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Ellendale Environmental Blog by Stewart Parsons - 1M ago

What is a bug hotel and how are they made?

Bug hotels are structures which are built of a variety of materials to provide habitat for a wide range of invertebrates and depending on its size also amphibians and small mammals. They can range from the size of a bird box to up to a meter high. Bug hotels are made by creating a frame with gaps and filling them with materials to create different habitats and lots of small places where invertebrates can hide. It is a good way of using up waste materials from gardening such as wood, dry leaves and terracotta pots. However, you can use almost anything but natural materials are preferred.

Why are invertebrates important?

It is estimated that there are 40,000 species of invertebrates in the UK alone with millions of species worldwide.  There is a miniature world existing side by side with us in every habitat from land to sea and they are a very important part of the ecosystem and food chain. Pollinators such as bees, moths, wasps, beetles, flies and butterflies are central to a plant completing its reproductive cycle and without pollination 80% of plants in the UK would not be able to reproduce. This includes many of the plants which provide food for humans. Detritivores such as earthworms are vital for recycling waste material and keeping the soil healthy. All around us invertebrates are hard at work providing free services for humans. Without invertebrates, life would simply not exist on the planet. Unfortunately, there have been declines in the invertebrate species worldwide due to a long list of issues including loss/change of habitat, changing climate, pesticide use and intensive farming.

What can I do?

If you have access to outdoor space such as small garden, balcony or courtyard  there are many ways you can help invertebrates. Planting  nectar producing wildflowers for pollinators, reducing or stopping pesticide use,  leavng deadwood  piles and incorporating a bug hotel all contribute towards creating a friendly environmennt for invertebrates to live in. If you are a developer then it may also be an option to incorporate some habitat for invertebrates as a post-construction habitat enhancement and using up waste materials to build a bug hotel is an easy, low cost and low maintenance idea.

Will you be opening up your own bee & bee for your local invertebrates to stay the night?

More information about invertebrates and ways you can help them can be found at https://www.buglife.org.uk/ which is a charity working across the UK to help invertebrate conservation.

Leafcutting bees using a bug hotel

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Non-native species may have been introduced by humans either on purpose such as pheasants for shooting or by accident such as exotic cage birds escaping. Some non-native species can upset the ecological balance in an area and threaten native wildlife but not all non-native species are harmful. It is hard to determine which species will become a problem, as the examples below will demonstrate, but when a non-native species does establish itself and thrive to the detriment of the native ecosystem this species is known as an invasive species.

The Ring-Necked Parakeet is the UK’s only naturalised parrot with an estimated 8600 pairs now found in parks and gardens. The stronghold of the population is Greater London, the south-east and south-west of England but they are colonising areas further afield and have been recorded as far north as the Scottish borders and west into Wales. Popular pets since Victorian times, inevitably some birds escaped and survived in the wild. However, it wasn’t until 1969 that breeding was confirmed in Kent. The species has gone from strength to strength and can survive our less than tropical winters. The ring-necked parakeet favours holes in trees as nesting sites and can out compete native species such as woodpeckers, nuthatches and starlings for these sites. Like all birds living in the wild in the UK they are protected by law but can be culled under licence where they represent a serious threat to the conservation of a native species, are damaging crops or present a risk to air safety near airports.

When thinking about invasive bird species it is hard to look past the Canada Goose, originally a native of North America. Although a few true migrants of this species do turn up on the west coast of Scotland, the majority of the 200,000 UK birds are descended from birds introduced to stately homes by Victorian. They form large, noisy flocks and are often regarded as a nuisance in parks where they congregate and their droppings can pollute ornamental ponds and lakes.

The Little Owl, was introduced into Britain in the 19th century and found across much of England, although less common in Scotland and Wales. Often seen during daylight hours when they like to perch in trees or on telegraph poles, they have a characteristic way of bobbing their heads up and down when alarmed. Although a non-native species, the Little Owl has had no noticeable affect on native wildlife and would not be classed as invasive. The species has seen a decline in recent years, although the reasons for this are not fully understood. Current estimates for this species suggest that the population is around 5000 individuals, with a 24% decline between 1995 and 2008.

