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NATURE AND ENVIRONMENT
HIGHLAND BIODIVERSITY - Caithness & Sutherland
Archive of Earlier Items
25 April 08
An individual animal was spotted in the Milton of Leys housing estate on the outskirts of Inverness Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) has confirmed. Grey squirrels can carry the squirrelpox virus which is lethal to native red squirrels but does not affect the greys.
The red squirrel is a conservation priority species for the UK and Scotland, and was one of the first species identified for conservation action under the UK Biodiversity Action Plan in 1995.
It also features in the Scottish Red Squirrel Action Plan, a national initiative which aims to reverse the current decline in the distribution and numbers of red squirrels in Scotland.
Ron Macdonald, Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) head of policy and advice said: "This confirmed grey squirrel case in a red squirrel refuge is deeply concerning as non-native greys can carry the virus squirrelpox which can kill our native red squirrel.
"Along with this threat, the most serious for our native red squirrel is competition with the more robust greys.
"It is the first confirmed sighting in the red squirrel stronghold of the Highlands and we would urge people to be vigilant and to report any sightings of grey squirrels.
"The red squirrel is an important and iconic species. It features in the SNH Species Action Framework for conservation action due to the population decline over the past 50 years. Its conservation remains a top priority for SNH and our partners."
Once widespread across the UK, the red squirrel is now largely restricted to the north of England, Northern Ireland and Scotland, which has around 75% of the estimated UK population. It is a Priority Species on the UK Biodiversity Action Plan (UKBAP) and is included on the Scottish Biodiversity List.
Anyone who thinks they may have seen a grey squirrel should inform http://www.scottishsquirrelsurvey.co.uk/
25 February 08
The "lever and mulch" method of Rhododendron control requires no power tools, no fires and no herbicides, just an understanding of the inherent strengths and weaknesses of Rhododendron ponticum and lots of elbow grease. Branches are cut in strategic places to form effective levers (and to disentangle them), then the stumps are either levered out the ground in their entirety, overturned and left to dry, which kills them, or, if part of the stump is left in the ground it is covered (mulched) with the cut branches and leaf litter from other bushes. This kills almost all of the plants but if some re-sprout they can be removed relatively easily.
This project will involve local volunteers to clear an area of Rhododendron, the equivalent of four full-size football pitches in the Movern Community Woodland in Lochaber. In addition it will produce a guidance document and demonstrate and train others in this method of removal. Rhododendron can be a real problem in native woodlands where it can shade out the forest floor plants and rare mosses and lichens. It is also highly invasive and has proved extremely expensive and difficult to control using other methods.
This is just one of 24 local projects running from 2008 until 2010 that follow on from the Highland Biodiversity Action Plan Implementation Programme that ran from 2004 to 2007. During this time £90,000 of funding was provided to help 37 community led biodiversity projects.
The funding is being provided by the Heritage Lottery Fund, The Highland Council, Scottish Natural Heritage, Highlands & Islands Enterprise and RSPB Scotland.
The projects in Caithness include -
Councillor Isobel McCallum, Chairman of The Highland Biodiversity Partnership, and Vice Chairman of The Highland Council's Planning, Environment and Development Committee, said: "As a region, Highland is extremely lucky to have a tremendous variety of habitats and richness of species that is unequalled anywhere else in the country. The Highland Council is committed to ensuring that our wildlife and environment is protected and properly looked after. Volunteers working on these biodiversity projects are all actively helping with conservation and doing their bit to enhance the natural heritage of their local communities."
Anyone who would like to find out more about how to get involved in local biodiversity projects should contact The Highland Council's Biodiversity Officers Janet Bromham or Jonathan Willet on 01463 702274.
11 February 08
As part of the development of a three-year management plan for the LNR, consultations are taking place to find out what locals and visitors think is special about the area and what their aspirations are for the site.
Councillor Drew Hendry, Chairman of The Highland Council's Planning, Environment and Development Committee said: "It's particularly important that local people with knowledge of the area contribute this consultation on the Merkinch Local Nature Reserve. This local involvement will help to determine how the site is used and managed in the future"
Three local consultants; Toni Clark, Bill Taylor and Phil James will produce a plan that looks at the past, present and future of the Merkinch LNR. As well as speaking to people on the site and in Merkinch, they are keen to hear from anyone with any information on the site's history and any records of plants or animals that have been seen on the site.
