Aug 112017
 

A report on waste infrastructure by consultants Eunomia released this week, highlight a “major risk of financial failure” of Aberdeen City and Aberdeenshire councils’ multi million pound incinerator project. This is according to leading Aberdeenshire Councillor, Paul Johnston.

Aberdeenshire Councillor, Paul Johnston.

“The report indicates that under likely scenarios the plant will be at risk of being surplus to requirements with increasing recycling rates even before it is fully working.” Said the leader of the council’s Democratic Independent and Green Group.

“Eunomia as respected researchers indicate that too much capacity could either reduce recycling rates or make surplus capacity incinerators go bust.

“The councils , if they decide to legally commit to such a major project, face a major risk of financial failure”

“This should be a signal for Aberdeen City and Aberdeenshire Council to stop, take a deep breath and to go back and take a long hard look at the alternatives before they waste as much as £180 million on a white elephant. “

“Each new report such as this from Eunomia or the chartered institute of Waste Management and even from advice out of the European Union waste directorate is adding more and more evidence that the city and Shire have they got it wrong in opting for incineration. It is financially too risky as well as being environmentally unsound.”

  • Comments enabled – see comments box below. Note, all comments will be moderated.

 

Aug 042017
 

Suzanne Kelly got involved in coastal ecology issues when she moved to Aberdeen. She was a community councillor who was on the East Grampian Coastal Partnership, and undertook several campaigns to protect green belt land, animals and she campaigned against the Trump golf course. After recent news stories from around the world, Suzanne talked to some animal experts about the growing problem of people taking selfies with wildlife including Lee Watson of Ythan Seal Watch who supplied the photos and John Robins of Animal Concern Advice Line and Save Our Seals Fund.

Selfie hunters disturb wildlife. Courtesy of Lee Watson Ythan Seal Watch

Scotland’s wildlife is suffering because of loss of habitat, pollution, dwindling food supplies and poaching in Scotland. 
In Aberdeen evidence of poaching was found on Tullos Hill in the summer of 2014. The city has some of Scotland’ most polluted streets. 
In Torry, protected species are going to lose shelter, food and water as Nigg Bay becomes industrialised. 

In the shire seal populations are supposed to be protected by signs, fences, and warning flags in the sand, but these deterrents are being ignored.

Seals need to ‘haul out’ or rest on the sands for many hours before they take to sea for food again. People are legally bound to leave them alone, yet these seals are bombarded by overhead drones, dogs off leashes, and people finding it amusing to frighten the resting seals back into the water to take videos. This behaviour is prohibited, the signs are clear, and yet people persist. 

John Robins of the charities Animal Concern Advice Line and Save Our Seals Fund said:

“People stupid enough to take selfies with wild animals probably don’t care if their idiocy ends in the death of the animal. They are not concerned that their actions cause stress and suffering to animals and the abandonment of young animals by their parents.

“Perhaps they will be more concerned to learn that disturbing animals can lead to the selfie taker ending up in a police cell, a hospital bed or on a slab at the local mortuary. Unless you have a special licence, it is illegal to take photographs of many protected species of animal and bird. Get caught doing that and you will be carted off to the police station.

“Seals, even cute and cuddly pups, have a nasty bite which carries a high risk of very dangerous infections which can lead to long term debility and even death. Many other animals and birds carry zoonosis, diseases including salmonella, e-coli and even rabies which can infect humans. My advice is to use your brain before your camera.”

Animals can be exhausted and in need of rest, frightened, injured, and must be left alone at a large distance. When visiting wildlife habitats, remember to find out the rules in advance, obey any signs, and listen to any directions you are given by any rangers or wildlife officials. Our wildlife is having a hard time – don’t make it harder.

Lee Watson of Ythan Seal Watch has been raising awareness and challenging illegal behaviour for several seasons now. A group of volunteers formed the Ythan Seal Watch and try to safeguard seals and nesting birds. Their Facebook page reads:

 “The Ythan Seal haul-out is now designated and the Seals are legally protected from harassment. We will work with the relevant wildlife and law enforcement agencies in support of this and we will continue to film and monitor the Seal haul-out and any irresponsible behaviour.”