Although the “coo coo cuk” call of the Collared Dove appears to be a quintessential sound of a British village in spring, the species had not been recorded in Britain before the mid-1950s. When the first Collared Dove turned up on the North Norfolk coast in 1955 it was quite an event and many birders travelled to see it. When a pair breed in Norfolk the following year, the nest site was kept secret and guarded against egg collectors. By 1957 it was reported to be breeding in Lincolnshire and Kent and individuals were seen in Scotland that same year. By 1970 there was an estimated 25,000 breeding pairs in the UK. The species is native to Asia, and prior to the 1930s Turkey and the Balkans were the furthest west the species had spread. During the next 20 years the species expanded its range rapidly and colonised most of Europe and has now spread as far north as the Arctic circle in Norway, west to the Canary Islands and south to Morocco. The reasons for the sudden expansion have not been fully explained but theories suggest it may have been a genetic mutation combined with changes in farming and agriculture that enabled the species to spread and colonise so quickly. The Collared Dove is a non-native species that colonised the UK by natural means and is now regarded as part of the British fauna.

 We are more careful today than in Victorian times when it comes to releasing species into the wild but the influence of humans on the environment in the form of agricultural intensification and climate change may mean we see more species colonise the UK over the coming decades.

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This week (13th – 17th May 2019) is invasive species week and Japanese Knotweed is probably the most famous of the species to invade the UK. The legendary concrete-smashing, tarmac-raising plant is feared by the construction industry and gardeners alike.

Japanese Knotweed first arrive at the Royal Botanical Gardens Kew in August 1850 in an unsolicited parcel of plants. The plants were then sold by a large number of commercial nursery gardens around the country. The plant is a herbaceous perennial, with stems typically about 2m tall and an extensive system of rhizomes. It has large, roughly triangular leaves with truncate (not cordate (heart-shaped)) bases.

The sharing of cuttings and the discarding of unwanted rhizomes established the primary pattern of distribution for Japanese Knotweed around the UK followed by natural spreading along watercourses, and artificially where soil containing rhizomes was moved above in road building and construction schemes.

Japanese knotweed is an invasive non-native weed in urban areas where it is considered a nuisance in property development as the rhizomes are known to exploit weaknesses in structures and can come up through gaps in walls, concreted and flooring.

Japanese knotweed Jam

In the UK Japanese knotweed has no natural predators however it has one weakness - it is edible at certain times of the year! As with Rhubarb the shoots in the spring are tender enough to eat but they have to be gathered before the stems become hard and woody. The ideal time to eat knotweed is mid-April to May.

Japanese knotweed is a source of Vitamins A and C and contains potassium, zinc, phosphorus and manganese and has been used for treating many ailments, such as respiratory infections. It’s a free-range food and eating it can slow the spread of this plant.

To forage the plant ensure you have landowners permission and a stand of knotweed that hasn’t been sprayed. The leaves and tough stems are not edible, so you’ll need to discard these carefully. We put all our leftover bits in a baking try and baked for 30 mins until the stems were mushy and the leaves were baked crisp.

The legal bit - There is no legal obligation to remove or treat knotweed as long as you're not encouraging or allowing the growth on to adjacent land. As of schedule 9 of the 'Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981', you must not plant or cause to grow Japanese Knotweed in the wild.

Our recipe for Japanese knotweed jam is based on rhubarb and ginger jam as the two plants are similar in taste and texture. Get foraging and enjoy!!

