The newcomers / The departingThe newcomers
Last autumn's news, that beavers were being released into a pen at the Cotswold Water Park The Cotswold Water Park is the United Kingdom's largest water park. It consists of 133 lakes which were formed by allowing old gravel quarries to become filled with water. The Western part is located by the A419, on the River Thames (not far from its source) and the River Churn, as a prelude to full-scale reintroduction, provoked the usual press hysteria about the damming of rivers and the destruction of trees. In fact the animals in question are European beavers, a much more environmentally-friendly animal than their Canadian cousin, and more likely to improve habitats rather than destroy them. Beavers were originally native here, but went extinct sometime during the 16th century, as a result of hunting for their fur. In mainland Europe, they fell to a low point of 1200 individuals during the 19th century, but have since made a strong recovery.
The conservation authorities were somewhat embarrassed when reports of "really wild" boars began to appear in the press - usually as a result of an unfortunate motorist literally bumping into one. As escapees from commercial farms, policy dictated that they should be recaptured or killed, to prevent them establishing a permanent presence. But the legislation ignored the fact that wild boars were originally native to Britain, dying out in the 17th century as a result of over-hunting. Once at large, they are also notoriously difficult to track down. So, despite its controversial status, the wild boar looks set to make a permanent return.
Early spider orchid Noun 1. early spider orchid - spring-blooming spider orchid having a flower with yellow or green or pink sepals and a broad brown velvety lip
spider orchid - any of several European orchids of the genus Ophrys
During the construction of the Channel Tunnel, almost five million cubic metres of chalk marl Marl, city, Germany
Marl (märl), city (1994 pop. 92,590), North Rhine–Westphalia, W Germany. It is an industrial and mining (coal, lead, and zinc) center, and also supports a number of chemical factories. was extracted and used to construct a nature reserve, Samphire Hoe near Folkestone. Almost immediately rare orchids began to colonise Verb 1. colonise - settle as a colony; of countries in the developing world; "Europeans colonized Africa in the 17th century"
annex - take (territory) as if by conquest; "Hitler annexed Lithuania" , and the site is now home to thousands of early spider orchids, one of our rarest species. Common on the continent, this chalk grassland specialist is also found on Ministry of Defence sites and downland A downland is an area of open chalk hills. This term is especially used to describe the chalk countryside in southern England. Areas of downland are often referred to as Downs. reserves in southern England and north Wales. As its name suggests, it usually flowers for a few weeks in late April and early May.
Larger and paler than the British version, sightings of European swallowtails have increased in the past few years, and the species is now a regular visitor to southern England, where it has occasionally bred. Ironically, the distinctive British swallowtail, confined to a few sites in the Norfolk Broads, remains highly vulnerable, due to its dependence on a single food-plant - milk-parsley. Another migrant butterfly, the clouded yellow, has recently begun to overwinter o·ver·win·ter
intr.v. o·ver·win·tered, o·ver·win·ter·ing, o·ver·win·ters
1. To remain alive through the winter: sheep that overwintered on the steppe.
2. in Britain, with successful breeding reported from, among other sites, the cliffs above the beach at Bournemouth!
Introduced to Romney Marsh Romney Marsh (rŭm`nē), region, c.70 sq mi (180 sq km), Kent, SE England, extending c.9 mi (15 km) inland. A former coastal marsh, the region has been wholly reclaimed to provide fertile pastureland. Romney Marsh sheep are well known. in Kent in the mid-1930s, this noisy and colourful amphibian amphibian, in zoology
amphibian, in zoology, cold-blooded vertebrate animal of the class Amphibia. There are three living orders of amphibians: the frogs and toads (order Anura, or Salientia), the salamanders and newts (order Urodela, or Caudata), and the is now a familiar sight - and sound - in waterways throughout south-east England. As soon as the sun comes out, the marsh frog - a voracious predator - makes its presence known by puffing out its cheeks and producing a loud croak. However, it is a shy creature, and will retreat into the water as soon as it realises it is being observed. This species is likely to benefit from climate change, which should allow it to extend its range northwards, wherever there is suitable wetland habitat.
In the developing world, black kites have learned to hang around rubbish dumps, where they are adept at scavenging scavenging
of anesthetic. See anesthetic scavenging. for anything even remotely edible. They also have an unappealing, though undoubtedly impressive, trick of snatching food from people's hands, demonstrating their acrobatic flying skills. Whether they can put such talents to the test here is open to question, though their adaptability was revealed last summer when a wandering black kite paired with one of the red kites released as part of the Scottish reintroduction programme. Looks likely to follow hard on the heels of the cattle egret as our next avian colonist.
