natural world. Ali North explains how you can help.
26 Farming & Fisheries
How we are working to create a sustainable farming environment.
32 Advertising directory
Wildlife News from Suffolk Wildlife Trust
On the cover
After years of planning and mammoth efforts by our members and supporters the creation of our 1,000 acre Suffolk Broads nature reserve is now underway. Nature seems to sense that changes are afoot with up to 1,000 pink-footed geese visiting last winter and cattle egret and great white egret increasingly being seen. On a recent visit to Carlton Marshes I was thrilled to watch a short-eared owl sweeping over a vast expanse of rough grassland. It’s hard to recollect that three years ago this was a field of Julian Roughton winter wheat and beans. Chief Executive I was accompanied by Leo Linnartz, from Holland, and Lord Somerleyton, owner of the Somerleyton Estate. Leo was sharing his experience of reintroducing wild herbivores, such as the European bison, to nature reserves in Europe. These reintroductions are part of an upsurge of interest in ‘re-wilding’ – reinstating ‘naturalistic’ grazing to create complex habitat mosaics. Primitive breeds of cattle and pony behave much as their wild predecessors would – their herd behaviour and grazing creates habitat complexity rather than the uniform swards associated with conventional grazing. It’s an approach we have adopted with Exmoor ponies at Knettishall Heath and koniks, the Polish semi-feral horses, at Redgrave & Lopham Fen. Leo Linnartz was fascinated by Chinese water deer at Carlton Marshes for it is a species unknown in Europe. We watched thirty grazing across Peto’s Marsh and, set against a blue sky, there were echoes of gazelle dotting an African savanna. It will be fascinating to see how these small deer influence habitats. Our hope is that they will create micro-habitats by grazing patches within reedbeds and encourage localised diversity of vegetation and structure. Two recent bestsellers – George Monbiot’s, Feral, and Isabella Burrell’s Wilding – reflect a yearning for a wilder countryside. Wilding describes the transformation of the Knepp Estate from arable and dairy to 3,000 acres of unkempt wildness. It’s a message of hope and optimism – that nature can recover if it is given a chance. But for this to happen we must address the tide of tidiness afflicting our countryside. Nature needs more bramble, rough grass and scrub. On the Somerleyton Estate, barely a bittern’s stride from Carlton Marshes, marshes have been brought back to life by restoring water levels and wetness – waders and wildfowl have followed. The potential of creating an even larger area for wildlife in the Suffolk Broads is extraordinarily exciting.
Silver-washed fritillary (male) Steve Aylward WASP WONDER Time to rethink how we see wasps
WILDFLOWER MEADOWS Fragments of a lost Suffolk
SONG OF THE NIGHTINGALE Listening to the hymn of spring
Living Landscapes Living Gardens Living Seas
SUFFOLK WILDLIFE MAGAZINE is published by Suffolk Wildlife Trust, Brooke House, Ashbocking IP6 9JY 01473 890089 firstname.lastname@example.org suffolkwildlifetrust.org EDITOR Matt Gaw DESIGN Clare Sheehan ADVERTISING Today Magazines, Framlingham 01728 622030 PRINTING Lavenham Press
Suffolk Wildlife Trust is a registered charity no 262777 and a company limited by guarantee no 695346 PATRON Lord Tollemache PRESIDENT William Kendall VICE PRESIDENTS David Barker MBE, Sir Kenneth Carlisle, Lord Deben, Dawn Girling, Peter Wilson TRUSTEES Nigel Farthing (Chairman), James Alexander (Treasurer), Philip Newton (Hon Secretary), David Alborough, John Cousins, Rachel Eburne, Pip Goodwin, Peter Holborn, Stephanie Jones, Simon Roberts, Anna Saltmarsh. Registered charity no 262777
KEEP IN TOUCH
Suffolk Wildlife Trust benefits from the most incredible support, with many members’ commitment stretching over decades. Please tell our Membership Manager, Sam Grange, if your circumstances change, so we can keep your membership record up-to-date, for example if your family has grown out of the children’s magazine. If you would like to change how we contact you, or would rather receive your magazine in a digital format please let us know.
Sam Grange our Membership Manager is happy to help with any questions about your membership. 01473 890089 Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram SUFFOLK WILDLIFE TRUST is one of a national network of Wildlife Trusts dedicated to safeguarding the future of wildlife for the benefit of all.
WATER VOLE FACE RISK FROM RESURGENT MINK
study carried out by Suffolk Wildlife Trust has revealed American mink are once again impacting on water vole populations in the county’s rivers. In 2018, the Trust surveyed the length of six Suffolk rivers to record evidence of water voles, mink and otter. The work, funded by People’s Trust for Endangered Species (PTES), was a repeat of surveys carried out during the late 1990s and early 2000s 4
when concerns about the effects of mink, a voracious predator which had been released or escaped from fur farms, were first raised. The latest results show that at 45% of the 141 river sections surveyed there was evidence of water vole being present. While the news that water vole are widely distributed across all the river catchments is positive, there is still some cause for serious concern. The current data suggests water vole populations have
levelled off, or have started to drop, while the number of mink, present at 16% of surveyed sites and able to predate voles even in their bank-side burrows, are rising again. We know that following our baseline survey (in the 1990s) water vole populations declined significantly where minks were present, with their numbers subsequently increasing following the introduction of co-ordinated mink control. Although Suffolk’s water vole population remains
American mink BOB BUSHELL
JOHN GOODAY ALAMY
healthier than in many counties in the UK, due to concerted and sustained conservation efforts, the Trust is continuing to encourage and support landowners to control mink to enable water vole to thrive once more.
CAN YOU HELP? If you are interested in helping with this project, please contact: penny.hemphill@ suffolkwildlifetrust.org
WORK STARTS ON CARLTON! Suffolk Wildlife Trust’s drive to restore a precious corner of East Anglia and create 1,000 acres of wildness at Carlton Marshes is now underway. Following a £1million public fundraising appeal and the award of £4million from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, the Trust purchased a parcel of 348acres of land, which flanks the existing reserve. Now, after years of planning, contractors have begun work to create wetland habitat on both Share Marsh and Peto’s Marsh. The digging of scrapes (shallow pools, which are excellent for supporting
wading birds), and the creation of one of the biggest reedbeds in Suffolk is scheduled to continue until November this year. Matt Gooch, Broads Manager, said: “After all the work behind the scenes, and the generosity of donors and backers, it feels like we are now almost in touching distance of what will be a truly spectacular reserve.” “The restoration will, of course, take time, but the positive impact it will have for wildlife and for visitors will last for generations. It is a very exciting time.” While it will take time for the reserve to “bed in” and
STANDING UP FOR WILDLIFE
PLANNING Suffolk Wildlife Trust has again written to EDF Energy to voice its concerns about its plans for Sizewell C nuclear power station. The Trust’s response, submitted as part of the Stage 3 public consultation (understood to be the final public consultation) which concluded in March, expressed deep disappointment at the proposals’ limited detail and shortage of background evidence. We believe significant issues still have not been
addressed by EDF Energy, including adverse impacts the development could have on biodiversity, including the potential destruction of parts of Sizewell Marshes (SSSI) and impacting rare and protected species, such as the barbastelle bat are all important points, which EDF have not adequately addressed. The Trust will continue to engage with the application process and attend the public examination to give evidence on the site’s potential effect on wildlife.
become a breath-taking panorama of wildness, the increase in muddy areas as a result of the movements of heavy machinery is likely to mean an increase in bird numbers visiting Carlton Marshes. Access to the site will change while the work is carried out, so please look out for information and signs on the reserve and remember, a couple of months of disruption will result in a wildlife refuge that will last a lifetime.
GOING THE EXTRA MILE Suffolk Wildlife Trust’s Broads Manager, Matt Gooch, has been recognised for his “environmental leadership” at the AGM of the The Wildlife Trusts. Matt, who has helped lead our project at Carlton Marshes, was given his award for his commitment, passion and always “going the extra mile for wildlife.”
