Biodiversity Stakeholders’ Event: identifying priorities for 2020 and beyond

Scotland’s third annual Biodiversity Stakeholders’ Event was held at Battleby on 6 June.  It focussed on our recently published Interim Report on progress on the international “Aichi Biodiversity Targets” – this report places us in the forefront of reporting internationally. The event provided a forum for sharing experiences, discussing ideas and identifying priorities as we plan ahead for actions up until 2020, and beyond.  Alan Cameron, SNH Community Engagement Officer, tells us more.

Dubh lochan and blanket bog at the Flows NNR, Forsinard – a protected area of international significance for biodiversity ©Lorne Gill/SNH/2020VISION

Dubh lochan and blanket bog at the Flows NNR, Forsinard – a protected area of international significance for biodiversity ©Lorne Gill/SNH/2020VISION

The event was well-attended, and it was great to see people from across the biodiversity community.  There were delegates from environmental NGOs such as the RSPB, the Scottish Wildlife Trust, Butterfly Conservation, Buglife and Plantlife.  There was also substantial representation from local authorities, including LBAP officers, Countryside Rangers and Planners.  People also attended from research institutions and universities, from Scottish Government, and from agencies including SEPA and Forestry Commission Scotland.

Roseanna Cunningham, the Cabinet Secretary for the Environment, Land Reform and Climate Change began the day by highlighting Scotland’s leading role in reporting on the Aichi Targets.  A video of her presentation is available on YouTube.

The event included many great presentations and interesting workshop discussions.  For example, Michael McLeod, Head of Conservation at Marine Scotland highlighted how Scotland is leading international efforts to protect biodiversity in the marine environment through identifying and safeguarding “Priority Marine Features” such as flame shell (Limaria hians) beds.

A sun star and brittlestars on a flame shell bed (a Priority Marine Feature) in Loch Carron © SNH

A sun star and brittlestars on a flame shell bed (a Priority Marine Feature) in Loch Carron © SNH

We also heard from Ellen Wilson about the considerable work undertaken by the Scottish Biodiversity Information Forum review over the last few years to put in place the improved infrastructure that is needed to collect biodiversity records, manage the data effectively, and make biodiversity information available for everyone to use.  Anne McCall, Director of RSPB Scotland, explained how recent reductions in the availability of funding for biodiversity are now endangering our ability to meet our international obligations under the Convention on Biological Diversity. There were a number of other fascinating presentations; these are summarised in the event report.

Delegates attended workshops about Aichi Targets requiring an increase in effort over the next two years, such as loss of woodland habitat, sustainable agriculture, and how to fill gaps in data.

The afternoon session was chaired by journalist and President of Scottish Environment LINK Joyce MacMillan.  Amongst the topics that delegates identified as priorities for further effort are developing our vision for protected areas, implementing a National Ecological Network, putting Green Infrastructure in place across urban Scotland, reinvigorating the Land Use Strategy, minimising the damage done by Brexit, developing a shared understanding of the “state of nature” and of the evidence for the impacts of different pressures on biodiversity, and finding better ways to take into account the impacts of our consumption and behaviour on biodiversity internationally.

Semi-natural pine woodland at Beinn Eighe NNR (Aichi Target 5 aims to reduce the loss habitat such as this). © Lorne Gill

Semi-natural pine woodland at Beinn Eighe NNR (Aichi Target 5 aims to reduce the loss habitat such as this) © Lorne Gill

Sally Thomas emphasised that the priorities for all biodiversity stakeholders as we approach 2020 must include working collaboratively to build the public, business and political support that will be needed to meet our new biodiversity targets to be set by the Parties to the CBD in Beijing in 2020, and must include working together to agree amongst ourselves on the evidence base behind our work towards new biodiversity targets that we will set for Scotland for 2030.

The Event web page provides links to the Event report and to various related resources, including the presentations.

Posted in biodiversity | Tagged , ,

Benefits for the birds! – the value of peatland restoration to grouse moor management

Balancing commercial and conservation objectives can sometimes be challenging but on this particular grouse moorland multiple benefits have successfully been achieved.

