Snails and grasshoppers on the menu at EU wild LIFE conference

Spiders, bees, grasshoppers, snails and other creepy-crawlies are top of the bill at an International nature conference taking place in Scotland this week.

Wildlife specialists and project managers from across the European Union (EU) are meeting in Stirling for a two-day event we are hosting in partnership with the EU’s EcoCo LIFE project, to discuss the best ways to help our most threatened invertebrates.

Invertebrates are all animals with no backbone and they make up around 98% of animal life. They perform many vitally important functions. As well as pollinating our crops and wild flowers, they turn natural waste into fertile soil, for example, and they are an essential food source for birds, fish and other animals.

The conference – ‘Bringing bugs back to LIFE’ – brings together conservationists from most EU member states who are working on 27 LIFE projects across Europe. The EU’s LIFE funding programme supports environment and nature conservation projects. EcoCo is short for ‘ecological coherence’, which tries to connect fragmented habitats. EcoCo LIFE projects focus on improving ecological coherence through habitat restoration and creation and SNH is the lead partner for EcoCo LIFE Scotland.

Angus Campbell, SNH deputy chair, opened the conference and welcomed delegates to Scotland. Angus said: “We are delighted that Scotland and the EcoCo LIFE project have been selected to host this important event. Invertebrates are a critical part of the complex and interdependent ecosystems and food chains in all habitats, and it is important that a clear focus is given to them.

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SNH deputy chair, Angus Campbell, welcomes delegates to Scotland

“Invertebrates are also a source of great fascination, with incredible lifecycles and lifestyles, and there is so much more to be understood about them and how they contribute to the web of life.  There have recently been media reports of massive declines in flying insects, pesticide threats to bees and other pollinators and aquatic invertebrates having ingested plastic particles.  So it is timely that the LIFE programme has chosen this time to hold this event.”

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Male Azure Hawker dragonfly, ©Laurie Campbell/SNH

In Scotland, some of our invertebrates are found nowhere else in the world, such as the northern February red stonefly, the long-nosed weevil Protapion ryei and the beetle Anaspis septentrionalis. For others, such as the pinewood mason bee and the chequered skipper butterfly, Scotland provides a last stronghold within the UK. On land and in fresh water alone, it’s thought Scotland could be home to around 50,000 species, with thousands more in our seas.

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Chequered skipper, (C) SNH/Lorne Gill

Invertebrates though are at risk from climate change, from pollution and from damage to, or loss of habitat. ‘Bringing bugs back to LIFE’ will include talks and presentations from specialists working on invertebrate projects, and field visits to Scottish EcoCo LIFE projects at Flanders Moss National Nature Reserve. Workshops will allow attendees to share experience, expertise and ideas to work out how to encourage more projects that focus on how to help these often forgotten creatures.

We recently launched ‘A Pollinator Strategy for Scotland’.  As in other countries, Scotland’s pollinators are a vital part of our biodiversity. Species such as bees and hoverflies are a familiar sight in our gardens, parks and countryside and they play a crucial role in our food and farming industries, as well as contributing to our enjoyment of the outdoors and our health and well-being.

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Yellow-tailed bumblebee (C) Lorne Gill/SNH

But our wild pollinators are under threat. Faced with pressures that include habitat fragmentation, changes in land use, disease, pesticides and climate change they need our help. The pollinator strategy is just one example of work we are engaged in to help our invertebrates and you can read more about it here.

Posted in bees, biodiversity, climate change, conference, Ecology, Flanders Moss NNR, Insects, Land management, peatland restoration, plants, Projects, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

Turning the tide on marine plastic at NNRs

This weekend was the Great British Beach Clean, an initiative of the Marine Conservation Society. We held clean-up events at Forvie and St Cyrus National Nature Reserves (NNRs) and encouraged members of the community to join us. Our NNR Reserve Managers Annabel Drysdale (Forvie) and Therese Alampo (St Cyrus) tell us more…

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Forvie and St Cyrus National Nature Reserves have outstanding beaches, much enjoyed by people and relied on by wildlife to shelter and feed.  However, north-east Scotland is not immune to the global issues of beach litter and marine plastic which lessen our enjoyment of the coast and pose dangerous threats to the birds and animals that encounter discarded items.

