Research: Wildlife – Environmental Websites, Projects & Organisations

I decided to start by further researching relevant environmental projects, organisations and archives as a means of gaining a greater sense of insight into:

  • The purpose and ambition of certain natural organisations in a contemporary context
  • Which could act as potential audiences, markets or general promotional services
  • An overview of British Wildlife and various national or local species to look out for.
  • General knowledge of contemporary issues or debates in regards to conservation and the presence of wildlife

I started to refine this aspect of research originally for my video project, but I felt it was more constructive to continue to keep up to date with issues relating to UK natural/environmental organisations and projects acting in the interest of preserving and protecting both land and wildlife.

I found a very useful page upon Natural England’s website which offered a guide to various other relevant nature and wildlife based websites in the UK.

http://www.naturalengland.org.uk/advice/wildlifeguide/

Wildlife guide

A guide to online resources with information on wildlife in the UK.

The guide features either general topics or sub-divisions based upon specialist fields. At this stage, I am uncertain of any particular areas of specialisation. I am hoping that through research and practice. I will start to further refine my areas of interest. Some of my more successful images thus far involve birds, invertebrates and plants.

I decided to start with some general examples.

http://www.arkive.org/

A not-for-profit project that gives online access to some of the best of the world’s wildlife films and photographs. More than 1,500 of the world’s leading filmmakers and photographers have contributed videos, images and factfiles. The site includes a dedicated section on UK species.

Upon visiting the site, I found it be very informative, particularly in its identification of various species, conservation status and current topics within this field. I considered this to be a positive application when aiming to communicate global awareness of the true significance of the natural world and humanities impact upon it.

http://www.arkive.org/explore/species?geographicLocation=United%20Kingdom

ARKive_UK

This could certainly act a means of identifying different species of wildlife during my shoots, perhaps even as a means of recognising the significant of certain wildlife sightings due to related topics or conservation status.

http://www.ispotnature.org/uk-and-ireland

Get help with wildlife identification at iSpot, the place to learn about wildlife and to share your interest with a friendly community. Take a look at the latest spots, start your own album of observations, and join a group. Get help identifying what you have seen, or perhaps you’ll be able to help others learn about what they’ve found. iSpot is part of the OPAL project at the Open University

From this, I started to concentrate more specifically upon the north west of England. I noted a useful page discussing aspects of wildlife to look for during autumn, highlighting a high presence of birds (egrets, kingfishers, geese), with sightings of other mammals (brown hares, water voles) as is often within British wildlife. Places of interest from this are; RSPB Burton Mere Wetlands, The Wirral and Martin Mere WWT.

http://www.ispotnature.org/north_west

What to ‘spot’ in the North West…

In Autumn…

The autumn is a colourful time of year all across the UK. Even though the days are getting shorter and the weather’s getting damper, there are still plenty of good reasons to get outside and spot some wildlife!

Along the coast, there will be a great deal of activity amongst the birdlife, migrants will be arriving in the UK to escape the harsher winters of more northerly climes. Why not pay a visit to RSPB Burton Mere Wetlands, on the south of The Wirral, a great place to see ducks, little egrets and kingfishers (which become much easier to spot as the trees lose their leaves!). If you are quiet and patient, you might spot some of the more cautious and shy species which reside there, including brown hare, water voles and badgers. You could also visit Martin Mere Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust centre, to see the influx of pink-footed geese and white-fronted geese from Greenland.

If you aren’t near the coast there are lots of woodlands that have open access for visitors. Delamere Forest, the Wirral Way, and the forests in the Arnside region, such as Silverdale are well worth a visit. Woodlands provide great places for spotting fungi as well, why not see if you can find the greyish toadstool of the of the rare Fragile amanita (Amanita friabilis). Gait Barrows National Nature Reserve has had almost 1200 species of fungi recorded there. See if you can spot the charismatic Fly Agaric (Amanita regalis), often found associated with birch, or the Death Cap (Amanita phalloides), associated with Oak.

That’s not to say you have to visit a nature reserve to see something interesting, just get outside and have a look what you can find.

As a result, I started to at RSPB’s official site for further information about the organisation as well as any other potential tools, tips or news features.

http://www.rspb.org.uk/

The RSPB is the country’s largest nature conservation charity, inspiring everyone to give nature a home. Together with our partners, we protect threatened birds and wildlife so our towns, coast and countryside will teem with life once again. We also play a leading role in a worldwide partnership of nature conservation organisations

http://www.rspb.org.uk/wildlife/

Upon the site itself, amongst other aspects such as advice and support on things like wildlife gardening, appropriate feed, there were various helpful tools for people looking to spot wildlife, especially birds, for which their identifier is incredibly concise in illustration, attributes, sightings and conservation status.