If you are aware of any wildlife crime in the UK – illegal hunting, poaching, snaring – anything – please don’t let it go without calling 999 if it is happening now, or 101 for anything else.

  • Comments enabled – see comments box below. Note, all comments will be moderated.
Jul 142017
 

European beaver (Castor fiber) swimming at dawn, Knapdale Forest, Argyll, Scotland.

With thanks to Chris Aldridge.

A family of beavers found living on a river in the Beauly area in the Scottish Highlands are to be trapped and put into captivity following a decision by Scottish Government Ministers.
Trees for Life, the charity which discovered the group, says the family should either stay where they are or be relocated locally.

Film from camera traps set by the conservation experts from the charity in mid-June clearly show the presence of a mother and at least two young kits swimming and playing with their mum.

Trees for Life shared news of the discovery with Scottish Natural Heritage and made a case to Scottish Environment Minister Roseanna Cunningham that the family be allowed to stay.

Alan McDonnell, Conservation Projects Manager at Trees for Life said:

“It is disappointing that government is already starting the process of trapping this family without considering other options. Whilst we understand that the Minister wants to address the concerns of landowners in Tayside, the situation here is very different and we think it is possible to consult and negotiate with landowners in the immediate vicinity of the family and upstream to find an alternative outcome for the animals.”

Beavers have sparked controversy and concern from landowners in parts of Tayside where there is intensive arable farming. In contrast, much of the land neighbouring the newly confirmed beaver home in the Highlands is used for livestock farming.

Alan McDonnell said:

“We think these beavers have been active at this site for at least five years without any local concerns being raised. Which just goes to show that in the right location, beavers and other land use interests can co-exist successfully.”

Richard Hartland, local resident added:

“Many people in the local community have no idea the beavers are there and they’re having very little impact on their surroundings. Why can’t they be left alone?”

Shortly after finding the family, Trees for Life wrote to the Scottish Environment Minister to ask that they be left where they are, or failing that, moved upstream into Glen Affric, above the Loch Beinn a’ Mheadhoin hydro dam on the basis that they would have minimal impact on land use.

(Beaver photo image. Copyright – Peter Cairns, SCOTLAND: The Big Picture.)

  • Comments enabled – see comments box below. Note, all comments will be moderated.
Jun 232017
 

Red Squirrel (Sciurus vulgaris) in autumn colours, Scotland

With thanks to Chris Aldridge.

A new book, The Red Squirrel: A Future in the Forest, by award-winning wildlife photographer Neil McIntyre and author Polly Pullar, is helping to support the return of one of Scotland’s best loved animals to the Highlands of Scotland.

The book’s publisher, Highlands-based social enterprise SCOTLAND: The Big Picture, has pledged to donate £10 from books purchased with a special code to Trees for Life’s work to re-introduce red squirrels to the western Highlands. 

Peter Cairns of SCOTLAND: The Big Picture hopes the book will raise fresh awareness about the plight of the reds as well as cash to help save them.

He said:

“Neil’s beautiful images and Polly’s words have helped to highlight how important the wild forest is to squirrels. We love what Trees for Life is doing to bring back both the forest and the squirrels and are pleased to be able to support them in this way.”

Trees for Life is an award-winning charity working to restore the native Caledonian Forest and its unique wildlife to the Highlands of Scotland. Conservation experts at the charity have been carefully relocating red squirrels from healthy populations in Inverness-shire and Moray to forests in northwest Scotland, where the species is currently absent despite suitable habitat. The Red Squirrel Reintroduction 

Project has so far established four new populations in the northwest Highlands, significantly increasing both the numbers and range of the red squirrel in the UK.

Becky Priestly, Wildlife Officer with Trees for Life, said:

“We’re hugely thankful to SCOTLAND: The Big Picture for its generous offer to donate to our Red Squirrel Appeal from sales of the book. These donations will help us continue our work to reintroduce this much-loved animal. Local communities are monitoring the introduced squirrels and are now reporting sightings of young squirrels for the second year running, so we know they’re doing well.” 

