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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

 

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.

 

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/

 

TWIC 2017 Spring Conference: Farming and Biodiversity in Scotland – An Essential Partnership

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TWIC 2017 Spring Conference: Farming and Biodiversity in Scotland – An Essential Partnership

Caledonian Conservation Ltd is proud to sponsor The Wildlife Information Centre (TWIC) 2017 Spring Conference, to be held in Musselburgh on 29th April.  The topic, Farming and Biodiversity, is always important but is brought in to sharper focus with the uncertainty created by Brexit.

Farming and biodiversity are an essential partnership – farming cannot succeed without the ecosystem services necessary to support it, such as pollination (by wild solitary bees, bumblebees, beetles, flies, butterflies and moths as well as domesticated honey bees), soil creation and recycling (by a variety of worms, springtails, symphylans, fungi – the list goes on!), clean water and natural pest control.  Farming can also offer excellent opportunities to support biodiversity, for example birds (breeding habitat for farmland bird species, nesting opportunities for owls, foraging habitat for raptors and owls), mammals (foraging and roosting opportunities for bats), reptiles (hibernation sites in walls and foraging opportunities in field margins), amphibians (ponds and a mix of farmland habitats can be excellent for great crested newts), invertebrates and plants.

Reflecting this, the conference has a superb and varied programme with talks on soil communities (by Dr Tim Daniell of University of Sheffield / The James Hutton Institute), grey partridge conservation (by Fiona Torrance of The Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust) and great crested newts (by Pete Minting of Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Trust) amongst other topics.

Of course, members of the Caledonian Conservation Ltd team will also be at the conference, so it is an opportunity to learn more about the work we do.

The conference is free to attend, and includes a buffet lunch.

For more information on the programme and to book, visit the TWIC website.

We hope to see you there!

 
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