This Week in Biodiversity News – 19th October

Hidden camera’s hugging tiger wins the Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2020 competition. Sergey Gorshkov captured a rare, stunning photo of a Siberian, or Amur tiger, deep in the forest of far Eastern Russia. You can explore more images here

Rewild to mitigate the climate crisis, urge leading scientists. According to research recently published in the journal Nature, restoring natural landscapes damaged by human exploitation can be one of the most effective and cheapest ways to combat the climate crisis while also boosting dwindling wildlife populations.

Environmental groups push to protect vast swathes of Antarctic seas. A coalition of conservation groups is advocating for the establishment of three new marine protected areas (MPAs) in East Antarctica, the Antarctic Peninsula and the Weddell Sea, which would encompass 4 million square kilometers (1.5 million square miles) of the Southern Ocean, or 1% of the global ocean.

Researcher Jacob Kamminga of the University of Twente developed a motion sensor with built-in intelligence for recognizing motion patterns of a wide range of animals. Kamminga’s research on the sensor has found that by recognizing the movements of animals in the wild using attached sensors, it may well be possible to detect if poachers are nearby. 

Froglife: Interview with CEO Kathy Wormald

Kathy Wormald, CEO of Froglife, recently took the time to talk to us about the national charity dedicated to the conservation of amphibians and reptiles. In this insightful and inspiring conversation we talk about some of the threats facing amphibians and reptiles, the ways in which Froglife are addressing these challenges, how Covid-19 is affecting them as a charity, and share simple ways in which you can get involved with amphibian and reptile conservation.


Firstly, can you give us a brief introduction to Froglife and your main goals for amphibian and reptile conservation. 

Froglife is a wildlife conservation charity with a specific focus on the UK’s native reptiles and amphibians and their habitats. We are a practical organisation working on the ground improving sites for our species such as creating wetland habitats, improving grasslands and woodlands and monitoring our species and their habitats. Central to our ethos is to ensure that as many people as possible, from all walks of life, are able to contribute to nature conservation. We deliver our work through three work programmes: Transforming Landscapes, Transforming People and Transforming Research.

If your wildest dreams could be realised, what would you wish for amphibian and reptile populations, both in the UK and internationally? 

To stop decline of amphibian and reptile populations. Internationally amphibians are declining at a faster rate than birds and mammals. To put as much focus on conserving common species as is put on rare species. The lack of emphasis for common species means that many are no longer common. In the UK I would stop the decline of our iconic common toads, decline rates of 68% over the past 30 years. Froglife does have a big focus on common toad conservation but we need to get the whole country behind us.

One of the main problems faced by amphibians and reptiles is mortality and habitat fragmentation due to roads. Can you tell us about the Wildlife Tunnel Campaign and how it hopes to address this problem? 

New property developments require roads and these roads often run through sites that are used by wildlife, if they are protected species then action will be taken to try to help the species, however for non-protected species such as common toads, often no action is required. A lot of wildlife migrate across sites as do common toads. Common toads will migrate to their hereditary breeding pond each year and back to their hibernation sites later in the year. This migration often involves toads having to cross roads, in some cases more than one road intersection. Wildlife Tunnels provide a link between the broken site with wildlife being directed with fencing to cross under the road instead of on the road. We are asking people to sign up to our campaign to ensure that all new developments that will have roads running through wildlife sites must install Wildlife Tunnels (see image at bottom of page for more info). These tunnels need to be monitored and maintained at the cost of the developer.

What would you consider to be Froglife’s greatest success stories so far? 

The people we help to get involved in wildlife conservation, often working with very disadvantaged communities who don’t get the chance to help nature and who live in nature deficient neighbourhoods, their actions help to improve lots of green spaces in neighbourhoods. The amount of successful habitat works that we do that benefit nature and people. The Toads on Roads patrols that Froglife co-ordinates. The many innovative initiatives that we have developed such as our Wildlife Tunnel Exhibition and Virtual Reality Experience and the Wildlife Visualiser App. Opening up new revenue streams for the sector by highlighting to donors that nature conservation does have social benefits and should be funded by social donors as well as those focusing on the environment.

Working with local communities

The Covid-19 pandemic has created a huge number of unforeseen challenges for everyone this year, charities included. How have you been affected and what measures have you taken to deal with the current situation? 

