Apr 202017
 

With thanks to Emma Brown.

Today sees the launch of a stunning new photo book showcasing one of Britain’s favourite mammals and at the same time making the case for the expansion of its native woodland home.

The Red Squirrel: A future in the forest features jaw-dropping imagery by award-winning wildlife photographer Neil McIntyre, who has spent the last 20 years documenting the lives of the red squirrels near his home in the Cairngorms National Park.

Neil’s astonishing portfolio of images, captured deep in the heart of one of Scotland’s largest remaining fragments of Caledonian Pine Forest, is accompanied by insightful and evocative words from celebrated writer Polly Pullar, to create a beautiful and thought-provoking book which aims to raise awareness of the plight of the red squirrel.

With native woodland covering just 2% of Scotland’s land area, red squirrel populations are fragmented on isolated islands of trees and their long-term future remains uncertain.

Conservation photographer and Director of SCOTLAND: The Big Picture, the book’s publisher, Peter Cairns said:

“Neil’s beautiful images shine a unique light on one of Scotland’s best-loved mammals, but squirrels need forests just as much as forests need squirrels. I hope this book will ignite fresh conversations about that crucial link.”

The publication of The Red Squirrel: A future in the forest follows a successful crowdfunding campaign, which ran throughout November 2016 and was supported by over 500 backers.
It is the first in a series of stunning conservation books from SCOTLAND: The Big Picture, a project which works to amplify the case for a wilder Scotland.

The Red Squirrel: A future in the forest is available now from www.scotlandbigpicture.com.

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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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Mar 242017
 

With thanks to Richard Bunting, Director, Richard Bunting PR.

European Beaver (Castor fiber)
July 2010

Conservation charity Trees for Life is seeking support in raising £15,000 for a project aimed at bringing beavers back to the northwest Highlands.

The charity’s Bring Back the Beavers appeal will fund site assessments, work with local communities, and beaver habitat restoration work such as tree planting and natural regeneration.

This will enable Trees for Life to prepare for a formal application for a licence to re-establish beavers in the Highlands.

“Beavers were a key native species of the Caledonian Forest before being hunted to extinction some 400 years ago. We now have an unprecedented opportunity to bring them back,” said Alan Watson Featherstone, Founder of Trees for Life.

“We are asking the public to help us pave the way for beavers to come home to the Highlands – improving the region for other wildlife, and providing a tourist attraction to boost the local economy.”

Last November, the Scottish Government announced that European beavers were officially accepted as a native species in Scotland.

Trees for Life has been preparing for the return of beavers for more than 25 years. This has involved creating suitable habitat by planting aspens and willows along loch shores and riverbanks. In 2015, the charity commissioned an expert survey of some of the key sites where it works, which confirmed that these locations could support beavers.

Beavers are superb ecosystem engineers. They create and manage wetland habitats ­– benefitting insects, fish, bats and birds. Their small dams help regulate water flow. Their felling of trees provides dead wood that benefits many organisms, and stimulates regeneration by causing new shoots to grow from tree stumps.

Beavers cannot colonise the northwest Highlands on their own, as the Great Glen is a natural barrier to beavers from the existing populations in Argyll and Tayside. So the only way to be sure they will return to the region will be to give them a helping hand.

In Europe, 24 countries have reintroduced beavers, with significant benefits. The official Scottish beaver trial in Argyll also showed substantial positive results, both for the local ecology and from increased tourism.

The Scottish Government has recognised that some residents may be concerned about the possible impact of beavers on their interests, and that this requires careful management.

Any surplus funds raised by the Bring Back the Beavers appeal will be used by Trees for Life to fund other activities to help restore the wild forest habitat.

For more details and to support the appeal, visit www.treesforlife.org.uk.

Pictured: European beaver © Laurie Campbell (N.B. One-time free use with this story; please delete image afterwards and for any future use contact Laurie Campbell www.lauriecampbell.com)

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Mar 242017
 

With thanks to Lisa Marley Press.

An award-winning Aberdonian wildlife filmmaker, hailed by renowned naturalist Mark Avery as ‘gifted’, has launched a crowdfunding campaign to produce a new documentary following an experimental human wolf pack in the Scottish Highlands.

