Hedgehogs

Hedgehogs

The hedgehog. Erinaceinae. These lovable spiny creatures which are a common site in our gardens and hedgerows, are Britain’s only spiny mammal.The UK is home to the West European hedgehog (Erinaceus europaeus). This species is just one of seventeen different species worldwide from Europe, Asia, Africa and New Zealand.They were named for their peculiar foraging methods. These mammals search through hedges and undergrowth in search of creatures that compose most of their diet such as worms, insects, centipedes, snails, mice and sometimes even snakes! As they look for their food they snort and grunt in the hedgerows - ‘hedgehog’.Their specialised coat can contain over 6,000 spines and hangs around their body in a loose ‘skirt’, concealing the grey fur on their undersides, long legs and short stubby tail.Their spines are hollow and naturally fall out when a baby hedgehog (called a hoglet) grows adult spines. This process is called ‘quilling’ just like when our baby teeth fallout and...
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Can Nature Improve Our Mood During Lockdown

Can Nature Improve Our Mood During Lockdown

‘A walk-in nature, walks the soul back home’ - Mary DavisThe environments that we are confined to can impact our body, mind and spirit profoundly. What we hear, touch, smell and see can not only affect our mood but our nervous, endocrine and immune systems as well.Say you are in a stressful environment, your heart rate goes up, elevating your blood pressure, heart rate and muscle tension, suppressing your body’s systems. You would find that the opposite happens in a relaxed and more pleasant environment like a spa or a walk in the woods listening to bird song.Being in nature or even just viewing nature from a window can reduce feelings of anger, pain and stress. We are literally genetically programmed to find elements of nature engrossing as we humans were not made to sit inside all day. Nature can lower the production of stress hormones and researchers have even stated that it could reduce mortality.Even a single potted...
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Tree Killing Beetles

Tree Killing Beetles

Did you know that elm trees were nearly wiped out by a fungal disease carried by beetles?Before elm was disseminated by beetles carrying a microfungi, it was the second most important broad leaf timber in Britain to oak. Like oak, it was of great landscape importance and formed an important component of our native woodland, supporting a wide range of fauna and flora.Elm hosts around 80 species of invertebrates such as the rare White-letter Hairstreak (Satyrium w-album) and in spring, its early pollen is sought after by many insects including honey bees. Elms are also a very important food source for songbirds, game birds and squirrels as their seeds develop long before many other seeds are available.Over the past century there have been two pandemics of Dutch Elm Disease (DEM) caused by two separate but related species of Asian microfungi, Ophiostoma ulmi and O. novo-ulmi. The non-native microfungi are dispersed by bark beetles of the genera Scolytus and Hylurgopinus. These beetles are no larger...
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Britain’s Beavers

Britain’s Beavers

The Eurasian beaver (Castor fibre) is native to the UK and used to be widespread across England, Scotland and Wales. Beavers became extinct here in the 16th century, because of hunting for their pelt, meat and a secretion called castoreum which they use to mark their territory. The latter was once highly prized for use in perfumes, food and medicine.Over the past decade major efforts have been underway to reintroduce beavers into the British countryside. As a result, the Eurasian beaver has shown good recovery across much of its range.The National Trust recently announced that two pairs of beaver will be released in the south of England next spring, after their plans were approved by Natural England. These releases are part of the National Trust's wider plan to restore 25,000 hectares of "wildlife-rich" habitats by 2025.One pair is to be released into a fenced woodland in Holnicote near Exmoor in Somerset. The other pair is to be...
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Insect Declines Matter!

Insect Declines Matter!

We are witnessing the largest extinction event on earth since the late Permian… in other words, 250 million years ago.Over the past 50 years we have reduced Earths wildlife abundance dramatically and many of the species that were once prevalent are now few and far between. Much of our attention is given to large charismatic animals and little is given to the smaller, some say, less attractive animals.There are around one million known insect species, 41% of which are threatened with extinction. Staggeringly, there are estimated to be another four million insect species that we have yet to discover [1]. Although we are decades away from cataloguing the insect diversity of this planet, it is likely that many species will be lost before we ever recognised they existed.More recently, evidence suggests that insect abundance has fallen by more than 50% since 1970, yet most people are unaware and have not even noticed that anything has changed....
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The decline of our prickly neighbours

The decline of our prickly neighbours

Hedgehogs are in serious decline in the UK and we need to do all we can to help them. Please try to create hedgehog friendly places in your garden (a wood pile for example) and try not to use slug pellets - let the hedgehogs do the job for you! If you see a hedgehog in the daylight it is likely to be sick, so pick it up with gardening gloves or a towel and put it in a cardboard box in the quiet, warm and dark. Call 01584 890 801 to speak to the British Hedgehog Preservation Society, or go to https://www.britishhedgehogs.org.uk for more advice....
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