Caledonian Conservation Blog

Glen Finglas Bryophyte Reporting

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Glen Finglas Bryophyte Reporting

Back in August we were lucky enough to be invited to assist with bryophyte (moss and liverwort) recording on the Woodland Trust Glen Finglas estate.  The recording day was instigated and lead by Jane Jones (Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland) and Gwen Raes (Woodland Trust Estate Ranger). We were also joined by Jack Ravenscroft (Woodland Trust Ecological Research volunteer) and bryophyte expert Gordon Rothero (British Bryological Society). 

Gwen skilfully drove us along the long, steep track north east of Glen Finglas reservoir to Creagan nan Sgiath and the lower slopes of Ben Vane, which would otherwise have been a 27km round trip on foot from the Glen Finglas car park! I have experienced this particular walk (otherwise known as the Mell circuit) on a previous jaunt and can vouch it is long and gruelling and would certainly leave limited opportunity to search the upper crags for bryological treasures….although I was treated to spectacular close views of a golden eagle on that occasion…swings and roundabouts!

Getting a lift to the site meant we could focus our efforts on recording our target location…the calcareous montane crags Creagan nan Sgiath, where we recorded 99 species of moss and liverwort at heights of 450m to 650m a.s.l.  The most interest was present on the highest calcareous crags where nationally scarce Encalypta ciliata, Scapania cuspiduligera, Scapania degenii and Bryum dixonii were recorded.  The bryophytes recorded overall are a distinctive and reasonably diverse group which are localised but fairly typical of this habitat type - upland calcareous crags.  There are frequent cushions of Grimmia funalis and occasionally occurring Anoectangium aestivum, Molendoa warburgii, Ditrichum gracile, Orthothecium intricatum, Thuidium delicatulum, Mnium marginatum and Plagiobryum zieri.  One species, Racomitrium elongatum, was recognised as being a first for the vice county in which the site occurs (West Perthshire).  This was recorded on gravelly soil on the lower slopes.

With a little time to spare on the drive back round the Mell circuit we climbed up towards a small incised ravine on the lower slopes beneath Creag a Mhadaidh north west of Ben Vane.  The greatest interest was recorded in flushes below the ravine, not least from a splendid display of dozens of peacock butterflies amongst rushes and devil’s bit scabious, but with the addition of an assemblage of base demanding species including Campylium stellatum, Scorpidium cossonii, Scorpidium revolvens, Sphagnum contortum and Sphagnum inundatum.  Their presence which indicates some base rich flushing spurred us on with promise for potentially interesting species in the ravine, but alas it would only be the precipitous climb into the ravine that got my heart going!

A good day of recording thanks to the team.  There is still more scope for further recording in the glen with more unexplored crags to conquer!

 

Conference presentation and article on invertebrate surveys at Tayside Sites of Special Scientific Interest available to download!

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Conference presentation and article on invertebrate surveys at Tayside Sites of Special Scientific Interest available to download!

On 17th March 2018, Director Chris Cathrine presented the results of Site Condition Monitoring invertebrate surveys at Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) in Tayside, at the Tayside Recorders’ Day, in Perth.  Some of the results of these surveys, completed between 2011 and 2017 under contract to Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), have not been made publicly available before, other than as records on NBN Atlas.

Caledonian Conservation Ltd has completed Site Condition Monitoring of invertebrate features for 56 SSSIs in Scotland between 2011 and 2017 under contract SNH. Of these SSSIs, five were located in Tayside: Barry Links (2011), Black Wood of Rannoch (2013), Den of Airlie (2015), Dollar Glen (2013), and Methven Woods (2015).

Among the stand out finds were the rediscover of the extinct flutter-wing fly Palloptera laetabilis and finding other rare invertebrate such as the lichen running-spider (Philodromus margaritatus).

The conference presentation and article in the Tayside Recorders’ Bulleting which includes the conference proceedings can be downloaded via the Caledonian Conservation Ltd publications page.

