The skylark song is, arguably, one of the most well recognised of any songbird and lifts the spirits even on the dullest of grey days. In Long Ashton, the most well known population of skylarks lives in Ashton Court yet there are a few other sites including the Viridor closed site at Yanley and the University of Bristol, Fenswood Farm site.
LANCET has chosen the skylark as its logo since it’s song offers hope and inspiration. A drab bird, perhaps, in its plumage; the song lifts the species into the realm of the wondrous.
However, skylarks need our help. Switching from spring to autumn-sown cereals has resulted in a dramatic reduction in the number of chicks raised each year whilst increased stocking densities on grazing lands has made the grass too short for skylarks and increases the risk of nest being trampled. Switching from hay to silage means many nests are destroyed by the cutting machinery.
However, LANCET hopes a small colony can become established on **** Meadow giving the species a much needed boost in the area. More information here https://www.rspb.org.uk/birds-and-wildlife/wildlife-guides/bird-a-z/skylark/threats/
Most people ignore earthworms or dismiss them as slimy, insignificant little creatures yet Charles Darwin, no less, wrote “There are few animals which have played so important a part in the history of the world than the earthworm’.
Earthworms provide productivity, flood mitigation and carbon storage so healthy soils don’t just grow food, they also recycle nutrients, filter drinking water and store large amounts of carbon in the form of tiny fragments of plants, micro-organisms and animals.
Darwin learnt a huge amount about earthworms in 40 years of experiments and believed that ‘judging by their eagerness for certain kinds of food, they must enjoy the pleasures of eating’.
Earthworms eat as much as their full weight every day in decaying organic matter and what comes out the other end is pure goodness. Darwin estimated all soil has passed through an earthworm at some time. Earthworm manure (casts) is natural fertiliser containing mircoorganisms, inorganic minerals and enzymes, plus organic matter.
There are up to ten common earthworm species in agricultural soils and are divided into three groups: litter-dwelling earthworms (epigeic); topsoil earthworms (endogeic) and deep-burrowing earthworms (anecic).
None of the earthworm groups like acidic peat soils are unable to thrive in heavy, waterlogged soil or in soil compacted by dense numbers of livestock or heavy machinery. Numbers and species are also depleted in soils that are robustly and regularly dug, stirred and overturned so regular deep ploughing can be detrimental.
For such an important group of animals, earthworms have been under-researched by British farmers for decades until 2018 when everything changed.