Efforts to strike a fine balance between protecting rare freshwater marshes and keeping the natural rhythms of Suffolk’s dynamic coast is continuing at Dingle Marshes. The reserve, owned by both the Trust and RSPB, has repeatedly been inundated by the North Sea over the last 20 years. In January 2017, a surge tide breached the shingle ridge, which separates the reserve from the sea, creating a very deep inlet that flowed at all states of tide. The volume of water flowing through the gap prevented any natural sealing occurring and around 60ha of freshwater marsh was covered in salt water for nearly three months. The breach was eventually sealed by the Environment Agency using a bulldozer. Following that incident, Coastal Partnership, a group made up of the Trust, RSPB, Natural England, Environment Agency and Suffolk Coastal District Council, was formed to plan the future of the site. It was decided in the short-term that weak points in the shingle ridge should be blocked with clay bunds and new saline lagoons created to replace those lost to encroaching shingle. Funding was received from Suffolk Coast & Heaths AONB Amenity & Accessibility Fund and Dunwich Town Trust and the works were completed early in November. While the Trust and the partnership continues to work on a long-term vision for Dingle the recent work has already proved successful. A surge tide in January this year over-topped the ridge and flooded the site but did not cause a breach.
SAVING THE SHINGLE OF DINGLE
STEVE AYLWARD, DAVE PRESSLAND FLPA
CONSERVATION NEWS PEACOCK
COMMON SPOTTED ORCHID
GET SPOTTING AT LOUND
Butterflies were on the wing early at Lackford Lakes this year, with peacock, comma and brimstone all seen on the reserve as the weather heated up in late February. Hot on their heels have come the dragonflies, with the hairy dragonfly emerging first in April. This species, whose nymph lives in still water, can be seen around the ditches near Bernardâ€™s Hide. As we head into the summer keep your eyes peeled for broad-bodied chasers, fourspotted chasers and the 16 other species of dragonfly and damselfly that call this reserve home.
A new team of conservation grazers are now helping to maintain Knettishall Heath. Early this year, 14 rare-breed Bagot goats were released into the riverside meadow as part of a two-year trial to see how their grazing impacts on the quality of open heathland. It is hoped the Bagots will build on the work carried out by our existing herd of Exmoor ponies â€“ with the goats happy to browse on birch saplings, brambles and older heather.
DAVID EYRE ALAMY
JEREMY PARDOE ALAMY
The fen meadows of Lound Lakes are nearly at their best at this time of year, with stunning displays of common spotted and heath spottedorchid. Dragonflies are on the wing, which, means so are hobbies that twist and turn in the air in pursuit of their darting prey. Look out too for some of our land-locked wildlife, with grass snakes and slow worms basking in the sun or hunting after their winter hibernation.
RESERVES ROUND-UP REDSHANK
Research into how electrified predator fences impacts on the breeding of waders is nearly complete. A team from the University of East Anglia, led by Dr Becky Laidlaw, have been carrying out the study for the past couple of years. Although, the results have not yet been analysed, anecdotally, the fences appear to have significantly reduced the predation of young birds and more lapwing and redshank have fledged. Head down to the scrapes at Carlton Marshes to see this conservation science in action.
BUZZING WITH BIRDS
BRADFIELD IN BLOOM
WONDERS OF REYDON’S RIDES
Spring came early to Bradfield Woods, with wood anemone and oxlip blooming in February and the green leaves of ramsoms bursting through the leaf-litter. But it is now when the woods truly come to life as wildflowers bring colour to the sundrenched rides. Last year was exceptional for butterflies with many sightings of the exquisite purple emperor. Look out for it in the highest reaches of the oak close to the learning centre.
After a winter of coppicing and ride creation, Reydon Wood is looking spectacular ahead of May’s bluebells. The nuthatches, which first bred in the wood two years ago, can be heard as they move about the wood: their loud calls announcing their presence. These are joined by the migrants, including blackcap and chiffchaff arriving back from sunnier climes. The widened rides should also prove attractive to butterflies, so keep your eyes peeled for silver-washed fritillaries, which are becoming more common locally and are usually on the wing from late June.
HARKEN TO A BITTERN’S BOOM Following the completion of WREN-funded restoration work over the winter and the building of a new Suffolk Coast & Heaths AONB-funded hide, Hen Reedbeds is better than ever to watch for wildlife. Hen is a habitat created specifically for bitterns and is now one of the best places both to see and hear them in Suffolk. Listen for the deep booming of the bitterns, best heard early morning or at dusk as the males announce their territories. With patience (and luck) the birds can often be seen flying low over the reeds as they move to feed in the various pools around the site.
BIRDS ON THE WING
The new Konik foals at Redgrave & Lopham Fen have been making the most of the changing weather, as too have the marsh harrier and buzzard. Both species of bird have been seen displaying and it’s hoped they will raise young on the fen. Two bittern have also been spotted flying over the reserve and it’s possible these could also be a breeding pair.
CONSERVATION NEWS FUNDRAISE FOR WILDLIFE Could you help raise money to look after Suffolk’s wildlife and wild places? We are looking for supporters to distribute collection tins to different locations across the county. Each volunteer will look after around six tins, which will need a minimum twice-yearly collection and replacement at a nearby designated Trust location. Easy!
WE WANT YOUR WILD WORDS! Suffolk Wildlife Trust is launching a new campaign to collect the county’s wild words. The initiative, called Words from the Marsh, is an attempt to record Suffolk and Broadland’s unique words for wildlife and landscapes. Words from the Marsh is part of the Trust’s three-year National Lottery Heritage Fund supported project to create a 1,000acre reserve at Carlton Marshes. Katy Runacres, Wild Learning Officer for Carlton Marshes, said that getting people involved in the
landscape’s heritage and culture was closely linked to caring for its ecology. “While the restoration of the marsh is vital – providing a refuge for wildlife and protecting this landscape for future generations – we also want to protect the culture that is as much a part of the landscape as the large skies and open waterways.” She added: “We are hoping everyone will want to get involved and help us record and celebrate the language of this land – whether it is a local name for a
GO WILD WITH YOUR CHILD In response to popular demand, the Trust has opened-up its Adult Learning programme to allow adults to attend courses along with an interested young person (age 11-16 years £10) and spend a day being guided by an expert in a range of different skills, from sketching & photography to spoon carving, wildlife habitats and hedgehogs.
FIND OUT MORE
species or a word for a rain shower.” The project has got off to a running start with volunteers at Carlton Marshes and other reserves around the county, already offering up “fizmer” (the hiss of wind through reeds) and “feetings” (the tracks left by animals in snow).
To find out more & register your interest, please contact michael.strand@ suffolkwildlifetrust.org or call 01473 890089.
AGM SAVE THE DATE
Suffolk Wildlife Trust’s AGM will be held on 26 October 2019. Location TBA, but we can promise a day of insightful talks and the very latest on the Trust’s activities.
ADD YOUR SUGGESTIONS Email katy.runacres@ suffolkwildlifetrust.org or by visiting Carlton Marshes’ pop-up café every weekend from April 6 to September 1.
30 DAYS WILD 30 Days Wild, the country’s biggest nature challenge is back. Running throughout June, the challenge is to do something wild every day, such as exploring a new nature reserve or venturing outside of the office during lunch. This year we hope you’ll join us to welcome in the month with a sun salutation
as we host a free outdoor yoga session at Lackford Lakes. Throughout June we’re also running special 30 Days Wild night safaris, moth trapping and forest mindfulness sessions, before rounding things off back at Lackford Lakes with a Kingfisher Festival.
FIND OUT MORE
Thank you We are grateful to the families of the following friends of the Trust who have recently remembered us in their Will or through an In memoriam donation.
