May 192016

With thanks to Jessica Murphy, Senior Account Executive, Citrus:Mix.

Seacroft West view3It has been at the heart of bustling harbour life in Aberdeen for centuries and now live images from the iconic Roundhouse are being beamed across the world.
Views from webcams recently installed at the charming historic building, which houses Seacroft Marine Consultants, give a fascinating insight into the hive of activity in and around Aberdeen Harbour and beach.

From bottlenose dolphins which are often spotted at the harbour entrance to impressive vessel movements, the variety of sights which the Seacroft team enjoy are far from the views you might expect from an office.

Michael Cowlam, technical director at Seacroft, was one of the first to share photos of a more unusual phenomenon witnessed in previous years from the Roundhouse, with his images going global and being shared on social networking sites.

Stormy conditions and high winds in September 2012 forced foam from the North Sea inland, transforming Footdee into what looked like a winter wonderland, with the spume making it look as if a snow storm had hit the area.

Michael said:

“While we can’t promise another incredible event like that, we are sure that images of the hustle and bustle of the port’s activities and the areas surrounding our office will be popular. The Seacroft team feel privileged to work in such a historic and unique building, particularly as we are the first business to call it home since it closed its doors as Aberdeen Harbour’s facility for controlling all vessel movements around the port”.

“We have been in the Roundhouse for seven years now and the view from our windows never fails to impress. This is one of the main reasons we decided to install webcams and share that with people around the world.”

“A particular favourite of ours is the large pod of the dolphins that are often visible around the harbour mouth. The RSPB’s Dolphinwatch is based close by so it really is a great position to observe them from. While based in Aberdeen we carry out work globally, which makes it even more special for us to open up Scottish harbour life to more people.”

The Roundhouse was reinvented as an unconventional office space by its owners, the Aberdeen Harbour Board, as they looked for other uses for a facility which had been superceded by the construction of the £4.5million Marine Operations Centre in 2006.

The four webcams set up from the C-listed building focus on Aberdeen Beach and Bay to the north, the harbour entrance and out to sea eastwards, across the harbour navigation channel to Girdleness in a southerly direction  and across the main harbour turning basin to the west of the building.

Seacroft East view2Established in 1995 by Captain Roderick MacSween, the firm has been owned and operated by the founder’s daughter Jennifer Fraser and Michael Cowlam since 2004.

Synonymous with its location, Seacroft has built its reputation in the marine assurance and consultancy sphere – and has expanded its expertise to offer a range of services to clients with maritime interests worldwide.

Specialisms include marine assurance packages, OVID and CMID inspections, International Safety Management audits and dynamic positioning assurance as well as simulator training in ship handling and bridge resource management. Seacroft have also recently appointed Paul Young as Marine Manager and continue to expand their capabilities into the Marine Warranty and Rig Move sectors.

Jennifer added:

“We could not have found a better fit for Seacroft than the Roundhouse and are so lucky to work in such an incredible and beautiful setting. We are delighted to be showcasing this and the hive of activity around our office to the public and hope people enjoy our scenery as much we do.

“Aberdeen’s rich maritime history surrounds the Roundhouse and it is very special for us to be adding our own chapter to it. We celebrated 20 years of business last year and are proud of the knowledge and expertise in our busy team. Everyone here is passionate about our surroundings and life in the marine sector and love sharing that.”

Seacroft North View 2Seacroft has also been at the forefront of innovations in emergency response and rescue vessel (ERRV) services, including in formulating vessel sharing arrangements which have been adopted by a number of oil and gas operators to streamline provision allowing oil companies to operate safely but more efficiently – a process that is now recognised in industry guidelines.

For further information visit and click on ‘Webcams’ to see the views.

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May 022016

Suzanne Kelly visits Tullos Hill – years after the Tree For Every Citizen scheme saw its herd of deer destroyed to protect tree saplings, though the destruction was never going to guarantee successful tree growth. It’s not just the deer that have been destroyed. Story and photographs by Suzanne Kelly.

DSC00908If you visited Tullos before the city and its expensive consultant Jamie Piper got their hands on it, you would have found an area rich in wildlife including deer. Gorse provided habitat for deer, small mammals and birds. A huge portion of the gorse is gone – and so is the wildlife.

Paths have been excessively widened – you can now easily drive a SUV down them – and that meant further loss of habitat and path side plants and fungi.

Other councils in the UK are worried about damage to their wildlife sites; Staffordshire has a report warning of the damage caused by the tactics Aberdeen employs.

