Spring has Sprung!

If we are not mistaken, spring is rapidly approaching…! The primroses are beginning to emerge, frogspawn is appearing in the lochs and the first ospreys have returned and now with the changing of the clocks the nights are stretching.


A Primrose on the banks of Lochan Beag.

All these changes mean that work for the SBT team is all go! As we are now in April, it is time for our last field sign survey before the monitoring phase of the trial comes to a completion at the end of May. As always, our wider search efforts outside of the trial continue in order to establish if any of our dispersed beavers can be located.

Yesterday we searched a small loch that flows into Loch Awe…the longest loch (41 km) and 3rd largest loch in Scotland. The small loch we were searching is fringed with reeds and in the summer, ospreys can be seen fishing here. A lovely day on the canoe, but despite thorough searching, no beaver signs were found. We did however see three ospreys and we even watched a pair mating!!

IMG_3646 photoA couple of photos from the field…including some amorous toads.

Trapping for annual health check purposes will continue right up until the end of May, and we have a few individual beavers which we will be targeting to gather final information such as weight, so this means some exciting evenings out on the water. We will also be carrying out additional evening observations to locate all the individual animals, particularly any of last year’s kits which have not been seen this year.

Hopefully our adult beaver females will be pregnant now and not too far off giving birth within the safety of their lodges. Any kits however, will generally not emerge from the lodge until early July. Once emerged the kits will remain close to the lodge at first, but as confidence grows they will begin to explore their surroundings a lot more and venture further from the safety of their lodge. We hope for another year of successful breeding.

Spring is a beautiful time of year to visit Knapdale and the surrounding areas. Our Guided walks begin tomorrow night and will continue through the spring and summer…so to avoid disappointment call 01546 603 346 and book a place now. Lets cross our fingers and hope for a good number of kits in the last year of the trial!

IMG_7708 - Version 2One of last year’s kits recently after emergence on the Dubh Loch


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Spring Guided Walks

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Guided walks from the Barnluasgan car park, down to the Dubh loch and the beaver dam will begin on Sat 5th April and run throughout April on Tuesday and Saturday evenings from 6pm.  Book a place on one of our walks by … Continue reading

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Second beaver lesson at Castlehill Primary School

The primary 2 and 3 children at Castlehill Primary School in Campbeltown had a second beaver lesson last week.  When I walked into their classroom I was faced with a fantastic wall display made from writing work and pictures that they had done after my last visit.

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This time, the lesson was all about the habitat that beavers create, and all the other wildlife that lives there.  The children  created a big picture of a woodland scene with a stream flowing through it, they then added the wildlife they would expect to see in such an environment.  We then added beavers to the picture and talked about what changes would happen now the beavers were there.  The children did some excellent sound effects as they made the picture beavers chop down the picture trees to create a dam and lodge (I never knew beavers sounded like chain saws!) after the dam came the pond.  Once this was added to the picture the children added lots more animals and plants to the habitat, and people too because they thought it would be a great place to visit.

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The next part of the lesson involved the children going around six work stations in the room filling in their workbooks as they went.  At each station, they had to use the clues to correctly identify an animal, build plant jigsaws, make a duck’s nest, match up cards with pictures of people and the activities they could be doing, and put their hands into ‘feely bags’ to identify the life-cycle of a frog.

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The children all worked really well together in their groups, there was lots of sharing and good communication between them all, and I was very impressed with their vocabulary and understanding of lots of words that I thought would be new to them – I think they had been doing some research!

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In the last part of the lesson, we used foam building blocks with pictures of animals and plants on them.  The children worked together to build an arch out of the blocks with the beaver block as the ‘keystone’ holding the rest of the arch together.  This helped illustrate how the other wildlife depends on the beaver and the habitat they have created.  The children then got to knock the beaver keystone out of the arch and watched what happened to the rest of the arch when the keystone was removed – crash!

P1050884  P1050885 I had a great day at Castlehill, the children were so enthusiastic, and I think they enjoyed themselves as well.  Hopefully in the spring they will get to come up to Knapdale and see some of the wildlife for themselves.



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The Beaver in Scotland – what next?

