Connecting people and plants

SNH’s Iain Macdonald was just one of around 175 people with a passion for wild plants at an unofficially record-breaking meeting in Edinburgh recently…

Not long ago I was sitting in a room surrounded by botanists, probably the single largest gathering of field botanists in Scotland – ever.  The ‘room’ was a lovely lecture theatre at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (RBGE) and the cause of such an accumulation of plant enthusiasts was the annual Scottish Botanists’ Conference.

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(C) @nature_recorder

Now, if a vision of stereotypical botanists just entered your head – were young and enthusiastic students part of that vision?  Let’s just say that I am starting to feel a little old all of a sudden and perhaps it’s time to ditch the sandals.

The brilliant display of wild plant related exhibits including a poster produced by SNH’s Jenny Park on how to avoid introducing invasive non-native species. Invasive non-native plants invade habitats, spread quickly and out-compete native species. Some can be destructive and others can be harmful to human and animal health.

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The conference included workshops on some difficult to identify plants, such as conifers and a chance to see some of the three million herbarium specimens held at RBGE.  I can still recall being amazed on my first visit to RBGE as a student, holding a leaf which had been collected by Charles Darwin.  I wonder if that leaf is still there?

And of course there were excellent talks.  The keynote speaker was Professor Richard Ennos of Edinburgh University who provided an eye-opening account on how our species has moved tree species back and forth across the globe.  The trouble, Richard pointed out, is that in doing so we also moved the things that make plants sick across the globe, introducing diseases to woodland where there was no resistance.  You can guess the outcome.

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Further information on the threats posed by tree pathogens can be found in a recent paper written by Prof. Ennos, Joan Cottrell and two of SNH’s staff Jeanette Hall and David O’Brien:  Is the introduction of novel exotic forest tree species a rational response to rapid environmental change?- a British perspective, available as a free download at until 30 November.

I’m already looking forward to the first Saturday in November next year and hopefully  an even bigger gathering of botanists! You can see abstracts for all of the presentations from these year’s conference on the Botanical Society For Britain & Ireland website.

Posted in biodiversity, conference, Flowers, plants, Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh, science, SNH, Uncategorized, wild flowers | Tagged , , , , , , ,

A’ cruinneachadh Ainmean-àite Èirisgeidh / Collecting the placenames of Eriskay

Tha Liam Crouse, Oifigear Mheadhanan is Conaltraidh Gàidhlig aig Ceòlas, air aoigheachd againn le bloga ùr. Tha sinn glè thoilichte a bhith ag obair còmhla ri Ceòlas agus Ainmean-Àite na h-Alba air an ath-leabhran san t-sreath Gàidhlig air Aghaidh na Tìre (ga fhoillseachadh 2019). Seo agaibh Liam a’ bruidhinn mun obair rannsachaidh aige. / Today’s blog is written by Liam Crouse, Gaelic Media and Communications Officer at Ceòlas. We’re pleased to be working with Ceòlas and Ainmean-Àite na h-Alba (Gaelic Place-names of Scotland) on our next Gaelic in the Landscape booklet (launching in 2019).  Here Liam discusses his fieldwork.

Eilean na Coilleig Port na Coilleig Sgeir na h-Àirigh Samhraidh An Tràigh Leis Bruthach Choinnich

Eilean na Coilleig, Port na Coilleig, Sgeir na h-Àirigh Samhraidh, An Tràigh Leis, Brutach Choinnich ©Liam Crouse

’S fhad’ o thugadh dhut-s’ an t-urram
Aig a’ Phrionnsa Teàrlach,
’S ann bha fuireach an sàr dhuine
Chuir gu’m fulang Leòdaich.
Is Iain Mùideartach an curaidh
Dh’iomair cluich air Lòchaidh –
Thug iad uile greiseag unnad
Fir an-diugh gad thòrachd.

   –  Rann à ‘Eilein na h-Òige’ le Mgr Ailein

Thar iomadh linn, b’ e rudan a’ tighinn a dh’Èirisgeidh a bheireadh aithne dha. Tha an t-eilean a’ nochdadh sna leabhraichean eachdraidh le tighinn an Oighre Òig air tìr aig Sgeir na h-Àirigh Samhraidh aig tòiseachd Bliadhna Theàrlaich, agus ’s aithnte leis a’ mhòr-shluagh an t-eilean air sgàth gun tàinig bàta air tìr san robh mìltean de bhotail uisge-beatha air Roc na Polly ann an 1941. Thàinig Mgr Ailein còir – sagart, bàrd agus cruinneachair na beul-aithrise – às a’ Ghearasdan Abrach. Agus thàinig mar an ceudna deagh chuid de na h-eileanaich iad fhèin, cuid à Barraigh agus cuid eile air am fuadach à Cùl na Beinne Mòire gu Hairteabhagh, far an robh aca ri còmhnaidh sna h-uamhan fad aon gheamhraidh mus deach am fuadach a-rithist a dh’Èirisgeidh san 19mh linn.

Sgala an Fhaing Rubha a' Ghoill sa chùl

Sgala an Fhaing, Rubha a’ Ghoill sa chùl. ©Liam Crouse

Tha suidheachadh, fonn agus aimsir Èirisgeidh air cruth a thoirt air beatha nan eileanach. Tha an t-eilean creagach lom agus chan eil de mhòine ann a chumadh na teintean a’ dol. Dh’fhalbhadh na daoine gu ceàrnaidhean eile ann an sgothan gus a bhuain, mar Na Sluic Mònadh, Rubha nam Bàsadairean no eadhon Bun Sruth ann an Uibhist a Deas. Tha ‘Ciste Mhuire’ ga chuairteachadh, agus tha oitirean agus an fhairge mhòr air ginealaichean de dh’Èirisgich a tharraing chun an iasgaich.

Buinidh a’ chuid as motha de na h-ainmean a fhuaireadh sa phròiseact seo ris a’ chòrsa agus na h-uisgeachan timcheall air an eilean. Saoilidh mi gu bheil na ceudan de phuirt is de chidheachan beaga ann, air an togail leis an làimh airson sgothan nan daoine. Tha ainm air gach roc is bogha is sgeir –  feadhainn dhiubh sin air sàillibh gun do bhuail Dòmhnall no Ruairidh no sagart annta latha mì-shealbhach air choireigin.

Dòmhnall Iain MacAoghnais

Dòmhnall Iain MacAoghnais. ©Liam Crouse

Tha e iongantach gun deach na h-uimhir – còrr is 300 ainm-àite (a’ chuid as motha nach eil a’ nochdadh air mapaichean) – a chruinneachadh ann an ùine cho goirid. Tha mi làn-chinnteach nach d’fhuair mi iad uile, ’s dòcha nach d’ fhuaireadh fiù ’s an leth-chuid. Agus tha mi cinnteach gun d’ rinn mi mearachd no dhà. Tha fhios gum faodainn-sa a bhith air bruidhinn ri barrachd dhaoine. Ach – tha mi cuideachd den bheachd gun seas an leabhar seo am measg nan leabhraichean prìseil eile le Ainmean-àite na h-Alba agus Dualchas Nàdair na h-Alba mar theisteanas air an eòlas dhualchasach a th’ aig muinntir Èirisgeidh air an àrainneachd aca.

