Winter Wildlife

Many people think of most wildlife slowing down for the winter or, in the case of some birds, flying to warmer climates. But, there is still plenty of wildlife to be seen – including some special winter visitors!

Red squirrels are still busy looking for food to store away for the winter months. They are frequently seen foraging on the forest floor or scrambling up the trunk of a pine tree. Your best chance of seeing them is to look in your local coniferous woodlands. Be aware of them running across the road though, as they don’t have very good road sense! Find out where they have been spotted recently on the Red Squirrels in Perth and Kinross Facebook page

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Red squirrel and a blue-tit at a feeder spotted by Ranger Calum. Do you know of any feeders near you?

One sound that is often associated with the arrival of the colder months is the calls from large flocks of geese flying overhead. You may see the large “V” formations as they pass by. Did you know that this “V” is a great example of teamwork? Each bird flying reduces the air and wind resistance for the bird behind, allowing them to fly further before getting tired – they also take it in turns to fly at the front!

If you are lucky, you may even have some new faces in your garden. One special winter visitor is the Waxwing. This bird flies over from Scandinavia to find food, sometimes in quite large numbers. Keep an eye out for them gathered in small-to-medium flocks in Rowan or Hawthorn Trees. There are plenty others to be found; including goldfinches, long-tailed tits, blackbirds, woodpeckers and more.

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The acrobatic long-tailed tits are great fun to watch – look for them in hedgerows, bushes and low trees

What wildlife have you seen in your area? Let us know in the comments below!

 

Red Squirrel Awareness Week

Did you know that this week (24th-30th September) is Red Squirrel Awareness Week?

Perth and Kinross can be a great place for spotting these amazing creatures. From Kinnoull Hill in Perth to the Den o’ Alyth or the Black Spout Woods, many of our countryside sites are home to the Red Squirrel. Take a walk out in your local forest and you may be lucky enough to see one! Red squirrels tend to build their nests, or dreys, in tall coniferous trees, and are often seen scrambling up the trunks of trees.

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A Red Squirrel spotted near Aberfeldy by Greenspace Ranger Calum Bachell

Red squirrels are very busy during the autumn, making this time of year perfect for spotting them. Keep a look out on the forest floor as they collect berries, seeds, nuts and fungi to keep themselves fed through the winter months. Listen for the sound of the squirrels climbing up the trees, chewing on a pine cone, or shouting to another squirrel. You can also often tell if red squirrels are nearby by finding chewed pine cones scattered around the forest floor.

Unfortunately red squirrel sightings are becoming increasingly rare in some areas, with the spread of grey squirrels, but you can register your squirrel sightings with Saving Scottish Red Squirrels and follow local sightings and discussions on the Red Squirrels in Perth and Kinross Facebook page

Tayside Ponds Project – Volunteer days

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As part of the Tayside Ponds Project, we have three pond volunteer days and an amphibian-ladder making workshop programmed throughout September, October and November.

Ponds need regular management to keep on top of the growth of vegetation – most of them are gradually infilling with greater reedmace, soft rush and other fast-growing plants – so we need to prevent these encroaching on the areas of open water that amphibians use for breeding.

The amphibian-ladder making workshop will involve putting together ladders to go in gullypots, which can act as pitfall traps and end up drowning lots of wildlife.

The details are as follows:

    • September 29th – Perfect Ponds Day at Craighall pond near Blairgowrie
    • October 13th – Perfect Ponds Day at Elm Drive pond in Blairgowrie
    • November 3rd – Amphibian ladder making workshop and gullypot survey training day, Murthly village hall (and local sites)
    • November 18th – Perfect Ponds Day at Kinclaven Rd pond, Murthly

We will meet at 10am and finish by 3pm. Refreshments will be provided but please bring a packed lunch and wear warm clothes, wellies and waterproofs if you have them. We will have some waterproofs available for borrowing.

Please contact me for more details and to let me know if would like to come along so I know how many tools to bring.

We will also be planting native wildflowers to improve the habitat for a variety of wildlife.

More info will be on the Tayside Amphibian and Reptile Group Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/TaysideAmphibiansReptileGroup/

Daniele Muir

TayARG

Green Routes to Wellbeing Round-up

It has been a little while since I have updated about the Green Routes group. There has been a wee bit of change within the group with our NHS support worker Grant leaving and the new support from Occupational Therapy Work Sheila.

The group are grateful that this support is continuing and that NHS recognise the importance of a group such as Green Routes. We have also had a couple of new members to the group and the return of a couple others which is great to see!

The group has also received some funding from the Soroptimists who raised the funds through the local community. The group would like to say thank you for this it will help them with money for clothing and equipment for carrying out their work. The group will be carrying out some maintenance on behalf of the Soroptimists in their raised bed in MacRosty Park.

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Weeding Beds around the Pavillion

The group have been very busy recently we have been carrying out a range of tasks such as weeding the beds around the pavilion in MacRosty, we decided to try and keep on top of the beds this year with some minimal maintenance to keep on top of them although a few of the beds will need some considerable work to bring them back to a good standard.

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Helping with the dome

 

They also helped to finish the main structure of the willow dome started by the school group.

Every second week we have been having a bit more of a laid back time and appreciating some of the wildlife around us as well as carrying out some small maintenance tasks this has included litter picking and drainage clearance down Lady Mary’s walk we managed to spot a range of different wildlife including: Common Sandpiper, Dippers, Pied Wagtail, Goosander and Red Squirrel!

 

 

Sawing Saplings with the School

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Pupil Removing one of the saplings

Every Tuesday a group come out from Crieff High School to help manage the woodland and park sites around the town. Whilst the group find the school environment a struggle they thrive in practical and outdoor activities. They are learning and developing skills that hopefully will assist them in getting in to training  and eventually a career in the future.