The tide is turning though, with recent high profile campaigns raising awareness to reduce our use of plastic bags, straws and single use products.  Our coastal NNRs have a long history of supporting beach cleaning and it will soon be easier than ever for anyone to help.

Both NNRs regularly organise beach cleans open to the public and this weekend saw over 130 people joining us for the Great British Beach Clean weekend.  35 bags of litter were collected, with recyclable plastic, cans and glass separated wherever possible. It was great to see so many people come out to help!

These events ask helpers to survey part of the coast during the clean-up and the results are sent for inclusion to the MCS national report.  Finding out where beach litter is coming from is one step to stop it arriving on the shore.

Taking our support for beach cleaning one step further, Forvie and St Cyrus are entering into an exciting project with East Grampian Coastal Partnership.  We are encouraging visitors to the coast to ‘take 3 for the sea’ and simply collect three items while they are on the beach to put in the bins back at the car parks.  Of course you don’t have to stop at three – every item you pick up will make a big difference!

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We also value our links with local schools and St Cyrus NNR has been hosting beach school visits with the local primary for over a year now.  Staff lead activities such as rock pooling, geology, art and navigation, so the pupils already know a lot about the coast.

In addition, we have asked artist Julia Barton to run workshops with St Cyrus Primary and a local school to Forvie, Newburgh Mathers Primary, this autumn.  Julia will explore beach litter in imaginative visits and challenge the children to think about what it is, where it came from and how much energy has been used to make all the rubbish lying around. Julia will also use some of the beach plastic found to produce cubes of solid waste, which will be displayed at the Scottish Parliament next year.

Thanks again to everyone who helped out over the weekend. Our beaches are beautiful, but we all need to put in the work to make sure they stay clean and safe for our wildlife, and for future generations to enjoy. Whether you were able to join us or not, we encourage you to ‘take 3 for the sea’ wherever you are!

Posted in beach, beaches, coastal, Community engagement, Marine, marine pollution, sea life, SNH, St Cyrus National Nature Reserve, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , ,

Creating a buzz at Flower & Food Festival

Dundee’s annual Flower and Food Festival is a big event  in the calendar for our Tayside and Grampian team. This year was extra special, being the show’s 30th anniversary.  Held in Camperdown Park,  the festival provides something for everyone, from school children to serious gardeners, foodies and culture vultures.

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Sandra and pollinator

For local officer Sandra Penman the event was an opportunity to meet and talk to a wide audience about the importance of protecting biodiversity, particularly pollinators.  There was quite a bit of planning involved for Sandra who had organised all the activities and put together a display including leaflets, piles of deadwood and pollinator friendly potted plants.

SNH staff who manned the stall all weekend were joined by partners from other environmental organisations. The Winter Woodland display in the marquee won the top award in its section, with positive feedback from the Britain in Bloom judges on its environmental theme and message — to get outdoors and enjoy nature during winter.

Our focus on pollinators was well received with many people stopping to watch the super ‘Bee’ movie in our woodland den. Friday was a very busy start with lots of school children getting free access to the show and rushing in to look for stamps on their Pollinator Passports. Sandra horrified many children (and adults too) when she told them that without pollinators we would have no chocolate to eat!

We were joined by some pollinator experts over the weekend, including our own Jim Jeffrey and Athayde Tonhasca, who diligently answered all the difficult questions and talked people through the various ways they can do more for Pollinators. This includes; encouraging people to make space for pollinator friendly plants such as lavender, cyclamen and primroses; leaving some ‘wild’ areas for hibernation and shelter; trying to have something in bloom throughout the seasons; less grass cutting when the early dandelions are out; and of course reducing pesticide use in the garden.

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Special thanks to our Scotland’s Natural Larder colleagues who cooked up a storm over the weekend and shared information about sustainable, nutritious food. They also made sure to run along to our stand with delicious venison stovie tasters for staff. The team are now looking forward, with relish, to making some weed burgers with a recipe from the Student Survival Guide, which is equally suitable for non-students who are looking to eat well on a budget.  The team enjoyed a wonderful day connecting people and nature and are very much looking forward to the 31st festival next summer.

