SNH seabird scientist on lessons learned in Antarctica

Early this year, I travelled to Antarctica for three weeks, with 79 women from all over the world, in the culmination of a year-long women in science leadership development programme called Homeward Bound. This ground-breaking initiative aims to increase representation of women in senior leadership roles by equipping them with the skills they need to effectively influence decision-making about the future of our world.

Helen Wade - credit Anne Charmantier

SNH marine ornithologist Helen Wade in Antarctica. Photo credit: Anne Charmantier

Nothing can prepare you for the scale and beauty of Antarctica. High quality films and photos don’t do it justice and eventually you run out of adjectives trying to describe it.

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As a seabird scientist, with a love of marine life, I thought my highlight of the expedition would be the Antarctic wildlife. The hundreds of penguins porpoising next to the ship. Or the humpback whales constantly interrupting our workshop sessions as someone would shout ‘whale!’ and 80 women would rush outside to watch them surfacing and diving – close enough to hear the satisfying deep ‘whoosh’ as they breathed out. Or the huge leopard seal stretched out on floating ice only a few meters away. These encounters were almost unbelievable and a huge privilege to experience. But unexpectedly it was the icebergs and glaciers, and the amazing group of women I shared the experience with, that made the deepest impression on me.

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Looking out at the Antarctic landscape from a ship, the deep splits and cracks of the crevasses in the ice sheet, as the ice moulds itself over and between mountains and ridges, are obvious to see. The sharp jagged edges of the ice edge clearly indicate where ice used to be before it sheared away and crashed into the sea. The deep thunder-like rumbles in the Antarctic silence alert you to ice shifting and moving on a massive scale. This all contributes to a deep sensory awareness that Antarctica is a landscape in flow and movement. Not static as it first appears but constantly shifting – imperceptibly, as ice flows like rivers between mountains, and dramatically, as avalanches crash down mountainsides.

Research base - credit Helen Wade

Argentinian research base on the Antarctic continent backed by a huge glacier.
 Photo credit: Helen Wade

The recognition of this sense of movement and flow was bittersweet for me. It was awe-inspiring and exciting to see glaciers calving but also extremely sobering to know human actions are speeding up this process. One day, after being welcomed onto an Argentinian research station, resident scientists pointed out where the edge of a nearby glacier used to be – it now sits hundreds of meters away. It was striking evidence of the human-induced climate change causing the Antarctic Peninsula to warm three times faster than almost anywhere else on earth.

Glacier - credit Helen Wade

A massive glacier with huge crevasses imperceptibly flowing into the sea.
Photo credit: Helen Wade

Visiting Antarctica brought home to me how deeply connected we are to every place on our planet. Even in this remotest of places, with no permanent human population, we are having an impact. The experience has made me seriously question whether we are doing enough to act on climate change. Are we really acknowledging the implications of not acting? And if not, what actions should we be taking to act more quickly and more effectively to preserve the life support system that is our planet?

I came away from the expedition with a strong sense that individuals matter. Climate change may feel overwhelming but we each have an important role to play – in the decisions we make in our daily lives to making sure governments and decision makers know action on climate change is important to us.

Gentoo penguin colony - credit Helen Wade

Gentoo penguin colony with our ship, the MV Ushuaia, in the background.
 Photo credit: Helen Wade

Before leaving for Antarctica, I knew a few of the 79 women I would be sharing a ship with for three weeks but most I had ‘met’ only as thumbnail-size images on monthly video calls over the previous year. So amongst the excitement of arriving in Argentina to meet them there was some trepidation about sharing a relatively small space with so many people I didn’t know. There’s no escape in Antarctica. With no phone signal or easy internet access, it isn’t possible to rely on connection or support from family and friends.

Helen Wade and Rachael Bice

Helen with fellow UK participant, Rachael Bice

However, from day one it was clear I was part of the most supportive, accepting and compassionate community I’ve ever experienced. There was a strong collective sense of wanting each and every woman to succeed, with everyone ready to support in any way they could. Our group ranged widely in age, career stage and cultural background but there was no hierarchy. Instead, we each recognised the value that every person brought to the group – in their unique set of skills, experiences and perspectives. This diversity was recognised as a strength that would help us approach challenges in a cohesive and holistic way.

Being part of this amazing group of brave and passionate women has left me wondering what our world would be like if we had more courageous and respectful leaders? How would our lives be different if we were better able to recognise the value of collective diversity and diverse perspectives? How would embracing this diversity help us make better decisions about the world we live in?

For me, diversity, and a more compassionate, inclusive approach to leadership, is the way forward – especially when we’re working to address the huge challenges we face, like climate change. The more perspectives and ideas we embrace, the more holistic and effective the solutions will be. Women are an essential component of this diversity, which is why initiatives like Homeward Bound that equip women with the skills to lead are so important. We urgently need their voices if we are to create a more sustainable future for us all.

You can read about my pre-Antarctic Homeward Bound programme here.





Posted in Marine, Uncategorized | Tagged , ,

Skate spotting and eggcase hunting

SNH skate tracking intern Rachel Mawer reflects on a recent trip to the Outer Hebrides and Shetland to raise awareness of some fascinating marine projects.

Skate 1

A skate from the Firth of Lorn © Roger Eaton

Back in November, in conjunction with the Scottish Association for Marine Science, we launched the Skatespotter website. Skatespotter allows anglers to upload photos they have taken of common skate for photo identification based on their spot patterns. At the moment, our skate photo-ID work has been focused in the Loch Sunart to Sound of Jura MPA to monitor the skate population there. However, we are hoping to build a database of common skate for the whole of Scotland. To this end, myself and my colleague Jane travelled to the Outer Hebrides and Shetland recently to meet anglers there and promote the project.

skate 2

One of our regular skippers in the MPA, Ronnie Campbell, taking a photo of a skate © Jane Dodd

In presentations in Stornoway and Lerwick, I gave a brief background on common skate and the past and current work SNH has done on the species in the Marine Protected Area (MPA), before moving on to how anglers can help, by taking photos and submitting them through Skatespotter. The talk finished with some slides giving them a shot at matching skate – it wasn’t as easy as they thought!