’S e mo dhòchas gum piobraich am pròiseact seo daoine gu bhith cuimhneachadh air seann ainmean-àite, agus na sgeulachdan co-cheangailte riutha. Tha mi an dòchas gum bi daoine ag innse far an d’ fhuair mi rudan ceàrr agus dè tha ceart. Ach, as motha, ’s e mo dhòchas gum bi cuideigin ann nuair a thathar a’ cuimhneachadh – can mar an comann eachdraidh – a chlàras agus a ghlèidheas an t-eòlas sin.

Eilein na h-Òige (2)

Eilein na h-Òige. ©Liam Crouse

Bha cuimhne aig gach duine ris an do bhruidhinn mi air beatha an eilein mus do thogadh an cabhsair ann an 2001. Bha cuimhne aca air Sgoth a’ Bhaga (Sgoth Iain ’illeasbuig) agus Sgoth Nèill Mhòir a’ tighinn a-steach dha na Haunn. Bha aonan ag innse dhomh mun Pholly agus a bhith a’ falach sochair a’ bhronn ann an Sgor na Beiste.  Chaidh farsaingeachd na 20mh linn a thoirt dhomh ann an cuimhneachain muinntir Èirisgeidh agus tha mi a’ toirt mo thaing mhòir do gach duine a thug an ùine dhomh gu fialaidh, gu sònraichte muinntir a’ Chomainn Eachdraidh.

’S e eilean Gàidhealach a th’ ann an Èirisgeidh fhathast, agus tha seo air na h-ainmean-àite a ghleidheadh gu h-ìre. Mura h-eil feum air ainm, agus e gun a chleachdadh, thèid e anns an dìochuimhne. Chaidh a ràdh rium grunn thrioban, mar eisimpleir, nach biodh ainmean nan sgeirean agus nam boghannan ach aig na h-iasgairean, a fhuair anns an teaghlach no air an sgothaidh iad. Tha coimhearsnachdan dlùth nan Eilean Siar air cumail orra le cleachdadh nan ainmean-àite aca – rud nach eil fìor ann an àiteachan eile a dh’fhiosraich caochladh saoghail. Air sgàth seo, bha am pròiseact seo a’ faireachdainn dhomhsa mar gun robhar ag iasgach le lìn am measg sgaothan sgadain seach le aon dorgh air an robh bodach beag crìon. Mar a leanas am pròiseact seo air ann an àiteachan eile a thuilleadh air Èirisgeidh, ’s e mo dhùil ’s mo dhòchas gun tèid dùthchas nan àiteachan eile a tha fhathast làidir a chlàradh ’s a ghleidheadh cuideachd.

Tha sinn an comain Liam airson a chuid obrach cudromaich. Gheibhear tuilleadh dhealbhan ’s mìneachaidhean air Instragram.

 

Today’s blog is written by Liam Crouse, Gaelic Media and Communications Officer at Ceòlas. We’re pleased to be working with Ceòlas and Ainmean-Àite na h-Alba (Gaelic Place-names of Scotland) on our next Gaelic in the Landscape booklet (launching in 2019).  Here Liam discusses his fieldwork.

’S fhad’ o thugadh dhut-s’ an t-urram
Aig a’ Phrionnsa Teàrlach,
’S ann bha fuireach an sàr dhuine
Chuir gu’m fulang Leòdaich.
Is Iain Mùideartach an curaidh
Dh’iomair cluich air Lòchaidh –
Thug iad uile greiseag unnad
Fir an-diugh gad thòrachd.

It’s long since you were honoured
By Prince Charlie’s visit,
As well by that splendid man’s abode
Who sent MacLeods to suffer,
And the hero John of Moidart
Who drove the play on Lochy –
They all spent some time in you,
Men seek you out today.

– Excerpt from ‘Eilein na h-Òige’ by Fr Allan MacDonald of Eriskay

For centuries, it has been things of the outside world coming to Eriskay which has brought it wider recognition. The Young Pretender first made footfall here at the start of the ’45 at Sgeir na h-Àirigh Samhraidh (‘The Skerry of the Summer Shieling’); a storm-tossed ship filled with whisky ran aground on Roc na Polly (‘The Submerged Rock of the Politician’) in 1941. The beloved Mgr Ailein, a celebrity of his day who collected folklore and composed verse, was native to Lochaber. So too came many of the island people themselves, suffering a double clearance first from the townships air Cùl na Beinne Mòire (‘at the back of the Big Mountain’) to Hairteabhagh, where they were forced to live in caves during the first winter, and then to Eriskay.

Sgeir na h-Àirigh Samhraidh agus An Tràigh Leis

Sgeir na h-Àirigh Samhraidh agus An Tràigh Leis. ©Liam Crouse

The geography, geology and climate of Eriskay, craggy and bare (air a luimead gura lurach), surrounded by Ciste Mhuire – the rich waters of An Oitir (‘The Fishing-banks’), has moulded the islanders. The soil is poorer than neighbouring South Uist and most families have fishermen in them. There is less peat-bog for fuel, and it was harvested in remoter parts only reachable by boat, such as Na Sluic Mònadh (‘The Peat Hollows’), Rubha nam Bàsadairean (‘The Point of the Sinking Bogs’) or at Bun Sruth (‘The Foot of the Stream’) in South Uist. But islanders are well accustomed to boats.

Most of the placenames gathered pertain to the coast and surrounding waters. Most suitable inlets were used as ports, as is attested by the probable hundreds of small, hand-built quays. The ruic (‘submerged rocks’), boghannan (‘reefs’) and sgeirean (‘skerries’) all have names of reference – sometimes in a nod to those unfortunate enough to have foundered on them.

Bàrr an Rubha Bhàin

Bàrr an Rubha Bhàin. ©Liam Crouse

The sheer number of placenames recorded – over 300 – during the short space of time is impressive. I am positive I did not get them all, possibly not even most of them. I am also positive I’ve made a mistake or two. I’m sure I could have spoken to more people. However, I am sure that this edition of the brilliant placename series by Ainmean-àite na h-Alba and Scottish Natural Heritage will be a testament to the traditional ecological knowledge carried by the people of the island. And I am indebted to all those who gave their time and energy to this project.

It is my hope that once the booklet is published and disseminated it will encourage further reminisces and discussion about these places. I hope people highlight where things are not quite right or where there’s more to the story. And I hope that someone – such as the local comann eachdraidh – is there to record that additional knowledge for posterity.

