Caledonian Conservation Blog

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.

 

Article Published on Colombian Wandering Spider Found in Aberdeenshire

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Article Published on Colombian Wandering Spider Found in Aberdeenshire

Caledonian Conservation’s Director, Chris Cathrine, co-authored an article with Stuart Longhorn for The Newsletter of the British Arachnological Society describing a specimen of Phoneutria (P. cf. boliviensis) which was found in Inverbervie (Aberdeenshire) in a banana shipment from Colombia in 2016.  SRUC later sent the spider to Caledonian Conservation for identification. 

The article was published on 14th August 2017, and provides information on the record, as well as photos and a diagram of the epigyne (female genitals, unique to the species of spider).

With relatively little information published on the identification of Phoneutria (known as ‘wandering spiders’ and belonging to the family Ctenidae, which does not occur naturally in the UK), there was an opportunity to share useful identification details with ecologists working throughout the world.  We are proud that the article was quickly added to the World Spider Catalogue – a resource that collates key taxonomic literature on spiders, for use by academic researchers and other ecologists throughout the world.

Despite frequent media reports claiming Phoneutria spiders (sometimes erroneously referred to by the press as ‘painful erection death spiders’) to have been found in the UK and often indicating they are associated with damaging bites to people, there are no previous records published in scientific literature.  These reports are rarely substantiated, and the specimens are not normally identified by expert arachnologists.  Given the claims of medically important bites, Chris and Stuart felt it would be helpful to describe the effects of the venom of different Phoneutria species based on peer reviewed literature in the article.

It is hoped that this article will help inform a more robust understanding of the occurrence of Phoneutria spiders in the UK, help others identify these species, and be a useful reference source for journalists reporting on wandering spiders in the future.

The article is available to download on the Caledonian Conservation publications page and the World Spider Catalogue.

Learn more about the British Arachnological Society here.

The World Spider Catalogue is hosted by the Natural History Museum of Bern, and more information can be found here.

 

And we're off to the Scottish Game Fair!

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And we're off to the Scottish Game Fair!

All loaded up and ready to go – Chris Cathrine, Director, and Carolyn Gillen, Ecologist form the advance Caledonian Conservation team heading for the 29th GWCT Scottish Game Fair at Scone Palace in Perthshire.

Loaded up with all the components for our trade stand, Chris and Carolyn are in charge of setting everything up ready for the Fair opening on Friday June 30th. If last year is anything to go by, the Fair will play host to over 33,000 visitors for a three day celebration of all that rural Scotland has to offer.

Members of the team will be on hand over the three days to meet friends and clients, old and new and to offer expert ecology advice – or even just a chair for weary legs.

So if you’re coming along, don’t forget to visit the Caledonian Conservation team on Stand 22a Stag Row.

For more information on the Scottish Game Fair, visit:  www.scottishfair.com

 

Return To The Black Wood: Deadwood and Green Shield Moss (Buxbaumia viridis)

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Return To The Black Wood: Deadwood and Green Shield Moss (Buxbaumia viridis)

Senior ecologist and company bryologist Julie Smith reports from amongst the fallen trees of the Black Wood of Rannoch.

In January 2017 Caledonian Conservation Ltd undertook a surveillance survey across the Tay Forest District for a rare bryophyte listed under Annex II of the EU Habitats Directive which occurs on deadwood, green shield moss (Buxbaumia viridis).  The aim was to survey suitable habitat to improve understanding of the distribution of the species in Scotland.

During a recent Native Woodland Discussion Group (NWDG) meeting a member had noted that there appeared to be a lack of deadwood across the Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) element of Black Wood of Rannoch, one of the largest extents of ancient Caledonian Pine wood in Scotland. While our winter survey there had indeed found limited quantities there was locally frequent deadwood of good size and stage of decay along the Dall Burn and its tributaries to the east. Buxbaumia viridis was not recorded within the SSSI, but it was on neighbouring Forest Enterprise (FE) land, by the Kilvrecht campsite, again to the east.