The anglers who attended were all very interested in our work and enthusiastic. It was great to be able to meet them and learn what they were willing to share about skate in their area. Even though some had been fishing for skate for years, they were shocked at how little we actually know about common skate. Despite their name, common skate are critically endangered and very rare across much of their former range. Along the west and north coasts of Scotland, and around the Outer Hebrides and Shetland and Orkney, they are still abundant – some even view them as a pest!

skate 3

We match skate based of the shape, size and position of their spot patterns, by looking at similar clusters as circled above ©  Ronnie Campbell

Our photo-ID work in the Loch Sunart to Sound of Jura MPA is an important tool for monitoring the skate population there; through it we can estimate population size and survivability. When we know what parts of the MPA a skate has been caught in, we can also learn a bit about their movements (or lack of!). But, we don’t know much about common skate elsewhere in the country.  This is why it is important that we start to reach out to anglers throughout Scotland and gather data on common skate in different places. Plus, by collecting images from further afield, we may begin to gain an insight into long distance movements in common skate. We’ve already started receiving skate photos from the anglers and hopefully this will be the beginning of a Scotland-wide skate photo ID database.


An eggcase from a lesser spotted dogfish © Mike Arreff

While in the Outer Hebrides, we also promoted the Shark Trust’s Great Eggcase Hunt, which helps describe shark, skate and ray species distribution throughout British waters. On North Uist, I met members of some local natural history groups to hunt for eggcases.  Although many were seasoned beach combers, a few were not aware that the “mermaid’s purses” dotted about the beach were in fact the eggcases of sharks and skate. Some sharks and all skate reproduce by laying eggs. Eggcases vary in size and shape, and this tells us what species laid it.

eggcase 2

Hunting for eggcases © Mike Arreff

Recording the location and species of eggcase to the Shark Trust shows what species we get in our waters and where. It also indicates how diverse the shark and skate population is in different areas. Our eggcase hunt was very successful, with most of the group finding something. Hopefully, this event will have made more people aware of what they can find on their local beaches and encourage them to report eggcases to the Shark Trust.


Posted in Marine, Marine Protected Areas | Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Èildean ann an Ainmean-àite / Hinds in Place-names

Tha am facal eilid a’ nochdadh gu tric ann an ainmean-àite air a’ Ghàidhealtachd, mar a tha Ruairidh MacIlleathain a’ mìneachadh / The Gaelic name for the red deer hind appears frequently in the Highland landscape, as Roddy Maclean explains.

Èildean ann an Ainmean-àite

Tha am facal eilid gu math cumanta mar eileamaid ann an ainmean-àite, gu h-àraidh ann an sgìrean monadail, agus e a’ dearbhadh cho cudromach ’s a bha am fiadh do na Gàidheil thar an eachdraidh. Na chruth bhunaiteach, tha e a’ nochdadh mar ainm a’ chnuic as àirde ann an Eilean Ghruinneirt ann an Ros an Iar (‘An Eilid’); bha an t-àite sin uaireigin air a chur gu feum mar dheuchainn-lann airson armachd bhith-eòlasach, agus cha robh e fàilteachail do dh’èildean idir!

Red Deer hinds (Cervus elphus) during the rutting season, Isle of Rum NNR. West Highland Area. ©John MacPherson/SNH For information on reproduction rights contact the Scottish Natural Heritage Image Library on Tel. 01738 444177 or

©John MacPherson/SNH

Na chruth ghinideach iolra, bidh e a’ nochdadh cuideachd mar eilid – mar sin tha Creag nan Eilid ann (Ros an Iar cuideachd), Druim nan Eilid (Na Tròisichean) agus Sgeir nan Eilid (Loch nan Uamh, Àrasaig). Ge-tà, nochdaidh e cuideachd anns a’ chruth èildean, leithid ann an Cnuic nan Èildean (Cnòideart) agus Eilean nan Èildean (Loch Teacuis làimh ri Loch Shuaineart); tha an t-eilean a’ faighinn ainm bho chnoc air tìr-mòr – Tom nan Èildean.

Anns an tuiseal ghinideach shingilte, ’s e (na h-)èilde a chanas sinn, agus tha e anns an dreach sin ann an Cnoc na h-Èilde ann an Ìle, Làirig Èilde (deas air Gleanna Comhann) agus Tom na h-Èilde (Gleann Shannda). Agus tha am buadhair brèagha eilideach (‘làn èildean’) ri lorg ann am Beinn Eilideach (no Beinn Eildeach gu h-ionadail) a tha os cionn Ullapuil ann an dùthaich far an lorgar an ‘damh donn ’s na h-èildean’ fhathast.

Red deer (Cervus elaphus) stags with hinds in rut, Kilmory, Rum NNR.  October ©Laurie Campbell/SNH       G19/ For information on reproduction rights contact the Scottish Natural Heritage Image Library on Tel. 01738 444177

©Laurie Campbell/SNH

Hinds in Place-names

The word eilid (‘AY-litch’) is common, not only in Gaelic nature poetry, but as a naming element in the Highland landscape, referring to the hind (female) of the red deer, and demonstrating the animal’s importance to the Gaels throughout their history. In its basic form An Eilid ‘the hind’, it is the name of the highest hill on Gruinard Island in Wester Ross, a location once infamous for being a testing site for biological weaponry, and not a happy place for hinds!

Red deer (Cervus elaphus) and their calves, Ru Arisaig, Lochaber ©Lorne Gill/SNH

©Lorne Gill/SNH

In the plural possessive (genitive) form, it can also be eilid – thus we get hill names such as Creag nan Eilid ‘the crag of the hinds’ (also in Wester Ross), Druim nan Eilid ‘the ridge of the hinds’ (Trossachs) and Sgeir nan Eilid ‘the skerry of the hinds’ (Loch nan Uamh near Arisaig). However, it can also appear as èildean as in Cnuic nan Èildean ‘the hills of the hinds’ (Knoydart) and Eilean nan Èildean ‘the island of the hinds’ (Loch Teacuis); the last takes its name from an adjacent mainland hill – Tom nan Èildean.

The singular possessive form ‘of (the) hind’ is (na h-)èilde as in Cnoc na h-Èilde ‘the hill of the hind’ (Islay), Làirig Èilde ‘hind pass’ (Glencoe) and Tom na h-Èilde ‘the knoll of the hind’ in Glensanda. And the lovely adjectival form eilideach ‘abounding in hinds’ is to be found in Beinn Eilideach (locally Beinn Eildeach) above Ullapool in country still inhabited by red deer.

Posted in Gaelic, Scottish Natural Heritage

Badgering away in Scotland

Our guest blogger today, Eddie Palmer, is the chairman of Scottish Badgers. Eddie tells us all about these charismatic animals — and what we can do to help protect them.