Posted in bees, biodiversity, climate change, foraging, Uncategorized, Volunteering, wild flowers, woodlands | Tagged , , , , , , , ,

A trip to a wooded rock off the west of Scotland where the herbivores don’t go!

Kate Holl, SNH Woodland Adviser, recently visited a tiny island off the west coast of Scotland. The island has no herbivores such as deer, allowing the plantlife to grow wilder than anywhere else in Scotland!

Eilean nam Meann

(c)Kate Holl

On a perfect summer’s morning earlier this year I set off to visit the tiny island of Eilean nam Meann, off Port Ramsay on the Isle of Lismore that woodland ecologist Neil Mackenzie had told me about last year.   Unlike most of the rest of Scotland, there are no deer on this island.  The local resident sheep are well managed and do not have access.

Eilean nam Meann itself is little more than an offshore rock, but as you can see from the picture above it is crowned with woodland.  Lying as it does in the inter-tidal zone, it is cut off from the main island twice a day by the sea, and so we had to wait until low tide when the sea receded sufficiently for us to cross over to the island.

On Eilean nam Meann

(c)Kate Holl

We knew we had only a few hours before the tide would turn and start coming in again, and not actually wanting to be stuck on the island for 12 hours (!) we scuttled across the mud and clambered over the seaweed clad rocks up to the woodland edge. As you can see from the picture below, we were confronted with an almost impenetrable mantel of thorn scrub encircling and protecting the woodland.

Thorn scrub protecting the woodland

(c)Kate Holl

Bramble, hawthorn and dog rose thorns tore at our clothing as we pushed through and fell into the cool green interior of the woodland. As our eyes accustomed to the light we were amazed at what we saw, for the woodland opened up to reveal a beautiful green sanctuary carpeted with wild flowers: bluebell, pignut, wood anemone, sanicle, primrose, bugle, yellow pimpernel, herb robert, wild garlic, stitchwort all in flower, together with dozens of lovely twayblade orchids:

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Climbing plants such as ivy and honeysuckle, absent from most Scottish woods because grazing animals find them so good to eat, have pulled themselves up into the canopy where they can flower and fruit.

The woodland itself was mainly comprised of hazel with ash, and occasional oak, with holly, hawthorn and sycamore, all of which (apart from the oak) were regenerating prolifically under the canopy.

(c)Kate Holl

(c)Kate Holl

What a joy to discover this wood, and to see the proof that, where herbivore numbers are low enough or absent, the flowers and the understorey can develop just like those woods in Iceland, Norway, France and the Isle of Wight that I visited last year. There could indeed be “flowerful” woods in Scotland.  It’s just that most don’t ever get the chance, but really, how much more enjoyable would a walk in your local wood be if there were just some more flowers….?

(c)Kate Holl

More information about Kate’s Churchill Fellowship and the research she has done into this subject is available here.

Posted in biodiversity, Flowers, plants, trees, wild flowers, wild land, woodlands | Tagged , ,

Reforestation and Rural Development in Southern Scotland

Reforesting Scotland led a ‘Land Revival Tour’ taking a group of young professionals who work in land use to see some inspiring examples of reforestation and rural development throughout Scotland. Last week SNH Policy and Advice Directorate Support Officer Lynne Clark joined the group on the second leg of the tour, which was based in Moffat, in Dumfries & Galloway.

Carrifran Wildwood. (c)Lynne Clark

Carrifran Wildwood. (c)Lynne Clark

The Land Revival Tour appealed to me as I was keen to see some examples of reforesting and ecological restoration first-hand. The theme for the tour was ‘Healthy communities in a well forested land’.

Our first stop was Carrifran Wildwood. The Wildwood is a 660 hectare site in the Moffat Hills which has been reforested with the aim of “re-creating an extensive tract of mainly forested wilderness with most of the rich diversity of native species present in the area before human activities became dominant.”