In spite of the long term use of the Black Wood for timber extraction up until the wartime felling of the 20th century, the ancient pinewood has persisted and is now managed by Forest Enterprise (FE) under non-intervention. It is expected there will be an increase in deadwood across the SSSI in future years, which means more suitable habitat for Buxbaumia viridis.  FE staff and other visitors to the woodland should be encouraged to familiarise themselves with this distinctive little moss and its preferred microhabitat, as it may very well turn up there soon!

At the end of the NWDG meeting Julie revisited the mature fallen Kilvrecht birch tree where the moss was found and became reacquainted with the impressive capsules, albeit at a different growth stage!

The photo below shows a Buxbaumia viridis capsule on mature fallen birch tree in early June 2017 (capsules have reached maturity and are golden brown in colour).

 

Heading off road: renewing BORDA qualifications & putting Ford Rangers through their paces!

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Heading off road: renewing BORDA qualifications & putting Ford Rangers through their paces!

Working in remote locations throughout the UK means the Caledonian Conservation team often encounter rough and challenging terrain – particularly in Scotland!  It’s therefore essential that our drivers have the equipment and the skill necessary to tackle this.  The driving team are BORDA (British Off Road Driving Association) qualified, and we all recently renewed and updated our 4x4 driving skills and qualifications at the Scottish Off Road Driving Centre in Fife.

Though perhaps not quite as muddy under-tyre as in previous visits due to the recent unusually dry spell the extensive hilly (and watery) course at Glentarkie still put us through our paces as we practised our controlled ascents and descents, stall and loss of traction recoveries, braking and bow wave creation over, in and through the ditches, ridges, ruts, lakes, woods and sideslopes.  There was also an opportunity for some inadvertent in-car livestock herding warming up the engine in the sheep field beforehand.

Walter and his team of instructors as ever provided an excellent programme, expertly guiding us through the obstacles of the day and also offering a lot of useful advice on a range of issues from safety checks to be carried out before every excursion through to proper usage of the handbrake when parking.

This also gave us an opportunity to really test the Ford Ranger’s capabilities – learning the limitations and unexpected strengths compared to Land Rover Defenders.  Rangers are remarkably capable off road vehicles – we were particularly surprised at how well they out-performed Defenders when cross axled!  We’d certainly recommend the Ford Ranger Off Road Pack!

We all emerged unscathed and fully prepared once again for whatever terrain our various projects might take us to next in the wilds of Scotland and beyond.

No Ford Rangers were harmed during the earning of our new BORDA certificates.

To find out more about the British Off Road Driving Association (BORDA) visit:  www.borda.org.uk/

To find out more about the Scottish Off Road Driving Centre visit:  www.scotoffroad.co.uk/

To find out more about Ford Rangers visit:  www.ford.co.uk

 

Caledonian Conservation Roadshow Goes to Scone for GWCT Scottish Game Fair

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Caledonian Conservation Roadshow Goes to Scone for GWCT Scottish Game Fair

The Caledonian Conservation team will be out in force at the 29th annual Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT) Scottish Game Fair from 30 June to 2 July.

We will be hosting a stand at this prestigious country show, billed as ‘Scotland’s most popular outdoor event’, which is held within the parklands of the historic and scenic Scone Palace in Perthshire.

Our stand will be manned over the three days by Chris Cathrine, Director; Liz Coiffait and Julie Smith, Senior Ecologists; Carolyn Gillen and Steven Johnston, Ecologists and Joanne O’Hara, Administrator who look forward to meeting past, present and future clients.

By attending the fair we look forward to establishing new relationships with those that are responsible for the management of estates and other land in Scotland, who may need professional ecology advice, as well as developers, surveyors, wildlife societies and others that have countryside affiliations. With members of the team specialising in everything from wildlife and habitat surveys to Ecological Impact Assessments and Habitat Management Plans there will be plenty of expert advice on hand for visitors to our stand.

If you’re at the fair be sure to come and see us at stand S22a on Stag Row. See you there!