6 @SBP Crossing water on fallen tree night SBP cropped - for SM

Copyright @ScotlandBigPicture

Our Scottish badger is the same animal that is found right across Europe and Asia. The oldest badger bone remains found in these islands were carbon-dated to 35,000 years ago. Badgers are between half a metre and a metre in length, and a burrowing animal, with a distinctive black and white face, and dense fur which looks grey. They have a good sense of smell, but very poor eyesight. An extended family, or ‘clan’ can occupy several setts in ancestral territory used for many years.

Sadly, most people have never seen a live badger – only dead ones at the sides of roads at certain times of the year. The experience of seeing badger cubs at play in the spring is truly memorable. Badgers live underground in a maze of tunnels and chambers called setts and come out mainly at night time to feed.

9 @SBP Dry stane dyke cropped

Picture copyright @ScottishBigPicture


  • In Scotland, badgers live only on the mainland, and not on the islands, apart from Arran, where they were introduced by Victorians for sport.
  • Badgers belong to the order known as ‘mustelids’ – together with otters, stoats, weasels and pine martens.
  • Badgers can eat up to 200 worms a night!
  • A badger ‘sett’ is the name for its burrow, and ‘cete’ is one collective noun for a group of badgers.
  • A badger sett can extend for at least 30 metres underground from an entrance.
  • Badgers also use day nests, in the daytime, to relax and sleep.


    Badger cubs at play in the spring. Video credit @ingham_mal

Where badgers live – Badger setts can be anywhere – in woodland, hedgerows, in sand dunes , in open fields, in gardens, and under patios and decking. Any habitation is a sett, and is protected by law. The number of sett entrances does not correspond to the number of badgers inside.  There could be 10 badgers in a three hole sett, and only six animals in a forty hole sett.

Badger Sett.©Lorne Gill/SNH

A badger sett. Copyright SNH/Lorne Gill.

Badger signs – How do we know badgers are around? There are many signs to look for, including newly dug earth (snuffle holes), badger hair in spoil (excavated material found at sett entrances), foraging signs nearby (dug earth), latrines, beaten paths between badger holes, and claw marks on tree branches.

What do badgers eat? – Badgers are omnivorous and eat a wide variety of food, but they mainly eat earthworms. They also feed on insects, larvae, tubers, fruit, nuts, cereal crops, eggs, slugs and fungi. They move slowly over land at night, covering at least half a mile from the sett.

The Badger Year – Sows delay implantation, mating at any time of year, but giving birth in February. This is so there is food for the young when they emerge above ground in early May. During this time, last year’s cubs, the yearlings, are pushed out to fend for themselves and this is why so many get killed on roads. Autumn sees a period of feeding up for the winter, with again more killed on the road as they forage. From November to February, badgers go into ‘torpor’, which isn’t really hibernating, but they do become slower and less active.

There are problems for badgers – They may be disturbed by development, including forestry and agriculture, and badger baiting with dogs still goes on.


  • Reporting road casualties to us on the Scottish Badger website – this is important for finding setts.
  • Telling us about badger setts – we need accurate records in order to protect badgers.
  • Informing us about any possible crimes or disturbance to badgers.


Badgers for Beginners course Falls of Clyde Oct 2016 - small

Participants at a Badgers for Beginners course at the Falls of Clyde.


Posted in badger, biodiversity, citizen science, mammals, Uncategorized | Tagged , ,

Scottish Natural Heritage Staff Reveal Their Favourite Dog Walks

Scotland has so many great places to walk and what better way to experience them than with a furry friend at your side! With plenty of fantastic options it’s hard to choose where to go so we’ve asked our Scottish Natural Heritage team to suggest their favourite dog walking spots.

Riverside exploring

Meryl Carr, one of our Operations Officers in the Protected Places Team, has found a great spot to stop on her long drives between Inverness and Ullapool.

Meryl’s collie spaniel cross Bess enjoying some time outdoors © Meryl Carr

“As we often travel to Inverness from Ullapool my favourite “on the road to Inverness” walk is the Silver Bridge Circuit along the banks of the Black Water River Alltan Dubh.  This is a Forestry Commission Scotland site with two parking places to choose from. One nestles in the forest at Little Garve, the other is convenient if you just want to park quickly off the main road and get walking, it is by the public toilets on the west side of the main road.

This is a beautiful part of the Black Water river. Waterfalls, pools and fascinating geology keep you occupied as you roam through a  beautiful woodland of silver birch and Scots pine. Loads of blaeberry bushes grow on the woodland floor and in late summer spoil you with succulent, plump berries – guaranteed to give you a purple mouth by the time you have got around. The circuit takes you across the Black Water river at either end of the walk by way of two historic, beautiful stone built bridges from where you can look down on cascading falls. On the east side of the river Forestry Commission Scotland have recently completed a path upgrade giving a lovely walking surface, so if you do not want to take off your ‘about town shoes’ you can be guaranteed of a lovely walk without getting your footwear in a mess.

On the west side of the river the path is more natural (trainers, boots or wellies are best) and meanders through the Scots pine, close to the waterfalls, channels and small gorges. If you are there at the right time you might find Chanterelles or Hedge Hog fungus. In the meantime it is a doggy paradise of smells so both you and the dog return to the car feeling much more relaxed and ready to head to the city or head for home.”

Nature trails and paths can be busy places and attract a whole range of visitors. Approaching something new can be a daunting experience for you and your dog but we have lots of advice to how to safely pass other path users including cyclists, joggers and even those on horseback!

Another great waterside suggestion comes from Erica Knott, our Senior Casework Manager for Marine Energy, who loves her daily route along the River Tay.

Erica Knott

Seula on her morning walk along the River Tay ©Erica Knott

“My black lab, Seula and I walk every day on the North Inch in Perth, along the banks of the River Tay.  It’s a great spot and quite often we are able to spot, kingfishers, otters and seals.”

And, if you’re looking for some panoramic views of the river, Erica recommends a trip to nearby Kinnoull Hill in Perth – a perfect spot to watch the sunrise on a morning dog walk.

Coastal wanders

Beach walks are a fantastic way to enjoy the outdoors and proved a popular dog walking option for our staff including our Activity Manager for Protected Areas and Surveillance, Andy Dorin, and his 11-year-old Border Terrier, Ivy .

