Concern as Inversnaid Feral Goat Cull Resumes

RSPB Scotland has resumed a controversial cull of feral goats on the eastern shore of Loch Lomond.

The environmental organisation is facing criticism from local people, who fear the cull could wipe out the entire population of goats around Inversnaid.

The animals are popular with tourists and walkers on the West Highland Way.

But their voracious appetites cause problems for conservationists and RSPB Scotland says it needs to protect the rich woodland habitat.

It wants to reduce goat numbers in the Inversnaid area from about 69 to 30 in the coming years.

Reserves manager Robert Coleman said:

“This is Scotland’s rainforest. We’ve got a huge range of moss and lichen here. In fact, 5% of all of the world’s moss species are represented in Scotland and this habitat is an excellent example of that diversity.

“By managing the herbivores, deer and goats, we can ensure the longevity of this habitat and make sure there are trees, mosses and lichens in the future while ensuring we maintain the populations of herbivores within the area as well.”

Feral goats on the banks of Loch Lomond are popular with tourists
Feral goats on the banks of Loch Lomond are popular with tourists

Twenty goats are due to be shot this year. The local community council and the British Feral Goat Research Group believe the remaining population may be too small to survive a series of harsh winters.

Community councillor Andre Goulancourt told BBC Scotland:

“If the goats were at a low number and we had two or three successive bad winters then we would end up with no goats.

“These goats have been here for a long time and they represent an asset to the tourist industry that Inversnaid depends on. The local people enjoy seeing them too and it would be a great loss if the goats were to disappear.”

‘Important elements’

But Scottish Natural Heritage has backed the cull.

Alan McDonnell, of SNH, said:

“A recent survey found that goat numbers are higher than previously thought, and the cull is necessary to bring numbers down to a more sustainable level. Pollochro Woods is a protected natural site and part of the Loch Lomond Woods Special Area of Conservation.

“The protected features in these woods include the native woodland habitat itself, mosses and lichens — which are all threatened and important elements of Scotland’s nature.”

Meanwhile, Forestry Commission Scotland has pledged to consult with the local community on plans to reduce goat numbers in the wider area.

A spokesman said:

“There is a real need to balance the long-term restoration and management of Loch Katrine, Loch Ard and surrounding areas with the increasing numbers of feral goats.

“Managing the feral goat population also reduces the risk of them becoming a hazard for road users in the area. This is done in consultation with the local communities so that we can fully explain what we are doing and why.”

Story reported by BBC

FWN filmed some wild goats two years ago near Loch Katrine, amazing to see these interesting animals in there natural habitat. Surely a reintroduction of wild cat and Lymx would keep the deer and goat numbers down if these organizations are that concerned about them damaging the environment.

Man!!!  is the most destructive element in climate and environments.

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Grey Squirrel at Stirling University (5th November 2013)

Another reason for me going to the University was to film some grey squirrels. As soon as I got to the wooded area I spotted one of these charming fellows, darting around the golden leaves on the ground.

So fascinating to watch these busy little animals always on the move and ever watchful constantly caching food supplies for the winter.This makes it incredibly difficult to film them, but I think I got some good shots here.

Earlier in the year we had taken a journey up to the Loch of the Lowes wildlife reserve where we had filmed Red Squirrels.They are a lot smaller than the grey and its the Reds, that are our native species but they have been almost driven out by the greys unfortunately.

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“Two different squirrels: the facts”

The grey squirrel(Sciurus carolinensis)

The grey squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis)

Size: between 540 and 660 g in weight.

Appearance: upper fur is mainly grey with mid-brown along the upper back and chestnut over the flanks, limbs and feet. Their underside is white. The tail hairs are grey, banded with brown and black and a characteristic white fringe.They have no ear tufts,pale ears and have a larger, more robust build.

Food: Grey squirrels share food sources with reds. However, unlike red squirrels; grey squirrels can feed on seeds with high tannin content, such as acorns, thanks to differences in digestive physiology. As a result, more food sources are available to them and grey squirrels tend to put on 20% in body weight over the autumn, compared with 10% for reds. This gives grey squirrels an advantage in hard winters.

Distribution: 200,000 and 300,000 in Scotland (around three million in England). Grey squirrels have expanded across Scotland’s entire central belt and are now spreading northwards through Angus, Perth and Kinross and Stirling. There is also a population of grey squirrels in Aberdeen city which is now spreading across Aberdeenshire. In south Scotland, grey squirrels carrying squirrelpox, are moving in from England.

Habitat: prefer oak, beech, sweet-chestnut and horse-chestnut habitats. Due to more efficient digestive processes, these habitats can support larger numbers of grey squirrels than red squirrels. Grey squirrels can also make use of conifer habitats (mainly Scots pine and Norway spruce) especially if there is good broadleaved habitat within 1 mile.

Threats: Minimal, aside from human control efforts and road kill.

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The red squirrel (Sciurus vulgaris)

 

The red squirrel (Sciurus vulgaris)

Size: between 270 and 340 g in weight.

Appearance: despite their name, red squirrels can have coats ranging from almost black to chestnut or light brown on the back. The chest and stomach are white. They are famed for their characteristically long eartufts, which are especially prominent in winter.

Food: eats mainly tree seeds but in spring and early summer also eats the buds, flowers and shoots of both deciduous and coniferous trees. Other foods include fungi, fruits, berries, caterpillars and even birds’ eggs. Unlike grey squirrels, red squirrels cannot digest seeds with high tannin content, such as acorns, which limits the food sources available for reds.

Distribution: 75% (around 121,000) of the UK red squirrel population is found in Scotland. In the north, strong populations still exist in areas as yet uncolonised by grey squirrels. Red squirrels can also be found in some parts of central Scotland as ‘pocket’ populations and, although much reduced from their former range, can still be found in many parts of southern and south-western Scotland. The last remaining populations of red squirrels in mainland England are found in Northumberland, Cumbria, North Yorkshire and North Merseyside, which are continuous with the south Scotland populations.

Habitat: typically conifer forests to broadleaf woodland; favours Scots pine and Norway spruce forests, but also enjoys hazel and beech. They can also live in mountainous areas (with altitudes of 425 metres near Aberdeen).

Threats: Competition from grey squirrels, squirrelpox virus, habitat fragmentation and road kill.

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Cygnets at Stirling University (5th November 2013)

Yesterday I took a bike ride to Stirling University to see if I could film any wildlife there, one of our John, one of our wildlife reporters works there and on his dinner hour, he will often take a walk around the various ponds that are there.

He has watched all summer as the eight young cygnets there have grown up and looking very healthy, you can see in the video and photos that they are almost fully grown now, with just a hint of grey left in their feathers.

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STIRLING UNIVERSITY IN THE AUTUMN

Swans Return (1st November 2013)

Yesterday as I cycled past the pond, I had a pleasant surprise, the familiar site of 2 pure white images drifting along the surface towards me.

I dont know if they were the same pair of swans that were here this year or a new pair, but it made my day. So today with camera ready and some brown bread, I ventured down and got some good photos and some video.

So with the temperature sure to drop soon , i wonder how long they,ll be here for in the last few months of 2013.

Starling Murmuration (30th October 2013)

Starling Murmuration

Smaller than blackbirds, with a short tail, pointed head, triangular wings, starlings look black at a distance but when seen closer they are very glossy with a sheen of purples and greens. Their flight is fast and direct and they walk and run confidently on the ground. Noisy and gregarious, starlings spend a lot of the year in flocks.

starling_tcm9-16751The starlings are generally a highly social family. Most species associate in flocks of varying sizes throughout the year. A flock of starlings is called a murmuration.

These flocks may include other species of starlings and sometimes species from other families. This sociality is particularly evident in the their roosting behaviour; in the non-breeding season some roosts can number in the thousands of birds.