For more information on the Scottish Game Fair, visit:  www.scottishfair.com

For more information about GWCT, visit:  www.gwct.org.uk

 

 

Northern Lights on Skye

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Northern Lights on Skye

Carrying out ecology surveys across Scotland means that the Caledonian Conservation team are occasionally lucky enough to witness some great natural spectacles.  On a recent trip to Skye we were treated to a stunning display of the Northern Lights, with a backdrop of an incredibly clear starry night sky virtually unpolluted by light.  Our hosts Katrina and Dave at Foxwood Bed & Breakfast keep a careful eye on the Aurora forecast and persuaded us to venture back outside after a busy day of surveys.

(Photograph © Dave McGough, Foxwood Bed & Breakfast)

 

Success! TWIC Spring Conference: Farming and Biodiversity Spring Conference

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Success! TWIC Spring Conference: Farming and Biodiversity Spring Conference

Caledonian Conservation sponsored The Wildlife Information Centre (TWIC) Spring Conference ‘Farming and Biodiversity in Scotland – An Essential Partnership’ at Musselburgh on Saturday 29th April.  Niall Currie (Assistant Ecologist) reports...

The event was very well attended and allowed farmers, land managers, ecologists and biological recorders to meet and exchange ideas.  The excellent range of topics varied from the experience of individual farmers carrying out conservation projects on their farms, to global issues such as planning how best to manage soils and the incredibly complex ecological communities they support.

Other talks included individual species conservation projects, such as the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust’s research into improving the survival prospects of grey partridge (Perdix perdix) on farms by increasing vegetation cover during the breeding season and over winter.

The break for lunch, gave attendees the opportunity to explore stands and learn about TWIC’s latest citizen science project - the Scottish Spider Search - which Caledonian Conservation has helped to develop in partnership with the British Arachnological Society and Buglife.

The afternoon session included an update from Pete Minting (Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Trust) on the exciting ‘Great Crested Newt Detectives Project’, which has been trialing new methods of using DNA samples of pond water to determine whether great crested newts, and to which Caledonian Conservation has also contributed by surveying remote ponds and providing control samples from known sites.

The conference was a great success, being the largest arranged by TWIC to date, and a ‘sell out’ (although Caledonian Conservation’s sponsorship allowed the conference to be free to attend).

 

Tawny Owl Rescue!

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Tawny Owl Rescue!

As the Caledonian Conservation team is out surveying wildlife at all hours, it should come as no surprise that we are often the first to come across animals that need help.  Carolyn Gillen (Ecologist) reports on our latest rescue...

While out conducting bird surveys last week, we came across this tawny owl injured on the road. After a short stay in our B&B’s woodshed and a trip to the vet, we are happy to report that it is recovering at the SSPCA’s Wildlife Rescue Centre! They plan to release it back into the wild once it is fully mended.

If you find an injured wild animal in Scotland, you can call the SSPCA’s Animal Helpline at 03000 999 999 or visit their website at https://www.scottishspca.org/wildlife/

 

‘Amphibians & Reptiles of Scotland’ book published

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‘Amphibians & Reptiles of Scotland’ book published

A new book, ‘Amphibians & Reptiles of Scotland’, has been published.  This is the most comprehensive publication on Scotland’s herptiles (amphibians and reptiles) in recent history, including all details of ecology and distribution for all of our native species (including sea turtles) as well as introduced and vagrant species.  Chapters also cover conservation, legal protection, cultural connections, projects and development mitigation.

The principle authors, Chris McInerny (University of Glasgow) and Pete Minting (Amphibian & Reptile Conservation Trust) bring a wealth of experience, while guest authors bring particular expertise.  Chris Cathrine (Caledonian Conservation Ltd) prepared the grass snake and development mitigation sections, while David O’Brien (Scottish Natural Heritage) wrote the chapter on great crested newt.  All authors drew on a wide range of published sources, and information from other experts.

The book also boasts lavish colour photographs, distribution maps and a beautiful frontispiece by Chris Rose.

Caledonian Conservation Ltd is proud to have sponsored the production of this book, which is an excellent resource for professionals and interested members of the public alike.

The book is available in print, costing £27.50 (inclusive of postage within the UK) – contact Chris McInerny for details of how to order your copy (Chris.McInerny@glasgow.ac.uk).

The book can also be downloaded as a free PDF from the Glasgow Natural History Society website.

 
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