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Tayside Biodiversity e-news Easter 2018
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Tayside Biodiversity E-News Easter 2018

Tayside Biodiversity
Tayside Biodiversity
Tayside Biodiversity
Tayside Swifts
Tayside Wildlife Recorders
Tayside Amphibian & Reptile Group

Contents

Who to Contact

Catherine Lloyd – caglloyd@pkc.gov.uk

Tayside Biodiversity Partnership,
c/o Pullar House,
35 Kinnoull Street,
Perth, PH1 5GD.

Chairman: Andrew Barbour

What's On

TayARG Amphibian Ladder Workshop (FREE)
Blairgowrie Campus
Provisional Date – Saturday 19th May (10.30am to 3pm) – t.b.c.
Come and learn all about amphibian ladders and help us prepare a batch to install in Perthshire’s gullypots!
This is a practical workshop but we will go outside too to learn how to actually install the ladders.
Everyone welcome. Contact caglloyd@pkc.gov.uk for further details.

Scottish Small Blue week (1st-10th June)

Angus Coastal Festival (7th-17th September) - programme available soon

UK Swift Awareness Week (16th-23rd June - Web Link

World Oceans Day (8th June)

Join Tayside Bioblitzes!
  • East Haven (8th June) - Web Link
  • Kindrogan (17th June)

Celebrating

TBP is celebrating its own 20th Anniversary at the end of the year, in the next E-news there will be details about the event we are planning at Battleby in December.

We hope you enjoy our fourth E-Bulletin. 

There may still be snow on the ground in places, but the spring flowers are doing their best to bloom and we have already welcomed our Ospreys back home. The first butterflies, which have over-wintered, are now in flight and bumblebees – which are our first spring pollinators - are searching out new nest sites. As we saw at the recent Tayside Recorders’ Day, now is also the time to join in surveying – there are so many organisations that need our help.  The Urban Butterfly project has started in Tayside so please join this if you can - https://butterfly-conservation.org/244/events.html?category=Urban%20Butterfly%20Project; Red Squirrel sightings are needed: https://scottishsquirrels.org.uk/squirrel-sightings/ and we have re-launched our Tayside Barn Owl Survey (see below). 
Exciting New Smooth Newt Record for Angus

 A new record for the Smooth Newt, Lissotriton vulgaris, has been found in Angus - only the second on record that has been verified for the species in the county.


 
An incredible discovery was made during a night-time amphibian survey at Loch of Kinnordy, near Kirriemuir, a site managed by the RSPB.  All those involved were amazed to find nine males and one female Smooth newt amongst a fen of the loch.
 
Trevor Rose of the  Friends of Angus Herpetofauna confirms that Smooth newts are very scarce in the north east of Scotland - the only other known site is on the Angus coast and these are likely to have been brought in on water plants when ponds were dug some 20 years ago.  The origin of the Kinnordy population is unknown but there is every reason to believe this could be a relict population that has been missed by biological recording up to now.
 
The RSPB wardens initially got excited about the presence of newts at the loch when efts (newts in the larval form) were found during their annual “bioblitz”.  However, such young newts can only be identified to genus, not to species level, so their true identity remained unknown until now.
 
Although Smooth newts are common south of the border they tend not to be found in the north of the UK because of the acidic water quality associated with peaty soils and pine woodland. Palmate newts are more tolerant of acidic conditions and thrive in these environments, but Smooth newts prefer neutral pH or slightly alkaline.  Interestingly, Loch of Kinnordy is alkaline. 
 
Of course this discovery now poses a raft of unanswered questions so new studies are needed to explore the extent of their local range by surveying neighbouring ponds and waterways, connectivity corridors, etc as well as researching the history of the loch and possible origin of the population.
 
Amphibian & Reptile Conservation has a very useful identification guide – check it out here:
http://www.narrs.org.uk/documents/ARC%20amphibian%20%20ID%20Guide.pdf
 

Tayside Barn Owls

Catherine Lloyd

Within Tayside, there has been a specific focus on increasing the Barn Owl population since we launched the first Tayside Biodiversity Action Plan back in 2002. Our first project, funded by SNH, identified suitable habitat for the birds and looked for signs of their presence along the Tay corridor, around Glen Errochty and in lowland Angus.