For more information about Tayside Biodiversity Partnership, who organised the conference, please visit:  http://www.taysidebiodiversity.co.uk/

For more information about SNH and their work, please visit:  https://www.nature.scot/

Photo: The lichen running-spider (Philodromus margaritatus) - one of the rare species found during surveys of SSSIs in Tayside.

 

Reptile Survey and Mitigation Guidance for Peatland Habitats Published!

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Reptile Survey and Mitigation Guidance for Peatland Habitats Published!

A new guidance document for reptile survey and mitigation in peatland habitats has been published by Amphibian & Reptile Groups of the UK (ARG UK), supported by Froglife, the Herpetological Society of Ireland (the HSI), and Amphibian & Reptile Conservation Trust (ARC Trust).  The publication of this document is significant, as there has long been a guidance vacuum for reptiles – this goes a small way to filling that gap.

All native reptile species are legally protected in the UK and Ireland, and so consideration should be given to mitigation to avoid committing an offence under the relevant nation-specific legislation (note that wildlife protection law is devolved and varies between individual UK countries).

The document, authored by Caledonian Conservation Ltd Director Chris Cathrine, focuses on Scotland where peatland habitats are extensive.  However, it could be applied to England, Wales, Northern Ireland, or Ireland where peatland habitats also occur.  The guidance is intended to assist in designing mitigation for impacts on reptiles during peatland restoration works but the methods described may also be suitable for the construction phase of some developments on these habitats.  Similarly, some of the approaches described could be adapted, with care, for reptiles occurring on other habitats.

The guidance provides information on peatland reptile ecology, potential impacts, survey methods, and approaches to mitigation to avoid harm to reptiles and construct hibernation features.  A decision tree flow chart is also provided, to help site managers to consider reptiles while planning works.

The new Reptile Survey and Mitigation Guidance for Peatland Habitats document can be downloaded at:  https://www.arguk.org/info-advice/advice-notes/414-10-advice-note-10-reptile-survey-and-mitigation-guidance-for-peatland-habitats

 

Most northerly Northern bear spider discovered in Scotland, using unusual habitat!

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Most northerly Northern bear spider discovered in Scotland, using unusual habitat!

While surveying for flies and butterflies during Site Condition Monitoring at Morrich More Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) in 2015, Director Chris Cathrine made a surprising discovery when a big female Northern bear sider (Arctosa cinerea) ran on to his sweep net!

This is not only the most northerly record for the Northern bear spider in the UK, but is also the first documented example of the species using sandy habitats – in this case on a stabilised dune system.  Although it has been found to use this habitat for some parts of its life cycle in Europe, it is typically found under stones in shingle in the UK.

You can read more about this discovery in an article in the latest issue of the latest issue of the Newsletter of the British Arachnological Society.  The article is also available to read here, via the Caledonian Conservation Ltd publications page.

The Site Condition Monitoring surveys at Morrich More SSSI were completed under contract to Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH).  For more information about SNH and their work, please visit:  https://www.nature.scot/

For more information about the Newsletter of the British Arachnological Society and the British Arachnological Society in general, please visit:  www.britishspiders.org.uk

Photo:  Arctosa cinerea © Steven Falk.  For more information on Steven Falk’s work and photography, please visit:  http://www.stevenfalk.co.uk/

 

New Update Article on Implications of Brexit for Devolved Environmental Law in Scotland Published in CIEEM In Practice

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New Update Article on Implications of Brexit for Devolved Environmental Law in Scotland Published in CIEEM In Practice

Although Director Chris Cathrine published an article on the implications of Brexit for Devolved Environmental Law in Scotland just three months ago, a lot has moved on since (read the blog on the original article here).  Using responses received from UK Government and Scottish Government officials, as well as newly published documents, Chris authored an update article which has been published in the latest issue of Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management (CIEEM) In Practice.  This new article adds clarity to the future of environmental law in Scotland, however there remains much uncertainty, particularly as UK Government responses to queries relating specifically to devolved law made reference to policy which only applies to England.  The new article can be downloaded from the Caledonian Conservation publications page.