 Janet Hooper

Ivy enjoying some outdoor exploring © Janet Hooper

“One of our favourite walks is Rosemarkie Beach on the Black Isle, north of Inverness and Ivy loves it from the very start when she’s let out the car. As a walk of the “there and back” variety, our route covers the beach that stretches for a mile or so up to an elegant curve of Chanonry Point with views across the Moray Firth to the historic fortification of Fort George and the chance to stop and watch bottle-nosed dolphins leaping after salmon close to shore. The walks heads north across a complex geology of sandstone and metamorphic rocks and there are often waders such as redshank, curlew and oystercatchers at the water’s edge. Sometimes we clamber up the local shaded dell which in spring is carpeted in garlic and other wild flowers for dogs to worm through but it’s a muddy scramble to follow the burn over the rocks. Although the beach is popular, it’s rarely crowded and it’s amazing how half-an-hour in nature brings a smile to everyone’s faces and makes them calmer and more content.”

Want help exploring safely with your pet? Check out our free dog training modules on Responsible Dog Walking in Scotland’s Great Outdoors

Our Policy and Advice Officer for Marine Mammals and Benthic Ecology, Karen Hall, has found a fantastic local beach walk in Shetland that has plenty to keep dog Brodie entertained and out the muddy puddles!

Brodie enjoying Levenwick Beach, Shetland ©Karen Hall

“My favourite dog walking spot is Levenwick Beach, Shetland.  It’s my local beach about 2 kilometres from my house and I can walk down the road passing the neighbours en route. Brodie loves it as he’s half seal/ half dog and has to go in the water wherever it is. Our alternative walks tend to end up with him wallowing in a muddy ditch or peaty pool so the beach is the cleanest option.  He is quite happy swimming laps or trying to retrieve old kelp holdfasts that you throw for him (there tends to be a lack of wood on Shetland) whilst the seals watch on – the only thing we have to watch for is to make sure he’s not in the water when killer whales go by!”

Coastal areas are great places to explore with your dog and encompass much more than just sand! Our fantastic Tentsmuir National Nature Reserve has a great variety of habitats to explore so you can enjoy a morning on the beach and an afternoon on woodland walks and watching wildlife at the lochside.  It’s also a favourite spot for our Outdoor Learning Officer, Penny Martin, and pet Pablo.

“Tentsmuir is a favourite walk, starting from the car park at Tayport. The walk along the forest edge and then on to the beach is magical because the light is always changing. Maybe, we’ll see a peregrine dashing among the whirling flocks of birds. The dunes are a rolling patchwork quilt of colour, a tapestry of plants. Here, there’s lots of space here for the dog to run when it’s quiet, plenty of scents to sniff out, and always wildlife to see. The downsides?  Some people don’t clear up after their dogs especially near the busy Tayport end, and dogs can disturb wading birds particularly in winter. Amazingly though, by the time we’ve reach the beach it can feel empty, just ourselves and a dog under a big sky.”

Adding some variety to your route is a nice way to ensure the morning walk isn’t a slog but remember sometimes it’s important to change a little throughout the year to allow for wildlife seasons too. Our coastlines are important habitats for lots of species so it’s good to be wary of resident or seasonal wildlife. For ground nesting birds, make sure to follow any local guidance to avoid disturbing of nest sites. Dog walkers should also keep well back from seals with their dog on the lead keeping at least 150 metres away. These are beautiful animals to watch but if seals raise their heads when people are in the vicinity, then you are too close and best to continue on your dog walk via an alternative route.

Coastal exploring is also a favourite for Cathie Sunderland, our Unit Administrator for Argyll and Outer Hebrides.

Cathie Sunderland

Scout out enjoying some beautiful sunshine above Ganavan Beach, near Oban © Cathie Sunderland

“This is Scout on the hill above Ganavan Beach just outside Oban. It’s a popular spot for locals and visitors and a great place to catch up with some doggy friends and to let Scout have a little time running free. During our walk Scout even manages to find the odd ‘nice bit’ to have a good roll around in…which usually means a bath later. As well as great views across to Morven and Lismore, we also see plenty of rabbits on the walk as well as birds, including the odd Sea Eagle. When things are a bit warmer this is also a lovely spot for butterflies and moths.”

Local greenspace and country parks

Outdoor adventures with your pet are great no matter where you go and local greenspace and parks can also be fantastic places to exercise your four-legged friend. Communications Officer, Suzanne Downey, has a found her favourite route through a local country park.

SNH Staff Dog Walks - Roxy WHW

Roxy loving her daily stroll on a section of the West Highland Way © Suzanne Downey

“We are lucky living close to one of Scotland’s Great Trails, the popular West Highland Way. Set within the super country park in Milngavie (7 miles outside Glasgow) it has miles of footpaths and cycle routes to enjoy. My fave route takes you alongside Mugdock Reservoir, through Mugdock Wood, along Allander Water. The combination of peaceful woodland trails and waterside paths makes for a lovely cycle, run and of course walk with the family pet, fox-red Labrador Roxy.

The park also includes the remains of the 14th-century Mugdock Castle and the ruins of the 19th century Craigend Castle, a Gothic Revival mansion which might look familiar….The Last King was filmed here!  I often run with my dog around the Milngavie Reservoirs (which is a 3 mile loop) on the eastern side of the park. It will take you around the Craigmaddie and Mugdock reservoirs with lovely views and woodland trails to enjoy.”

Having grown up in the area, my young family and I are well aware of the need to follow the Scottish Outdoor Access Code but it is striking how many visitors or indeed locals are not so knowledgeable or aware.  There are many signs along the way during lambing times or at times of ground-nesting birds to kindly warn dog walkers of the need to put the dog on the lead – why would anyone risk the safety of their pet and other livestock?   The rangers are not trying to spoil or interrupt your walk by advising this – so it is disheartening when many don’t follow these simple set of instructions.   We all want to enjoy the countryside and trails together.”

Country parks and indeed local countryside can be great options for walking the dog but there are some guidelines to follow. As we head into spring remember that you might need to take extra care on your usual local routes as farms and small holdings head into the lambing season. During this time, look out for signs warning you not to enter fields and make sure to take note of animals before you head out. Remember to keep your dog at heel and under proper control around livestock to make sure everyone stays safe on a family dog walk.

The countryside afternoon walkies

Some other top options near Glasgow include around the Campsie Fells north of Glasgow. Our Non-Native Species Officer, Jenny Park, and dog Kelpie, have a few favourite spots around the area but, sadly, the walks aren’t always well looked after.

