Jul 252017
 

With thanks to Leanne Carter, Account Manager, Tricker PR.

Soprano Pipistrelle Bat (Pipistrellus pygmaeus) at bat handling and trapping demonstration held at the National Trust for Scotland property of Culzean Castle, Ayrshire, Scotland, August

They are the type of beasties that most people try to keep out of their homes but the rangers at Craigievar Castle will be doing everything they possibly can to lure moths out of hiding – even offering them a beer.

Visitors to a late-night event at the National Trust for Scotland’s property will be able to learn how to make sugar traps – a sticky solution of black treacle and beer that moths just can’t resist.

The sweet-smelling mixture, which is completely harmless to the creatures, is then pasted onto trees in the grounds of the castle and will attract moths from far and wide.

But it’s hoped that moths will not be the only winged visitors making an appearance at the family event on Friday, July 28. Those who go along to the Craigievar, near Alford in Aberdeenshire, will also have the chance to meet the resident colony of bats.

The elegant tower house, known for its distinctive pink façade, is home to pipistrelle and brown long-eared bats which love to go flying as the sun starts to set.

National Trust for Scotland ranger Toni Watt said:

“Moths and bats are absolutely fascinating flying creatures. We’ve previously staged popular events for bats and events for moths, but this is the first time that we have brought the two together.

“We’ll start off in the castle grounds where we will show people how to make and set sugar traps. The traps are a harmless mixture of black treacle and beer which is boiled up and pasted to trees. It gives off a sweet-smelling nectar which the moths love.

“While we are waiting for the traps to work their magic and attract the moths, we’ll take a walk around the castle grounds and look for bats. We have not yet conducted a bat survey this year, but previously we have had pipistrelle and brown long-eared bats roosting at the castle.

“We’ll be using bat detectors to see what is out and about, and during the walk we’ll be discussing the bats and their nocturnal lifestyles.

“We’ll then go back to the sugar traps and set up a light so that we can see the months. As well as a torch to walk around the grounds, we recommend that people bring sunglasses or a wide brimmed hat to protect their eyes from the light – a real mix of items!

“I know that some people may find this a little bit spooky but it is a lovely time of day to visit the property. I love being out with the bats as it starts to get dark and it can be a beautiful sight on a nice evening.”

Moths and Bats at Craigievar is one of a range of special events being held by the National Trust for Scotland, Scotland’s largest conservation charity, at its properties over the summer months.

The event is being staged by the Trust’s Ranger Service in partnership with Aberdeenshire Council Ranger Service and Butterfly Conservation.

It is suitable for all ages – visitors aged under 16 must be accompanied by an adult – and starts at 8.30pm. It will go on until after darkness falls, and is expected to wind up at around 10.30pm.

Booking is essential for the event and tickets, which cost £4 for adults and children, are available at www.nts.org.uk

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Jul 252017
 

With thanks to Leanne Carter, Account Manager, Tricker PR.

With over 40,000 different types of plants in bloom this summer, Pitmedden Garden is more than used to hosting colourful spectacles.

But nothing could prepare the historic country house for the vivid display of lycra and sequins worn by ABBAMANIA – the world’s longest-running ABBA tribute concert.

As classic hits like Waterloo and Dancing Queen ring out from the stage and the scent of honeysuckle and jasmine wafts through the air, the captivating show on Saturday, July 29 will be a true assault on the senses.

The elegant renaissance garden in Aberdeenshire, which is now managed by the National Trust for Scotland, will be one of the more unusual venues that ABBAMANIA has graced.

However, it’s a stage that the band members have been looking forward to all summer – and one which they believe the original line-up of Agnetha Fältskog, Björn Ulvaeus, Benny Andersson, and Anni-Frid Lyngsta would have loved.

Scots singer Sharon Fehlberg – who has the alter ego of Anni-Frid – says,

“We have performed there once before and it is an absolutely fantastic venue. We were lucky enough to have beautiful weather, so fingers crossed the sun will shine for us again.

“People still love the music of ABBA after all these years because they created timeless pop songs. You just don’t get music like that now.