To obtain a copy of The Red Squirrel: A Future in the Forest and help support Trees for Life, order online at Scotlandbigpicture.com. Use the special code STBPTFL10 to have £10 donated to Trees for Life and to save 10 percent. Alternatively, you can donate to the appeal directly at Treesforlife.org.uk/donate  

  • Comments enabled – see comments box below. Note, all comments will be moderated.
Jun 162017
 

With thanks to Ross Anderson, Senior Account Manager, Citrus:Mix

Primary school pupils have been working to add their own splash of colour in Aberdeen by sowing seeds for a city centre wildflower meadow. Alongside representatives from Aberdeen Inspired, a class of 22 P6 pupils from Hanover Street School have planted wildflower seeds on the grassy area where Bridge Street becomes College Street.

The aim of the session was to create greater biodiversity in the area while also encouraging community involvement in city centre activities.

Last year, children from Hanover Street Nursery also planted crocuses at the St Nicholas Centre rooftop garden.

Following the seed sowing, it is hoped that the school will take over looking after the wildflower meadow as part of Aberdeen Inspired’s ‘Adopt an Area’ initiative.

The organisation has played a key role in identifying areas within the city centre which could benefit from a refresh with the hope of making them more visually attractive and appealing to use.

Adrian Watson, chief executive of Aberdeen Inspired, said:

“We were delighted to invite children from Hanover Street Primary School to help us plant a wildflower meadow beside College Street which will brighten up the space in the coming weeks.

“As well as teaching them a bit about nature, this session was important to introduce a variety of wild flowers to the area. Increasing biodiversity in the city centre is very important and we are keen to encourage more projects like this.

“We are passionate about creating a more vibrant and appealing city centre and believe efforts like this, which involve working with school children, are hugely important in achieving that.”

Aberdeen Inspired is the banner under which the Aberdeen BID (Business Improvement District) operates. It is a business-led initiative within the city centre in which levy payers within the BID zone contribute.

Proceeds are used to fund projects designed to improve the business district and drive increased footfall to the area.

More information about Aberdeen Inspired is available online at: www.aberdeeninspired.com

  • Comments enabled – see comments box below. Note, all comments will be moderated.
May 122017
 

With thanks to Martin Ford.

Long-serving councillor Martin Ford was re-elected last Thursday (4 May) for a fifth term as a member of Aberdeenshire Council.

With 18 years on Aberdeenshire Council, Martin Ford is now the longest serving councillor in the Garioch Area.

Cllr Ford represented the Newmachar and Fintray ward from 1999 to 2007.

With the introduction of the single transferable vote system and multi-member wards in 2007, Martin Ford became one of the three councillors representing the East Garioch ward.

Further changes to electoral arrangements this time were down to a revision of council ward boundaries undertaken since the 2012 election by The Local Government Boundary Commission for Scotland. As of 4 May, the East Garioch ward (which includes Newmachar, Fintray, Blackburn and Kintore) is now larger than it was before.

The ward has been extended to the west by moving its boundary much closer to Kemnay and Inverurie. Reflecting the increase in population, the number of councillors representing the East Garioch ward has also been increased – from three to four.

Cllr Martin Ford said:

“I would like to thank all 4,559 residents of East Garioch who voted in the election last Thursday.

“I am tremendously pleased to be starting my fifth term on Aberdeenshire Council. It’s a great privilege to have been re-elected again after 18 years as a councillor. So I would like to express my special thanks to those who put their confidence in me to continue as one of their local representatives.

“Locally, there are a range of priorities within the East Garioch ward. The Council has a key role to play in the delivery of the planned rail station in Kintore. Decisions are required about additional school capacity in Newmachar. The new school in Blackburn is due to open in August 2018.

“With the election last week, there has been a considerable change in the membership of the Council. Moving forward, I hope the Council as a whole will have effective working relationships between councillors of different colours, so there is a preparedness to accept suggestions and good ideas from all sides. There are undoubtedly going to be some tough choices during the next five years, so we need a Council that takes its decisions on the basis of evidence and in the public interest.”