Kelpie out in some snow weather © Jenny Park

Kelpie out in some snow weather © Jenny Park

Campsie Glen is a steep walk so good for a cardiovascular work out with the dog and the waterfall there creates deep clean pools for doggy paddling. As a popular spot, the only problem with this route is during summer there are a lot of day trippers that do not follow the Scottish Outdoor Access Code. Many camp and leave their litter (and even whole tents!) behind them – as well as remains of food which dogs will make a bee line for and gobble no matter whether it’s harmful to them or not.

Another option is Fin Glen, previously a hill sheep farm but purchased by Forestry Commission Scotland a few years ago so now great for dog walkers!  This walk is less well known than neighbouring Campsie Glen so isn’t spoiled by litter the way that Campsie Glen can be.  It also features a waterfall and pool for doggy (or human) paddling but you have a bit of a hike before you reach it – the reward is that you’ll probably get it to yourself.  Fin Glen has a wilder feel to it so worth the extra hike.  There are plenty pheasant and roe deer in some areas as well as the occasional stray sheep from neighbouring farms so I do need to keep Kelpie on a lead in parts.

There are bins at the start of these walks but not along them so you have to be prepared to carry dog poo with you. “

Sadly, Jenny and Kelpie’s experience of litter isn’t unique to this spot!  Scotland has fantastic access rights which extend to hiking and wild camping but key to this is being responsible and clearing up after your visit. If you plan to camp in a natural area make sure to check the Scottish Outdoor Access Code guidelines on camping. Important things to remember include taking away all your litter, removing all traces of your tent pitch and not causing any pollution in the local area.

Are you a landowner looking for some advice on how to support responsible access? Find help and support from the Scottish Outdoor Access Code

Hillside hikes and mountain adventures

For those that want to head out on something a little more strenuous there are also a few uphill suggestions from our Scottish Natural Heritage cohort. If you’re in Aberdeenshire, Katie Bain, one of our Planning Advisers, suggests the Bennachie Range as a great spot to explore and is a firm favourite to walk with her dog Mallie.

“This image was taken at sunrise from the top of Bennachie in Aberdeenshire. This is home for me so will always be my favourite spot! There are four official paths to the top. The steepness of these varies so there is something for everyone – the gradual path up from the Rowantree car park is very popular. We also walked up to the top for Hogmanay and there were loads of people up there with their head torches including a bagpiper! Another bonus is that Bennachie also has a great swimming spot nearby.”

This route is also one seconded by our Landscape Advisor, Sarah Fletcher, but she also has a few other great hill paths for those in the area.

“I live in Insch, Aberdeenshire with some top walks right on my doorstep including up to Dunnydeer Hill and around the woodlands to Drumrossie House, Insch. Plus some more just a short drive too such as Bennachie, Tap o’Noth and Boyndie Bay – a beach west of Banff.”

If you are heading on a hill or mountain path remember to be prepared for your journey with suitable resources – and that includes for your furry friend. Long trails are unlikely to have many bin options so remember the poo bags and take them with you. If you can’t find a bin please don’t leave a full poo bag along the route even if it is to collect later as these are rarely picked up again.  Need something more suitable for longer walks? Our Non-Native Species Officer, Jenny Park, recommends neoprene bags designed to clip onto belts or rucksacks. You can also find more about these and how to deal with dog poo when out and about in our free dog training resources.

Tilly on a snowy adventure day Graham Boyle

Tilly on a snowy adventure day ©Graham Boyle

If you are closer to the North-West, our Chief of Staff, Graham Boyle suggests the Beinn Eighe Mountain Trail as a top option to take your pet on an outdoor adventure. This route includes woodland areas including ancient Scots pines, amazing views from high peaks and fascinating glacial geology. Look out for dippers splashing in the cascading burns, golden eagles soaring above the ridges and alpine plants clinging to the higher slopes.

Scotland’s nature reserves are great places to visit but remember these areas are carefully managed for nature conservation and to safeguard rare animals and plants. If you are planning to visit one of our reserves take care to avoid damaging the site or disturbing its wildlife by ensuring you follow responsible access guidance. 

Want to ensure you’re exploring responsibly with your dog? Check out our free online course on Responsible Dog Walking in Scotland’s Great Outdoors or if you need to know more about getting out and about check out the Scottish Outdoor Access Code.  Why not show us your latest adventures and how you are putting our course or the Scottish Outdoor Access Code into practice using our #TakeTheLead hashtag on social media!


Our team have some great suggestions from up and down the country but we’d love to know your favourite dog walking spots! Share them in the comments below.

Posted in country park, Dogs, Farming, paths, Scotland's Great Trails, SNH, Staff profile, Trail, Uncategorized | Tagged , , ,

Get involved on Global Recycling Day

On Global Recycling Day we’re taking the opportunity to reflect on the impact of plastics on our natural world, why recycling is so important and the actions that we can all take to help the environment.

Global Recycling Day 2018 from Global Recycling Day on Vimeo.

The first ever Global Recycling Day took place in 2018 with the aim of celebrating the importance of recycling in securing the future of our planet.

The key message is that by recycling, we can preserve our precious resources and reduce the amount of waste sent to landfill, which is not only an unsustainable use of natural resources but also produces gases which contribute to climate change.

Recycling is also an important part in preventing pollution in our natural environments.


©Lorne Gill/SNH

We are all increasingly aware of the extent of plastics in the world’s oceans but perhaps not quite so aware of its presence in freshwater.

More research has been undertaken in recent years and we know that microplastics (plastics of less than 5mm in size) can be present at significant levels in freshwaters.

Microplastics are of particular concern because they can be ingested at many different levels throughout the food web much more easily than larger pieces of plastic.

Researchers from Cardiff University and the University of Exeter have sampled rivers and found that microplastics were present in at least half of all aquatic insects in the rivers surveyed.


©Lorne Gill/SNH

The researchers thought that the microplastics came from a variety of sources, including wastewater from sewage works, surface water runoff containing road paint and bits of tyres, and litter.

More recently, the University of Bangor and Friends of the Earth found microplastic in several of Britain’s most well-known lochs and rivers.  The sites they surveyed included two sites in Scotland (Loch Lomond and Falls of Dochart), both of which were found to contain microplastics.

In Scotland we have a target to recycle 70% of waste by 2025, and currently progress stands at 46%.



Encouragingly in 2018 the levels of household waste recycled exceeded the amount sent to landfill in Scotland for the first time, but more action is needed to reach our national recycling targets.

So what can be done to help tackle this problem?

