Stuart Benn, RSPB Conservation Manager, on the Year of Natural Scotland.
How do you see us?
It’s been the usual series of highs and lows with Scottish sport in the last couple of weeks – our women curlers were crowned world champions and Andy Murray ground it out in the Miami heat to become the second best tennis player on earth. But the national football team continued their slide into the lower regions of the FIFA rankings and we now sit below the Cape Verde Islands and Jordan (the country, though given our recent form, Katie Price would have had a decent chance of beating us too).
So, as ever with Scotland, it’s been a mixed bag and these sports stories will no doubt help shape people’s opinions about us just as they do with other countries (think Brazil and football or New Zealand and the All Blacks). But those opinions are formed through all sorts of other things too including the natural environment (Brazil - Amazon rainforest , New Zealand – kiwi) and two recent initiatives are asking us to think about Scotland’s nature just a little bit differently.
Golden eagle talons
2013 has been designated The Year of Natural Scotland , a celebration of our scenery and wildlife, and the Big 5 have just been announced. These are five of the most iconic Scottish species – golden eagle, otter, red squirrel, red deer, harbour seal - and they will be the focus of efforts to inspire people to get out and see Scotland’s wildlife for themselves. We might think that the RSPB would just concentrate on eagles and the other birds but not so – a huge range of animals, insects, plants and the like benefit from our activities and we want to tell people about and involve them with this work too.
I guess that we will all have our own ideas on what these species and any other aspect of Scottish nature means to us, shaped by our own experiences and what we’ve read or heard. But have you ever thought of expressing them in a different way because this is what we are being asked to do through Imagining Natural Scotland. The idea behind this is to form collaborations between science and the creative arts to highlight Scotland’s natural environment and wildlife, and come up with projects to showcase them in ways that go beyond what we might expect. And there’s possibly money available too!
Any regular readers of my blog will know that I’m fascinated by the connections between nature, music and art (for example here, here, here and here) so I think this is a great opportunity and I would love to get involved in a joint Imagining Natural Scotland project. If anyone is interested then please get in touch with me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Look forward to hearing your exciting ideas!
Scottish Birdfair team member, Stacey Maden, on preparing for the big day.
Countdown to the Scottish Birdfair
With just 1 month to go before the Scottish Birdfair, it’s all go in the office as we finalise plans for the big day.
This year we are excited to welcome even more exhibitors showcasing the very best in optics, clothing, arts and crafts, books and bird food (just to name a few) and we are looking forward to browsing the stalls ourselves.
One of the perks of being a Birdfair team member, aside from being issued with a walkie talkie, is the opportunity to meet so many people who share our love for wildlife and Scotland’s natural environment. We have a dedicated team of volunteers who help us with every aspect of the event, from marketing to traffic marshalling and we really couldn’t do it without them.
We are looking forward to welcoming a diverse range of conservation organisations, all with a commitment to protecting and enhancing our natural environment. Be sure to visit our friends and find out more about what they do and how you can help.
For those of you who like to take advantage of a full day- Set your alarm clock for a guided Dawn Chorus Walk around the beautiful grounds of Hopetoun House. Enjoy a coffee and the amazing sounds of songbirds greeting the day.
There’s also an opportunity to discover the remarkable wildlife of the Firth of Forth on a special seabird cruise. Experts will point out the diverse range of species found right on our doorstep from puffins and gannets to seals and jellyfish.
There’s lots to keep the little ones entertained too with pony rides, storytelling, puppet shows, nest box building and more!
And let’s not forget the truly important things...the food and beverage options! Our friends at the Duddingston Arms are back this year to offer a range of specially brewed beers and our very own ‘Birdfair Best’ beer brewed by Tryst Breweries. Fantastic coffee from Steampunk coffee will help you start the day right. A wide range of delicious lunch options including risotto, burgers, hog roast, and traditional Cullen skink will keep the entire family happy.
So, if you enjoy nature, wildlife, the outdoors, delicious locally sourced food and fun for the entire family- The Scottish Birdfair is the perfect event for you! We look forward to seeing you there!
You can view the full event programme and purchase tickets on the Scottish Birdfair website.
Photo: Ken Jack Agencies
Check out the Scottish Birdfair video to find out what it's all about:
RSPB Scotland Trainee Ecologist, David Freeman, on his first trip to Forsinard Flows.
A trip to the far north
The Flow country of Scotland is one of the most important and dynamic landscapes in the world, its deep peats have built up over thousands of years locking away masses of carbon and preserving forests from ages past. The Lochs and Lochans that collect on the peat form a strange patterned landscape that reflects the metallic greys and crystal blues of the Highland sky. This majestic landscape has long been high on my agenda to visit.
When the opportunity to spend a month volunteering at Forsinard arose, I leapt at the chance. Forsinard Flows is a reserve that covers huge areas of this landscape stretching from the Caithness/Sutherland boarder in the east to loch Druim a’ chliabhain in the west. I arrived at the reserve on a clear and crisp February night. Immediately I was struck by the scale of the landscape. The vast undulating moorlands and the horizons of snow-capped peaks combine to make one of the most spectacular landscapes in the UK.
The next morning after a brief introduction to the other volunteers and staff, we headed out to undertake some essential habitat management tasks. During this first day I was amazed by how peaceful the surrounding landscape is. I was also surprised at the abundance of wildlife present. Even though it was still early in the year there was still plenty to see. Routinely we would stumble across herds of red deer (Cervus elaphus) on the open moorland. Amongst the pines the bright orange of male crossbill (Loxia curvirostra) could often be glimpsed flitting about in the higher branches. Of particular interest to me was the rich carpet of mosses, like the rich burgundy of Sphagnum capillifolium, the bog pools edged with the shining gold of Sphagnum pulchrum and the ever present glossy green creep of Hylocomium splendens. However, the highlight of that first day has to have been a nocturnal visit from a highly inquisitive pine marten (Martes martes). I was certainly pleased to be calling this Landscape home for the next 4 weeks.
Photos 1 & 2 by Eleanor Bentall. Photo 3 by Karl Stevens.