I was recently asked to join the SCOTLAND: THE BIG PICTURE team as a Contributing Writer and subsequently appeared in their introductory film above. As Scotland begins its rewilding journey, STBP exists as a multimedia hub combining ecological science with compelling narratives and the finest imagery to tell inspiring stories that amplify the case for a wilder Scotland.
Found myself reminiscing today about a trip to Tasmania in 2006, and specifically, time spent exploring the Cradle Mountain National Park. The fond memories have been intertwined with an increasing disillusionment I have with the habitats and wildlife in my home country of Scotland, where experiencing wild animal encounters are a rarity and biodiversity is in short supply, particularly in relation to mammals. The variety, although severely lacking compared with many other countries, isn’t the main problem – it’s the sparse distribution of much of the fauna and the lack of habitat connectivity.
Good to have this annual wildlife extravaganza back on our television screens for the next three weeks. The first episode will be shown on BBC2 this evening at 8pm, but the ‘live cams’ have been broadcasting continuously since 5am and there is plenty of additional footage available via the red button. As usual, there is the Unsprung programme following the main broadcast in the evening, as well as Springwatch Extra providing further programmes during the day. The production team have returned to the RSPB Minsmere reserve on the Suffolk coast this year- arguably the most biodiverse place in the United Kingdom.
Plans to reintroduce the Eurasian Lynx to the United Kingdom are gathering pace, with the Lynx UK Trust having recently announced three potential release sites in Scotland and England. Today the organisation, which consists of experienced conservationists and scientists, sought the attention of Welsh landowners who wish to be considered for hosting further releases in Wales. Lynx were once a native species that thrived across the country, but were exterminated primarily by human intervention by the 8th Century. They’re often cited as one of the most suitable ‘lost’ species for reintroduction, as they actively avoid human interaction, pose a minimal risk to livestock and would help to naturally cull our overpopulation of deer and rabbit.
We currently have a colony of over 150 Beavers living in the Tayside region of Scotland and I’m going to hopefully visit the area in a few days to try and photograph them- a long shot, I know. I’ve always been intrigued by their industrious ability to construct vast lodges in a relatively short space of time. Here’s a short film narrated by Sir David Attenborough showing how they do it.
There’s been interesting coverage in the Scottish Media over the last few days about a proposal to relocate considerable numbers of Pine Marten in order to protect the Capercaillie. I am suspicious of the motives behind this and it reminds me once again that my country is too ‘interventionist’ when it comes to one-dimensional conservation practices that seek to save one species by threatening another, instead of coming up with a multi-faceted approach which would address the challenges faced by vulnerable species. The plans have been put forward by the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust- a charity funded by landowners, farmers and the game-shooting community. So why are they so keen to protect this mystical giant grouse?
Annoyed to hear that over 1500 of these partially protected species are thought to have been killed this year in the Lammermuir Hills, southeast of Edinburgh. This disturbing statistic has been privately confirmed by some landowners who either participated in, or knew those responsible for the cull. Unsurprisingly this news has provoked strong condemnation from wildlife and animal rights groups across the United Kingdom, calling for stricter regulation on these practices, which are currently only prohibited for a few months of the year in Scotland. For me, this is another example of completely unjustifiable tactics being employed by ill-informed landowners to the detriment of our country’s bio-diversity.
Having recently spotted a young Pine Marten for the first time in the wild, in the Scottish Borders of all places, I put out my remote camera in the hope of capturing it on film. To entice it, I left out a jam sandwich and nuts- two of their favourite things. As you will see, it did work, but in a way I didn’t expect. You’ll see the Pine Marten actually catching a wood mouse that was feeding on the bait. It then appears to scent-mark the tree before leaving.
Fantastic to have them back in this region after such a long time away and it’s hard to believe that I’ve had my first sighting and footage of one within 48 hours. It certainly indicates there is a healthy population of them now living in the area, and long may that continue. The date displayed on the footage is wrong- this was captured yesterday evening. More recordings to follow I hope…….
Having kept a journal documenting all my wildlife encounters with my country’s less commonly seen fauna for over three years now, I thought it was about time I condensed my notes into some sort of order to give you an idea of what you could expect to see when out and about in the Scottish countryside. It’s not of course, at all scientific and is predominantly from sightings in the Scottish Borders region, where I live, and the West coast of Scotland. But hopefully it will give you a useful overview of what our current wildlife is like and should reflect general population numbers in this part of the world. The percentage against each entry below represents the overall proportion of separate sightings for that animal from the total number of wildlife sightings recorded. Having crunched the numbers, there are a few surprises in the top 20…….