Lisa Marley (25), from Westhill, has created an Indiegogo campaign to raise funds to make the film, Project Wolf, which will highlight Scotland’s studies into reintroducing species and restoring ecosystems, known as rewilding.

The film will follow the activities of charity Trees for Life’s Project Wolf – a human wolf pack – as it investigates the environmental impact of reintroducing wolves to the Caledonian Forest in Glen Moriston, near Loch Ness. By recreating the behaviours of natural predators, the charity hopes to discover how this would affect the movements and grazing of red deer, in an effort to restore plant life and allow new growth to thrive.

Wildlife and conservation enthusiasts can donate to the campaign at www.indiegogo.com/at/projectwolf until April 19 to help bring the film to the big screen, in exchange for a series of perks ranging from guide books and gift cards to production credits and invitations to film festivals.

Lisa says,

“I have always been interested in rewilding. The idea of reintroducing species to an ecosystem in order to restore natural balance is inherently fascinating. It allows us not only to examine the interactions of flora and fauna, but also to evaluate our own relationships with nature.

“Trees for Life’s work in the Highlands is at the forefront of rewilding study in Scotland, and its work with a human wolf pack allows for a unique perspective on the issues surrounding rewilding. By following the wolf pack’s movements, and interviewing the key figures involved in the project, I hope to allow a greater understanding of the importance of this work.

“Project Wolf is something of a passion project for me: it’s a wonderful story that I feel is important to tell, and I’d love to be able to do that in my own way. But I can’t do that alone, and I hope that the wildlife and conservation communities will share my enthusiasm for learning more about this incredible project.

“By donating via Indiegogo, those with an interest in rewilding can help spread the word and bring the issue to the attention of a much wider audience.”

Alan Watson Featherstone, founder of Trees for Life, believes that the film will help to raise the profile of rewilding and bring it to the public’s attention. He says,

“Project Wolf is an innovative project run by Trees for Life, using enthusiastic and dedicated volunteers to patrol the edge of the native Caledonian Forest, to disturb deer that are grazing on native tree seedlings, preventing their growth.

“It seeks to mimic the natural disturbance effect of missing predators, such as the wolf, and has the potential to be replicated in many parts of Scotland (and elsewhere), greatly assisting the process of forest restoration.

“This film will play a crucial role in communicating the value, importance and effectiveness of the project, so please support it with a donation – you will be directly helping the recovery of the Caledonian Forest.”

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.

This weekend it will be screened at the inaugural Wild Film Festival Scotland in Dumfries, and will be shown at the Wildlife Conservation Film Festival in New York in 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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Mar 172017
 

With thanks to Richard Bunting, Director, Richard Bunting PR.

Scottish nature charity Trees for Life has won £376,800 of highly sought after funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund’s (HLF) ‘Skills for the Future’ programme. The funding will enable Trees for Life to train 15 people over a three-year period in wild forest restoration skills.

Steve Micklewright, CEO of Trees for Life, said:

“There is a shortage of people who are able to manage estates to bring back natural forests and wildlife to the Highlands. This funding will help us train people in these skills, bringing new employment opportunities to local people and to fill the skills gap.”

Lucy Casot, Head of the Heritage Lottery Fund in Scotland, said:

“We know that our Skills for the Future programme is driving successful and lasting change. It’s providing a much-needed pool of talented people who will be the future guardians of the heritage sector, ensuring that it continues to flourish.

“By pairing trainees with experts, they gain access to specialist knowledge plus practical, paid, on-the-job experience. It’s simple yet highly effective, but requires funding which we are delighted to provide.”

Trees for Life will recruit five trainees each year for three years, starting in 2018. Over the course of a year, the trainees will have the opportunity to learn and develop the essential skills needed to save the Caledonian Forest ­– a type of woodland found only in the Highlands of Scotland. They will receive practical training in specialist tree propagation, deer management for nature conservation, native forest management techniques, wildlife monitoring and community engagement.

Trainees will also learn how to interpret landscapes through innovative sources of information such as Gaelic place names, which often describe which trees and other wildlife once thrived in an area.

Steve Micklewright said:

“We will be looking in particular for a broad range of trainees – especially young people from the Highlands, women, and people seeking a career change – to increase the diversity of people working in Highland estate management.”

The training will be based at Trees for Life’s flagship Dundreggan Conservation Estate and will be accredited by the University of the Highlands and Islands.