The politics of Brexit continue at a rapid pace, and since this article was written the UK Parliament has voted on a number of amendments to the EU Withdrawal Bill (formerly known as ‘the Great Repeal Bill’) relating to both the future of environmental law and devolution.  Of particular note are the votes which rejected New Clause 67 and the amendments to Clause 11, the implications of which are summarised below:

  • New Clause 67:  The UK Government has stated that all EU environmental legislation will be transposed in to UK law after Brexit through the EU Withdrawal Bill.  However, in its current form the EU Withdrawal Bill does not transpose the key foundation principles of EU environmental law in to UK law.  New Clause 67 was proposed to amend the EU Withdrawal Bill so that it does transpose these principles in to UK law after Brexit.  MPs voted against this amendment, with UK Government instead making reference to the ’25-Year Environment Plan,’ promising that the principles will be included in policy, and committing to a new independent environmental watchdog body.  There are a number of issues with this approach for the entire UK, with additional implications for devolved countries:
  1. Law built on a foundation of policy is more difficult to enforce than if the principles were also defined in legislation.  It is therefore unclear how the independent watchdog will be able to enforce environmental legislation underpinned by these key principles.  Without these principles, there is an enforcement gap – ie many elements of environmental protection law become unenforceable, or open to wider interpretation.
  2. At present, the ’25-Year Environment Plan’ has an English scope only, and so it is unclear how this policy document will, or can, apply to Scotland.
  3. Environmental law is currently fully devolved to Scotland.  At present UK Government have declined to state which devolved areas will become reserved to Westminster (wholly or in part) after Brexit, and say this will be resolved after the UK leaves the EU.  Therefore, it is unclear whether UK Government environmental policies would apply to Scotland after Brexit.
  • Amendment to Clause 11:  While the EU Withdrawal Bill gives sweeping new powers to UK Government Ministers, it adds new restrictions to Ministers of devolved administrations.  Furthermore, powers currently exercised at an EU level within areas fully devolved to Scotland would return to UK Government after Brexit.  MPs voted against an amendment to Clause 11 which would have resolved this issue.  As such, the First Ministers of Scotland and Wales have both recommended that their parliaments do not give Legislative Consent to the EU Withdrawal Bill.  UK Government can still progress with the EU Withdrawal Bill in its current form without Legislative Consent – although this would break political convention, and further damage trust between governments, the same approach has been taken with renewable energy powers and Article 50 via the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Act 2017 (also known as ‘the Brexit Bill’).  This clause and the UK Government’s willingness to break political convention adds uncertainty as to which areas will be devolved after Brexit, and the level of influence devolved administrations will have over future environmental law.

Unfortunately, these developments since writing the update article have failed to add further clarity to devolved environmental law after Brexit, and instead have increased uncertainty.

 

Nest rafts for red-throated divers installed at Freasdail Wind Farm

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Nest rafts for red-throated divers installed at Freasdail Wind Farm

Caledonian Conservation has been working to satisfy ecology planning conditions for RES at Freasdail Wind Farm in Kintyre since 2014, involving developing and delivering mitigation for a range of birds, mammals, reptiles and habitats, as well as providing Ecological Clerk of Works (ECoW) services.  The final step in this process was the deployment of nest rafts to encourage red-throated divers – rare birds protected under Schedule 1 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended in Scotland) – to breed.

Red-throated divers spend winter at sea, and return to breeding territories (usually small lochans in open moorland) in spring.  The nest consists of a small scrape, normally located at the water’s edge, or on an island.  As nests are often located within easy access of predators such as foxes, otters and gulls, disturbance and predation can cause breeding failure.  Nests are also vulnerable to flooding during incubation – an increasingly common problem as summers become wetter as a result of climate change.

Artificial nest rafts have been found to greatly improve the success of breeding divers.  These rafts are not susceptible to flooding, as they adjust automatically with the water level, and also limit access to land-based predators.