By the end of March this year the plan will be completed and all those involved with Merkinch LNR are looking forward to see what it will come up with, and where funding could be found to take forward the suggested works.
In addition to the development plan two,
seven foot (two metre),
Anyone with information on Merkinch LNR's
history or flora and fauna can contact Jonathan Willet, Highland
Biodiversity Officer on 01463 702274 or
3 December 07
20 October 07
For example, which hedgerows have the best range of summer flowers – do you drive or cycle or walk past a good one and value it? This summer we walked round the loop of road at Harpsdale, south of Halkirk, and found 116 species. Does your favourite wayside get mowed down by a well-intentioned Highland Council? Tell us about it.
Do you know where bats fly in the evening? Do you know where they hang out? They eat midges so maybe you want more of them around! We would like to know what you know!
18 June 07
12 June 07
16 May 07
An innovative nature photography competition launched today is giving Scots the chance to reach a worldwide audience with their own images of nature and wildlife. The competition has been organised by Scottish Biodiversity Forum (SBF) as part of this year's Scottish Biodiversity Week programme of events. Organisers want budding nature photographers of all ages and abilities to take part by simply sending their best photo entries by email as an attachment to email@example.com
The photo competition is promoting the theme of "'Earth, nature and you - connected" by inviting people to capture an inspiring image of their natural local surroundings and win some fantastic prizes using their camera phones or digital cameras. Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) is hosting the competition on its website and an online photo gallery of the images can be viewed at www.snh.org.uk/biodiversityweek . Organiser Zeshan Akhter says: "People use, and take inspiration from nature in so many ways - to recharge their batteries, for art, literature, music, science and faith. We want Biodiversity Week and the nature photo competition to be an opportunity for people to express and share this inspiration. We hope people will dig out their cameras and go visit the places where they feel connected to nature: where they feel rested, uplifted, refreshed or joyful - and tell us about it through their photographs."
First prize is an inspiring day spent working with top professional nature photographer Philip Price at his Loch Visions' purpose built photographic zones on the banks of stunning Loch Awe. Here the winner will discover the secrets of photographing wild and natural subjects using a purpose built vole and forest bird hide, wild flower and butterfly meadow and loch side vantages.
Entrants should email their photos by 18th June as an attachment to firstname.lastname@example.org with "Photo Contest" in the subject line. Entries must be original, have a title and information about where in Scotland the photo was taken and name and contact details. SNH will add entries to create an online gallery of entries on the theme of 'Earth, nature and you - connected."
Winners will be notified in July 2007 and the winning entries will be posted on the Scottish Biodiversity Week website and highlighted in the Scottish Biodiversity Forum's quarterly newsletter. The runner up will receive a high quality Nikon SLR digital camera and and the 3rd prize-winner the Royal Society for Protection of Birds Guide to Digital Wildlife Photography.
Scottish Biodiversity Week events are being held throughout Scotland and include talks, guided walks, pond-dipping, bird watching trips, nature reserve open days, wildflower planting days, nature photography/painting workshops and exhibitions. The website www.snh.org.uk/biodiversityweek carries a full programme of events and projects which give people opportunities to examine and interact with the biodiversity on their doorstep.
10 September 06
The find of this fascinating and little-known river dweller was made by two SNH staff members at an unspecified Highland river over the past few days. It follows a find at another river system recently and has again raised the illegal activity of killing these animals for the pearls they sometimes produce.
SNH and Northern Constabulary have again warned that people in the Highlands should not interfere with these animals. Freshwater pearl mussels are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 and anyone taking, disturbing or harming them is liable to prosecution and could face a prison sentence.
It is also illegal to sell the pearls that the mussels sometimes produce without a licence from the Scottish Executive. Scotland is the European stronghold for this species and contains half of the world's known viable populations.
The move came after SNH staff members Iain Sime and Tim Dawson discovered a large number of emptied freshwater pearl mussel shells on the Highland riverbank.
Iain, the organisation's Freshwater Group manager, said: "Sadly, these finds we made are only the most recent of three pearl mussel kills recorded in Scotland during 2006.
"People should be aware that taking of what is a fascinating and increasingly rare creature is illegal and may lead to a custodial sentence. The freshwater pearl mussel population in Scotland is now so endangered it is now on a par with the tiger in Asia.