You can’t see the forest – but not because of the trees:

It’s one of the few reasonably clement days we’ve had in a while when I visit Tullos. On my walk to the entrance I am struck by how much the area has been transformed by the Wood Group building. We lost the land, houses were torn down, and we must have lot part of Tullos Hill if we lost the approach to the hill.

The city says that this path was narrow and difficult – or words to that effect. The path was far more like what you would find in an area that wanted to give habitat to wildlife rather than to make comfy recreational access at the expense of wildlife habitat. I think of the people who lived in the caravan park who would feed the deer. The people and the deer are gone now, and the Wood Group building and its parking facility tower over the cairn. This is progress.

Councillor Aileen Malone promised Aberdeen that shooting the deer, clearing the gorse, (while giving Piper £100,000 plus expenses now a five figure sum at last glance) would give us a forest. The Liberal Democrats had the twee-sounding ‘Tree For Every Citizen’ scheme as its election pledge last time around; some laugh at the fact the only pledge they did uphold was the one everyone asked them not to – killing deer to plant trees on a rubbish tip unlikely to sustain trees.

DSC00903This was my first visit to the Hill in a while; in particular I wanted to see how the trees and weeds were doing. I was struck by how wide the paths are – clearly the intention is to turn a former wildlife area into someone’s idea of a suburban recreation area suitable for vehicles.

There is the bench. There are the parking lot signs with their cheery squirrel and trees.

There is something prematurely self-congratulatory and smug about these items which is very much removed from the reality of what the hill looks like and its use for wildlife at present.

I did see one bit of wildlife – a bee was on a gorse flower. Gorse flowers year long providing food to bees; most of us seem to understand the importance of providing food for bees, which are under a variety of threats, not least loss of habitat like this. Pesticides were used on Tullos; finding a specific record of who was paid what to use which chemicals is not a simple task. Fungi which used to appear alongside the narrower paths have not been seen (at least by me) these past few seasons since the clearing and culling began.

No, I didn’t see any trace of a deer or any small mammals on the hill. There was barely any bird song, either. Some 10 years ago several species of bird were to be found; some of which were increasingly rare in the wild. I don’t’ see them nesting in this area again in numbers any time soon.

The pictures do show some trees have grown. There are also fairly new tree guards – far taller than any used previously. We were once told tree guards had ‘negative visual impact’ so we were not going to use them when we could kill the deer to stop them browsing the young trees instead. Where there are trees that have grown taller, even in the light wind on the day of the visit, they could be seen moving considerably in the breeze.

Experts previously told the city that trees which do establish will be subject to wind toss – there just simply is not good rooting material on this former waste tip – the roots won’t be sufficiently anchored to stop strong winds blowing the trees over.

how-do-you-blame-a-deer-for-this-30-april-2016-skelly2Some trees have no growth at all, despite being in intact tree guards – no deer has damaged them. On the other hand weeds choke many of the trees around and inside of the tree guards.

The city has already been warned that the job they did is not good enough for the funding received. It may not be too much longer before we see Aberdeen City hand back another tranche of money to the government for failing to grow trees on the rubbish tip of Tullos Hill.

As the old saying goes, ‘insanity is doing the same thing over and over, but expecting different outcomes’. The City planted here before. Weeds killed the trees which did not thrive in the poor soil conditions.

The City blamed deer, and instead of using non-lethal methods (tree guards, fencing, choosing plants deer would not eat), The City slaughtered over 40 animals, then planted trees again. The trees are being killed by weeds, the trees are not thriving in the poor soil conditions.

The only people thriving from this sad state of affairs are those seeking to build their reputations (despite the actual facts) by proclaiming this to be a success – them, and the ones pocketing money for expertise (?), fencing (which originally we said we could not afford), herbicides and trees.

As part of the money he earned, Jamie Piper branded the thousands of citizens who signed a petition against the scheme and the 4 community council objectors as ‘a small but vociferous minority’. Who but a small and vociferous minority now says the hill is better off than before? No one other than those who gained say that the hill looks better now and is home to more wildlife.

There is no forest, and all the signs are there won’t be one. The city may have erected a new parking lot with signs to the ‘diamond woods’ – but calling Tullos a wood is hardly trades-description accurate.

DSC00891A View from the Cairn – of Wood Group’s new HQ:

Tullos had its paths widened.

The city also seems to have surrendered an access point and a large area adjacent to one of the three ancient cairns for the footprint of the Wood Group’s new HQ (a building and car park that by all accounts are underused).

The car park looms over the cairn, and the remaining wildlife is hardly going to benefit from the air pollution resulting from the construction and the uses (even if minimal) of the new parking.

What did the City say about losing the parking and the access?