Mainly found in tropical and sub-tropical seas, the striped dolphin is able to survive in British waters because of the warming influence of the North Atlantic Drift North Atlantic Drift, warm ocean current in the northern part of the Atlantic Ocean. It is a continuation of the Gulf Stream, the merging point being at lat. 40°N and long. 60°W. . Until recently sightings were confined to the English Channel, but in the past decade or so it has spread farther north, with records from the west coast of Scotland, the North Sea and even the Shetland Isles - just a few degrees south of the Arctic Circle. Most records are, unfortunately, of animals stranded on beaches. When seen at sea it can be distinguished from its commoner relatives by the distinctive pale stripe along its sides.
Humpback whale humpback whale
Long-finned baleen whale (Megaptera novaeangliae). They live along all major ocean coasts, sometimes swimming close inshore or even into harbours and up rivers. Humpbacks grow to 40–52 ft (12–16 m) long.
Incredible though it may seem, the most acrobatic of all the world's whales is now a regular visitor to our coastal waters, where lucky observers may witness it leaping out of the sea in an action known as "breaching". The original European population of this great whale was wiped out more than 500 years ago, but by the 1980s, after it was granted protection under international law, the species began to appear again. The increase in sightings is likely to be partly a result of the rise in popularity of whale- watching trips, but may also be due to rising sea temperatures caused by global climate change.
A contender for the title of the world's most successful bird, having managed to colonise Australasia and the Americas, and even reach Antarctica, from its original Old World home. It is now spreading north through Europe at a rapid rate, and looks likely to follow the example set by its close relative, the little egret egret (ēgrĕt`), common name for several species of herons of the Old and New Worlds, belonging to the family Ardeidae. Before they were protected by law the birds were nearly exterminated by hunters seeking their beautiful, white, silky , and become a permanent addition to our avifauna a·vi·fau·na
The birds of a specific region or period.
[Latin avis, bird; see awi- in Indo-European roots + fauna. . As their name suggests, cattle egrets live in close association with livestock, feeding on invertebrates attracted by their dung. In the breeding season adults acquire elegant buffy-orange plumes, which they use in courtship display.
The attempted breeding by a pair of these exotic and colourful birds in the Wye Valley last summer was, unfortunately, curtailed by a hungry fox. But bee-eaters did successfully nest in a County Durham quarry in 2002, raising two young under the admiring gaze of thousands of birders. Although often considered a Mediterranean species, the bee-eater has spread rapidly northwards during the latter half of the 20th century, and may well make a permanent leap across the Channel during the next few years. Birders would do well to listen for their distinctive bubbling call, given by migrating flocks flying high overhead.difficult to track down.
In 1967, birders on the island of Fetlar in Shetland celebrated the unprecedented breeding of snowy owls, the very first time this arctic species had nested in Britain. They had extended their range southwards as the result of a brief period of climatic cooling in north-eastern Scotland and Scandinavia. Sadly for Harry Potter fans, as temperatures rose, conditions became unsuitable for this magnificent owl, and breeding last occurred in 1975. Today, snowy owls occasionally turn up as wandering visitors to Shetland and the Western Isles, but are unlikely to breed here again.
Despite a welcome increase in sightings of whales and dolphins in British and Irish waters, this species appears to be heading into a possibly terminal decline. Scientists monitoring sightings and beach strandings of white-beaked dolphins have found a dramatic drop in numbers. This is most likely a result of a rapid rise in sea temperatures, itself due to global climate change, which affects this cool-water species more than most. Unless the warming trend is reversed, the white-beaked dolphin is likely to disappear first from the shallow waters around our west coast, then from the cooler North Sea.
Greater horseshoe bat The Greater Horseshoe Bat Rhinolophus ferrumequinum is a European bat with a wingspan of 34-39cm. It can be easily identified by the flap of horseshoe shaped skin around its nostrils.
The rarest of our 17 species of bat - and indeed one of our rarest mammals - gets its name from the distinctive horseshoe-shaped flap of skin around its nose, which aids it in the process of echolocation echolocation
Physiological process for locating distant or invisible objects (such as prey) by emitting sound waves that are reflected back to the emitter by the objects. Echolocation is used by an animal to orient itself, avoid obstacles, find food, and interact socially. . It is confined to south-west England and south Wales, probably because the mild climate of these areas enables it to feed during the winter. The relict RELICT. A widow; as A B, relict of C D. Welsh population, in particular, suffers from low genetic diversity, and without conservation efforts may not survive much longer. This bat's rapid decline is due to changes in traditional farming practices and the consequent reduction in insect food.
Ptarmigan ptarmigan (tär`məgən): see grouse.
Any of three or four species of grouse (genus Lagopus) of cold regions. Ptarmigan plumage changes from white in winter to gray or brown, with barring, in spring and summer.
One of a trio of montane mon·tane
Of, growing in, or inhabiting mountain areas.