Guy Ackers Allan Bone Eric Duffey Rosalind Foster Rosemary Goold Eveline Hastings Peter Hodgson Duncan Lawson Alan Lummis Grahame Mortimer Robin Nicholls
John Norris Trevor Poyser Barbara Priestman Margaret Richardson Roy Silverlock David Steel Peter Steggall Isobel Strickland Jennifer Troll
FIND OUT MORE Full details and booking can be found on our website. You can sign-up for a free 30 Days Wild pack and guide. There are special packs for schools too. Don’t forget to let us know what you get up to on social media using #30DaysWild
See your What’s On guide for a course near you or check suffolkwildlifetrust.org
THE SONG OF THE
The notes and deft phrases of the nightingale are a hymn to the arrival of spring. Richard Mabey considers what else is wrapped up in the song of Suffolkâ€™s barley bird.
n the mid 1970s, flush with the earnings from my first book, I bought a flint cottage in Wenhaston, in the Blyth Valley. I moved in one warm May evening, and as I drove up from the south through the coastal heathlands between Aldeburgh and Blythburgh nightingale phrases flew, disembodied, through the open car windows. That night I opened my bedroom windows too, and just before I went to sleep, a nightingale began chanting from the small common at the end of the garden. Then another, more distant bird, from the churchyard of Wenhaston St Peter, famous for its exuberant wall painting of the Last Judgement. They were not my first nightingales, but they remain the most evocative. Not in my wildest dreams could I have imagined drifting off to sleep to those urgent, eloquent chorales.
SENSE OF OCCASION
I suspect that one of the reasons nightingale songs have such a powerful emotional impact is this sense of occasion that seems to gather round their performances: the dark, the ambient silence, the scents of spring, the way the birds often seem to choose a kind of amphitheatre for their recitals. I’ve heard them in extraordinary arenas. One singing from an orange tree amid the Moorish arches and canals of the Alhambra Palace in Granada. Others singing under the ground, in scrub-filled shell craters in the Tyneham Ranges in Dorset, the day when the radioactive clouds 10 SUFFOLK WILDLIFE
As the moon rises, changing from hazy orange to platinum white, the singing becomes more assured
from the exploded Chernobyl reactor reached Britain. Back in Suffolk, I once listened to a duet at Minsmere: a nightjar churring on a dead branch and a nightingale carolling in a blackthorn bush six feet below, drone and pipe. But another Suffolk bird, heard twenty years after my first, sticks most vividly in my mind. I’d gone to the edge of Arger Fen in the Stour Valley deliberately looking for the nightingales. It was the May full moon, and I parked up in a narrow, overgrown lane, close to the wood. This is how I wrote up what happened the following day: “The landscape is already drained of colour, caught in that moment between light and dark when distances and outlines blur. I try to focus on the tumulus of scrub in front of me, but it seems to be dancing and flashing with phosphorescence. I know this is just my eyes playing tricks, but it gives the undergrowth a queerly insubstantial feel, quite out of keeping with the brilliant clarity of the song that is pouring from it. It’s my first nightingale of the year, and a coloratura bird into the bargain. It has a clipped, Latin style, full of deft phrases which are turned this way and that and drawn out into short, fading tremolos. As the moon rises, changing from hazy orange to platinum white, the singing becomes more assured. The sound is astonishingly pure and penetrating, broken with teasing, theatrical silences. I realise I am rooted to the spot, standing in the middle of the lane and barely noticing the cars edging past.”
"THERE IS A LULL IN THE
SINGING... ... a huge emphatic silence that is part of the performance. It is about 10 o'clock and the moon is almost at its height.
An extract from The Barley Bird
By Suffolk standards, I am on top of the world. Below me, Arger Fen arches like a whale-back across the southern horizon. Everywhere, dead elm stumps rear in silhouette amongst the scrub. The light is extraordinary – luminous, dusty, giving every pale surface the lustre of motherof-pearl. Mounds of cow parsley and scythed grass glow in the moonbeams like suspended balls of mist.
LISA GEOGHEGAN ALAMY
By the side of the lane I catch the scents of broom and bluebells, a blend of coconut and honey, the exotic and the homely, that has something of the ripened quality of the song itself."
A nightingale song, like music, is an expression in sound of its emotions
RICHARD MABEY is an author of among other titles, Nature Cure, Flora Britannica and the Whitbread biography winner Gilbert White. His book on nightingales, The Barley Bird, won the East Anglian Book Award in 2010.
Frost in May’, when on a “plumed and armoured night... There chimed a bubbled underbrew/With witch-wild spray of vocal dew”. But by 11pm I hadn’t heard a single bird, not one phrase of bubbled underbrew. That spring the shocking news had broken that nightingale populations in the UK had plunged by 90 percent in just 40 years, and I felt troubled that the slump had reached the bird’s Suffolk heartland. I walked to the end of the lane for one last try. At midnight, quite abruptly, one started up, in a dense clump of cottage-garden rhododendrons, a setting as incongruous as the temperature. It flung out a few icicle-sharp notes and then stopped. But it felt to me like a decisive statement. “I’m here, despite...” it sang, its terse, no-more-than-necessary statement seeming like a telegraphed bulletin on behalf of its silent – or absent – fellows, a defiant challenge to our increasingly silent springs. n ILLUSTRATION: BILL STEVENSON
AN EXPRESSION OF EMOTION
This, I realise, is how one might talk about an enchanting solo in an oratorio, and it is tempting to regard nightingale’s song as music. It has structure, purity of tone, moments of rhythm and melody, and profound changes of emotional tone. But music is something we make, and I think that trying to ensnare birdsong inside this essentially human category is another example of our ancient and corrosive impulse to appropriate and anthropomorphise the natural world. It is tantamount to saying that Swahili is just a variant of English. Nightingales’ language is their very own. And yet there are links. A nightingale song, like music, is an expression in sound of its emotions. It has its own priorities – its attachment to home, the assertion of its family bonds, its reactions to the weather. But they are not so remote that we can’t intuit a little of what the bird is trying to express. But being humans, we can’t help attaching symbolic meanings to the song. A few years ago on a cold May night, I was searching for birds in the heaths around Dunwich and Westleton, traditionally one of the densest populations in eastern England. The car thermometer was registering 3oc, and there was the slightest sparkle of frost on the heather, just as in George Meredith’s extraordinary nightingale poem ‘The Night of
WHERE TO HEAR NIGHTINGALES The scrub and undergrowth at Lackford Lakes is often alive with nightingale song from May. A guided nightingale walk at Bromeswell Green is also taking place on Friday May 10 from 7pm until 9pm. See suffolkwildlifetrust.org for details.
wasps The wonder of For many of us, the word “wasp”, conjures up an image of a picnic or a summer-time ice-cream spoiled. Hawk Honey explains how behind the wasp’s aggressive image is a wonderful, species-rich world well worth exploring.
ALAMY STOCK PHOTO
There are around 7,000 species of wasp in the UK, ranging in size from 3mm to 7cm and appearing in a wide range of colours from black and yellow to metallic reds, blues, greens and golds 12
SPECIES SPOTLIGHT JUST SOME OF THE WASP SPECIES YOU CAN SEE IN SUFFOLK
es, I get it. People are nervous of wasps. The thought of that angry buzz, the sight of a black and yellow jacket, is enough to make them shudder. Yet, the truth is, these picnic-raiders represent a very small proportion of the UK wasp species population. In fact, of the typical yellow and black striped wasps that make a nest and are known as social species, there are nine species including our largest social wasp, the hornet. But there are another 7,000 species of wasp that live in the UK, which live solitary lifestyles and do not have a nest with a queen. Many of them look nothing like your typical wasp: most of them are just black, some are black and red and some even glitter with metallic reds, blues, greens and golds. They also come in all shapes and sizes, from less than 3mm to up to 7cm. Luckily for me, I work in the perfect place to see a lot of these wonderful insects at Lackford Lakes.
wonderful wasps are. They are the pest controllers of the natural world, the gardener’s friend. So, let me introduce you to some of these fascinating creatures. Most people will have seen what is commonly called “cuckoo-spit”, a frothy white substance found on their garden plants. This is caused by the nymph of an insect known as a froghopper. The nymph sucks sap from the stem of the young plant and covers itself in this frothy white liquid as a defence. At Lackford, we have the field digger wasp, which burrows down into the ground and creates chambers. She then goes out looking for cuckoo-spit and when it finds some, it dives inside, grabbing the froghopper nymph and paralysing it with a sting. After cleaning itself off, it takes the nymph back to the cavity and places it inside with a single egg laid upon it. She will then fill that cavity with up to 27 nymphs as food for a single larvae. Once the cell is complete, she starts all over again.