"This grim statistic only makes it more important that this important part of Scotland's natural heritage should be left well alone." Northern Constabulary PC John Bryden, Wildlife Crime Officer, said: "These molluscs are of vital importance to Scotland's biodiversity. "These creatures once purified our rivers. They are indicators to the welfare of our countryside and anyone found interfering with this fragile creature will be dealt with severely.
"Northern Constabulary treats this offence very seriously and anyone with information should contact their local police office."
Pearl mussels once formed a major industry in Scotland worth hundreds of jobs, but over-exploitation resulted in stocks being almost wiped out. In 1998, freshwater pearl mussels were given full protection as numbers plummeted to critical levels.
These latest finds demonstrate that criminals still raid mussel beds, ripping out mussels up to 100 years old, and opening and discarding the inedible mussel in their search for pearls.
As two of the members of PAW (The Partnership for Action against Wildlife Crime), SNH and the police are keen to see these criminals stopped. Ben Ross, SNH's co-ordinator for PAW, said: "The freshwater pearl mussel isnow a priority species in the fight against wildlife crime.
"We are committed to finding the means to tackle their decline in Scotland because failure means they will become extinct. We would urge people not to disturb this precious asset in our rivers and we are warning that taking this species is illegal and may result in criminal prosecution and possibly even jail."
Freshwater pearl mussels can live for 80 to 100 years but only mature after around 10-15 years so young mussels cannot form a sustainable population. They thrive in clean, fast running, low nutrient waters which are low in calcium and have a mix of stones and sand on the bottom. Pollution, the decline of salmon and river engineering works have all played a part in their gradual disappearance.
Larvae attach themselves to the gills of salmon and trout in the summer, and remain, without harming the fish, until the following spring when they drop off and burrow into the river bottom to grow into adulthood. The mussels act as biofilters, filtering out particles and help to maintain water quality and are an integral part of many river systems.
Freshwater pearl mussels were once common
in Scotland, with one Roman writer commenting that they were the reason
Julius Caesar invaded Britain. The Kelly or Kellie pearl, found in a
tributary of the river Ythan in 1621, was one of the largest ever found
in Scotland. It was presented by the Lord Provost of Aberdeen to King
James VI and it is now in the Scottish crown jewels. Due to destruction
for the pearls they sometimes contain, pollution and the decline of
salmon which form part of their life cycle, the pearl mussel is now one
of the most endangered species in Scotland. Mussels are now extinct or
populations are not viable in 70% of sites were they were once found.
Scottish Natural Heritage is the government body with respect to
conservation, enhancement, enjoyment, understanding and sustainable use
of Scotland's natural heritage. It works for and with Scotland's people.
8 September 06
17 August 06
4 April 06
The Forum provided an opportunity for delegates to be updated on the 40 projects, which have been taken forward by local individuals or groups over the last two years.
Councillor Ian Ross, Chairman of The Highland Council’s Sustainable Development Committee, said: “There is a record of considerable biodiversity achievement in Highland and community groups and others across the area are to be applauded for their hard work and success. There is a quiet but justifiable satisfaction with the progress to date. The challenge is to do yet more, but there is the confidence and commitment to do just that and we are far from complacent over the need for additional biodiversity action. ”
“The launch of the Highland Biodiversity Partnership Agreement is a significant step and provides the linkage and coherence of structure which will add to our ability to act effectively and also seek to maximise the available resources.”
The Forum also provided the opportunity to run workshops which encouraged a full discussion on key issues and future goals. The feedback from the workshops will be used to inform future work programmes and share information and good practice from across Highland.
Highland biodiversity officer, Jonathan Willet, said: “It can be easy to feel depressed about the state of the natural world and our effect on it. But gatherings such as these show that there is a huge amount of positive work being done to protect and restore the Highland’s Biodiversity and a huge number of enthusiastic people involved. With further money for projects close to being secured for the next three years we hope that there will be even more good news about Highland’s Biodiversity to celebrate in 2007 and even more people involved”
5 February 06
19 January 06
Caithness Biodiversity Newsletter October
17 August 05
30 March 05
Experts Warn Ecosystem Changes Will Continue to Worsen, Putting Global Development Goals At Risk
18 October 04
14 July 04
30 May 04
21 January 04
19 December 03
9 December 03