As the organisation tasked with protecting and improving Scotland’s nature, here at SNH we are leading by example in taking action to reduce, re-use and recycle as much as possible, for example by having recycling bins in all our offices, reducing the use of paper and taking steps to eliminate the use of plastic bottles, cups, packaging and cutlery.


© C Webster/SNH

But all of us can take simple steps in our everyday lives to help reduce the amount of plastic that we use and protect our environment.

These include:

  • Try avoiding using plastic for one day and see what changes you can make
  • Use plastic-free teabags
  • Refill your water bottle
  • Switch to plastic free options when they are available. Buy loose fruits and vegetable
  • Bring food and drinks in sustainable containers. Bring your own cup to meetings.
  • Carry a reusable bag with you.
  • Say no to plastic straws and cutlery.
  • Avoid overly packaged items

Global Recycling Day encourages us all to think again about what we are throwing away, and begin to see not just waste, but opportunity.

Raising awareness can lead to crucial action –such as the recent EU policy aiming to ban 90% of microplastic pollutants.

Individuals have as much a role to play as large organisations, so do your bit this Global Recycling Day and celebrate what we’ve achieved so far!


Posted in Recycling | Tagged , , , , ,

Getting close to biodiversity at Flanders Moss National Nature Reserve

Our Biodiversity Strategy Team has been catching up at Flanders Moss National Nature Reserve finding out more about the intricacies of the site and getting some hands-on tasks in too. Read about how they got on from our Biodiversity Strategy Officer, Iain Macdonald, below.

© David Pickett/ SNH

Biodiversity Strategy Team © David Pickett/ SNH

On 21st February the Biodiversity Strategy Team spent a few hours catching up on a little biodiversity at Flanders Moss National Nature Reserve (NNR) near Stirling.  When we meet up it is usually around a table, but this was a different sort of meeting altogether.  For a start it was outdoors and it involved not just the “usual suspects”, but  listening to Dave Pickett, the Reserve Manager, answer all sorts of questions.

“Where did the thousands of tonnes of peat go that used to surround the NNR and which are now green fields?  Into the Forth Estuary having been stripped off and been dumped into the River Forth many decades ago.”  Can you believe that even a water wheel was used in the early days to power the peat removal?  I guess that peat is still out there somewhere, possibly lying off Edinburgh? “Are there deer? Yes, lots, a particular challenge for lowland deer managers when there are lots of people.”  “Why the sheep?  To help control woodland regeneration while the bog surface is still recovering.”

© Kamila Fraser/ SNH

Fox moth caterpillar © Kamila Fraser/ SNH

Trees and non-native shrubs have been removed in large numbers  at Flanders Moss and drains having been dammed, including recent work near the public entrance by the EcoCo LIFE Peatland Project. The water table in the area we visited is at ground level with surface pools in many places.  There are not many lowland raised bogs left in Scotland and of those which I have visited, I can testify from first-hand experience, that this definitely one is the wettest!

© David Pickett/ SNH

Hands on biodiversity © David Pickett/ SNH

As well as finding out about the NNR, we helped remove some of the Sitka spruce trees which have been cropping up on the peat.  Armed with saws and loppers we cut down a good few dozen – every little bit helps!  And there was biodiversity present on the day – a pale grey hen harrier quartering the mire, abundant bog-cranberry and a fox moth caterpillar making the most of one of the warmest February days in Scottish history!

Absolutely amazing to visit a protected area in a state of gradual improvement. If you haven’t been you should visit!  You don’t need to get wet – there is a walkway and viewing platform. There is even a good café/ restaurant quite close to the entrance, so no excuses!

Find out more about visiting Flanders Moss National Nature Reserve here. 

Posted in biodiversity, Flanders Moss NNR, National Nature Reserves, Scottish Natural Heritage, SNH

Scotland shines in springtime

Spring is in the air and as nature begins to wake up there has never been a better time to visit Scotland’s National Nature Reserves. Whether you’re wildlife spotting or just want to get out and enjoy some fresh air and spectacular scenery, these special places are great to explore. Here are 10 of the best spring surprises Scotland has to offer and where you might find them:

  1. Stacks of seabirds
Puffin at Sumburgh Head, Shetland ©Lorne Gill SNH

Puffin at Sumburgh Head, Shetland ©Lorne Gill SNH

Around the coast of Scotland, seabirds are returning home to breed, after a long winter at sea. Don’t miss the chance to see thousands, including puffins, guillemots, razorbills, shags and kittiwakes, gathering on island and coastal cliffs. Just a short distance from Edinburgh the Isle of May and St Abb’s Head are fantastic places to witness this spectacle, while further afield in Shetland the most northerly cliffs of Hermaness and Noss are fabulous and dramatic places to visit.

  1. Wonderful wild flowers
Bluebells in springtime at Sunart oakwoods, Ardnamurchan ©Lorne Gill SNH

Bluebells in springtime at Sunart oakwoods, Ardnamurchan ©Lorne Gill SNH

Spring is when Scotland’s woodlands, from the temperate rainforests of the west coast to our ancient oak woods, come alive with delicate wild flowers.  Take a walk in the ancient gorge woodlands of Clyde Valley close to Lanark (don’t forget to visit the UNESCO World Heritage site of New Lanark), where bluebells create a colourful blanket in April and May. Alternatively, explore the hidden gem of Glasdrum Wood on the shores of Loch Creran, where the woodland floor is carpeted with wild flowers including violets, wood anemone and primrose.

  1. Climb high
The Beinn Eighe ridge and temperature inversion, Beinn Eighe NNR ©Lorne Gill SNH

The Beinn Eighe ridge and temperature inversion, Beinn Eighe NNR ©Lorne Gill SNH

Scotland’s mountain landscapes are outstanding, whether you just want to take in the view from the roadside or embark on a challenging hike. Visit the majestic Beinn Eighe in Wester Ross, one of the most scenic areas in Scotland (and the UKs first National Nature Reserve), where lochs and mountains combine to dramatic effect. Enjoy an easy low-level walk with views to the high ridges or take the Mountain Trail into the heart of the hills, a way-marked mountain path with stunning views. Elsewhere, explore Creag Meagaidh, a magnificent mountain plateau fringed by some of the grandest cliffs in Scotland. Hike on a trail through lovely regenerating woodland to Coire Ardair, where a lonely lochan sits below towering crags.