“It would appear that in recent years the Council failed to maintain the car park and that the previous owners of the land (before Argon bought the site last year) have restricted access in order to stop unauthorised encampments from occupying the land. This has resulted in the car park falling into disrepair and access to the hill becoming overgrown, although it was still possible to walk from the car park onto the hill.

Whilst the proposed office building could be constructed and site laid out with the existing public car park remaining in place, Argon expressed a desire to have the car park removed, in order to allow more extensive landscaping to be provided around the development.”
– email to Cllr N Cooney of April 2014

So, we couldn’t maintain one parking lot on land gifted to us, directly adjacent to the Hill’s entrance – land coincidentally useful for this development. However, the city is confident it will be able to maintain the new parking lot.

near the entrance to the hill 30 april 2016 skellyAs to the quality of landscaping referred to in the email; other than having the Wood Group building and its parking making a negative impact on Tullos and the cairn, it’s hard to see what landscaping they are talking about.

As an aside, the email in question admits that air quality on Wellington Road falls short of desired standards.

A new building and its parking will hardly help improve things.

A few changes, none for the better:

More trees have been planted; some of the new guards dwarf the previous tree guards. This is likely the result of a recent warning from the government to ACC that the trees aren’t sufficient either in number or condition, and there is a chance the grant may have to be returned. I wonder how much this new work has cost.

Not content with the area cleared for the tree scheme, gorse clearance continues apace. It is as if there were some pressing need to get rid of this important plant when the reality is they cannot control the trees they have planted – perhaps watching the gorse grow effortlessly is an affront to the egos involved.

gorse destruction 30 april 2016 skellyOverall the effect is one of dead and dying gorse separated from empty tree guards, all surrounded by weeds. It is as if a man balding in patches were desperately trying to implant new hair – then again, I’ve been concerned lately with the Trump campaign – and this is probably where that image came from.

If you go down to the woods today, you won’t be going to Tullos. Bring back the deer.

Remember – the people who insisted this was cost neutral and must go ahead are Liberal Democrat Aileen Malone and the rest of her party: are you going to vote Lib Dem this year? NB – the price of this ‘cost neutral’ scheme so far (less any new planting) is estimated at £600,000 – and no officer or supporter has been called to account for this remarkable mismanagement to date.

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Apr 222016

Hamish Napier’s debut album The River is now on general release. Duncan Harley reviews.

hamish-napier-the-river-1280For the past three years Hamish has
been Musical Director of big folk band Ceol Mor at Aberdeen International Youth Festival.

This year at Celtic Connections Ceol Mor celebrated the music of the North East with a programme of ballads, Scots songs, storytelling, and braw tunes by Scots fiddle and accordion legends of past and present.

What is the The River all about?

“Well,” says Hamish, “growing up next to the Spey, I spent many hours of youth practicing to the roar of the river in the background, so it’s always been there in my music.

“The River brings to the surface vivid sonic images of occurrences, past and present, along the mile-long stretch of the Spey that flows past my childhood home.

“One of my brother’s fishes it, the other canoes it, my Uncle Sandy photographed it, my mother paints it, and there’s my Father’s daily fascination with its erratically changing water level. It will always symbolize home and a strong connection to nature. No mortal’s relationship with the river can ever be truly harmonious, its ever-changing micro-climate, mysteriously dark depths and unrelenting power are both merciless and enchanting.”

The themes of The River range from the epic journeys of the Atlantic salmon to the river as home to local characters including fishermen, bailiffs, spirits and children. Hamish grew up on the banks of the Spey and spent many hours practicing to the roar of the river in the background

“Its always been there in my music … and brings to the surface vivid sonic images of occurrences, past and present,” says Hamish.

“For this piece I wanted to make use of all my musical resources … I am a huge fan of every one of the musicians on this project.”

Alongside Hamish on piano, clavinet and harmonium the album features Martin O’Neal on bhodran, Sarah Haynes on alto-flute and James Lindsay on base. Pitcaple born James was winner of the 2014 Martyn Bennet Prize for Traditional Music Composition.

Using backing vocals from natural sources including Oystercatchers, Heron and Curlew this is a groundbreaking album reflecting, says Hamish on the rivers “mysteriously dark depths and unrelenting power.”

A crackin’ album, The River is available from digital download stores and direct from Hamish at

Nov 192015

Herring Gull2By Anne Foy.

Aberdeen is a city in the grips of a gull crisis.

Seen as a trivial problem by many, for those affected by the issue, the huge number of aggressive gulls besieging the city has fast become a living nightmare.

The council have acknowledged that there is unlikely to be any quick fix to the problem, and the growing population of the lesser black-backed and herring species that are choosing to nest in the roofs of properties within the city, rather than in their traditional cliff tops home, is unlikely to be reduced significantly in the next couple of months.