“The film and stage show Mamma Mia has introduced a new generation to their music, but we have always seen people of different ages in our audience, from five-year-olds to grandparents.

“We love playing in the north because audiences get so into it. The audience reaction is always the same – no matter what the age, they want to have fun and enjoy listening to great music. That kind of enthusiasm lights up the whole place, and as a performer that feeling is amazing.”

ABBAMANIA features the Eurovision winners’ most memorable hits from Winner Takes It All to Take A Chance. The group, which also includes Ewa Scott, Adam Robertson and Steven Galet, focuses on recreating ABBA gigs as audiences would have seen them in the 1970s.

That means that, unlike other tribute acts, there are not scores of backing dancers and complex dance routines. The ABBAMANIA show brings the energy of the performance, but focuses on vocals, musicianship and musical arrangements.

It’s an approach that has resulted in the act, which has been going since 1999, touring all over the UK, Europe and the Philippines, and a trip to the States is also on the cards for 2018.

Sharon Fehlberg of ABBAMANIA – the world’s longest running ABBA tribute act.

Sharon (36) joined ABBAMANIA four-and-a-half years ago after fending off competition from dozens of other hopefuls at an open audition.

She was writing dance music in the studio at the time, but never regrets her decision to don catsuits and capes every weekend.

Some might say that she was destined for a career in showbusiness. Her father is a musician and her mother – Lorraine – was lead singer in the 1970s pop group Middle of the Road, best known for their hit Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep.

She was just three-years-old when she entered a recording studio for the first time, and spent much of her childhood on the road touring with her mum when she was not at school.

Sharon says,

“Music is in my bones and I knew the very first time that I put a microphone in my hand that I wanted to sing. I never thought of doing anything else.

“However, the music business is very, very tough. My mum was quite well known but that meant nothing: I’ve had a lot of doors slammed in my face and a lot of disappointments over the years.

“But eventually your time comes and I was over the moon to join ABBAMANIA. It’s like a dream come true and I have loved every minute of it. I’ve always been a fan of their music, probably because I grew up around that European poppy harmony sound.

“My favourite ABBA song, ever since I was a little girl, is Dancing Queen. It is such a feel-good song and I never get bored singing it. Audiences love it, and it’s amazing to look out and see people enjoying themselves, singing along and dancing.”

ABBAMANIA at Pitmedden Gardens is one of a range of special events being held by the National Trust for Scotland, the country’s largest conservation charity, at its properties over the summer months.

Pitmedden Gardens is an outstanding example of a Scottish renaissance garden and the parterres at its heart are a masterpiece of intricate patterns and colour. It also has six miles of clipped boxed hedging.

The original garden was built in 1675, and it was recreated by the National Trust for Scotland in the 1950s based on designs found at the Palace of Holyrood House in Edinburgh.

Fancy dress is, of course, optional at the ABBAMANIA show, but all are advised to dress warmly. Audience members are encouraged to take a picnic and a rug – or low seating – and some marquee seating is also available.

Tickets are priced £12.50 for adults and £6.50 for children, and are available at www.nts.org.uk. Gates open at 6pm with the show getting underway at 7pm.

The National Trust for Scotland is the charity that celebrates and protects Scotland’s heritage. It relies on the support of its members and donors to carry out its important work of caring for the natural and built heritage of Scotland for everyone to enjoy.

You can join the National Trust for Scotland for as little as £7.50 per month for a family. To become a member, visit http://www.nts.org.uk/Join/Benefits/.

You can make a difference and help protect everything in our care. Donate online at https://www.nts.org.uk/Donations/

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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.)

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Jun 232017
 

With thanks to Gemma Setter, PR Account Executive, Frasermedia.

From left to right: Pat Ramsay, Myles Edwards, Phil Anderson, and Louise Dingwall.

A North-east financial services company has helped to provide Kenyan children with opportunities for a better future through a charitable donation.

Phil Anderson Financial Services, which has offices in Ellon, Aberdeen and Caithness, recently donated £500 to the Gathimba Edwards Foundation, a charity that supports disadvantaged kids in the east African country of Kenya.