Bàgh na h-Aibhne Duibhe Sgeir a' Bhanca Sgeir an Fhèidh

Bàgh na h-Aibhne Duibhe, Sgeir a’ Bhanca, Sgeir an Fhèidh. ©Liam Crouse

Each person I spoke to remembered island life before the causeway, built in 2001. They fondly remembered Sgoth a’ Bhaga (Sgoth Iain ’illeasbuig, ‘The Post Boat’) and Sgoth Nèill Mhòir sailing into Na Haunn. One told me of seeing the wrecked SS Politician and hiding the boat’s offerings at Sgor na Beiste (‘The Cleft of the Beast’). The whole of the last century was covered in the shared experience and memory of the islanders.

Eriskay is lucky enough to remain a Gaelic-speaking island, and this had led to a retention of these placenames. If placenames are not used, or have no use, they are forgotten. It was said more than once, for example, that fishermen were the only ones who would have the names of certain islets and skerries, passed down through families and on the boats. The close-knit communities of the Outer Hebrides have continued to use their placenames; this is not the case in other areas which have witnessed more drastic changes in lifestyle. These factors made this project feel more like holding a tin-can to Niagara Falls than to a withering stream. I hope that as this placename project continues to place beyond Eriskay, those other areas overflowing with indigenous knowledge are recorded too.

Our thanks to Liam for his invaluable work. Find more images and placename meanings on Ceòlas’ Instragram.

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Gaelic, Uncategorized | Tagged , ,

Biodiversity Beyond 2020 – Scotland’s Contribution

So what’s next for Scotland’s biodiversity?  Our CEO, Francesca Osowska took centre-stage to discuss Scotland’s contributions to biodiversity beyond 2020.  Here is her speech, in full, from the Business Breakfast at Scotland House, Brussels, 6 Nov 2018 as part of Scotland Europa, Scottish Environmental Leaders series.

©Lorne Gill

The Vatersay machair. ©Lorne Gill

“Good morning and thank you very much for coming along today. Thank you also to Sarah for your warm welcome, and to you and your team here at Scotland Europa for hosting us and for the excellent breakfast!  I arrived yesterday and was able to attend part of the EEB Conference, which I found fascinating.  It is really heartening to see so much thought and energy going into safeguarding our environment for the future.

I thought I’d start by saying why I’m here.  I’m working on the assumption that the UK will leave the EU.  You’ll know that voters in Scotland did not vote for this and therefore it is inevitable that organisations such as mine are thinking about how they maintain their EU links post-exit.  Scottish Natural Heritage is the agency with statutory responsibility for caring for and promoting nature in Scotland, as well as a number of other responsibilities such as contributing to the delivery of the Scottish Government’s purpose.  SNH was established in 1992 and, in the same year, became a founding member of Scotland Europa, so you can see we have a long history of working with others in Europe.  We are active in several European biodiversity networks, namely ENCA – European Heads of Nature Conservation, Europarc and Eurosite.  We see our continued membership of Scotland Europa being even more important following EU Exit and therefore part of my reason for being here today is to ensure that we continue to contribute to and benefit from these important connections.

The second reason is specific to environmental policy and biodiversity in particular.  The session at the EEB conference yesterday on biodiversity had a brilliant title: “Protecting our life support system.”  It is as serious as that: if we don’t act to halt biodiversity decline then we imperil the very substance of life on earth.  My ambitions – SNH’s ambitions – for improved biodiversity in Scotland are intricately linked with EU policy.  The Scottish Government’s continuity bill embeds the four EU environmental principles.  In biodiversity policy, I want SNH to continue to be an active contributor and to continue to learn from our partners across the EU.

Scotland Europa - Scottish Environmental Leaders series. Francesca Osowska attending the Business Breakfast, Scotland House, 6 Nov 2018

Scotland Europa – Scottish Environmental Leaders series. Francesca Osowska addressing the Business Breakfast, Scotland House, 6 Nov 2018

SNH’s corporate plan, published earlier this year, is entitled Connecting People and Nature.  The title deliberately goes to the heart of the dilemma for nature conservation: nature is vital for people’s economic and social wellbeing, but people can also be a threat to nature. Rather than try to separate people from nature, I see SNH’s role as one of connecting.  The more we are able to demonstrate the ways that people benefit from nature, the more they are likely to call for investment in it across the public and private sectors; the more investment the healthier and more resilient nature will be, and healthier and more resilient nature provides more benefits for more people – and so on.

Improving biodiversity is a cornerstone of our corporate plan.  My vision is that SNH is recognised as a world leader in biodiversity.  Scotland’s land and seas will be clean, healthy, safe, productive and diverse, and managed to meet the long terms needs of nature and people.  As a result, our nation will be enriched. We are already on this journey, but as the publication last week of the World Wildlife Fund ‘The Living Planet Report 2018’ demonstrated, there is much more to do to halt biodiversity loss across our planet.

If you haven’t been to Scotland please come.   The Lonely Planet keeps heaping accolades on Scotland previously describing it as one of the best places to visit in the world.

Scotland is diverse with many special places, species and habitats. Our mountains and moorlands cover about 60% of our land, forming Britain’s largest remaining area of largely undeveloped wildlife habitat.  Scotland is the European stronghold for heather moorland and blanket bog covering a fifth of our land area.  Some of these habitats are global outliers, yet others such as our deep peat blanket bogs are world exemplars.

Our land and soils; sea, coast and freshwaters; and wildlife in abundance, are a joy to behold.  But simply stating that does not safeguard these wonders for the future.  What I’d like to do now is set out SNH’s current approach to improving biodiversity, our thinking for the future and conclude with some challenges.  I hope that we will have plenty of time at the end for discussion, because learning from you is an important part of why I’m here.

CURRENT POLICY

Five years ago the Scottish Government published our 2020 Challenge for Biodiversity to set out a strategy and subsequent route map to achieve the Aichi targets.  The Challenge urged our nation to reap the benefits of nature that is healthy and resilient.  A number of elements of SNH’s work to support this are worth highlighting.

Habitat Map of Scotland

The Habitat Map of Scotland is a ‘living atlas’ of nature, a map of our land and freshwater habitats classified to European standards. This involved transforming best available existing data into the hierarchical European Nature Information System (EUNIS) classification, and using it for new surveys.

The spatial resolution of this generalised map is 10 metres square – the dimension of an individual pixel.  That’s tiny: twice the size of a football penalty box (I’m a keen Tottenham Hotspur supporter, so every metre matters for our faltering Champions League campaign!).  For each of these tiny units we can describe the habitat present.  A truly impressive development and made possible through cross European collaboration, including drawing on the work of experts in Sweden.

GreenInfrastructure

Green Infrastructure site at the disused golf course at Blairbeth in Glasgow. ©Lorne Gill/SNH.

Green infrastructure

Increasingly, SNH recognises the importance of working in our towns and cities.  Investing in making our urban environments more nature friendly, particularly within our more deprived communities, is vital.  There is ample evidence to show that quality green environments make people happier, healthier and better connected to their communities.  A win for nature, a win for people.

Our Green Infrastructure Fund, our largest ever investment in urban green infrastructure, covers a 45 million Euro programme of work, supported in part by a 20 million Euro contribution from the European Regional Development Fund.  Between now and 2023 we will be working in around 30 deprived areas to deliver projects which improve their greenspace and encourage all sectors of the community to make best use of it.  By delivering on this scale, we hope to be able to convince policy makers, developers, investors to invest more money in urban green space in the future.

