March, 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.
  • Hotspots and Notspots

    Jim Densham, Senior Land Use Policy Officer, is back with a new blog on the SRDP.

    Hotspots and Notspots

    There are management options for a range of species including corn bunting. Photo by Andy Hay (

    In my previous blog post I discussed how Open grazed and wet grassland for wildlife is a management option in the Scottish Rural Development Programme (SDRP) which is good for lapwings. There are many other options that can help some of our most iconic and vulnerable birds too, such as corncrake, corn bunting and black grouse.  How we ensure that the right options are taken up within the areas of Scotland where these bird species actually are – the need for targeting – has been filling some of my time these past few weeks.

    In the previous SRDP some options, such as Open grazed and wet grassland for wildlife, proved very popular with farmers and there was high uptake of those options across the country. But despite farmers meeting the eligibility criteria, these options weren’t always adopted in the best places to have maximum impact and used to benefit the species they were designed to help. For example, some lovely wet grassland habitat was created and managed but not always within key areas for lapwing.

    This time around we have been working with Government to target options to where they are really needed. So Open grazed and wet grassland for wildlife should be geographically targeted to where there are concentrations of wading birds or other target wildlife likely to use the habitat. If we can get these hotspots right it will mean scarce cash will be used much more effectively and we will get more ‘bang for our buck’.  The next scheme needs to make sure that options are selected in the right places to have best effect.

    Government is also developing targeting maps to target options designed for other environmental benefit, e.g. water quality improvement, woodland planting, flood management, and greenhouse gas reduction. Overlay all these maps and as well as showing hotspots, it should indicate ‘notspots’ – locations where options shouldn’t be placed. A good example of a notspot is illustrated once again by our lapwing. A farmer might consider a part of a field unproductive and difficult to manage, and therefore a good place to plant some trees through the SRDP Forestry Grants scheme. But that field might be an ideal location for lapwings and other waders to breed. Identifying that area as a notspot for tree planting, and finding other more suitable areas on the farm, could help to avoid environmental harm and ensure the SRDP budget is spent in the best way possible. 

  • A guide to being a lapwing

    Senior Land Use Policy Officer, Jim Densham, is asking everyone to imagine being a lapwing.

    A guide to being a lapwing

    Photo by Steve Round (

    Imagine you are a lapwing. What do you enjoy as a lapwing? What do you eat, where do you nest, how do you find your food? Here’s the simple guide to being a lapwing. Each spring you look for an open field and you make a nest on the ground, no more than a scrape in the earth. You lay a few eggs and when the chicks hatch they follow you to wet areas to feed on insects. You like grass which is not too long (a few cm high) and of course you really fear a tractor with a mower attachment.  In the late summer or autumn when your chicks have fledged, you flock with other lapwings.

    Like many farmland birds, lapwings aren’t very adaptable. You can’t plonk them in a small enclosed silage field and expect them to nest in a hedge. They have evolved to specific conditions which are best for them to thrive and raise the next generation. The trouble is that humans have massively changed the farmed landscape in the past 50 years and more, and there aren’t that many undisturbed fields to nest in or wet fields in which to find insect food. It is now up to us all to make sure lapwings can find the habitats and the conditions they prefer. If we don’t, this charismatic bird, known by many as the peewit, could disappear from our countryside altogether.

    Photo by Andy Hay (

    Thankfully, the Agri-Environment-Climate (AEC) scheme of the Scotland Rural Development Programme (SRDP) is one way that we can help the lapwing. The AEC scheme aims to help Scotland’s wildlife and has the potential to pay a farmer or crofter to manage their land in just the way that lapwings like it. Over recent decades RSPB researchers have observed the particular needs of the lapwing and identified farming methods that are more lapwing friendly. This knowledge has been used to develop Options in previous SRDP schemes which farmers and crofters could choose to adopt on their land – such as the Open Grazed or Wet Grassland for Wildlife option. We now need these options to continue into the next scheme.

    Like options to benefit the lapwing, there are many other options that we have helped to develop which benefit a variety of species and habitats in our countryside as well as options designed to support other objectives, such as improving water quality or business competition. RSPB Scotland is now working to ensure that quality wildlife focussed options remain central in the scheme and don’t get watered down or swamped by less effective ones.

    The limited SRDP budget must continue to pay for what has been tried and tested, and must be used to deliver real results for birds like the lapwing. The knowledge we’ve built up must be carried forward and limited funds must be spent on things that work.

    You can go back to being a human now. 

  • An even better home for nature at RSPB Lochwinnoch

    Jenny Tweedie, RSPB Media & Communications Officer, tells us about a FREE open day to celebrate improvements at our Lochwinnoch reserve. 

    An even better home for nature at RSPB Lochwinnoch

    Photo by Zul Bhatia.

    There’s a bit of a do happening at RSPB Lochwinnoch this weekend. It’s to celebrate the work that’s been happening over the last few years, to make the reserve a better home for nature, and a better place for the people who love that nature.

    For those who don’t know it, Lochwinnoch is situated within Clyde Muirshiel Regional Park in Renfrewshire, and it’s part of one of the last few remaining wetlands in the west of Scotland. But over the last 250 years or so, the floodplain around Lochwinnoch had seen a lot of changes, with water-courses being diverted through man-made channels, leaving wildlife restricted.

    Plans to improve the situation have taken years, and the work itself was delayed by the discovery of salmon and brook lamprey, both protected species of fish that weren’t even known to be on the reserve.

    But with 9000 tons of earth now moved, major re-landscaping work completed, new pools in place, and an old burn diverted over 100 years ago, now re-connected to its original state, the habitat works are finally finished. There’s also been some improvements inside the reserve’s visitor centre, resulting in a better all-round experience, and in particular creating a wide open viewing space to help people enjoy all the new wildlife.


    After (photo by Ivor Wilson).

    They’ve not been disappointed. The excavated channels and extended main pond in the Aird Meadow have attracted huge numbers of birds, including unprecedented flocks of snipe and lapwings. Whooper swans can now be seen in clear view of the visitor centre, joined by teals, wigeons, gadwall, garganey and goosander. Rarer birds such as a smew, scaup, spotted crake, and even kingfishers have all been seen, and a lucky few have even managed to catch a glimpse of an otter taking advantage of the new habitat.

    And the fish? Well they’re doing well too, with initial surveys showing good numbers of salmon and trout, and clear indications of ‘nesting’ by the brook lampreys, which means that they’re breeding.

    All this (apart from the fish) can be seen this Saturday, with a free open day at Lochwinnoch from 11am-4pm. You can take part in the sponsored birdwatch, take a guided walk, or just come along and enjoy the spring wildlife. If you can’t make it this weekend, then the reserve is open every day, and runs regular events throughout the year. It’s easy to get to by train, as it’s about a five minute walk from Lochwinnoch station, and there’s even an RSPB shop, so you can stock up on things to give nature a home in your own garden.

    So why not come along some time soon, and see the results of a lot of hard work.

    Funding for the project was kindly allocated by WREN in 2010 through its Biodiversity Action Fund. WREN is a not for profit business that awards grants to community, environmental and heritage projects across the UK from funds donated by FCC Environment as part of a voluntary environmental tax credit scheme called the Landfill Communities Fund (LCF).