Weather takes toll on marine wildlife
The relentless, bitterly cold easterly winds during March have has a deadly toll on marine wildlife.
Prolonged strong easterly winds and tidal currents have caused wrecks of vast numbers of marine animals and birds. Billions of immature razorshells, thousands of sea urchins, starfish, cuttlefish bones, hornwrack and seaweed, and dead harbour porpoises have been washed up.
Birds have also been washed up dead including puffins, razorbills, guillemots, kittiwakes, gulls, lapwings and blackbirds. Lapwings and blackbirds are amongst the migrating species that return to the continent during March, with the constant winds from the east, there must have been a significant mortality at sea.
This picture has been played out along the length of the North Sea coast. Although it is normal to see some animals washed up, these records are very unusual and highlight the pressures our wildlife faces and the need to safeguard areas for the future.
> More photos on the Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust facebook page
Photo: dead razorbill (Peter Roworth)
Wildflower corridors discovered across the Wolds
After two years of wildflower surveys and mapping in the Lincolnshire Wolds, this spring sees the selection of 54 new roadside Local Wildlife Sites (55km). It includes 47 in East & West Lindsey and 7 in North Lincolnshire, with hotspots around Hemingby, Fulletby, Goulceby, Skendleby, Sotby, Hallington and Thornton Curtis.
During the same time, work in North and South Kesteven (on limestone) has added 29 more Local Wildlife Sites (50km) to the 41 sites (75km) that were designated by the project between 2009-10. Since Life on the Verge started in 2009, verges along a total length of approximately 180km of road have now been highlighted as important wildlife corridors.
There are more road verges that need to be surveyed. Check the Life on the Verge website to find out how you can get involved.
Donna Nook Grey Seal Colony
From late October to late December 2012, over 1,500 grey seal pups were born at Donna Nook National Nature Reserve, a protected area on the Lincolnshire coast.
Within weeks of their birth, the pups left the beach and headed out the sea for the first time. Unlike when they are on land, once at sea there is no protection for the seabed habitats that harbour their food.
The first swim of the Donna Nook grey seals is in one of the Marine Conservation Zones that the Government has rejected from the list to be designated in 2013.
Called the Lincolnshire Belt, the zone stretches 35km from the Humber Channel to Anderby Creek, from the low tideline out to sea 5.5km (3 nautical miles). The sea bed is teeming with life with sponges, sea anemones, crabs, shrimps and fish: many of which are potential food for the young seals.
But these rich and varied landscapes under our seas have virtually no protection and are at risk.
For more information about how you can have your say on the future of Marine Conservation Zones visit the Save our Seas page.
Trees threatened by disease
Ash dieback disease
The Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust welcomed the ban on the import of ash trees, that came into place on Monday 29 October 2012, but fears it may be too late to stop the disease from spreading.
Ash dieback disease is caused by the fungus Chalara fraxinea. It results in leaf loss and crown dieback in the affected trees and has the potential to devastate the ash tree population.
> Read the full press release
> Detailed information on the disease and recognising the main symptoms can be found on the Forestry Commission website.
Horse Chestnut Bleeding Canker
In the summer of 2006, horse chestnut trees were affected by drought, a leaf miner moth and a bark fungus called bleeding canker. The leaf miner moth causes leaves to wither and fall but does not cause the death of the tree. Bleeding canker causes a black gummy substance to ooze from the bark. The tissue beneath is killed and badly-affected trees may not recover. According to estimates, horse chestnut bleeding canker is on the increase and struck around 40,000 horse chestnuts in 2006.
> More information: www.forestry.gov.uk/fr/INFD-6KYBGV
Sudden Oak Death
The presence in the UK of sudden oak death, which can destroy trees, was confirmed at the end of 2002. Sudden Oak Death, caused by the fungus Phytophthora ramorum, has struck beech, horse chestnut and holm oak in Cornwall and southern red oak in Sussex. The fungus kills the trees by ringing the bark all the way round and cutting off the trees lifeline. There is no known cure.
Sudden oak death has killed many thousands of trees on the west coast of the USA but at this stage the affect of the disease on UK trees is not known.
Action: There have been outbreaks in plant nurseries mainly on rhododendrons, camellias and viburnum. Check shrubs carefully before buying them and if symptoms develop later contact your garden centre.
Good hygiene vital for garden birds
Wild birds that feed in gardens are suscepitible to a number of diseases.
Trichomonosis is caused by a microscopic parasite that spreads where the saliva of an infected individual comes into contact with that of non-infected bird. This could occur at garden feeding stations and at bird baths. It is thought to have led dramatic declines in greenfinch populations across much of England.