If you are free on Monday 27th January and would like to know more about what the future holds for beavers in Scotland, then head to the Kilmartin Museum for an informative talk given by SBT project manager Simon Jones. 19:00 – booking required – 01546 510278SJ KHM talk poster

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Katie and Hélèna on their SBT experience so far

Currently there are two long term student volunteers at the Scottish Beaver Trial, Katie and Hélèna. While here we have both had plenty of opportunities to observe and learn from the beaver trial staff in different jobs such as using camera traps, water sampling and monitoring, mink monitoring, beaver trapping, night time observations and beaver field sign surveys.

Field sign survey

Hélèna and Katie

Katie’s Experience
Back in August 2013 I arrived to start a 10 month placement with the Scottish Beaver Trial as part of my course. I am doing a MSci in Zoology which involves a year out between 3rd and 4th year to gain field skills and complete a project which I am doing on the reactions of Eurasian beavers to different predator scents.
I am now almost half way through my placement with just 5 months left to go.  A memorable moment came in my very first week here, when I was out in the project boat as the field staff attempted to catch Frank, an adult male beaver on Loch Linne in order to give him his annual health check. Unfortunately for us Frank didn’t show up but Frid his mate was spotted, and as we got closer she slapped her tail and dived under the water, but we got to see her swimming underwater really clearly which was great to see so close up. Since then I have seen several of the adult beavers during their annual health checks with the field staff and local vet as well as seeing them coming out at night to feed which was great to observe them behaving so naturally and relaxed in the wild.  

Katie setting up pilot study for predator scent study

Katie setting up pilot study for predator scent study

Hélèna’s Experience
I come from Paris where I am working towards a degree in Environmental Studies at an engineering school. I am doing a five-month internship at the Scottish Beaver Trial. If you like field work then this place is perfect. The day to day jobs include field sign surveys, trapping beavers (from my own experience I have not seen as many beavers as I hoped I would…), collecting water samples etc.  But different events can also happen like going with Oly (our Education Ranger) and a group of local school children to discover beaver signs or assisting a team of cameramen making a film for an advertisement with a flying camera!

I am also doing a project about the relationship between beaver tail sizes and their body condition. That is interesting as it is the start of the study so I am free to think about what  I would like to do (create a database, statistics, thinking about figures that could be useful and interesting to go further), with the advice of my professor.


Hélèna in the canoe at Loch Coille-Bharr

We both are looking forward to our remaining time at the Scottish Beaver trial in the New Year.

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Dynamic Rodents

Dynamic earth 2 The Scottish Beaver Trial education team recently spent two days at Edinburgh’s science centre Dynamic Earth. The team were there to engage with both primary and high school pupils. On each visit, the team took along a collection of beaver stuff, such as pelts, sticks and skulls, as well as a selection of video clips from the Knapdale camera traps, which really grabbed people’s attention! The team explained the role of the beaver in Scotland’s environment, and the influence they have on land and water they inhabit.

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MPs visit the Scottish Beaver Trial site

The Scottish Beaver Trial was visited recently by MP for Argyll and Bute, Alan Reid, and MP for Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch & Strathspey, Danny Alexander. As both are keen hill-walkers, Mr Alexander wanted to take the opportunity to see the Scottish Beaver Trial while visiting his colleague after hearing of the economic boost received to the area since the trial began.  They were accompanied by representatives from the project’s partners: Chief Executive of the Scottish Wildlife Trust, Simon Milne,  Vice Chair of the Board for Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, Colin Galbraith and Forestry Commission Scotland Forest District Manager, West Argyll, David Jardine  and shown around the trial site by the Scottish Beaver Trial Project Manager, Simon Jones.


Simon Jones (SBT Project Manager) with Colin Galbraith (Vice-Chair, RZSS Board), Alan Reid MP, Danny Alexander MP and Simon Milne (CEO, SWT)

Mr Alexander said: “Our spectacular scenery and enviable environment bring tens of thousands of tourist to Scotland and make a huge contribution to our economy, so the Scottish Beaver Trial is to be congratulated on their contribution. By reintroducing this former native mammal, this project highlights the stunning habitats, perfect for this species that are present in Argyll and seem to have contributed greatly to local tourism.  As an MP for the Highlands and a keen hill-walker I want to see our unique natural environment and wildlife protected and cared for.”