Recently the group were up the Knock carrying out some heathland management.  Using  loppers and saws the group were cutting any saplings or scrub that was developing within the heathland.

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Scleroderma citrinum Pers. – Common Earthball Found while working

 

The reason that we remove the saplings is because if we didn’t we would lose the heathland as it would turn in to woodland eventually. Heathland is a Biodiveristy Action plan priority habitat and supports a wide range of wildlife such as the earth ball seen in the picture to the left that the group discovered while carrying out the task.

 

By carrying out the brilliant work that the group do, they are learning about different habitats, the importance of those habitats and why sometimes we need to prevent natural succession to protect them  and also about the wildlife within those habitats. They are also assisting Community Greenspace achieve objectives and helping to keep the sites maintained.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Highland Fling Lade Dipping

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Alan showing some of the invertebrates caught.

I attended the Highland Fling event hosted by the Friends of MacRosty Park in August.

The event is a family fun day with traditional music and dance, celebrating local produce and businesses. While also having some fundraising elements to help Friends of MacRosty Park to head towards the goal for their all ability play equipment!

I went along to show just the amount of different wildlife that can be found in the Lade. It was swimming with creatures from shrimps to newts! This was to show why the lade is important in the park and why it is managed the way that it is. The day was a great success,  engaging with 40 -50 young people and a very tired Ranger by the end!

Crocodile or alligator?

Perhaps someone will be able to fill me in, but I’ve never been able to tell the difference between crocodiles and alligators.

Anyway, our Greenspace Ranger Susan spotted this one in one of the rivers around Perth and Kinross only yesterday!

See what you think?

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The Recycle Challenge

The Zero Waste Highland Perthshire Officer and the Bike Station in Perth have set a challenge to the Highland Area Ranger to recycle tyres from bicycles! Not the inner tubes but the actual tyre! In return a large amount of inner tubes from bicycles will be provided to put up bird boxes in two parks (Pitlochry recreation ground and Memorial Park in Blair Atholl).

With the challenge set, Jeannie decided to use the tyres cut up in sections as hinges of the bird boxes made at the Gala Day at Pitlochry recreation ground and at the Cairngorm Park Nature Festival weekend in Blair Atholl. Road bike tyres worked fine but mountain bike tyres were too chunky! So with half of the challenge completed the thinking cap needs to go on how mountain bike tyres can be recycled!

Salmon in Our Classroom

by Primary 7 at St Madoes Primary School

On Tuesday the 2nd February, our salmon eggs arrived in the classroom. We had been given the tank the day before along with a presentation detailing how to care for our salmon eggs and an explanation of the life cycle of the Atlantic salmon.  Our eggs were transported by Mr Montgomery who was a Perth and Kinross Countryside Ranger; he was the expert who was guiding us through this wonderful process. Moreover he helped us to look after and care for our salmon eggs by phoning the school every single day to check our water temperature readings and to see if we had any problems. He was really enthusiastic about the project and he even came to fix the leak in the tank!  We really enjoyed having Mr Montgomery helping us as he was very friendly which made the project more enjoyable.

We had a month with our salmon in our classroom, where we had to check the water temperature 4 times a day as well as looking for mortalities. The temperature needed to remain under 10°C preferably about 7°C. We saw the salmon eyed eggs transform into alevins (these are the newly hatched salmon with yolk sacks) during this time.

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Sadly we had to release our alevins into Annaty Burn because their yolk sacks were running out of food. The alevins were turning into fry and needed to have a source of small water organisms or insects to feed on. We carried out fascinating field tests in order to make sure that the water was safe for the alevins to be released in to.  The field tests involved testing the PH level of the water, the speed of the water flow, the depth of the water where we would release our alevins, the temperature of the water and the water purity.  Mr Montgomery and Mrs Whyte (also a Perth and Kinross Countryside Ranger) led us in our field tests.

We also had a trip to the Tay Salmon Hatchery at Almondbank. There we were introduced to different members of staff who explained what their jobs involved in great depth.  Steve, the Hatchery manager, took us into a small cold room that contained 136 trays.  Each tray contained 5 000 salmon eggs or alevins that were checked daily for mortalities.  Steve also cared for grilse salmon that were kept in large tanks that looked like big round baths.  Steve had to train the wild salmon to eat in fresh water by hand feeding them with individual prawns on a large stick before moving them on to a special mix that he created and made daily.  We were fortunate enough to witness a salmon eating a prawn a sight that most people will never see.

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Craig, a bailiff, regularly patrolled the River Tay and its tributaries to make sure that anglers had the correct permits to fish there. He would also go around the rivers at night searching for poachers.  Craig showed us equipment that poachers used to catch salmon as well as the specialist equipment that he used to catch them red handed.  This consisted of a camouflaged suit, a variety of cameras, night vision binoculars and scopes.  He told us that he works closely with the local police and has the power to arrest poachers.  We think that it is pretty cool!

Mike, a marine biologist specialising in fish, showed us fry and smolt that had been caught in the River Almond that morning. He presented us with a ‘stunning’ device that looked like a huge and heavy metal detector which he explained was used to electro-fish.  This is where an electrical current is pulsed through the water for a few seconds and any fish in this area are temporarily stunned making them easy to catch with a net (This does not harm the fish).

Lastly we met Dr David Summers, the fisheries director, who talked us through a video of how they caught and transported the wild salmon from a variety of Highland Perthshire rivers back to the Almondbank hatchery. This was a very hard and laborious process as it was in a very cold and isolated environment.  He also discussed how they restock the tributaries of the River Tay with salmon eggs and alevins as well as the process involved in this.

The salmon project has been a wonderful experience and one that we would recommend to all primary school classes to take part in.