Shared Earth is a new series from the BBC Natural History Unit which celebrates the natural world and explores what we can all do to help conserve wildlife and habitats and reduce our footprint on the planet
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One hundred iron casts of Antony Gormley’s body are dotted along three kilometres of Crosby Beach, from the north of Liverpool to Southport. Despite some local opposition the statues have remained resolutely staring out to sea for two years, attracting tourists and marine life. Dr Leonie Robinson of Liverpool University realised that the statues were the perfect sampling tool, giving her the chance to see what marine life could be attracted to man-made objects on a sandy beach. The indisputable winner of the race to colonise the Gormley statues was an apparently humble barnacle from Australia that goes by the name of Elminius Modestus. This hermaphrodite barnacle’s claim to fame is that it possesses what is proportionately the largest male sexual organ in the animal kingdom.
Scotland’s Red Kites
The red kite died out in Scotland in the19th century but a series of reintroduction programmes is once again making this beautiful bird of prey a regular sight in the Lowlands. Dylan met thirty red kite chicks due for release close to the city of Aberdeen. The birds are healthy and well looked after but their survival in the wild is far from assured. Dylan heard about the recent discovery of three poisoned red kites from a previously released colony nearby on the Black Isle. Brian Etheridge of the RSPB described a map of the Highlands dotted with ‘black holes’ in which every bird of prey is ruthlessly hunted down by gamekeepers anxious to protect their grouse. Alex Hogg of the Scottish Gamekeeper’s Association agreed that there are still rogue gamekeepers using poison to control crows, foxes and birds of prey. He believes that a more responsive licensing system would allow gamekeepers a legal way to discourage an excessive number of raptors from nesting in particular areas.
This summer’s torrential rain has hurt Britain’s bumblebees badly. They live in small nests on the ground so fierce rainstorms can quickly flood their homes. Many of our 27 species were already in trouble with two believed extinct and many others close to the edge. Professor Dave Goulson of Stirling University described the best ways to help our beleaguered bees. Planting foxgloves, chives, lupines, sage and thyme will help provide them with food whilst building a nest box might encourage more bees to make a permanent home in your garden. Professor Goulson’s problem is that he doesn’t know which type of nestbox to recommend. Many of the commercially available models have a pretty poor success rate and even his own attempts to build the perfect bumblebee home have met with failure. He would like you to report on your own experiences with bee nestboxes. Even if they’ve been a failure he’d love to hear about the design, where you placed it and what kind of bedding you filled it with. Contact him via the Bumblebee Conservation Trust website and please let us know if you think you’ve hit on a bee’s ideal home.