Scotland showing leadership on biodiversity
I mentioned earlier my ambition for SNH to be seen as a world leader in biodiversity.  In 2018 the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity – the CBD – acknowledged Scotland as the first country to report on all twenty Aichi targets.   We are currently on track to meet seven of these. A further twelve are showing progress, but requiring additional action if we are to meet these targets by 2020. Only one of the twenty targets is moving away from target.

The Scottish Government’s Scotland’s Biodiversity – A Route Map to 2020 published three years ago set tough but attainable challenges.  Almost 80 specified actions have been set out in the Route Map with delivery a partnership between SNH, other agencies, businesses, land managers, local authorities, agricultural and fishing industries, environmental NGOs, community groups and schools.

European LIFE funding has been vital for key projects, and we are keen to ensure that such funds continue to benefit nature. For example, we have just secured a massive grant from EU LIFE and the Heritage Lottery Fund to remove predatory stoats from the Orkney isles in the north of Scotland.  This will protect the large bird populations there, not least the globally important hen harrier, wader and seabird concentrations.

The Scottish Invasive Species Initiative – SISI – is another fantastic project funded by Heritage Lottery, which is encouraging communities to tackle invasive non-native species such as Japanese knotweed, giant hogweed and American mink.

Our birds of prey are very important to us. Through international collaboration we have been able to reintroduce sea eagles and red kites, both formerly absent for centuries in Scotland.  Now we are helping donate birds to other countries to boost their populations.

Wildlife management – to sustain managed landscapes though controlling some species to benefit others – is one of our most difficult area of work.  Some of my toughest challenges as chief executive have involved trying to reconcile such dilemmas, whether it be wild deer, geese, mountain hare, or newly introduced beavers.  It has made me think hard about how we value nature, and the different habitats and species comprising it.

One of the Aichi targets, ensuring that genetic diversity is maintained, has proved challenging for many.  In Scotland we have formed a “think tank” drawing together geneticists from a wide range of bodies, including universities, research institutes and government agencies.  This approach has attracted the interest of IUCN Biodiversity Conservation Group, and the Group of Earth Observations Biodiversity Observation Network (GEO BON) through its potential for wider use.

Biosphere Reserves

Biospheres: places with world-class environments designated to promote and demonstrate a balanced relationship between people and nature are also important in supporting enhanced biodiversity.  Scotland has two: the Galloway and Southern Ayrshire Biosphere; and the Wester Ross Biosphere.  In these areas, the support of local business and communities fosters sustainable growth through collaboration with public sector partners, such as SNH and local government.  Both Scotland’s biospheres have important European connections.  The Galloway and Southern Ayrshire Biosphere is building links with Vosges du Nord.  Wester Ross looks more to the Nordic countries and has attended NordMAB.

Turning to our seas, we have a network of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) comprising more than 180 designated areas, covering approximately 20% of our seas. These are vital for our efforts to combat climate change. A report published last year found that the amount of carbon stored within Scotland’s inshore MPA network is equivalent to four years of Scotland’s total greenhouse gas emissions.

So-called ‘blue’ carbon is captured and stored across a range of marine habitats and seabed types.  This stored carbon in our seabed sediment, accumulated over many years, delivers the same climate change benefits as our onshore peatlands in tackling climate change.

This gives you a flavour of some of the work that we are doing to promote biodiversity at the moment.  Now I’ll turn to the future.

Coast

Marram grass. ©Lorne Gill/SNH.

FUTURE POLICY

Natural Capital

Scotland is a world leader in developing the concept of natural capital. Scotland was the first country to devise a Natural Capital Asset Index (NCAI) – which assesses the quality and quantity of land-based habitats in Scotland and their contributions to human wellbeing.

Our natural capital values are integrated into Scotland’s mainstream planning, policy and reporting frameworks.   Now in its eighth year, reporting shows that after decades of decline, there has been steady improvement since 2012.   Important drivers of this rise include expansion in forest habitats, improvement of freshwaters, greenspace and recovery of heathlands and peatlands.  SNH will continue to play a strong role in advocating a natural capital approach.  Later this month I will host a seminar for public sector leaders, building on the work of the Scottish Forum on Natural Capital, to work through what additional steps need to be taken.

The Scottish Government’s world leading commitment to tackle Climate Change involves restoring 50,000 hectares of degraded peatlands by 2020, and vastly more by 2030. In 2012 the Peatland Action Fund was first launched.  Since then, almost 15,000 hectares of degraded peatlands have been set on their road to restoration.

Our Dynamic Coast

Between land and sea, Our Dynamic Coast research project is building on an earlier National Coastal Change Assessment.  Now, we are mapping and categorising the resilience of Scotland’s natural coastal defences and estimating how future climate change may exacerbate erosion on our soft erodible coast.  This work has revolutionised our understanding of the threats posed by coastal erosion. The anticipated changes, reports and videos are shown on a website which has received more than six thousand visits in its first year – from more than 80 countries. Again, international science and collaboration has been key to helping us pioneer new techniques.

A DNA Strategy

The costs of monitoring and reporting on biodiversity continue to increase in the face of pressure on public finances.  This means that we are always on the alert for newer and better value methodologies which will help us to maintain surveillance at lower cost, but with no reduction in accuracy. This has led to the development of a European network of eDNA-based research, and the development of a similar network at the UK-level.

In an era where technology is moving fast, we need to ensure that we make the best use of expertise in universities and research labs such as those at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh.  The rapid increase in these technologies has opened up a whole range of opportunities for low cost surveillance and species management.

I mentioned some of the tough issues in wildlife management earlier. Two Ministerial Review Groups of deer and grouse moor management are underway.  SNH is supporting both of these reviews and their conclusions will help set the policy context for the future.  I look forward to the results of their deliberations.

The Scottish Government is developing Scotland’s first Scottish Environment strategy.  The strategy will be guided by the four European Environment principles: polluter pays; preventative action; tackling pollution at source; and the precautionary principle.  This future strategy will be a key determinant of SNH’s policy context and I’m delighted that we’re contributing to its development.

I mentioned the Aichi targets earlier.  With the commitment of additional action, I hope that by 2020 we will be close to meeting as many of the twenty targets as possible.  The most recent Scottish Programme for Government committed to a Biodiversity Challenge Fund, worth up to £2m over two years to support this additional action.

For example, we will continue to roll out the ten year Pollinator Strategy, to halt and reduce the decline in native pollinator species populations.

We will also continue to combat threats to our wildlife, from eradicating non-native invasive species through to ambitious species and habitat reintroduction and restoration programmes.

We will continue to work with the agricultural sector to share best practice on nature friendly farming.

Fundamentally, SNH has the ambition to work at the heart of education, health, food and business agendas, we have to place biodiversity at the centre so that it is the driver rather than it being driven.