Trees for Life is an award-winning charity working to restore the native Caledonian Forest and its unique wildlife to the spectacular Highlands of Scotland, including to its 10,000-acre Dundreggan Conservation Estate.

The charity’s work is about people as much as places. Much of this is carried out by volunteers and is funded by its members, and by charitable trusts, corporate supporters and other donors.

The charity’s rewilding activity also includes working for the return of rare woodland wildlife and plants, and carrying out scientific research and education programmes. See www.treesforlife.org.uk 

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Feb 242017
 

With thanks to Richard Bunting, Director, Richard Bunting PR.

Peter Chandler sweep-netting for fungus gnats beside a lone Scots pine on Dundreggan in August 2016

Surveys at Trees for Life’s Dundreggan Conservation Estate near Loch Ness have revealed a range of rare species, including a midge never recorded in the United Kingdom before – underlining the site’s growing reputation as a ‘lost world’ for biodiversity.
The discovery of the non-biting midge (Chironomus vallenduuki) by entomologist Peter Chandler last August brings the total of UK biodiversity firsts found at the Inverness-shire estate to 11.

Other key findings during the charity’s 2016 survey season included two rare gnats whose larvae feed on fungi.

One of these (Sciophila varia) is only known from four other UK sites. The other (Mycomya nigricornis) is only known in the UK from a handful of Scottish sites and had not been seen since 1990.

“Dundreggan is a special part of the Caledonian Forest that keeps on revealing beautiful, interesting and rare species. The surprisingly rich wealth of life in this corner of the Highlands highlights the importance of concerted conservation action to protect and restore Scotland’s wild places,” said Alan Watson Featherstone, Trees for Life’s founder.

The charity also found two parasitic wasps (Homotropus pallipes and Diphyus salicatorius), for which there are very few Scottish records, and – for the first time in Scotland north of the River Tay – a pseudoscorpion called the knotty shining claw (Lamprochernes nodosus).

A micro-moth, the small barred longhorn (Adela croesella) – only documented at three other locations in Scotland, and never before this far north – was found by volunteer Richard Davidson. Richard had been taking part in one of Trees for Life’s popular volunteer Conservation Weeks at Dundreggan when he found the moth.

“Our latest discoveries add to an already-remarkable range of rare and endangered species found at Dundreggan – some of which were previously unknown in the UK or Scotland, or which were feared to be extinct,” added Alan Watson Featherstone.

New species for the UK discovered on the estate in recent years were three sawflies (Nematus pravus, Nematus pseudodispar and Amauronematus tristis), an aphid (Cinara smolandiae), two aphid parasitoids (Ephedrus helleni, Praon cavariellae), three fungus gnats (Brevicornu parafennicum, Mycomya disa, Sceptonia longisetosa), and a mite (Ceratozetella thienemanni).

Parasitic wasp Diphyus salicatorius

Dundreggan has also revealed the second-ever British record of a waxfly species (Helicoconis hirtinervis); a golden horsefly (Atylotus fulvus) only seen once before in Scotland since 1923; and the juniper shieldbug (Cyphostethus tristriatus), thought to be the first Highlands record.

In total, more than 3,300 species have now been recorded at the forest restoration site.
At least 68 of these are priority species for conservation.

Members of the public can volunteer to help plant half a million trees at Dundreggan as part of Trees for Life’s award-winning restoration of the Caledonian Forest. The charity’s rewilding activity also includes working for the return of rare woodland wildlife and plants, and carrying out scientific research and education programmes. See www.treesforlife.org.uk.

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Feb 102017
 

With thanks to Richard Bunting, Director, Richard Bunting PR.

Record numbers of three dolphin species off Scotland’s west coast were recorded by conservation charity Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust in its marine research expeditions in 2016. 
From the trust’s specialized research yacht Silurian, volunteers and scientists recorded 2,303 individual common dolphins, 42 bottlenose dolphins and 94 Risso’s dolphins – the figures for all three species being the highest ever recorded in its annual survey seasons.

Average annual figures documented over the previous 14 years were 463 individual common dolphins, 14 bottlenose dolphins and 12 Risso’s dolphins. 

For common dolphins, these records range from 0 individuals encountered in a couple of the earlier field seasons to 1,862 during the 2007 season. 