THE POINT OF WASPS
This summer have a little patience when a wasp comes visiting; the last thing it wants to do is sting you
Working at Lackford Lakes, the one question I am asked the most by visitors is “What’s the point of wasps?” This is my most favourite question too as it is a doorway to informing people just how
ALAMY STOCK PHOTO
The common black and yellow wasps we see at our picnics in the late summer are searching for sugar after a year feeding grubs.
14 SUFFOLK WILDLIFE
THE GARDENERS’ & FARMERS’ FRIEND Then there is the sand-tailed digger wasp, which hunts weevils and fills her cells, which are dug up to 30cm deep in our Breckland fields, with several weevils before depositing an egg. Just 1,000 of these wasps remove around 10,000 weevils from our gardens each year, a good friend for many a gardener. If caterpillars are an issue, then there are several wasps on hand to help. The red-banded sand wasp, which drags caterpillars weighing up to 10 times her own weight to feed her young, while the early mason wasp, carries the freshly paralysed caterpillars of micro moths back to a hole in rotten wood to create a stocked larder for a single egg. One of my favourite wasps that can often be seen burrowing into loose sand around the reserve from June onwards is the common spiny digger wasp. This wasp is a fly hunter, but the most fascinating thing about her is how she carries the fly back to the nest by impaling it on her stinger. If I was to speak of spiderhunting wasps, your mind might conjure up images of tropical wasps fighting large hairy spiders, yet we have 49 species of spider-
7,000 SPECIES OF WASP IN THE UK
ARE SOCIAL SPECIES
Hawk Honey identifying a wasp.
ALAMY, ANDY SANDS, HAWK HONEY
THESE FAMILIES CONTAIN DIVERSE AND BEAUTIFUL WASPS
Spider hunting wasps
Wasps are the pest controllers of the natural world, the gardener’s friend hunting wasp in the UK and several of these live at Lackford Lakes. These small wasps are often seen running, not flying, among the undergrowth looking for prey, which are usually bigger than themselves. Watch out too for the sight of a wasp dragging its prey to a hideyhole, an amazing feat to see if, unlike the spider, you are lucky enough.
A BEAUTY WITH A SNEAKY SECRET
But it's not all about catching prey, for there are some unscrupulous wasps out there known as “cuckoo wasps”. As their name suggests, these wasps do not build a nest, nor do they collect or hunt for food, instead they hunt for the already provisioned nest of other wasps. Once found they will sneak inside whilst the host species is away, and lay their own egg. This egg will often hatch before the host egg and the larvae will destroy it – also consuming the provisions laid out for the host's larvae before emerging the following year. One family of these wasps are the aptly named ruby-tailed wasps, or jewel wasps.
These wasps are adorned with metallic blues, reds, greens and golds and look amazing when viewed close up. One more species that never fails to amaze myself and visitors to Lackford Lakes is known as an Ichneumon wasp. There are over 2,500 species of ichneumons in the UK alone and they don’t have common names as such and they are very hard to identify to species level. However, the one that amazes our visitors so much goes under the name of Dolichomitus mesocentrus. A 7cm long slender black wasp with an ovipositor (egg laying tube) as long as her body, she smells out her intended prey, the larvae of long-horn beetles, by tapping her antennae on the willow weave wooden fence outside the visitor centre. Once she detects the scent or sounds of the prey munching on wood within, she raises her abdomen and directs her ovipositor downward and then drills it deep into the wood until it contacts the larvae. An egg is then placed within the larvae and her work is done. This wasp made Darwin question the existence of God in a letter to his friend Asa Gray in 1860: “I cannot persuade myself that a beneficent & omnipotent God would have
designedly created the Ichneumonidae with the express intention of their feeding within the living bodies of caterpillars, or that a cat should play with mice.”
PATIENCE FOR WEARY WORKERS
And of those common black and yellow wasps who spoil our picnics in the late summer days? There is a good reason for their raids. All year long these wasps have one job and that is to raise the grubs in the nest that will become next year's queens. Each time she (all workers are female) feeds a grub, the grub gives the wasp a sweet sticky substance in return. Roll on to late summer, all the grubs have grown into new queens and have left the nest and the workers have been left to die… and they’re hooked on sugar. So, this summer have a little patience when a wasp comes visiting, the last thing it wants to do is sting you. n
HAWK HONEY is Lackford Lakes' Visitor Assistants and an amateur entomologist.
ALAMY STOCK PHOTO
RIGHT By the late summer, grubs fed by the workers have turned into new males and queens.
Step back in time, step into a
meadow Once a common feature of the UKâ€™s countryside, the loss of our meadowlands has happened almost within living memory. Steve Aylward explains how Suffolk still holds onto wildflower meadows capable of captivating and transporting those who experience them back to a different, wilder time.
16 SUFFOLK WILDLIFE
wildflower meadow in mid-June can quite overwhelm your senses. Surrounded by the sheer intensity and range of colours, the hum of insects, the scents of leaves and flowers and the touch of soft grasses is a mesmerising and unforgettable experience. Only 75 years ago, Suffolk would have been full of wildflower meadows. Even the shortest walk from a village or the edge of a town would have taken you immediately into a world where flowers were everywhere, in the hedges, the verges and most magnificently, in meadows. A wildflower meadow is a natural herbarium, an extraordinary collection of different plant species which in turn support a vast number of insects ranging from tiny yellow meadow ants living almost unnoticed amongst the plants to a kaleidoscope of butterflies fluttering amongst the flowers.
A wildflower meadow is a natural herbarium, an extraordinary collection of different plant species The hedges surrounding each meadow would be alive with linnets, yellowhammers and whitethroats adding yet more colour and sound. Countless accounts and recollections of Suffolk from the early 20th century describe a landscape that is almost unrecognisable today, but just occasionally, it is still possible to ‘time travel’ back to this world of colour and richness.
IAN REDDING ALAMY STOCK PHOTOS
SMALL, INTIMATE AND REMARKABLE
Suffolk Wildlife Trust owns and cares for a handful of these remarkable places. Most are small and intimate reserves surrounded by our modern intensive agricultural landscape, for example Winks Meadow and Mickfield Meadow. But the medieval common of Mellis is quite different, a great expanse of wildflower-rich grassland. The fact that these grasslands have survived is quite
remarkable and in almost every case, it is because an individual made a conscious decision not to allow the habitat to change. To resist the pressure to plough or agriculturally improve meadows in the post-war years took strength of character at a time when national need and cultural changes in farming were at their height. Fox Fritillary meadow survived because Queenie Fox had a fondness for the fritillaries, while Winks Meadow survived any agricultural improvement because it was Mrs Godbold’s favourite place on the farm. Hutchison’s Meadow was gifted to the Trust by Lord and Lady Hutchison as they recognised both the botanical richness of the meadow and the longterm threat of development in a part of Suffolk that was rapidly being built upon. The scale of the loss of wildflower meadows and species-rich grassland from the landscape has been nothing short of jaw-dropping. Across the UK we have lost 98% of this habitat, 7½ million acres, an area eight times the size of Suffolk. And if that isn’t bad enough, this has happened since the 1930s in little more than 3 generations. Undoubtedly, the Second World War was a significant factor, with the need to produce more home-grown food coinciding with the widespread mechanisation of farming that made the conversion of grassland and meadows possible. However, the scale and pace of change has been devastating for wildlife. Few species can adapt to change that quickly and with the loss of the wildflower meadows went vast numbers of insects and birds.
A MILLENIA IN THE MAKING
Meadows are the product of hundreds if not thousands of years of human intervention in the form of livestock farming. The combination of grazing and cutting creates unique conditions that enabled a diversity of plants to flourish. Before farming took hold in Britain, wildflower habitats would have existed in areas kept open by the herds of large herbivores that roamed the landscape, deer, wild horses and aurochs, a wild ancestor of modern cattle. Early farming SUFFOLK WILDLIFE
LIVING LANDSCAPES in some respects mimicked this pattern of grazing and over time led to the development of field boundaries in the form of hedges to contain the livestock and the creation of ponds as a source of water for stock. Even before the Romans arrived, great swathes of Suffolk (typically the High Suffolk ‘Claylands’) had been transformed into a complex patchwork of fields and this process continued throughout the Saxon period and beyond. The only areas to largely escape this extensive human imposition would have been the great ‘wastes’ of the Sandlings and Brecks, together with the river valleys and coastal fringe.
