All posts by mike

Zebra pair drinking and looking Equus quagga

Zebra Serengeti behaviour

Cheetah cub chases gazzell Acinonyx jubatus

Cheetha and cub close intimate action

Leopard cubs sits and waits alone Panthera pardus

Leopards and cubs intimate life

Seronera in the Serengeti is one of the best place to see Leopards and sometimes they reveal seldom seen young cubs

Giraffe twisting back Giraffa camelopardalis

Giraffe life up close

Otter ripples and sun in Little Ouse Norfolk. Lutra lutra

Otters of the Little Ouse Norfolk Breckland

rosy breasted longclaw calling from thorn bush. Macronyx ameliae

Birds living at Ndutu

Cheetah mother and cub and flies on termite hill. Acinonyx jubatus

Climbing cats of Serengeti

Cheetah fly on nose. Acinonyx jubatus

Cheetah behaving in Serengeti

Farm Clusters, local action for the environment

Turtle Dove in a Suffolk meadow. Streptopelia turtur

Turtle Dove in a Suffolk meadow. Streptopelia turtur

Plastic dumped in the sea, butterflies disappearing, songbird numbers declining. Environmental news is relentlessly negative and depressing. But, these news stories do reflect the wider pressure on wildlife and the natural environment.

Turtle Dove in a Suffolk hedge. Streptopelia turtur

Turtle Dove in a Suffolk hedge. Streptopelia turtur

However on a local level it can feel different. Halls and little Haugh farms had 7 pairs of Barn owls breeding this year, the farm round my village of Westhorpe had 4 pairs of Barn owls this year. Sliver washed Fritillary butterflies scarce in Suffolk 10 years ago are spreading from Pakenham wood and last summer were commonly seen in other woods round Norton and Stowlangtoft . Purple Emperor Butterflies are appearing in Suffolk woods where they have not been seen for a 100 years. Turtle doves are in steep decline nationally but, three pairs are breeding at Badwell Green and we have seen them for the last 2 years at Halls farm Norton. I put swift boxes under the eaves of my house last winter, last summer 2 pairs of swifts used these boxes and I had dozens of fast flying screaming swifts round the house in early August, I will have to keep my head down next year.

Barn owl early morning looking down in oak. July Suffolk. Tyto alba

Barn owl early morning looking down in oak. July Suffolk. Tyto alba

All over Suffolk there are local positive wildlife success stories. Much of the decline in wildlife is rightly blamed on intensive farming. However, increased awareness by landowners and environmental protection schemes are starting to slow and sometimes reverse the damage to wildlife.

Silver-washed Fritillary about to land behind, June Suffolk. Argynnis paphia

Silver-washed Fritillary about to land behind, June Suffolk. Argynnis paphia

Too often these wildlife success stories are in isolated pockets, many plants and animals can’t move away because the surrounding conditions are unfavourable. And perhaps more importantly the management and knowledge behind the success are not shared.

Farm Clusters are a recent initiative that will benefit the environment and wildlife by farmers sharing their resources, knowledge, ideas and enthusiasm in local areas. A group of farmers works together to identify the environmental and wildlife aims that are achievable their area. Clusters can compliment and enhance the effects of existing agri-environment schemes. Usually one or two farmers lead the cluster so that results are delivered on a landscape level rather than an isolated local level.

Brown hare stepping into dawn sun. August morning Suffolk. Lepus europaeus

Brown hare stepping into dawn sun. August morning Suffolk. Lepus europaeus

Modern farming is reliant on financial support from taxpayers. This has moved from production-based subsidies to payments for specific work that protects water and soil quality and the environment. The future of these payments is uncertain but, there is strong trend to base payments on the results of work done rather than just on the work itself.  For example a riverside grass strip might only qualify for payment if water quality and wildlife species numbers can be shown to have improved. Any changes in the way farmers and landowners are supported will mean developing new expertise in measureing outcomes, farm clusters will help farmers deliver and measure real environmental benefits.

Farm clusters have the potential to deliver quick wildlife and environmental results. Farms can cooperate to link hedges and woodland so wildlife can move along natural corridors. Field margins can be planted with the best local pollen, nectar and seed plants to feed insects and birds through the year. Ditches and rivers can be managed on a landscape level rather than a farm level to manage water levels and prevent flooding.

A group of farmers in Mid Suffolk is looking at setting up a farm cluster. If this can be made to work many of the recent local isolated wildlife success stories have the potential to be magnified onto a landscape level.

Swift flegling head out of box. July Suffolk. Apus apus

Swift flegling head out of box. July Suffolk. Apus apus

 

 

Roe Deer in bracken. Skye November.Capreolus capreolus

Roe deer Skye November