Spring Field Sign Searches

During the last two weeks of March, the Scottish beaver trial field staff and volunteers have been busy doing a sweep of the trial area checking for fresh beaver field signs and any notable beaver impacts.

Calm day in the canoe on Lock Linne

Calm day in the canoe on Loch Linne

 

We ventured out onto some lochs in the canoe to gain a better view. Lots of little wrens followed us as we paddled near the loch banks. We kept a close eye out for fresh feeding stations – key indicators that beavers are still active in that area. We were extremely lucky some days where the water was so calm it was like glass!

 

We had a total of 12 camera traps to put out over the two weeks to gain a better picture of the distribution of beavers and we did get some excellent footage. At Loch Coille Bharr for example, we recorded two adults on various nights, Millie and Bjornar, grooming each other and feeding. We also sighted Trude, Frank and many other beavers on camera showing they are still very much active and enjoying the area.

Apples and cameras were put out on the new lodge on Barnslaugan Loch

Apples and cameras were put out on the new lodge on Barnslaugan Loch

 

A recent addition to the area is a new beaver lodge on the loch of Barnslaugan next to the visitor centre. Here we put out some apples to entice the beavers in for a picture to give us an idea of who is present and beavering away. If you are in the area make sure to have a walk along the track to see if you can spot any beaver-chewed sticks and twigs.

 

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Some beaver building work!

We encountered lots of fresh feeding stations and some new constructions. Particularly on Lily loch where beavers have decided to create a little refuge under some conifers as can be seen in the picture on the left.

Some beavers were sighted out and about during the day. We had footage of beaver Frank out at around 3pm – he just couldn’t resist some apples! During the solar eclipse last month, we also saw a beaver out swimming at around 10pm. Ranger Oly suggested that it may have been confused and thought it was dusk!

 

 

Now that the clocks have leaped forward and the days are getting lighter, it will soon provide ideal watching conditions at dusk. So if you are out and about in the area in the evenings be sure to stop by as the sun is setting for a dusk watch. You might catch a glimpse of a beaver having a snack!

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Bruce Reaches the Summit

Delegates at the Argyll and Isles Tourism Cooperative Summit had a surprise visitor during their day spent at the splendid Ardgartan Hotel. Bruce, Argyll’s famous representative for the Scottish Beaver Trial, took centre stage during the participants lunchtime photo shoot. Never one to shy away from the media spotlight, Bruce had popped along just to make sure that the beaver community at Knapdale was uppermost in everyone’s minds.

Bruce at Ardgartan

As Bruce himself explained: ‘This event is all about finding ways of attracting more people to the area to enjoy its fantastic scenery, heritage, food and a great diversity of wildlife. I came along today with my Beaver Trial hat on (T-shirt to be precise) to remind folk to tell their customers all about the beavers in Argyll. I’m also a representative for all of the wild creatures that live here that folk might be lucky enough to see during their holiday.’

Earlier in the day delegates had been tested with a quiz all about the many amazing things to see and do in Argyll. One of the questions asked them to identify the largest mammal out of otter, pine marten, red squirrel and beaver. Whilst waiting for the photo shoot to begin one delegate (looking at Bruce) was heard saying to her colleague: ‘I told you the beaver was the biggest on that list!’

Bruce had to leave directly after lunchtime to return to his spring cleaning duties at the lodge. Rumours that he was seen hurrying away with a basket of chocolate brownies are entirely unfounded.

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Beaver Guided Walks starting soon

Spring is definitely well on the way now and your chances of spotting a beaver in Knapdale are increasing with the lighter evenings.  Our guided walks are about to begin over the Easter period. Why not join us for one of them and catch up with the latest beaver activity and tips on where to try spotting one for yourself. Give us a call and book your place now.

Guided Walks Poster Easter 2015

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Beavers at the Botanic Gardens.

Edinburgh went beaver mad over the valentines weekend this year! The beaver education team were out in force at the Royal Botanic Gardens inviting the public to take part in a range of fun activities.Amy colouring in

hab pic

 

There was a giant 3D habitat which people were able to populate with wildlife pictures, turning it into a great example of beaver populated biodiverse area. There were also staff on hand to supervise the ever popular dam building competition. There were also a variety of beaver artefacts including furs, skulls and even scented poo from various species!

Nick dam

beaver disp Our mascot Bruce the beaver was also on hand to give out hugs to passers- by and perform impromptu beaver dances throughout the weekend.

Rosa, foamarch

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Meet the scientists drop in event

Meet the scientists event

Meet the scientists event

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Lots of lessons.