Between 2014-16 Peatland ACTION supported the restoration of the peatlands at Hope’s Estate in East Lothian.

Peatland ACTION Project Officer Ewan Campbell and the Estate’s Head Keeper, Ian Elliot recently reflected on the benefits of the restoration project thus far.

Hope’s estate includes one of the largest and least disturbed areas of upland blanket bog and heather moorland in East Lothian. The upland is managed for grouse and part of it is designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest which had been falling into ‘unfavourable condition’ due to man-made ditches and historical muirburn causing the bog to dry out. In addition the rapid flow of water through the ditches was contributing to gully erosion which, in turn, resulted in more sediment/discoloured water reaching the Drinking Water Protected Areas downstream and, from there, into the water treatment works. Scottish Water were closely involved in the project.

Actively eroding grip (ditch) ©Ewan Campbell

Actively eroding grip (ditch) ©Ewan Campbell

Ewan explains “The bog needed to be ‘rewetted’ to allow the key moss building plant, Sphagnum moss, to flourish. During 2014/15 and 2015/16 specialist contractors worked on the site for 20 days over winter to avoid any conflict with breeding birds and the open season for grouse shooting. Ditch damming, peat ‘hag’ (eroding banks of peat) reprofiling and installation of sediment traps downstream as well as stabilisation work on the gullies was undertaken. Revisiting the site two years later it is remarkable how successful the restoration has been – there’s a marked increase in the amount of water retained in the bog, leading to the development of important bog mosses. The bog surface is also less flammable as a result and, consequently, more resilient to damage from accidental fire. This restoration work is helping to reduce peat erosion impacts downstream and should lead to an overall reduction in carbon losses from the site, as well as helping to future-proof these areas from climate change and exacerbated weathering effects”.

Blocked and re-profiled grip ©Ewan Campbell

Blocked and re-profiled grip ©Ewan Campbell

Climate change, carbon and peatlands

As the upper layer of the peat begins to recover and Sphagnum mosses begin to re-colonise and dominate once more, this reduces the release of greenhouse gases from the peatand and results in carbon storage.

The Estate’s Head Keeper Ian Elliot concludes: “The grouse moor is a much tidier looking place now and where there was once scars of eroding peat they are no longer visible. The peatland restoration work has benefited the grouse by providing an all year round water source even during sustained periods of drought. There is also likely to have been an increase in invertebrates across the moor, an important food resource for chicks and adult birds. In addition there is now a diverse mix of habitats present across the moor and I’ve noticed the peat dams provide good vantage points for grouse”.

Hope’s Estate is a member of the Wildlife Estate’s Scotland (WES) Initiative which aims to introduce an “objective and transparent system encouraging best practice and demonstrating how game and wildlife management undertaken by Scottish landowners, in line with the principles of biodiversity conservation, can deliver multiple benefits for society and rural communities”. This project clearly demonstrates how peatland restoration efforts can help support grouse management objectives while helping to deliver a multitude of other benefits.

Active drain resulting in drying out peat bog ©Ewan Campbell

Active drain resulting in drying out the peat bog ©Ewan Campbell

Special thanks to Robbie Douglas-Miller, landowner; Ian Elliot, Head Keeper and Scottish Water for their assistance with this project.

If you’d like to contribute to the on-going work of Peatland ACTION, please contact

For further information:

Watch below to see the Luss peat hag reprofiling.


Posted in peatland restoration | Tagged , , ,

Pollinating Edinburgh’s Living Landscape

There has been lots happening to benefit pollinators across Edinburgh, especially since the launch of the Edinburgh Living Landscape, as Hebe Carus of the Scottish Wildlife Trust revealed in a recent catch up with Jim Jeffrey, SNH Pollinator Strategy Manager.


Edinburgh’s Living Landscape is a partnership of organisations in Edinburgh committed to a shared vision of improving the ecosystem health of the landscape as a whole – benefitting nature and the city’s people while taking the economy and costs of actions into account. We only launched at the end of 2014, and even in that short time, partner organisations are delivering big changes. With an estimated 14,000 gardens, numerous public greenspaces and many “grey” buildings that could be enhanced – a pollinator theme is a natural fit. As action can be taken at a tiny scale of window boxes up to changing large areas of some of Edinburgh’s parks, everyone can do their bit – individuals, businesses and public bodies, and that is exactly what has started to happen.