The story about community engagement and fundraising behind the purchase of Carrifran is an impressive one. The Wildwood group managed to raise the required £350,000 to purchase the site and spent two years planning prior to planting the first trees on the first day of the new millennium. The achievement of the group is quite astounding and the Wildwood stands as an excellent educational resource in showcasing the possibilities of ecological restoration.

Hearing about Carrifran's beginnings from Project Officer, Hugh Chalmers. (c)Lynne Clark

Hearing about Carrifran’s beginnings from Project Officer, Hugh Chalmers. (c)Lynne Clark

 

Our next visit was to Moffat wigwams. The owner is a farmer who used local timber to build 6 rentable wooden cabins. He has also put in hedges and planted 12500 native trees. He focussed his efforts on making the best of the surrounding views, situating the cabins facing out towards the impressive views down the valley, taking inspiration from European ski resorts.

Next we visited Adamsholm to see river-adjacent woodland being restored as part of the Annan Water restoration project. As well as promoting citizen science projects such as kick sampling to monitor river invertebrates the project is working on restoring the woodland to improve the health and productivity of the watercourse. Despite the pouring rain our guide Peter Dreghorn managed to get us excited about the benefits of restoring the woodland!

Our final stop on day one was another Borders Forest Trust site at Corehead Farm where the aim is to demonstrate how biodiversity, ecosystem services and farming can thrive together. We were shown an impressive new outdoor learning space for local groups and schools and really expands the usability of the site.

Moffat Wigwams. (c)Lynne Clark

Moffat Wigwams. (c)Lynne Clark

That evening we discussed the issues that we had raised over the course of the day, including the wider community benefits of ecological restoration and how to strike a balance between promoting recreation and conserving the habitats and species. There were questions raised about the long term sustainability of a ‘pure’ ecological restoration project and whether there was a need for some form of income. There was also some discussion about the benefits of ‘well forested land’ for people’s mental and physical health and the increasing evidence relating to this.

The next day we learned about Woodlots at Speddoch where one forester works with horses to manage the woodland. The modest organisation (with only 5 woodlots in the whole of Scotland) have realised that the lack of skilled workers, particularly with chainsaw skills may be one of the main restraints for the expansion of Woodlots.

We then visited one of the 7stanes mountain biking sites at Forest of Ae which is run and managed by Forestry Commission Scotland. There’s a bike shop there, and staff input to the design of the trails based on customer feedback and their own experience. It’s now become the ‘go-to’ location for local bikers!

Our final visit was to Annadale Estate near Lockerbie, a private estate comprising a mixture of commercial plantations, native woodlands and open hill grazing. We discussed the benefits of mixed woodland planting mixing commercial species with native broadleaf species for more of a balance and to prevent the need for clear felling.

The newly built cabin at Corsehope Farm. (c)Lynne Clark

The newly built cabin at Corsehope Farm. (c)Lynne Clark

Overall, the trip was interesting and thought provoking. I was particularly motivated to learn how the local communities engaged with these projects and what the longer term benefits are beyond recreation. I’m looking forward to third leg of the tour when we are due to visit Kilsyth to see some further examples of reforestation and rural development.

Posted in Community engagement, Projects | Tagged , , ,

Eun-mara le tòrr ainmean / The seabird with many aliases

’S iomadh duine a tha measail air a’ bhuthaid, ach abair uiread de dh’ainmean Gàidhlig a th’ oirre / The puffin is many people’s favourite seabird – but when it comes to its Gaelic name, there are lots to choose from…

Eun le uiread de dh’ainmean

Tha abairt againn tha uiread de dh’ainmeanan air ris an naosg. Tha sin iomchaidh gu leòr oir chaidh 27 ainmean Gàidhlig a chlàradh airson an naoisg, ach chan eil a’ bhuthaid bhrèagha fada air dheireadh oirre, le còrr math is fichead ainm clàraichte.