CarseOfGowrie-D3426.jpg

FUTURE CHALLENGES

There are, of course, significant challenges that need to be addressed through continuing cross-European collaboration. Let me finish by setting out a few of these.

  • First, we need to tackle climate change and nature together. This coupled system has co-evolved over the last 4 billion years, and will continue to do so, and much more rapidly as a result of our activities.  Climate is not an external factor acting on a preferred – or ‘right’ – state of nature. How we view nature shapes our choices about the use of the land and sea.  We need to work more closely with citizens on the nature they value and wish to protect as climate change increases.
  • Second, nature is at least as much a social and economic issue as it is a scientific one, but most of our policy and practice is dominated by the natural sciences.  This has to change to show how relevant nature is to people, because nature and especially natural capital underpin economic activity and social wellbeing.  This is well recognised in the Scottish Government’s Economic Strategy.
  • Third, we need to be better at sharing our knowledge.  The INSPIRE Directive is a fantastic step, but, increasingly we need to co-design and co-produce evidence.  And we need to provide data and information in ways that show how both the public and private sectors rely on natural assets, to demonstrate the benefits of investing in them, as well as the risks of not doing so.
  • Fourth, I suggest that context is everything for nature and for people and we need to get better at allowing for this in the way that we frame and design solutions to problems. Rates of change mean that, for all the great things we’ve achieved over recent decades, we need to try new approaches, far more swiftly, and at grander scale than historically.

I have shared with you some examples of work we are doing and will do to secure a healthier future for nature – to make it far more resilient, and at the heart of our daily lives in Scotland.  What do we need more of?  I suggest collaboration, innovative thinking and development of key scientific and technological applications, and getting biodiversity centre place in the business of our governments.  That is where we are heading in Scotland, and this is where we want to continue working with European partners.

So a final question from me – how can we work even more closely in the future on these challenges?”

Posted in biodiversity, climate change, coastal erosion, Community engagement, conservation, Green infrastructure, Habitat Map of Scotland, Marine Protected Areas, MPAs, National Nature Reserves, peatland restoration, Scottish Natural Heritage, SNH, The Flow Country, urban nature, wildlife management | Tagged , , , , ,

Trick or treat?

Stuck for ideas for your Halloween costume? You could do worse than seek inspiration from the masters of disguise that inhabit the natural world all around us.

Blawhorn-D0215.JPG

Oak eggar moth caterpillar ©Lorne Gill/SNH

Many of our insects and pollinators have evolved a variety of weird and wonderful camouflage or use mimicry to imitate other creatures.

But while dressing up for us is just a bit of fun, for these creepy crawlies every day is Halloween – and the ‘costume’ can mean the difference between life and death.

Caterpillars, for example, are a valuable food source for others and so have adopted sophisticated survival strategies.

Six spot burnet moth caterpillar

Six spot burnet moth caterpillar ©Lorne Gill/SNH

In summer months they often have ingenious camouflage to avoid being seen and eaten.

This can mean adopting the colour of the leaves that they feed on, or even taking on the semblance of a twig.

Some adult butterflies and moths have distinctive wing markings which resemble large eyes.

Peacock butterfly

Peacock butterfly ©Lorne Gill/SNH

These striking eyespots suggest that a much larger creature is lurking – a clever trick that deters would-be predators.

Some hoverflies too have adopted a cunning strategy. They mimic wasps or bees in their colouring, tricking predators into believing they have a sting and so acting as a deterrent.

In a similar way, the narcissus fly increases its chances of survival by mimicking a bumblebee.

Marmalade hoverfly

Marmalade hoverfly

So if you are getting dressed up to kill this Halloween, spare a thought for those creatures that dress to avoid a kill!

Some unfortunate flies also face another macabre threat – from a mind-controlling ‘zombie fungi’.

Entomophthora muscae infects flies and is thought to initially grow into their brains to control their behaviour.

Entomophthora muscae

Entomophthora muscae in action ©David Genney/SNH

It forces the flies to land and crawl to a high point, extend their legs and open their wings before killing them by digesting their innards

A few hours later the fungus produces lots of spores that will infect the next victims – gruesome!

You can find out more about what SNH is doing to help Scotland’s pollinators all year round by clicking HERE.

 

Posted in Insects | Tagged , , , , , , ,

Mìos nan Damh / Month of Stags

Tha an Dàmhair sònraichte do na Gàidheil, a’ comharrachadh dlùth-cheangal eadar ar cànan is dualchas, agus àrainneachd nàdarrach na h-Alba / October might simply be the ‘eighth month’ (later elevated to tenth) for English speakers, but to Gaels it is the month of the deer rut which celebrates one of the iconic natural events in the Scottish calendar.

Mìos nan Damh

Tha meall àrd ann an seann Ghàidhealtachd Siorrachd Obar Dheathain, faisg air Uisge Dhè, air a bheil An Càrn Damhaireach (ged a tha ainm annasach Beurla air cuideachd – ‘Top of the Battery’). Tha an t-ainm Gàidhlig gu math drùidhteach aig an àm seo dhen bhliadhna, oir tha e a’ cur An Dàmhair nar cuimhne. Ge-tà, chan ann air a’ mhìosachan eadar-nàiseanta a tha e a-mach, ach air an t-sealladh a chithear agus air an fhuaim a chluinnear anns an ràith seo, agus na daimh ruadha ri dàireadh sa mhonadh.

Red deer on Forsinard Flows National Nature Reserve.

Red deer on Forsinard Flows National Nature Reserve.
©Lorne Gill/SNH

Chan eil fios le cinnt an ann bho damh + dair no bho damh + gàir a thàinig am facal Dàmhair, ach tha cinnt ann gu bheil e a’ bualadh air fèin-ghiùlan nan damh ann am meadhan an fhoghair, agus iad ri bùireadh is sabaid airson ceannas. Aig aon àm, bhiodh An Dàmhair a’ buntainn ris na seachdainean eadar meadhan na Sultaine agus meadhan na Dàmhair (October) ach bha i air a bhith diofraichte bho bhliadhna gu bliadhna. An-diugh, ’s e am mìos as fheàrr le iomadh duine, agus e a’ cur nar cuimhne mar a tha dlùth-cheangal ann eadar ar cànan is àrainneachd na h-Alba.

Red deer stags with hinds in rut at Kilmory on Rum National Nature Reserve.

Red deer stags with hinds in rut at Kilmory on Rum National Nature Reserve.
©Laurie Campbell/SNH

Month of Stags

There is a rounded hill in the old Gàidhealtachd of upland Aberdeenshire called Càrn Damhaireach (it has an alternative, and strange, English name of ‘Top of the Battery’). The Gaelic name has particular resonance at this time of year, for it might even be translated as ‘October hill’. Of course, it’s not a reference to the international calendar, but to the stirring sight – and sound – of the red deer at this time of the autumn. It really means ‘rutting hill’, celebrating the season when stags bellow their presence and challenge each other for sexual dominance (if you’ve never experienced the roaring of the stags, make sure you do this year!)

