Beavers are a boost to wildlife tourism in Argyll.

lynn blog

Along with many other tourism business owners in the area who have benefitted from the Scottish Beaver Trial being located in the Knapdale Forest, I am keen to hear whether the Scottish Government will approve the continuation of the reintroduction of the Knapdale Beavers at the trial site.  I had heard that the scientific report had been submitted this year and that the project was awaiting the decision from the Environment Minister, so I was delighted to hear that the Minister (Dr Aileen McLeod) was going to visit the site before making her decision, and was keen to meet some representatives from local tourism businesses to hear how the project had affected tourism in the area.

I was very pleased to be invited, along with Calum Ross from Loch Melfort Hotel and Christine Dobson from the Cairnbaan Hotel to meet with the Minister when she visited last Thursday (21 May 2015) and be given the time with her to talk about the impact that the trial has had on our businesses.

The meeting was organised by SNH, who arranged a visit to Dubh Loch and Barnlusagan Loch to show the minister the sites where some of the beavers have settled and made a significant impact on the landscape.  Time was also scheduled for the minister to have a relaxed coffee break and to meet with ourselves in the Barnlusagan cabin.

As the beaver trial has had a significant impact on my business I was keen to tell her about the increased publicity that the area has received as a result of the trial: in 2011 BBC Springwatch visited the site and the Knapdale forest was very much put on the map during prime time TV viewing.  Charlie Hamilton James presented a nightly update on his experiences at the trial site, raising public interest in the project. We were also lucky to have the Springwatch team visit our B&B to film a pine marten that visits frequently and to discuss with us the value of wildlife tourism to a small business like ours.   We benefitted instantly from the publicity of the beaver trial and the coverage of our B&B and still have guests returning every year who found out about us through watching Springwatch.  Similarly in 2012, Ray Mears visited the beaver trial site (and our B&B) and footage of the Knapdale beavers and our pine marten was shown on ‘Wild Britain’ on ITV & STV . In the same year the ‘One Show’ team also visited the site and provided excellent coverage of the project.  The minister recognised that the area would not have benefitted from such publicity without the beaver trial.

We were also keen to explain the importance of wildlife tourism to an area like this.  In January 2015, tourism businesses were invited to attend some pilot workshops (‘Wild about Argyll’) that were sponsored by Argyll and The Isles Tourism Cooperative, SNH and FCS.  I was the presenter of these workshops and was able to relay the enthusiasm that the 24 attendees demonstrated: recognising the wealth of wildlife that this part of Argyll is able to offer the wildlife enthusiast and wanting to work together to promote this area as serious wildlife tourism destination.  It was recognised by businesses in the immediate area that the beaver project provided visitors with some unique wildlife spotting opportunities, and the uncertainty as to whether the reintroduction would continue was a concern for some businesses wanting to use this unique selling point to attract more visitors.

Both myself, Christine & Calum were able to report experience of visitors wanting to stay longer having found out that the trial site was nearby and recognised that visitors who do not see beavers on their first visit are happy to return to give themselves another chance at seeing a beaver.  When visitors are successful in seeing a beaver, they are keen to let their friends and family know by ‘tweeting’ and ‘facebooking’ their experience which is increasing valuable ‘word of mouth’ style marketing for the area.

We discussed with her the diversity of business that were benefitting from the increase in tourism numbers and tourism spend:  illustrating that it is not just accommodation providers who are reaping the benefits: photographing the beavers is a popular attraction, visitors spend money on food and gifts while in the area and in the summer months, many buy midge repellent and nets to allow them longer at the loch side at dusk!

We had 30 minutes talking about these experiences with the minister. She seemed genuinely interested in the positive effect that such a project was having on tourism, recognising that at a time when the whole of the UK was struggling through a recession, we were able to attract a new stream of visitors who had not heard of the Knapdale forest previously and were excited to see an indigenous species returning to shape the Scottish landscape.

Recognising that businesses needed more certainty about the future of the project she assured us that the report was getting her full attention, but that it would still be a while until the final decision is announced.  We were however impressed that she had taken the time in her busy schedule to visit the site and listen to our experiences and we hope that the future of the Knapdale beavers will be

Lynn Jones

Owner: Dunchraigaig House B&B

Kilmartin Glen

and

Freelance Development Agent – Heart of Argyll and Inveraray

  Argyll & The Isles Tourism Cooperative Ltd

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Environment Ministers visits the Trial site.

ministers visit

The Minister for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform, Dr Aileen McLeod has visited the Scottish Beaver Trial for the first time since taking up the post last year to learn more about the project ahead of a decision on the future of beavers in Scotland.

The five-year scientific monitoring period of the trial, which was overseen by Scottish Natural Heritage, came to an end last year. Scottish Ministers will decide later this year on allowing beavers to remain in Scotland and if wider reintroductions will take place, after considering the results of the Scottish Beaver Trial, findings from Tayside Beaver Study Group and considerations of European experiences.

The visit allowed  Dr McLeod to meet with officials from the Scottish Beaver Trial, local businesses, Forestry Commission Scotland and Scottish Natural Heritage to learn more about beavers, their effects and the Trial’s impact on the local area.

Project Manager of the Scottish Beaver Trial, Simon Jones, said: “On behalf of the Scottish Beaver Trial, I would like to thank the Minister for taking the time to visit the project and learn more about how the beavers have impacted the area.

“The trial has been very successful in allowing a great deal of important data to the gathered over the last five years – we have learned so much about these fascinating mammals. The research co-ordinated by SNH and the independent monitoring partners has looked at all aspects of the trial re-introduction including impacts on the local economy, the environment and of course the people of Argyll.

“All this information will be of great value in helping the Minster take a decision on the future of beavers in Scotland.”

Minister for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform, Dr Aileen McLeod, said: Minister for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Dr McLeod said:

“Today I had the opportunity to see the beaver trial in Knapdale the impacts this trial has had in the local area.  The work of the Scottish Beaver Trial has brought together a wide range of interested parties to examine the impact of beavers.

“I am awaiting advice from Scottish Natural Heritage which will set out the impact of beavers, including the benefits to biodiversity and economic benefits through tourism, provided by the presence of beavers in Scotland.”

The Scottish Beaver Trial is a partnership led by the Scottish Wildlife Trust and the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland. It is hosted at Knapdale by Forestry Commission Scotland. It is the first licensed reintroduction of a mammal to the UK and brought the beaver back to Scotland after a 400 year absence.

Last year, a YouGov poll found 60% of Scottish adults supported the reintroduction of beavers, with only 5% opposed. Independent monitoring reports released by Scottish Natural Heritage found the Scottish Beaver Trial had positive impacts on the local economy.

During the five year period, the Scottish Beaver Trial has engaged almost 3 million people about beaver ecology through television appearances, educational programmes and site visits. The scientific monitoring required 11,817 hours of fieldwork, such as beaver tracking, lodge surveillance and water sampling.

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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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