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Spring update in conservation

Posted: Monday 16th March 2015 by TimBirch

Badger vaccination trainingBadger vaccination training

Early spring arrives and the need for protection, restoration and respect for our natural world is as urgent as ever


Let me run you through some of the key things that have happened to me in my work with Derbyshire Wildlife Trust over past few weeks and some of my experiences with the natural world near where I live in the Peak District National Park. There is never a dull moment in this job I can tell you and plenty of food for thought!

Belper peregrine, Robert Booth.





Respect for the natural world: wildlife crime

Let’s deal with respect for the natural world first. As many of you know there has been the awful incident of the male peregrine falcon found dead at our Derbyshire Wildlife Trust HQ in Belper in mid January. It got sent off for analysis and subsequently it was found to have a shotgun pellet inside it that undoubtedly contributed to its death. To have such a wildlife crime right on your doorstep was really quite shocking.  The wild peregrines at our HQ are a big part of my life and I never fail to be thrilled to see them around the mill – a place they call home. So I did take losing that male bird quite personally.

X-ray of dead male peregrine.























Hordes of birdwatchers regularly come from near and far to the mill where we work to marvel at one of the most spectacular wild birds anyone can see in these islands. Remember there are only around 1,500 breeding pairs currently in the UK. Yet respect for such a marvel of evolution was seriously lacking in the person or persons involved in shooting our male bird. We now have another male bird that has turned up from Dorset – the question is what does the future hold for this bird and our breeding Peregrines now at the mill?

I would urge anyone who comes to our mill to look at the peregrines to be vigilant and if you see or hear anything suspicious please do contact the police. But also take the time to let passers by know what they are missing – engage them and enthuse them. More eyes keeping a watch on our peregrines has to be a good thing.

On top of this incident I have come across disturbing stories of a badger sett getting dug in Chapel en le Frith in the north of Derbyshire recently as well as a colleague witnessing men with dogs chase and catch brown hares. Wildlife crime is a constant menace in Derbyshire and we all need to be on our guard whenever we are out and about.


Badger vaccination project update

On a positive note, our vaccination project continues to expand and gather more partners including the National Trust which is very exciting. We are also in close contact with the Government over our programme and how they can support our vaccination efforts in the north of Derbyshire around Edale and Whaley Bridge/New Mills/Chapel en le Frith areas. Our project is definitely gathering momentum and we continue to work closely and constructively with the National Farmers Union and private landowners.

Badger vaccination training.















This project is leading the way nationally with the partnerships we have developed. This speaks volumes for the dedication and support we have had from many people across Derbyshire. Indeed I have just come back from attending a sell out badger vaccination training programme in Hartington on March 14 attended by nearly 60 people from across Derbyshire including people from across the county border from Nottinghamshire, Staffordshire and Shropshire. The volunteers were given training in basic badger ecology, how to survey setts and assess levels of badger activity and how to assist with the vaccination of badgers. It was so heartening to see so many committed to helping our badgers.

We have shown that vaccination is a viable alternative to culling. We also remain clear that the key way to resolve this crisis is through stronger measures focusing on cattle including fast tracking the cattle vaccine and tougher restrictions on cattle movements and bovine TB testing. I remain confident that our vaccination approach can help protect Derbyshire’s badgers.


Restoration of the natural world

Part of my job is to ensure the restoration of the natural world. I was recently at the national conference on the uplands in Halifax last week where there was a very important presentation from a guy from Natural England, the Government body charged with looking after nature in England. He ran through the latest science on climate change and the impact on the natural world. This was seriously scary. The impacts will be felt right, indeed are been felt right now, across the UK including Derbyshire. This includes the shift northwards of species as the planet warms, warmer springs (at the moment spring is already documented as happening on average 12 days earlier) and a host of other impacts including more extreme weather events. Some species will simply lose out but there will be some winners as well. Basically it could be all change – things will not stay the way they are. It is a bit like rolling the dice with no-one really sure what the outcome will be – there will be big surprises in store and most of them will be nasty. Who knows what the natural world will be like in 10, 20 or 50 years in Derbyshire?

So what can we do? The answer is, as a Wildlife Trust, to continue to invest in and accelerate our Living Landscapes strategy. This means simply put – MORE/BIGGER/BETTER JOINED UP AREAS OF THE NATURAL WORLD. We need to spread ecological networks everywhere like the tentacles of a super large octopus. We need more partners to join us in this vital work to give our wildlife the chance to adapt to the changing world that is coming – it is inevitable. The work of all the Wildlife Trusts across the UK becomes absolutely pivotal to ensuring the natural world can adapt and survive, albeit in a changed form, climate change. And we need Governments and politicians to listen to our call and take action.

Don't forget nature: General election 

I continue to remain deeply concerned about the lack of discussion about the environment by most political parties in the run-up to the General Election. As a Trust and as a movement we are trying to respond to this over the coming weeks before the election. One way is through pushing, with the RSPB, the Nature and Well Being Act, which we are asking every political party to adopt (more information on this on our website). We can all help here by holding all candidates for the election in May to account on their environmental policies – assuming they have some at least!

Spring has sprung

Onto my brush with the natural world. The weekend of March 7 felt like a light had been switched on as spring came shining through brightly. It was as if everything had just woken up out of a deep winter sleep within a few hours. One day it was still winter and the next day it was Spring – sunny, very warm with early bees buzzing in out of the crocuses in our garden. It all happened so fast that I was a bit breathless by the end of the day. I saw a flock of 60 curlews winging their way up the valley where I live – they clearly were only recently back from the coastal areas where they spend the winter months – that bubbling call was unmistakeable and was what caught my attention. The next thing I know the flock buzzed low over my car roof and landed in a nearby field. My local upland hot spot was alive with drumming snipe and golden plover calling – only the evening before I had not heard any. As dusk approached a roding woodcock flew overhead – the first of the year for me. I also came across the most extraordinary scrum of mating frogs in a watery ditch on the moor near my house. Again the day before they were not there – yet this evening there were dozens of frogs calling everywhere.

Frog mating ball, Peak District bog.
















Wow what a day. The natural world clearly can surprise and energise you but I have to admit I am really concerned about what the future will bring. The optimism of working for a Wildlife Trust is what keeps me going.

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