Could Drones Be The Solution?

In a bid to scare away the gulls, Aberdeen Conservative councillor Ross Thomson has proposed that the council employ the use of drones. Thomson surveyed 400 local residents who are currently being affected by the gull problem, and found that  50% want to take further action to reduce the number of gulls, while 55% approve of fitting deterrents, which lead him to make the controversial proposal.

In a statement about the issue, Thomson said:

“Looking at any kind of new technology which can be more efficient, reduce costs, or even do the job better, is something which has to be seriously considered…I know that other local authorities such as Carlisle have piloted that, and I think our officers should be paying very close attention to how successful they have been.”

Both businesses and individuals are being affected negatively by the birds constant presence, with customers reluctant to visit shops in the affected areas and local residents reluctant to leave their homes when the gulls presence is at its highest: the financial ramifications of this are wide reaching, including businesses facing loss of business, increased insurance premiums, and the overall quality of life of everyone involved being drastically affected.

There are certainly negative health effects of the huge number of gulls currently besieging our city: Gulls often carry a wide number of diseases that can be seriously dangerous to humans, such as salmonella and tuberculosis.

The birds and their nests can often be home other creatures such as ticks, fleas and mites. These can all cause problems in both households and businesses, and can lead to additional health problems.

What You Can Do.

The main advice offered by the council for those who are being affected by nuisance gulls is to ensure you discourage their presence as much as possible: don’t feed the gulls or leave food out in your gardens for other wildlife, as any food is likely to attract the gulls. If you own the property that you reside in then you can erect deterrent devices on your property, such as spikes on chimneys and roofs to prevent the birds from nesting.

If you are renting in your current home then why not talk to your landlord about fitting these devices? After all, as well as causing a nuisance to you, the gulls may well cause damage to your landlord’s property too: large birds such as gulls can cause damage to property by disturbing the roof tiles, and by blocking gutters, gas flues, and chimneys.

You could also seek the support of a professional and expert company who can help to remove any eggs in nests on your property, in order to ensure that more gulls aren’t born and the problem doesn’t continue to perpetuate.

It could well take several years for the problem gulls in our city to be fully removed and for the problem to be tackled successfully. This is likely to be incredibly frustrating for those local residents and local businesses who are being affected by the issue on a daily basis. However there are proactive things that you can do to help minimise the effects of the problem in your own home and business, and by working together, we can see an Aberdeen that is no longer blighted by these pesky birds.


“Could drones be used to scare off Aberdeen nuisance gulls?”,  The Press and Journal,

“Aberdeen FC tells fans of challenge tackling gulls”, BBC News,

“Life insurance”,

“New advice on gulls issued to residents and business in Aberdeen”, Aberdeen City Council,

“Angry birds target Pittodrie: Aberdeen go to war with the seagulls attacking their fans”, Daily Record and Sunday Mail,

“Living with urban gulls: A survivors guide”, Aberdeen City Council,

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Sep 042015

In its infinite wisdom, Aberdeen City Council has turned its back on the voices from the past pleading for this special place to remain undeveloped. We’re losing more countryside so we can have more office spaces. Fiona Archibald paid a final visit to this wildlife haven – before the tree fellers and bulldozers move in – and made this photoessay.

roe deer at Loirston by Fiona ArchibaldSpoke with ranger today who tells me the trees at the Loirston Loch will be felled in about two weeks to make way for the new development.

Have walked my dogs there daily for around 3 years.

He is not sure if we will get access to the site from that time onwards.

loirston loch by f archibald 1Feeling sad and gutted.

The ranger was quite sad as he told me, the ones are Loirston are not that happy about the development.

I felt quite teary as I walked round with my dogs, they have grown up there.

I have taken so many pictures.

short eared owlAbsolutely heart sick about it.

The short eared owl will disappear when they start with noise etc.

There have been about 15 photographers up from the NE Wildife Scotland site, since I discovered him.


Loirston sign by Fiona Archibald

A weathered sign at Loirston Loch read:

“It is important to protect this area of countryside from being built upon.”
Respected for decades, it, the trees, the habitat and the wildlife are all being swept aside.


buzzardbut what is this a bore hole being dug for 1500 houses on this land by Fiona Archibald.

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Feb 072014

By Elizabeth Harley.

Elizabeth Harley moray dolphinThe Moray coast is a land of ever-changing light, rainbows, beautiful sunsets, clear bright stars and the aurora borealis. It is an area of outstanding natural beauty with one of the most equitable climates to be found anywhere in Scotland and a paradise for lovers of wildlife, nature and the great outdoors, offering everything from kayaking to windsurfing, rock climbing to jet skiing, walking to wildlife spotting.