I then began to look more specifically at RSPB reserves nearby.

Nearby RSPB reserves

 

The nearest site was Dove stone.

http://www.rspb.org.uk/reserves/guide/d/dovestone/index.aspx

About Dove Stone

Springtime at Dovestones
Image: Tim Simpson

A landscape that will take your breath away. Towering hills, sheer rock faces, swathes of open moorland, a picturesque reservoir – that’s Dove Stone, the northern gateway to the Peak District National Park.

Walking, climbing, running, playing, cycling and even sailing. If you’re into adrenalin-pumping activity or simply want to chill out surrounded by amazing wildlife, streams, waterfalls and woodland, then Dove Stone is a must.

At this stunning site, we’re working with United Utilities to bring benefits for people, water and wildlife.

Opening times

Open at all times.

Entrance charges

Entrance to the reserve is free. Parking is free for RSPB members, but there is a parking charge for non-members.

http://www.rspb.org.uk/reserves/guide/d/dovestone/seasonal_highlights.aspx

Seasonal highlights

Each season brings a different experience at our nature reserves. In spring, the air is filled with birdsong as they compete to establish territories and attract a mate. In summer, look out for young birds making their first venture into the outside world. Autumn brings large movements of migrating birds – some heading south to a warmer climate, others seeking refuge in the UK from the cold Arctic winter. In winter, look out for large flocks of birds gathering to feed, or flying at dusk to form large roosts to keep warm.

Spring

See ravens and peregrine squabbling on the quarry cliffs. Curlews and lapwings breed on the in-bye fields, wheatears and ring ouzels on the moorland edge with golden plovers on the open moor. Dunlins may also make an appearance.

Curlew (illustration) Adult peregrine artwork Ring ouzel (illustration) Wheatears (illustration)
Curlew Peregrine Ring ouzel Wheatear

Summer

Canada geese love to breed on the open moor. Dippers race up and down the brooks and streams, and keep an eye out for water voles on the moorland streams.

Canada goose (illustration) Dipper (illustration) lapwing (illustration) Raven (illustration)
Canada goose Dipper Lapwing Raven

Autumn

Watch out for meadow pipits, fieldfares and redwings moving through. You could also see siskins and lesser redpolls.

Fieldfare (illustration) Lesser redpoll (illustration) Meadow pipit (illustration) Siskin (artwork)
Fieldfare Lesser redpoll Meadow pipit Siskin

Winter

Look for mountain hares turning white and red grouse scratching out a living amongst the heather. Mallards don’t seem to mind what the weather is like and stay put.

Goshawk - male Mallard (illustration) Red grouse (illustration) Siskin (artwork)
Goshawk Mallard Red grouse Siskin

I will start to look more specifically at a range of potential sites later in my research. I decided to also research further into WWT, an organisation that I became a member of earlier this year.

http://www.wwt.org.uk/

http://www.wwt.org.uk/conservation/

 Wetlands and their ecosystems cover a global area one third larger than the USA and one half larger than Brazil. Half of the world’s wetlands have already been lost over the last century and this is increasing. WWT is committed to saving these essential ecosystems and their wildlife.

 

WWT engages and inspires people, governments and businesses to take direct action to save wetlands and their wildlife and provides the tools that enable them to do so. We also encourage the creation of wetland centres around the world, inspired by our example.

 

Our wetland centres have welcomed over twenty million people over the years, introducing children and adults alike to the wonders of wetland wildlife from all over the world and the habitats they live in.

http://www.wwt.org.uk/conservation/wetland-nature-reserves/

With its long coastline warmed by the waters of the Gulf Stream, the UK is an ideal wintering place for birds which have spent the summer breeding in the Arctic. At similar latitude to Moscow and Canada, yet far milder, it is no surprise that our coasts and estuaries teem with tens of thousands of geese, ducks and swans – a wildlife spectacle that is the raison d’être for the nine wetland nature reserves we manage in the UK.

Attached to each reserve is one of our wetland visitor centres, which between them welcome a million visitors each year who come to learn about wetlands and enjoy the wildlife.

And they couldn’t visit anywhere better. About 2/3rds of our reserve land – that’s over 1,700 hectares – has been given some sort of designation for its importance. Between them they form a vital network that is used by wildlife that could range from the Arctic to South Africa. For instance, Bewick’s swans migrating from Russia sometimes stop off at Welney in Norfolk after making the journey across the North Sea, before continuing to Slimbridge to spend the winter.

A vast amount of work goes into maintaining our reserves. Throughout the year our staff are using a combination of techniques, such as grazing and altering the water levels to maintain ideal conditions for wildlife during that season.

