Scottish Nature Notes

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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.
  • Five facts you need to know about chiffchaffs

    Chiffchaffs are one of the first birds to arrive back in Scotland in spring after spending the winter months in warmer places. In celebration of their return RSPB Scotland’s Jess Barrett brings you five facts you need to know about these birds.

    Five facts you need to know about chiffchaffs

    1. Chiffchaffs have an onomatopoeic name

    Many of you will be familiar with the “chiff chaff, chiff chaff” call of a chiffchaff. While other migrant birds can arrive back in Scotland around the same time it’s the chiffchaffs that are the first to sing and so herald in spring. Keep your eyes tuned in for their song over the next month or so.

    2. A chiffchaff is about the size of a blue tit

    Chiffchaffs are smaller and more compact than their willow warbler relatives, with a size similar to blue tits. Unlike blue tits however you’re unlikely to see a chiffchaff in your garden making the most of the food left out as they tend to be found in woodlands.

    3. Chiffchaffs have a dark line through their eye and a pale strip above it

    Willow warblers also have similar markings but their stripe above the eye is more yellow in colour and more clearly defined. In the spring and summer chiffchaffs appear dull green or olive brown on the upper parts of their body and they will gradually get duller in colour during the summer.

    4. Female chiffchaffs build a domed nest

    It’s the female birds who build the nest which is dome shaped with a side entrance. They also do most of the feeding of the chicks once they have hatched. When the young leave the nest at around 15 days old they will sometimes be split between the parents for the next 10-19 days until they become independent.

    5. Chiffchaffs leave Scotland in late September.

    As the days begin to draw in again chiffchaffs tend to start making their way south for another winter, usually in the last half of September. Most will head south-east into France and then into the Mediterranean region and north Africa. 


  • Why Heritage Lottery Fund support is so important for nature in Scotland

    The Heritage Lottery Fund are currently running a public consultation on their future direction and funding. Over the years their support has been vital for nature conservation in Scotland. We’re asking you to please take a moment to remind them of this and here’s why.

    Why Heritage Lottery Fund support is so important for nature in Scotland

    Scotland’s nature is under threat – but the funding which underpins so much of the vital conservation work to protect it, is now also facing unprecedented threats.  A perfect storm is brewing with the rapid reduction of Statuary and Government Agency funding for nature; the removal of EU funding as a consequence of Brexit; new data protection regulations that limit charity communications with their donors; and, now, the worrying declines in the ticket sales of the National Lottery.

    Can you help us remind the Heritage Lottery Fund how important their funding is for nature in Scotland and how it needs to be maintained, by taking a few minutes to complete their public consultation here before 22 March 2018.

    Whichever way you look at it, Scotland is a very special place for nature.  From our remote wind swept islands to the dramatic high peaks of our mountains, we have some of the most magnificent landscapes, amazing wildlife, and spectacular habitats in Europe. 

    So much of the natural environment that we take for granted in Scotland, however, is in fact very vulnerable and some species and habitats we find here in relative abundance have already been lost to the rest of the UK.  For the thousands of Scottish species for which we have reliable data from 1978 to 2013, 56% have experienced notable decline and shockingly one in 10 species is currently at risk of becoming extinct altogether.  A combination of pressures on our marine and coastal areas has resulted in Scottish seabirds being one of the fastest declining groups of birds globally. Conservation work and the funding that underpins this has never been more important.

    Much of what we have achieved in recent years for nature conservation has only been made possible through the vital funding of the Heritage Lottery Fund. They have supported countless innovative and impactful projects led by all the key conservation charities in Scotland – Scottish Wildlife Trust, The Woodland Trust, National Trust for Scotland, as well as ourselves.  Their current review, which is considering where and how they will spend their money in the future and the level of the support they will offer natural heritage, couldn’t be more important at this time. Please tell them how essential their support continues to be. 