The Moray Firth boasts the largest population of bottlenose dolphins in the UK, with numbers nudging over 200 with this year’s calves.

They are also the largest in the world, probably due to the colder conditions they inhabit. They are often to be seen close to shore, feeding, playing or travelling.

It is not uncommon to see 60-80 bottlenose dolphins making their way along the coast, with occasional sightings of huge pods of common dolphins a bit further off shore. The fortunate may also spot white-beaked and Risso’s dolphins, minke whales, orca, pilot whales and basking sharks.

Great viewing spots are the lookout at Covesea and the visitor centre at Burghead, which I renamed DHQ due to the likelihood of spotting dolphins from there. This year spotters counted 43 basking sharks in about two hours one summer evening, and just recently a porbeagle shark was sighted four miles off Hopeman.

The harbour at Lossie is also a good spotting place and when the sea conditions and tides are right, the dolphins can feed very close in.

Common and grey seals can be spotted all along the coast, especially at Findhorn, Burghead and around the Skerries at Lossiemouth.

Minke Elizabeth Harley

Other local wildlife includes deer, red squirrels, otters, osprey, puffins, king eider ducks and further inland, golden eagles.
Burghead is built on the largest Pictish fort in the UK. With some coastal rock formations 200 million years old, the past lives on in this ancient land, with its Pictish stones, the ancient ceremonial well at Burghead with echo chamber and the stunning quartzite rock formations and dinosaur footprints along the shore path to Hopeman.

The sharp-sighted may also be lucky enough to spot the odd mythical creature, as the Tappoch Hill at Roseisle used to be known as Dragon Hill…

Become involved:

If you enjoy wildlife spotting you can report your sightings

There’s a lot that we can do to protect our wildlife. Seal pups are born all year round – grey seals in winter and harbour or common seals in summer. If you see a seal pup on the shore, don’t assume there is a problem, as it is usual for the mother to leave the pup while feeding, and older pups will come onshore to rest.

However, sometimes the pup will be injured, abandoned, have an infection or be severely undernourished or dehydrated. It is not easy to identify this without experience, so please call 01825 765546 to notify the BDMLR (British Divers Marine Life Rescue,) who will send out a trained volunteer to report back and if necessary take the seal to the sanctuary in Hopeman, which was set up by BDMLR volunteers Boonie and Michelle; or to the SPCA rescue centre at Fishcross, in Fife.

Meanwhile, if possible, you could encourage people and dogs to keep away, as seals can give a very nasty bite and the last thing a weak seal needs is to be chased back into the water. Use the same number for any stranded cetaceans you come across.

If you are out on the water, there is a voluntary code of conduct for driving boats or especially jet skis around dolphins:

Elizabeth Harley moray sealCare for the environment:

Every year whales die due to ingestion of plastic, which looks like squid when floating in the water.

This fills their stomachs and prevents real food from being absorbed, and therefore they die of malnutrition.

So every bit of plastic you pick up from our coastline is one less bit to end up in the stomach of a whale or turtle.

And finally, the only good way to see dolphins is in the wild.

The captive dolphin industry is responsible for the deaths of thousands of bottlenose dolphins every year. For each captive, seventeen more die in the dolphin drives, or as by-product, so if you love dolphins go and see them in their own environment – wild and free. For more information watch the film The Cove, or check out

Elizabeth Harley can be contacted at  01343 209616

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Jan 242014

willowsgingerBy Suzanne Kelly.

Most Scottish animal welfare organisations get no government support: the charities must rely on private donations to keep going.

The cost of keeping animals, their food, shelter, heating and care, continues to rise, while the economy shows only modest growth.

Our local charities are not only struggling for donations, but they are also struggling to home animals which are being abandoned at an alarming rate.

Without shelter places, animals such as horses may wind up in the slaughterhouse, and other animals may be put down.

With no end to these problems in sight, help from the private sector is more important than ever. These are some of the organisations that home and rehome animals; your donations, whether goods, food, money or even time will be appreciated.

  • Blaikiewell Animal Sanctuary

Deeside, Aberdeenshire
Website and donation information:

Mavis Petrie, her brother Bert, and volunteers take care of “over 60 horses and ponies, two Jersey cows, and six pigs as well as cats, dogs and any other animal or bird that needs a safe place”.  They have been going since the 1970s, but are now facing their biggest challenge. The Aberdeen Western Peripheral Route cuts through the countryside and through Blaikiewell.  This charity has already lost prime grazing fields, and as a direct result faces higher feed costs.