  • Comments enabled – see comments box below. Note, all comments will be moderated.
Apr 282017
 

With thanks to Martin Ford.

Aberdeenshire Greens have launched their manifesto for the 2017 council election.

The manifesto sets out the priorities and approach for Green councillors elected to Aberdeenshire Council this May.

The Scottish Green Party is contesting five of the nineteen council wards in Aberdeenshire. There is currently one Green councillor on Aberdeenshire Council.

Rachel Shanks, Green candidate for Stonehaven and Lower Deeside, said:

“The more Green councillors elected to Aberdeenshire Council this May, the more influence they will have. We want to prioritise investment in education, better local public transport and protecting Aberdeenshire’s special environment.

“Inevitably, Aberdeenshire Council is going to face some tough challenges in the years ahead. Green voices need to be heard in the council chamber when the Council decides how to respond. The last five years have shown a Green presence has made for a better Council. We want to build on that this May.”

West Garioch Green candidate Richard Openshaw said:

“The election on 4 May is a local election. It’s about local issues, not national ones.

“We’re proud of the Green successes on Aberdeenshire Council since 2012, like funding for youth work, traffic calming, cycling and walking. Our manifesto for the next five years sets out what we will prioritise going forward.

“The forecast rise in pupil numbers in Aberdeenshire schools means additional resources for education are essential. I was appalled at the education cuts advocated by the Lib Dems and Conservatives in their proposed 2017/18 Council budget. Green councillors will give priority to spending on schools and resist education cuts.”

Mearns candidate Karen Allan said:

“I particularly welcome the manifesto commitments on road safety and tackling climate change.”

East Garioch councillor and Green candidate Martin Ford said:

“A significant number of proposals from the 2012 Aberdeenshire Green manifesto have been agreed by the Council and have become Council policy. Greens elected to Aberdeenshire Council this May will similarly seek cross-party support to get Green proposals adopted.”

  • Comments enabled – see comments box below. Note, all comments will be moderated.
Apr 202017
 

With thanks to Aberdeen/Shire Greens.

After famously standing a mannequin in the 2012 Aberdeen local elections, Renée Slater is back as a candidate in her own right, standing in the Torry & Ferryhill ward for the Scottish Green Party.

The mannequin, Helena Torry, emerged as an activist figurehead in 2010 in campaigns against the destruction of Union Terrace Gardens, and soon became popular in anti-austerity protests.

As Renée witnessed the effects of cuts to services for disabled people and young people, she wanted to bring these issues into the spotlight and challenge the antagonistic political climate with humour.

In the 2012 council elections, she registered Helena as a candidate to represent ‘the voice of the silent majority.’

When authorities realised that Helena was not a real person, Renée was arrested. She was held until a prisoner exchange took place, and Helena was locked up for a year. The story was covered across the UK, and further afield [links below]. After Renée’s acquittal, Helena continued to support local causes, including the campaign for Scottish Independence.

Renée has been involved in local politics and activism for more than 40 years, and she joined the Scottish Greens in 2014. In standing for Aberdeen City Council in 2017, she hopes to help address issues across the city, from housing and jobs to local pollution and public health.

After years of bitter conflict between Labour and the SNP, Renée and other Green candidates want to bridge the divide and work constructively across parties.

Renée said,

“I’m concerned about inter-party bickering. It’s time we pulled together for all the people of Aberdeen. It’s time to make a change.”

Links:

BBC Report: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9WRFl9jvOCw
Daily Politics: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mJEL56CMOzc
ITV: http://www.itv.com/news/2012-04-20/mannequin-removed-from-scottish-elections/
BBC News: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-north-east-orkney-shetland-20970395
Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2012/04/20/shop-dummy-for-councillor-aberdeenshire_n_1440348.html
The Independent: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/woman-arrested-after-entering-mannequin-into-council-elections-7665476.html
Other: https://lenathehyena.wordpress.com/tag/helena-torry/

  • Comments enabled – see comments box below. Note, all comments will be moderated.
Apr 132017
 

An award-winning Aberdonian film-maker is celebrating the success of her crowdfunding campaign after receiving an endorsement from BBC wildlife personality Chris Packham. With thanks to Lisa Marley Press.

