Royal Mail today revealed a set of 10 stamps that celebrate the diversity of birds, mammals, insects and fish that inhabit the UK’s rivers and streams.
Featured on the stamps are the: Beaver; Atlantic Salmon; Kingfisher; Beautiful Demoiselle; Water Vole; Grey Wagtail; Common Mayfly; Otter; Brown Trout; and Dipper.
The physical geography of the UK, coupled with its maritime position and high rainfall, have combined over geological time to create an extensive and diverse network of flowing waters.
Over 380,000 kilometres of streams and rivers range from the becks, burns and rills rising in cooler mountain landscapes, to large, lowland rivers such as the Thames, Severn and Trent.
Across the four UK nations, famous rivers such as the Clyde, the Bann, the Tyne and the Wye bring cultural identity, landscape character and a window into a world of freshwater nature.
Royal Mail worked with Professor of Ecology at Cardiff University, Steve Ormerod, on the stamp issue.
David Gold, Director of External Affairs and Policy, said: “The UK’s rivers and riversides are beautiful to look at, but how many of us stop to think about how they came to exist in the first place? In these stamps we celebrate our unique natural environment with a strong focus on the rich variety of creatures that live in and alongside our rivers.”
Professor Steve Ormerod, of Cardiff University’s Water Research Institute and School of Biosciences said “These stamps are a timely reminder of the special, highly adapted, and diverse array of animals that need our streams and rivers to be in healthy condition. This is such a wonderful way to celebrate the UK’s rivers and to send a message – quite literally – of why they are important.”
The stamps are available from today (July 13) at www.royalmail.com/riverwildlife, by telephone on 03457 641 641 and at 7,000 Post Office branches across the UK. A presentation pack including all 10 stamps in the set is priced at £10.15.
Stamp by Stamp
Eurasian Beaver (Castor fiber)
One of two extant Beaver species, this remarkable rodent has adaptations to aquatic life including webbed hind-feet, a flattened tail for steering and making warning slaps against the water surface, and eyes, ears and nostrils positioned high on the head to remain above water when swimming. Even more remarkable are the Beaver's dams and lodges engineered by gnawing and gathering fragments from riverside trees that are cemented using mud.
Atlantic Salmon (Salmo salar)
Among our most iconic organisms, Atlantic Salmon are lauded for their heroic migratory life cycle. Born in the headwaters of larger rivers, they develop from young fry and parr into seaward-bound 'smolts' that spend one to four years growing at sea before the adults return to their natal rivers to restart the cycle. This complex journey exposes Salmon to multiple risks from marine fisheries, pollution and climate change, and their numbers are now declining precipitously in England and Wales.
Common Kingfisher (Alcedo atthis)
Despite the striking, semi-iridescent flash of sapphire, cobalt and ochre associated with this most vivid of birds, a Kingfisher's feathers contain no blue pigment and their apparent colour is created by blue light reflecting from their feather structure. They live mostly near clean, lower-gradient rivers where sandy banks offer nesting habitats and abundant small fishes such as minnows.
Beautiful Demoiselle (Calopteryx virgo)
Many UK damselflies occur more often in ponds and lakes than in rivers, but the 'sit-and-wait' predatory nymphs of some species occupy the slower-flowing and more vegetated sections of gravel-bedded rivers, especially near the margins. Among these are two Calopteryx species - the Banded and Beautiful Demoiselles - whose delicate, fluttering adults perform courtship flights around bankside vegetation. Beautiful Demoiselles are more common in the south and west of Britain; the males are metallic blue, while the females are more bronze-green.
European Water Vole (Arvicola amphibius)
Water Voles are among the UK's fastest-declining mammals, having lost around 90 percent of their numbers since the 1970s. Habitat loss, fragmentation and intensive agricultural management in riverside habitats are all implicated, but predation by non-native Mink (Neovison vison) has played a major role. Hope lies in safeguarding the reedbeds, backwaters, ponds and riverbanks where populations of Water Voles cling on.
Grey Wagtail (Motacilla cinerea)
Among our most graceful riverside birds, Grey Wagtails feed using a combination of picking aquatic invertebrates from shallow river margins and catching flying, adult insects in remarkable acrobatic ground-to-air manoeuvres. They breed in the UK typically from late March until July, but clutch and brood sizes peak in May when the large riverside insects - Beautiful Demoiselles or Common Mayflies - are flying in numbers and make for efficient nest provisioning.
Common Mayfly (Ephemera danica)
The anglers' celebrated 'Green Drake', the adult stages of Ephemera danica are the archetypal mayfly. Adults fly predominantly in May and June, occurring widely along unpolluted British rivers, although records are fewer in Northern Ireland and Scotland. During the freshwater stages of two to three years, the highly adapted nymphs burrow into sands and gravels often near river margins or under aquatic plants. When buried, oscillations of the feathery, dorsal gills direct local water movements to optimise oxygen uptake.
Eurasian Otter (Lutra lutra)
This sleek, aquatic mustelid - related to weasels, ferrets and martens - is the epitome of a land mammal adapted to aquatic life. With webbed feet, thick fur, small ears and streamlined shape, Otters hunt their preferred prey of eels, salmonid fishes and crayfish, opportunistically also taking amphibians and waterfowl. Pesticides, industrial chemicals and habitat degradation caused a major decline in Otter numbers in the 1950s and 1960s, from which they have recovered, but recent signs are of another downturn perhaps related to declining prey.
Brown Trout (Salmo trutta)
Typically, a headwater species in rivers, Brown Trout need unpolluted, well-oxygenated water with abundant invertebrate prey that drifts with the flow either from the riverbed or after falling from surrounding vegetation. Spangled by dark or reddish spots on the upper, golden surface and lighter, counter-shaded undersides, varying colour forms contribute to debate about whether this is one species or many. Life cycles also vary between river-dwelling forms and migrant Sea Trout - or Sewin - that spend part of their adult life in coastal waters.
White-throated Dipper (Cinclus cinclus)
No other songbird is so adapted to life in water as the Dipper. The world's five Dipper species have a unique ability to walk, swim and dive in fast-flowing rivers. Our own Dipper breeds along hill-streams in the north and west of the UK where mayfly nymphs, caddis larvae and fishes such as Bullheads form much of their prey. A clean-water indicator species, Dippers have recolonised formerly polluted urban regions but are declining slowly along rural rivers affected by diffuse agricultural pollution.
About Royal Mail Special Stamps
For more than 50 years Royal Mail’s Special Stamp programme has commemorated anniversaries and celebrated events relevant to UK heritage and life. Today, there are an estimated 60 million stamp collectors worldwide.
About International Distributions Services plc
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