It’s Been a Busy Week

It sure has, but I have enjoyed every day of it!

As I mentioned in my last post, I secured an internship with SNH to work at Loch Leven NNR for a year. The best opportunity I’ve ever had!

Just days after receiving the good news, I was back on the train down to Perth to attend a 2-day course on “Working with the public outdoors”. I’ll give you a brief run-down of what this entailed..:

  • An overview of why SNH work with the public on their reserves by Neil Mitchell from SNH. This included health benefits, and getting people involved with and valuing nature more.
  • Licencing and legislation
  • Health and Safety: Including risk assessments, incident management, emergencies.
  • Equality in outdoor activities
  • Child protection
  • People with disabilities outdoors: This section done by Gordon McGregor of Paradventures, a really thought provoking lecture that has made me look at outdoor access in a completely different way.
  • Leadership
  • … and finally, Navigation.
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5-man shelter… or was it 6…

Everything mentioned above (except the two sections that say otherwise) were covered by Stuart Johnson of Climbmtns. I’d like to thank Stuart for managing to include an incredible amount of information that has made me think about the outdoors and outdoor activities in a completely different way!

I won’t go in depth as to what we learnt as that’s not why you’re here. If the name of my blog is anything to go by then you’re probably here for birds. So I’ll skip to Tuesday afternoon when I went to visit family who live near Perth. Where am I going with this? Beavers. That’s where I’m going with this.

As you may know, there are Beavers Castor fiber on the River Tay, although you may not realise how many there are. Rumours that I’ve heard have said that there are hundreds, all over the Tay catchment and stretching beyond that. Good news for us naturalists! Although perhaps not so good news for the farmers fields that are affected by localised flooding due to the beavers. I do sympathise with them, although feel that there are better ways of dealing with the situation than shooting them whenever they want.

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Buchanty Spout, Perthshire

We went for a wee wander around a section of Glenalmond Estate, near Buchanty Spout (a great place to watch Salmon Salmo salar jumping in September). As well as some mighty trees, there’s a man-made loch used for wildfowling and fishing that is absolutely covered in signs of Beavers. I loved it, a new species for me, although we didn’t see the beast itself.

The next day we had a wee trip for the navigation section of our course. The weather was absolutely spot-on perfect. Out on the hillside, learning how to use a compass and map, whilst also being shown a 5/6-man shelter (see above).

One of the first pictures I took was because I had just had the lecture on the challenges for people with disabilities getting outdoors!

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Not very wheelchair friendly at all

On top of the excellent new skills I was learning from Stuart with the others in the group (mostly people who were either coming to the end of their internships or starting theirs at the same time as I am), I also managed to pick out some spectacular birds that I don’t see all that often. I’ll start off with the Red Kite Milvus milvus that flew straight over us as we learnt how to estimate distances, mainly because it was the only one I got good pics of!

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But the real stars of the day were the Hen Harriers Circus cyaneus that I spotted! The female I actually saw at first soaring with a Buzzard Buteo buteo and thought, “Ah yes, juvenile Buzzard showing that slightly harrier-like silhouette,” and then being pleasantly surprised when I spotted the white upper-tail coverts!

Terrible pics but they didn’t come very close…

I managed to get the hang of map reading and orienting my compass quite quickly, probably as a result of doing a fair bit of biological recording!

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Orienting my compass
  1. Start by lining up the edge of your compass with where you are (just below Creag na Criche) and where you want to go (Ruhumnan, 528m).
  2. Turn the (blue orienting) arrow so it is facing north on the map, as shown above.
  3. Put down the map and turn the compass so the red needle is lining up with the orienting arrow.
  4. Now stand behind the compass and the direction of travel arrow (outside the compass) should be pointing to where you want to go.

It’s as simple as that! This is most useful when there is poor visibility. Although bear in mind that it’s more than likely you won’t be walking as the crow flies to your destination! If my explanation isn’t making sense, then Silva has a good Navigation School video on YouTube.

I won’t attempt to impart any more of my newly found wisdom on you, don’t worry. What I will do is leave you with what I’ll call a “picture pun”. You have to work out what the joke is here… Not a very good joke, but certainly a very naturalist-y joke!

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It’s Been a Busy Week

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