The medieval common of Mellis is a great expanse of wildflower-rich grassland.
The new Environment Bill could drive us towards a future where wildness and wildflowers once again add colour and life to the countryside
The one place in almost every Suffolk parish where it might still be possible to find a patch of species-rich grassland is the local churchyard. Many have adopted cutting regimes that allow wildflowers to flourish in an environment where herbicides and fertilisers are absent. Amongst the most impressive are several of those in ‘The Saints’, the area of Suffolk south of Bungay where most parish names begin with Saint. The underlying chalky boulder clay in this area creates soils that are perfect for early purple, common spotted, bee and pyramidal orchids along with many other wildflowers and grasses. Coddenham Church with its slightly chalky soil is especially rich with a huge variety of flowers and grasses ranging from cowslips to scabious. For many of our meadows, especially 18
MAKE YOUR OWN MEADOW Anyone with a little bit of garden can create their own wild-flower meadow with only a modest effort. Stop mowing a patch 1 of lawn, let it grow. out and about 2 When in the countryside, if you see wildflowers you like growing in similar soil to yours at home, collect a few seeds. 3 Cut the long grass in early autumn and sprinkle your seeds on any bare patches of ground (create some if necessary). Enjoy your wildflower 4 meadow the following year! It can be a little hit-and-miss finding the right species for your soil and location and some species might take several attempts to become established but with a little experimentation and time, any garden can have its own meadow.
And once you have a few wildflowers established, you will more than likely attract all sorts of other wildlife. Bees, butterflies and a host of other insects will quickly find any new source of nectar while hedgehogs, frogs and toads will relish the opportunity to find slugs, snails and beetles in amongst the base of the plants. Bigger areas will attract small mammals which in turn will attract kestrels and barn owls looking for prey.
ABOVE The yellow
meadow ant is known for creating anthills and grassland habitats.
RIGHT Common blue is
just one of the many species of butterfly found in meadows.
BELOW Steve's wildlife
Today the very best of our remaining meadows in Suffolk have full legal protection as Sites of Special Scientific Interest and include four Trust reserves (Fox Fritillary, Martins’, Mickfield and Winks Meadows) but even these fully protected sites only represent a tiny fraction of the few wildflower meadows and species-rich grassland that managed to survive the last 75 years or so. Of the remainder, many are designated County Wildlife Sites in recognition of their importance, but this doesn’t confer absolute protection and at best influences potentially damaging planning decisions.
those on heavier soils, the flowering season kicks off with a great display of cowslips. Because the grasses and most other plants have yet to really start growing in April, the cowslips can steal the show with little competition. It is only at a few of the very best meadows, such as Martin’s, where the cowslips vie for attention with the rather more impressive early purple orchids. The cowslips glory is short-lived though as attention then turns in early May to the green-winged orchids with their dark veined purple sepals. In a good year, these stunning plants can produce hundreds and hundreds of flower spikes. By June it is the turn of the common-spotted and bee orchids to put on a show, but by this time they are having to fight their way through the grasses and other plants, hence even if appearing in good numbers, the effect is rather muted. Oxeye daisies, sorrel, knapweed and a host of other plants add to the late June early July crescendo of maximum colour and variety.
IT’S NOT ALL ABOUT THE FLOWERS
Volunteer Paul Chapman at Martins' Meadows, a reserve still managed in a traditional way.
Not to be overlooked however are the grasses. Crested dogstail, meadow barley and the quite beautiful quaking grass, which as its name suggest shimmers in a gentle breeze, are amongst the most attractive of the native grasses. Depending on the soil and the dampness,
a few meadows add a high summer flourish with either the pinky-blue field scabious or in damper patches, the deep blue devils-bit scabious. Both species are excellent sources of nectar and always worth scanning for butterflies and bees. By late July or August, the meadows that haven’t had their annual hay cut will be looking rather drab and clearly well past their best, especially during a hot dry summer. There are, though, usually a few butterflies hanging on such as the meadow browns, brown Argus and common blues and birds like the goldfinch will be taking an interest in the seed heads of common knapweed and other plants. By September it really is all over for most meadows, although there is one Trust reserve that has a surprise in store. At Martin’s Meadows in April, large pointed green leaves emerge from the ground, but they are never accompanied by flowers. All is finally revealed in September when long after its leaves have withered away, meadow saffron produces its flowers. These large pink and white crocus-like flowers emerge from the bulbs below ground in a grand finale dotting the meadow with splashes of colour.
THE FUTURE OF MEADOWS
The future of our wildflower meadows in Suffolk, as in the rest of the UK, is mixed. The protected meadows are safe, albeit they are often small and isolated, meaning many of their plants may struggle to cross-pollenate with other populations of the same species. However, the vast majority are unprotected and rely on farmers and landowners to maintain a suitable hay-cutting or grazing regime and resist any temptation to agriculturally ‘improve’ or tidy up. Agricultural grants can be hugely effective when targeted at maintaining species-rich meadows and even creating new meadows. It is difficult to envisage ever returning to the days when a diversity of wildflowers could be found in almost any patch of countryside or open space but the new Environment Act currently passing through Parliamentary consultation could, if properly framed, drive us towards a future where wildness and wildflowers once again add colour and life to the countryside. n
STEVE AYLWARD is Head of Property & Projects at Suffolk Wildlife Trust.
The Saving of
BRADFIELD WOODS This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Public Inquiry, that finally secured the future of Bradfield Woods. Matt Gaw looks back at a turning point in conservation and at the man whose name will forever be associated with this special Suffolk woodland.
Richard Ansell at work in Bradfield Woods.
20 SUFFOLK WILDLIFE
THE FIGHT BACK
But while the toppling of ancient woodland was not uncommon across the UK, indeed government subsidies actively encouraged it, the value of both Felsham Hall and Monks’ Park was clearly recognised by those who lived alongside them. People who had played, walked and worked in the two woods' cloistered rides for generations, fought back against the destruction. Leading
the opposition were Ann and James Hart, and Dr Jack Litchfield and his wife Nan. It was their efforts that meant, in 1968, after two thirds of Monks’ Park had been destroyed – the majority of its timber piled up and burnt – that a Tree Preservation Order (TPO) was put in place. Yet still, the fate of the remaining woods, rested on a knife edge. The landowner mounted a challenge to the TPOs and as a result a Public Inquiry was organised. Enter Oliver Rackham, a man who would become known as the leading historian and ecologist of British woodlands. The day before the Inquiry was due to be held, Rackham visited the woods with the local historian, David Dymond, and the pair worked long into the night to compile a detailed dossier of historical and ecological evidence to present to planning officials. The intervention of Rackham, with his deep knowledge of the woods’ history and his understanding of their interlinking cultural and natural importance, was a turning point. Monks’ Park and Felsham Hall woods were duly saved and following another campaign, the woods, now termed (by Rackham) the Bradfield Woods, were purchased by the fledgling Wildlife Trusts*.
SAVING THE BRADFIELD WOODS
The significance and the implications of that Public Inquiry decision, now 50-years-old, is hard to over-state. Of course, the saving of the wood was hugely important to Suffolk. Bradfield was, and still is, a beautiful place, but also its rides, its glades, its earth and its trees are living history. The ancient ash stools, cut and coppiced by human hand since at least 1252, form a physical link – offer a continuous experience – with a different age. The woods, forever used, forever shaped, provided fuel and
o the south-west of the woodland we now know as Bradfield Woods stands a scattering of trees. Lonely veterans in an arable field. One of them, a beech, is covered in names and signs: arborglyphs, which have been cut into the smooth bark. Although they are still clear, many have ballooned with age, stretching with the trunk’s growth like an old tattoo on a beer belly. The tree is a living record of lovers and friends, of walks, shin-barking scrambles, of summer shade and shelter from spring showers. But it is a reminder of something else too. When these marks were made, this tree wouldn’t have stood alone. It was back in 1966 when the bulldozers came for Monks’ Park. Much of the wood, which butted up against Felsham Hall Wood, was to fall. Photographs show a scene of grim destruction: a no man’s land of mud, shattered wood and grubbed up roots. History, culture and nature disappearing to make for the creation of an arable field. Sadly, the destruction, was certainly not an isolated incident. Monks’ Park, as the name suggests, was part of the old deer park of the Abbey of Bury St Edmunds. Records suggest that at the time of its dissolution in 1539, the Abbey owned 13 woods of more than 100 acres around Bury. By 1950 only six were reasonably intact. Now there is just one.
