Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Rewilding a wetland - update!

Hi folks. What a difference some rain makes! Was down at my field for the first time in a wee while and it was wet. Very wet indeed. Obviously you expect and to some degree hope for that when you are doing a wetland project, but it was still exciting to see.

Anyway, it was a beautiful sight. Herons, goldfinches, flocks of lapwings and starlings, snipe, kestrel and buzzards were all there, both in my field and my neighbours land. With a few more trees and little diversity of plantlife, who knows what might come along?

So that's the next step - to source some local trees to scatter in a couple of areas. Alder and downy birch to begin with, as I see plenty of them growing in similar areas a couple of miles away. Perhaps the odd oak on firmer ground, or if I have leftover soil from digging a scrape. Hawthorn and willow may be able to seed themselves.

I also installed a trail-cam to get an idea of what larger creatures may be passing through. Not only is this fun, but it might be important for trees planting. No point leaving little trees exposed if the deer are just going to eat them. :)

Friday, 25 November 2016

Wild boar are native too, and we should recognise that

Yesterday the Scottish Government officially recognised what we have long known and asked for - that beavers are a native species in Scotland and that those which have been reintroduced - whether intentionally or not - should be allowed to stay.

This is the right decision and a huge victory for all those - particularly those in the Tay Valley - who have campaigned for so long or worked on reintroduction projects. It means that these animals can be protected, and if necessary, managed for the long term. It is also good for the semi-legal populations of beavers elsewhere in the UK (such as those in Devon) as it should strengthen the argument that they are a fully native and protected species.

But its implications should go wider. Currently there are hundreds of wild boar living, half legally, in the UK. Like the beavers these are a native species which were wiped out for a few hundred years but which are now back in the wild. The UK (and Scottish) governments, should grant them full native status.

Critics will argue that as they have not been reintroduced in a formal programme they can not be considered native. This is nonsense, something the Scottish government has tacitly accepted by extending 'native' status to descendants of beavers which escaped in the Perthshire, as well as those of the 'official' reintroduction project in Agryll.

More importantly, at a time of biological crisis, when species and populations are falling at a catastrophic rate, we should look to our rules to help wildlife, not use them to throw up arbitrary barriers. Wild boar are native to most of the UK. After an absence of a few hundred years they have returned to several areas. How they came to do that seems, in the grander scheme of things, largely irrelevant. They are the right species in the right place and they are living and breeding and spreading. We should be happy about that and give the protection and the respect they deserve.

Here are some screen-shots I have made of a family near the Forest of Dean in England, from footage we shot a few years back (courtesy of Hand-Crafted Films).


Thursday, 24 November 2016

Scottish government recognises beavers as a native species

Woohoo! Finally after months and months of prevarication, the Scottish Government has formally recognised that beavers are a native Scottish species, and so will receive protection under European and Scottish law.

This is big news, as it means that not only the 'official' beaver reintroduction programme in Argyll, but also the much larger unofficial beaver population in Tayside can now stay permanently, and will be protected. Up until now they have occupied a sort of twilight area, where they have been vulnerable to killing and extermination.

While this is obviously of huge benefit to the beavers in Scotland, it could also be good news for similar 'semi-legal' populations in England, which I had a hand in helping be left in the wild. Currently the only beavers officially recognised in England is the group which escaped and established themselves on the River Otter in Devon, which is now being allowed to remain as a 'trial' managed by the Devon Wildlife Trust. Even these are not totally protected and could in theory be removed at the end of the process.

At the same time there are several other unofficial populations in England which, like their counterparts in the Tay river system, have been breeding unofficially and which are vulnerable.

So far the UK government has been loath to recognise that beavers are a native species in England, with all the legal safeguards that might entail. They even went so far as to introduce a clause in the infrastructure bill which could help to separate populations of the same species into lawful and unlawful ones. Nonetheless, the fact that the Scottish government has done so must put pressure on the UK government to follow suit, and may even have legal consequences all on its own. Watch this space. Regardless of the law, there really is no excuse not to protect them. At a time when the loss of wildlife is almost routine, we should fight tooth and nail for any chance to see a lost species return and spread.

In the meantime, it is a good thing in the midst of lots of bad things. So let's be happy.

Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Wild boar in our history

Hi all  - I just thought I would upload this beautiful painting from the lid of a 6th century Anglo-Saxon coffin I saw in the papers today, showing a wild boar hunt.

I love stuff like this, as it shows the vital place that wildlife has, and has always had in our culture and that of our predecessors. Quite simply our lives are enriched by sharing them with other creatures, something which can be forgotten in the dry world of ecosystem services and flood prevention which makes up so much of the conservation debate.

As you will know wild boar are now living and breeding in the several locations of the UK, and despite persecution and the occasional calls for their removal by various zoophobes, they seem to be well accepted.

Long may it remain that way, and lets hope it won't be long before they are found in forests and fens right across the country.