And it’s constantly changing. Due to climate change and changes in how people use the land, the numbers of different species which visit our reserves has changed over the years. Where there was once thousands of lesser white-fronted geese, there may now be tens of thousands of lapwing instead. Thanks to the constant and thorough monitoring by our dedicated reserve team, we can anticipate these changes and tweak our management so that we provide habitat and refuge for dwindling species, whilst doing all we can to accommodate expanding species.

In various ways, the WWT have a very similar structure and purpose to RSPB’s site, whose ambitions are both admirable in their approach, a message I would be quite to become involved and/or promote. However, although they organise less reserves than RSPB, this allows for greater detail and scale within its sites. The nearest of which is Martin Mere, however, I discuss this in more depth in later posts.

WWT Martin Mere Wetland Centre
Victoria Fellowes
T: 01704 891240
Evictoria.fellowes@wwt.org.uk

 

There is also a larger emphasis upon educational aspects of conservation, encouraging people of varying ages to become involved and be aware of the significant of wildlife. This results in a wider variety of promotional material for adults and children, this offers a potential market in regards to PR – promotional documentary images and video. Many of which, felt reminiscent of the overall editorial narrative format I followed through my shoots at South Lakes last year, establishing shots, group animal shots (landscapes), animal portraits, animal and human interaction shots (feeds) and documentary images of visitors and staff, this along with other public sites (animal parks, heritage sites, bird shows) before and since then but rarely in a more wild, natural capacity.

wwt-1-animalportrait wwt-1-interaction

wwt-1-wildlife wwt-1-learn

 

Finally, I decided to revisit the site of a very well known heritage/environmental organisation, the national trust. For many years, I was a member of the national trust, as I would often enjoy visits to natural places during my childhood. Since adulthood, I started to look outside such areas for my inspiration due to some of the photographic restrictions involved with their sites. Much of the trust’s ownerships prioritises areas of natural ‘beauty’ and of significance to the preservation of British heritage, thus, when looking for lesser known and maintained areas, I need to look elsewhere. However, as a organisation with the potential for project sponsorship or promotional work, the national trust is still a valid area of interest, in fact, Fay Godwin has produced photographic work with them in the past.

http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/

http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/what-we-do/

We look after historic houses, gardens, mills, coastline, forests, farmland, moorland, islands, castles, nature reserves, villages… and pubs.

http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/what-we-do/big-issues/

Most of the work we do is affected by wider global issues, which is why our interests extend far beyond just bricks and mortar.

From this, I started to consider any news of contemporary development or significance when regarding the protection of land and wildlife. Many of which raise issues that have proved to be a great interest upon other similar sites, some are much newer concepts than others. The first of which is still a contemporary issue, however, it has been subject of much ethical and political discussion for the last 25 years or so in particular, land use & planning. This aspect proved to be an inspirational factor within my video project.

http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/what-we-do/big-issues/land-use-and-planning/

Land use & planning

Beautiful landscapes need protecting © Paul HarrisBeautiful landscapes need protecting

© Paul Harris

Why do we care?

As a charity rooted in the belief that places matter to people, we see land-use planning as a key tool in the creation of great places for people to live, work and play.

An effective planning system guides good, necessary development to the right places, making an important contribution to prosperity and growth. It ensures that poorly designed developments and those in the wrong place don’t get built. It delivers the new homes, shops and services that communities want, where they want them. And it protects the things that matter to us all; from much-loved open spaces, green fields and productive agricultural land to our historic city centres, towns and villages.

The Trust is a frequent participant in the planning system, and we recognise the importance of a fair and balanced decision-making process. We support a plan-led system as a means of providing certainty and confidence, and a way to deliver good development which meets long term needs.

A planning system should:

  •  Be balanced – to integrate environmental, social and economic concerns
  • Safeguard the public’s interest – protect countryside, heritage and nature
  • Start from what people value about their place
  • Give people a genuine say

Our planning principles

What we’re doing

As a charity that cares for beautiful and historic places for everyone to enjoy, it’s no wonder that planning is important to us, as it has the potential to impact upon our work in a significant way.

More about what we’re doing

The second big issue of discussion is ash dieback, one area of a much larger issue relating to land management and natural disease control. This has proven to be a long term problem for a species that is native to Britain and is beginning to become rapidly extinct. They also discuss working with the Forestry Commission and Woodland Trust to find the best method for managing the disease.

http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/what-we-do/big-issues/nature-and-outdoors/ash-dieback/

 

Ash dieback

Ash trees are at risk of the ash dieback fungus © Joe CornishAsh trees are at risk of the ash dieback fungus

© Joe Cornish

About the disease

The Government’s latest control plan on ash dieback could buy us time. Dr Simon Pryor, our director of the natural environment said:

‘It is too late to eradicate this disease, but this plan could buy us time. If we – Government, landowners and foresters – can all work together to reduce the rate at which it spreads across the country we can find ways to ease its impact on our landscapes and wildlife.’ 