A SNAPSHOT OF BOTH MAN & WOODS
Arborglyphs on a beech tree, which was once part of Monk's Park.
22 SUFFOLK WILDLIFE
I met Oliver Rackham just once, three years before his death in 2015. I was at Bradfield Woods, along with a presenter from Radio 4, to talk to him about another threat facing the ancient coppices: ash dieback. Then in his 70s, his enthusiasm for the wood was clearly undimmed by the slow creep of age. So much so, it was hard to keep track of him. One moment he was there, the next not: disappearing mid-sentence to tip-toe through the understorey like a donnish Mr Tumnus to investigate toadstools and slime moulds, or just to pace around the stools of ancient ash trees he knew like old friends. That endless curiosity, that thirst for the woods, is clear not only in his world-famous books but also in his notebooks. The ledgers, preserved and publicly available via the University of
LEFT Oliver Rackham fought for the survival of Bradfield Woods.
resources to the communities nearby, while also creating the mix of old and new growth needed by some of our rarest wildlife, including, until perhaps recently, the hazel dormouse. The protection of the woods also had a wider impact beyond Suffolk. Rackham, writing decades after the Public Inquiry, described Bradfield as something of a “cause célèbre”. The fact that a few “ordinary” people had come together to stop the wholesale destruction of ancient woodland, inspired others to fight for the landscapes near them. Furthermore, the result signalled a shift in public opinion and eventually policy. While the days of slash and burn may not have been over, a watershed had certainly been reached. Back at Bradfield, the work of Oliver Rackham and those who had fought so hard for the woods’ survival didn’t stop at the Public Inquiry. Rackham, together with Ann and James Hart, The Litchfields, Dr Max Walters, William Palmer, Colin Ranson and John Wakerley formed a management committee, and set about devising a long-term plan to care for the woods. At its core, driven by Oliver’s ever-deepening knowledge, was a commitment to the continuation of coppicing.
To know a wood like Bradfield, a place defined by its long relationship with coppice, with cutting & craft, is not only to walk it, but to work it Cambridge’s Digital Library, span the 60s, 70s and 80s. They contain three decades of fungi sketches, records of nightingale song and “gregarious” butterflies. In one memorable note, he even recounts stroking a mole: “Mole could be seen rustling about above ground in the cut part of Foxfell. Could be touched. Then disappeared down crack in boulder clay.”
A WORKING WOOD
Rackham was obviously gathering information in the woods, but also, and it was something I had never thought about him doing, he was grafting. His notes, especially in the early days, are sometimes hastily taken: scribbled during a break from clearing “half acre of old underwood in Fox”. The pages, marked with light pencil strokes, are stained with sweat and soil. Susan Ranson, whose late husband Colin worked especially closely with Rackham at Bradfield, described him as being a “one-man enlightenment.” In a lovely account of their time together, published in a recent Friends of Oliver Rackham newsletter, she told how
Rackham was a “genius at large” whose scholarly and practical work had focused her husband’s work on Suffolk and Essex woods. While the idea of an intensely academic man of words, pondering and recording with a note pad, doesn’t mesh with the world of physical rigour demanded by coppicing and woodland management, it shouldn’t be a surprise that Rackham got his hands dirty. To know a woodland like Bradfield, a place defined by its long relationship with coppice, with cutting and craft, is not only to walk it, but to work it. Rackham not only knew the wood, he made it. I have friends who currently work in Bradfield and they tell me they feel the same way: they say their cuts and their care place them within the woods’ history. Their names may not be carved into the bark of a single tree, but they are there in these wood: in the rides, in the old fells and glades. They are there in the earth. n * Then called The Society for the Promotion of Nature Conservation, the organisation is now known as the Royal Society of Wildlife Trusts.
A spring ride at Bradfield Woods.
PEOPLE PHOTOS: JOHN FERGUSON
The late Oliver Rackham.
ABOVE TOP LEFT
Giles Cawston, the Trust's Woodlands Warden.
destruction of Monk's Park in the 1960s.
BELOW A map of Bradfield Woods made by Ann Hart.
ALI NORTH is Suffolk Wildlife Trust's Hedgehog Officer and Campaigns Officer.
White admiral, a species that benefits from wide woodland rides. MATT GAW is Editor of Suffolk Wildlife. He is a freelance writer and author. STEVE AYLWARD
SUFFOLK WILDLIFE 23
OUR FIGHT FOR A WILDER FUTURE
In autumn last year, Suffolk Wildlife Trust launched its campaign to ensure environmental safeguards contained within EU legislation would be retained and improved in a post-Brexit Britain. Ali North looks at just what has happened since then.
fter weeks of speculation, predictions and ultimately, hope, Defra published their draft Environment (Principles and Governance) Bill in December 2018. The hefty document, which forms 'Part 1' of a broader, fleshed out Bill due to be published this year, sets out exactly how the Government will maintain environmental standards outside of the EU.
A POOR BILL FOR GREEN HEALTH First readings of the Bill proved to be disappointing. The Trust, as part of Greener UK (a group of 14 major environmental 24 SUFFOLK WILDLIFE
organisations united in the belief that leaving the EU is a pivotal moment to restore and enhance the UKâ€™s environment) immediately voiced our concerns. The most obvious problem was with the proposed Office of Environmental Protection (OEP), the body tasked with policing and enforcing crucial standards. Compared to both the European Commission and the European Court of Justice, its powers seemed far too limited. Concerns were also raised about whether the OEP would be sufficiently independent of central government â€“ something which could result in the body being more of a lapdog, a political poodle, rather than the watchdog required to
ensure environmental law is properly implemented. There were other problems too. No mention was made of Nature Recovery Networks, nor of the spatial plans which we at the Wildlife Trust believe will be critical for guiding planning decisions and allocating resources in the most effective way for restoring our environment. These networks would connect wild places and people and create a joined-up system that is vital for the natural world to adapt to change.
PUSHING FOR CHANGE
At the time of writing, the Trust is still pushing hard to see these Nature Recovery Networks adopted by the
Government. Nature reserves, Local Wildlife Sites and Sites of Special Scientific Interest are some of the wildest places that need to be linked with corridors and stepping stones: road verges brimming with wildflowers, river banks teaming with life, ancient woods and pollinator-rich meadow patches, (the bigger the better), to enable wildlife to move freely across our landscapes. Key to addressing the gaps in this network is nature-friendly farming and wildlife-friendly housing developments. Maps of these habitats are an essential tool for bringing wildlife to the heart of decisionmaking across government departments, bodies and agencies.
Hedge Local Wildlife Site
School ground Green roofs
Nature reserve Wildlife-rich housing estate
Protected road verge
IPSWICH: DARIUS SULCIUS ALAMY
TOP: Ipswich is home to more species of wildlife than any other major town or city in the East of England, a new study has revealed.
It is as important as ever to show our MPs what we care about and prove that we care through our own actions
Wood Green development
Nature Wild reserve industrial estate
Old railway siding Estuary
ABOVE: Connectivity throughout the landscape is integral to nature’s recovery. Ipswich, shown here, has a good network of parks and green spaces where wildlife can move through the town.
Allotments Community garden
Local Wildlife Site Village green
Marine Protected Area
Although strong and ambitious legislation is central to the recovery of the natural world, each and every one of us has a part to play As well as communicating with Defra, the Trust has also been talking to MPs – and we know you have too. Since autumn of last year, we, alongside 35 other local Wildlife Trusts across England, have been asking our supporters to let their MPs know they value wildlife and they want strong and ambitious laws to protect and help enhance it. Suffolk has certainly stepped up, with all MPs being contacted and several supporters having face-to-face meetings to discuss their concerns.