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Snipe are often seen sitting on fence posts

’S e Buthaigire a chanadh muinntir Hiort riutha agus ’s iad a bha eòlach orra oir bha na ceudan mhìltean dhiubh a’ neadachadh sna h-eileanan sin; bhiodh na Hiortaich ag ithe suas ri fichead mìle dhiubh gach bliadhna. Bidh cuid a’ gabhail fachach orra ach tha sin cuideachd air an sgrab (Manx shearwater) mar ainm; tha a’ Bheurla coltach oir bha puffin uaireigin a’ ciallachadh ‘sgrab’ (Puffinus puffinus do luchd-saidheans). Tha Builgean a’ tighinn bho Builg-eun, a’ dèanamh iomradh air cumadh an eòin no a ghuib.

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’S dòcha gu bheil Coltrachan à Coltair-cheannach, ainm a tha càirdeach do dh’fhear de ainmean ann an Albais – Coulter-neb ‘sròn fhada’; ge-tà, tha sin a’ buntainn ris a’ choltraiche (razorbill), seach buthaid. Feumaidh gu bheil an t-ainm Con-tràigheachan co-cheangailte ris an tìde-mhara agus tha Peata Ruadh agus Seumas Ruadh (a nì tuairisgeul air a ghob) le chèile gu math snog mar ainmean. Tha, agus na h-ainmean Gàidhlig air na h-iseanan òga – Gille-bog agus Boganach. Ma tha sibh ag iarraidh buthaid fhaicinn air an t-seusan seo, dèanaibh cabhag – tha iad an impis tilleadh don chuan far an cuir iad seachad an geamhradh.

 

A bird of many names

There is a traditional saying in Gaelic (of a person with many aliases) tha uiread de dh’ainmeanan air ris an naosg ‘he has as many names as the snipe’. With around 27 recorded Gaelic names, the snipe probably deserves its reputation, but the delightful puffin is only a short distance behind, with over twenty.

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The most common name is buthaid, but to the Hiortaich, the people of the remote Atlantic archipelago of St Kilda, the puffin, which nests there in vast numbers, was the buthaigire. It was prized as a food, being extremely plentiful and accessible in the summer months. Another name, fachach, is shared with the shearwaters, as is the English ‘puffin’ which originally referred to shearwaters (which belong to the genus Puffinus). Builgean is for builg-eun, ‘the bird with the bulge’ referring to the shape of its body or bill.

Coltrachan perhaps derives from another recorded name, Coltair-cheannach ‘coulter-headed one’ which may be a Gaelic equivalent of the Scots Coulter-neb ‘long nose’, a name for the razorbill, another seabird. Con-tràigheachan is ‘one of the neap tide’, which might be a reference to its feeding patterns, and both Peata Ruadh ‘red pet (tame animal)’ and Seumas Ruadh ‘red Jimmy’ (referring to the summer colouration of the bill) have an affectionate ring to them, as do the Gaelic names for the young puffin or puffling – Gille-bog ‘soft lad’ or Boganach ‘soft one’. If you want to see a puffin this season, be quick – they’re about to return to the ocean which will be their home until next spring.

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Posted in Birds, Gaelic, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , ,

Observatree: a citizen science project helping to protect Scotland’s trees from new pests and diseases

In this guest blog, Peter Crow, Project Manager for Observatree explains the threat posed to our native trees from new pests and diseases and explains how we can all play a part in helping to protect them.

As the Project Manager for Observatree, I know what an important role people can play in helping to protect our trees.  In recent years, the number of new pests and diseases arriving in the UK has increased at an unprecedented rate.  Many originate from far away, brought here accidentally by the movement of plants, soils and wood products.  Others may arrive as windblown spores or flying insects, possibly aided by changing climatic conditions.  Our trees did not evolve alongside these new arrivals and may not have any natural resistance to them. Dutch elm disease and ash dieback show the major impact that these diseases can have on the biodiversity of our native woodlands.  They also demonstrate the difficulty of preventing new pests or diseases from arriving.  The quicker a new pest or disease is detected, the better the chance of controlling it.  This is where projects like Observatree and citizen scientists have a role.

Tree inspection

Tree inspection

Established in 2013 and led by Forest Research, this multi-partner project was originally a four year project receiving 50% funding from the EU’s LIFE Programme.  Thanks to additional funding from within the partnership Observatree is continuing for the foreseeable future.  We’re keen to collaborate more with other groups, helping to raise awareness of tree health concerns and we’re pleased to be joining with Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) to help spread this important message to you all.