Ingredients

·         1kg Japanese Knotweed Stems. Leaves removed (top up with rhubarb is you can’t forage enough)

·         1kg jam sugar (which has added pectin)

·         zest and juice 1 lemon

·         50g stem or crystallised ginger

·         4cm piece of Ginger, chopped

Method

·         Wash the Japanese Knotweed under cold running water and slice into 2cm pieces. Tip into a large ceramic or plastic bowl and add the jam sugar, lemon zest and juice, and chopped stem ginger. Finely grate the peeled ginger directly over the knoweed.

·         Stir the mixture thoroughly, cover loosely with cling film and leave to one side for about 2 hrs to allow the sugar to dissolve into the juices. You may need to stir the mixture occasionally to encourage this process along.

·         Put the knotweed and all the sugary juices into a preserving pan and set over a medium heat. Stir until the sugar has completely dissolved and bring to the boil. Continue to cook at a fairly swift pace until the mixture is really tender and the jam has reached setting point (about 10-15 mins).

·         To test for a set, drop ½ tsp of the jam onto a cold saucer, leave it for 30 secs, then gently push it with the tip of your finger. If the jam wrinkles the setting point has been reached. If not, continue to cook for a further couple of minutes and test again.

- Remove the pan from the heat and leave to one side for 2-3 mins before pouring into sterilised jars.

Japanese Knotweed jam

Boiling Jam

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Ellendale Environmental Blog by Stewart Parsons - 1M ago

In England and Wales ancient woodland is defined as an area which has been wooded continuously since 1600 and in Scotland since 1750. Ancient woodlands have been mostly undisturbed for many years and have a high ecological value. Reasons for this stem from the slow changes that have occurred over many years. Leaf litter falling and building up on the forest floor over a long period of time creates special conditions, holding communities of fungi, bacteria and dormant seeds. These components of ancient woodland are unseen to the human eye but play a vital part within a complex food chain. Mature trees have the ability to hold a huge amount biodiversity. As trees get bigger they get a larger surface area which can then be colonised by other plants. As the tree ages it also gets more fissured bark and caverns in the trunk and some parts of it may die which create rot and deadwood habitats. As a tree gets older the amount of these types of characteristics increase which in turn increases the numbers of species it supports.

A vast array of invertebrates are supported by the stable conditions and variety of habitats within ancient woodland which then become food for birds, bats, reptiles, amphibians and mammals. As a result meso-predators and apex predators also have a food source. As a result ancient woodlands support whole ecosystems and they support more threatened species that any other habitat.

One way of identifying ancient woodland is by looking at the ground flora. There are over 200 plants which are known as ancient woodland indicator species. Depending on geographical location the presence of these species and their abundance are a sign that the woodland is likely to be ancient.

Species including; ramsons Allium ursinum, opposite-leaved golden-saxifrage Chrysosplenium oppositifolium, wood anemone Anemone nemorosa and native bluebell Hyacinthoides non-scripta are among those classed as ancient woodland indicator species.

These easily identifiable species are used as indicator species as they are much slower to colonise and therefore, less likely to be in a new woodland. They are less likely to grow outside of woodlands where they are more exposed as they require the shade and stable conditions inside of woodland. However, looking at plant species which are present isn’t the only way to distinguish new woodland from ancient woodland and indicator species are also not confined to growing within ancient woodland.

Historical evidence of human activity such as wood banks and old maps can be a good way of finding out how old the woodland is. Another useful tool is the ancient woodland inventories which have been created for Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and England; these can be viewed online. This shows information about where semi-natural ancient woodland exists and where ancient woodland sites historically existed but have subsequently been re-planted with non-native species.

Our ecologists recently visited a site in south Wales where there were ancient woodland indicator species within the ground flora. Upon checking the ancient woodland inventory for Wales it was confirmed that there was ancient woodland at the site. The team are now working towards methods for mitigating woodland which could be lost during a road widening scheme. This may include the following; woodland creation, planting native species, translocation of some trees, coppicing, translocation of topsoil, translocating deadwood and collecting seeds from trees to be used in woodland creation.