Red Deer stag roaring during the rutting season on the Isle of Rum

Red Deer stag roaring during the rutting season on the Isle of Rum
©Laurie Campbell/SNH

The modern Gaelic name for October is An Dàmhair. It has been derived both from damh + dair meaning ‘stag copulation’ and damh + gàir, meaning ‘stag clamour’, the latter referring to the roaring of the animals during the rut. An Dàmhair probably originally occupied a period straddling the latter part of September and mid-October, but would have varied from year to year, depending on the activities of the stags.

Red deer grazing at Forsinard Flows National Nature Reserve

Red deer grazing at Forsinard Flows National Nature Reserve
©Lorne Gill/SNH.

Now it is, for many people, the most iconic month in the Gaelic calendar, reminding us of the strong and continuing links between our language and the annual rhythms of nature in Scotland.

Posted in Gaelic, National Nature Reserves

Mòine: Gaelic vocabulary for peat

Tha sinn glè thoilichte gu bheil bloga aoighe eile againn bhon sgioba aig Dachaigh airson Stòras na Gàidhlig.  An turas-sa, tha Ceit Langhorne a’ toirt sùil air briathrachas na Gàidhlig ceangailte ris a’ mhòine  /We’re delighted to feature another guest blog from the team at the Digital Archive of Scottish Gaelic. This time, Kate Langhorne takes a look at some Gaelic vocabulary for various types of peat.

Chòrd brath-bloga rium na bu thràithe air a’ bhliadhna mun fharsaingeachd de dh’ainmhidhean is lusan na boglaiche, agus mar a chuireas gach rud ri bith-iomadachd an àite: dealt ruaidhe is canach, am measg eile. Seo far an do dh’ionnsaich mi fhìn gun cuir còinneach ris a’ mhòine. Bidh e a’ toirt comas don talamh uisge a ghlèidheadh agus a sgaoileadh.’S ann mar seo a thèid a’ mhòine a chruthachadh, far a bheil gainnead de mhathachas san talamh agus pailteas còinnich. Tha ‘ath-fhliuchadh’ de mhòine thioram ’s lom riatanach airson ath-stèidheachadh na mòna.

Dealt ruaidhe ’s còinneach, caraidean na mònach. Dealbh ©Lorne Gill, leabharlann SNH.

Dealt ruaidhe ’s còinneach, caraidean na mònach. Dealbh ©Lorne Gill, leabharlann SNH.

Chleachdadh mòine fad linntean mar chonnadh agus tha tòrr briathrachais ann an Gàidhlig a tha ceangailte rithe.

Ma bhios tuilleadh ’s a chòir uisge anns a’ mhòine bho chòinneach, aig an àm a thèid a togail, cha bhi mòran feum innte.’S e mòine dhubh an rud as fhèarr, a thèid a tiormachadh gu h-èifeachdach, ach tha i tiugh gu leòr ’s loisgidh i fad ùine fhada. ’S e am blàr mòine a theirte ris an àite far an togadh an sluagh i.

Thuirt neach-labhairt à Leòdhas gur e craos teine a th’ ann an teine a’ losgadh cho teth ris an deamhain, le mòine dhubh. Bidh breacadh nan eibhlean sa ghealbhain agaibh bho mhòine chailceach, ach cha lasair an leithid de theine. Thèid mòine chreadha neo mòine chailc a thogail bhon àite as doimhne sa pholl-mòna.

’S e caoran a th’ anns an ìre as ìsle den fhad. ’S e cìb, neo mòine chinn a theirte ris a’ chiad ìre den mhòine a tha eadar fliuch is tioram, anns am bi lusan beò. Ach an ann coltach ri mòine phlòiceach a tha seo? Tha Facal bhon t-Sluagh ag innse dhuinn gur e a’ mhòine seo a chùmadh eibheal san teine tron oidhche, agus ’s e mòine thasgaidh neo mòine amh a theirte ri seo.

Tha a’ mhòine bhàn agus a’ mhòine chòsach coltach ri chèile leis gu bheil a dhà dhiubh furasta tiormachadh ach thèid an losgadh ro luath ’s gun teas annta.’S e mòine phlòiteanach a theirte rithe ann an Cinn Tìre. Tha seo ro thioram, gun bhrìgh!

A’ buain na mònach aig Tobar Sròn na Glaodhaich, An Draoighnean, An t-Eilean Sgitheanach, Ògmhios 2015.

A’ buain na mònach aig Tobar Sròn na Glaodhaich, An Draoighnean, An t-Eilean Sgitheanach, Ògmhios 2015.

Tha beartas briathrachais ann am Facal bhon t-Sluagh mu dheidhinn a bhith ga togail bhon bhac-mòine. Thagh mi duilleag fiosrachaidh o Cheann a Deas Chinn Tìre, oir chan ann tric a chluinnear mu Ghàidhlig na sgìre sin. Ach thoiribh sùil air an fhiosrachadh o diofar sgìrean agus chì sibh an obair chruaidh, ach seasmhach, a rinn na daoine gus nach biodh iad gann den stòras prìseil seo. Bidh feum againn air bloga eile gus saothair an t-sluaigh a mhìneachadh dhuibh, gun luaidh air obair chùramach nan cruach mòna! Ach seo agaibh blasad den bhriathrachas agus mar a chuir daoine a’ mhòine gu feum, ge b’ e dè an stàid anns am faigheadh iad i.

Tha PeatlandACTION ag obair air feadh na h-Alba airson talamh mònach ath-stèidheachadh. ’S e a’ chomhairle bho mhanaidsear a’ phròiseict, Andrew McBride, ‘Cladhaichibh i le ur làimh ach cuiribh air ais na sgrathan agus caisgibh na dìgeachan gus am bi mòine ann do na ginealaichean a thig nur dèidh’.

We’re delighted to feature another guest blog from the team at the Digital Archive of Scottish Gaelic. This time, Kate Langhorne takes a look at some Gaelic vocabulary for various types of peat.

I thoroughly enjoyed a blog post from earlier in the year about the variety of animals and plants abundant in the peatlands and how each one of them contributes to the biodiversity of this environment: sundew and bog cotton, amongst others. This is where I learned about sphagnum moss and that this promotes the establishment of peat. Sphagnum moss allows the earth to maintain and disperse water. It is these acidic, nutrient poor environments, where sphagnum moss is abundant, that peat is formed. ‘Rewetting’ dry and and ‘re-vegetating’ bare peat is essential for peatland restoration.

Sundew and sphagnum moss, the bog builder. Image ©Lorne Gill, SNH library.

Sundew and sphagnum moss, the bog builder. Image ©Lorne Gill, SNH library.

Peat has been used as fuel for centuries and there is plenty of Gaelic vocabulary associated with its use.

If there is too much water in the peat from the moss, at the time it is lifted, it won’t be of much use. Mòine dhubh, or black peat, is the best. It can be dried effectively. It is thick, substantial and full of vegetation and will burn very hot for a long time. The place where peat is cut and lifted is called the blàr mòine.

