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Caithness News Bulletins August 2004

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  Whales - Caithness Whale Links  

Caithness will host two exciting workshops  at the end of August (Saturday 28th and Sunday 29th August) focusing on some of the smaller Caithness mammals; 'Bats', and also some of the largest mammals; 'Cetaceans' (whales, dolphins & porpoise). A common theme of "eco-location" will run through the workshops as both animals depend on similar methods to navigate and capture prey.

The workshops have been organised by Rangers in The Highland Council's Planning and Development Service in an attempt to raise general awareness and to improve identification skills of the various species of bats and cetaceans which can be viewed around the county.

The "Batty about Bats!" Workshop takes place on the UK Bat night, Saturday 28th of August. Anne Youngman from the Bat Conservation Trust will lead the workshop which will involve an indoor 'hands-on' session on bat identification and use of a bat detector. Dunbeath Heritage Centre is kindly hosting the indoor event before a bat walk up the Dunbeath Strath where the use of bat detectors and bat identification skills will be put into practice.

Anne Youngman said: "We'll be using identification keys and specimens of dead bats to have a really close look at these normally elusive creatures.  Later we'll be tuning in to bat sounds using different types of bat
detector. The detectors turn sounds we can't hear into sounds we can hear.  They open our ears to a whole new world of night sounds. The bat calls heard vary from beautifully musical to rather rude raspberry's!"

The second workshop, "Caithness Cetaceans", will focus on the whales, dolphins and porpoise which use our waters and takes place on Sunday 29th at Waterlines Centre, Lybster. This workshop has been funded by the Moray Firth Partnership. The event will take the form of an illustrated talk by Iain Macdonald, local co-ordinator for the Sea Watch Foundation, in the morning, followed by an outdoor, practical 'Seawatching' session at Swineyhill, Lybster.

Members of the public are invited to attend the outdoor session and take part in the National Seawatch which is taking place around Britain during the same week. The meeting place is Waterlines Centre, Lybster Harbour at 12 noon. Efforts of all participants will be rewarded with coffee and cake afterwards at Waterlines.

Iain Macdonald said: "This is a great time of year to look for cetaceans since a number of different species are possibly in the Moray Firth. The most likely species which we might see are harbour porpoise, followed by minke whale. However you never know what might swim around the next corner!"

East Caithness Ranger, and workshop organiser, Marina Finlayson said: "We are hoping for some good weather over the weekend to make viewing conditions more favourable for both outdoor events. A warm, still evening will increase chances of seeing Pipistrelle and Daubentons bats at the Dunbeath Strath and a bright, calm day on Sunday will make cetacean watching much easier.

"We are very privileged to have Anne Youngman and Iain Macdonald leading the workshops and we are very grateful for their efforts in travelling to Caithness for the events. I'd also like to thank the Moray Firth Partnership for funding the cetacean workshop and Dunbeath Heritage Centre for hosting the bat workshop."

There are limited places still available for both workshops but places must be booked in advance by contacting Marina Finlayson on 01955 607758 or e-mail marina.finlayson@highland.gov.uk 

A series of evening 'Bat Walks' around the Caithness area will also follow the workshop and run from Thursday 26th August to Friday 3rd September.  Anyone interested in searching for bats and learning how the midge munchers manage to navigate through the dark and find prey, should also phone the above number for more information and to book a place