[Latin montnus, from m specialists likely to suffer from the effects of global warming
The predicted effects of global warming on the environment and for human life are numerous and varied. It is generally difficult to attribute specific natural phenomena to long-term causes, but some effects of on their Scottish highland home, the others being snow bunting and dotterel. These all depend on the delicate arctic-alpine ecosystem of the high tops. Each year the decrease in snow cover on the Cairngorm plateau, and the resulting changes in vegetation and insect life, threaten these rare and fascinating birds with extinction. Ptarmigan are the only British birds to turn completely white in winter for camouflage - which may not seem quite such a good idea if the snow disappears.
This delicate butterfly thrives on "edge" habitats, such as open rides through woodland. It enjoyed a brief population boom in the 60s and 70s, thanks partly to the legacy of Dr Beeching: the wholesale closure of rural railway lines created a temporary glut of new habitat. Since then, like so many of our woodland butterflies, it has declined in numbers. It did appear to be thriving in Ireland, until observant scientists discovered that most Irish "wood whites" in fact belonged to a different species - the two only being told apart by examining their genitalia genitalia /gen·i·ta·lia/ (jen?i-tal´e-ah) [L.] the reproductive organs.
ambiguous genitalia under the microscope.
This legendary and almost impossibly elusive predator faces rapid extinction. This is not, as with so many other creatures, because of climate change or modern farming practices, but simply because interbreeding interbreeding
crossbreeding, as between half-breds. with feral feral
untamed; often used in the sense of having escaped from domesticity and run wild. and domestic moggies has so diluted the gene pool, that there may now only be a few hundred truly wild cats in existence. Most of those that do remain are in the remotest parts of the Grampian Mountains and the Scottish Highlands. Not always easy to tell apart from hybrids, pure-bred cats show distinctive vertical black stripes on their coat and black rings around their tails.
European tree frog The European tree frog is a small frog that can grow to 4,5 cm in size at most. Historically, tree frogs were used as barometers because they respond to approaching rain by croaking. In the breeding season, even when migrating to their mating pools, they croak as well.
A small, usually bright green amphibian, which is, however, able to change colour at will, and may appear in various shades from lime green to greyish-brown. More often heard than seen, its repetitive call has been compared to a barking dog or quacking duck. Once thought to be an alien species introduced here by humans, new evidence suggests that a long-established colony in the New Forest did, in fact, comprise native animals. Unfortunately this was discovered too late to protect the tree frog, which now appears to be extinct in Britain.
Wart-biter bush cricket
The wart-biter bush-cricket is just managing to cling on in five widely separated populations on ancient chalk grassland and heathland Noun 1. heathland - a tract of level wasteland; uncultivated land with sandy soil and scrubby vegetation
barren, wasteland, waste - an uninhabited wilderness that is worthless for cultivation; "the barrens of central Africa"; "the trackless wastes of in southern Britain, from the South Downs to Wiltshire. It is one of our largest and most impressive insects: almost four centimetres long, bright green, and with fearsome jaws that make short work of its smaller relatives. Despite its common name, this species has probably always been rare and localised localised - localisation in Britain - the English name is a translation of the Latin "verrucivorus" - pertaining to warts.
having an intrinsic fetid smell.
irisfoetidissima. hawk's beard
Despite its off-putting name, this little plant is attractive in a modest way, with golden-yellow flowers appearing from June to August. When crushed, the leaves give out the characteristic "bitter almond" scent of cyanide. Unfortunately this member of the dandelion dandelion [Eng. form of Fr.,=lion's tooth], any plant of the genus Taraxacum of the family Asteraceae (aster family), perennial herbs of wide distribution in temperate regions. family does not seem to have inherited its commoner cousin's survival skills: the last native specimen was observed by a bungalow at Dungeness, Kent, in 1980. Soon afterwards it was reintroduced there, under the protective eye of, among others, the late film director Derek Jarman. Sadly most of his specimens were eaten by rabbits, the stinking hawk's beard's most frequent nemesis.
During the mid-1990s, following a rapid decline, this diminutive predator became the latest species to go extinct as a British breeding bird. The last pair hung on in the East Anglian brecks, where warm summers provided just enough large insects to feed their young. This decline in insect life, due mainly to the overuse overuse Health care The common use of a particular intervention even when the benefits of the intervention don't justify the potential harm or cost–eg, prescribing antibiotics for a probable viral URI. Cf Misuse, Underuse. of agricultural pesticides, is undoubtedly the main cause of the red-backed shrike's disappearance. However, there is a possibility that climate change could benefit the species, with warmer, drier summers and a more continental-type climate recreating the right conditions for it to return. Stephen Moss is a writer and television producer based at the BBC BBC
in full British Broadcasting Corp.
Publicly financed broadcasting system in Britain. A private company at its founding in 1922, it was replaced by a public corporation under royal charter in 1927. Natural History Unit.