February, 2017

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.
  • What did you Show the Love for this Valentine‚Äôs day?

    Kirsty Nutt, RSPB Scotland Communications Manager, shares her love story and explains why green hearts were trending this Valentine’s Day.

    What did you Show the Love for this Valentine’s day?

    Over the last few weeks, amid the barrage of champagne, roses and cutesey pink and red hearts all designed to impress upon you the importance of telling your significant other how much you care there were voices with a different purpose drawing attention to hearts of a different colour.

    These green heart-clad lovers were celebrating the special places and other things that we don’t want to lose to climate change through the ‘Show The Love’ campaign. People were asked to make and don green hearts to support the campaign and show that climate change is an issue that they care about. 

    Stop Climate Chaos Scotland (SCCS), of which RSPB Scotland is a part, also asked people to support calls for continued ambitious efforts from the Scottish Government on the Climate Change Plan and Climate Bill by writing to their MSP.

    From baking green heart goodies to stunning craft creations, charities, celebrities (like Tim Peake and Gordon Buchanan) and people from across the UK (from Norwich to Manchester to Scotland) joined forces to #showthelove on social media and in person. There’s a gallery here where you can view posts about many of the things (from woodlands to skiing and from birds to chocolate) and the special places people want to protect.

    The special places, that people are celebrating, provide important homes for wildlife as well as benefiting society by providing essential resources such as clean drinking water and cleaner air through combating the effects of air pollution. They also reduce flooding risks and improve people’s physical and mental wellbeing. These special places include RSPB Scotland nature reserves, and all across the country our reserves took park with engaging activities for all age groups to show how much they care about these special places and others.

    I was at RSPB Scotland Loch Leven on Friday 10 February when Cabinet Sectary Roseanna Cunningham MSP visited to celebrate this special place in her constituency and discover more about the threat climate change poses to this popular visitor attraction. As part of the visit she was presented with a felt green heart made by an RSPB member who wants to show the love for “nature and endangered species around the world”.

    Roseanna Cunningham MSP receiving her green heart from Rea Cris (RSPB Scotland Parliamentary Officer) by Kirsty Nutt.

    Roseanna Cunningham said: “I would encourage people across Scotland to get involved in the Show the Love campaign which is highlighting the importance of protecting some of our most treasured places and peatlands in our efforts to tackle climate change. Peatland is not only a key habitat for wildlife and biodiversity, but it plays an important role in carbon capture and helps reduce our greenhouse gas emissions.

    “Improving and investing in our peatlands is crucial if we are to continue to build on our world leading low carbon ambitions, which saw us exceed our 2020 emissions reductions targets, six years early.”

    “We recently published a draft Climate Change Plan which sets out a package of policies and proposals that will help maintain Scotland’s reputation as a climate leader within the international community.”

    Part of the Loch Leven National Nature Reserve, RSPB Scotland Loch Leven is an internationally important home for wetland wildlife. The loch supports one of the highest concentrations of breeding ducks in Europe and is a key stop over point on one of Europe’s biggest migration fly-ways for pink-footed geese and whooper swans. Over the years, RSPB Scotland has worked hard to restore and improve the wetlands here and has thus become the only significant home for waders in the Loch Leven area. This includes lapwings that have suffered severe declines elsewhere across the UK. But climate projections for east Scotland predict less summer rainfall in the future which will make storing winter rainfall essential to keeping the wetlands wet all year and continuing to provide homes for the many species that rely on the reserve.

    Roseanna was joined at Loch Leven by Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh MP and both wrote on the #ShowtheLove mural in the cafe at Loch Leven.


    It was nice to see my heart next to theirs. I chose to #ShowtheLove for seabirds and particularly kittiwakes. They have suffered huge declines in recent decades and we know, from detailed research, that these declines are linked to low chick survival due to food shortages driven by changing sea temperatures. Even though on a cold winter’s day, a summer visit to a seabird colony seems a long way off, I am anticipating a warm breezy day in the not too distant future when I will make my regular pilgrimage to my favourite spot on the Aberdeenshire coast to experience the full sensory invasion – sight, sound and smell! – that only a seabird colony provides. For me there is nothing quite like it and I cannot describe the empty feeling inside me as I contemplate the thought of losing this. But neither can I face losing the wonderful wildlife that lives on our high Scottish mountains (Roseanna’s choice) or the wealth of wetland wildlife that calls Loch Leven home.

    Our protected areas are crucial tools in protecting the wildlife we love against climate change. Woodlands and peatlands help mitigate against climate change by being effective carbon sinks and wetlands provide essential flood management. These benefits will become even more important as the impacts from climate change become more pronounced and widespread.

    Protected areas play a crucial role in protecting and reversing declines of wildlife and habitats too. Reversing declines in wildlife requires a concerted and coordinated effort by public bodies, NGOs and private landowners, to use adequate resources and targeted funding to improve the condition of protected areas. However, if the #showthelove campaign shows us anything, it is that there is hope. Because if we work together, to stand up for what we love, we really can make a difference.  

  • 25 years and counting

    25 years and counting

    The oldest Wildlife Explorers group in Scotland celebrated their 25th anniversary at the end of January. Adam Ross, RSPB Scotland Membership and Engagement Officer, based in Aberdeen went along to the celebrations to find out more.

    Wildlife Explorer groups are part of the junior membership of the RSPB. The groups are run by teams of highly motivated and enthusiastic volunteers. The key objectives are to inspire young people about nature while also having fun!

