Category Archives: Scotland

Oldest osprey returns to Scotland

The oldest osprey of the UK – and probably the world – has returned to her eyrie in the Scottish highlands.   When she left for West Africa at the end of last summer, no one expected her to return.  At 26 she’s lived 3 times longer than most female ospreys. In her life she’s laid 58 eggs and hatched 48 chicks, a massive individual contribution to the survival of ospreys in Scotland, where there are still only about 200 breeding pairs.  The questions now are if her mate will return and if she is still fertile. Events can be followed on the webcam of the Loch of the Lowes reserve.

Boar put to work as ecological engineers

The charity Trees for Life have undertaken a project to restore native woodland on their Scottish Dundreggan Estate in Inverness-shire.  The birch/juniper wood is being smothered by impenetrable, towering bracken, severely reducing biodiversity and very difficult to control as its fronds are toxic for most animals.  Here’s where the wild boar step in: by digging up and eating the roots they can halt the bracken’s relentless spread. They will also be creating seed-beds for a variety of species by ploughing up the soil. Although boar were originally part of Britain’s ecosystem, before being hunted to extinction in the 13th century, this is not a reintroduction programme and they will be controlled within a 30-acre site enclosed by a special boar-proof fence.  BBC

Starlings come home

Starlings winter return: Starlings return for winter

Some lovely photos by Owen Humphreys in The Guardian of the mass return of starlings to Britain from Russia and northern Europe. They come here to roost in the relative warmth. Some flocks have as many as two million birds. However, starling numbers have fallen dramatically in the UK in recent years probably due to the loss of insects because of the increase in chemical use on farms since the 1970s and new grassland management techniques. Visit

Landscape painting and nature tourism: the Falls of Clyde

The landscape painters of the 18th century were among the first promoters of nature tourism in Britain. Their work inspired people to go on tours of wild places and admire the grandeur of nature.  One popular destination, much sketched, painted and written about, was the Falls of the Clyde in Scotland.

Jacob More’s work is a romanticised view of the highest and largest of the Falls, the Corra Linn. Viewers of the painting could identify with the group of tourists in the corner, awe-struck by this “rude slope of furious foam”, as 18th century travel writer Thomas Pennant described them. They might even be galvanized to do a trip to the wilds of Scotland themselves. Continue reading Landscape painting and nature tourism: the Falls of Clyde

Whale watching trips in the Isle of Mull

The Isle of Mull is one of the best bases for watching whales and dolphins in Britain.

These people offer excellent short whale watching breaks:

This popular weekend break gives you two days on the boat exploring the islands (Eigg, Muck, Coll, Tiree, Staffa, all with their own character and charm). You will sail through the whale and dolphin grounds and land on islands with colonies of puffins, razorbills, gannets, shearwaters, and otters…The people who run these trips carry out marine research and they work closely with local charity the Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust

One client wrote:

The most memorable part of the holiday was the surveys trip … seeing Minke whales and basking sharks on such a beautiful day – I will remember this for many years to come. We even moored on a tiny island close to Coll and Tiree – it was like being on a Pacific atoll … seals swimming, white sand, clear blue sea – just perfect. More

Read here

Cirl buntings doing well

Cirl buntings,  the UK’s rarest resident farmland bird, are a conservation success story amid the general decline of farmland birds. In Devon, farmers have been persuaded to leave just a corner of their fields and the population has risen from just 118 pairs in 1989 to more than 800 pairs today. “Conservationists say the success of the Cirl Bunting Project is “blazing a trail” for a new way of managing the landscape alongside farmers that brings hope for scores of other birds threatened by modern farming methods” Daily Telegraph

The Northern Lights in Britain

photo taken near Dundee by John Gilmour as featured in AuroraWatch

Of course the best viewing place is in the Arctic Circle, but the Northern Lights are occasionally visible from Britain. On rare occasions they are visible as far south as the Mediterranean.

Lancaster University’s AuroraWatch has a gallery of images that testify to the visibility of the Aurora in places like Folkestone and Staffordshire. The photographs show awe-inspiring displays of green and red light rampaging above the roof tops and television aerials. Continue reading The Northern Lights in Britain

Twitch alert: Tufted Puffin in Kent

The sighting of a Tufted Puffin in the Oare Marshes nature reserve on the Swale estuary has still to be officially verified, but hordes of twitchers are heading to Kent in hope of a glimpse. It would be the first sighting of this North Pacific Ocean species in Britain. One theory for its appearance so far from home is that melting Arctic ice is creating a new corridor for seabirds to move from one ocean to another. Another explanation is that it’s an escapee from Living Coasts in Torquay.  The Tufted Puffin is a striking bird with blond head plumes and a thick red bill.  See Wikipedia

Bittern recovery

After the successful breeding season of Scotland’s sea birds and an increase, at least temporary, of British butterflies this summer, comes the good news about Bitterns. Their recovery is remarkable because they were close to extinction as recently as 12 years ago. Extensive conservation work in wetland areas has paid off, particularly the restoration of dry reedbeds and creation of wet reedbeds. At least 82 booming males have been recorded in 2009, a high point since their total extinction at the end of the 19th century. Read more at the RSPB. Photo by Andy Hay.

Protection for machair

The unique Hebridean machair habitat, home to traditional crofting and a wealth of rare wildlife, is to protected through significant funding. RSPB

The RSPB notes:

The Hebridean machair is a strip of coastal land stretching from North Uist to Islay, with small pockets extending to the north of Lewis. Traditional crofting methods, including mixed grazing and late harvesting of arable crops for winter cattle fodder produces a magical landscape rich in wild flowers, herbs and grasses, bursting with seasonal colours.  This in turn makes perfect conditions for  threatened birds like corncrake, chough and corn bunting. The machair is also home to 16,000 breeding pairs of wading birds such as lapwings and ringed plovers, and insects such as the declining great yellow bumblebee. Scottish machair is globally important for this wildlife, which has disappeared from many other parts of Europe. Without the right support, however, the active crofting systems that maintain it are at risk.