The Pollinator Pledge was launched just a year ago and led by Scottish Wildlife Trust. It is a campaign to get as many individuals as possible to sign up to take an action however small on their window sill, in their private garden or shared greenspace. We have even been approached by 2 businesses asking if they can take the Pledge, so momentum is building. If you live in Edinburgh and can plant a window box for pollinators, or if you have a garden then commit a corner or the whole garden for pollinators, take the Pledge and get involved here!

The Glenmorangie Company Ltd office Square Metre for Butterflies (c) Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh

The Glenmorangie Company Ltd office Square Metre for Butterflies (c) Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh

Business and office buildings are adding or improving small areas planted with pollinator-friendly plants. Dubbed Square Metre for Butterflies, there are already 9 new locations planted up. This project was led by Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh and Butterfly Conservation and inspired by the rediscovery of a vulnerable population of Northern Brown Argus on Arthur’s Seat. The new areas are proving especially attractive to bees, but we hope the butterflies will benefit in time as we build the network of locations.

Northern Brown Argus (c) Paul Kirkland : Butterfly Conservation Scotland

Northern Brown Argus (c) Paul Kirkland : Butterfly Conservation Scotland

The City of Edinburgh Council have created 74 new wildflower meadows across Council parks, and a further number of “relaxed mowing” areas that pollinators, small mammals and other species, are enjoying far more than the bowling green “amenity” grass there before. We of course don’t want to see all grass changed to this – we need places to play football after all, but we need to get the balance right!

Easter Drylaw (c) Stephen MacGregor : City of Edinburgh Council

Easter Drylaw (c) Stephen MacGregor : City of Edinburgh Council

Scottish Wildlife Trust: Lothians Group have developed an urban wildflower meadow mix especially designed for ELL, and now sold commercially here. A shoreline mix in conjunction with Edinburgh Shoreline is now under development with the aim of reflecting what would naturally be in grassland along Edinburgh’s shoreline. The Trust is also improving its grassland at Bawsinch Nature Reserve, on the edge of Holyrood Park, by grazing with their Flying Flock and uses its tiny Johnstone Terrace Reserve to demonstrate what can be done right in the heart of the city.

All these projects are continuing to be developed and we encourage all individuals, businesses and other organisations in Edinburgh to get involved – contact us by email, through the websiteFacebookTwitter, or by using the hashtag #PollinatorPledge.

If you aren’t in Edinburgh, but you know someone that is, share the knowledge and we can all help make Edinburgh’s landscape better for pollinators as well as people.

Find out more about the Pollinator Strategy for Scotland on our website.



Posted in bees, Birds, conservation, Flowers, meadow, Projects, urban nature, wild flowers | Tagged , , , , , ,

Butterflies of the night, beautifully captured.

Having a keen personal interest in macro photography, Caroline Anderson jumped at the chance to use her Volunteering Day to help reserve staff with a moth trap at Taynish National Nature Reserve. Caroline, a Unit Administrator based in our Lochgilphead office, tells us about the day’s work and shares  with us the superb moth photographs that she took.

Elephant Hawkmoth ©Caroline Anderson

Elephant Hawkmoth   ©Caroline Anderson

As we all know, moths are attracted to light, so the principle of a moth trap is to have a light source attached to a box which the moths will go into then wait patiently under egg boxes until they are identified, recorded and released.

Lesser Swallow Prominent ©Caroline Anderson

Lesser Swallow Prominent ©Caroline Anderson

Moths are hugely important to biodiversity, they provide a temperature check on the health of the environment as they are very sensitive to change.  They provide food to bats, birds, frogs, toads and many other creatures and are also very important pollinators.  Monitoring their numbers tell us a lot about changes in our environment for example climate change and air pollution.

