Blair Drummond Safari Park Show Off Their Newest Arrival

Blair Drummond were proud to announce the first bear cub ever to be born at the park.

LOKI, a 5 month old European Brown Bear and his mum Nellie came outside from their hibernation den where they have been since his birth on 14th December last year. He was one of two cubs that were born, but sadly his sister died a few days after birth.

The keepers at the park have called him Loki after the Norse god, which means mischief.

He is FANTASTIC and is very playful, he has been out and about exploring his new habitat as Nellie keeps a close eye on him. He has already been up a tree, got stuck on branch (until he slipped off!), been in the splash pool and is keeping our visitors entertained; he’s such a joy to watch in these clumsy early stages – come and see for yourself.

Nellie and Loki venture out of the hibernation unit.

After a quick check of the enclosure it’s…..


Explore the cave !

Climb the tree like mum !

Walk the plank !

MUMMMM – I’m stuck !


Starling numbers ‘at 30-year low’

Starlings are famous for their winter displays, which are known as murmurations

The RSPB‘s annual wildlife survey has recorded the lowest number of starlings in UK gardens for 30 years.

Since the Big Garden Birdwatch began in 1979, the average number of starlings spotted by participants has dropped from 15 to just three.

Although the species was the number two “most spotted” bird, it was seen in fewer than half of UK gardens.

The British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) confirmed that starlings were a “conservation concern”.

The RSPB and its partners are currently carrying out research to find out the reasons behind the decline.

As Dr Rob Robinson from the BTO explanied, studies so far point to a decline of traditional, established pastures as a major threat to the birds.

Intensively farmed land, he told BBC Nature, made it more difficult for the birds to find their favourite food – cranefly larvae that live in undisturbed soil.

“These days, farmers are tending to cultivate in short rotations,” he explained, “putting a field down to grass for three to five years and heavily fertilising it.

“Another factor… is harvesting efficiency. Thirty years ago, the farmer would leave 1% of grain on the field. But now the harvesting efficiency is 99.9%, which leaves very little for the birds.”

In England, conservation groups including the RSPB and the BTO are working with Natural England to provide advice for environmental stewardship schemes. These schemes provide funding for farmers in England to deliver effective environmental management on their land.

Another problem that has been highlighted is a change in modern building design; starlings often nest in cavities and crevices in old buildings.

“They’re very noisy and messy, so many people block up those spaces to prevent them nesting,” explained Dr Robinson.

He suggested that “a very positive thing” people could do to help the birds would be to put up nesting boxes.

The RSPB said that more people took part in this year’s survey than ever before, with almost 600,000 people counting more than nine million birds of 70 different species.

The charity said the survey was a very useful “snapshot” of the health of British birds.

Tourists keeping an eagle eye on Harris

A Golden Eagle is top of the must-see list for most visitors to Harris
“They all want to see an eagle, an otter, and a seal.”

Sitting in the office where she and her husband run an self-catering holiday business, Rhoda Campbell tells me every guest who comes to stay at their cottages at Scarista on the Harris coast has the same must-see list of priorities.

As he listens to our conversation Neil Campbell browses through the Sightings Book they encourage all their visitors to fill in.

One couple who stayed for just four days in December last year have recorded that they saw two Golden Eagles on their very first walk, on the first day of their holiday.

It’s just one of a growing number of eco-tourism businesses catering to people who visit the Outer Hebrides to enjoy their rugged beauty and amazing wild-life.

But there is a potential problem.

“One thing people consistently say is that there’s not enough to do”, Neil Campbell told me.

The building’s wood cladding and turf roof should blend it into the hillside
So the couple have welcomed an initiative by North Harris Trust – a community group which owns the North Harris and Seaforth estates – to open a Golden Eagle observatory, some seven miles or so north-west of Tarbert.

The site is in a spectacular glacial valley, at Glen Meavaig, with big cliffs and high hills on both sides.

Ranger Robin Reid told me it is in the heart of prime Golden Eagle territory.

“It’s open, relatively treeless, landscape with lots of hunting territory. Pretty undisturbed.”

