Help bring beavers back to Cheshire

PUBLISHED: 08:03 19 August 2020 | UPDATED: 10:14 19 August 2020

Welcome back to the beaver Photo: Terry Whittaker

Welcome back to the beaver Photo: Terry Whittaker

Terry Whittaker

Bumblebees, beavers and curlews will die out unless we act now says Rachel Bradshaw of Cheshire Wildlife Trust

Rachel Bradshaw explains how Cheshire Wildlife Trust is working to save our native creatures before it’s too late...

The BBC might mean something else most of the time, but in this article, it means Bumblebees, Beavers and Curlew. But what do these special species all have in common? And why am I talking about them? In one word – extinction.

Despite there being a global pandemic and lockdowns around the world, nature has carried on, and so has the work of Cheshire Wildlife Trust. We’ve been working hard on nature’s recovery: working with landowners, creating wildlife corridors, carrying out surveys, and more. Here, I want to talk about three particular species that benefit from our work and your support, including the amazing re-introduction of beavers in Cheshire.

Beavers

Beavers played an important part in our landscape from prehistoric times until they were hunted to extinction in the 16th century. The loss of this charismatic species also led to loss of the mosaic of lakes, meres, mires, tarns and boggy places that it so brilliantly built. Thanks to their flat tail and webbed feet, these amazing animals are suited to life both on land and in the water.

As well as being so special, they’re also incredible engineers using nature around them to build dams, creating their own pools for their family. In larger rivers and lakes, they don’t need to build dams. The work they do, coppicing trees and building dams, creates wetland habitats that benefit an enormous number of other species from water voles to amphibians, dragonflies to birds.

⦁ They help to reduce downstream flooding – the channels, dams and wetland habitats that beavers create hold back water and release it more slowly after heavy rain

⦁ They increase water retention

⦁ They clean water

⦁ They reduce siltation, which pollutes water

I have never seen a wild beaver, but I am so excited to be part of the re-introduction here in Cheshire as we look to bring the species back to the region, for good. Visit our website for more information on the journey of the re-introduction to Cheshire. www.cheshirewildlifetrust.org.uk and see here to hear about the work to bring back beavers to Cheshire and Hatchmere Brook.

Bumblebees

There any many species of bumblebee in the UK, but I want to focus particularly on the garden bumblebee, which you’ll have all seen buzzing around your gardens – hence the name. This bee is much larger than the other bees and absolutely loves long, tubular flowers such as the foxglove or the honeysuckle and will often visit red clover, vetches, and nettles for nectar and pollen. I highly recommend planting some of these to encourage them to your space.

I find this bee fascinating as it has one of the longest tongues out of all the species, enabling it to really reach in the flowers and grab that much-needed food. It can extend up to 2cm which can sometimes be as long as the bee itself – incredible! The queen of the garden bee likes to use old nests of small mammals underground with colonies of up to 100 workers. Workers are found from late April and new males and females are seen from July to October.

Many insects, including the bumblebee, are facing extinction if trends continue as they are. There is a lot we can do to halt their decline though, including turning your garden or local green space into a wildlife haven.

Our Pollinating Cheshire scheme has been a real success since its launch in 2016. We started a project to restore wildflower meadow habitats at our Swettenham Meadows nature reserve to help our pollinators such as bees and butterflies recover. There is already a marked difference in the diversity of plant species following this work, of which the 14 resident butterfly species that have been recorded on site, can benefit.

We are now working with landowners in the surrounding area to develop additional meadows creating new habitat and natural stepping stones for wildlife.

Cheshire Wildlife Trust has a free guide with ideas to help you do so on its website. Find out more here about our work with insects.

Curlews

The curlew, a bird that is fairly uncommon to most as it’s not defined as a garden bird, is a species that is important to our ecosystem and one that is under threat. It looks similar to a female pheasant and can be identified by its unmistakable display call of ‘cur-lee’. It favours wet grasslands, farmland, heath and moorlands during the breeding season, moving on to coastal areas from July onwards where high numbers can be seen in January. The long, bluish legs and long downcurved bill of the curlew ensure it stands out from the rest.

Cheshire Wildlife Trust has been working with farmers and landowners in the Peak District over the last year or so to create a number of small wader scrapes. There are shallow pools of water for breeding wading birds such as the curlew to feed and drink from on the dry and barren land.

Our work for nature will always carry on, even through a pandemic. A huge thank you to our amazing members and other supporters. Without them, none of it would be possible.

It’s easy to say we need nature to recover; it is harder to achieve. Nature in the UK is broken. We are one of the least natural countries in the world, so we have a long way to go. We, and the world, have set out an ambitious target to give 30% of our planet over to nature by 2030. If we are to achieve this we are going to need some help.

Bringing beavers back to Cheshire is just part of the picture. Recovery is not just about re-introduction it is also about restoration. We need to make new space for nature and protect existing species. Some wildlife in the region which was once numerous, like the curlew and the bumblebee, is now on the verge of extinction. Now is the time to focus on these species before it’s too late.

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