Scalloped Oak Moth ©Caroline Anderson

Scalloped Oak Moth ©Caroline Anderson

There are 59 species of butterfly in the UK but 2500 species of moths.  For some unknown (to me) reason, moths tend to get a very bad press. People tend to have this image of dull, brown flappy insects that fly in your face at night.   And, yes, there do appear to be lots of dull, brown, flappy moths, which on closer inspection, have very subtly different and quite beautiful identifying features.  BUT there are also glorious moths of all shapes, sizes and colours that we very rarely get to see as they mostly fly at night, or because they are so skilled at camouflaging themselves to their surroundings we would easily walk past them without noticing.

Poplar Hawkmoth ©Caroline Anderson

Poplar Hawkmoth ©Caroline Anderson

Having set it the night before, Heather, Gordon, Fiona (the regular NNR volunteer) and myself set about unveiling the box of delights that is the Taynish Moth Trap.   The aim was to catch, record and release as many of the moths caught in the trap as possible.

Burnished Brass ©Caroline Anderson

Burnished Brass ©Caroline Anderson

When we got into the contents of the box, the excitement of checking under the egg boxes was a bit like Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates “You never know what you’re gonna get!”   Catching some of the moths in the identification boxes requires a level of dexterity and speed that could be classed as superhuman and inevitably some got away.  One poor thing managed to escape just long enough for a spotted flycatcher to swoop in and catch it for chick food!    However, as we got to the bottom of the trap, the most beautiful Elephant Hawkmoth could be seen in all its pink and green glory!   Amongst the dozens of different species caught we also had a Poplar Hawkmoth, a few Large Emeralds, several Lesser Swallow Prominents, a Burnished Brass, and a Drinker.  Aren’t the names just wonderful!

Elephant Hawkmoth 2 ©Caroline Anderson

Elephant Hawkmoth   ©Caroline Anderson

To those people who have a dislike or even a fear of moths but do like butterflies, think of them as butterflies of the night, it might help you look at them differently.

Drinker Moth ©Caroline Anderson

Drinker Moth  ©Caroline Anderson

From a personal point of view, it helped with my very poor moth ID skills.  From a photography point of view, it was a spectacular opportunity to get up close and personal to these beautiful creatures and I feel very lucky to have been able to do this in work time.  I really appreciated the volunteer time given by SNH to be able to experience and connect with nature in such a way and would wholeheartedly encourage other staff to make the most of any opportunity on offer.

Large Emerald ©Caroline Anderson

Large Emerald ©Caroline Anderson

Roll on next year……

Posted in Argyll National Nature Reserves, art, biodiversity, citizen science, conservation, Insects, moth, Nature in art, photography, Staff profile, Taynish NNR, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , ,

How should you manage giant rhubarb in your garden?

Have you got giant rhubarb in your garden? A European-wide ban on the sale of this invasive non-native plant comes into force today. If you already have the plant, also known as Gunnera tinctoria, in your garden you can keep it, but you must act responsibly, as allowing Gunnera tinctoria to grow or spread outside your garden could be an offence.


(C)Courtesy of David Knott (RGBE)


We asked our Invasive non-native species adviser, Stan Whitaker, how should people manage the plant in their gardens? Stan said: “We are encouraging people with Gunnera in their gardens to consider either removing the plant entirely, or alternatively cutting off the flower heads each summer before they set seed, then composting with care.

“Seeds are typically formed by June, and ripen between July and October. We recommend cutting the flower spikes close to their base, with a gardening knife or pruning saw, in July or August.”


(C)Courtesy of David Knott (RGBE)


Allowing a non-native plant to spread into the wild is an offence under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. However, Stan said: “Gardeners don’t need to worry about getting a criminal record or having a control order placed on their land, provided they take reasonable steps to prevent invasive plants, like Gunnera, escaping into the wild.”

If Gunnera tinctoria is left to spread in the wild we’re likely to see an increasing area of land lost to grazing as well as significant impacts on our biodiversity and road-side drains. You can help us to keep Scotland Gunnera tinctoria-free by reporting any sightings of the plant in the wild to Scotland’s Environemt Web.


We are working on an ambitious project to wipe out giant rhubarb in in the Western Isles and want to stop its spread on the west coast of Scotland and beyond. Originally from South America, the distinctive large leaved plant was introduced as a garden ornamental but has spread rapidly over crofts and ditches and is becoming increasingly problematic for both crofters and wildlife in the Outer Hebrides.