“Not a lot of people in and around nest sites in this area, so there’s lots of secluded places for them to nest.”

“And also there hasn’t been a history of persecution (of raptors) here, like there has been in other parts of Scotland.”

The other big difference from mainland Scotland is the absence of predator mammals, such as foxes.

Wildlife ranger Robin Reid scans the skies, looking for eagles
That makes the Golden Eagles and Sea Eagles top of the tree – not that there are many trees in the Western Isles.

And it all helps to make Harris one of the best places in Europe to see the birds.

And when you do see them, I’m told, it’s an unforgettable experience.

Jeff Edwards moved to Leverburgh at the southern end of Harris eleven years ago.

He’s run Golden Eagle walks in the past. And he’s about to start them up again.

He says he has about a 70% success rate at finding birds to show to his customers. So he’s seen Golden Eagles dozens – perhaps hundreds – of times.

But, he told me, “I don’t think I’d ever get blasé about seeing them. The bird is such a magnificent animal.”

“The female has at least a 7ft wingspan. I can only describe the wings as looking like scaffolding boards, with fingers on the ends of them.”

Rhoda and Neil Campbell welcome eco-tourists to the Outer Hebrides
“It’s just an awesome sight, every time you see them. They are magnificent.”

But back in the North Harris hills, Robin Reid and I have been scanning the skies for nearly two hours. And we haven’t seen even the hint of an eagle. Not a glint of a golden brown feather against the moorland.

Admittedly the mist has been pretty high, the cloud pretty low, and the rain pretty persistent the whole time.

“The weather has been against us, and we’ve been unlucky”, Robin explained.

“On a good day, I’d be confident that we’d see them. But that’s the nature of wildlife watching. They’re wild birds, and they can be elusive.”

“If you went to a zoo, you’d have a guarantee that you’d see them. But you wouldn’t have the excitement of watching a wild bird.”

The hope is that tourists who want to share that excitement will start to think of Harris as one of the destinations of choice; that the observatory will enhance the experience they have in the Hebrides; and that the money they spend will help to sustain the island’s fragile human communities.

Highland wildlife park mourns death of its rare Amur tiger

A RARE Amur tiger at the Highland Wildlife Park has passed away at the age of 16.
Sasha was put to sleep yesterday morning (13th March) after keepers at the park noticed “odd changes” in her behaviour.
The animal was also said to be unable to compete with her three-year-old daughters, Natalia and Dominika.
Highland Wildlife Park’s Facebook page stated: “Originally thought to be due to old age, as Amur tigers in the wild seldom make it past 12-years-old, it became clear over recent weeks that her health and wellbeing was starting to deteriorate.
“Sadly, the continuing changes in the social hierarchy of our Amur tiger group and other recent observations strongly indicated probable health or senility issues with Sasha.
“After consultation with her keepers and the vets responsible for her care, it was decided the most appropriate course of action was to put her to sleep.”
Sasha arrived at the park, in Kingussie, near Aviemore, along with her long-term mate Yuri from Edinburgh Zoo on September 25 2008.
She lived with Natalia and Dominika after Yuri was put down in 2010, aged 17.
It is understood there are only around 500 Amur tigers, previously known as Siberian tigers, still living in the wild.
Together, Yuri and Sasha produced a total of nine cubs.
A post-mortem examination will be carried out, which the park hopes will explain the changes in Sasha’s behaviour, as well as providing information which could further the understanding of health issues suffered by older tigers.
Douglas Richardson, animal collection manager at the Highland Wildlife Park, said: “Sasha had always been a trim cat, but a few weeks ago she appeared to lose condition quite rapidly and became listless.
“With a little extra food and rest she seemed to recover. However a few days ago, one of the youngsters stole her joint of meat and Sasha seemed bewildered by the meat’s ‘disappearance’ from directly in front of her.
“Her eye-sight also appeared to be deteriorating, especially in lower light levels, and the younger tigers were becoming increasingly dominant over Sasha.”