Through its sponsorship of the Charity Open at Oldmeldrum Golf Club, the firm selected the Gathimba Edwards Foundation as a beneficiary, due to the charity’s dedication towards improving the lives of almost 250 poverty-stricken Kenyan children.

To date, the Gathimba Edwards Foundation, founded by Aberdonian Myles Edwards and Kenyan international Gideon Gathimba, has built 17 homes for over 70 children and provided education opportunities, shelter, clothing and food to 243 kids across Kenya.

Phil Anderson Financial Services regularly supports numerous charities and community initiatives across the North-east. Last year, the business was recognised for its charitable efforts and was awarded with the Small Business Big Heart Award for its support of the Aberdeen Cyrenians.

Since the firm was launched in 2011, its staff has raised over £10,000 for a large number of local charities and causes, including Diabetes Scotland, Aspire and Aberdeen Cyrenians.

Phil Anderson, managing director of Phil Anderson Financial Services, said:

“After hearing about the Gathimba Edwards Foundation and all the fantastic work they’ve managed to achieve in such a short space of time, I thought it was only right to get behind this truly worthwhile cause.

“Supporting those that are less fortunate is something that both myself and my staff are all very passionate about. We are all looking forward to hearing about the charity’s next project and how the donation will help make a difference to the lives of many disadvantaged children across Kenya.”

Founder of the Gathimba Edwards Foundation, Myles Edwards, said:

“We are hugely grateful for the incredibly generous support from Phil and his team, as it is going to be life-changing for our children.

“There are a number of families who desperately need houses built for them, as they are currently living in iron sheet structures with no walls. We are able to build two-bedroom houses with furniture and electricity for under £3,000, so £500 is absolutely huge for us.

“Phil does so much for numerous charities and causes in both the North-east and abroad, so it really is a big honour that he has chosen to support our kids.”

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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  

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Jun 022017
 

Portsoy’s Sail Loft Bunkhouse. Review and photographs by Duncan Harley.

When newspaper columnist Cuthbert Graham wrote about Portsoy, way back in 1963, he commented that the town was one of the most progressive communities on the Moray Firth.
In his travel column, This is My Country, he wrote about the “triumphant success” of the town’s efforts to encourage tourism.

He was quite correct and the town, nowadays a bustling coastal resort and popular stopover on the 6200km-long North Sea Cycle Route, has steadfastly continued to pursue a policy of encouraging community run tourist orientated enterprise.

Alongside attending the hugely successful Portsoy Boat Festival visitors can take part in traditional music and dance workshops at the Salmon Bothy and boatbuilding courses at the Boatshed. Tourism in the town received a welcome extra boost when film makers chose Portsoy as a location for the recent remake of the Ealing comedy Whisky Galore.

Alongside leads Eddie Izzard and Gregor Fisher, many locals appear as extras in the film and at the recent Portsoy Premiere, held in the loft-space of the Salmon Bothy, film-goers were encouraged to get into the spirit of the performance and dip into some whisky-flavoured ice cream. Publicists had, after all, promoted Portsoy’s Whisky Galore connection by nicknaming the town The Village of the Drammed!

Visitor accommodation in the town received a boost this year with the opening of the newly renovated Sail Loft Bunkhouse. Situated on the Back Green near the caravan park, the Sail Loft has had a long and varied history.

Formerly a sail making factory, the Category B listed building dates from the 18th Century and sits within a former industrial site used for the processing of flax and the manufacture of rope. When the demand for sails declined and the rope-works closed the Sail Loft buildings gradually fell into ruin.

In 2006 the North East Scotland Preservation Trust acquired the property from the Seafield Estate and work began to bring the derelict structure into productive use as bunkhouse accommodation for visitors to Portsoy. After 11 years of planning and renovation, the keys to the building were formally handed over to Portsoy Community Enterprise in January 2017. Additional loan funding came via the Architectural Heritage Fund.