Some of the plants growing in gardens will be the Brazilian or Chilean rhubarb, Gunnera maticata, which is not invasive.  It’s easy to tell the mature plants apart: Gunnera manticata has reddish bristles and spines on the stem, whereas the invasive Gunnera tinctoria has pale bristles with weak spines.

Posted in biodiversity, citizen science, Community engagement, conservation, Flowers, gardens, invasive non-native species, Land management, plants, Projects, Uncategorized, wild flowers, wildlife crime, wildlife management | Tagged , ,

East Lothian Farming and Wildlife: developing a sustainable future for both farming and wildlife

Mike Thornton, Operations Officer for the Forth Area reports on a workshop hosted by SNH, and Lochhouses Farm in East Lothian that considered the future of agri-environment work in the arable sector.

Traprain Law SSSI, East Lothian is an island of species rich grassland surrounded by intensive agriculture. (c) Lorne Gill/SNH

Traprain Law SSSI, East Lothian is an island of species rich grassland surrounded by intensive agriculture. (c) Lorne Gill/SNH

Although protected sites, such as Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) provide an important mechanism for protecting our natural heritage, they are insufficient on their own to deliver landscape scale conservation. These protected sites often occur as small, isolated islands, in highly managed agricultural landscapes.

This is very much the case in East Lothian, where intensive arable farming is the dominant land use and SSSIs make up only 7% of the land area. Therefore, effective nature conservation also requires wider countryside measures, such as agri-environment schemes These schemes promote land management practices which protect and enhance our natural heritage by protecting biodiversity, improving water quality, reducing flood risk, and mitigating the effects of climate change.

However, the uptake of these schemes in East Lothian has been relatively low; the general feeling is that they have been overly complicated and prescriptive, taking little account of environmental variability. We wanted to hear directly from East Lothian farmers about how we might improve uptake of these schemes to deliver more for our natural heritage. That’s why SNH Forth Area, in partnership with Lochhouses farm, recently hosted a workshop for arable farmers.


Many farmers expressed the need for regional, more flexible agri-environment schemes with less complex rules and regulations. They recommended that future schemes should account for the unique circumstances of individual farms, perhaps by giving farmers flexibility over how to achieve defined environmental outcomes, such as the number of breeding birds or wildflower species in grassland.

Farm conservation training would also help farmers gain a better understanding of their farm’s environmental assets, and identify how to maintain and enhance those assets.

We also discussed the importance of collaboration amongst farmers. One example of this is cluster farming, a farmer-led approach to conservation in which a group of farmers devise their own conservation plans supported by an advisor. It was originally developed by the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT) in partnership with Natural England.


Although cluster farming has been popular in England, it has yet to take off in Scotland. However, farmers at the workshop did express interest in getting the right support to develop cluster farming initiatives.

Farmers are increasingly expected to deliver a range of public benefits, such as sustainable food production, environmental protection and recreation. However, this will depend on the right balance of public funding, regulation and advice to deliver this. This workshop clearly demonstrated that farmers want to engage in the debate to help achieve a sustainable future for both farming and wildlife.

A future workshop is currently being planned by GWCT, in partnership with SNH, for later this month.


Further info on cluster farming available here.

Posted in Farming, Non-native species | Tagged , , ,

Àirighean Os-nàdarrach / Supernatural Shielings

An cuir sibh ris an liosta de dh’àirighean ‘na h-aon oidhche’? / Can you add to the list of ‘one-night’ shielings?

Àirighean na h-Aon Oidhche

Tha làraichean sheann àirighean air feadh na Gàidhealtachd a’ cumail nar cuimhne mar a bhiodh ar sinnsirean a’ falbh don mhonadh len cuid cruidh a h-uile samhradh. B’ e an àirigh àite sìtheil, gu math tric brèagha, uaireigin uaigneach agus an-còmhnaidh a’ gabhail prìomhachas ann am mac-meanmna nan Gàidheal. ’S e Àirigh na h-Aon Oidhche a th’ air feadhainn dhiubh, agus an t-ainm air a mhìneachadh le sgeulachd mu chreutair os-nàdarrach (a nochd an toiseach gu minig ann an cruth caillich) a rinn sgrios air na boireannaich òga (no, corra uair, fir òga) a chuir seachad a’ chiad oidhche anns a’ bhothan-àirigh.