Proposal to cull River Tay wild beavers rejected

Check out the video here

Beavers living wild around the River Tay will be monitored for the next three years before a decision will be made on the future of the animals in Scotland.

Environment Minister Stewart Stevenson said the timing ties in with an official beaver trial in Knapdale, Argyll, which draws to a close in 2015.

The decision follows a report from Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) which had outlined three options for beavers in Tayside, including killing them.

Around 100 of the animals are thought to be living wild in the area, including some which escaped from private collections or were deliberately released.

The monitoring group will include the Tay District Salmon Fishery Board, local landowners and conservation groups including Scottish Wildlife Trust and the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland.

Mr Stevenson said: “There is potential for an important and unwelcome precedent to be set, so we must consider environmental and other impacts when we make decisions.

“After careful consideration of all the various factors, my view is that the best way forward is to allow the beavers to remain in place for the duration of the official trial beaver reintroduction in Knapdale in Argyll.

“We will take a decision on the future of beavers in Scotland, both those in Knapdale and on Tayside, at the end of the trial period in 2015.”

The monitoring group will be led by SNH’s David Bale, who said: “The information about Tayside beavers, along with comprehensive research from the Scottish Beaver Trial at Knapdale and other sources, should give the minister a full range of information to make his decision in 2015.

“We plan to have the group up and running as soon as possible.”

Simon Milne, Scottish Wildlife Trust chief executive, said: “The Scottish Wildlife Trust remains opposed to the illegal release of wild animals into the Scottish countryside.

“However, tolerating and studying the unlicensed beavers on the Tay until the end of the official Scottish Beaver Trial in Argyll will enable the government to make a more informed decision on the future of all beavers in Scotland.”

Christ Tarrant Hands Over Petition to Fisheries


TV host Chris Tarrant and UK Music boss Feargal Sharkey to join petition handover to Fisheries Minister Richard Benyon.

Campaigners from the world of angling will be joined by celebrities Chris Tarrant and Feargal Sharkey when they handover a 16,000 signature petition on Wednesday (22nd Feb) calling for action to limit the devastating impact of the UK’s rapidly increasing cormorant population and its effect on inland freshwater habitat and ecosystems.

Scientists have calculated that each cormorant needs at least a pound of fish a day to survive, and there are now an estimated 23,000 non-native invasive cormorants over-wintering in the UK from Holland, Denmark and other parts of Europe compared to a couple of thousand in the 1980s. This means that at least 23,000lbs of our freshwater fish get eaten EVERY DAY throughout the winter – a total and unsustainable loss of 2,760,000lbs of fish every winter causing damage to our native bio-diversity.

The petition has been organised by the Avon Roach Project headed by Trevor Harrop and Budgie Price and ably assisted and supported by internationally renowned wildlife film maker Hugh Miles who are working to try and re-establish healthy roach populations in their local river Avon after heavy cormorant predation contributed to numbers crashing to critical levels between Salisbury and Christchurch. Their efforts are strongly supported by the Angling Trust as the single representative body for angling in England and the Salmon and Trout Association.

Click Here For Full Story



This predatory bird has a grace in the water.
They have been recorded of taking 86 different species of fish from tiny fry to 2 and a half foot conger eel.
The cormorant has an elasticated throat pouch and a specially hinged beak, one bird was recorded eating a waste filled plastic bag, and one with an 11 inch kitten in it’s stomach.
Since 1967 it’s had legal protection, the impact it has had on fish stocks and illegal persecution has become important envirmental issues.

Black Cormorant

It’s estimated that their is as high as 15 to 20,000 inland birds, they can eat roughly 12 to 31 Oz,s of fish and can dive to 31 feet.
Where birds can be proven to have serious impact on fish stocks, licences to shoot are granted, in 1996/ 79 licences were issued in England and scotland, 424 birds year 2000 .
Studies must be done to see what impact fish predators have on fish stocks, fish could be lost through other causes where there is a high fish density
Where their is major cormorant impact on fish stocks their needs to be a controlled number reduction.

For More Info on the Cormorant Click Here

Story by Colin Statter: FWN Reporter