June, 2012

Our work

Our work
You might be surprised to read that our work is far broader than nature reserves and Big Garden Birdwatch. Read more about what else we do.

Scottish Nature Notes

Keep up to date with the latest wildlife and nature news in Scotland. Regular blogs from RSPB Scotland's conservation teams across the country. Writing about Scotland's amazing wildlife & natural environment.
  • No new coal at Hunterston: victory for environment & public campaigning

    RSPB's Allan Whyte reflects on the success of the Say NO to Hunterston campaign.

    There will be no new coal at Hunterston!

    Peel Energy has withdrawn their plans to build a massive and polluting power station on the protected site at Hunterston.

    Everyone at RSPB would like to extend our warmest thanks to all those who contributed to making this happen; this is a fantastic victory for the environment and for public campaigning. Over the past three and a half years we have stood alongside other organisations and thousands of members of the public to stop this development happening.

    From the beginning the odds have been stacked against us. This was David against Goliath; a group of local residents and charities against a massive corporation that turns over billions of pounds each year.  

    On Tuesday afternoon rumours began to circulate that Peel Energy, the company behind the plans for the huge coal-fired power station at Hunterson, had decided to withdraw their application for the development. The more saturated the ether became with these rumours the more convinced I was that this was actually happening.

    Elation and shock were the emotions trending for most of us who have been involved with the campaign. I have been involved in the Hunterston campaign for a couple of years, colleagues of mine have been involved since the very beginning in 2008. This is the day we all hoped would come.

    Success has been a result of emphatic public opposition to these plans - a development which would have destroyed an important wildlife site and seriously jeopardized Scotland’s ambitious climate change targets.

    Everyone who has been involved should feel a great sense of pride in being part of this victorious campaign. If you signed a pledge card; sent an e-action; wrote to your MSP, MP or councillor, or joined us for a day of action then you made this happen.

    We want to build on this success and will continue to work hard to protect nature and the environment in the knowledge that we have the support of people across the country who care about the environment and the future of the planet.

    We want to safeguard the Portencross Coast Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) at Hunterston so that it remains the fantastic wildlife site it is today. We want to see an end to dirty coal in the UK and will tackle climate change head on. We can only do this with the levels of public support that have made the Hunterston campaign so successful.

    Thank you again to everyone who was involved in this campaign. I hope that this victory demonstrates the collective strength and influencing power that people can have when they are willing to stand up for what they believe in.

  • Legless lizards on Ailsa Craig

    With their long, smooth bodies, slow worms resemble tiny snakes but they are actually legless lizards.  They are quite common throughout mainland Britain, but some of the largest slow worms are found on Ailsa Craig, an island in the Firth of Clyde with a remarkable history and managed by RSPB Scotland for seabirds such as gannets and puffins.

    Photo: Lucy Benyon (Froglife)

    Slow worms seem to be among the species benefitting from a pioneering project to eradicate the rats that had devastated the island’s seabird populations.

    Following a shipwreck close to shore in the mid 19th century- rats invaded the island wreaking havoc on populations of seabirds, particularly puffins.

    After several failed attempts to control and eradicate the rat population- a successful project was carried out in the 1990s by Glasgow University, supported by Scottish Natural Heritage, RSPB Scotland and the Scottish Ornithologists Club.

    Targeted use of humane rat poison was successful in removing rats from the island and puffins once again breed each year on Ailsa Craig.

    Photo: Andy Hay (rspb-images.com)

    Research suggests the project has also led to the boom in ‘legless lizard’ populations thanks to the elimination of competition and/or predation by rats that may have previously constrained growth rates in addition to depressing the population size.

    Slow worms can be easily found all over the island lying under pieces of wood or corrugated iron left over from the island’s time as a slate quarry.  When it is dry and sunny, conditions under these pieces of discarded metal can be quite warm and balmy temperatures help regulate slow worm digestion rates. Slow worms are known to eat slugs, snails, spiders, insects and earthworms.

    The species is the focus of this year's Make Your Nature Count wildlife survey.  Spend an hour in your garden or local park between 2-10 June and record the wildlife you see!  

    **Ailsa Craig is best viewed from the sea. Tours around the island run from Girvan and Campbeltown during the summer and are dependant on calm sea conditions.

  • Stepping up at Baron's Haugh

    Stephen Owen, Warden at Baron's Haugh, tells us about the fantastic of work of volunteers on the reserve.

    Stepping up at Baron's Haugh

    So it is two months in to being the new RSPB warden for Baron’s Haugh nature reserve, and it has been a real pleasure getting to know this absolute gem for wildlife right on the edge of Motherwell. Starting at Baron’s Haugh has been far easier thanks to some great volunteers, many of whom have been helping for quite a while now and know far more about the reserve than I do! The reserve volunteers are out every Thursday, and once a month on a Saturday, keeping on top of the myriad of tasks required to keep the reserve and its valuable habitats in as tip top condition as possible. There has been fencing to put up, litter to clear and rhododendrons to bash, to name but a few tasks.

    Spring also heralds plenty of bird survey work to be done, some at the crack of dawn, others late into the twilight. Volunteers have provided extra eyes and ears and have had some wonderful wildlife experiences at these less sociable hours, from noisy warblers in song to fox cubs playing in the sun.

    My big task of the last week has been sowing a new wildflower meadow. As it is over an acre, doing this by hand is a big task. However, thanks to some enthusiastic school kids, the local RSPB members group from Hamilton and our regular volunteers, the field is sown. I wait with baited breath to see what flowers later in the summer...

    Find out more about volunteering for RSPB Scotland.

    Check out this fantastic video about a volunteer work party on the reserve.