Chaidh sgeulachdan dhen aon seòrsa a chruinneachadh air feadh na Gàidhealtachd ’s nan Eilean, ach chan eil e soilleir cia mheud àirigh a ghiùlaineas an t-ainm seo. Tha feadhainn clàraichte ann an ceann a tuath Ratharsair (NG 601489), ann an trì àiteachan ann an Leòdhas (Pàirc NB 395167, faisg air Bràgar NB 297426 agus ann an Sgìr’ Ùige NB 022284), ann am Beinn a’ Bhaoghla (NF 817524) agus air Eilean Cholla (NM 232591). Tha Ruairidh MacIlleathain a’ cruinneachadh liosta de na h-àiteachan air a bheil ‘Àirigh na h-Aon Oidhche’ (agus na sgeulachdan nan cois). Mas urrainn dhuibh cur ris an liosta aige, nach cuir sibh fios puist-d thuige air

One-night shielings

Shieling sites and place-names throughout the Highlands recall a pivotal annual activity in the lives of the people for centuries, when they took their cattle into the hills during the summer. The shieling was a quiet, often beautiful place, sometimes lonely and invariably subject to the meanderings of the collective Gaelic imagination. Several places in various locations carry the name of Àirigh na h-Aon Oidhche ‘the one-night shieling’, where oral tradition tells us that the intervention of a supernatural power (often hidden within the form of an old woman) caused destruction to the young women (occasionally men) who had gone to the shieling bothy for their first – and only – night.


Stories of this nature have been collected throughout the Highlands and Islands, but it is not clear how many shielings carry this actual name. Recorded examples occur in the north of Raasay (NG 601489), in three locations in Lewis (Pàirc NB 395167, near Bragar NB 297426 and in Uig NB 022284), in Benbecula (NF 817524) and on the island of Coll (NM 232591). Ruairidh Maclean is collecting a list of locations with this name (and its attendant story). If you can add to the list, please email him on

Posted in Gaelic, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , ,

A hard day’s fun on Caerlaverock NNR

After frequently commenting that they never get out of the office, the Dumfries Admin Team (both called Susan) were finally let loose for the day on Caerlaverock National Nature Reserve. Susan Hepburn tells us what they got up to … 

My colleague Susan and I joined the Caerlaverock NNR team and volunteers for the day, to combine shark egg collecting with a spot of Himalayan Balsam shoot pulling and some litter clearing from the shore. We struck lucky on the day and although there was a cold breeze coming off the Solway first thing, it quickly turned into a braw day with sunny intervals and by midday I was very glad of the breeze.

Clearing the merse

Clearing the merse

After a morning walking the Merse looking for rubbish, I had a serious appreciation for the hard work that is done on the Reserve, even just getting from A to B.  After navigating barely visible channels and pools,  wading through sands which were deceptively soft in places and walking the high tide line, which was hard going to cross in my wellies – I was pooped!  But there was still work to be done before lunch.

Pulling Himalayan Balsam shoots

Pulling Himalayan Balsam shoots

We spent the rest of the morning in the shade of the trees, pulling up invasive non-native Himalayan Balsam shoots, then on the walk back for lunch we cleared more litter from the verge. Over lunch I took in the breath-taking view and noticed the results of the morning’s work. It was a treat for the mind as well as the senses.

Lunch break view - looking across the merse to Criffel

Lunch break view – looking across the Merse to Criffel

After lunch we headed down to a large expanse of reed bed known locally as the ‘flooders’.  By now the sun was out in full force and with less wind it felt rather toasty for the time of year in these parts. My wellies were starting to rub and my body starting to ache but I was not going to let it dampen my mood as we cleared the high tide line of rubbish.