Why do they do it?

Starlings join forces for many reasons. Grouping together offers safety in numbers – predators such as peregrine falcons find it hard to target one bird amidst a hypnotising flock of thousands.

A Covey of Grey Partridges (October 2013)

The South of England has took a severe battering on the weather front during the night, this is usually what we in Scotland get quite often, but it has only been a lot of rain that our weather gods have commended upon us up here.

Today I took a ride to the Swans pond , where there is quite a few ducks, more than last time. I threw them some brown bread but I only encouraged the scavenging seagulls who are always milling about the pond these days.

In the field to the back of me sitting on the telephone post were loads of Starlings, I wondering how long the will be here before the long flight southwards.

As I cycled along what was the old railway line, and is now the cycle path, I looked to the field to my left and saw a gang of brownish birds running through the

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Grey Partridge

Perdix_perdix_(Marek_Szczepanek)
Grey Partridge

The Grey Partridge (Perdix perdix) also known as the English Partridge, Hungarian Partridge, or Hun, is a gamebird in the pheasant family Phasianidae of the order Galliformes, gallinaceous birds.

This partridge breeds on farmland across most of Europe into western Asia, and has been introduced widely into North America.
The Grey Partridge is a rotund bird, 28–32 cm long, brown-backed, with grey flanks and chest. The belly is white, usually marked with a large chestnut-brown horse-shoe mark in males, and also in many females.

Hens lay up to twenty eggs in a ground nest.The nest is usually in the margin of a cereal field, most commonly Winter wheat.

Young Grey Partridges are mostly yellow-brown and lack the distinctive face and underpart markings.

The song is a harsh kieerr-ik, and when disturbed, like most of the gamebirds, it flies a short distance on rounded wings, often calling rick rick rick as it rises. They are a seed-eating species, but the young in particular take insects as an essential protein supply.

During the first 10 days of life, the young can only digest insects. The parents lead their chicks to the edges of cereal fields, where they can forage for insects. They are also a non-migratory terrestrial species, and form flocks outside the breeding season.

Starlings are Gathering for Migration (October 2013)

Today was the first time in a good few weeks where I could combined my two hobbies together, cycling and wildlife filming. Autumn is well under-way and the hot summer we had in Scotland is just a memory now.

But Autumn Has Its Own Magic !

image

As the leaves fall, the trees and bushes change their colours to bright  yellows and golden brown’s with spectacular effect. Its like some divine painter has opened the full pallet of his paintbox.

The wildlife families have been born and are on their first migrations and the hardy few are still looking for food and shelter around the pond and woods.

I spotted a river bird scanning the water for any leftovers from the summer explosion of insects on the surface and below. On my way to the pond the crows were scavenging the fields for worms and such, any such juicy snacks a welcome sight in these cold days.

The one of my favourite birds, the starlings, chattering non-stop as they line-up all huddle together on the telephone cables, every so often taking off in a squadron to land in the field for some food.

The seasons to me change pretty quickly in a year but I wonder how many people really take the time to ‘get off the bus’ in their busy work lives to fully appreciate the wonder of nature and its creatures.

I for one marvel at what is around us 🙂

Blair Drummond Welcomes New Lion Cub

Zookeepers have welcomed a new lion cub – but not the tricky task of weighing her.

Karis, a one month old lion cub, with head keeper Brian Reid
Karis, a one month old lion cub, with head keeper Brian Reid

Karis is the second lion cub to be born at Blair Drummond Safari Park, Stirling and handlers had to use a sack to get her on the scales.

Weighing in at 5kg, the cub will stay with her mother until she is 12 weeks old before they are returned to the pride.

Park manager Gary Gilmour said:

“Even though she is a wee cutie, keepers had to use a hessian sack to help with the weigh-in, as even at five weeks old she is a real handful and can still give a nasty scratch.”

Karis was born on September 10 to mother Teekay and father Dudley.

Big sister Libby was born two years ago.