Our Education Ranger has been very busy for the last couple of weeks visiting schools and giving Primary children lessons about beavers and other wildlife.

P5 children at Dalintober Primary School in Campbeltown have just taken part in the two beaver lessons that we offer. During the first ‘Beavers are Back’ lesson they had the change to handle different animal skulls and pelts, look at various animal feeding signs and have a go at building their own beaver dams.

While in the second ‘Beavers at Home’ lesson they built a picture of a loch habitat with all the animals and plants in it that benefit from the beavers presence.  During this lesson they used a key to help them identify various plants, and built a giant foam arch in which the beaver functions as the ‘key stone’ – holding the arch up and saw what happens when you remove one block.  They all agreed that the lessons were fun and they learned lots from them.

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Dalmally Primary school of 38 pupils form P1 – P7 have had four weeks of ‘Wildlife assemblies’, in which they covered various topics including mammals, reptiles, birds of prey including owls (which was a favourite), plant pollination and seed dispersal. Games and hands on sessions were very much enjoyed by the children and teachers alike, and we were incredibly impressed with the children’s knowledge, enthusiasm and all the new words they had learned.photo 1 (5) photo 1 (4) photo 2 (4) photo 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you would like our Ranger to visit your school for a beaver or wildlife lesson, then please contact us on : email –  ohemmings@scottishwildlifetrust.org.uk

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a great start to the year

Its an exciting start to 2015 at the Scottish Beaver Trial:

We have the dates finalised for this years (2015) Guided Site walks.  They will take place on Tuesday and Thursday evenings at 6pm, leaving from the Barnluasgan car park and visitor information centre from 7th – 16th April, and 30th June to 27th August.

The guided walks last around an hour and a half and give everyone the opportunity to chat with our Education Ranger about the beavers and the Trial.  The Ranger will guide people around part of the Knapdale site, taking in fresh beaver field signs such as gnawed branches. There will be an opportunity to get up close and personal with a beaver skull and pelt (not one of ours!) and conclude down at the Dubh loch dam. This gives participants the option of continuing a walk along Loch Coille-Bharr, in the hope of spotting a swimming beaver. The walks are timed so that they finish around the time the beavers begin to emerge for the evening, although sightings can not be guaranteed.

Look out for posters nearer the time on social media,  our website, and out and about around Argyll for more information on how to book your place.

Our other exciting news is that a new book ‘The Eurasian Beaver’ written by some of the SBT team among others on behalf of The Mammal Society, is now available to purchase and can be sourced here:-

http://www.pelagicpublishing.com/the-eurasian-beaver.html

The book presents a case for our future coexistence with beavers by providing factual information on this species that has now passed from national memory, covering the biology, behaviour and ecology of the Euration beaver in a British context, from their early history in archaeology and folklore to their contemporatry field signs in the wild.

Have a look and see for yourself.

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Bruce’s Christmas Carol

‘Phew! That’s a relief’ sighed Bruce, as teetering on top of a pile of logs; he attached the star to the top of the lodge’s Christmas tree.  ‘Don’t forget you’re taking the kits to the Stramash do in Oban this afternoon Bruce’ shouted Sheila from the kitchen.  ‘How could I?’ said Bruce, ‘they’ve talked of nothing else all week!’

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So, sporting a rather natty tinsel scarf and with the three kits in tow Bruce hopped on the Citylynx bus to Oban.  The bus was packed, Harry Otter, Balfour Badger, Sandra Stoat, Wilma Wildcat, Ronald Roe Deer and many others were on board along with a bundle of kittens, pups, fawns, whelps, kits and even a sea eagle eaglet.  ‘I can see little Samuel but where’s his mum?’ ‘Oh she’s on the roof Bruce’ said Harry, ‘there’s a two metre wingspan limit on this bus’. ‘I’m sure she’d have stayed furled if the bus driver had asked nicely’ thought Bruce.

 

 

Arriving just outside Oban, Bruce and his friends narrowly avoided being flattened as the herd of youngsters stampeded off the bus and up to the outdoor nursery.

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Within minutes it seemed they were all making wooden snowmen, toasting marshmallows, weaving Christmas garlands or eating too many cupcakes whilst others climbed trees, dug holes or flew off for a bit of fishing.  ‘Good turnout’ thought Bruce, ‘and lots of human kits as well’.