Observatree is designed to give people the resources they need to identify tree pests and diseases and to report them to the correct authorities to facilitate a rapid response where necessary.  It does this by:

  • Providing a range of educational resources (field guides, posters, videos, webinars) which are freely accessible on the Observatree website.
  • Supporting a network of volunteers who receive extensive training in the identification of pests and diseases; these volunteers survey their local trees and report on their health.
Bronze Birch Borer Field ID Guide

Bronze Birch Borer Field ID Guide

It’s not possible to train our volunteers to identify all the potential threats to our trees.  The project has chosen 22 pests and diseases that we’re particularly interested in.  Many are known to be in the UK, but their distribution can be poorly understood and we need information on their rates of spread in Scotland.  For example, although Chalara dieback of ash was first recorded in Scotland in 2012, there remain areas of the country where the disease has not yet been recorded.  Observatree volunteers (and you) can help to fill these gaps by submitting Tree Alert records from previously unsurveyed areas.  Our Priority list also contains other pests and diseases not thought to be present but have caused serious problems in other countries and we’re concerned about the impacts they could have here.  These include insects such as the Emerald ash borer which has killed many ash trees in North America and Canada.

Emerald ash borer

Emerald ash borer

The Observatree volunteers have reported many important findings, including new outbreaks.  If you’re interested in getting involved please look at our pest and disease information or find out which ones may be threatening the trees near you, and please report any trees you’re worried about via Tree Alert.

Survey form

Survey form

Posted in trees | Tagged , ,

Glasgow – the pollinator’s friend

As our largest city, with a rich industrial history, you may not immediately think of Glasgow as a place for pollinators. However, make no mistake: Glasgow is more than doing its bit for our pollinators, as SNH Pollinator Strategy Manager Jim Jeffrey found out when he met with Carol MacLean (Biodiversity Officer) and Allison Greig (Senior Countryside Ranger) at the magnificent Pollok Country Park.

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When it comes to managing the public greenspaces that Glasgow owns the City Council has a great story to tell.

Take their commitment to meadow creation and management for instance. This is a huge bonus for our pollinating insects. Not only is this vital habitat being created across the city, but by taking some of the seed production for this work ‘in house’ the team in Glasgow can be confident of the provenance of their seeds and be masters of their own destiny when it comes to the composition and scheduling of their new meadows.

It takes real effort and considerable skill to manage seed production and in Glasgow this is done under the Glasgow’s Flower Power banner.  The flower nursery is based at the beautiful and tranquil Pollok Country Park — it’s an exciting project and radical departure for a city that was internationally recognised as a byword for heavy industrial settings not so long ago.

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They say that many hands make light work and the Flower Power initiative benefits from welcome input from volunteer groups who are a key part of delivering this work, thus helping to enhance local greenspace and biodiversity.

Visitors who want to see some of Glasgow’s fabulous urban wildflower meadows are spoiled for choice on locations to visit. Local Nature Reserves at Hogganfield Park and Robroyston Park are fine examples, along with Ruchill Park and Alexandra Park.

Creating a wildflower meadow is one thing. Making it widely popular is another, especially when it involves a change in land use. Glasgow City Council tackled this challenge head on and have very sensibly created signage that raises awareness of the value of wildflower meadows and explains why a shift from regularly mown amenity grassland to seemingly wild areas is something that the public should enjoy and value in the knowledge that they are helping biodiversity. And rest assured that in a football-mad city like Glasgow there is room for both football pitches and wildflower meadows on council lands.

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Having created and promoted the value of a wildflower meadow the next step is to manage the site thereafter.  On a practical level Glasgow’s meadows are cut by different teams. On a larger scale meadow a contractor, who will be well-briefed, carries out the work, whilst Glasgow City Council-LES and volunteers deal with the smaller meadows. In addition to these organised teams there are lots of groups involved in wildflower planting across the city to improve habitats for wildlife and pollinators.