  • Willows Animal Sanctuary

Lambhill, Fraserburgh AB43 6NY
Donate here:

Willows is home to hundreds of animals, from pigs to peacocks, and lately it has taken on a considerable number of the abandoned horses and ponies that might otherwise have been put down.

Rescues come from all over the UK. Willows’ Animal Assisted Therapy programme is designed to improve the physical, social, emotional, and/or cognitive functioning of the patient, as well as to provide educational and motivational effectiveness for the participant. It has been running for over eight years.

  • Scottish SPCA

Various locations in Scotland, including Aberdeenshire
Donate here:

As well as rehoming a wide range of animals including budgies, cats, dogs and equines, the Scottish SPCA investigates cases of animal neglect and cruelty.  There have been recent high profile cases of neglect and abuse in the Grampian area. In some instances animals were in such a poor state that they had to be put down.

The Scottish SPCA relies on the public not only for donations, but also for information about animal cruelty. Their hotline number for anyone with information about possible animal abuse or neglect is 03000 999 999.

  • Mountains Animal Shelter

Forfar, Angus
Website and donation information:

Mountains has been going for thirty years and has helped over 600 horses. However, it faces the same struggles as the other organisations, and last year received a blow.  Just after a successful nativity play early in December 2012, thieves broke in and stole goods and cash worth thousands. Even their CCTV system was stolen.

Thankfully no animals were harmed or taken. Its founder, Alan Beaufort Fraser, passed away in 2010 after a lifetime helping animals throughout Europe.

  • Cats Protection League

Various locations in Scotland
Donate here: or call 0800 917 2287

This long-established organisation has rehomed thousands of cats and neutered feral strays over the years. As well as donations of money, new and used goods would be welcome for sale in their Aberdeen shop on George Street.

Anyone concerned for the welfare of a domestic or feral cat can call their helpline on 03000 121212.

  • Animal Concern Advice Line

Donate here:

Animal Concern Advice Line (ACAL)’s John Robins has been an active voice for animals in Scotland for years now; ACAL campaigned actively to save the Tullos Hill deer, and is currently highlighting the shooting of seals and the cruelty involved in intensive salmon fish farming.

ACAL offers advice and assistance and has a great deal of expertise focused on improving the welfare of animals whether wild, domestic or farm.

  • The New Arc

Ellon, Aberdeenshire
Donate here:

The New Arc recently changed from a rescue and rehoming centre to a rescue and sanctuary. They are no longer taking in unwanted pets, but are to widen their wildlife rescue work. They will still assist with lost and found pets, cruelty and abandoned animals, but will refer unwanted pets to other organisations who may be able to help.

  • Mrs Murray’s Cat and Dog Home

Donate here:

Mrs Murray’s Home cares for lost and stray dogs and cats, and helps rehome animals whose owners can no longer care for them. Each year 1500 animals pass through their gates, and they depend on public donations and legacies to help them secure each and every one with a happy future.

Any of these organisations will be happy to hear from you, or to explain more about their work. Your financial support, donations of food and/or goods will be welcome.

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Jan 102014

By Bob Smith.

Bob the Robin186 Elaine Andrews

Hullo ti ma  feathered freens
As they sit oot in the caul
Aa jist waitin ti be fed
By a fite haired human pal
Efter fillin up aa their feeders
An scatterin seed alang the grun
A gyang back ti ma hoose
Ti watch aa naiture’s fun
The sparras an the blackies
They swoop doon fairly quick
Syne folla’t by the chaffinches
As throwe the seeds they peck

Starlin’s are at the bird table
Squabblin wi aa their micht
The robin sits on a claes pole
Scauldin aabody in his sicht
The robin tho’ he’s fair itchin’
Ti jine the thrang alow
He flees doon an flutters aboot
His importance he likes ti show
The bird bath’s frozen solid
So a sma dishie his ti dee
Five dunnocks try ti hae a bath
Fin there’s room fer only three
The craws they sit an ponder
Foo ti get at aa the seed
They try an hing on ti a feeder
Bit they jist spill aa the feed
A  fair get a lot o enjoyment
As the birds they gyang aboot
In es  caul windy wither
They need feedin there’s nae doot

©Bob Smith “The Poetry Mannie”
Photos – Bob The Robin by Elaine Andrews
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Jun 142013

By Keith Marley.

It’s that time of year again. People are out in their gardens and enjoying the countryside.

As a result the phones are busy here at The New Arc, mainly offering advice for people on what to do and not to do when contact is made with young animals or animals which turn up in unexpected places.

So we thought it might be useful to offer a few tips.