To avoid disturbance, nest rafts were installed after the major elements of construction were complete.  Locations for rafts were carefully chosen to avoid risk of collision with wind turbines while red-throated divers commute between nesting lochans and feeding habitat (the sea and larger waterbodies), and to ensure there would be no human-caused disturbance during operational maintenance activities.

Working with Simon Lawrence (Lawrence Environmental Consultants), the nest rafts were successfully installed by Caledonian Conservation in April 2017, and will hopefully improve the breeding success of red-throated divers in the area in future years.

Read more about RES at:  http://www.res-group.com/en

Read more about Freasdail Wind Farm at:  http://www.freasdail-windfarm.co.uk/

Photo:  Diver nest raft installed near Freasdail Wind Farm © Simon Lawrence

 

‘Extinct’ flutter-wing fly last seen 100 years ago found in Angus, Scotland

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‘Extinct’ flutter-wing fly last seen 100 years ago found in Angus, Scotland

A rare flutter-wing fly, Palloptera laetabilis, not seen in the UK for over 100 years has been found at Den of Airlie Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), a woodland in Angus.  This is also the first time this fly has ever been found in Scotland.

The rare fly was presumed to be extinct, but was found during site condition monitoring surveys completed by Caledonian Conservation under contract to Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) in 2015.  The discovery has since been confirmed and published by Steven Falk (the fly expert on the project team) in the most recent issue of Dipterists Digest.

Den of Airlie SSSI is only the fifth site that this species has been recorded at in the UK, and the only one in Scotland.  The other four sites are all located in England, with the last record being from Oxfordshire in 1907.

Chris Cathrine, Director of Caledonian Conservation and project leader for the 2015 invertebrate site condition monitoring project said:  “Finding a species last recorded over a century ago is very exciting.  That this is also the first record for the species in Scotland makes this all the more special.  We found a great number of rare species during our surveys across Scotland.  While Palloptera laetabilis is undoubtedly the most exciting, we hope to publish records from all 25 sites, including the Isle of Rum, in the future.”

The invertebrate records collected by Caledonian Conservation during these surveys (including Den of Airlie SSSI) are available on NBN Atlas at:  https://registry.nbnatlas.org/public/show/dp4

Learn more about SNH’s work in Scotland at:  http://www.snh.gov.uk/

Steven Falk’s paper on Palloptera laetabilis is available on the Caledonian Conservation publications page, or directly here.

Steven Falk was contracted by Caledonian Conservation to complete surveys for this project through his previous role at Buglife – the Invertebrate Conservation Trust.  For more information on Steven Falk’s work and photography, please visit:  http://www.stevenfalk.co.uk/

For more information about the Dipterists Digest visit:  http://www.dipteristsforum.org.uk/sgb_dipterists_digest.php

Photo:  Female Palloptera laetabilis from Den of Airlie Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) © Steven Falk

 

Winners of 'Amazing Animals, Brilliant Science' Competition

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Winners of 'Amazing Animals, Brilliant Science' Competition

The winners of the Amazing Animals, Brilliant Science competition have been presented with their awards at Edinburgh Zoo, including Caledonian Conservation beanie hats!  

Young artists and writers from across Scotland attended the event on 21st October, organised by the Amphibian and Reptile Conservation (ARC) Trust and hosted by the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS).  Children aged 8-18 were asked to paint, draw or write about 15 iconic Scottish species, ranging from Scottish wildcats and red deer to great crested newts. According to ARC's patron and TV presenter Chris Packham: "There are some very striking, imaginative and colourful artworks... and some tremendous essays describing these wonderful animals."

Caledonian Conservation were proud to sponsor the event, with Director Chris Cathrine saying: “Young people are losing their connection to the natural world.  If people don’t care about wildlife, they won’t want to protect it.  It is therefore essential to ensure that the next generation have the opportunity to explore and share in the wonder of Scotland’s wildlife.  It’s an honour and a privilege to help young people build their connection with nature.  Who knows, maybe some of the winners will go on to become the ecologists of the future.”