    It is particularly relevant in Scotland; a recent independent “Where the Green Grants Went Scotland Report by Environmental Funders Network highlighted that we receive 20 times less support for environmental causes from private Trusts and Foundations compared to the rest of the UK. HLF funding is vital north of the border.

    And if you have every purchased a national lottery ticket – thank you!  Here is just a snap shot of the amazing work for nature your ticket money has made possible for RSPB Scotland

    The “Flows to the Future Project” in Caithness and Sutherland,  an example of landscape scale conservation at its most spectacular, delivered in partnership and made possible through the RSPB’s largest ever grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund of £4.6 million.  The project will see the restoration of over seven square miles of precious peatland habitat, which locks up carbon and plays a significant role in our efforts to tackle climate change.

    Project Puffin helped us track and monitor puffins, and last summer engaged the general public as the ‘puffarazzi’ to take photos of puffins with fish in their mouths.  1,400 photos were received which helped our scientists understand why some colonies of puffins are facing dramatic declines.

    The East of Scotland Sea eagles Re-introduction  2007-12 was made possible through HLF funding – 10 years on the birds are now nesting and successfully rearing young after an absence of nearly 200 years from this part of Scotland. A wonderful wildlife success story.

    The Inner Forth Landscape Initiative is a Landscape Partnership led by RSPB Scotland which is currently delivering conservation projects across the Firth of Forth.  Working with seven other organisations we are enchancing and celebrating the unique landscape and heritage of the upper reaches of the Firth of Forth.

    Please do take a moment to let HLF know just how vital their support is for Scotland's incredible nature and its conservation:

  • Give nature a home this spring

    Signs of spring will soon be beginning to show themselves. RSPB Scotland's Jess Barrett highlights a few easy ways to help give nature a home in your garden as the days get longer and warmer.

    Give nature a home this spring

    Spring is starting to creep in across Scotland. We’re just a few weeks away from the clocks going forward which will give us those glorious light evenings come the summer months. Nature begins to wake up after its winter rest with leaves and buds starting to appear and some birds getting ready to make nests to bring up their young.

    This is a great time of year to get your garden ready to be a place filled with nature over the next few months and providing all sorts of species with a home. Here are three quick and easy activities you can do over the next month or so to make your outdoor space more nature friendly.

    1. Open a hedgehog café

    You probably won’t have seen many of these prickly creatures over the last few months as they’ll have been lying low, avoiding the cold weather. Hedgehogs will be beginning to get more active round about now and it’s the perfect time to give them a helping hand by proving food and water so they can build up the energy they’ll need for raising families. In fact putting out food and water right up until the end of autumn will be a great help for these mammals and hopefully means you’ll get to catch sight of them tucking in! To get started you’ll need a sturdy box, either plastic or wood, with a removable lid and follow our step by step guide.

    2. Sow a poppy patch

    A mass of poppies and other flowers such as corn marigolds, corncockles, cornflowers and corn chamomiles can provide food for insects and birds, as well as important cover for other wildlife. And let’s not forget how beautiful they are to look at catching the sunlight and blowing in the wind! These flowers will grow annually so putting in a bit of effort now will reward your with some long lasting results. Early spring is an ideal prepare your sowing area – you need to make sure the area is as free of weeds as possible. Follow our simple instructions and you should enjoy these colourful flowers from June to September alive with the sounds of bees buzzing and birds foraging.

    3. Build a bird bath

    Many of you will have provided water for your garden birds over this recent cold winter which will have been really important for them when natural sources were frozen. However, it’s just as important to provide water during the summer months when water can be scarce due to warmer weather – not only will they drink from it they’ll also use it to cool off and keep their feathers in good condition! Building a bird bath during spring will mean it’s all ready for your feathered visitors such as blackbirds, robins, sparrows and starlings who love a quick dip, and will mean that they get to know that there’s a good source of water to be found in your garden. Here’s how to do it.

    If you’ve been inspired by these activities do share with us on Facebook and Twitter how you’re giving nature a home. You can also find out more ways to help nature on doorstep visit on our website here