Dr. Lauren Hartny-Mills, Science Officer of Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust, said:

“The reasons for the high number of sightings of these charismatic dolphin species – and the broader effects on the marine environment and other species – remain unclear. But the intriguing findings highlight the importance of on-going monitoring and research – to strengthen our understanding of what is taking place in Hebridean waters, and to ensure well-informed conservation action.”

The latest findings were made in a research season lasting from May to October 2016, as part of the trust’s unique long-term citizen science project monitoring whales, dolphins and porpoises – collectively known as cetaceans – as well as basking sharks in the Hebrides.

These annual research surveys depend on paying volunteers, with 71 welcomed aboard in 2016 – working with marine scientists on visual surveys and acoustic monitoring with underwater microphones or hydrophones, and identifying individual cetaceans through photography.

The Isle of Mull-based organisation now holds data from more than 95,000km of survey effort. It aims to pass the 100,000km milestone during 2017, and it is currently recruiting volunteers to support this by working as citizen scientists onboard Silurian for periods of almost two weeks from April to September.

Alison Lomax, Director of Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust, said: “The impressive range of species documented in our at-sea surveys last year is a powerful reminder that Scotland’s west coast ocean environment is home to remarkable marine life. Long-term scientific studies of this globally-important habitat and its inhabitants are crucial if we are to ensure a secure future for the Hebrides’ spectacular cetaceans.”

During 2016, Silurian – previously used in filming of the BBC’s The Blue Planet series – covered more than 5,000 nautical miles, compared to an average of almost 4,000 miles annually over the previous 14 years. Its crew documented more than 1,300 cetaceans and basking sharks, and recorded almost 700 hours of underwater detections of cetaceans using specialist listening equipment.

Notable highlights included a wonderful encounter with a humpback whale in the northern Minch – an hour was spent with the massive creature lunge feeding, tail slapping and swimming under Silurian, alongside a large group of common dolphins.

2016 also saw Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust’s first expeditions running out of Ullapool, allowing for surveys in the more northern and western parts of the charity’s study area.

Western Scotland’s seas are one of Europe’s most important cetacean habitats. With a long, complex coastline, strong ocean currents and a variety of habitats, the Hebrides is one of the UK’s most biologically productive areas. So far 24 of the world’s estimated 92 cetacean species have been recorded in the region – many being national and international conservation priority species.

Yet marine ecosystems are fragile, and cetaceans face increasing stress from human activities – including climate change, entanglement, pollution, underwater noise and habitat degradation.

Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust has been monitoring marine mega fauna in the Hebrides since 1994, and from Silurian since 2002. Its surveys are partly funded by a generous grant from Scottish Natural Heritage, which supports the training of future mammal scientists.

The charity is the only organisation collecting long-term data on such a large scale on Scotland’s west coast, and its volunteers and scientists have now recorded more than 12,000 cetaceans. A short film about surveys can be seen at https://youtu.be/M_3r-GKfh8o.

Participation costs for the forthcoming 2017 surveys cover boat expenses, accommodation, training, food and insurance, and support the trust’s research. For details of how to take part, contact volunteercoordinator@hwdt.org, call 01688 302620, or visit www.hwdt.org.

 

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Dec 062016
 
pupils-from-invergarry-primary-school-with-singer-and-harpist-claire-hewitt-medium

Pupils from Invergarry Primary School with singer and harpist Claire Hewitt.

With thanks to Richard Bunting, Director, Richard Bunting PR.

Schools in the Highlands are working with conservation charity Trees for Life to learn firsthand about native woodlands and rewilding through a new project that combines tree planting with storytelling, folklore, history, geography, poetry and song.

Around 300 pupils in Cannich, Balnain, Drumnadrochit, Fort Augustus and Invergarry are taking part in the Rewilding the Highlands project, which is supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

“This is an exciting collaboration in which teachers and pupils are working together to discover more about our precious native woodlands and the importance of restoring Scotland’s ancient Caledonian Forest,” said Alan Watson Featherstone, Trees for Life’s Founder.

Specially commissioned teaching resources written by Sallie Harkness and Carol Omand of Storyline Scotland – including stories, songs and puppets – are bringing the project alive for the schoolchildren. The pupils are also learning about past relationships between people and trees, Gaelic place-names, and the craft of the storyteller or seanachaidh.