Some of our projects couldn’t deliver activities during Covid-19 which meant that many of our beneficiaries didn’t have the opportunity to get involved. Our finances were impacted by the withdrawal of a lot of grant schemes. We face an uncertain future not knowing of further Covid-19 restrictions and funding opportunities. We took very decisive and quick action to deal with the situation. We developed lots of online content and delivered sessions, workshops and training courses online. We even managed to keep our work with people living with dementia going which meant that at least this group of people were supported during very trying times for them. We successfully secured Covid-19 emergency funding. We have restructured the organisation to ensure that we are harnessing the skill set of all of our staff to help us get through this.

What advice would you give to someone wanting to become more involved with amphibian and reptile conservation in the UK? 

There are many different ways in which people can become more involved: volunteering is great experience for the individual but also helps us so much with our work. There are plenty of varied volunteering opportunities, either getting outdoors and involved with physical site works, helping with our education work, research or fundraising for us. People can also attend our training courses, they are widely promoted on our website and via social media.


You can find out more about Froglife from their website and by following them on Facebook and Twitter.

This Week in Biodiversity News – 5th October

Big Butterfly Count 2020 sees lowest numbers of butterflies recorded in 11 years. The average number of butterflies logged per count was down 34% in comparison with 2019, and the lowest average number of butterflies logged overall since the event began eleven years ago.

In this Philippine community, women guard a marine protected area. Women in the central Philippines have banded together to protect their marine sanctuaries from poachers and illegal fishers. Armed with only paddles and kayaks, these women willingly risk their lives to manage their marine protected area.

Plastic-eating enzyme ‘cocktail’ heralds new hope for plastic waste. The same team who re-engineered the plastic-eating enzyme PETase have now created an enzyme ‘cocktail’ which can digest plastic up to six times faster.

A “nationally scarce” species of bee has been found in Newport for the first time, conservationists say. Buglife Cymru said it discovered a “strong population” of small scabious mining bees at St Julian’s Park local nature reserve last week.

The NHBS Guide to Fungi Identification

Chicken of the Woods by Thijs de Bruin via Flickr

From mould to yeast, fungi are a diverse kingdom with over 15,000 species in the UK. Fungi are made up of different microscopic thread like bodies called hyphae, and collectively hyphae form mycelium. Mushrooms or toadstools are the reproductive, umbrella shaped fruiting bodies of certain fungi. These organisms can be found in almost every natural habitat, but more kinds of macro-fungi tend to be found in woodlands, as they provide a rich and continuing nutrient source and a wide range of microhabitats. 

Autumn is a great time of the year to explore the fascinating world of fungi, as most species enjoy the slightly cooler and wetter conditions. To those familiar with identifying plants, birds and mammals, mushroom and fungi identification can be a tricky task requiring a different kind of approach. However there are some distinct, common species that are much easier to identify than others, and getting a great ID book can really help. In this blog we focus on 10 common, easier to identify types of mushrooms and toadstools found in the UK, alongside some key characteristics and where to find them. 

How to identify:

Some fungi cannot be identified without a microscope, however those in this blog can be identified using macro characteristics displayed by the fruiting body. Most are umbrella or mushroom shaped with gills on the cap underside. Below are some key characteristics to look out for when identifying:

  • Fruiting body – shape, colour and size 
  • Gills – in particular how they attach to the stem, a spore print can also be taken
  • Stem – shape, colour, size
  • Smell and texture
  • Habitat
Mushroom picking and safety

This blog has not been written to be used for finding edible species, please be cautious as fungi can be highly poisonous.

1. Hedgehog Fungus – Hydnum repandum
Hedgehog Fungus by Lynn Martin via Flickr

Other common names: Wood Hedgehog, Sweet Tooth or Pied de Mouton

Identification: In place of gills, this species has spines (stalactite-like projections) under the cap, making it look rather hedgehog like. The spines are paler than the cap, and the cap is creamy, medium-sized and fleshy. Cap is 3-17 cm across. Stem is short and stocky.

Where to find them: On soil among litter, under broad-leaved woodland, in particular with beech or oak, sometimes with other species, including in coniferous woods; often in troops.

2. Giant Puffball – Calvatia gigantea
Giant Puffball by Ciska van Geer via Flickr

Identification: One of the largest fungi in the UK, it is similar in size to a football. The young fruiting bodies are solid, white, thin and smooth and then later turn olive, then finally brown when it opens. When mature it is roughly 20-75 cm across. There is no stem, however it can be connected to the ground by a fine root like filament.

Where to find: Can be found in grasslands, pasture, lawns, commons and roadsides, and can be found in open woodlands, often with nettles and rubbish.