3Whilst surreptitiously trying out the tyre walk (and wondering whether he might look silly if he got stuck in it) Bruce became aware of a commotion up at the yurt.  The highlight of the event was to be the arrival of Father Christmas and he was late.  Looking at a sea of expectant small faces Bruce was aware that tears would not be far behind this news.  He quickly found Stella the sea eagle; ‘can you take a look and see if you can see him Stella?’ he asked. Stella was soon a speck in the distance as she headed north.  In the meantime Harry hurried down to the seashore to see if any of the local seals or porpoises had heard of any unexpected landings on water.

Within minutes both were back.  ‘He’s on the beach just north of here’ said Stella.  ‘Hare-Seal rescue’s in attendance’ said Harry ‘but there’s been a catastrophic magic leak from the onside sledge runner’.  As we all know Father Christmas’s sleigh is very, very heavy and the reindeer need a bit of magical help to keep it in the air.  The sleigh’s runners were made of aspen, common in Lapland and famed for its magical flying properties.

Bruce had an idea.  Beavers are very fond of aspen, but it is very rare in Argyll.  However Bruce knew there was one close by.  Hoping that the owner wouldn’t be too angry (the aspen was in a nearby garden), it was the work of a moment to gnaw through a length of the tree.  Stella quickly delivered it to Father Christmas before returning with a bunch of woodworking elves from a nearby elf-storage centre.

The busy little elves soon had the new runner fitted and as the sleigh raced away from the beach Bruce and Harry could hear the cheers of the children as it swept around the hillside to a chorus of Ho! Ho! Hos.

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On the bus back home whilst the kits, pups, kittens, whelps, fawns and Samuel the eaglet slept soundly clutching their presents  all the grown-ups joined in singing their favourite carols that included: The first vole, Do you hare what I hare, Away with a ranger, See amid the winter’s crow and many more.

 

 

 

5Bruce, Harry and Stella (the others wouldn’t hear of her being left outside) took a well-earned rest and looked forward to opening the extra special looking presents from a grateful Father Christmas (Bruce could smell the aspen, the others were rather fish-shaped).  ‘That was nice of him’ said Bruce. ‘Just goes to show’ said Harry and as we say ’Do unto otters…

 

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Partners publish final Scottish Beaver Trial report

The partner organisations behind the Scottish Beaver Trial (SBT), the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS) and the Scottish Wildlife Trust, today published their final report on this groundbreaking project that saw the first ever official trial mammal reintroduction into the UK.

Scottish-Beaver-Trial-final-report-(front-cover)

Commencing in spring 2009 in the Knapdale Forest, mid-Argyll, the scientific monitoring period of the Trial ended in May 2014. This report documents the entire process of the Scottish Beaver Trial, from the licence application through the release of the beavers and to the end of the monitoring period. It also examines the process objectively and the learning experiences from the reintroduction.

Last month, Scottish Natural Heritage also published six of the independent scientific monitoring reports that will be used for a Ministerial decision on the future of beavers in Scotland.

Project Manager of the Scottish Beaver Trial, Simon Jones, said:

“The Scottish Beaver Trial Final Report documents every part of the reintroduction process. If there are any further reintroductions of beavers to Scotland, our story will prove to be essential reading. Beavers have never been legally reintroduced to Scotland before, for that reason, this report records  the various lessons learned by the Scottish Beaver Trial team during the course of the project.”

Field Operations Manager for the Scottish Beaver Trial, Roisin Campbell-Palmer, said:

“A very special trial, the Scottish Beaver Trial allowed for ground breaking research and thorough monitoring taking place in Knapdale over the five year period. We hope our findings and learnings will form a template for similar future reintroduction projects across the UK and beyond.”

In 2013, the groundbreaking Scottish project was named ‘Best Conservation Project in the UK’ by BBC Countryfile magazine.

The carefully managed and monitored Trial has helped to understand how the beavers behave in a Scottish environment and during the five year period the Scottish Beaver Trial became a tourist attraction for visitors to the Argyll area

The findings of the Trial will help advise informed decisions to be made about the future of the species. The future of beaver reintroduction is ultimately up to the Scottish Government with a Ministerial decision expected in the second half of 2015.

Click here to read the final Scottish Beaver Trial report.

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Home improvements

It’s home improvement time for the beavers of Knapdale. Food is being cashed and stored underwater for the winter in the cool waters of the lochs – natures natural fridges. Now the beavers are working on adding insulation to their lodges.

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Lots of extra branches have been dragged up onto the lodge and ‘plastered’ in with layers of mud that the beavers are carrying up from the loch bottom, in their front paws.

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Here are some prints that the beavers left in the mud when they were patting it down and firming it into place with their front ‘paws’.

 

 

It may not be a frozen winter yet, but the beaver will be prepared just in case!

 

 

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