Walking the high tide line required treading carefully on parts of the reed bed potentially not dry enough to take our weight. Unfortunately Suzanne McIntyre, SNH’s Caerlaverock Reserve Manager, learned this when she jumped to the aid of this big ‘scaredy-cat’, who wasn’t sure about jumping a ditch.  Suzanne misjudged where she thought she had already crossed and ended up with a welly full of water – yip, I felt really bad, especially as with her help I made it across dry.

After assessing improvements that could be made to the hide in the area, we carried all the rubbish back to the pick-up. Pink around the edges, a little soggy, wellies rubbing like billy-o, aching, hungry and shattered, but feeling invigorated to my core, it was back to the office.  Boy, did I sleep well !

Ruby Tiger moth Phragmatobia fuliginosa

Ruby Tiger moth (Phragmatobia fuliginosa)

One of the many highlights of the day was getting to see this beautifully coloured ruby tiger moth. The following week we soaked its egg casing overnight and, with help from reserve officer Adam Murphy, I learned how to identify the species and added it to our records for the reserve.  I look forward to the next time we get out of the office, before which I really must buy some better wellies.

Posted in coastal, National Nature Reserves, SNH, Staff profile, Uncategorized, Volunteering | Tagged , , , , ,

The Bog Squad travel to Islay to work with the Argyll & the Isles Coast & Countryside Trust

The Bog Squad is a Peatland ACTION funded project managed by Butterfly Conservation Scotland that aims to help restore peatland habitats and promote their value as places where wildlife can thrive.

In February the Bog Squad, including Rebecca Crawford, Peatlands for People Officer travelled to Islay to work with the Argyll & the Isles Coast & Countryside Trust. In this blog Rebecca tells us about her time with some of the young people of Islay and why she enjoys working on community engagement and outreach projects for Peatland ACTION.

Seascapes of Islay and Jura from the cal mac ferry. ©Lorne Gill/SNH.

Seascapes of Islay and Jura from the cal mac ferry. ©Lorne Gill/SNH

Islay, ‘The Queen of the Hebrides’

Islay is the southernmost island in the Inner Hebrides of Scotland and is often referred to as ‘The Queen of the Hebrides’. The island is steeped in a culture rich in music and storytelling, and a proud and long history of the Scottish Gaelic language. An invitation from the Argyll & the Isles Coast & Countryside Trust as part of the CANN project, and my interest in peatlands and working with communities led me to the island at end of February beginning of March this year.

We had some wonderful sunny weather on Islay (despite the cold and wind). I had a busy week travelling around the island engaging with a range of different groups. This included schools, the Islay Natural History Trust and youth groups such as the Rainbows and Brownie Guides. At Bowmore Primary School I learnt from the Gaelic class the words for peat, butterfly and moth – mòine, dealan-dé and leòmann.


Wildlife Badge

The Brownie Guides were starting to work towards their Wildlife Badge and so I ran a zine-making workshop on a “Peatland Wildlife” theme. A zine is a kind of mini magazine which is self-published and non-commercial. They are made by many writers, artists and creators on a range of themes, interests or passions. They are a great way of getting information out there, can be tailored to any subject and can be easily reproduced with just a photocopier.

As they involve cutting up paper, gluing, drawing and colouring I thought they’d make a fantastic craft for young people too! I designed and drew out a zine on A3 paper where each page had a question or activity to fill out. The girls had to look in books and leaflets to find the answers, and it also opened out into a “outdoor activity page” at the back for future use.

During the session the girls folded the paper into zines and got to fill them in and decorate them with a range of craft materials. They looked really fantastic and colourful by the end. It was a great way for the youngsters to learn about peatlands and research the information themselves whilst also being creative.


Zine workshops

Bog Squad allows me to use my creative side to design new activities, materials and events to raise awareness about the importance of peatlands.

I’ll be running zine workshops aimed more at older age groups, including young people and adults, on the topic of peatlands, climate and sustainability. There will be one in Edinburgh on the 22nd of September at the Botanic Cottage in the Royal Botanic Gardens and also one in Glasgow at the Hidden Gardens on the 20th of October. More details will be available on the Butterfly Conservation Scotland Facebook page and the Bog Squad Blog nearer the time.