A source from Lewis said that a craos teine (or literally “a gaping mouth of a fire”!) is what is known as a very hot fire, burning with black peat. Mòine chailceach burns with a speckling of glowing embers, but without a flame. Chalky peat or peat comprised of clay is lifted from the deepest part of the bog.

The caoran is the lowest level of the peat bog. A cìb or the mòine chinn is the upper part of the peat which is half wet and dry. Is this likened to mòine plòiceach? The Fieldwork Archive tells us that there is a kind of peat that can be banked in the fire to keep an ember burning through the night called mòine amh (raw peat), or mòine tasgaidh.  Mòine bhàn and mòine chòsach (porous peat) are likened to each other because they are easy to dry but they will burn far too fast, without much heat. In Kintyre, this kind of porous peat is called mòine phlòiteanach. This is too dry, and without substance!

Peat cutting at Tobar Sron na Glaodhaich, well of the hill of the crying, Drinan, Isle of Skye, June 2015.

Peat cutting at Tobar Sron na Glaodhaich, well of the hill of the crying, Drinan, Isle of Skye, June 2015.

There is a wealth of vocabulary in the Fieldwork Archive connected to lifting it from the peat bank. I chose the information page from the source in Kintyre, as it is less common to hear about the Gaelic from this area. But have a look at the peat-working pages from different areas and and you will see the hard but sustainable work which was involved in order to manage this precious resource. Another blog is needed to investigate the efforts of the people, not to mention the careful work that goes into constructing the peat-stack! But this is just a taste of the different kinds of peat that the folk make use of, whatever state they find it in.

PeatlandACTION is working across Scotland to restore eroded and degraded peatlands. The advice from the project manager, Andrew McBride  is to ‘Dig it up by hand but replace the turves and block the ditches so future generations can have peat to burn.’

 

Posted in Gaelic, mosses, peatland restoration | Tagged , , ,

Isle of May welcomes Syrian day trip

The Isle of May visitor season wrapped up at the end of September. Here, SNH’s Jenny Johnson looks back at one of the highlights of the summer – a wonderful visit by a group of Syrian refugees.

Isle of May - Sherwan

The grey skies of a typical Scottish summer ran flush with the water and almost enveloped that familiar Isle as soon as we left Anstruther harbour pier. Setting out on the May Princess into the millpond-calm waters of the Forth and, to the south, the coastline of East Lothian, we were embarking on a ‘first’ for some excited Syrian visitors and myself: a boat trip to the Isle of May.

My companions, who had arrived in Fife in March 2017 as refugees from the War in Syria, had enthusiastically taken up Scottish Natural Heritage’s generous offer to host them on a day’s trip to the island. SNH manages the island and there is a continual flow of staff and volunteers providing support and research and undertaking bird surveys over the course of the year.

Isle of May landscape 3

Occupying a commanding position on the edge of the Forth, this windblown igneous rock – a National Nature Reserve and of national and international importance – is home to some 285 species on its 57 hectares. I am not sure that I had prepared my visitors any more than I had prepared myself for the full range of island experience as we approached the white, guano-covered cliffs.  We weren’t arriving at the height of the breeding season, when the May can host up to 200,000 seabirds, but it did still feel a little crowded on our arrival, with seabirds on the ledges and puffins in the grassland on the tops inspecting this new boat-full of visitors.

After the smooth 50-minute journey, we pulled into a narrow harbour and disembarked onto the pathway leading up to the main thoroughfares of the island’s path network. We were welcomed by Bex Outram, SNH’s Assistant Reserve Manager. She introduced the nearly 100 strong crowd to the island, giving a brief outline of SNH’s role and what we might want to explore during our two-hour turnaround. We were warned not to walk too close to the edge of the cliff tops in case we accidentally found ourselves diving off them, just like the birds.

With that sobering thought firmly anchored in my mind and feeling the responsibility of hosting parents with young children from a foreign country, who had known little but uncertainty and change during the course of their short lives, we headed off on our explorations.

The old Monastery, Isle of May NNR. Forth and Borders Area.

As well as its birds, the Isle of May has a rich cultural heritage, including St Adrian’s Chapel. There are also the keepers’ houses, stable blocks, North and South Horns, coal block etc.  Indeed, as a result of its position the island forms a distinct danger to navigation in these waters and, for this reason, was one of the first in Scotland to possess a permanent lighthouse, the original one taking the form of a large coal brazier established in 1635 and the first permanently manned one in Scotland.

A light rain was threatening and we were steered towards the staff house for a welcome cup of tea. Basking in the privilege of tables, chairs and mugs of tea, my Syrian friends began to pull out wraps, rolls and a wide range of food that they had brought with them. I was, as always with these people, humbled by their generosity and reciprocal hospitality.

A proper lighthouse was built on the island in 1816 by Robert Stevenson – an ornate gothic tower on a castellated stone building designed to resemble a castle, with accommodation for three light keepers and their families, along with additional space for visiting officials. The new lighthouse, now a listed building, started operating on 1816. After lunch, we made our way up its wonderful spiral staircase, transforming into a slightly precarious staircase ladder right at the top, and emerged as kings and queens of the island realm – staring across the colourful palette of the May to the grey channels of the Forth beyond.

Isle of May lighthouse interior - 5

The two or so hours on the island were up all too soon and we headed back to the boat, leaving the birds and grey seals to their relative peace and quiet and away from the chattering of human voices. The Isle of May crew provided an excellent and entertaining trip alongside the island as we pulled away, even picking up a young puffin which, seeking refuge in the hands of one of the crew, travelled with us for at least half the ride. Eventually the bird was released, much to the consternation of some of the tourists, into the now rather more billowing waves of the estuary where it rocked back and forth for several minutes before, like the island from which it had fledged a few weeks earlier, slipping from view.

Isle of May - boat

See the long lines flowing
Hear the puffins calling
Deep in Forth they’re going
Off the Isle of May

(‘Off the Isle of May’, as sung by Cilla Fisher)

Acknowledgements
Grateful thanks to SNH for hosting the trip, to Bex Outram for hospitality and to Sherwan for the photos.

Posted in Uncategorized

A club where birdies are par for the course

In our guest blog today Billy McLachlin, course manager at Royal Troon Golf Club, tells us how they are working for wildlife on one of the world’s finest links courses.

Royal Troon Golf Club is a site of international renown as habitat for that not-altogether-rare species, the golfer.  Less well known, perhaps, is its importance to coastal plants and animals.  As a classic links course, its greens, tees and fairways lie among areas of dune grassland, which here supports wildflowers like wild carrot, burnet rose and kidney vetch.  The dunes are of such botanical interest that much of the golf course is designated as the Troon Golf Links & Foreshore Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).

The dune vegetation, in turn, supports a great variety of wildlife, including birds, butterflies and bees.  At Royal Troon, we have long appreciated the value of the golf course to wildlife, and have carried out several surveys of birds and butterflies across the course in recent years (reports can be found on our website).  Butterflies seen around the course include the common blue, small heath, ringlet and orange-tip.  These thrive despite the risk of being eaten by some of the many birds that breed here, with skylarks and meadow pipits frequenting the grassland areas, and other small birds like whitethroats, sedge warblers, linnets and stonechat hanging out in areas of scrub.

