Beam Brook and its place in the history of British herpetology

Well known among herpetologists, Beam Brook Field Station has been home to numerous non-native reptiles and amphibians over recent decades. Peter Sutton provides an introduction to the site’s history, wildlife and scientific significance, and explains what is being done to preserve this special place. Beam Brook Field Station, near Newdigate, in Surrey, is known to

Norfolk Hawker and Water Soldier – a dilemma for conservation?

The endangered Norfolk Hawker thrives in areas with good cover of Water Soldier, an aquatic perennial that provides a rich source of invertebrate prey for the dragonfly’s larvae. Water Soldier can cause problems outside its native range, however, which means that efforts to expand populations of Norfolk Hawker can conflict with other management objectives. Steve

Natterjack Toads and landscape history: a window on the past

Natterjack Toads are rare in the British Isles, but they were previously far more widespread. By examining the changing fortunes of the Natterjack, it is possible to gain a fascinating insight into the ways in which our countryside has changed over the past few hundred years. Trevor Beebee explores the reasons behind the decline of

Is the Vendace, Britain’s rarest freshwater fish, on the brink of extinction?

The Vendace is an enigmatic species of fish, and few people are aware of its existence. In the UK, this ice-age relict survives at only two natural sites, both in the Lake District. Although the Vendace population has recently increased at these sites, the species faces numerous threats to its survival. It is hoped, however,

In search of the larger water beetles of Britain and Ireland

Beetles are often overlooked by naturalists in favour of ‘easier’ groups such as butterflies and dragonflies. Britain’s larger water beetle species, however, are attractive and relatively simple to identify, and searching for them will mean spending time in some of the most pristine and beautiful wetlands in Britain and Ireland. Peter Sutton describes his travels around

Securing the future of the Freshwater Pearl Mussel

The Freshwater Pearl Mussel is an ancient survivor from a 200-million-year-old molluscan family. Exploitation and degradation of its favoured clean, fast-flowing river habitat has left the species in trouble, with just one population remaining in England. Now, the West Cumbria Rivers Trust (WCRT) is trying innovative methods in an effort to ensure the species’ survival.

The Cranes of Lakenheath Fen

The RSPB created Lakenheath Fen almost 20 years ago, converting a large area of former farmland in to reedbeds with the aim of attracting breeding Bitterns. Unexpectedly, Common Cranes also arrived, and they have bred there for the past ten years. Norman Sills shares his experiences of the breeding behaviour and requirements of the Lakenheath

Crayfish in the Wyre Forest

Numbers of White-clawed Crayfish have crashed after the arrival of the American Signal Crayfish introduced the deadly crayfish plague to the UK. Some streams in the Wyre Forest still support healthy populations of the species, but these are far from safe due to the presence of crayfish plague in nearby. Graham Hill describes the mixed

The botanical importance of the Insh Marshes, a floodplain swamp in northern Scotland

The Insh Marshers on Speyside, Easterness, form one of the largest and most northerly floodplain fens in Britain. The general wildlife interest of the marshes was summarised some years ago in British Wildlife (Gibbons 1993). The present author concentrates on the vascular plants of the site, providing more detail on these and an update on their status. 

The Northern Pool Frog

This is a story of how a British species slipped through our hands just as we were discovering its importance. But it is also one of hope as the research and activity that this has engendered have been impressive. Until very close to the end of the 20th century, the Common Frog Rana temporaria was considered the

Reserve focus: Westhay Moor National Nature Reserve

A serendipitous combination of a shifting landscape 10,000 years in the making, traditional peat-workings and modern-day conservation management has resulted in Westhay Moor National Nature Reserve (NNR). It hosts a mosaic of large reedbeds, open water, wet woodland, fen and lowland raised mire, teeming with a unique blend of wetland wildlife. Owned and managed by

Duck decoys: stars of the pond landscape

Since the nineteenth century, disturbance, drainage and changing attitudes have seen a steady decline in active decoys. Three working decoys now remain, catching birds for ringing. Others form features of scheduled monuments, parks, country parks and SSSIs. The author sets out the results of a study of their present condition, revealing that two-thirds of the

The Great Crested Newt: an ongoing conservation dilemma

Great Crested Newts declined substantially in Britain as a result of post-war agricultural intensification and were granted legal protection in 1981. Because they remain widespread, however, conflict between development and conservation has continued and an effective strategy for securing the long-term future of this species remains elusive.  It was one of those unforgettable childhood days.

Restoring Ratty to his riverbank

The authors provide an overview of Water Vole reintroductions from 2001 to 2014. When Stephanie Roden Ryder, in 1962, wrote her excellent book on Water Voles Arvicola amphibius for the Sunday Times series on British Mammals, she stated that ‘wherever there is good water contained in firm banks then you may be sure to find

Mollusc of the glen

Imagine walking over the Scottish hills into a remote Highland glen and discovering an entire ecosystem little changed in more than 2,000 years.  As previously reported (e.g. Cosgrove et al. 2000, 2012), the Freshwater Pearl Mussel Margaritifera margaritifera has suffered significant declines throughout its Holarctic range and is now classified as Endangered in its world

Dragonfly expansions

An ever-increasing interest in and awareness of dragonflies is helping to provide valuable information about their status and range.  There is little doubt that changes in the distribution of our flora and fauna are taking place, and these have been attributed to rising temperatures and climatic alteration. Changes are often noticed early on and reported

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