  1. Soar with the eagles
Rum and Skye from Gallanach on the Isle of Coll ©Lorne Gill SNH

Rum and Skye from Gallanach on the Isle of Coll ©Lorne Gill SNH

Spring is when Scotland’s majestic eagles return to their nesting sites and these iconic birds can be seen soaring high above the coasts and hills. The Isle of Rum lying splendidly off Mallaig is home to golden and sea (or white-tailed) eagles, and visitors to the trails of Beinn Eighe in Wester Ross can also spot both species as they search for food over the reserve. After a recent reintroduction of white-tailed eagles, you can also now see these magnificent birds around the forest and beach at Tentsmuir.  Join a guided walk to have the best chance of spotting them.

  1. Coastal gems
Beach and dune system at St Cyrus NNR, Montrose, Grampian area ©Lorne Gill SNH

Beach and dune system at St Cyrus NNR, Montrose, Grampian area ©Lorne Gill SNH

Scotland has an incredibly varied and rich coastline, which we’ll be celebrating next year as part of Scotland’s Year of Coasts and Waters.  From extensive sandy beaches to rocky inlets, our diverse coast supports amazing wildlife and is great fun to explore at this time of year.  Visit Caerlaverock in Dumfries & Galloway, where the views across the Solway Firth are constantly changing with the light and large gatherings of waders and wildfowl feed in the extensive salt marshes. Don’t forget to visit mighty Caerlaverock Castle. Or why not enjoy a walk along the sandy shores, gentle dunes and grasslands of St Cyrus in Aberdeenshire?

  1. Gone fishing
Osprey in flight ©Lorne Gill SNH

Osprey in flight ©Lorne Gill SNH

One of Scotland’s most iconic species, the osprey, returns each spring from wintering grounds in Africa to breed. The birds come back each year to the same nest site in the tops of trees or occasionally on top of pylons. Watching osprey fish is one of the highlights of wildlife watching in Scotland. Loch Leven, close to Kinross, is one of the most accessible places to see osprey, while those at Abernethy in the Cairngorms National Park are probably the most famous in Scotland. Enjoy fantastic views across to the nest from the visitor centre and let expert RSPB guides tell you all about the birds.

  1. Seal Slumbers
A grey seal pup resting on the foreshore at village bay, St Kilda NNR, Western Isles ©Lorne Gill SNH

A grey seal pup resting on the foreshore at village bay, St Kilda NNR, Western Isles ©Lorne Gill SNH

Scotland’s seals are some of our most charismatic mammals and this is a great time of year to see them. Watch as they haul out on rocky shores and beaches, slumbering in the spring sun. Head to Loch Fleet, on the North Coast 500 route in the North Highlands, where you can spot common or harbour seals hauled out in the sandbanks of this tidal loch. Or visit Forvie, on the Ythan Estuary in Aberdeenshire, home to a growing population of up to 1,000 grey seals. A short walk along the shore from Newburgh offers great views across the estuary, to the seals resting on the shores of the firth.

  1. Scramble with squirrels
Red squirrel ©Lorne Gill SNH

Red squirrel ©Lorne Gill SNH

Who could resist the chance to see one of Scotland’s most famous red heads – the acrobatic red squirrel? Spring sees them active and out and about – often spotted chasing up and down tree trunks.  The woodlands of Muir of Dinnet in Royal Deeside are home to these charismatic characters while at Tentsmuir in Fife, visitors to the squirrel hide at Morton Lochs have an excellent chance of seeing and photographing their antics.

  1. Return of the terns
Arctic tern in flight ©Lorne Gill

Arctic tern in flight ©Lorne Gill

In spring, terns return to our shores from their southern wintering grounds. With their delicate shape and flight they are one of the most elegant seabirds.  Visit the Isle of May off the pretty fishing village of Anstruther, where the terns nest all around the harbour and visitor centre, filling the air with their calls and letting you know whose island this really is! Or take a coastal walk to the dunes of Forvie in Aberdeenshire, to see an extensive colony of terns and enjoy their stunning aerobatics.

  1. Woodland wanders
Glen Affric NNR ©Lorne Gill SNH

Glen Affric NNR ©Lorne Gill SNH

Scotland’s woodlands are the perfect place to relax and unwind in springtime. Enjoy a scenic walk and listen out for woodland birds as you wander. Explore Abernethy near Aviemore or Glen Affric in the Highlands to experience the best of the Caledonian pine forest, home to crested tits and unique Scottish crossbills. Or take a peaceful and energising dawn walk in the woodlands of Craigellachie near Aviemore, Ariundle Oakwood on the Sunart Peninsula or The Great Trossachs Forest in Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park.

Visit Scotland’s naturally inspiring National Nature Reserves this springtime. Who knows what you will find?

Posted in National Nature Reserves, SNH, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , ,

Agroforestry in Scotland? Forestry Grant Scheme funding still available until December 2020

In today’s blog, our woodlands specialist, Kate Holl, talks about the many benefits of agroforestry for farmers, as well as the funding available.

Agroforesty blog 1

Agroforestry simply means integrating trees into agricultural land.  But in contrast to farm woodland creation, which normally results in a net loss of productive agricultural land, agroforestry can help improve farming productivity. Agroforestry systems are made up of trees or shrubs integrated into the rest of the farming system in a variety of ways, including alley cropping (rows of trees in between alleys of crops or pasture), trees in pasture, grazed woodland, shelter belts, pollards, trees in riparian zones and orchards.

A central benefit of agroforestry is that productivity is higher than in single crop systems, due to the fact that harvesting is from more than one level. In other words, in a silvo-arable system (trees and crops) with barley and fruit trees, there is the harvest of grain from the field level and the additional harvest of the fruit from trees on the same bit of ground. This means that overall productivity of arable agroforestry farms can be more than 40% higher than a monoculture system on the same land area.

Agroforestry also delivers many other important benefits:

  • It provides shelter and forage for farm animals, which can also improve their welfare and save money on feed and bedding costs.
  • It offers the farmer an additional income stream from wood fuel, fruit or timber.
  • The trees will sequester carbon, hence helping with climate change.
  • Nutrients accessed from deeper in the soil by tree roots and brought to the surface through leaf fall, contribute to healthier, more fertile soils.
  • When trees are reintroduced to agricultural landscapes as part of agroforestry systems, run-off of nitrogen and phosphate, erosion from soils and pollution of waterways and air (ammonia) may be reduced.
  • Agroforestry will also be beneficial for wildlife on the farm (depending on species and planting design), and can make the land less vulnerable to drought and flooding.