Filmmaker Lisa Marley’s film Project Wolf will follow an experimental ‘human wolf pack’ through the Scottish Highlands.

Lisa Marley (26), from Westhill, Aberdeenshire, is crowdfunding the film – Project Wolf – which will follow charity Trees for Life’s experimental ‘human wolf pack’ through the Scottish Highlands as it examines how mimicking the disturbance effects of missing large predators would affect red deer populations in the Caledonian Forest, in an effort to limit their impact on new growth while grazing.

BBC personality Chris Packham, who is vocal in his support for conservation projects, is a fan of Lisa’s last film – Red Sky on the Black Isle – and has leant his support to her new venture.

He says,

“These grass roots, real and reactive films come straight from the hearts of creatives who not only care but motivate their skills to take action; action at a time when we are desperate for people to stop musing and moaning and actually stand up and be counted.

“It’s time to shout above the noise – Red Sky on the Black Isle did this – so please help Lisa turn her talents onto the exciting subject of rewilding.”

Passing her initial target after just two weeks and ensuring the film will be made, Lisa is now working towards her second goal which will allow for an extended shoot in the Highlands. Wildlife and conservation enthusiasts who wish to donate to Lisa’s campaign can do so at www.indiegogo.com/at/projectwolf until April 19, in exchange for perks ranging from guide books and gift cards to production credits and invitations to film festivals.

Lisa says,

“I’ve been overwhelmed by the support for Project Wolf. Now that I have passed my first funding goal, the film will definitely be made.

“But there is still some way to go – I’ve now set a second target which will allow me to spend longer in the Highlands with the ‘human wolf pack’ and with my interview subjects. I’ll also be able to use more advanced equipment to better tell the story of rewilding in Scotland.

“When I first heard about Trees for Life’s work, I was instantly hooked. It’s an incredible project that has the potential to make a real impact on the regeneration of the Caledonian Forest, and I can’t wait to get out into the wilderness to experience it for myself.”

Alan Watson Featherstone, founder of Trees for Life, adds,

“This film will give vital and significant publicity to our Project Wolf, which seeks to demonstrate an innovative approach to helping a new generation of native trees to grow in the Caledonian Forest. By using volunteers to patrol the edge of existing woodlands at unpredictable hours in the night we will be replicating the natural disturbance effect of missing top predators such as the wolf, thereby enabling young trees to grow successfully without being overgrazed by deer.

“The project has potential significance for many other areas in Scotland, and Lisa’s film will be an essential means of communicating this message to a wide audience. I urge everyone to support this very worthy project – your donation will make a real difference to the restoration of the Caledonian Forest in the Highlands. “

Lisa’s last film, Red Sky on the Black Isle, also continues to make waves both in the film and wildlife communities. Translated into multiple languages and screened around the world, it picked up the Little Audience Prize at the Raptor Filmz Short Scottish Film Festival last year. It will be shown at the Wildlife Conservation Film Festival in New York this October.

The Project Wolf campaign runs on Indiegogo until April 19. For more information, and to donate, visit www.indiegogo.com/at/projectwolf

To follow Lisa’s progress, follow Project Wolf on Facebook at www.facebook.com/projectwolffilm or follow Lisa on Twitter @procuriosity

  • Comments enabled – see comments box below. Note, all comments will be moderated.
Apr 072017
 

With thanks to Richard Bunting.

In an exciting step forward for the biodiversity of Scotland’s forests, Trees for Life has successfully encouraged the rare but ecologically important aspen tree to flower under controlled conditions – enabling it to produce much-needed seeds that can be used for propagation.

Trials to stimulate aspen branches to flower at the charity’s Dundreggan Conservation Estate in Glenmoriston, near Loch Ness, have progressed significantly this spring, following some initial success and experimentation over the past two years.