Wildfower seed trays at the Flower Power nursery at Pollok Country Park, Glasgow.  ©Lorne Gill/SNH

Wildfower seed trays at the Flower Power nursery at Pollok Country Park, Glasgow. ©Lorne Gill/SNH

There are several strands to the management of Glasgow’s Parks and greenspaces – and a stack of opportunities. There isn’t space in a short article to do them all justice, but bee banks have been created at Alexandra Park and Cardowan Moss (to name but two sites) and the council work with Butterfly Conservation to carry out surveys at various city sites to monitor the status of these often unsung pollinators.

Glasgow City Council staff value their pollinators – a lot – and that’s why the city produced a Glasgow Pollinator Plan which aims to support the National Pollinator Strategy with local action. It’s that foresight and sense of connection that typifies the sound approach Glasgow takes to its biodiversity commitments.

The health benefits of nature in city settings are clearly increasingly recognised. The role that urban areas can provide in providing habitats for species are equally seen as incredibly valuable. On that basis Glasgow has much to be proud of and is very much ‘Still Game’ when it comes to improving the lot of people and nature.

 

Find out more:

Glasgow Pollinator Plan

Pollinator Strategy for Scotland

Glasgow Flower Power

The Conservation Volunteers

Posted in gardens, meadow, wild flowers | Tagged , , , ,

#CycleForNature – 6 legs down, one to go!

We left Francesca midway through leg 6 with the sun in her eyes, as she sailed west towards Islay on ferry number three of the week….

Thursday dawned bright and breezy; first stop was SNH’s office in Bowmore where I had a good discussion with colleagues about SNH’s work in the area: geese, deer and agri-environment schemes dominate. I also met colleagues from the Argyll and Countryside Trust, co-located in the Bowmore office, who are delivering peatland restoration work through the Collaborative Action for the Natura Network (CANN) project. A really important project for the island.

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Ready to leave Bowmore

It was just a short cycle, raced by operations officer Rae McKenzie on an electric bike!, to Port Askaig for ferry number four of the week to Jura. It was my first visit to Jura and it has a very different feel to Islay. Operations officer, Andrew Kent, joined Rae and I for a meeting with the Jura Deer Management Group.  Although the group is in its infancy, it is working well and collaboratively to maintain the deer population at a level which brings significant economic benefit to Jura.

Ferry number five of the week took me from Craighouse to Tayvallich, where I was met by SNH colleagues Stan Phillips and Karen Taylor.  We travelled to Knapdale woods to see the site of the beaver reintroduction and I learned more about these fascinating creatures. Although I didn’t spot a beaver, I did see one of the very intricate dams that they had made and learned about the benefits that beavers bring, including increased biodiversity and flood prevention.

Friday morning was spent in the Lochgilphead office. First meeting SNH colleagues and discussing their work and then with Julie Young and team from the Argyll and Countryside Trust, who are also based in the Lochgilphead office.

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Leaving Lochgilphead for Moine Mhor NNR

It was slightly damp when a small group of cyclists left,  heading first to Moine Mhor National Nature Reserve. We stopped at Dunadd, the ancient capital of Dal Riata, to try out the King of the Scots footprints. Moine Mhor is an important NNR for peatland restoration and I learned about all the re-wetting work that is going on there.

 

At the top of Dunadd, seat of the ancient Scots kings

At the top of Dunadd, seat of the ancient Scots kings

From there we headed to Kilmartin Glen. We met Sharon Webb, director and curator of the fascinating Kilmartin museum. We discussed plans for the future, including world heritage status for the richness of the Neolithic relicts in the area.

At the fantastic Kilmartin Museum, home of amazing Neolithic finds.

At the fantastic Kilmartin Museum, home of amazing Neolithic finds.

It was then back to the office and the penultimate leg of #CycleForNature was over. Six offices / NNRs visited, five ferries, 153 miles cycled and lots of fantastic conversations.

Remember that #CycleForNature is raising money for SAMH, Scotland’s mental health charity. Please support this important cause if you can. https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/cyclefornature2018

 

Posted in Access, active travel, Argyll National Nature Reserves, Community engagement, Cycle for Nature, cycling, Flood management, Flooding, Fossils, Geology, History, National Nature Reserves, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , ,

#CycleForNature leg 6 — west as far as Islay

Leg six of #CycleForNature started at the beautiful Creag Meagaidh National Nature Reserve, where the dramatic scenery includes Munro summits, an exposed whaleback ridge and ice-carved gullies. It’s been another packed schedule for Francesca, as she describes below.