Avian pox is a viral skin infection that shows up as unsightly growths on the bird, mainly on the head and neck, and at the base of the wings. It thought to be spread between birds in three main ways: by biting insects (e.g. mosquitoes, mites, flies), by direct bird-to-bird contact, and by indirect contact via contaminated surfaces such as perches or bird tables.
Following sensible hygiene precautions when feeding garden birds and handling bird feeders and tables will help reduce the spread of diseases.
- Clean and disinfect feeders and feeding sites regularly.
- Suitable disinfectants include a weak solution of domestic bleach (5% sodium hypochlorite), 'Milton' or other specially-designed commercial products.
- Rinse feeders thoroughly and air-dry before re-use.
- Do the cleaning outside, wear gloves and wash your hands afterwards.
- Ideally, bird tables and the ground beneath feeders should be swept clean each day to remove droppings and uneaten food.
- Empty and air-dry bird baths.
- Do not provide more food that the birds need, otherwise uneaten food may remain in feeders for too long.
- Purchase bird food from reputable sources.
- Store in a clean, dry and cool environment to minimize contamination.
- If possible place feeders above a concrete or solid surface that can be washed and scrubbed clean.
- Rotate positions of feeders in the garden to prevent the build up of contamination in any one area of ground below the feeders.
> Find out more on the BTO website
Avian Influenza (Bird Flu)
Avian influenza is a highly infectious disease affecting many species of birds.
The recent spread of avian influenza (bird flu), caused by the highly pathogenic H5N1 strain, across Asia and into continental Europe poses challenges to those concerned with the health of domestic poultry and the conservation of wild birds.
The situation can evolve rapidly and it is now clear that wild birds can spread the disease across international boundaries.
The risk to human health in the UK remains low.
There is no evidence that H5N1 infections in humans have been acquired from wild birds. Human infections have occurred in people who have been closely associated with poultry.
Can I still feed the birds?
At the moment, yes. Make sure you wash your hands afterwards, and before touching your mouth or eyes, or eating food. This is good, common-sense hygiene and you should always do this after coming into contact with any animals, whether wild, farm animals or your pets.
What should I do if I find dead birds?
Birds die all the time, for all sorts of different reasons, and you are likely to come across them from time to time. Do not touch any dead birds - or any other animals - that you find.
If you notice sick or dead birds (wildfowl or gulls), you should inform Defra (ring 08459 335577). They will make an assessment on what further action should be taken.
Wild Bird Surveillance and Birdwatchers
Defra have selected Gibraltar Point National Nature Reserve and Far Ings National Nature Reserve as priority areas for avian influenza surveillance. The Trust is calling on birdwatchers to help by reporting any sightings of dead birds of the target species.
> More information about how birdwatchers can help with the surveillance
> Avian Flu Update, 2 February 2007
Hummingbird hawkmoths look like tiny hummingbirds - hovering in front of flowers and feeding on nectar with their long proboscis. Most years, between June and August these moths can be seen in Lincolnshire. They are day flying and often seen in gardens. They dart from one flower to the next and are expert at hovering, beating their wings so rapidly you can hear them hum.
They are resident in the Mediterranean and migrate northwards through Europe in the spring. Hummingbird hawkmoths breed in the UK but unless it's very mild are unlikely to survive our winters.
Storms are a natural cause of mortalities among seal pups. From time to time the Trust receives reports to suggest that pups are being washed ashore as a result of bad weather. Without proper assessment and help, they may die, especially if they are sick or injured. If you find a seal pup, please follow these points: Do not attempt to catch or handle pups. They bite.
Keep your distance, and keep dogs away.
Contact the experts right away.
Find out some more about our seals.....
Badgers, Otters, Rare Birds
For reasons of security, we avoid posting records of badgers, otters, rare bird nesting sites or other vulnerable wildlife. There are too many "low-life" egg collectors, badger diggers and the like who would take advantage of such information. However we do like to receive such reports to pass on to county recorders, who also treat information with discretion. You may pass this to us knowing we will do our utmost to keep such records secure.
If you suspect someone may be egg stealing or persecuting wildlife, don't tackle them alone - they are not usually very nice people! Contact your local police wildlife liaison officer or the RSPCA who know the law and will know what to do.
The Hunting with Dogs Bill that came into force on 18 February 2005, makes all hare coursing illegal. If you see people pursuing hares with dogs, make a call to your local main police station and obtain an incident number (you will need to be prepared to make a written statement as to what you have witnessed). This will ensure the incident is formally logged on the police computer and will enable easier research of wildlife crime at a later date if it is required. There is no reason to approach individuals hunting with dogs, observation from a distance is the best policy.