The creative work done by the children will now be used to help illustrate a new book called "Amazing Animals, Brilliant Science: how DNA technology is being used to help save Scotland's wildlife". The book is being compiled by Dr Pete Minting of ARC.

The Amazing Animals, Brilliant Science competition is part of ARC's Great Crested Newt Detectives project in Scotland, which started in April 2016 and runs until March 2018, funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS) and ARC.

To read more about Amazing Animals, Brilliant Science go to this website:  www.arc-trust.org/news/amazing-animals-brilliant-science

You can learn more about Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Trust here: www.arc-trust.org

The photo was provided by Pete Minting (ARC) and is used with permission.

 

Tay Landscape Partnership Buildings for Biodiversity Conference

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Tay Landscape Partnership Buildings for Biodiversity Conference

Caledonian Conservation Ltd is proud to sponsor the Tay Landscape Partnership Buildings for Biodiversity Conference, to be held at Perth Concert Hall on 9th November.  As people expand urban environments and develop new areas for natural resources such as renewable energy, it is becoming increasingly clear that segregation of wildlife and development is not realistic;  instead, we need to ensure biodiversity benefits are integrated in to these projects.  This conference therefore tackles an important and very current topic.

While developments offer obvious challenges for wildlife, there are many opportunities to benefit biodiversity.  Tay Landscape Partnership pioneered a landscape scale approach to identifying these opportunities with their Buildings for Biodiversity and Tay to Braes projects, which we are proud to have contributed to at Caledonian Conservation Ltd.

The conference programme is wide ranging, covering wildlife law and development, mitigation and enhancement for species, or broader biodiversity opportunities such as green roofs.  The speakers are from an equally diverse range of organisations, including Gaia Research, Swift Conservation, Police Scotland, and Arc Architects Ltd.  Pioneering and inspirational urban ecologist Dusty Gedge will also be giving a talk on Nature-‘based Solutions in the Urban Real.’

As well as the main presentations, there will also be a series of shorter talks including one by Caledonian Conservation Ltd Director Chris Cathrine, as well as Butterfly Conservation Scotland, Inchture Parish Church, Hillcrest Housing Association, Bat Conservation Trust, and the local Amphibian and Reptile Group.

For more information on the event, visit the The Tay Landscape Partnership Buildings for Biodiversity Conference website.

For more information on the landscape scale biodiversity work Caledonian Conservation Ltd completed for Tay Landscape Partnership’s Buildings for Biodiversity and Tay to Braes projects, download the report from our publications page, or directly here: Cathrine, C., Flood, E., Norris, G. and Johnston, S. 2015. Tay Landscape Partnership: Habitats and Buildings Survey. Caledonian Conservation Ltd, Hamilton.

 

Article on Implications of Brexit for Devolved Environmental Law in Scotland Published in CIEEM In Practice

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Article on Implications of Brexit for Devolved Environmental Law in Scotland Published in CIEEM In Practice

At present, environmental law is devolved in Scotland.  As such the responsibility for Scottish environmental law (including wildlife protection) rests with Scottish Government.  The European Union (EU) directives provide a framework for elements of environmental law, common to all UK nations and the other 27 member states.  As the UK leaves the EU, these frameworks will no longer apply in Scotland, and this, combined with other implications on the devolution settlement, bring a high level of uncertainty for the future structure of environmental law. The potential implications of Brexit for devolved environmental law in Scotland was the subject of an article by Caledonian Conservation’s Director, Chris Cathrine, in the Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management (CIEEM) In Practice publication.  This article is now available to download from the Caledonian Conservation publications page.

Note that the deadline for this article was before the snap 2017 General Election, and some of the areas of uncertainty are now becoming clearer – for example the background briefing notes for the Queen’s Speech indicate the intention of creating a UK-wide legislative framework for environmental law post-Brexit through the Agriculture Bill.  Therefore, an update will be appropriate as further clarifications are provided.

 
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