The cub will grow to around 150kg and brings the Blair Drummond pride to eight lions in total.

Head keeper Brian Reid said:

“Teekay and Karis have been bonding in the house next door to the main pride, so everyone knows there is a new kid on the block, but we just want to make sure that Karis is a good size before we mix her with the rest of pride.”

Alloa Wildlife Centre Caring for Baby Red Squirrel

AN orphaned baby red squirrel has been saved after being found lying on a woodland path near Inverness.

Dizzee is making 'excellent progress' according to centre staff. Picture: Contributed
Dizzee is making ‘excellent progress’ according to centre staff

The four to five week old kit is recovering in the care of the Scottish SPCA where staff have named her Dizzee.

A member of the public spotted the tiny orphan lying on the forest floor while walking in Daviot Woods in September.

The woman picked the female squirrel up and took her to the charity’s Highlands and Islands Animal Rescue and Rehoming Centre at Inshes, Inverness, where staff immediately had her checked over by a vet.

They also began syringe feeding her with lectaid, a type of milk formula for young and weak animals.

Once she was strong enough to be moved, the squirrel was transferred on to the Scottish SPCA’s National Wildlife Rescue Centre at Fishcross, near Alloa, where she is currently making excellent progress.

Centre assistant manager Colin Liddell said,

“Dizzee was only 90grams when she arrived in our care but she’s come on leaps and bounds over the past three weeks and has now almost doubled in size and is weighing in at a very healthy 165g.

“Wildlife assistant Sheelagh McAllister has been providing Dizzee with round the clock care which includes taking her home at night to continue her hand feeding.

“Dizzee’s now starting to eat solid foods including shelled nuts and she’s ready to be moved into an outdoor enclosure.

“This is when we take a completely hands-off approach to allow Dizzee to establish her natural fear of humans. She’ll have lots of space to run and jump and develop her fitness in preparation for release back into the wild in around two weeks’ time.”

Cranes breed in Scotland for first time since the Middle Ages

Farmland areas provide home for secretive bird

birds/2013/Crane_rspb_chick
Scottish crane with chick. Courtesy of RSPB Scotland

September 2013. Common cranes have bred in Scotland for the first time in many centuries. The graceful birds, known for their tall stature, loud trumpeting calls and elegant breeding displays, have successfully raised two chicks within the last two years in north east Scotland, indicating conditions could be right for more of the species to settle in Scotland.

Small but increasing numbers of the migratory birds, which spend their summers in northern Europe and winters in France and Spain, have passed through Britain in recent years with a small breeding population becoming established in East Anglia. However, these are the first confirmed successful nests north of the border for hundreds of years.

Died out many centuries ago

Historic records and place names indicate that cranes were once present in Scotland but died out centuries ago, primarily due to hunting and their popularity as a dish at medieval banquets. Habitat loss and a slow reproductive cycle may have also led to their disappearance.

The species, which favours large wetland areas such as lowland peat bogs with an abundance of pools, appears to be benefitting from farming operations in the area which provide invertebrates, grains and other food and the right conditions to breed and successfully raise chicks.

First bred in 2012


Stuart Housden, Director of RSPB Scotland
said:

“We are stunned and delighted to see that common cranes have bred successfully in Scotland. These charming, elegant birds have a strong place in our myths and history and are a delight to see, particularly during the breeding season with their “dancing” displays. They undertake regular migrations and small numbers have turned up on the east coast of Scotland in recent years, raising hopes of a re-colonisation. Last year the pair reared one chick- followed by a second chick in 2013.”

“Thanks to the co-operation of farmers in the area, the conditions appear to be right for cranes to take up residence and it is possible that more will choose to re-establish themselves in the country in future.

“We have been working with local farmers, landowners and the community to monitor these fantastic birds. Despite their size and flamboyant breeding displays, cranes are secretive birds and are very sensitive to disturbance and we ask that they be given space and peace so they may establish a breeding population in Scotland.”