Trees for Life may now be able to secure its own source of aspen seed to dramatically increase the availability of aspens for planting in native woodlands and to strengthen the species’ genetic diversity.

“This is a major breakthrough for us that offers hope for the beleaguered but hugely important aspen tree in the Highlands,” said Doug Gilbert, Dundreggan Operations Manager at Trees for Life.

“Having a seed supply to grow a new generation of aspen will help us transform the fortunes of a beautiful tree that provides a habitat for a wide range of organisms including mosses, lichens and invertebrates – many of which are rare and endangered in Scotland.”

Aspen is thought to have suffered more from deforestation than any other native tree in Scotland ­– largely because it rarely flowers or set seeds in the country, for reasons that are still unclear. This means that once it has been lost from an area, aspen is very unlikely to return on its own.

In Scotland, aspen reproduces mainly by new shoots growing from the roots of mature trees. As these shoots remain joined to the parent tree, the new trees are all the same organism – restricted to growing on the edge of existing aspen stands, and limiting the aspen’s genetic diversity.

“Across the Highlands, aspen has been reduced to small fragmented stands – sometimes a handful of old trees growing off the same root system – that are geographically isolated and unable to provide the habitat for the many species that depend on them,” said Doug Gilbert.

Growing new trees from seed is a key solution, but collecting seeds from aspen in the wild is almost impossible. The few aspen that flower in the Highlands are often in remote or inaccessible locations, and – as male and female flowers can appear at different times – pollination rarely takes place. Even when it does, the period for seed collection is extremely short and easily missed.

Emma Beckinsale, Trees for Life’s tree nursery assistant hand pollinates aspen; female catkins on aspen tree in Trees for Life’s tree nursery.

For the past 26 years, Trees for Life has instead had to rely on taking root cuttings to propagate new aspens for its forest restoration work. This is labour intensive and time consuming, making aspen saplings expensive and less available than other trees that are readily propagated from seed.

However, the charity is now successfully stimulating female and male aspen branches to flower at a scale that should produce a significant amount of seed.

Unlike most trees ­– where male and female flowers occur on the same tree – aspens are either male or female. Trees flower in March and April, before the leaves appear, with both male and female trees producing catkins. Pollinated female catkins ripen in early summer and release tiny seeds – each weighing about one ten-thousandth of a gram.

Under carefully controlled conditions, Trees for Life has now successfully hand pollinated female aspen catkins with pollen collected from male trees.

Those catkins will ripen in a few weeks time to produce seeds, which will be sown in the Dundreggan Tree Nursery to produce a new generation of young aspen trees.

Trees for Life has previously grown 3,000-4,000 aspen trees a year for planting in the Caledonian Forest. Being able to grow aspens from seed would allow the charity to significantly increase this number, as well as enhancing the aspen’s genetic diversity.

This is major progress in a project to restore aspen to the Highlands, which Trees for Life launched in 1991. The project has also involved innovative aspen grafting experiments, carried out in partnership with John Parrott of the charity Coille Alba, who has also pioneered much of the work around stimulating aspen to flower under controlled conditions.

Volunteers grow more than 60,000 trees a year at Trees for Life’s Dundreggan Tree Nursery, including during the charity’s popular Conservation Weeks. To find out more about Trees for Life’s award-winning work to restore the Caledonian Forest and how to help, see www.treesforlife.org.uk.

More info on Aspen:

  • Although aspen occurs throughout Britain, it is most common in north and west Scotland, and also occurs in Shetland and the Hebrides. The tree is characterised by its shimmering foliage in summer.
  • Aspen’s fragmented and scattered distribution in Scotland is a factor in restricting flowering and pollination between male and female trees, as may be climatic conditions.
  • Aspen also suffers from being one of the most palatable of all trees for red deer – so any new shoots are eaten, unless growing out of the reach of deer, such as in rocky gullies or on cliff edges.              

Comments enabled – see comments box below. Note, all comments will be moderated.