1) Baby deer, hares and owls are often found while out walking. Please do NOT pick them up. It often appears that they are ‘abandoned’ because they make no attempt to run or fly away and because there is no sign of mum in the immediate area, but we can assure you that the mums of fawns, leverets and owlets do not stay in constant touch with their youngsters, returning maybe only every few hours or at night time to feed and care for them.

Mum will know exactly where they are and even if they stray a little while she was away will easily be found with a quick call to them.

2) Young deer, badgers and foxes can often turn up in unexpected places such as stables, yards, outbuildings and gardens even in the busiest of places. These are usually last year’s youngsters who are now searching out new territories because of mums new arrivals.

As a result they travel around late at night/early morning and settle down in what appears to be a secluded spot only to find that there is an explosion of activity from 7.30 onwards as we all prepare to go to work, school etc. This usually results in them rushing about in a panic until the activity dies down.

The usual scenario is that they will find a quiet spot and hunker down for the rest of the day and move on again when nightfall occurs. Of course accidents can happen… garden netting, busy roads, dogs etc. In which case we are more than happy to assist, but the usual rule is back away, give them some space and let them sort it out themselves.

3) As we said, accidents do happen especially on country roads or ‘out of the way’ places. If you do happen to come across a situation where you are concerned or there is an obvious injury then we advise that you make some attempt to mark the spot with some visible means.

For instance, if you come across a RTA (road traffic accident) then perhaps tie an old carrier bag or something obvious to a fence or tree perhaps 20 or 30 feet from the victim and call us giving as much detail as possible (Trust me we spend a lot of time scouring roadsides on some remote 3 mile stretch of back road).

The same advice can apply if you come across an ‘orphaned’ deer etc.

Leave an obvious visual sign some 20/30 feet away and return a few hours later to check.

4) Fledgling birds will often turn up in gardens and back yards seemingly alone and abandoned. Often the birds can flutter around but are unable to fly. If the bird is feathered and approximately the size of the adult bird then it is best to back off and leave them to it unless they are under direct threat from a predator or in a dangerous location.

If you have ever seen a blackbirds nest, the reason for this is quite obvious… it simply isn’t big enough to hold 5 or 6 nearly adult sized birds and because they are almost fully feathered they do not need an adult bird sitting on them to keep them warm, so they leave the nest and distribute themselves around the local area usually in nearby shrubbery.

This gives the advantage that should a predator find one of them, it is only one instead of that whole year’s brood.

It also gives the youngsters the chance to learn the skills required to find their own food while waiting for their parents to return with the next meal. If the bird is in the open then ‘mum’ will usually return to the location and call the youngster from nearby cover, encouraging it to come get a meal and also to return it to a safe hiding place.

It’s easy to think that if you back off and watch from a window or doorway that you will see if an adult bird comes to feed it, but we can assure you that there is a far better chance that they will see you before you see them and will not approach the youngster for fear of bringing attention to it.

You may even leave the area to return and check it an hour later, but the chances are the youngster will still be there because it has had no particular reason to move on.

Every year The New Arc has animals and birds handed in to the centre which should have been left exactly where they were. However we may appreciate that sometimes people have to make a ‘judgment call’, we would rather they erred on the side of caution than didn’t bother at all. The best advice we can give is ‘if in doubt, leave it be and check it out’.

We are more than happy to give advice or even visit a location to assess the situation ourselves. If necessary we can advise you of other individuals or organisations who may be better placed to

The New Arc does not refuse any form of wildlife, but we have to admit that we cannot be in several places at the same time, so we do ask the public to assist us as much as possible by taking animals to the centre if possible, however, we do insist that the public do not endanger themselves (or the animals concerned) in doing so.

We have a network of individuals who assist us in picking up and transporting animals to us. The phones are manned 24 hours a day and if there is no immediate answer leave a message as we are probably only busy on another call.

Telephone 0796 2253867 – stick it in your mobile phone… just in case. But please do not e-mail us about injured birds or animals. We do not sit in front of our computers all day and only check our mail when we have a chance.

May 242013

By Duncan Harley.

Scotland’s wildlife and landscapes need greater protection than ever before, Sir David Attenborough has warned. Sir David’s comments come ahead of the publication of a report compiled by 25 wildlife organisations from across the UK.

The State of Nature Report concludes that many habitats and species are under threat.

It seems that 60% of species studied have declined in recent decades with 10% of the plant and animal species assessed at risk of vanishing from the UK completely.

Dr Mark Eaton of the RSPB, said:-

“These declines are happening across all countries, habitats and species groups, although it is probably greatest amongst insects, such as our moths, butterflies and beetles. Other once common species like the kittiwakes, Scottish wildcat and arable wildflowers are vanishing before our eyes”.