3. Wood Blewit –  Lepista nuda or Clitocybe nuda 
Wood Blewit by Julie via Flickr

Identification: Has a blue to violet tinged cap and gills when young, however older caps turn tan or grey from the centre. Gills are crowded and grow into the stalk and fade to brown as the mushroom matures. The cap is roughly 5-15 cm across, and the stem 5-10 cm tall.

Where to find: Amongst leaf litter in woods, hedgerows and gardens. Can also be found in grasslands away from trees

4. Common Inkcap – Coprinopsis atramentaria
Common Inkcap by Roy Lowry via Flickr

Other common names: Inky Cap

Identification: A grey to fawn cap that is at first egg-shaped and then later bell shaped. The surface is smooth and splits into a few tiny scales from the apex, the edges are often wavy and split. Stem is white and hollow. Cap is around 4-8 cm across and stem is 5-15 cm tall.

Where to find: Very common – wherever there is buried wood.

5. Fly Agaric – Amanita muscaria
Fly Agaric by Derek Parker via Flickr

Other common names: Fly Amanita

Identification: One of the most iconic toadstools depicted in fairy-tale illustrations.  It has a shiny, scarlet red or orange cap with white wart-like spots dotted across. Cap is 8-20 cm across. The gills are white and free, and the stem is swollen with rings of scales.

Where to find: In mixed woodlands and heaths, mostly amongst birch, pine and spruce.

6. Jelly Ear – Auricularia auricula-judae
Jelly Ear by Steve Balcombe via Flickr

Other common names: Jew’s Ear or Wood Ear

Identification: Initially cup-shaped and smoothed, the fruiting body develops lobes in the shape of a wrinkled human ear. Soft, gelatinous and a date-brown colour, but when it dries it is much smaller, darker and harder. Upper surface is velvety, and is attached laterally by a small stalk. Up to 8cm across.

Where to find: Commonly found on living or dead wood of elder, but also recorded on many other woody species.

7. Common Stinkhorn – Phallus impudicus
Common Stinkhorn by Obas via Flickr

Identification: Known for releasing a foul odour to attract flies which eat the spore-bearing slimy head. The foul smell can be detected far and wide, most often before seeing it. Initially it appears like a white egg which feels soft, but then later splits at the apex and a thick, white hollow stem appears with a polystyrene texture. Head is conical shaped, slimy and olive-green topped by a small, white ring. Grows up to 25 cm tall.

Where to find: Among leaf litter in woodlands and also in gardens.

8. Chicken of the Woods – Laetiporus sulphureus
Chicken of the Woods by Thijs de Bruin via Flickr

Other common names: Sulphur Polypore, Crab of the Woods and Sulphur Shelf

Identification: A thick, fleshy, bracket that is fan-shaped and soft to touch. Older brackets become sharp-edged with a dry, chalky texture. The upper surface is initially bright orange or yellow with a velvety touch, this later fades to a creamy-yellow with a smooth, dry surface. The very small pores on the underside are a pale yellow. Bracket is 10-40cm across.

Where to find: Can be found growing tiered mostly on oak trunks but also on sweet chestnut, yew and beech.

9. Scarlet Elfcup – Sarcoscypha austriaca
Scarlet Elfcup by Claire Dell via Flickr

Identification: Are cup-shaped and scarlet, however can also be bright orange. Stems attach to the leaf litter making them appear as hollow bowls lying on the woodland floors. Cups are roughly 4cm across.

Where to find: Although not very common it is reasonably widespread, and can be found in damp, shady areas on decaying sticks and branches. It can be found on the fallen twigs and branches of hazel, elm and willow in late winter and early spring.

10. Beefsteak Fungus – Fistulina hepatica
Beefsteak Fungus by Curiosity thrills via Flickr

Identification: This strange fungus appears like an ox tongue or piece of raw meat and oozes a blood like substance when cut. When young the bracket is soft and moist with a pinky-red upperside and broad margin. Older brackets are a liver-brown and much firmer with a sharp edge. The underside has yellow pores which release red-brown spores and often exude a red, blood like liquid. Brackets are about 8-20 cm across and 3-6 cm thick.

Where to find: Usually found low on the trunk of old, living oak trees and sweet chestnut trees, and sometimes on their stumps.

Recommended Reading/Guides:

 

Collins Fungi Guide: The Most Complete Field Guide to the Mushrooms & Toadstools of Britain & Ireland

#195386

Nearly 2400 species are illustrated in full colour, with detailed notes on how to correctly identify them, including details of similar, confusing species.

 

Collins Complete Guide to British Mushrooms & Toadstools

#169912

By only covering Britain and Ireland, fewer species are included than in many broader European guides, making it quicker and easier for the reader to accurately identify what they have found.