WE ALL HAVE A ROLE TO PLAY
Although strong and ambitious legislation is central to the recovery of the natural world, each and every one of us has a part to play. It’s for this reason, the Trust is hosting the county’s first ever ‘Nature Summit’ this summer. The summit, being held at Dance East in Ipswich on the evening of Friday June 7,
will bring people together for a positive discussion focused on individual and collective action. We will be thinking about what a wilder Suffolk could and should look like and how we, together, can make that happen. The summit, featuring artists, politicians and influencers, will include a series of panel discussions and talks on key topics: conservation in the farmed, urban and marine environments; the importance of engaging a wider audience in conservation; the views of young people, and critically, the role of government in forming strong legislation. At the time of writing our country is facing a huge amount of uncertainty. What we do know is that it is as important as ever to show our MPs what we care about and prove that we care through our own actions. Collectively, we can have a wilder Suffolk, and a wilder future. n
THE WILDLIFE TRUSTS
River buffer strip
FREE Join Suffolk Wildlife Trust for a wide-ranging discussion on the state of the county’s wildlife and wild places FRIDAY 7 JUNE 5PM-10.30PM DANCE EAST, IPSWICH WATERFRONT If you are unable to join us, then you don’t have to miss out; we’ll be live streaming the event via Facebook!
ALI NORTH is Suffolk Wildlife Trust's Campaigns Officer and also the Hedgehog Officer.
SUFFOLK WILDLIFE 25
GOOSE MIGRATION SECRETS REVEALED
ow do the UK’s 91,000 darkbellied brent geese migrate to their summer breeding grounds in Siberia? Research at Essex Wildlife Trust’s Blue House Farm reserve is finding out. In January 2018, experts from the Southern Colour Ringing group, licenced by the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO), ringed the legs of 18 geese on the reserve,
to help track their 5,000-mile round trip. Individuals were recorded in the Netherlands and the Baltics as they flew east. Last winter, several were spotted back in Essex. The Wildlife Trusts work with the BTO to monitor migrant birds on many of our reserves, which are important feeding grounds. Studies like this demonstrate the need for a global approach to conservation.
New research shows how brent geese get to Siberia
Research shows the geese migrate to Siberia via the Netherlands and Baltics.
60 MPS MAKE TIME TO MEET THE WILDLIFE TRUSTS’ YOUNG STARS
Barry Sheerman MP meets Moustafa Atta and Liam Jackson of Sheffield WT.
26 SUFFOLK WILDLIFE
Last November, the Wildlife Trusts hosted a Parliamentary Reception in Westminster. Over 60 MPs attended to meet our young staff, trainees and volunteers. It was a chance for our young stars to highlight the need for an ambitious Environment Bill. Georgina Umney of Yorkshire Wildlife Trust said in a speech: “Everyone has the right to freely access
and defend the natural world. No young person can avoid being an environmentalist as it is defining our future.” Stephanie Hilborne OBE, Chief Executive of The Wildlife Trusts said: “Young people are a vital part of our movement. They want to guarantee a more positive future for our natural environment.”
Knowing where species go helps conservation groups to protect them.
The Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales have discovered new genetic diversity in the mid-Wales red squirrel population. Analysis of hairs left on sticky pads in a feeding station has identified a unique sequence of DNA. This is great news for the
squirrels, as it means their diversity is better than scientists thought. That variation will help them adapt to changing environments. The research was part of the Mid Wales Red Squirrel Project, a branch of Red Squirrels United.
The study obtained DNA from hairs stuck to sticky pads on a feeder.
FARMING AND FISHERIES BILLS NEED MORE WORK As part of the arrangements for leaving the EU, MPs and Peers have recently debated both a new Fisheries Bill and a new Agriculture Bill for England. These two key parts of the legal Brexit jigsaw will have a significant impact on the health of our natural environment on land and at sea. On the Agriculture
Bill, we have worked hard to ensure there will be long-term funding at the right level to restore and reconnect wildlife habitats on farms, and to create a Nature Recovery Network. On the Fisheries Bill, we have sought to strengthen its sustainability objectives to ensure a healthy marine environment.
Farm subsidies will enable farmers to reconnect habitats.
HS2’s proposals pay little heed to the amount of nature the project will engulf.
A NEW HOME FOR BEES Solitary bee homes are hard to find in modern gardens, but an ingenious solution – the bee brick – can turn a wall into a bee hotel. Bee bricks are full of holes in which solitary bees can lay their eggs. They can be used on their own, or built into a wall. Last summer, The Wildlife Trusts’ Adam Cormack fitted a bee brick to his house. Six months later he found several bees in residence. Individual actions like this are key to creating a wilder future.
GREEN & BLUE
HS2 DOOMS 19 ANCIENT WOODS HS2’s newest phase, due to connect Crewe to Manchester and the West Midlands to Leeds, offers ‘derisory’ consideration of wildlife, The Wildlife Trusts said in a consultation last year. The 176 miles of track will seriously damage 12 Sites of Special Scientific Interest, 111 Local Wildlife Sites and 19 ancient woodlands. “HS2 Ltd’s work lacks sufficient proposals to compensate for nature’s loss,” says Katherine Hawkins, Senior Living Landscapes Officer. “We have challenged it to create and restore more wild places than are being destroyed and damaged, and to save irreplaceable wetlands and woodlands.”
Work by The Wildlife Trusts will ensure UK fishing is sustainable.
RED SQUIRRELS MORE DIVERSE THAN THOUGHT
A red mason bee investigates a brick.
SUFFOLK WILDLIFE 27
wifts, cuckoos, wildebeest and basking sharks – we admire these creatures for their epic seasonal migrations. But there is another, far bigger group of species who undertake even more audacious journeys: insects. During the Second World War, military observers reported a golden ball drifting over the Channel. What they feared was a cloud of poison gas was actually a huge mass of migrating clouded yellow butterflies. In 1846, the Canterbury Journal reported a “cloud” of small whites so dense that it obscured the sun as it passed over a Channel steamer. 28 SUFFOLK WILDLIFE
These mass migrations are not ancient history. In 2009, 11 million painted lady butterflies arrived in Britain from southern Europe. These strong-flying migrants were spotted everywhere from the Highlands to central London, and produced millions more offspring. Two fields in Cornwall contained 500,000 painted lady caterpillars.
ERNIE JANES ALAMY
The painted lady is our best-known migratory insect but there are many others, including moths, dragonflies, ladybirds, hoverflies and even aphids. Climate change will bring more to our
Clouded yellows migrate to the UK from North Africa and the Mediterranean.
With luck, you’ll see a lot of butterflies visiting gardens this summer. But the story of how some species get there is incredible says Patrick Barkham.
A single painted lady butterfly can cross Europe and the Sahara.
shores. It seems far-fetched that insects can cross continents, but we now know they do. Satellite tags are still too large, but other technologies are shedding new light on the marvels of insect migration. Each autumn, given favourable winds, moth traps fill with exciting continental arrivals such as the enormous convolvulus and death’s head hawkmoths, and the delicate vestal moth. Enthusiasts call these migratory moths, but Richard Fox of Butterfly Conservation distinguishes between insects that are simply dispersing as widely as possible after a successful breeding season, and “obligate”, or true, migrants.
It seems far-fetched that insects cross continents 'TRUE' MIGRANTS
Most migratory moths are on a fairly fruitless dispersal. “The killer piece of evidence is that the best time of year to see migrant moths is the autumn,” says Fox. “To me as a biologist they can’t be ‘proper’ migrants because the habitat here in winter is not going to support their breeding cycle and they are unlikely to survive.” In other words, Britain is a dead-end.