Offering high quality self-catering accommodation at reasonable rates, the new 25 bed facility offers visitors to Portsoy a unique hub from which to explore the Moray coastline.  Facilities Assistant Susan Rayne explains:

“Users so far have included cyclists, walkers and families. This weekend we even have a group of divers staying with us.”

Susan is one of a team of three involved in the day to day management of the Sail Loft and is by all accounts fully integrated into the local community.

Alongside her bunkhouse duties she serves as a volunteer fire-fighter and is a keen member of the local women’s rowing group, the Portsoy Skiffettes. Another claim to fame is her role as official chauffeur to Whisky Galore star Eddie Izzard during the location shooting of the movie in Portsoy.

“The buzz in the town was just amazing” she recalls

“Eddie Izzard was very open with the locals and was really interested in finding out about the area.”

It emerged that Eddie was due to perform at Versailles after the Whisky Galore shoot and  Susan recalls that he was amazed to discover that fireplaces in the Palace of Versailles are rumoured to be faced with Portsoy Marble.

Although the Sail Loft is clearly bunkhouse in nature, the new facility offers up-market self-catering accommodation. Guest rooms are simply but pleasantly furnished with white décor throughout. Named after local landmarks, the room plan reads like a who’s who of the Portsoy coastline. Red Rock, The Pointie and The Breeks are just a few. On our visit we stayed in The Dounie.

The design of the building does not allow for panoramic views of the sea but the slanted Velux windows do let in both the sound and the smells of the ocean and provide a welcome change to the typical hotel room hum of the air-conditioning unit. Those wanting to check out the view should either nip outside or, heaven forbid if you are female, check out cubicle three in the downstairs men’s showers where you can view the bay in all of its glory.

Catering-wise, the open-plan kitchen and dining area is more than adequate. Two 4 ring hobs are complimented by micro-waves, kettles and an ample supply of toasters. Pots and pans, dishes and cutlery are all provided and the only onus on residents is to leave the kitchen as you might wish to find it. I was pleasantly surprised to come across an orphaned cafetiere abandoned by a previous guest and made full use of it.

The Sail Loft lounge boasts a wood burning stove and is perfect for family get-togethers or business seminars.  Alongside a video-projector there are lots of local books, toys and games to keep everyone entertained in the evenings. A drying room, secure cycle storage, a fully equipped laundrette and an outside wash down area for boots or bicycle cleaning complete the line-up and this VisitScotland 4 star hostel even boasts a wood fired hot-tub.

On the night of our stay a group of divers were firmly ensconced in front of the roaring wood-stove planning the next days dive while a group of teachers enjoyed the warmth of the outdoor hot-tub.

All in all this new facility ticks the boxes although it would have been nice to have the option of sitting behind glass while taking in the sea view. But, as I said previously, there’s always cubicle three in the men’s showers!

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May 052017
 

With thanks to Yvette Rayner, PR Account Manager, Frasermedia.

Aberdeen’s world-class sports venue has partnered with national governing body Netball Scotland and VisitAberdeenshire to win the right to host an international netball competition in May, which is expected to bring almost £200,000 into the area.

Aberdeen Sports Village (ASV), which is based in the city’s Linksfield Road, will host Netball Europe, which involves eight national teams, from 11-14th May 2017.

The event is coming to Aberdeen for the third time, with the event having sold out in previous years.

The four-day international Under 21 championship will feature England, Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland, as well as four developing nations Bermuda, Gibraltar, Israel and The Republic of Ireland, competing in the open challenge section.  

Netball Europe will come to Aberdeen in 2017 after a sustained campaign by Aberdeen Sports Village and Netball Scotland, supported by VisitAberdeenshire.

Netball Scotland CEO, Claire Nelson, said:

“We are extremely excited to be back in Aberdeen for the Under 21 Netball Europe Championships 2017 at one of the best facilities in Scotland.

“As we reach the business end of the season, this is a huge event for all of the home nations as this will be our final competition before the Under 21 World Cup in July this year. The players have committed to an intense training programme, both on and off the court, to ensure we have the capability to showcase the sport at international level.”