 

 

Fungi of Temperate Europe (2-Volume Set)

#246570

This lavish two-volume set treats more than 2,800 species of fungi across the region.

 

Collection by Geoffrey Kibby

Full collection of books 

Geoffrey Kibby is one of Britain’s foremost experts on identifying mushrooms in the field and has published a range of excellent guides/handbooks to mushroom identification.

 

 

Grassland Fungi: A Field Guide (Second Edition)

#250979

The second edition draws on an additional three years of surveying done over a wider area, adding 23 new species to the 177 already described in the first edition

 

 

Bloomsbury Concise Mushroom Guide

#243691

This illustrated mini field guide is packed with information on 200 species of fungi found in Britain and the near Continent.

 

 

 

Edible Mushrooms: A Forager’s Guide to the Wild Fungi of Britain, Ireland and Europe

#228419

An up-to-date, comprehensive and brilliantly illustrated book on fungi foraging in Britain and Europe. It covers every known edible species, and all the poisonous groups, as well as a few other extremely common ones.

 

The Fungi Name-Trail: A Key to Commoner Fungi

#146398

Key to some of the more easily recognised fungi present in Britain’s woods and fields. The name trial takes you through a series of yes or no questions to help you identify your fungi.

 

This Week in Biodiversity News – 31st August

‘We’ve covered huge swathes of the UK in tarmac’: how roads affect birds. Rarer birds suffer the most from the network that criss-crosses the country, finds a new study, published in Nature Communications, but kerbside life appears to suit some. 

Madagascar giant frog is a new species, but also a deep-fried delicacy. Two species of giant frog in the genus Mantidactylus from Madagascar have attracted researchers’ attention for their very large size. Now, genetic sequencing has enabled scientists to identify a new member of the giant frog genus Mantidactylus. 

Tiny elephant shrew rediscovered in Africa after 50 years. A little-known mammal related to an elephant but as small as a mouse has been rediscovered in Africa after 50 years of obscurity. The creature was found alive and well in Djibouti, a country in the Horn of Africa, during a scientific expedition.

Newly published research, carried out by staff at BTO Scotland, has investigated the response to wintering waterbirds to drones, and shown that they can be easily scared into flight by drone use. Findings show behavioural responses of non-breeding waterbirds to drone approach are associated with flock size and habitat. You can read the results here.

This Week in Biodiversity News – 17th August

The government announced it will allow England’s first wild breeding population of beavers to remain in Devon. After five years of groundbreaking work by Devon Wildlife Trust, they celebrate their success story. 

In an analysis for Mongabay, agroforestry expert Patrick Worms suggests that while news reports show forests burning in many places, trees are in fact retaking busily vast swaths of farmland globally through agroforestry. 

A butterfly once extinct in the UK has been reintroduced to another part of the Gloucestershire countryside. The successful breeding means it is the first time in 150 years the large blue butterfly – the largest and rarest of all nine British blue butterflies – has been recorded at Minchinhampton and Rodborough Commons.

Bird Photographer of the Year 2020 – in pictures. The Bird Photographer of the Year 2020 received more than 15,000 entries. Take a look at a selection of photos from the winners here. 

Experts and volunteers scramble to save Mauritius’s wildlife after oil spill. International experts and thousands of local volunteers were making frantic efforts on Sunday to protect Mauritius’s pristine beaches and rich marine wildlife after hundreds of tonnes of oil was dumped into the sea by a Japanese carrier in what some scientists called the country’s worst ecological disaster.

The Big Butterfly Count: NHBS Staff Photos

Common Blue – by H Drew

We’re currently midway through the Big Butterfly Count which is taking place between Friday 17th July and Sunday 9th August. It’s the world’s biggest survey of butterflies and it’s aimed at assessing the health of our environment by simply counting a selection of our most common butterflies (along with a couple of day-flying moths). To take part, all you need to do is spend 15 minutes counting butterflies on a sunny day. You can count from anywhere you like; in the garden or park, in the woods or fields or wherever you find yourself outdoors.  You can submit your results online on the Big Butterfly Count website. For a list of handy butterfly ID guides as well as some tips on how to distinguish certain species, take a look at our previous blog post here

 To encourage more people to get involved we thought we’d share some of our own butterfly photos, all taken in our gardens or on local walks. Scroll down to see what we found.

We’d also love to see what you’ve spotted – so why not let us know in the comments below.

