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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
Collins Fungi Guide: The Most Complete Field Guide to the Mushrooms & Toadstools of Britain & Ireland
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.
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.
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.
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.
Oli discovered a few different species in his local park
Large White: 3
Meadow Brown: 3
Harry shared some wonderful photos of two Common Blue butterflies
Natalie came across 6 Gatekeepers on her walk
Gemma shared photos of a Small Tortoise Shell and a Comma
Tabea managed to catch a photo of a Peacock resting on the side of the road
Large Whites: 3
Nigel discovered a few different butterflies with the help of his three children
Large White: 1
Meadow Brown: 1
Small Skipper: 1
Mariam found mostly Cabbage White’s in her garden
Cabbage White: 5
Tortoise Shell: 1
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.
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.
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.
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.