|Home||Indoor Programme||Member's Pictures||Field Trip Reports||Recent News|
|Links||Field Programme||Record and Sightings||Contact||Nature Notes|
|Subscription Rates||Objectives||Frequently asked questions||Indoor Meetings Report||Site Map|
Meeting Report for 12th November 2020|
Keswick Natural History Society's latest meeting held on Thursday 12th November 2020 via Zoom was an illustrated presentation by Philip Munro, Community Outreach Worker of The South of Scotland Golden Eagle Project. Philip's talk centred on the reintroduction of Golden Eagles to The South of Scotland. This was a fascinating insight into how these iconic birds, once prevalent, are now being translocated to the hills and forests in the southern area of Scotland.
Golden Eagles nest mainly of rocky crags, but also in trees, the nest can be between four to ten feet in diameter and two to eight feet high, therefore the trees are not always the best place with the British weather! They are made up of sticks, moss, grass and other vegetation, a cup is made for the eggs, where they can safely nestle until hatched. Eagles are tagged with a rucksack type of locater which does not harm the bird as it grows and is extremely useful for the project officers as the all the data is recorded for future reference.
The first translocation took place in 2018, four birds have been released, but unfortunately one did not survive, therefore there are now three eagles flying free around the South of Scotland. The aim of the project is to reinforce the small, isolated and vulnerable population of Golden Eagles from the North to the South of the country. Most eagles have a single chick or twins, however with twins the survival rate is low as the dominant chick will kill its sibling to ensure its own survival. The Eagle Project Team monitor known eagle nests, known as Eyries, and monitor the eggs up until hatching. Once hatched the twin chicks are checked and where possible and appropriate one will be taken from the nest at approximately 5 to 8 weeks old. The Eaglet is then health checked and tagged before being translocated to a secret area in Southern Scotland, where it is reared in a purpose built eyrie. Feeding takes place through a hatch at the rear of the eyrie using roadkill or carrion, this being the staple diet of Golden Eagles in the wild, it is very rare for an eagle to take live prey. The project officers are very careful not to be seen by the eagle so that they do not become reliant on humans for food. The eyries are open fronted to allow the birds to come and go as they please, getting them used to the locality. Feeding stations are also set up around the area to ensure the birds have enough food for the first stages of release before being left to their own devices.
The project is progressing slowly due to the lack of twin chicks and their survival rate. However since the start of the project there is good news. Three released birds are enjoying life in Southern Scotland, one of which was recently in the news having been spotted flying as far south as The Pennine Hills. The results are encouraging, but the greatest worry is persecution by humans. This is not only a great danger to the eagle as other birds of prey are also victims.
Philip explained how to spot this iconic bird and how to differentiate it from other birds of prey. The wingspan of a Golden Eagle is approximately 190-225cm, compared to one of our more common birds The Buzzard with a wingspan of 115-130cm.
|Comparison between Buzzard (top) and Golden Eagle (bottom)|
The future hope for the team members is that Golden Eagles will once again thrive in the South of Scotland and new generation will have the opportunity to find a place in their homeland.
Meeting Report for 25th January|
Keswick Natural History Society
Last Thursday's talk to the society was given by Ed Mills who is a chartered forester and since 2014 a woodland advisor. His talk "Cumbrian Woodlands Past, Present and Future" covered many aspects of the woodlands that we all see every day and which Ed has the good fortune to be able to wander through as part of his job. From the Atlantic rainforest woods that spread along the lower fellside slopes, through commercial, planted, conifer forests by way of the now rare wet willow and alder carr woodlands to the newly planted or sometimes replanted small woodlands in outlying areas of the county, Ed has been there, his comment that he'd probably been in more of Cumbria's woods than anyone else is almost certainly true. He showed us woodland history including woodland archaeology, explaining about ancient wood boundaries such as wood banks, old potash and charcoal kilns, ancient and veteran trees of amazing ages and the remains of charcoal-burners and/or bark-peelers huts.
Up until the early 1900s, lots of everyday items were made of wood, a lot of them made by hand within the woodland by craftsmen who mostly made their lathes and benches from the trees cut down for their products. Rakes, shovels, swill baskets, fencing, gates and shelters were all constructed by them on site within their patch of woodland, Hazel was coppiced on rotation and the workers moved from arear to area as needed. Large trees were felled using nothing but saws and axes and were split using wedges and hammers.
Things have moved on and Ed showed examples of modern tree felling using large, expensive machines where one or two machine operators can do the work that formerly would have been done by a large gang of foresters. Since the 1800s conifer trees have been planted on former native broad-leaved woodland sites and this has mostly removed the ecologically important plants, mosses, fungi and shrubs and the wildlife that were formerly a key part of the Cumbrian ecosystem. However, Ed also showed us a conifer wood that had been neglected and was gradually reverting back to broad-leaved woodland, some of the original flora and fauna had survived and is re-colonising the area.
Ed finished off by showing some of the diseases and other problems that forest managers have to cope with and queried who was going to fence, plant and manage all the millions of trees promised by government and councils and where were they going to get the young trees from? Nurseries in the UK have sold all their stock and trees sourced from abroad could harbour more diseases so where do we go from here.
At our next talk we look at a success story, where the disaster of Foot and Mouth disease has been turned into a thriving Nature Reserve. Come along and see the story of Watchtree N.R. on Thursday 6th February at 7.30 pm at the Crosthwaite Parish Rooms (next to the Co-op). Non-members are welcome
Meeting Report for 9th January|
The topic of last Thursday's talk, given by John Martin, was Pine Martens. John explained that Pine Marten were once widespread in Cumbria but had since disappeared, with the last confirmed sightings in Thirlmere around 1973/74. The good news is that they are spreading south from their ancient stronghold in Scotland into Northumbria and Kielder Forest and in 2018 into North-East Cumbria with martens being sighted on trail cameras in Kershope Forest.
Pine Marten have what John described as a 3D habitat, preferring areas of extensive woodland with high mountains, valleys and waterways. They prefer old-growth hardwood trees with lots of holes which they can use as dens in which the females can rear their young. Dense conifer forests are not ideal unless they contain some areas of these old hardwoods. Martens have home ranges from 2 to 33 square miles in extent depending on food supply with their favoured prey being field voles although their diet is quite wide and includes mice, voles, moles, frogs and fledgling birds. They are extremely agile and are capable of catching Red Squirrels during a chase through the tree canopy although they find the larger Grey Squirrel easier to catch. There is some evidence from Scotland that the presence of martens in a wood will reduce the populations of Greys while the resident Red Squirrel numbers appear to be unaffected.
Martens will readily use den boxes, which are made with two entry holes leading via tunnels up into a central chamber where the martens will sleep and where the kits are born in March/early April. The females leave scats (droppings) on the lid of the box when they are raising their young and the piles of scats can be quite large by the time the kits leave the box in June/July. This can be a useful indicator for wildlife workers that the box is being used without having to disturb the martens inside.
With Pine Marten now in Cumbria again maybe we will see individuals getting into the local woods again in the future, I certainly hope so. The next talk is "Cumbria Woods and Forests, Past, Present and Future" on Thursday 23rd January at Crosthwaite Parish Rooms (near the Co-op) at 7.30 pm so come along and see if our woods are suitable for Pine Marten. Non-members are always welcome.
Keswick Natural History Society
Lecture Report: February 8th
The speaker at the society's latest meeting was Stephen Hewitt who formerly worked at Tullie House Museum at Carlisle and is now a freelance entomologist doing survey work for various bodies around the country. Steve is well-known and respected for his wide knowledge and enthusiasm for insect life of all kinds and he demonstrated this expertise to the society's members during his wide-ranging talk.
To most people insects are either a buzzing or crawling nuisance or a completely closed book (or both), but Steve showed us many interesting and unusual insects and discussed their (sometimes bizarre and often gruesome) behaviour. From hoverflies that look like wasps or sometimes bees and flies that eat other insects and some whose larvae eat snails, to beetles who eat the roots of reeds and wasp beetles who predate other insects there seem to be insects for every niche food source. An interesting insect is the Scorpion fly, the male of which has what appears to be a stinger at the tip of its body which it can tilt up to resemble a scorpion's stinger. Although it looks dangerous it is harmless and the female does not have this tip.
|Scorpion Fly (by Mandy Redburn)|
Steve looked at the changes in insect communities in several locations in Cumbria using records from entomologists dating back to Victorian times and comparing them with modern records from the same locations. A lot of the changes are not for the better, species have either declined or are no longer present but some of these changes will be due to the habitat changing with time i.e. woodland now encroaching previously open areas and the draining of wetlands to improve farmland but some changes are for the better, with global warming possibly benefitting some southern species which can now exist far further north than in the past.
The lengths that Steve and his companions go to investigate habitats which might contain insects or their larvae were indicated by pictures of Steve up in a large beech tree searching in the trapped water in the forks of the tree for the larvae of certain insect species. This is dedication to your subject. From the banks of the River Caldew at Carlisle to the summit ridge of Skiddaw Steve was able to demonstrate the wide range of insects and their habitats and the complexity of their interactions with other insects and plant species. His close-up pictures of some weird and wonderful insects were an eye-opener to those of us who know little about what is happening in the undergrowth around us.
We look forward to the next meeting of the Society on Thursday 22nd February at Crosthwaite Parish Room (near The Co-op) at 7.30 pm when Keeley Spate will give a talk on the restoration of Cumbrian bogs
Meeting Report. January 25th 2018
|UK Butterflies not (yet!) in Cumbria|
Keswick Natural History Society 25th Jan 2018
This week's talk 'UK Butterflies not (yet!) in Cumbria' was delivered by Steve Doyle, an amazingly knowledgeable
lepidopterist and the person who almost single handedly initiated the reintroduction of the Marsh Fritillary
Butterfly to Cumbria after near extinction in the county in 2004. This project involved building up the stocks
in captivity in Steve's back garden and then establishment of 6 separate colonies. After subsequent careful
land management there has been a spontaneous expansion to 18 distinct colonies by last year and it is this
success in carefully planned and monitored reintroduction of species, as well as the natural movement of species
further North with climate change that informed Steve's talk as he told us about most of the species that do not,
yet, appear regularly in our County. There are 59 species on the British list and already there are 41 species
that have been recorded in our county, but some of these only very rarely. It is a high number for a county this
far north though, which reflects the great variety of habitats within Cumbria's borders.|
In his talk Steve took us on a virtual journey around the UK from Western Scotland to see the delightful Chequered Skipper, down to the very South East of England to catch sight of the Essex Kipper, the Isle of Wight for the Glanville Fritillary and the Devon/Cornwall border for the Heath Fritillary with numerous other places and butterflies in between. (Oxfordshire and Northamptonshire seem to be particularly well blessed). It is apparent that there are some butterfly enthusiasts who will journey around the UK each year in order to see each of the 59 UK species, and to do so they must have the detailed knowledge that Steve shared with us as to which specific wood, quarry, heath or nature reserve holds each particular species together with which weeks of the year is their flight period. Although, the timing can be different following an unusually warm or cold Spring and Steve himself has been caught out after a long journey to find that his target species stopped appearing the week before. Steve's abundant knowledge and enthusiasm shone out as he described each of the species discussed and some of his encounters with them, being hit on the forehead by a huge, (by UK butterfly norms), flying Purple Emperor, (apparently this hurt!), to rushing from work on the chance of seeing a Camberwell Beauty in a stranger's garden , (which after the use of a neighbour's step ladder, a cup of tea and a long wait resulted in perhaps the only photograph of one in Cumbria). All of the species were illustrated by excellent photos taken by Steve himself and with which he was not only able to point out the salient identification points but also to marvel, as we did, how beautiful these small creatures are.