CEO of ASV, Duncan Sinclair, said:

“It is a superb achievement to bring Netball Europe to Aberdeen. We have worked hard to promote Aberdeen Sports Village as the best venue in Scotland to hold the event. We hosted the event in 2013 and 2015 and it was very popular and sold out quickly.

“There is a huge appetite in Aberdeen for international events and we will work closely with VisitAberdeenshire to attract more such prestigious events to the city.  The netball community in the North East is consistently growing and is very active, and I’m sure they will embrace the opportunity to watch international netball on their doorstep and become part of the event.

“With over 100 participants, Netball Europe is expected to bring a significant economical benefit of almost £200,000 to the area. It is a real honour to welcome the eight national teams to Aberdeen, and we are looking forward to some exciting games. 

“In 2015, the event sold out with more than 300 tickets per match, and we expect to match that success in 2017.”

Jenni Fraser, business development director of VisitAberdeenshire, said:

“We are  pleased that we have  been able to help bring Netball Europe to Aberdeen and put the city and the wider region on the international sporting map.

“Players, coaches, officials and spectators who will visit Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire in May will see that the region offers not only world-class sports facilities, but high quality hotels, bars and restaurants, interesting cultural attractions and beautiful scenery.  This is exactly the type of event that we want to encourage in the city because of the economic spin-off that it brings.”

Tickets for Netball Europe are priced at £5.50 (adult) and £3.30 (concession) for the Under 21 competition and £3.30 (adult) and £2.00 (concession) for the Open/Invitational challenge. Ticket are available now, from the Aberdeen Box Office, or online at http://bit.ly/2powc1b.

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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

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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.              

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Apr 012017
 

By Fred Wilkinson.

News has reached Aberdeen Voice that younger brother of US President Donald J Trump has bought a popular, iconic cafe located on Aberdeen’s beach front. It is widely rumoured that the Washington Cafe, currently being renovated, is to be renamed ‘The Windmill Views Restaurant’ by new owner Robert Trump.
In order to find out more, I tracked down local shopfitter, Archibald ‘Erchie’ Morrison who has been awarded the contract to refurbish the property. 

I could see Erchie and his colleagues were extremely busy, so Aberdeen Voice is grateful to have been given the time for a chat.

Erchie told me:

“Ah couldna believe it when Ah got the call fae Robert Trump’s agent. Ah thought somebody wis pullin ma leg, and Ah near hung up the phone. But, ken? Bein self employed ye canna jist gie up on gettin jobs – nae as lang as there’s a chunce it could be a genuine offer.

“Onywye, Ah had tae ask if he wis haein a fun wi ma, but nah … the job’s richt enough.”

I asked Erchie how he felt about working for the brother of the controversial US President.

“Ah wisna affa sure” Erchie commented.

“Ah did ask the agent, like in a funnin kind o’ wye, if he thocht eez client wisna aff eez heid buyin a business in Aiberdeen – fit wi a the stooshies we’ve had wi eez brither.

“He jist laughed and tellt ma he wid send ma the paperwork.”

“And that wis that until Ah got a notey fae Robert Trump eezsel. Ah near fell in a heap!”

Robert reached for the top pocket of his boiler suit where the prized letter has taken up permanent residence. Already well fingered, having been eagerly shown off to his family, friends and colleagues, the handwritten letter reads: 

“Dear Erchie.

Thank you for accepting the contract for the refurbishment of my newly acquired property. I look forward to working with you on this project.
My agent indicated to me that you have some concerns, which I’m sure can be addressed.

I am very aware of the ‘stooshies’ you have had to endure on account of my brother Donald’s actions. I trust you will judge our working relationship on my words and my actions, and not those of Donald J. We may share a country of origin, and the same parents, but I assure you, there the similarity ends. Brothers we may be, I’m afraid there’s nothing I can do about that, but we aint peas in a pod.

Only one of us actually loves Scotland and does not need to exploit the good name and memory of our Mom to prove it.
Only one of us gives our employees the correct payment for work carried out, and only one of us thinks Donald J is an asshole.

I trust you can work out which. Come and see me soon … the Glenfiddich’s are on me

Yours,
      Robert Trump.”

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