Ancient woodland ground flora

Ancient woodland indicators

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Allium ursinum, known as wild garlic, ramsons, buckrams, broad-leaved garlic, wood garlic, bear leek or bear's garlic, is a bulbous perennial flowering plant in the lily family Amaryllidaceae. It is a wild relative of onion, native to Europe and Asia, where it grows in moist woodland. Wild garlic appears in mid to late winter, flowers in spring and then completely dies down by the middle of summer.

Wild Garlic isn’t necessarily an invasive plant species however where it grows it will form a dense carpet of growth. The plant in the wrong place can be extremely invasive, for example in gardens, as they reproduce themselves prolifically from underground bulbs and also from seeds that are set from their blossoms. Unlike many other weeds that can be controlled by chopping, pulling or spraying, wild garlic remains unaffected. Mowing the foliage or pulling it from the garden will not affect the bulbs beneath the soil, and within just a few days the bulbs will simply send up new leaves. The plant has thin leaves that easily shed herbicides, and the waxy coating helps prevent absorption of the herbicide.

Its invasive nature makes the plant suitable for our Invasive species cookbook! Wild Garlic has an edible bulb, with a strong taste of garlic. The leaves can also be eaten but have a milder garlic taste, and the flowers, which have a stronger flavour, make an interesting addition to salads. At this time of the year the leaves can be easily foraged in most woodlands. Here are a few of our favourites.

Caution - wild garlic leaved are similar to lily of the valley, which is poisonous. However, when picked wild garlic smells of garlic. If you are unsure do not eat it!

Wild Garlic Pesto

Ingredients

2 handfuls of wild garlic leaves, washed and roughly chopped

1 handful of parsley, washed and roughly chopped

2 garlic cloves or two wild garlic bulbs

50g pine nuts

Grated Parmesan to taste (approx. 50g)

Extra virgin olive oil (approx. 150ml)

Lemon juice from ½ lemon

Season to taste

Method

Place the ingredients into a food processor and blitz slowly pouring in the olive oil. Add more oil if you wish to have a thinner texture and mix. Season to taste.

 

Wild Garlic Salsa Verde

Ingredients

1 clove of garlic chopped or wild garlic bulb

1 tsp of capers chopped

2-3 anchovy fillets chopped (optional)

1 handful of wild garlic leaves, washed and chopped

1 handful of parsley, washed and chopped

Lemon juice from ½ lemon

6 tbs of olive oil

Method

Place the garlic, capers, anchovies, parsley and wild garlic in a food processor and pulse to give a rough texture but do not blend to a paste. Or chop by hand to small bits.

Place the mixture in a bowl and add the olive oil and lemon juice. Season to taste. Add more oil if you wish to have a thinner texture and mix.

Wild Garlic Mayo

This mayo is really easy to make using a stick blender and old jam jar!

Ingredients

1 handful of wild garlic leaves, washed and chopped

1 free range egg

1tsp of dijon mustard

Lemon juice from ½ lemon

Grapeseed oil 150ml

Salt and pepper to taste

Method

Place all the ingredients at the bottom of an old jam jar and place the stick blender over the egg. Turn on the blender and slowly pull up through the mixture until it is all incorporated. Place in a bowl and season to taste.

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Staff from Ellendale Environmental attended the Care in Construction day at Melgarve Substation on behalf of Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks (SSEN).

CARE in Construction demonstrated how a site is committed to ensuring the environment is protected during the construction phase of a project. CARE stands for Commitment, Awareness, Rigor and Engagement.  Environmental activities are required throughout the construction process, whether it is pre-construction ecology surveys to establish the baseline or applying for licences for protected species from SNH.

The Ellendale Environmental Team were on site to film with SSEN discussing environmental topics related to the construction process and presenting to the site team examples of the good environmental practice on site that ensure the environment is protected such as the implementation of species protection plans, monitoring, mitigation and silt management.

