February, 2014

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.
  • Drum roll please...RSPB Scotland photo competition winners announced

    Lisa Dove, Community Fundraiser for RSPB Scotland, reveals the winners of the 2013 RSPB Scotland photo competition.

    Drum roll please...

    With over 200 entries received, our judges had a tough job to do deciding the winners of the 2013 RSPB Scotland Photography Competition. Dean Bricknell, John Aitchison and Andy Hay spent much time sifting through photos and even found a few surprises. With so many top quality entries it is clear that Scotland has fantastic wildlife, nature and photographers!

    Our expert judges (l-r) Dean Bricknell, John Aitchison and Andy Hay.

    Thank you to everyone who took the time to enter the competition and helped us spread the word. Now without further ado we present the winners....

    RSPB Scotland Wildlife Photographer of the Year

    The top prize has been awarded to Iris Waanders of the Netherlands. Her stunning photo of two red-necked phalaropes was taken on a visit to Shetland.

    Judge John Aitchison said: “Red-necked phalaropes are wonderfully confiding but they are also small and they move continuously which makes them hard to photograph.  Unusually among birds the males are less brightly marked than the females so this photograph is interesting as it shows the drabber, slimmer male mating with the more colourful female.  It's an excellent photograph of a fleeting and intimate moment in the lives of these fascinating birds which, RSPB research has just shown, cross the Atlantic when they leave Shetland then fly to the Pacific ocean to spend the winter on the sea close to the Galapagos Islands - the only European bird to do so."

    Second prize went to  Richard Bennet for his fantastic photo of three otters fishing off Yell in Shetland.

    Animal behaviour

    We received fantastic entries in the animal behaviour category including this winning photo of a dolphin and jellyfish taken by Lesley Garven at Chanonry Point, Fortrose.

    The second place prize was awarded to Andy Hayes. His stunning photo of an osprey wascaptured at Rothiemurchus Estate in the Cairngorms.


    A fiery sunrise captured the judges imagination and Dominic Boulding scooped top prize in the category for the impressive photo of Cairngorm Mountain.

    Sylviane Moss’ photo of a moody sky near Camasunary, Isle of Skye came a close second.

    Giving Nature a Home

    A photo by Jonathan Avery of a blue tit feeding a hungry chick won the prize in the Giving Nature a Home category.

    A colourful damsel fly making a home for itself on a duck pond near Langholm secured second prize for Stanley Wilson.

    People & Nature

    Another win for Lesley Garven, this photo of a dolphin leaping off of Chanonry Point captured the judges imagination and was awarded top prize in the people and nature category.

    Eric McCabe’s tranquil portrait with wildflowers at Tweedbank in the Borders took second prize.

    Young Photographer of the Year

    The title of RSPB Scotland Young Photographer of the Year was awarded to Imogen Hayden, aged 11, for her beautiful photo of a white-tailed eagle on the Isle of Skye.

    Judge John Aitchison said: “Imogen's photograph is a real winner and she's only eleven!  I have filmed white-tailed eagles taking fish and I know how hard it is to take a decent photograph of them.  Giving Nature a Home was the theme of the under 18 category and the reintroduction of white tailed eagles to Scotland has been a great success.  They really have been given back their home here.”

    Rona Ballantyne, aged 14, scooped second prize for her endearing photo of a mouse taken in Perth.


    Congratulations to all of our winners and the runners up!





  • What do you look for in a volunteering opportunity?

    Are you aged 16-24? Our Communications Support Intern, Harry Forshaw, is conducting a survey to find out what you look for in a volunteering experience.

    What do you look for in a volunteering opportunity?

    At RSPB Scotland we are developing our engagement with 16-24 year olds by creating new and exciting volunteering opportunities. Our mission is to build up a partnership with this age group, to tap the energy and ideas you could bring to our organisation. We think that such a relationship is mutually beneficial; by helping us out with a range of tasks - from on-the-ground conservation to office-based administration - you have the chance to develop skills, meet new people and greatly improve your future employability. Being in my early twenties, I fully understand the need to gain a breadth of worthwhile experiences at this age; be it volunteering, fundraising or simply working with others.