© Paull Holme Strays

Just over ten years ago, the Partnership, along with three other Biodiversity Partnerships in Fife, Clackmannanshire and Stirling, secured Scottish Government funding for the highly successful BOOLS Project (Barn Owls of Lowland Scotland), one of the first cross-boundary biodiversity projects in Scotland.  This led to the Upland Angus Barn Owl Project, funded by the Cairngorms Local Biodiversity Partnership Grant Scheme, and then the three-phase SITA TBAF and Angus Environment Trust-funded Angus Barn Owl Project. And finally, led by Tay Landscape Partnership, the Buildings for Biodiversity project has provided Barn Owl nestboxes across the Carse of Gowrie and beyond.

Throughout this time a Tayside Barn Owl distribution map has been maintained.  Our post-grad student intern, Edward Dillon, is now updating this. Although our projects have been successful in improving numbers down the years, harsh winters such as the 2010 winter, have decimated the population so we suspect we are maintaining, rather than increasing, this charismatic bird’s population. 

If you have any sightings – current or going back to c2000 – please upload the details online - http://www.taysidebiodiversity.co.uk/tayside-biodiversity-surveys/tayside-biodiversity-survey-barn-owls/. This will help us pinpoint future projects which will involve management plans, provision of nest boxes and monitoring by licence-holders.

Tayside Recorders' Day

Edward Dillon

On the 17th of March the 11th Annual Tayside Recorders day took place at the Perth Museum & Art Gallery. A total of 68 people had booked, made up of professionals, County Recorders and interested amateurs. Thirteen talks were given on subjects ranging from lichens to Wild cats and Red squirrels, and from Scottish bird populations to local orchard surveys and invertebrates. With an informed and passionate audience in attendance, lively and in-depth discussion followed each talk with the opportunity given for further discussion and all-important networking.

Fortingall lichens © C A G Lloyd

A new section was introduced this year: “the Quick Fire Citizen Science Updates”, where local community groups were invited to outline their current survey work. East Haven Together, Dighty Connect volunteers and the Small Blue Butterfly Interest Group where featured to positive reviews. Because of the warm reception to this new section, it will likely become a permanent addition to future Recorders’ Days.

As usual, all feedback forms received were carefully analysed and it was good to see how well received the day was. Unfortunately there were complaints about the noise levels outside - the event clashed with the Museum’s opening of its new Dinosaur exhibition so there was many an excited child in the foyer just outside the lecture theatre. There was also a common complaint that there too much wildlife recorders’ content - I guess you can have too much of a good thing! It was a long day and perhaps not enough time was given for networking and informal discussion. This will be held in mind for next year’s event which we hope will take place at Camperdown, by Dundee.

Finally many thanks must be given to all who attended the event and made it such an enjoyable day. Special thanks must also be given to Perth Museum for graciously providing the venue, Mark Simmons for hosting the day, all speakers for providing such interesting content and Catherine Lloyd for tirelessly organising the whole day.

Recorders Day © C A G Lloyd

UK Swift Awareness Week


The first ever UK Swift Awareness Week runs from the 16th to the  23rd June throughout Britain and Swift Groups, including our own Tayside Swifts, are coming together to raise awareness about swifts. In Tayside there will be a number of walks and talks, some of which have yet to be confirmed: 
  • Super Swifts of Pitlochry (Walk) – Saturday, 16th June: 8.30pm
  • Blair Atholl Walk - Friday 22nd June
  • Carse of Gowrie Talk and Walk - tbc
Please check the TBP website, Tayside Swifts Facebook page or contact Daniele Muir direct for further details: dmuir@taysideswifts.co.uk

In the meantime, once our swifts return to their birthplace (usually the first week of May) there will be a focus on mapping primarily in and around Pitlochry and Blair Atholl, thanks to funding from the Andie Miller Trust. We need help in surveying the area, so if you would like to be part of this project please contact Daniele to sign up for a Swift Map survey square. All swift sightings from across Tayside continue to be very welcome – please check the Swift pages of www.taysidebiodiversity.co.uk.

Tayside Swifts is also busy erecting swift nest boxes on schools, businesses and houses, offering swift survey training and encouraging as many people as possible to map where swifts are seen in screaming parties and where nest sites have been found. This will be shared with the Perth & Kinross planners to create Swift Priority Zones to assist in swift conservation in the future.