It is extremely important that the environmental team engages with everyone on site to make them aware of environmental constraints. There are many ways of engaging with colleagues and contractors including, toolbox talks, stand down days and community outreach. People from both the construction and environmental industries can work together to CARE for our environment.

Ellendale Environmental are committed to making sure we do the right thing and act responsibly. We work closely with our clients to ensure their site are managed correctly to reduce the impacts of construction and to incorporate enhancements to ensure biodiversity net gain is achieved at the end of the project.

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We’re extremely pleased to have been commissioned for our 200th Project!

Since Ellendale Environmental was set up we have worked on a range of projects throughout the UK including overhead lines, road projects, flood schemes and housing. We have also had the privilege of working for some of the biggest construction companies in the UK.

In the last 100 projects we have worked from the far north of Scotland on the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides to Cornwall and everywhere in-between!

Ellendale ecologists have undertaken surveys for protected species including badgers, bats, otters, water vole, otter , bird surveys and undertaken licensing for development. We have undertaken botanical surveys including hedgerow surveys, extended phase 1 surveys and restoration monitoring post construction.

Can’t wait to see where the next 100 projects take us!

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The Eurasian beaver Castor fiber was once widespread across Great Britain but was hunted to extinction in England and Wales by the 12th century and in Scotland by the 16th century. The beaver’s pelt (fur) and scent glands were prized, and the meat was also used, leading to severe declines of the species across Europe.

In 2009, the Scottish Beaver Trial (run by the Scottish Wildlife Trust in partnership with the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland and Forestry Commission Scotland) released the first wild beavers in Scotland in over 400 years. The project, in Knapdale Forest, Argyll, was supplemented by further releases of beavers in 2017 and 2018. Unofficial releases in Tayside have led to a population of around 400 beavers in that area. Their diet comprises aquatic plants and grasses, as well as tree bark and cambium (the soft tissue under the bark) of broadleaved trees, especially willows, birches, aspen and alder.

In England, beavers of unknown origin have been present on the River Otter in Devon since 2008. After initial plans for their removal, Devon Wildlife Trust successfully proposed that this become a five-year trial to monitor the beavers’ effects on the landscape. Beavers have also been introduced to a site in the Forest of Dean as part of a trial to reduce flooding. The Wildlife Trusts in Wales are also researching the feasibility of reintroduction.

Beavers are considered to be ‘ecosystem engineers’ and provide numerous ecosystem services. By felling trees and creating dams they create new wetland habitats and increase habitat complexity, benefitting biodiversity. They typically build dams in watercourses of less than 3 metres in width, in order to create aquatic habitat for the family group. The dams created in streams can absorb diffuse pollution from agriculture. They can slow water run-off during flood periods, and reduce flooding downstream. Human engineers have mimicked this activity in some areas to reduce flooding of towns and villages in the UK, but perhaps not as successfully as beavers!

In Scotland, beavers have been given native species status by the Scottish Government, and populations will be allowed to expand naturally. However, beavers are not yet classed as European Protected Species (EPS) in Scotland, meaning there has been some unregulated culling and destruction of dams. This has sometimes led to conflict between landowners who have experienced loss of productive agricultural land and conservationists who believe beavers should receive strict legal protection and see culling as a last resort. The Scottish Government pledged to protect beavers as EPS under the Habitats Directive, and in February 2019 the Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham announced that from May 2019 it will be an offence to kill, injure or capture beavers. There will a licensing system in place and any such control measures will need to be licensed by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH). It also means that beavers will need to be considered as part of ecological surveys in areas where they occur, to prevent impacts from development activities.

Ellendale Environmental can provide a beaver survey as part of a site assessment or as a standalone survey. The below video is camera trap footage from Perthshire recorded during monitoring by Ellendale Environmental.