    First off, we need to know what you might like to see included within such an opportunity. The survey seeks to do precisely this, by asking how long you may want to volunteer with RSPB Scotland for, the types of benefits you may be looking to gain from the experience - for example developing your CV or gaining Young Scot points - and the range of activities you might like to undertake.

    The information that you give us will be invaluable to many departments within RSPB Scotland, helping us to find out more about the needs and wants of your age group, and put these into action as we develop real life volunteering opportunities. If, for example, many of you are interested in spending time on an RSPB reserve, then we would endeavour to develop our residential volunteering opportunities towards this end. Alternatively, if you would like to utilise your existing IT and social media skills, then we would develop a web-based volunteering opportunity that puts your expertise into action. Above all else, no matter what information you provide us with, we will do our upmost to turn it into career-enhancing, memorable volunteer opportunities to spur you on your way to success and fulfilment in the future.

    Click the link to complete the survey https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/979SPX8.

    Your time is greatly appreciated. Thank you.

    Harry Forshaw

    Communications Support Intern, RSPB Scotland.

  • Born survivors

    James Silvey, RSPB Nature Recovery Officer, reflects on our resilient amphibians.

    Born survivors

    If asked how many species of toad were native to the UK many people may answer, “Is there more than one species of toad?” surprisingly the answer is, yes. The UK has two native species of toad, the common toad Bufo bufo and the much rarer natterjack toad Epidalea calamita.

    The natterjack toad is a real survivor, living in some of the UK’s most amphibian-unfriendly (and threatened) environments such as saltmarshes, dune systems and lowland heaths. All of these habitats are changeable, unpredictable and - most importantly for amphibians - provide limited access to fresh water. However these are the areas where natterjacks thrive.

    Ponds drying up? Natterjack tadpoles develop quicker than any other native amphibian. Growing legs and leaving the pond in just 4 weeks.

    Heathland fires? Natterjacks dig deep burrows in sandy soils protecting them from the worst of the flames.

    Unpredictable rains? Natterjacks have a longer breeding season than most UK amphibians allowing them to take advantage of ideal conditions when they arise.

    Adult natterjack toad showing characteristic yellow stripe along the back.

    These toads are born survivors that live on catastrophe and thrive because of it. Its no wonder  their species name calamita means misfortune/disaster, these amphibians live life on the edge.

    It was these thoughts I kept in my head as I travelled to Mersehead reserve in Dumfries and Galloway to survey the damage the January storms had caused to one of only a handful of natterjack populations found in Scotland.

    Like most of the UK’s coastline, large areas of the Solway coast were battered by the severe winter storms. Add exceptionally high tides and the results were destroyed dunes, inland seawater flooding and large amounts of marine litter scattered across the reserve.

    Three weeks since the storms and the reserve still had large areas of water lying across the dune grasslands, gorse bushes were uprooted along the main path leading down to the beach and marine rubbish lay across the site.

    Down at the natterjack site  thankfully the picture looked a little better. Although large sections of the dunes further along had been destroyed, the dunes protecting the natterjacks had stood firm. Unfortunately though the seawater had found another route into the site and after speaking to Site Manager Colin, it was clear that until recently the entire site had been under seawater. This was really brought home after checking the salinity of the four natterjack breeding ponds. Natterjacks can cope with higher salinity levels than other UK amphibians however all of these ponds were far too salty even for natterjacks.

    What of the toads? At this time of year the toads will be hibernating deep in their burrows hopefully safe from sea water floods. We won’t know the full extent of the damage caused to the population until April when the toads begin to emerge.

    Personally I’m optimistic. Natterjack toads have survived in the UK since the last ice age and are well equipped to deal with the worst the Atlantic can throw at them. With any luck their deep burrows will have protected them from the flooding and in April they’ll emerge entirely clueless to the drama that unfurled around them.

    Like the toads the reserve is also a real survivor with breaches in flood defences being fixed and plans underway to drain and clean the natterjack ponds. My visit also coincided with a volunteer event with scores of volunteers clearing the reserve and beach of litter.

    It was these thoughts I kept in my head when I read Colin’s email this morning, Mersehead is underwater again.

    You can’t fight nature.