March, 2015

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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.
  • Most people get climate change – are you one of them?

    Jim Densham, Senior Land Use Policy Officer with RSPB Scotland, is back with another blog on the For The Love Of...campaign that we are part of.

    Most people get climate change – are you one of them?

    It's time to start thinking that the vast majority of people do get climate change after all – they understand it. 

    Most people don’t even need convincing that it will have huge impacts if we don’t act now. Perhaps our collective inaction on sorting out the climate is down to us not knowing what to do about it rather than not believing it is a threat.

    I spent Valentines Day and the weekend before last asking visitors to RSPB Scotland events what they love, as part of the For The Love Of...climate campaign. The simple message is that everything we love and hold dear could be affected if we don’t act to halt climate change now. 

    At our event at the Kelvingrove Museum in Glasgow we focussed on the link between extinctions and climate change. Climate change is a risk to our wildlife because it heaps further pressure on already vulnerable species. Scientists have estimated that with every 1oC rise in global average temperatures we will lose 10% of species to extinction. 

    Seeing as we already have experienced an 0.85oC  rise since the industrial revolution and we are well on the way to at least a 2oC rise we can expect a much less biodiverse world to the one our parents and grandparents knew.

    Lots of children drew their favourite animal on a heart and parents helped them complete a postcard calling for the First Minister to take action. It was really brilliant because no-one refused to support the campaign but what really surprised me was that so many people who we talked to totally understood the message. It struck me that people understand the impacts of climate change more than we realise.

    Perhaps most people don’t know what can be done about climate change and as a result stay quiet. After all, climate change is not an easy message to sell because; it's a global issue with no specific location, there is no single baddie or monster at fault, the people most affected are far away (definitely not in Scotland yet), it can be highly technical, and it's depressing. And because people aren't rattling the gates of Parliament about climate change, politicians and world leaders haven’t yet got the message that we need to act. But they will. 

    This year because the For The Love Of campaign is giving a voice to everyone to tell Governments that we do care and there are lots of us. Add your voice in Scotland by asking Nicola Sturgeon to act on climate change now through our partner’s website

  • What to see in Scotland this month III

    The nights are getting lighter and signs of spring seem to be on everyone’s mind this month. To celebrate here’s a collection of some of the great wildlife you can see in Scotland in March.

    What to see in Scotland this month III

    Puffin, Dean Bricknell

    Signs of spring – that’s what everyone’s talking about this month. And indeed there have been plenty so far, from garden flowers, bees, and ladybirds to frog spawn appearing in our ponds and lochs.

    I’m not convinced we’re completely free from winter’s grasp just yet, especially after being caught in a pretty strong snow shower just a few days ago, but we’re certainly on our way. Scotland always has great wildlife to see, snap, and share but there are a few things in particular we think you should look out for this month.

    The first is the Slavonian grebe; a beautiful little bird with striking golden ear tufts when in breeding plumage. This species arrives back in Scotland in March and stays until late summer, with the best place to see them being RSPB Scotland’s Loch Ruthven nature reserve in the Highlands. Slavonian grebes are excellent swimmers and divers and have been known to stay underwater for a minute or more!

    Slavonian grebe

    These birds also have a really interesting courtship display known as a ‘weed rush’.  Both birds will dive underwater to collect weeds in their bills before resurfacing face to face. At this point they quickly turn away from each other and rush off across the water, side by side, with the weeds still dangling from their bills.

    Puffin with sandeels, Andy Hay

    Another bird species you can see this month is the much loved puffin. With their small rounded forms and brightly coloured beaks they’re definitely a firm favourite in Scotland. Puffins start returning to their colonies in March and breed widely around the coast of Scotland on cliffs and islands, including in the Firth of Forth - on the Isle of May and Bass Rock.

    Puffins usually nest in burrows - digging out a hollow that’s slightly longer than a person’s arm with their pickaxe-like bills, but they can also settle in cracks on cliffs or under rocks.

    In March, you might also be lucky enough to spot a bat, or at least signs of them, as they begin to emerge from hibernation. There are more than 1,100 species of bat in the world, but there are only around ten breeding species found in Scotland, mainly in the south and west.

    Pipistrelles are our most common and widespread bats and so are the most likely ones you’ll see. Common pipistrelle and soprano pipistrelle bats fly in fast jerky patterns to pursue insects and a single individual can catch and consume up to 3,000 insects in one night!

    Bluebells at RSPB Scotland's Wood of Cree reserve, Andy Hay

    Finally spring is a great time of year to look out for wildflowers. Plenty of you have been sending us photos of snowdrops this year and soon it will be time for beautiful carpets of bluebells appearing too.

    If you want to share some lovely spring time photos with us, post them on our RSPB Scotland Facebook or Twitter pages and we’ll be back with a new ‘what to see’ blog in April. 

  • A more equitable decision making process for major developments is about much more than just windfarms

    Aedán Smith, Head of Planning and Development at RSPB Scotland, has this blog about the decision making process for major developments in Scotland.

    A more equitable decision making process for major developments is about much more than just windfarms

    A joint letter signed by a number of heritage and environmental bodies, including RSPB Scotland, was published in the Sunday Times at the weekend,  which ran an accompanying article and in The Herald on Monday. 

    There were also additional articles and some further correspondence in the letters pages this week. Some of that correspondence narrowly interpreted the letter as a criticism of windfarms or as criticism of the town planning process. From an RSPB Scotland perspective, this is rather an over simplification. This is occasionally about windfarms but often it is about coal mines, housing, harbours, roads, golf courses or marine developments – in fact it can be about any decision to make major changes to our natural environment, on land or sea.

    Well sited and designed windfarms can deliver major benefits for the environment, particularly by reducing greenhouse gas emissions but RSPB Scotland adopts its position on all development types based on the conservation implications of the proposal not on the type of development.

    We think there needs to be a fresh look into how these major decisions that affect Scotland’s environment can be reviewed, and on occasion, challenged.  Of course the Government must have a central role in planning and in other nationally important decision making but, with the best will in the world, mistakes can happen. Providing an opportunity to challenge decision making is therefore a key part of an equitable and fair society. We are not convinced that our current system does this as well as it could. 

    Scotland’s planning system is better than most at involving others in the process of decision making but it is clearly weighted in favour of encouraging development to happen, sometimes to the serious detriment of our environment. An equitable right to challenge decisions is therefore especially important. Developers who are turned down have that right, those who feel the national interest is not best served by the development do not.

    Other regulatory systems are often much less effective at engaging others than is the planning system and often the only route of challenge is through the courts. This is both extremely expensive and limits any challenge to legal technicalities, rather than the merits of the case. This is far from ideal and the expense of the legal process, despite some recent improvements, weights the system hugely in favour of those with the deepest pockets, most obviously major PLC’s or those with backing from development agencies.

    A review of the system of legal challenge should therefore be undertaken in parallel with a review of planning appeal rights, with the objective of ensuring that we have a system that is open and transparent but, when required, also provides a fair and equitable opportunity to challenge decisions. Only then can we build a fairer, more equal and more sustainable Scotland.