Conservation Manager, Stuart Benn, is back with a new blog.
For Those in Peril on the Sea
Autumn has definitely arrived and far from being Keats’ ‘Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness’, it’s one of storms and rain. I was up the glen at the weekend and not much was about – a solitary dipper and a glimpse of an eagle, and that was it. Most everything else has cleared out to more hospitable areas to spend the winter but my thoughts were with two birds in particular and how they were getting on.
I’ve blogged before about Slavonian grebes, how they aren’t doing so well and the work we’re putting in to find out what’s going wrong. Part of the puzzle is to know where the birds are during the six months or so that they aren’t on the breeding lochs and modern technology may just be the way to find that out.
Just recently, really clever bits of kit called geolocators have been developed. These are tiny, weigh no more than a mouse’s brain, measure light levels and can tell what the time and date is. With all that info, it knows when sunrise and sunset are and this, combined with the date, tells it pretty much where it is in the world. So, you catch your bird, attach the geo, catch it again at some later date, plug the gizmo into your computer and it tells you where it’s been. Sure, they aren’t as accurate as GPS but if you previously had absolutely no idea where your birds were spending the winter then it’s a huge leap forward.
And so it is with the Slavs – they leave our lochs in the autumn, spend the winter at sea and come back the following spring but, so far, those missing months have been a mystery.
Back in early July we managed to catch a couple of the grebes and fitted them with their geolocators, and I guess by now they are out battling those storms at sea, somewhere.
The Icelanders have been fitting geolocators to grebes for a few years now and, though the Slavs were nesting just metres apart, they’ve had birds wintering off Iceland, off Norway, round north-west Scotland and in the English Channel so I’m not taking any bets on where our birds go.
We’ll just have to wait and see if they come back next spring having survived the storms - what we find might just be the clue we need to help save these really special birds.
New blog from Rebekah Stackhouse, RSPB Scotland's Education and Youth Programmes Manager.
Happy Winds-day everyone – I do hope you’re outside!
Whilst our weather today might not be quite as bad as Winnie the Pooh’s “mild spring zephyr” in Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day, I wouldn’t blame anyone who stayed in to guard their honey this morning. As proven by Pooh, Piglet, Eeyore and Owl, however, it is possible not only to go outside on days like today, but also to have seriously exciting adventures! I wouldn’t necessarily recommend travelling in a flying house, but I would recommend splashing in puddles, catching raindrops, chasing leaves, and even paddling in the mud.
That’s why I am pleased to hear about the Natural Childhood Summit being hosted by the National Trust today. Connecting children and young people with the natural world creates confident and capable individuals who welcome adventure, can assess and cope with risk, and who relish all sorts of outdoor activity. It also has significant health and wellbeing benefits. The Natural Childhood Summit will outline a way forward for individuals, communities, organisations and policy makers to take action and ensure that all young people are able to connect with nature.
In Scotland, organisations such as Education Scotland, members of the Real World Learning Partnership, Scottish Natural Heritage and others are already delivering important work in this area. As a result of Scotland’s Action Plan for the UN Decade of Sustainable Development, there have been improvements in the number and quality of outdoor experiences children and young people can take part in. It is very important that, like Piglet in his windswept journey, we make the most of this momentum. The important messages of the Natural Childhood Summit, along with those of our partner organisations in Scotland will inform and support our work as we head into the Year of Natural Scotland in 2013.
Whatever “heffalumps” or “woozles” you and the children and young people you know decide to hunt today, get those wellies and waterproofs on and enjoy the outdoors!
Trainee ecologist, Helen Dickinson, introduces us to some unusual invertebrates.
The Bizarre, the Big and the Beautiful
Dicranopalpus ramosus (Cambridgeshire)- This creature with no common name is a member of the harvestman (Opilones) order. Opiliones are not spiders as commonly believed, as there is no distinction between body sections. A harvestman appears to be made up of a single oval, where as spiders have two clear body sections. This odd looking creature is even more strange due to its forked palps (sensory organs) which give it a distinctly crab like appearance!
Golden-ringed Dragonfly Cordulegaster boltonii (Insh Marsh)- Female golden-ringed dragonflies hold the record for being the longest UK dragonfly, measuring about 8.5cm. A voracious predator it will feed on a range of insects. Breeding in acidic rivers and streams it can also be seen flying far from water over heath and moorland. If this dragonfly is coming your way you wont miss it!
Red Breasted Carrion Beetle Oiceoptoma thoracicum (Insh Marsh)- Despite the less than glamorous Carrion in its name, this distinctive beetle has an attractive velvet sheen on close inspection and coming across it in the sunshine was like finding a little ruby amongst the leaf litter! This little gem can generally be found in woodlands where it is associated with feeding on carrion and fungi.
Musk Beetle Aromia moschata (Cambridgeshire)- This was a huge find, literally! The amazing Musk beetle belongs to the longhorn family (Cerambycidae), I bet you cant guess why! Found crawling across a nettle patch this large metallic purple beetle is usually found on willow where its larvae develop. A Nationally Notable B species, this beetle is uncommon in Britain and according to the National Biodiversity Network the only historic Scottish records are from Islay.
As we all know looks aren’t everything and thankfully the invertebrate world has it all, the beauties and the beasts, and even the beasts have a real beauty of their own.