A Whale in Tayside!

David Lampard

On the evening of Wednesday 21st March a young adult Sperm whale stranded on the beach at Monifieth. Although volunteers from British Divers Marine Life Rescue attended, unfortunately the whale was too weak to survive.

As in all such strandings in Scotland the whale was reported to the Scottish Marine Animal Stranding Scheme and it was decided an autopsy of the whale would be undertaken.
The Sperm Whale stranded at Barry Buddon © David Lampard

The Stranding Scheme has been in operation since 1992 and is part of the Cetacean Strandings Investigation Programme, funded by the Scottish and UK governments. It collates, analyses and reports data of all whales, dolphins and porpoises (collectively known as cetaceans), seals, marine turtles, and basking sharks that strand on the Scottish coastline. Investigation of stranded marine animals can yield substantial information on the health and ecology of these fascinating, but little understood species, whilst also helping to highlight some of the conservation issues they face. 

The whale was 13.7m long and weighed about 35 tons so the autopsy had to be carried out on the beach. It was important this was carried out quickly because many of the tests required fresh samples. There was another reason for speed - the body was considered a biohazard and the longer it was left on the beach, the greater the risk to the public.

Vets based at the Scottish Rural College campus in Inverness arrived on Friday 23rd, along with staff and students from the St Andrews University Sea Mammal Research Unit. Discussions were held with Angus Council, SNH and SEPA for permission to carry out the autopsy and for the disposal of the remains (the whale stranded inside the boundary of the Barry Buddon SSSI). It was decided the whale should be buried on the beach where it would decompose naturally, returning nutrients to the estuary ecosystem.

The whale was measured and examined for signs of physical injury. There were some shallow marks on its head which indicated it had probably been fighting with another whale, but there were no obvious major injuries. Sperm whales are pelagic, living in the open ocean and it was thought the whale had swum into the North Sea and on realising it was lost instinctively tried to swim to the west and became stranded. 

Samples were taken from the whales blubber. The lower jaw was removed for donation to the National Museum of Scotland and some teeth were removed - the teeth can be sampled for minerals which give an indication of where the whale had lived. 

With the tide coming in, it was decided to wait until the next day’s low tide to carry out major work. When the autopsy resumed most of the internal organs had decayed too much, but it was still possible to study the stomach contents and even the brain. Although there was a small amount of plastic in the whale’s stomach, it did not contribute to its death, and the stomach was mostly empty. The samples will be analysed to improve our knowledge of Sperm whales including food, concentration of chemicals, illness and parasites. 

Sperm whale from head © David Lampard 

The first Angus Coastal Festival

Catherine Lloyd

The Partnership is currently busy planning the very first Angus Coastal Festival which will highlight the wonderful wildlife and habitats we have in the area. This will be done on a shoestring with little funding in the first year, but expanding, hopefully in 2019 and 2020.  
Working closely with Angus Council and the TBP partners we are planning a number of small-scale exhibitions in the libraries around the coast, an art-science project focussing on marine litter, and a variety of walks and talks. The reason for the dates chosen: 7th to 17th September 2018 is so that we can work with the Marine Conservation Society to roll out as wide a coverage as possible of beach cleans as part of their Great British Bean Clean. But we will be adding nurdle hunts, CoCoast surveys and bioblitzes too.


Nurdle hunting at Arbroath © C A G Lloyd

This can only happen if local communities and local environmental groups join in, so if you can offer to host a coastal event in mid-September, or run your own coastal event on a biodiversity theme, please let us know as soon as possible.  We will be happy to include details in the programme we will publish online in due course. Contact caglloyd@pkc.gov.uk.

Launch of Angus Species & Habitats Champions 2018



© Kelly Ann Dempsey

At the end of February we officially launched our exciting Angus Species & Habitat Champions initiative. We were very heartened at the interest from so many Councillors. There was even some competition as to who wanted what species. We are now busy planning our future work and will be meeting the councillors individually. Expect to see a few new names against some Partnership projects as we roll out the new “Mind the Gap” hedgehog project, Small Blue Week, the Coastal Festival, and many more. 
With thanks to Edward Dillon for compiling this edition of the TBP E-News
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