    Formed in 1992, the Kemnay group is the oldest RSPB Wildlife Explorers group in Scotland. They meet once a month with a mixture of indoor meetings and outdoor excursions in the summer and offering opportunities for local children from a wide area including Inverurie, Alford and surrounding districts to get connected to nature. The group’s activities are aimed at children aged about 7 to 12, and are intended to be both fun and educational. As well as outdoor meetings in the summer to places like Bennachie, the group also make homes for bats, owls and hedgehogs to help local wildlife.

    The group celebrated their 25th anniversary on 21st January. We started with a special event to prepare for RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch, followed by a party.

    We met at 2 pm, at Monymusk Village Hall and then wandered over to the Sir Frances Grant memorial gardens to spend an hour seeing what birds were around and learning the names of any new ones. Eight children plus some parents and group leaders took part. The Wildlife Explorers showcased some excellent knowledge and identification skills and we saw a fantastic variety of birds including collared doves, house sparrows, chaffinches, coal tits and a couple of very noisy robins. The favourite bird seemed to be the treecreeper which lived up to its name, sneaking around in the tops of the trees but thankfully staying still long enough to give everyone great views.

    We then went inside to warm up and celebrate the 25th anniversary. The group welcomed Muriel Brydon who originally set up the group in 1992, back when it was known as a Young Ornithologists Club (or YOC). I presented the group with the gift of a nest box camera which they are already excited about using and we all enjoyed a slice of birthday cake which was beautifully decorated with the Wildlife Explorers logo and served with “champagne” (fizzy elderflower juice). We watched an entertaining slideshow of photos taken at Kemnay Wildlife Explorers events over the years and local RSPB Scotland volunteer Bill Craigie screened a short, evocative video of Scotland’s wildlife.

    Brother and sister, Lewis and Rachel Cran are current members of the group. When asked about their favourite activities, Lewis really enjoyed planting the trees at Netherton Business Centre in memory of Dr Piggins and the group walk around Monymusk before Christmas. Rachel’s favourite meetings were the walk around Monymusk and meeting Helen at the Bennachie centre on the Moth watch night as she was able to tell her all about the moth she'd seen at Drum castle in the summer holidays.

    Patricia Snowden, the main leader of the Kemnay RSPB Wildlife Explorers group, believes the group provides “a great opportunity to get kids outdoors and experiencing nature”.  And she is certain that “by playing and learning outdoors, we can inspire the next generation to have a lasting connection with nature and want to protect it”.

    There are a number of Wildlife Explorer groups running in Scotland. To find out more visit our website.

  • Let's keep fighting for Scotland's seabirds

    RSPB Scotland Marine Policy Officer Peadar O'Connell brings us this new blog on the successes we've seen in marine conservation in Scotland and why we need to keep pushing for more action to protect seabirds.

    As the sun rises on a dark stormy morning, the sea raging below, a puffin sits on the edge of the world. Taking to the skies she sets out on a familiar journey. The little clown braves the wind and rain and thunderous sea; there is only one mission - to find food for her young. Within a burrow is a two week old chick, a puffling. It’s hungry. Helpless and starved, it calls desperately to its parents, who it is entirely dependent upon. But this morning there is no food, no respite from the hunger. 

    The puffin was added to the UK's red list of birds of conservation concern in 2015. It is one of a large number of our seabirds that are in trouble. A similar story is playing out with frightening regularity all around the UK's coastline each year. There have been significant declines in the breeding populations of at least twelve seabird species since the mid-80’s.

    Seabirds are remarkably tough birds, they face enormous hardships in their day to day lives that under normal conditions they are well adapted to handle. But who can claim we are now living under normal conditions? 

    There are many issues that effect seabirds, some of which can be complex and have multiple impacts, such as climate change, human disturbance and structural developments. The impacts of others might be easier to predict, such as invasive species predating on eggs, chicks or adults and lack of prey leading to starvation, but they still need a concerted effort to address. Collectively the overall impact is leading to declines. 

    We cannot become despondent though, because despondency leads to inaction and worse, indifference. Scotland is still home to millions of seabirds and is one of the best places in the world to see them. An opportunity to experience a seabird colony should not be missed; the sights, sounds and even smells are mesmeric.

    There have been some really positive milestones reached in the last couple of years including a better understanding of where our seabirds go to feed and the identification of fifteen Special Protection Areas (SPAs) for seabirds, seaducks, grebes and divers. These are so important because they include protection for some of the best marine feeding areas in Scotland for birds. Protecting seabirds at their colonies alone, as the story above illustrates, isn’t enough. 

    We believe seabirds have a bright future in Scotland and from the responses we received during our recent campaign to show support for newly proposed SPAs, it is clear that many of you do too. So thank you to everyone who joined our campaign or supported the proposed SPAs on the Scottish Natural Heritage website, the consultation is now closed.

    Our work isn’t done yet though, we now need to make sure all fifteen sites are formally designated and that these sites are also managed appropriately for the species they are meant to protect. For without appropriate management, these sites will be nothing but a few lines on a map, over areas with fewer and fewer seabirds. 

    We hope we can continue to rely on your support. Why not send a letter or email to your local MSP expressing your support for seabird conservation and protected areas for seabirds? Although you might not believe this can make a difference, it most definitely can. 

    If you would like to know more, there are loads of great resources on the internet about the threats to seabirds. Finally, if you are not one already, please consider becoming a member of the RSPB so we can work together to provide the puffin and other seabirds a healthy future and to provide plenty of opportunities for us to continue to enjoy these incredible birds. If you are already a member, thank you. We would not be able to do the work we are doing without you. Together we can change the narrative for our seabirds.