March, 2016

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.
  • Making Space for Nature – Progress in the Edinburgh Phoenix Group Wildlife Garden

    You might remember last year we asked for your support to help the Edinburgh RSPB Phoenix Group raise enough money to create their wildlife garden. The group are back with this brilliant update on where that money has gone and all the impressive work they’ve carried out with it to help give nature a home.

    Making Space for Nature – Progress in the Edinburgh Phoenix Group Wildlife Garden

    Last year the Edinburgh RSPB Phoenix Group secured over £1000 worth of funding from a successful crowd funding campaign in association with YIMBY (Justgiving), and a £250 grant from Keep Scotland Beautiful. The vast majority of this money has now been spent on materials  like wood, paving materials, tools and compost, as well as plants in the form of bulbs, young plants and seeds. We soon made good progress, building two ponds, bird boxes and a pyramid for climbing plants.

    After a few months of doing other activities like the RSPB's Big Garden Birdwatch, the Phoenix group teamed up with another wildlife explorer’s group - the Edinburgh Hobbits (Hermitage of Braid Birders in Training) - for an early spring meeting to see how even more progress could be made. 

    The groups worked together to build a path, raised beds, bat boxes and plant out native wildlife friendly plants to suit different conditions of shade, moisture and soil type such as heather, daffodils, ferns and broom.The Hobbits (Aged 6-11) also worked with their group leaders to make a deadwood pile to help insulate a hedgehog house and provide a habitat for fungi and invertebrates to thrive.  

    Others worked together to build planting boxes which can be planted with different species throughout the year. These were filled with peat free compost and planted with daffodil bulbs to provide colour and food for pollinators throughout early spring. 

    Phoenix and hobbits members also worked together to create a bat box to be erected on one of the mature trees next to the garden. This will provide a summer roosting space for Common and Soprano Pippistrelle bats. We’ll be following all of this up with the construction of a much larger box with internal chambers to allow for hibernation and breeding. 

    Everyone got stuck in, clearly not afraid of the mud, to put in place edging for the path around the woodland end of the garden which will be planted out to create a mosaic of mini habitats for wildlife providing food and shelter.  

    If you would like to join one of these groups, or learn more about the brilliant work they do, then please contact or

    To read the previous blog from the Edinburgh RSPB Phoenix Group on their wildlife garden click here

  • Feeding garden birds: trouble-shooting

    Feeding garden birds: trouble-shooting

    Feeding the birds is an activity that brings hours of joy to thousands of people in Scotland for as little as the cost of some seeds - and it usually is problem free. However, it’s worth being aware of some of the issues that can crop up from time to time, just so you know how to tackle them.

    Sick birds

    In the wild, birds sometimes pick up infections which can be passed on in areas where large numbers are attracted at once, like feeders. Most diseases are transmitted by droppings; if contaminated droppings mix with food, the birds run a risk of picking up the infection. Think of it this way, if you had a cold, went to a restaurant and sneezed on everyone, you’d likely infect a lot of people.

    The best thing everyone can do to help prevent this is to keep feeders clean. Wash them outdoors (ideally, using a 5% disinfectant solution) and remember to wear gloves. You could also try moving hanging feeders around every so often to prevent droppings accumulating underneath them. And if you have bird baths or bird tables those will need a regular scrubbing as well! Even with thorough cleaning though, you may still see one or two sick birds in your garden; they often appear fluffed up, lethargic and are reluctant to fly away.

    If you’ve seen several sick birds at once, it’s often advisable to stop feeding for a while to let the birds disperse a bit, then clean your feeders really well, and tidy up the ground underneath before putting out food again. Don’t worry though - these things often pass pretty quickly.

    Unwanted visitors

    As you’ll know if you’re already doing it regularly, feeding the birds pretty much always results in some spilled food, which can be a tasty temptation for unwanted garden visitors like rodents. The odd mouse or vole isn’t a problem because they’re part of your garden’s ecology anyway, but rats are something you don’t want to ignore. Fear not though! Taking just a few simple steps could mean you’ll avoid that issue altogether.

    Try to monitor the amount of food you’re putting out to make sure there isn’t a lot left sitting out on bird tables overnight, and use well made feeders or ground trays to avoid extra spillage. Feed in the morning if possible rather than at night (when rodents are active) and if you have seeds building up on the ground, scoop them up and get rid of them. Also, just keeping your food tidily stored will help. Think about investing in some sturdy metal boxes or popping seeds into old sweetie or biscuit tins!

  • Five facts you should know about bumblebees

    Five facts you should know about bumblebees

    Bumblebees are on the wing in Scotland from March until October. They’re usually one of the first insects to appear in spring, reminding us that warmer weather is on the way – hopefully! 

    Bumblebees are sizeable, bright creatures that live in large colonies and actually serve a unique and very useful purpose in our gardens and across the wider countryside. Here are five facts we thought you should know about them.

    There are more of them than you thought

    There are 24 species of bumblebee in the UK and 19 of those are found in Scotland. Two of the most common species are buff-tail and northern white-tail bumblebees which are black, yellow and white in colour, but common carder bees are also quite easy to identify because they’re bright orange. A new species – called the tree bumblebee – was discovered in Scotland in 2013 and has been recorded as far north as Perth so far. It’s the only one which is coloured with black, brown and white.

    Bumblebees don’t die after stinging you

    All female bumblebees are capable of stinging us. However, they don’t die after the deed as many people think. This actually only happens to honeybees because they have a barbed sting which cannot be pulled back out of the skin.

    They are wonderfully messy

    You're probably already aware that bumblebees are important for pollination, but did you know that’s partly because they’re so messy? They’re also pretty scruffy and hairy which means they pick up more pollen when they move from plant to plant collecting nectar. Bumblebees do something called ‘buzz pollination’ where they essentially power down their wings but increase the use of their wing muscles - the result is that they vibrate really quickly. This shakes off a lot of the pollen that they’re carrying on their bodies, which is particularly good for plants like tomatoes.

    Some bumblebees are parasitic

    Cuckoo bumblebees are quite unusual in that they are parasitic. Instead of building up their own empire in the form of a nest and colony, they simply steal the nests of other species. To do this, they sneak inside a suitable nest and hide for a few days to take on its scent. Then they kill the queen, take over her role, and go about producing more cuckoo bumblebees to do the same thing elsewhere. Cuckoos are able to do this because they have developed to be bigger and stronger than other species, and often have a more harmful sting as a result.

    Honeybees aren’t the only ones making honey...                           

    Bumblebees make it too! They don’t build it into cells or honeycombs though – instead they produce a form of honey which they store in small rimmed pots created from wax. They also keep pollen in the pots for the young bees.

    If you’d like to help give bumblebees a home where you live, check out: