Monday, May 18, 2020

White Storks nest in Britain for the first time in hundreds of years!

Congratulations to the team at the White Stork Project at Knepp Estate in West Sussex who have just announced the first wild white stork chicks to be born in the UK for perhaps 500 years! Three nests containing eggs are currently being monitored, with the first egg hatching on 6th May.

A pair of white storks nesting in the Netherlands
The reintroduction of white storks by Knepp Estate is a huge achievement and will add significantly to the increase in biodiversity already recorded through the groundbreaking rewilding work that has been undertaken at Knepp over the last 20 years.

White storks build enormous stick nests that become important habitats for a range of other wild animals, including smaller nesting birds, overwintering butterflies and moths, and even small mammals. The storks also bring plant material to line the nests which act as canopy high seed banks. As the winds blow, these seeds are redistributed across the nearby landscape to germinate and and colonize new locations!

Although the storks are definitely the experts, anybody can build a white stork nest and provide homes for lots of local wildlife. Watch this video to find out how.

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

How to cut down trees like a beaver

This tutorial is all about beaver coppicing, the skill of chopping down trees to construct new habitats for nature whilst building homes for beavers! This craft was invented by beavers and copied by people for millenia, with both beavers and people selectively cutting down woodlands and making them better for wildlife in the process! In this 'How to' video we will show you how to cut down trees in the best way possible for wildlife - like a beaver!

Hell and dam-nation

Beavers used to be widespread in England, Wales and Scotland but hunting for their fur, meat and 'castoreum', a secretion used in perfumes, food and medicine, led to their extinction by the 16th Century. Losing beavers was bad news for so much of our native wildlife across our forests and wetlands. That's because beavers have a positive effect on their environment through their behaviour. By gnawing on trunks and branches they 'coppice' trees like willow, hazel, rowan and aspen, cutting them almost to the ground. The regrowth creates denser vegetation and provides homes for a variety of insects and birds.

Lake superior

The wetlands which beavers create by building small dams reduce the risk of flooding on floodplains, and are valuable for many animals, including otters, water voles, water shrews and wildfowl. Craneflies, water beetles and dragonflies in turn support breeding fish and insect-eating birds like spotted flycatchers and yellow wagtails.

How to coppice trees beaver-style!

It's so easy to coppice trees like a beaver. Watch this video tutorial, give it a go and let me know how well it worked!

Friday, May 1, 2020

How to build a white stork nest!

Less of a nest, more of a city!

The white stork (Ciconia ciconia) is one of Europe’s most important ecosystem engineers. As world leading home building skills, their nests are one of the largest of any bird and are also among the heaviest, sometimes reaching over a ton in weight! These super structures provide shelter for a mind boggling diversity of plants and animals with which the storks happily co-exist.

The collapse of the construction industry!

Sadly, in the UK, white storks were hunted to extinction around 600 years ago. Their loss was bad news for so many of their co-habitants. It seems certain that if there were white stork nests in the UK today, then there would be more wildlife in general! How can we solve this problem? One way in which we can contribute is by making our own stork nests and building homes for our native wildlife!

In this tutorial we will show you how!

Neighbourhood watch

The stork’s nest is made of dry and long sticks laid in layers, and the thick inner lining consists of hay, straw, and manure. White stork nests are often used for decades, and each year they are repaired and expanded. The larger the nests get, the more valuable they become for other wildlife, although old heavy nests do become compacted and less useful for smaller nesting birds. Mice, rats, and red squirrels have all nested within storks nests, which also host wasps, ants. However, stork nests are also places of occurrence of numerous invertebrates, including wasps, ants, beetles, and mites. Earlier studies indicated that stork nests can be occupied by at least 34 species of mites. Stork nests are particularly important for nesting and winter roostin house sparrows and tree sparrows, both of which have declined dramatically in the last 50 years. Incredibly, the stork’s nesting material also consists of the seeds of over 100 species of plants, creating a seed bank of nearly 10,000 seedlings per nest!

Storks bringing babies!

Thankfully there is now renewed hope for the return of white storks to the UK, with a reintroduction programme currently underway at Knepp Estate in West Sussex. Breeding has already been attempted and free flying birds are once again being seen in the area! Let’s hope this signals the return of this wonderful ecosystem engineer!  

How to disperse seeds like a Bison

An old jumper makes a fabulous wild seed gatherer! In this video tutorial we will look at a really simple and fun way to actively disperse w...