Stonechat - (C)Laurie Campbell/SNH

Stonechat – (C)Laurie Campbell/SNH

Although the areas of rough around the course may look relatively wild and untouched, we put in a considerable effort to make the most of their natural qualities and keep them in a good state for the special wildlife that depends on them.  Before the land became a golf course in 1878 it would have been grazed by livestock, helping to maintain open dune grassland and prevent scrub from encroaching.  In the absence of grazing, there is a tendency for the grassland to become tall and dense, and eventually to be overtaken scrub and trees.  While some scrub and tree cover provides valuable cover and nest sites for birds, too much would be damaging.  The many insects that favour dunes and dune grasslands will thrive best where the vegetation is relatively short and open, with small patches of bare sand between the plants that act as ‘sun traps’ and allow the insects to get warm enough to forage effectively.  Many of the insects also need access to bare sand where they can dig burrows for nesting.  These insects are, in turn, food for many of the birds that live here, so making the habitats good for insects helps our feathered friends too.

Pool & bee logs

pool and bee logs

Over the last few years we have removed large areas of invasive scrub, mainly gorse but also the non-native Japanese rose and sea buckthorn.  Cleared areas have largely been left to recover naturally, and we quickly see these areas being colonised by a variety of flowering plants.  Elsewhere, with advice from SNH, we are trialling various techniques to open up areas of grassland that have become overgrown and lacking in botanical diversity.  In some areas strimming is used to reduce vegetation height and density.  Elsewhere, we have taken a more heavy-duty approach, using a small digger and bucket to remove patches of turf and create small sand ‘scrapes’.  Last but not least, one of our more creative greenkeepers has created a multi-storey ‘bee hotel’ (pictured), with a waterproof roof and a range of materials suitable for various types and sizes of solitary bees to use for nesting.

Together these various measures should make the golf course an even better place for wildlife.  On top of that, by removing scrub, opening up views and encouraging wildlife to thrive, we hope that Royal Troon will become an even nicer place to play golf.

Posted in bees, biodiversity, Birds, citizen science, coastal, Community engagement, conservation, Flowers, plants, SSSI, Uncategorized, wildlife management | Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Isle of May welcomes record visitor numbers – again!

It’s been a fabulous year on the SNH-owned Isle of May National Nature Reserve in the Firth of Forth. Famed for its large puffin colonies, the island welcomed a record number of visitors again this year – the fourth consecutive season the record has been broken.

IsleofMay-2

That winning combination of good weather, flat seas and incredible wildlife has attracted visitors from far and wide.

Our reserve manager on the island, David Steel, said: “It’s been another wonderful season for both the wildlife and human visitors to the island, with over 13,500 people coming out to enjoy this seabird spectacular. A visit to the May is not just about the wildlife; the rugged island, its location and the historic buildings, such as the Stevenson lighthouse which is open to the public, also attract many visitors. It is a real ‘must do’ for many people”.

The popularity of the island has increased in recent years as it supports the largest puffin colony on the east coast of the UK, as well as thousands of nesting shags, kittiwakes, guillemots, razorbills and eiders, amongst other seabirds.

Grey seals are currently gathering on the island and over the next two months more than 2,500 pups will be born on the  Isle of May. The island is now closed for the winter but will reopen from 1st April 2019.

All photos (C) SNH

Posted in Birds, coastal, Marine, National Nature Reserves, sea life, seals, SNH, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

#CycleForNature – The Final Fling

Well, She did it! More than 1300 miles cycled, 39 offices visited and more than £1100 raised for the Scottish Association for Mental Health. We last heard from Francesca in Orkney. Today in her final blog post of the challenge we hear about the last three days of #CycleForNature.

Day three of this final leg of #CycleForNature dawned bright and blowy in Scrabster. Our route to Golspie took us past the amazing Forsinard Flows. Despite the at times fierce headwind, operations officers Debbie Skinner, Karen Reid and I made good time which allowed us to have a great visit to the RSPB field study centre, visitor centre and eye-catching watch tower. Here we learned about the impressive Flows to the Future project which aims to restore blanket blog across the Flow Country. We also discussed the ambitions for the Flow Country to become a UNESCO World Heritage Site. An involved, but potentially highly rewarding, process.

It was then time to hit the road again, but not before a trial of an e-bike. The popularity of e-bikes is growing and having given it a go, I can see why! They don’t do all the work for you, but can give you a boost when you need it: ideal for those who want to cycle but feel that they don’t quite have the fitness. Anything which gets people out of cars and helps with active travel is a winner with me. Tempted? See the Scottish Government interest-free loan scheme for e-bikes.

The wind dropped which made for a fast run in to Golspie, now accompanied by Sally Ward. After a tour of the building (SNH is handily co-located with the Scottish Government, the Forestry Commission and Highland and Islands Enterprise), I had a good staff discussion with the Golspie team about SNH’S fantastic work in the area, and how we deal with controversial cases.

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With Graham Neville and Ian Sargent

The penultimate day! Ian Sargent, Graham Neville and I set off to the Dingwall office in slightly gloomy conditions but somehow with a tailwind.  We had a quick break looking over the Loch Fleet NNR estuary. The reserve is notable for its three distinct habitats which the common seals were clearly enjoying.  The reserve is also home to a range of bird life including waders and osprey.

I was met at the Dingwall office by colleague Iain Sime and Simon and Lynn McKelvey of the Cromarty Firth Fishery Trust. We visited the nearby Dunglass Island to see the vital work that the Trust has done to restore the river channel to improve biodiversity. The Trust is an important delivery partner in the Scottish Invasive Species Initiative and along the way they have trained and supported an army of volunteers, as well as working with numerous local schools. Brilliant to hear.

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Leaving Dingwall

Then back to the Dingwall office for a chat with all the team there. As in all the office discussions, the passion, expertise and commitment of all staff was clear to see.

My weather luck didn’t quite last to the final day but five days with rain out of 32 isn’t bad! For the final stint to SNH’s HQ in Inverness I was joined by a number of colleagues from SNH and partners, as well as bike packer enthusiast Markus Stitz as we battled the impact of Storm Callum to make the final 17 mile journey. It was great to be welcomed at Great Glen House, including by Obama the pony from Pony Axe S (there’s an idea for next year…). It’s been an amazing journey.  It’s not been about the bike, but about all the colleagues that I’ve met along the way who make SNH the great organisation that it is.  Thanks to everyone that has made it happen.

After a staff vote, #CycleForNature has been raising money for the Scottish Association for Mental Health. We’ve raised more than £1,000 for this brilliant charity and I hope raised awareness of mental health issues throughout the journey.

I was touched at many of the comments on the JustGiving page and some of the personal stories that people have shared. It’s clearly an issue that means a lot to people and a sincere thank you to everyone for their generous donations.

Best wishes – Francesca

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