Does feeding garden birds do more harm than good?

Goldfinch and red poll on garden feeder

The BBC reports the regular feathered visitors to the bird feeders I hang in a particularly lovely tree outside my kitchen window are a welcome dose of colourful nature in a sometimes repetitive daily schedule. So the suggestion that my conscientiously topped-up supply of “premium mixed wild bird seed” is anything other than a positive boost for local wildlife has come as something of an unwelcome surprise. But evidence has been building recently that supplementary feeding could disrupt a delicate ecological balance beyond our windowsills and gardens. 

Snowdonia Hawkweed: ‘One of most threatened in the world’

The BBC reports on cliffs above Bethesda that can only be reached with specialist mountaineering gear, grows one of the most endangered plants in the world. The exact location is a closely-guarded secret, but even sheep are unable to get to it, meaning they cannot eat the last of the Snowdonia Hawkweed. Their grazing has wiped the plant out in six of seven areas it once thrived. But from the verge of extinction, it is thought three plants spotted on a cliff in 2002 may have doubled their number.

“For some of the rarest plants, the only places they can sustain themselves is away from grazing and humanity, on the most inaccessible ledges and cliffs,” said horticulturist Robbie Backhall-Miles, who is trying to revive them.

Light pollution from street lamps linked to insect loss

Clifden Nonpareil moth photo by Bill Stanworth

The BBC reports scientists say light pollution may be contributing to “worrying” declines in insects seen in recent decades. In a UK study, artificial street lights were found to disrupt the behaviour of nocturnal moths, reducing caterpillars numbers by half.

Modern LED streetlights appeared to have the biggest impact. There is growing evidence that insect populations are shrinking due to the likes of climate change, habitat loss and pesticides. Factors are complex and varied, including the steady loss of forests, heathlands, meadows and marshes, overuse of pesticides, climate change and pollution of rivers and lakes. 

Trees should be planted without plastic guards, says UK study

The Guardian reports planting trees without plastic tree guards should be standard practice, a UK study has found, as leading conservation charities and landowners seek sustainable alternatives to reduce plastic waste.

The Woodland Trust has announced it is aiming to stop using plastic tree guards by the end of the year. It is trialling plastic-free options at its Avoncliff site in Wiltshire, including cardboard and British wool. The charity plans to plant 10 million trees each year until 2025.

Darren Moorcroft, chief executive of the Woodland Trust, said: “As one of the nation’s largest tree planters, by committing to go plastic-free in terms of the use of tree shelters, we are set to be the trailblazers in this field – catalysing a permanent change to the tree-planting world.” 

Builders to buy ‘biodiversity credits’ from farmers

The Daily Telegraph reports example given of Alscot Estate which has been approved by Warwickshire County Council to sell biodiversity ‘units’ to developers wanting to make up for the loss of wildlife at nearby projects.

Housebuilder Crest Nicholson is one customer which has bought credits to mitigate the effect of new homes in Warwick.  Under the Environment Bill, developments in England are required to deliver net improvements to biodiversity with developers needing to do this on the site itself or by investing in projects offsite such as the Alscot Estate.

As a last resort, they will be able to buy “biodiversity credits” from the Government which will invest the funds in habitat projects. 

Plantwatch: a climate solution is hidden in the hedgerows

The Guardian reports hedgerows help slow down the runoff of water, guarding against flooding and soil erosion, and act as barriers to help prevent pesticide and fertiliser pollution getting into water supplies. Studies show they can improve the quality of air by helping trap air pollution.

The independent Climate Change Committee recommends planting 40% more hedgerows by 2050, and the government needs to commit itself to this target in the run-up to Cop26, the UN climate change conference in Glasgow this autumn. 

UK farmers urged to set aside 1% of land for wildlife havens

The Guardian reports farmers are being called upon to dedicate 1% of their land to nature and carbon sequestration in an unexpected way – by farming in straight lines.

The call to make a commitment to nature and the climate in the run-up to the crucial COP26 UN climate summit in Glasgow comes from WildEast, the farmer-led rewilding movement that is encouraging landowners large and small to create wildlife-rich places across East Anglia. Since its launch a year ago, the WildEast campaign has gathered pledges from more than 80 farmers in the region to devote 20% of their land to nature.