The dark world of Henbane

Henbane has long been a source of fascination in the realms of medicine, religion and science, and in this article Peter Marren describes the history of Henbane in Britain, how its poisonous properties have been used since the fourth millennium BCE, and its occurrence in Britain today. Henbane Hyoscyamus niger is a favourite plant of

Comment: Arthur’s crow: the spirit of the wild?

Said to be the guardian of King Arthur’s soul, the Chough has long been a bird of legend. 80% of the Chough’s UK population is in Wales, but in Scotland their range has significantly reduced and is now restricted to Islay and Colonsay. In this article James Robertson considers the best approach to conserve Chough populations, considering either

Conservation of the Long-horned Bee in Cornwall

The Long-horned Bee, like many insects, has suffered owing to the loss of flower-rich grasslands. Although previously widespread, the species is now restricted mostly to southern and western coasts. The bee’s populations in Cornwall are of national importance, but they are threatened by a lack of suitable foraging resources and the loss of nesting sites

Sea change

Ten years after protected marine areas for cetaceans were first designated, what have we learnt, and what should we put into practice for the future? Legislation and resulting protection of the marine environment have advanced exponentially in the last five years. It has often been said that these remain decades behind terrestrial measures, but, with

Are Eels a declining food source for Otters in Scotland?

In the UK in recent decades, the native Eurasian Otter Lutra lutra population has gone through considerable changes. From the severe declines in the 1960s to a recent recovery (Kruuk 2006), it appears that its status can be considered one of the successes of the British conservation movement. Recently, however, new information has come to light which

The Native Oyster: Britain’s forgotten treasure

Aside from the odd oyster shell scattered here and there along the Essex coast, there are few signs of the many succulent treasures tucked safely below the waves. Yet these muddy estuaries and sheltered shores are the ideal location for the Native Oyster Ostrea edulis, and historically this bivalve mollusc was a dominant feature of the

Reserve Focus: Isle of May National Nature Reserve, Fife

The clangorous cliffs, alive with seabirds' cries, The smell of sea-tang and the seals' wild play Those words are part of a poem written by one of the early doyens of Scottish ornithology, Evelyn V Baxter, after returning from her annual spring visit to the Isle of May in 1924. 

Sea-level rise: implications for people and wildlife

Much of our coastline has been modified by man. Sea walls hold back the tides, rock armour counters coastal erosion, groynes arrest sediments transport, and navigation channels provide access for bigger ships.

Black Guillemots at Bangor, Co Down: a 25-year study

The seaside town of Bangor lies on the coast of north Co Down on the southern shore of Belfast Lough, some 18km from Belfast and around 10km from the Copeland Islands, with the renowned Copeland Bird Observatory. Bangor seafront is dominated by a 560-berth marina and a commercial fishing jetty. Amongst all the hustle and

An undercurrent of change for Norfolk’s seals

The UK is of international importance for its two breeding seal species, the Harbour Seal Phoca vitulina (formerly Common Seal) and Grey Seal Haliochoerus grypus, supporting 33% and 45% of their respective EU populations (SCOS 2007). 

Solitary-sociable dolphins in the UK

In 2006, there were at least four 'solitary-sociable' dolphins in the UK and two others nearby on the adjacent French coasts. These animals presented very significant challenges for those attempting to manage their welfare, and by the end of 2006 two of them had been killed, almost certainly as a result of their unusual behaviour; in

Life in marine meadows: the communities of eelgrass beds

One of the most mesmerising sights in the seas around Britain is the luxuriant green of a thriving eelgrass meadow. Eelgrass grows in very shallow water, so the beauty is visible not only SCUBA divers, but to snorkellers and swimmers, too. 

Lamprey: relicts from the past

Within the mud and sand along the margin of the river, something was stirring. Small worm-like animals were adjusting their position within the sediment, lying in burrows as they fed on small particles carried along by the current. 

Marine finfish farming in Scotland

Scottish smoked salmon has an aura of genteel luxury, a hangover from a bygone age when this delicacy was a product of wild Atlantic Salmon Salmo salar, a magnificent fish once abundant in our coastal waters and rivers. Today, you can buy juicy pink Scottish salmon fillets in most British supermarkets, thinly sliced and attractivekly packaged,

Northern Bottlenose Whales off Skye

North-west Scotland is well known as a place to see cetaceans, but a good sighting still requires patience and time at sea, and is at best a brief encounter. This summer, residents of Broadford, north-east Skye, could simply look out of their windows for extraordinary views of two Northern Bottlenose Whales Hyperoodon ampullatus, which stayed in

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