Storyteller, singer and harpist Claire Hewitt recently visited Invergarry Primary School to share woodland folklore, songs and stories, while training upper primary pupils as apprentice storytellers.

Gaelic storyteller Ariel Killick also visited Invergarry Primary School and Kilchuimen Primary School in Fort Augustus, using her engaging workshop ‘Adventures with the Gaelic Tree Alphabet’ to explore environmental issues, Gaelic poetry and language, and the Highland clearances.

Kim Bentley, Head Teacher at Invergarry Primary School, said:

“This fantastic project is helping to strengthen our pupils’ appreciation and love of our native woodlands. It’s wonderful for them to be involved in the restoration of the Caledonian Forest, and to be part of something that will have a lasting impact on future generations.”

The project addresses a wide range of curriculum areas including outdoor learning, science, Gaelic, arts and literacy. Participating schools have visited Trees for Life’s acclaimed Dundreggan Conservation Estate in Glenmoriston to find out more about conservation and to help in the charity’s tree nursery. 

Plans for the schools also include community celebrations of the project, and walks in community woodlands with pupils who are to be trained as nature guides.

Next spring, poets Alec Finlay and Ken Cockburn will work with secondary schools on a Gaelic place-name map, using linguistic archaeology to reveal lost woods and wildlife in Glen Affric, Glen Urquhart, Glenmoriston and Glen Garry. Pupils will carry out research, with their discoveries added to the map.

The Caledonian Forest has been an important part of the Highlands’ culture and natural landscape for millennia, but is now one of the UK’s most endangered habitats – largely because of over-grazing, which prevents natural regeneration of its trees. For details about Trees for Life’s award-winning work to save the forest, visit www.treesforlife.org.uk.

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Nov 282016
 

With thanks to Richard Bunting, Director, Richard Bunting PR.

beaver-pixabay-nutria-1386446_1280 Welcoming the Scottish government’s decision to allow reintroduced beavers to remain in the country, Trees for Life said that it plans to move ahead with investigating possibilities for bringing beavers to areas north of the Great Glen, working with local communities to identify where they might live without perceived adverse impacts.

Steve Micklewright, Trees for Life’s Chief Executive said:

“Today’s decision means that beavers can naturally spread through Scotland in the future. There is a lot of space in the Highlands where they could thrive, improving the region for other wildlife and providing a tourist attraction that will benefit the local economy.”

However, the main obstacle to the natural spread of beavers to the Highlands is geography. Steve Micklewright said:

“The Great Glen presents a natural barrier to beavers colonising the area on their own from the existing populations in Argyll and Tayside, so the only way to be sure they will return to the northwest Highlands would be to give them a helping hand.”

Trees for Life has long been an advocate for the Eurasian beaver’s reintroduction to Scotland and has been working on the possibility to reintroduce them for many years. In 2015 the charity commissioned initial research by beaver experts, which indicated that places such as Glen Affric could support beavers.

The planting of aspen trees – a vital winter food for beavers – by Trees for Life in areas beside Loch Beinn a’ Mheadhoin and Loch Affric in Glen Affric, and beside the River Moriston at the charity’s Dundreggan Conservation Estate in Glenmoriston, has also improved the prospect of these areas being suitable for beaver reintroduction in the future.

Trees for Life is supportive of the return of beavers because they can improve the health of rivers and lochs, and also reduce flooding. They coppice and fell trees, letting light into the forest and enabling other plants to flourish, while stimulating new growth of the trees themselves. Their small dams create wetland areas, providing habitats for amphibians, invertebrates and fish, which in turn attract birds and otters.

While the benefits to other wildlife of beaver reintroduction are significant, the government’s announcement recognises that some residents may be concerned about the possible impact of beavers on their interests and that this requires careful management.

Acknowledging that some people might be worried about potential local impacts such as flooding and beavers felling trees to build dams, Steve Micklewright said:

“While it is certain that beavers could live in the Highlands, the next step is to ensure they would be a welcome addition to the landscape. That is why we plan to work out where they would be welcome. Then we plan to enter in to dialogue with the government to explore how we can help them to return to those areas.”

Pictures courtesy of Pixabay, used under creative commons permissions. Featured image credit: Elli60. Thumbnail credit: Antranias. Top right image credit: Peter Lösch.

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