May, 2013

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.
  • Countdown to Scottish Birdfair!

    Countdown to Scottish Birdfair! May 11-12 at Hopetoun House near Edinburgh

    With a little over 1 week to go before the second annual Scottish Birdfair, it’s all go in the office as we finalise plans for the big weekend.

    The award-winning festival* attracted some 5,000 visitors in 2012 and is expected to be even bigger and better this year.

    The Scottish Birdfair will host over 100 exhibitors showcasing everything from the very best in optics to outdoor clothing, books, arts & crafts, garden accessories and more.

    An exciting programme of expert talks, guided walks, demonstrations and workshops ensures there is something for everyone whether you are new to birdwatching or an old hand.

    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 sounds of songbirds greeting the day.

    There’s also an opportunity to discover the remarkable birdlife of the Firth of Forth on a special seabird cruise.  Experts will point out the diverse range of species found right on Edinburgh’s doorstep from puffins to gannets and terns. You may even spot seals, dolphins and jellyfish!

    And it’s all for a good cause! Proceeds from the Scottish Birdfair will go to support our efforts to protect and conserve corncrake, a rare and elusive bird and a real Scottish conservation success story.

    There’s also a range of fantastic activities including bushcraft, foraging, cookery demonstrations and a fantastic line up of local folk bands throughout the weekend.

    There’s lots for the little ones too from storytelling and puppet shows, to pony rides and arts & crafts. The Scottish Birdfair is a great day out for the whole family.

    For more information and to purchase tickets, please visit:

    *Scottish Birdfair was named Best Small Festival at the Scottish Event Awards 2012.

    Photo by Ed Mackey

  • Greetings from the STAR (Seabird Tracking And Research) team on Colonsay!

    Introducing a new series of blogs from RSPB Scotland Conservation Scientists. First up is Emily Scragg, Senior Research Assistant with the Seabird Tracking And Research team on Colonsay.

    Greetings from the STAR (Seabird Tracking And Research) team on Colonsay!

    It is our fourth year here on the island (and my first) carrying out seabird tracking work with the previous three years tracking carried out as part of the Future of the Atlantic Marine Environment (FAME) project. This research aims to find out where UK seabirds are foraging in order to help inform the Marine Protected Area (MPA) designation process. Previous years tracking data is freely available to the public, policy makers and renewables companies at We encourage everyone to explore our ground-breaking results for themselves.

    We are one of four STAR teams collecting data this year, with the others based on Orkney, Fair Isle and Rathlin (in addition to collaborating with people on the Isle of May, Skomer and Puffin Island).

    Tessa and I are based on Colonsay for the next three months, a small island in the Southern Hebrides which is home to around 100 people, a general store, a bookshop and a brewery...what more could you want!? The landscape is comprised of a wide range of habitats from heather moorland to dunes, machair, sandy beaches and sea cliffs, and consequently has exceptionally rich biodiversity. Along with Islay it is the only place you can find breeding chough in Scotland.

    We arrived here two weeks ago and have spent the time preparing for the field season ahead – this has involved a wide variety of tasks from re-acquainting ourselves with the locals (and the local cakes!) to cleaning and sorting equipment, reccing sites, and preparing the GPS tags we use on the birds.

    The tags take quite a bit of sorting before they are ready: each must be charged and discharged at least twice, and then run through a series of tests to check that it is in full working order. We have over 150 tags so this is no mean feat! Fortunately we've been able to intersperse this with trips to the cliffs to re-familiarise ourselves with the sites and find out what the birds are up to – the short answer has so far been 'not much'. Shags are the first species we tag on Colonsay but we have to wait until they are settled on their nests incubating, and this year the onset of breeding for the shags appears to have been delayed. This could be due to the high winds and waves we've been experiencing. When breeding, When breeding, shags forage in shallower waters close to the colony and can find it difficult to feed when high winds cause turbulent waters.

    On Monday we visited the local school to talk to them about our project and to try out the 'FAME game'. This involves sending the children to 'forage' for Sandeel fact cards whilst carrying one of the tags. We can then download the tracks from the tags and show them where they've been. With a class size of 3 (2 were off sick) it was a little intense but I think all of them had fun and learnt something about us and about the birds we study.

    Aside from preparing for the field season we have been having fun at the island's Spring Festival. There have been a lot of talks and workshops on offer and we have been taking advantage of our relative free time to explore these fully! Spring is well underway on the island – we saw our first Cuckoo of the year last week and a Corncrake was heard yesterday in one of the fields near where we live. There are lambs gambolling everywhere you look and the Primroses are in bloom, as SpringWatch would have it “Spring has sprung”!

    Our other teams have also been working hard: Team Rathlin has already tagged 3 birds on Great Saltee, team Orkney has been preparing for their first off-island trip and team Fair Isle have been playing it easy as their equipment only arrived on the ferry a few days ago! The advantage (or disadvantage) of once-a-week post. We will all be keeping you updated throughout the season with our progress.


  • Taking the slow road: surveying fungi on the banks of Loch Lomond

    Brand new blog from Chris Knowles, RSPB Scotland Nature Counts Trainee Ecologist.

    Taking the slow road: surveying fungi on the banks of Loch Lomond

    This end of a frosty spring is about as far from being mushroom season as you can get, and yet that’s what I had high hopes of finding on one of my first outings as a ‘Nature counts trainee ecologist’.

    With the recent weather in mind, I set out on a surprisingly dry and not-particularly-freezing kind of morning to survey woodlands at the RSPB Loch Lomond reserve.  

    1.  Ring Wood, RSPB Loch Lomond

    As I took my first few steps into Ring Wood I glanced around at the dominating beech and birch, cast a hopeful eye over the copious standing and fallen dead wood and then spent the next 20 minutes in pretty much the same spot.  I had stepped into a wonderland of diversity as each trunk, log and fallen branch revealed more of the toughest  fungi  left hanging on since last autumn like the Birch Polypore (also known as the Razorstrop fungus due to it being used in the past as a tool sharpener) and some of the woody perennial fungi like the Hoof Fungus (also known as the Tinderbracket  due to it being used to carry tinder for firelighting still to this day).

    2.  Hoof fungus (Fomes fomentarius)

    In fact due to the large number of species found, by noon I had barely moved 20 metres from where I started.  So although it was with some reluctance that I had to drag my eyes from the ground in my search for fungi, I was rewarded over lunch by a sight in the skies.  As I sat on a bank of the loch munching a sandwich, an osprey with similar thoughts in mind repeatedly swooped down over the water catching its own lunch – it was wonderful to watch, and something I had never observed before (neither an osprey, nor an osprey’s lunch).

    Soon enough it was time to get my head out of the clouds, and back into the woods for more fungi; no difficult task on a site like this. I was particularly impressed with how many species had colonised the same host plant together... with the best exhibiting no less than four visibly fruiting in close proximity on the same dead tree.

    I’ll be returning to the same woods for another survey this autumn, but next time I think I’ll be bringing the kids along for a fungal lesson in sharing.