Clean air

One immediate affect of the virus lockdown is a cleaner atmosphere. “Air quality has started to improve in many UK cities, mirroring what has been seen in other countries that have restricted travel and levels of outdoor activity,” says Professor Alastair Lewis, from the National Centre for Atmospheric Science at the University of York.

While larger conurbations show the most dramatic improvement – fewer particulates and less nitrogen dioxide (NO2) – there are already demonstrable local benefits. A walk along London Road in St Leonards
is usually enough to give asthma suffers a tight chest from exhaust fumes – it already smells better.

Although there aren’t yet any figures for Hastings, in Worthing, a similar size town, NO2 levels have fallen by almost half – from 43 micrograms
per cubic metre to 24, in just eight days.

Clean air campaigners worldwide thought reductions might take years, yet pollution levels dropped almost overnight – the difficulty will be in securing these gains.

PICTURE: Sanchezn/Unsplash

Soaring birds

Swallows and Swifts have returned from winter migration. The latter travel from the Congo in Africa to the UK in May to nest and breed and return in August, flying at 70mph and covering 7,000 miles in two weeks. Apart from nesting, they spend their entire lives on the wing and can live up to 20 years. 

However, Rachel Ricks of the Hastings & Rother Swift Conservation Group explains that both birds are on the list of threatened UK bird species, declining 50% in 20 years and classified as ‘endangered’ by the British Trust for Ornithology.

A major reason is the increase in new-build houses and the use of sealed plastic fascias. Swifts are faithful to their nests, if they return to find the nest site has been blocked up or gone, they’ll just give up and won’t breed again.

Existing nesting sites require safeguarding and new ones provided; such as nest boxes attached to house walls, or for councils to ensure all new builds have ‘swift bricks’ built in.

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Red Admiral
PICTURE: Bob Eade Butterfly Conservation

Butterflies bounce back

An unusually warm and wet summer in 2019 provided a welcome boost to our butterfly population, according to results from the annual UK Butterfly monitoring scheme.

Species increasing included the Marbled White, Meadow Brown and Red Admiral – all found locally.

Professor Tom Brereton from Butterfly Conservation says: “The results are really encouraging and provide evidence that the overall rate of decline is slowing and, for some species, is being reversed. Reasons for this include positive conservation through agriculture environment schemes, increased woodland cover, climate warming, increases in grazing levels by wild animals and a slow in the rate of intensive farming.”

Species to look out for in the coming months in gardens or on your permitted daily health walk include: Peacock, Painted Lady, Small Tortoiseshell, Speckled Wood, Large and Small White, Gatekeeper, Comma, Green-veined White and Small Copper.

Butterfly Conservation is a UK charity devoted to saving butterflies and moths, protecting over 100 threatened species and conserving hundreds of
sites and reserves.

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