I spent the morning exploring the NNR with reserve manager, Rory Richardson, reserve officer, Ross Lavin and operations manager, Chris Donald, learning about all the work that takes place there. One of the interesting features of Creag Meagaidh NNR is that many of the trees planted  in recognition of long service at SNH are planted here. Rory was able to show me who’s tree was who’s, as well as suggest where my own tree might be!

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Francesca with staff, student placements and volunteers during a training session on practical wildlife management at Creag Meagaidh NNR.

Because of its location, deer management to support native woodland regeneration is a key element of reserve work and Ross talked me through all the aspects of good practice in deer control. In addition, the reserve also acts as a training centre for SNH and Forestry Commission staff, as well as welcoming student placements and volunteers to develop their rural skills. I met a group of volunteers, including from Malta and France, who were incredibly enthusiastic about how they were developing their skills on the ground at Creag Meagaidh.

It was then time to get on my bike and head for Fort William. It is always nice to have a route that is mostly down hill! I stopped briefly to admire the Laggan Dam, part of an impressive hydro scheme operating in the area. I also travelled through the Lochaber SSSI, famous for the parallel roads geological feature.

On Tuesday it was a short hop from Fort William town centre up to the SNH office which we share with Forestry Commission Scotland. We had a good discussion about all the cross working that goes on between the two organisations. From there, operations officers Corrina Mertens, Lorraine Servant and I headed to the CFG Liberty Aluminium Smelter. This is a major employer for the area and was under threat when Rio Tinto decided to stop its activities in 2016.  GFG bought the whole operation comprising smelter, power generation (including the hydro scheme connected to the Laggan dam mentioned above) and estates. SNH’s interests run through all elements of the business and we had a presentation about future plans, as well as a tour of the plant.

Now joined by operations officer, Andrew McMaster, we dodged the rain to take the Camusnagaul ferry so we could travel away from the busy A82 down to Corran (via ferry number two of the week). The sun came out and the views along Loch Linnhe were stunning.

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With new mum Christina, Andrew and David Colthart, Chair of the Argyll Sea Eagle Group

Wednesday was Cycle to Work day which seemed appropriate. I was joined by Christina Wood from our Oban office, who took time out of her maternity leave to support #CycleForNature. We made good time on the journey from Corran to Oban, with a couple of stops.  The first to meet David Colthart, local farmer and Chair of the Argyll Sea Eagle Stakeholder Group, near Shuna Island. I received an excellent overview of some of the challenges that sea eagles pose to farmers in the area, whilst recognising the need to support this iconic species.

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Castle Stalker, seen travelling along the National Walking and Cycling Network from Fort William to Oban.

Accompanied by operations officers Ross Lilley and Sally Weaser, we were now back on the National Walking and Cycling Route for the journey down to Oban. We stopped at Loch Creran to discuss marine issues with operations manager, Andrew Campbell. Loch Creran is home to the world’s largest serpulid reef, an extremely rare habitat which supports a fantastically diverse range of other species. The reasons why the reef has formed and thrived here are not fully known and it was fascinating to learn about this world renowned site.

From Loch Creran it was a relatively short cycle to the Oban office, which we share with Scottish Government colleagues from the Agriculture and Rural Economy Directorate. Over some welcome soup, I heard about the benefits of this colocation, particularly when dealing with agri-environment applications.  The final part of the day’s journey was ferry number three of the week, from Oban to Port Askaig, Islay. A beautiful journey into the setting sun.

Posted in Access, active travel, Argyll National Nature Reserves, Creag Meagaidh NNR, Cycle for Nature, cycling, deer, MPA, National Nature Reserves, National Walking and Cycling Network, Natural Health Service, Priority Marine Features, SNH, SSSI, Staff profile, Uncategorized, Volunteering, wildlife management | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , ,