Restore Nature Now – attendee blog

Joining a march or a demonstration is not something I would normally think of doing. However, the biodiversity crisis and decline of nature in the UK is now so apparent in my day to day life (let alone in the statistics and scientific data), that taking part in the ‘Restore Nature Now’ march in London last Saturday seemed an important thing to do.

I decided to add my voice to all the others who think it is more than high time that the plummeting state of nature in the UK should be being much more widely recognised, and the words’ nature recovery’ spoken of in the same breath as climate change, sewage pollution, river health, and the right to clean water.

The UK is one of the twelve most biodiversity-depleted nations on the planet. That is an awful record and bodes badly for our future. Adding my voice to all those who think similarly made me decide to go up to London and join the demand for proper action on nature recovery now.

Four things impressed me most about the march: firstly, the fact that there was a complete mix of people of all ages: families with children, people at all stages of their careers in all sorts of very different jobs and professions, young people, retired senior citizens…. no one age range out-numbering the rest.

The second remarkable thing was the distance that people had travelled to be there as ordinary individual members of the public to take their individual message to Government: I found myself talking to a young family from Devon, people form Kent, Manchester, Wales, Northumberland, Somerset, Sheffield, … to name but a few.

Apart from individual participants, the third thing that was impressive was the enormous number and range of established and volunteer nature and wildlife groups represented – from our biggest national nature conservation bodies, to hundreds of smaller local groups, each with a story of problems faced by a species, a habitat or some other aspect of our natural environment.

Last, but by no means least, the impressive thing was that the huge event that wound its way through central London was, in my experience, entirely peaceful and the atmosphere friendly, positive and hopeful.

But all in all, the big take-away was that people from all walks of life, people in all sorts of jobs and professions in this country care about the dire state of nature and biodiversity in the UK. ‘Nature recovery’ needs to be right up there on the agenda on equal standing with addressing climate change. The two go hand in hand, but nature has so far had short shrift. Both need to be on the daily agenda of politicians, local councils and other policy makers.

The march in London was the voice of 70,000-plus people asking Government to give nature a voice in policy-making. I was glad I made the effort to add mine to those.

Watch live footage from the day here

Catherine Day – a few impressions on the Restore Nature Now march in London 22 June 2024.

Join the Stag Party

The park at Rookery Gardens is growing darker, descending into the sodium light tinged monochrome of the urban night. Around me the bats wheel, chasing one another and unfortunate moths through the backlit sky before vanishing again into the gloom of blackening canopies. No sign yet of my reason for coming here. Then one appears, emerging like the bats from the shade of the canopy, though with none of the speed and arial grace. Hanging suspended from madly vibrating wings, its absurdly oversized jaws thrust determinedly forward in stubborn defiance of gravity, the stag beetle wends its stiff journey through the air. Its legs jut out stiffly in all directions as it navigates broad turns above me, sometimes dropping so I can hear the low, desperate buzz of its membranous wings, sometimes climbing out of earshot towards the canopy. It vanishes into the darkness of a tree and is gone.

I walk lengths of the park for an hour as the darkness deepens, passers by looking ever more askance at me, shining my torch aimlessly into the darkness above. I am rewarded with more sightings of the drifting beetles, but none touch down. As I call it a night and return to my car, I hear a rustling in the grass. Shining a light on it I see the grass is crawling with stags, a dozen or more beetles of all sizes in desperate competition for the two females who, without the ability to emote, still manage to convey an air of wanting to be anywhere else. They cannot of course, this is reason they adopted this above ground final form. The beetles have come together to breed. The males use their antlers to grasp one another, lifting competitors into the air, attempting to prise them from the backs of females or turning rivals over in unintentional body slams like tiny wrestlers. The winners of this competition will mate with the females, who will lay their eggs close to or within the same piece of dead wood that she herself emerged from. The cycle begins again, in the same place.

Two nights later, the temperature hovering on the cusp of feasibility for beetle activity, I return to the site. A few beetles are still present, though the lower temperatures give what competition for mates there is a slow, desperate air. Scattered around the wrestling ring are pieces of beetle, severed mandibles and shattered heads, hollowed thoraxes and tattered wings. None of the beetles will survive the season, all will die after the breeding furore. These remains though are evidence of predation, of opportunistic killers. A number of species will take advantage of these big, energy rich insects, with urban foxes, magpies and domestic cats chief among their nemeses. Even knowing that the battle in the grass was their last hurrah, it is a sad sight to find pieces of this ever-rarer species scattered among the grass.

Stag beetles are locally common here. As a South-Wester they are not a creature I’m used to seeing, restricted as they now largely are to the south east of England. They live a secretive life, almost entirely subterranean as a fat white grub. This part of their life cycle lasts between three and seven years, largely dependent on weather conditions during this time, and is spent gorging on dead wood up to half a metre below ground. Once they are at their full size, they depart their dead tree nursery and burrow into the soil, where they build a large cocoon in which to metamorphose into their final, familiar form. After pushing their way to the surface, the adults are almost solely focussed on finding a mate, to the extent that they almost entirely neglect to eat. Relying on fat reserves and topping up energetically using sap runs on trees, the beetles take to the air. Females are more sedate, often choosing to walk or stay put altogether, with the males homing in on them on the wing.

Stag beetles are a victim of our tidiness. The life cycle outlined above is dependent on the presence of a continual supply of dead wood, both above and below ground. In our age of aesthetic and safety, the remains of trees are often completely removed from the landscape, often up to and including the root plate via stump grinding. Without a steady supply of these features, populations of stag beetle will find it difficult or impossible to persist. This is why it is important to leave trees where they fall or, even better, allow part of them to remain standing after they die. It is also important to allow trees of a variety of ages to persist in known stag beetle sites. If the root plates of ancient trees are used up and no more are available, stag beetle populations can become very vulnerable. We must also ensure we do not demonise those animals that predate the beetles. Insect aggregations of this kind always result in a high predation rate, but the impact of cats should be noted.

Appropriate management of our parks and woodlands can ensure a thriving community of this, Britain’s largest insect, well into the future. You can also help in your garden, by leaving the stumps of trees in place when they are felled, or by creating a stag beetle pyramid from natural wood logs. See the People’s Trust for Endangered Species website for more information. Remember, stags pose no threat to people or to living trees so make the most of any encounter you have with them. They might look scary, but it is a privilege to spend time with them.

Written by Phil Bruss

   

Marlow Peregrines Update

Marlow’s Peregrine update:
After an exciting time, when behaviour from the female appeared to indicate egg laying was imminent, both birds disappeared.
They were not seen on the cameras, or by people who were looking for them, for around 10 days. We assumed/hoped they had been spooked by something and laid eggs at another nest site. However this morning the female was back, scrape forming and grit eating 💚
The expected egg laying window for peregrines is over now, many sites all over the country have hatched chicks. So we are unsure what is going on with our new pair, but it’s so interesting and such a privilege to watch 🦅

The Swifts Are Back!

Eyes to the skies everyone, the swifts have returned home to Marlow to breed 💚
After an incredibly long and challenging journey from Africa, these amazing birds have started to arrive in numbers.
To find out more about swifts, why they need our help and how you can help, click here https://wildmarlow.org.uk/projects/marlow-swifts/
And book yourself on to the swift awareness week guided walk around Marlow town in July, showing the nesting hotspots and screaming parties, with local expert Catherine – what she doesn’t know about swifts isn’t worth knowing! https://wildmarlow.org.uk/events/

International Dawn Chorus Day

Happy International Dawn Chorus Day 💚
16 early birds went to BBOWT’s Homefield Wood this morning, to experience the wonder of the dawn chorus. Despite a fallen tree trying to scupper our arrival, it was worth the effort!
We were delighted with the sights and sounds of up to 21 species – a cacophony of song in the peace and quiet of the rising sun ☀️
What a way to start the day and fill your soul 💚 Thank you Catherine and David.
Tawny owl, blackbird, robin, wren, goldcrest, pheasant, wood pigeon, song thrush, blackcap, chiff chaff, red kite, buzzard, coal tit, raven , blue tit, long tailed tit, lesser black backed gull, fire rest, carrion crow, marsh tit?, chaffinch?
 

No Mow May

It’s May which means its time to give your mowers a rest for #NoMowMay! 🌼
Let’s give all nature the boost it deserves this summer as well as supporting our Bee Town Marlow project 💚 These pollinator patches left to grow, will contribute to Marlow’s Nature Corridor
Head to the Plantlife: No Mow May webpage below to:
🌷 Register your participation
🌿 Download & print posters
🐝 Read gardening top tips
🌻 Answer all your #NoMowMay questions!
   
 

Little and Large

Great clip to show the size difference between the male and female, which is usual for peregrines – the female being much larger 🦅
She can also be seen consuming grit from the gravel, which helps to form the shell on eggs and shuffling to create a scrape for eggs to sit in – we’re eggcited ! 🥚💚

Bat Appreciation Day

For International Bat Appreciation Day 🦇 here’s a clip of a quick flyby, captured on one of our mammal monitoring cameras 💚

Marlow Peregrines Update

Some exciting news to report from All Saints’ Church spire 🦅

Sadly the young Avon Lady has been scared off by a new adult female. Seen here on the right, compared to the smaller male. However the Avon Lady has been seen this week in Maidenhead, which is a relief.

We have seen the adult pair displaying courting behaviour, mating and today the female started making a scrape on the nesting platform. We are hopeful eggs are imminent 🤞

Better late than never 🥚💚 We will post updates

📷 David Bevan 

Marlow Uncovered Podcast

 
Wild Marlow’s Verity West chats to John Savage for the latest Marlow Uncovered podcast 💚
“Up next, we have a true trailblazer in the world of environmental conservation. Her unwavering passion for protecting the natural wonders that thrive in and around the Marlow area has inspired an entire community to come together and make a difference.
Please join me in welcoming the remarkable Verity West, the founder of Wild Marlow.
Verity’s tireless efforts to engage residents, from young children to seasoned nature enthusiasts, have breathed new life into Marlow’s appreciation for its diverse wildlife and habitats.
Through hands-on workshops, informative walks, and collaborative conservation projects, she has empowered the people of Marlow to become active stewards of their local environment.
Get ready to be inspired, as Verity shares her insights, her aspirations, and the incredible journey that led her to establish the transformative organization known as Wild Marlow.”
Can you do to get involved and make a difference?
Verity made it clear – Wild Marlow is always in need of dedicated volunteers! Whether you have a green thumb, a love for wildlife, or simply a desire to give back to your community, there’s a role for you.
Head over to the Wild Marlow website and explore the various volunteer opportunities available. From hands-on conservation work to event planning and social media management, there are endless ways you can lend your support and become an active steward of Marlow’s natural heritage.
The future of Marlow’s wildlife is in our hands, so let’s heed Verity’s call and come together to protect and enhance the incredible ecosystems right here in our own backyard.
Visit wildmarlow.org.uk today and take the first step towards making a lasting impact!”