There are currently around 59,000 species that inhabit the UK but while some, such as the otter are thriving, others such as the wildcat are on the danger list.

Our native Scottish Wildcat is critically endangered says the Scottish Wildcat Association with less than 100 individuals appearing to remain in the wild and barely a handful in the captive breeding population. Unusually the prime cause of the decline appears to be interbreeding with the domestic cat population leading to a dilution of the gene pool and the probable extinction of the breed.

Habitat destruction and climate change appear to be major causes of the decline of other UK species however. Species such as the Small Tortoiseshell butterfly, the Atlantic Salmon and the humble bumble bee are becoming thin on the ground and many more species are being viewed by naturalists as very much at risk.

According to the he British Hedgehog Preservation Society the once common garden hedgehog is in serious decline as new buildings and roads carve up suitable habitat so that small populations become isolated and more vulnerable to local extinction. Tens of thousands of hedgehogs are of course killed on our roads each year and road deaths may actually be an important cause of hedgehog decline since spines are little defence against a wheeled predator.

Even that friendly garden resident, the ladybird is becoming a much rarer sight with figures showing a 44% fall in numbers over the past decade. Indeed many residents of northern Scotland cannot recall seeing them at all in recent years.

Then of course there are the wildlife casualties caused by government policies who often use that well camouflaged term “culling” as a cover for the killing of wild animals.
Tullos in Aberdeen has recently seen the “culling” of Roe Deer for perhaps no good reason and the badger cull in England has been soundly criticised by many both within the scientific community and the conservation lobby.

Brian May, legendary guitarist of Queen and friend of the late Sir Patrick Moore, recently dressed up in a badger suit to sing a specially composed ‘badger song’ outside the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) offices but that seems to have little effect on the actions of the policy makers who feel that the route to eradicating Bovine tuberculosis (TB) is to kill every badger in sight despite some contradictory and convincing evidence that the plan is a flawed one and will deliver little.

Indeed the only effect will be, according to many conservationists, to allow badgers from neighbouring counties to invade and take over the sets left vacant when the killing teams have done their work.

It seems that even the royals are on the bandwagon. The news is full of features about the “Lion King”, Edward VIII, better known as the Duke of Windsor and who of course famously gave up his throne for the love of an American by the name of Wallis Simpson.

The Duke was seemingly an ardent killer of anything which moved and collector of hunting trophies by the hundred. Nicknamed Sardine at naval college and infamous in some circles for his fascist pro Nazi sympathies, It now appears that the man was a pioneering conservationist who “fought to save the wildlife of Africa” according to the Sunday Times.

He seemingly on occasion swapped his hunting rifle for a cine camera and in a rare royal propaganda coup Channel 4 will screen a documentary of the royal film footage later this May.

Additionally it seems that the Royal Family have this week appealed for us all to do something about wildlife poaching in Africa. This is of course positive since very few of us Scots relish the killing of African Rhino and Elephant just for their horns and tusks. However many will doubt the sincerity of this plea from a family who have for many generations visited Scotland during the hunting season to shoot the local wildlife.

Says John Sangster of Inverurie:

“Just heard the Royal Family appeal for us to do something about poaching in Africa which is killing off the elephant and rhinoceros, I am in agreement, but I find it incredible that it should come from a family that come to Scotland every year and shoot anything that moves.

“The message that sends is that it is bad to kill African wildlife but OK to kill Scottish wildlife. The hypocrisy is astonishing and really in these matters the British Royal Family should keep their gobs shut considering half of Africa is on their “bloody” walls.”

Another local resident also felt that the royal call to action seemed quite hypocritical. After all he told me, when the present incumbent of the throne heard about her father’s death, she was with her husband the Duke of Edinburgh on a hunting safari somewhere in Kenya. Indeed, the Duke continues to defend his love of blood sports and has frequently claimed that he is culling and not killing the animals.

In 1961, despite protests from British and Indian politicians, he went ahead with an Indian tiger shoot and figures compiled by anti blood sports campaigners suggest that in Britain alone he has shot deer, rabbit, hare, wild duck, snipe, woodcock, teal, pigeon and partridge, and pheasant numbering at least 30,000.

Prince Philip was of course the very first President of World Wildlife Fund (WWF) from its formation in 1961 to 1982 and International President of WWF (later the World Wide Fund for Nature) from 1981 to 1996. He is now President Emeritus of WWF.

The Prince was quoted in 1988 as saying that in the event of his reincarnation, he would like to return as a deadly virus in order to contribute something to solve overpopulation. Many of his subjects would no doubt oppose any move on his part to convert to Buddhism.


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