 
Ellendale Environmental European Beaver - YouTube

The Eurasian beaver or European beaver (Castor fiber) by Per Harald Olsen/NTNU is licensed under CC BY 2.0

 
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There are six species of deer in the UK of which Red and Roe deer are the only native species. Fallow deer are a long-standing naturalised species and Sika deer, Muntjac deer and Chinese Water deer were introduced in the last 150 years.

It is thought that deer are more abundant and widespread now than at any time in the past 1000 years and in increasing numbers in the countryside, excessive deer densities cause over-grazing and excessive browsing and trampling in sensitive habitats.

This has been attributed to Loss of characteristic woodland plant species such as the oxlip and bluebell; Declines in characteristic woodland bird species such as the nightingale due to loss of plant structural diversity and food supply; declines in invertebrate abundance and diversity, and Prevention of adequate  tree regeneration. Other serious problems include disease transmission to humans and livestock.

Increasing numbers of deer in urban areas has led to several emergent problems including; Road traffic accidents; Damage to gardens, allotments and parks;  attacks on pets by Muntjac deer and vice versa and violent attacks on deer by humans through illegal deer coursing and poaching.

Venison meat can provide a truly free range alternative to farmed products helping the environment in the process. This Invasive Species recipe is inspired by Chinese New year and is Kung Pao venison, stir-fried with the perfect combination of salty, sweet and spicy flavour!

Ingredients

Sauce:

  • venison (800g) cut into 1 inch cubes

  • 230ml chicken stock 

  • 5 tablespoons light soy sauce

  • 2 tablespoons Chinese black vinegar (or substitute good-quality balsamic vinegar)

  • 2 tablespoon Chinese Shaoxing wine (or dry sherry)

  • 2 teaspoon dark soy sauce

  • 2 teaspoons hoisin sauce

  • 2 tablespoons sugar

  • 1 teaspoon corn flour

Stir Fry:

  • 4 tablespoons cooking oil

  • 4-6 cloves  garlic (chopped)

  • 1 tablespoon ginger

  • 1 red bell pepper (seeded and diced)

  • 8-10 dried chilies cut into ½-inch pieces (adjust to taste)

  • 1 tablespoon Sichuan peppercorns lightly toasted and ground

  • 4 spring onions (1-inch pieces)

  • Handful roasted/salted peanuts

  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil (optional)

Instructions

1] Combine all ingredients for the sauce and venison in a shallow bowl; cover and marinate for 10 minutes  longer (if time allows).

2] Whisk sauce ingredients together until sugar dissolves; set aside.

3] Heat a large pan or wok over high heat. Add 2 tablespoons of oil, allow to heat up, then add marinated venison. Fry venison for 3-4 minutes while stirring until the meat has browned. Remove from heat and set aside.

4] Add remaining cooking oil into the same pan/wok. Add the garlic, ginger, chili, diced peppers and Sichuan peppercorns and stir fry for 1 minute. 

5] Give the prepared sauce a mix, then pour it into the pan and bring it to a boil while stirring. 

6] Once it begins to thicken slightly, add venison back into the pan/wok and mix all of the ingredients through the sauce until the venison is evenly coated and sauce has thickened.

7] Stir in spring onions, peanuts and sesame oil (if using). Mix well and continue to cook for a further 2 minutes.

We served ours with stir fry noodles but it’s also good with fried rice!

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We’re pleased to welcome Andrew Whitelee to our team!

Andrew joins us as a Senior Ecologist and brings a wealth of experience and knowledge to enhance our ability to support our widening customer base. Andrew will be working on projects throughout the UK providing surveys, environmental management and advice to our clients.

Andrew brings with him experience of ecological surveys and environmental management on large scale developments including utilities, road and residential schemes. He has managed teams of ecologists providing baseline ecology surveys, reports, mitigation proposals and species licencing.

Andrew’s experience as an Environmental / Ecological Clerk of Works (ECoW) will ensure he is able to provide on-site ecological and environmental management for our projects helping our clients to deliver their projects.

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