Project Manager for the Scottish Beaver Trial, Simon Jones said: “The Scottish Beaver Trial is thankful for Alan Reid MP and Danny Alexander MP taking time out of their busy schedules to visit Knapdale.  As we are coming into the final year of the Scottish Beaver Trial, it is great that they have managed to get the opportunity to see the work that has been done here, and hear more about the economic benefits from increased tourism to Argyll and Bute.  Over the past months, the Scottish Beaver Trial has received lots of encouraging feedback from local business owners about the level of visitors coming to the area since the trial began.  We know that beavers are good for wider ecosystem health and there have been some positive signs that re-introducing beavers have been beneficial to this area.  However, it will be up to the Scottish Government to decide whether beavers remain in Scotland after the end of the Scottish Beaver Trial.”

Mr Reid said: “The Scottish Beaver Trial has brought great economic benefit to the Argyll and Bute area.  As the MP for the area, it is great to have an opportunity to see the work of the Scottish Beaver Trial and thank them for giving me a tour to find out more about the project.”


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Field work on a lovely Autumn day at the Dubh loch.

‘Team Beaver’ spent the day concentrating on the Dubh loch beaver site last week.  Rob and Oly went out on the canoe to check for fresh field signs on any of the trees in the water, and have a close look at the lodge. Student placements Katie and Helena started walking around the Dubh loch with a GPS device re-mapping the edges of the beaver pond so that we can compare how water levels have changed since the summer.

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After finishing on the canoe, Rob and Oly walked round the other side of the Dubh Loch with another GPS device, to meet Katie and Helena in the middle.

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Some areas were very dense and quite tricky to get through!

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Rob GPS mapping the area at the back of the Dubh Loch near the beaver dam.

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The dam is starting to stand out in the landscape again now that we are approaching winter as the greenery is beginning to die back exposing the complex timber and mud structure built by our resident ecosystem engineers.

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We found some fantastic fungi in the woods…

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…and a great example of a beaver built canal showing off their fantastic engineering skills.


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RSPB Nature of Scotland Awards 2013


The Scottish Beaver Trial team attended the RSPB Nature of Scotland Awards ceremony  held in the Sheraton Grand Hotel in Edinburgh on 30th November.


The evening was hosted by comedian and talk show host Fred MacAulay and broadcast writer Sally Magnusson who kept the 300 attendees entertained.

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After a drinks reception sponsored by Black Grouse Whisky, we were all ushered through to the dining hall where we were to be served a lovely 3 course dinner.  We perhaps got a little over enthusiastic about our desserts, but … well, how often do we get out of our wellies and waterproofs, get dressed up and are treated to a lovely meal, now be honest, wouldn’t you want to eat this too?


After dinner, the awards presentation ceremony began. There were 8 categories of awards, comprising of Marine Conservation, Sustainable Development, Community Initiative, Politician of the Year, Innovation, Youth and Education, Outstanding Contribution, and RSPB Species Champion.

SBT were in the final four in the running for the Innovation Award, and we were very pleased to be placed as runner up gaining a Highly Commended award. Our congratulations go to the Cairngorms Wildcat Project, who won the Innovation category.


official photograph from Simon Williams Photography

We would also like to congratulate another local project; Snapberry (Collaboration between SNH and Lochgilphead High School) for achieving runner up for the Community Initiative Award category and also receiving a Highly Commended award.

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Professor Aubrey Manning OBE also received a surprise Lifetime Achievement Award at the ceremony and gave a very heartfelt acceptance speech.

The evening wound to an end with musical entertainment and a chance to mingle with the other attendees back out in the bar area where lots of congratulation were being given and received.

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Our Certificate now holds pride of place on our office wall.



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Beavers make it onto Scottish Schools Radio

Check out these two broadcasts about the Knapdale beavers for lower and upper Primary School children.

Broadcast for older primary children

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p01hcq2y -

Broadcast for younger primary children


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