The ash tree is a native British species of tree, providing around five per cent of all woodland cover in the UK.

There are an estimated 80 million ash trees in the UK, helping to shape some of our best loved landscapes. We manage 25,000 hectares (61,776 acres) of woodland and 135 landscape sites and deer parks which include thousands of veteran ash trees and several hundred ancient ash trees over 300 years old.

The Ash dieback fungus, Chalara fraxinea, which causes leaf loss and crown dieback and can lead to tree death, has wiped out 90% of ash trees in Denmark and is widespread throughout central Europe. It was first confirmed as being present in the UK in March 2012 and has the potential to wipe out the UK’s ash tree population, which accounts for 20 percent of all trees in the UK.

We’re doing all we can to help tackle the disease on our land. We are also working with the Forestry Commission, The Woodland Trust, Fera and Defra on the most effective way to tackle the disease.

The impact of ash dieback

Example of Ash tree affected by Ash dieback

Graeme Cannon, property manager at Ashridge Estate, looks at the potential impact of the ash dieback disease to the Trust.

Ash dieback facts

  •  the spores are short lived (weeks or months)
  • relatively high doses of spores are needed to infect trees
  • infection is concentrated in July-August, aided by moist conditions
  • spores are spread by the wind, but generally only 20-30km
  • other species of native tree are not affected
  • other species do not aid in the spread of ash dieback

What we’re doing

The weeping ash is over 270 years old

Ash dieback is of great concern to the Trust. Find out more about the steps we’re taking, and our priorities for tackling the disease.

The steps we’re taking

http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/article-1355777893724/

Finally, the discussion of a fairly modern concept in regards to changes in educational policy and priority when regarding green issues. In recent news, there has been a great deal of concern directed towards our future generations and how they’ve become disconnected with nature through the rise of the digital age. As result, like WWT and various other organisations, teaching children about the importance of nature and its conservation has become a primary interest.

For the National trust, this has taken the form of the wild network, which works with a huge number of other nature organisations to encourage kids to explore the outdoors and reconnect with nature. Within this, David Bond, a documentary filmaker, started a project known as wild thing which complies evidence to suggest that kids will need all the ‘wild time’ that they can get and form a long term bond with the natural world.

This is an aspect, like the others, that I can fully support and respect as a significant national issue. For me, finding a connection with the natural world as a child was easy, however, accessing these areas was more challenging when living with an urban environment.

Connecting kids and nature

Two little girls collect windfall apples © NTPLTwo little girls collect windfall apples

 We all need wild time. That is why we are one of the founding partners of The Wild Network, working with organisations like AMV BBDO, BRITDOC Foundation, Green Lions, NHS SDU, Playboard Northern Ireland, Play England, Play Scotland, Play Wales, and the RSPB, to get kids outdoors and reconnected with nature. 
As part of this, we are supporting filmmaker David Bond who, like many parents (and grandparents), is concerned. He can’t persuade his kids to go outside. David’s feature-length documentary ‘Project Wild Thing’ takes a look at the evidence which shows that ‘we all need wild-time’ and that by exposing kids to the amazing benefits of nature they’ll form a life-long bond with the natural world and the special places within it.

Look out for this heart warming, hilarious and thought provoking film, Project Wild Thing, and help us connect kids with nature. Watch the trailer and find out where the film is showing near you.

A great way to get your family outside is by doing the ‘50 things to do before you’re 11¾’. This is a list of challenges that we have pulled together with help from kids all over the country. From star gazing to going on a really long bike ride, there are plenty of new family adventures to be had, whatever the weather.

But why are we committed to connecting kids with nature?

In 2010, we ran a national debate, Outdoor Nation, which saw our roaming reporter, Leni, travelling around the UK asking people whether they felt we are losing touch with the outdoors and, if so, whether it mattered. The answer to both was an emphatic yes.

In response we commissioned naturalist, broadcaster and writer, Stephen Moss, to write a report examining whether children were becoming disconnected from nature and losing touch with the outdoors and, if they were, whether it mattered. The Natural Childhood report was published in March 2012. Its answer to both questions was a clear ‘yes’.

Off the back of the report we launched a major inquiry and asked leading experts, organisations, and the public for their views on what action was needed to reconnect children with the outdoors. The findings were compiled into a report and presented to the Natural Childhood Summit in September last year. The summit brought together experts and interested parties to build consensus around the actions needed to give every child the opportunity to form a personal connection with the natural world.

Keep an eye on our blogTwitter and Facebook page for further news on Natural Childhood and to find out how you can get involved.

To conclude, I feel as though I have learnt a great deal from this aspect of research. I will continue to look for other examples and update my findings.
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