Agroforesty blog 2

I’ve experienced the benefits on my smallholding. Sheep on my land enjoy eating “leaf hay” cut from surrounding hedgerows at the end of summer.  Leaf hay cut from trees and shrubs can be a very valuable source of food for livestock – particularly when grass is in short supply, with nutrient and mineral levels often significantly higher than in pasture, so avoiding the need for costly “bought-in” supplements.

At the moment, agroforestry is not common in Scotland. Old wood pastures which are a form of traditional agroforestry can be found, but many of these are no longer actively managed.

However more farmers are now embracing agroforestry, seeing the benefits, now and in the future, for the resilience and productivity of their farms.

Agroforestry blog 5

Malting barley in between rows of apple trees at Parkhill Farm in Newburgh. Photo by Roger Howison

There is help for farmers who are considering introducing agroforestry to their farms. Funding is still available (currently until December 2020) under the Scottish Government’s  Forestry Grant Scheme to help create areas of agroforestry within sheep-grazed pasture land  or on arable land.  The land that is intended to be planted with trees must be permanent grassland pasture, temporary grassland or arable land (Land Capability for Agriculture – Class 1.1 to 4.2 inclusive). Under the current scheme, if planning a silvo-pastoral regime (trees and livestock), then only sheep (not cattle) can be used for grazing, as the tree protection provided within the grant is not sufficiently robust for cattle or other grazing animals. However, changes are currently under discussion that may widen the scope of the integration of trees on farm land, so watch this space!

Under Scotland’s Rural Development Programme, the aim is to establish around 300 hectares of agroforestry by 2020; we still have a way to go to meet this target.  So we’d encourage farmers to look at ways they can add trees to their farms and apply for funding before it’s too late. The potential is definitely here for agroforestry to flourish in Scotland, and for us all to benefit from harvesting the many benefits of this way of farming.

Guidance and information on funding for Agroforestry can be found on the Scottish Government’s Rural Payments and Services web pages, under the Forestry Grant Scheme.

Farmers looking for help with the planning and design of an agroforestry scheme can contact their local Forestry Commission Conservancy office.



Posted in Agri-Environment Climate Scheme, Farming, sustainable farming | Tagged , , ,

Faclan eile airson ‘Madadh-allaidh’ / Gaelic words for ‘Wolf’

Tha an t-uabhas fhaclan Gàidhlig a tha a’ seasamh airson ‘madadh-allaidh’ / There is a large number of Gaelic words meaning ‘wolf’.

Faclan eile airson ‘Madadh-allaidh’

Tha an t-uabhas de cheann-fhaclan ann am Faclair Dwelly a sheasas airson na Beurla wolf, a dh’aindeoin ’s gun deach an t-ainmhidh sin à bith anns an ochdamh linn deug (a rèir choltais). ’S e madadh-allaidh am facal as cumanta an-diugh, agus tha dùil gum buin cuid de dh’ainmean-àite le madadh don mhadadh-allaidh, seach am madadh-ruadh, ged a tha e doirbh a bhith cinnteach mu dheidhinn. Tha faclan fillte eile airson ‘wolf’ stèidhichte air madadh, leithid alla-mhadadh, madadh-mòr, mòr-mhadadh agus madadh-gul (am fear mu dheireadh co-cheangailte ri a nuallan).

Wolf, Canis lupus. Highland Wildlife Park near Kincraig, Strathspey. ©Lorne Gill For information on reproduction rights contact Scottish Natural Heritage on Tel. 01738 444177 or

©Lorne Gill

Tha faclan eile air an leasachadh air , mar a bhiodh dùil. Tha na leanas againn airson madadh-allaidh – fiadh-chù, marbh-chù, cù-fàsaich, coille-chù agus cù geàrr. Ach ’s dòcha gur e an ceann-fhacal as inntinniche – faol – a nochdadh gu h-eachdraidheil na dhreach meanbhain faolan ‘madadh-allaidh beag’. Tha Naomh Faolan ainmeil ann an eachdraidh nan Gàidheal, agus ’s iomadh duine a bhuineas don chinneadh MacIllFhaolain an-diugh. Tha faol a’ nochdadh ann an Dwelly cuideachd mar faol-chù, faol-allaidh agus faol-ulaith. ’S dòcha gum faicear buaidh na Seann Lochlannais anns an fhear mu dheireadh – ’s e ulfr am facal a bh’ aca airson madadh-allaidh. Tha Am Faoilleach, a rèir choltais, stèidhichte air àm nuair a thigeadh na madaidhean-allaidh às na coilltean, agus an t-acras orra. Gu traidiseanta bha Am Faoilleach a’ dol eadar meadhan January agus meadhan February.

Captive European Wolves (Canis lupus), Highland Wildlife Park. ©Lorne Gill For information on reproduction rights contact the Scottish Natural Heritage Image Library on Tel. 01738 444177 or

©Lorne Gill

Gaelic words for ‘Wolf’

There is a remarkable number of headwords in Dwelly’s Gaelic dictionary which correspond to the English ‘wolf’, despite the fact that the animal became extinct in Scotland (most likely) in the eighteenth century. The one in commonest usage today is madadh-allaidh ‘savage wild dog’; some of the madadh names in our landscape may refer to the wolf, although the fox can also be called madadh-ruadh ‘russet wild dog’. Other madadh-based terms for the wolf are alla-mhadadh ‘savage wild dog’, madadh-mòr and mòr-mhadadh ‘great wild dog’, and madadh-gul ‘wailing wild dog’.

Captive European Wolf (Canis lupus), Highland Wildlife Park. ©Lorne Gill For information on reproduction rights contact the Scottish Natural Heritage Image Library on Tel. 01738 444177 or

©Lorne Gill

Other names are based on – traditionally a hound, but more modernly any type of dog. For the wolf, we have fiadh-chù ‘wild dog’, marbh-chù ‘dead ie killing dog’, cù-fàsaich ‘wilderness dog’, coille-chù ‘forest dog’ and cù-geàrr ‘short dog’. But perhaps the most interesting headword is faol which was historically used in its diminutive form faolan ‘little wolf’ as a man’s name. St Fillan is the anglicised form of Naomh Faolan, and many MacLellans carry a clan name derived from him (MacIllFhaolain ‘son of a follower of Faolan’). Faol appears as faol-chù, faol-allaidh and faol-ulaith, the last perhaps being influenced by the Old Norse ulfr ‘wolf’. The month of January in Gaelic is Am Faoilleach, generally interpreted as the ‘wolf-ravaging time’; it originally represented an older Gaelic ‘month’, from mid-January to mid-February.

Posted in Gaelic, Scottish Natural Heritage