Fiona Mann, Peatland ACTION Communications Officer said: “The kind of community work that our partners undertake, including that of Rebecca is really important in bringing alive the work that Peatland ACTION is doing. It gives us a greater reach, to an audience that perhaps wouldn’t otherwise know about this amazing habitat and how important it really is to try and protect it.

“I really like the vision of the Argyll & The Isles Coast & Countryside Trust act now, enjoy forever. It’s what Peatland ACTION is doing too! So it’s really wonderful that one of our project officers was invited to work with the Trust and the young people of Islay.”

Deb Baker ACT CANN Support Officer goes on to say: “We greatly appreciate the work of the Bog Squad and local volunteers on Duich Moss; they achieved a great deal during their visit and have helped us towards one of the CANN project targets. We look forward to working with The Bog Squad again in future.”

Find out more in the following links:

For any enquiries about peatland outreach – events, workshops, talks etc – please get in touch with Rebecca at or visit the Butterfly Conservation Scotland Facebook page for regular updates.

The Bog Squad also undertake practical conservation work on peat bogs, read about the work the project officer and volunteers did on Islay in their blog

Find out about the amazing work the Argyll & The Isles Coast & Countryside Trust are doing to protect and care for their local environment

Follow the work Deb Baker is doing on Twitter @theCANNproject

If you would like to contribute to the on-going work of Peatland ACTION, we would like to hear from you. For further details please contact

Peatlands are for everyone. Take a look at our collection of FREE to download peatland related images selected for you!

Posted in Community engagement, peatland restoration | Tagged , , , , , ,

#CycleForNature: more NE Scotland beauty!

Francesca finished off her impressive 260-mile-long fifth leg of #CycleForNature today, going from Angus to Aberdeenshire to Moray and ending up at Aviemore in the Cairngorms – and going from sun to rain!

The beautiful Cairngorms – whatever the weather!

Day four of this leg of #CycleForNature dawned sunny and warm which made for a very nice cycle from Banff to Elgin. I was accompanied by David Law from our planning and renewables team who outlined the proposed developments of offshore wind farms along the Moray coast as we went.

Just outside Portgordon we stopped to admire a SSSI for the largest vegetated shingle complex in Scotland.  David was also able to point out how the coast line has moved over the years and the likely future impact of coastal erosion.

The beautiful Moray coast features a SSSI with the largest vegetated shingle complex in Scotland.

Our route also took us across the River Spey via a majestic viaduct. While the dry spell has reduced the flow of the Spey considerably, we were still able to see the different channels the river takes. Its route into the sea is changeable keeping everyone (including colleagues in the Elgin office) on their toes: the Spey in spate is not to be messed with.

reaches Carrbridge!

We arrived at the Elgin office in plenty of time for a good discussion before I headed to the local RSPB reserve at Loch Spynie.  A SSSI, the loch is one of the few eutrophic waterbodies in northern Scotland. It is situated on the Pitgaveny Estate and I met estate manager, Duncan Dunbar-Nasmith and RSPB conservation manager, Karen Cunningham and we discussed the positive partnership between the estate, the RSPB and SNH.

Francesca with RSPB estate manager Duncan and conservation officer Karen.

There was a strange substance in the sky on Friday morning: rain! The first anyone had seen for a while. The farmers and gardeners were pleased, the cyclists not so, but Brian Eardley, Debbie Greene and I still had a pleasant, albeit wet, journey to the SNH office in Aviemore.

Francesca blog - rain - July 20 2018

First rain sighting of the week!

Just after Ferness there was an unscheduled puncture stop but by the time we got going again, the weather was drying up.  This made for nice views as we entered the Cairngorms National Park. Debbie told me about the work that SNH does with the National Park Authority and other partners as we went.

Francesca's blog - fixing the puncture - July 2018

All too soon we were at the beautiful Aviemore office. Leg five of #CycleForNature complete.

Miles: 260
Offices: 3
NNRs: 4
Emergency cleat change: 1
Punctures: 1
Overall experience: fantastic!

Francesca’s #CycleForNature is raising money for , who do great work to support mental health. To donate, see

Posted in Uncategorized