Our next meeting will be on 8th February when Steve Hewitt will talk on 'Recent Studies on Cumbrian Insects'. Steve was formerly Keeper of Natural Sciences at Tullie House but latterly he has been Research Fellow in Entomology at the National Museums of Scotland. He will tell us about his recent investigations into some of the fascinating insects of Cumbria, from mountain species on the summit of Skiddaw to tiger beetles among the sand dunes of Ravenglass and will include the consequence of climate changes.
We meet at 7.30pm in the Crosthwaite Rooms, next to the Coop car park, and all are very welcome.
Meeting Report. October 5th 2017
Where Griffons Soar by Keith Offord
The first talk of the new season at Keswick Natural History Society was delivered by Keith Offord, a longstanding friend of the Society who was talking to us for the eighth time. This popularity reflects on his natural history expertise, but also the pleasant chatty style with which he delivers a whole load of fascinating information. Keith is primarily an excellent ornithologist and nature tour leader who takes photographs, but what photographs!
The subject of "Where Griffons Soar" was the wildlife of Spain, mostly the birdlife but not forgetting some of the mammals and the flora. He took us to three remarkable areas of bio diversity starting with the Spanish Pyrenees where he leads tours based in the delightful town of Jaca. Even the town has fascinating bird life with Rock Sparrows around the Citadel and Scops Owls, whose sonar like night calls are a classic sound of Southern Europe, in a town park. Keith took us from the unspoilt farmland in the foothills where Black and Red Kites are commonly seen together and the jingling call of Corn Buntings seems to be everywhere, up through copious forests with huge Black Woodpeckers and tiny Crested Tits, and finally right up to the high rock faces where the iconic Wallcreeper flutters around at incredible altitudes, Golden Eagles look out for live Chamois and Alpine Marmots and Lammergeiers look out for their carcasses. The latter is a species of vulture and known as "Bone Breaker" (quebrantahuesos) in Spanish after its habit of picking up bones and then dropping them from a height onto rocks in order to access the bone marrow inside.
Next stop was down in the Extramadura; a wonderful area of expansive grasslands and dehesas adjacent to Portugal where Cork Oak trees and Olive Groves provide areas of light grazing for both sheep, goats and and cattle. The low intensity chemical-free farming hosts a rich display of classic Mediterranean wildlife from Calandra Larks and Bee-Eaters to the huge and beautiful Great Bustard. Here the Great-Spotted Cuckoo parasitizes the nests of Azure-winged Magpies and Keith discussed the odd world-distribution of this magpie which is also found close to China but nowhere in between: how did they get here and why did the Cuckoo turn to this species to look after their eggs? It is not only the farming that is wildlife friendly, churches and other historic buildings host colonies of Lesser Kestrels and massive White Stork nests, bridges have Alpine Swifts and Red-Rumped Swallows nesting underneath and there are boxes erected upon telegraph poles alongside roads which have become popular with European Rollers. The area is perhaps best known in the birding world for the variety of raptors to be found there from the delicate and beautiful Black-Shouldered Kite, the snake eating Short-Toed Eagle, Montagu's Harrier, (like an even more elegant version of our Hen Harrier) to Spanish Imperial Eagles and Europe's largest raptor, the Black Vulture.
Speaking of raptors, their mass migration across the Straits of Gibraltar was witnessed from Keith's third destination of Tarifa at the southernmost tip of Spain. Here birds like White Storks, Honey Buzzards and Marsh Harriers glide over to Morocco in huge numbers, a true wildlife extravaganza.
Every bird Keith mentioned, (and I have only mentioned a small proportion) was illustrated with brilliant photographs. His flight shots were especially impressive: it is incredibly difficult to get Swallows and Swifts within the photographic frame never mind as crisply sharp as Keith's shots. We keenly look forward to his ninth visit to the Society.