Results

Oli discovered a few different species in his local park

Large White: 3

Ringlet: 3

Meadow Brown: 3

Gatekeeper: 2

Silver Washed Fritillary – by O Haines
Meadow Brown – by O Haines
Green Veined White – by O Haines

 

 

 

 

 

 

Harry shared some wonderful photos of two Common Blue butterflies

Common Blue – by H Drew
Common Blue – by H Drew

Natalie came across 6 Gatekeepers on her walk

Gatekeeper – by N Mawson

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gemma shared photos of a Small Tortoise Shell and a Comma

Comma – G Haggar
Small Tortoise Shell – by G Haggar

Tabea managed to catch a photo of a Peacock resting on the side of the road

Peacock: 1

Large Whites: 3

Peacock – by T A Troya

Nigel discovered a few different butterflies with the help of his three children

Gatekeepers: 2

Large White: 1

Meadow Brown: 1

Small Skipper: 1

Photo – by N Jones
Small Skipper – by N Jones
Gatekeeper – by N Jones

 

 

 

 

 

Mariam found mostly Cabbage White’s in her garden

Cabbage White: 5

Tortoise Shell: 1

Cabbage White – by M Salah

Butterfly Conservation

For more information on UK butterflies and how you can help them, please visit Butterfly Conservation.org. Here you will find a wealth of information to help you find and identify butterflies and moths.

This Week in Biodiversity News – 3rd August

Small Crustacean can fragment microplastics in four days, study finds. Environmental scientists at University College Cork (UCC) Ireland studying the 2cm-long amphipod Grammarus duebeni unexpectedly found that microplastic beads are fragmented incredibly quickly into nanoplastics. The finding is significant as harmful effects of plastic might increase as particle size decreases. 

New native Hawaiian land snail species discovered, first in 60 years. Pacific island land snails are among the world’s most imperilled wildlife, with more recorded extinctions since 1600 than any other group of animals. Scientists  have now discovered a new native land snail species, sounding a rare, hopeful note in a story rife with extinction.

Quarter of UK mammals ‘under threat’ according to the first Red List of UK mammals – a comprehensive review of the status of species, including wildcats, red squirrels and hedgehogs. 

‘Plan bee’ for cities: new report sows seeds for insect-friendly urban areas. Research published by the scientific journal Plos One suggests that urban gardens, parks and roadside verges play a vital role in boosting bee and other pollinator numbers thanks to their diversity of blooming plants and absence of pesticides.

This Week in Biodiversity News – 13th July

First signs of success in bid to reintroduce pine martens to England. The first pine martens to be reintroduced to England have had kits, marking a milestone in efforts to boost their recovery, conservationists said. Conservationists say at least three females have produced offspring in the Forest of Dean. 

Growing evidence suggests that native bees are also facing a novel pandemic. Researchers at CU Boulder have found there is growing evidence that another “pandemic,” as they call it, has been infecting bees around the world for the past two decades and is spreading: a fungal pathogen known as Nosema.

Rare Gunther’s toad sighting highlights farms as biodiversity hotspots. The sighting of the rare Gunther’s toad in the rock pools of farmlands in Anantapur district in Andhra Pradesh puts the focus on the presence of diverse species in farmlands. Experts say it is time that these lands are seen as systems that contribute to ecology rather than just areas for food production.

Almost a third of lemurs and North Atlantic Right Whale now critically endangered – according to the most recent update of the IUCN’s Red List. This update completes a revision of all African primate assessments, concluding that over half of all primate species in the rest of Africa are under threat. This update also reveals that the North Atlantic Right Whale and the European Hamster are now both Critically Endangered.

This Week in Biodiversity News – June 29th

This Phillipine butterfly had a mistaken identity for years, until its ‘rediscovery’. A pair of scientists have discovered a new subspecies of butterfly whose only known habitat is at the peak of a potentially active volcano in the central Philippines.

Koala’s will be driven to extinction before 2050 in New South Wales, major inquiry finds. State parliamentary investigation finds the biggest threat to the species’ survival is habitat loss – but logging and clearing has continued.

Forest loss escalates biodiversity change. New international research focusing on biodiversity data spanning 150 years and over 6,000 locations, published in the journal Science, reveals that as tree cover is lost across the world’s forests, plants and animals are responding to the transformation of their natural habitats, revealing both losses and gains in species.

Dolphins learn how to use tools from peers, just like great apes. A new study upends the belief that only mothers teach hunting skills, adding to growing evidence of dolphin intelligence, experts say. It is the first known example of dolphins transmitting such knowledge within the same generation, rather than between generations.