In contrast, obligate migrants build their life-cycle around migration. For British butterflies, the big challenge is to survive winters when caterpillars’ food plants don’t grow. Most do this by hibernating. But migrants such as the clouded yellow survive by moving south, to warmer climes. It was long assumed that the painted lady retreats to Morocco but scientists have recently discovered that it also crosses the Sahara. Then, when it gets too hot for the sub-Saharan African generation, they move north again. The painted lady migration route can span up to 7,500 miles but this may be via three or more quickly-reproducing SUFFOLK WILDLIFE 29
SPECIES SPOTLIGHT generations. Such insights have been gathered using new forensic techniques, analysing chemicals found in painted lady wings to discover where individuals grew up as caterpillars. Until the 2009 painted lady invasion, it was unclear if Britain was a deadend for the species. People observed painted ladies arriving but never saw them depart and their offspring couldn’t survive winter. Scientists solved the mystery using Rothamstead Research’s two upward-facing radars in Hampshire and Hertfordshire. These special entomological radars identified painted ladies flying southwards at the end of the summer: the butterfly previously evaded detection because it rises to an average of 500 metres to take advantage of prevailing winds, flying south at 30mph.
SILVER Y ON THE RADAR
These radars have also revealed the miraculous powers of Britain’s only confirmed obligate migrant moth, the Silver Y. “We suspected they might have some pretty cool capabilities but when we saw the data for the first time it was an exciting surprise,” says Jason Chapman, associate professor at the University of Exeter. Chapman discovered that the Silver Ys were choosing the altitude that bequeathed most advantageous tailwinds. Radar also revealed that Silver Ys could even orientate their bodies in
In summer the Silver Y moth moves from southern Europe into Britain, the Netherlands and Scandinavia.
30 SUFFOLK WILDLIFE
the correct direction to compensate for cross-winds. Most incredibly, Silver Ys were revealed to be travelling as fast – and sometimes faster – than migrating birds such as thrushes. This was because the moths identified the best spot in the air column for favourable tail-winds, whereas the larger birds didn’t bother. But how do these insects know which way to go? Lab tests have revealed that the lengthening or shortening of days is the painted ladies’ cue: caterpillars growing while days are lengthening become adults who fly northwards. When days shorten, the butterflies are born with an awareness of the need to travel south, to warmer climes. The painted lady orientates itself using the sun, but nightflying moths can’t use a sun compass. A study of Australia’s bogong moth reveals they use the Earth’s magnetic field to guide them.
BEAUTY OR BLIGHT?
As the climate changes, some dispersing insects will take up permanent residence in Britain. Charismatic arrivals could include the continental swallowtail and the long-tailed blue, but here’s a tip: the southern small white is making remarkable progress across northern Europe and was first spotted in the Netherlands in 2015. It could soon cross the North Sea into East Anglia. Many gardeners will not welcome another “cabbage white”. Some insect
a r a h Sa
migrations are portrayed as problematic. Tabloid newspapers reported “swarms” of harlequin ladybirds “invading” last autumn. Ladybird expert Professor Helen Roy worked with Rothamstead’s radar to identify harlequin and seven-spot ladybirds flying as high as 1,100m. Ladybirds, says Roy, are dispersers rather than true migrants. “Generally ladybirds are a little bit bumbly. The harlequin ladybird is a real opportunist. Because it is generalist in what it eats, it doesn’t matter so much which way it’s going – its main motivation is to move out of overcrowded habitat. They can get across the Channel but mostly they are making more local movements.” The harlequin ladybird’s rapid spread across Europe has been assisted by us, however. New research from Croatia reveals that harlequins are attracted to the lights on ships – they are literally being ferried
A MIGRATION MIRACLE
TOP TRUST RESERVES FOR BUTTERFLIES
Species: Painted lady Weight: 0.2-0.3g Range: 5,000+ miles
Our nature reserves are home to dozens of butterfly species, including some of the UK’s rarest. But for these insects and other wildlife to thrive, we also need country-wide networks of wild spaces, and you can help.
We’re used to strong-flying insects migrating to the UK from Europe. But the painted lady butterflies we see in warm summers easily beat that. Most specimens start as caterpillars in the Sahel region of Africa. As spring begins they move north over the Sahara, some making it to Southern Europe and the Med, others only getting to North Africa. With summer on the way, the next generation continues the journey north. Research shows some individuals hop directly from North Africa to the UK. Others filter through Central Europe and then into the UK across multiple generations. But here’s the amazing bit: in the autumn, they’ve been found to fly 5,000+ miles back in a single generation!
BRADFIELD WOODS The purple emperor is as magnificent as its name suggests and is drawn to shiny surfaces and (rather disgustingly) dog poo! It's worth keeping your eyes on the treetops, where the adults are most often seen flying.
CARLTON MARSHES Look out for the distinctive wall brown, whose heavily patterned wings can sometimes be confused with small fritillary butterflies. First broods can be found in May, while second broods appear in late August or early September.
SANDLINGS HEATHS KEY
Last year saw large populations of clouded yellow butterflies visit the east coast and their clarified butter wings are a heart-warming summer sight.
Spring migration north Autumn migration south
around Europe. For all the scares about marauding “invasive” insects – and there is genuine concern about the honeybee-devouring Asian hornet – most migratory insects perform crucial “ecosystem services”. Jason Chapman has studied the Marmalade hoverfly, our commonest species. To his surprise, these show an ability to choose favourable days for wind-assisted migration. Hundreds of millions arrive in the spring; up to a billion depart each autumn. “The really exciting numbers,” says Chapman, “are when you calculate how many aphid pests are eaten by the hoverflies’ larvae. You rapidly get into the trillions. We
think they are doing an incredible service of free biological pest control.” For all the great insect clouds of old, only now are we gaining a sense of the true scale of insect migration. Migratory ecologists looking at radar data have revealed a startling fact: a biomass of 3,200 tonnes of migrating insects. Imagine 270 London buses made from solid insects passing over southern England each summer. Or, if you prefer, roughly 3.5 trillion insects. That’s an awful lot of bird food. And each one a minuscule everyday miracle. n PATRICK BARKHAM is a natural history writer for The Guardian and author of The Butterfly Isles.
BLACK BOURN Similar in appearance to the wall brown, the gatekeeper (as the name suggests) is regualrly spotted in clumps of flowers growing by gates and hedgerows.
YOUR GARDEN STEVE AYLWARD, ADOBE STOCK
They do an incredible service of free biological pest control
Of course, this is where you can see a wide variety of butterflies, including the brightly-coloured peacock. It's caterpillars can often be found on stinging nettles.
FIND OUT MORE For tips on butterfly-friendly gardening, wtru.st/butterfly-garden
SUFFOLK WILDLIFE 31
A legacy from one birdwatcher to the next
revor Poyser was a publisher and a keen birdwatcher. He entered publishing after serving as a pilot in the Second World War and T & AD Poyser (Trevor and his wife, Anna) became a byword for excellence in the publishing world of ornithological and wildlife books. Poyser books were all about quality, reflected in the choice of authors and in the characteristic design. His titles are amongst the most wellknown and respected bird books of the last 40 years: The Atlas of the Breeding Birds in Britain and Ireland, Flight Identification of European Raptors, Birds of Scotland, Birds of Wales, Birds of Estuaries and several species monographs including The Peregrine and The Sparrowhawk. There probably isn’t a birdwatcher in Britain who doesn’t have at least a few of the famous Poyser white dust-jackets amongst
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their reference books. So it is fitting that, with the gift from his Will to Carlton Marshes, Trevor is helping to create what will undoubtedly become a favourite destination for the region’s birdwatchers. Born in Derbyshire, which was always his spiritual home, Suffolk was a favourite county to visit when venturing south to stay with friends and enjoy the great contrast of coast and marshes from the hills and dales of home. Trevor moved to North Norfolk 15 years ago and it was here that he and Anna spent their last years. The restoration of the new parts of the reserve to a wetter, Broadland mix of reed, fen, pools and dykes is in full swing and will continue through to spring 2020. In helping this transformation of Carlton Marshes, Trevor’s gift in his Will is helping to restore a wilder landscape that generations of birdwatchers will cherish.
To find out how a gift in your Will could help Suffolk's wildlife, please contact Christine Luxton
GRASSHOPPER WARBLER: ADOBE STOCK
News from Suffolk Wildlife Trust