New giant horse sculptures in Scotland

This video from Scotland says about itself:

11 March 2014

A fantastically clear, calm evening in central Scotland and the perfect time to admire the Kelpies as building work continues and the surrounding area takes shape. Looking forward to the grand opening in April when the Kelpies will be centre stage for the launch of the John Muir Way.

Music courtesy of featuring Intuíció playing Isten áldja édesapám.

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

Tuesday 22nd April 2014

Huge horses’ heads open as Scotland’s newest cultural landmark

A pair of gigantic horses’ heads sculpted from 300 tons of steel, Scotland’s newest cultural landmark, will be open to the public today.

Titled The Kelpies, the 98ft-tall sculptures in Falkirk were inspired by Scotland’s history of working horses which once pulled barges along the nearby Forth and Clyde Canal.

Created by Glasgow artist Andy Scott, the Kelpies form the centrepiece of the new Helix Park development close to the M9.

The artist said: “I have always been fascinated with horses and the heavy horse was at one time the driving force in industry.”

The sculptures were brought to life over the weekend with an inaugural firework display.

A canal link to the North Sea is expected to open up the inland waterways to more boating traffic and it is hoped the Kelpies will draw up to 350,000 visitors each year, bringing £1.5 million of extra tourism revenue.

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Scottish forest trees, other wildlife, news

This video from Scotland says about itself:

Ray Mears visits the remaining Caledonian pine forests of Scotland and finds a wide range of wildlife.

From Wildlife Extra:

Scotland’s native Caledonian pine forest to be doubled in size

April 2014: One hundred thousand trees, including birch, aspen, two species of willow and alders, are to be planted … [at] Abernethy forest nature reserve in Speyside, which will almost double the total size of the woodland, and join it up with the fragmented surrounding remnants.

Abernethy hosts some of the rarest and most iconic species in the UK, with around 12 percent of the population of capercaillie, as well as Scottish crossbills, crested tits, wildcats, pine martens, black grouse, golden eagles and many rare mosses, fungi and plants including twinflower.

Managing and reducing the grazing pressure on the reserve from deer over the past quarter century has already enabled the Scots pine trees of Abernethy forest to expand by self-seeded natural regeneration, with more than 800 hectares of new pine saplings now established. However, although the main component of Caledonian pine forest is the native Scots pine, a critical element of ancient pine forests include a broader range of native shrub and broadleaved tree species – such as juniper, birch, rowan, alder and willows – and whilst recovery of the pine element at Abernethy has been successful, some of these other species remain extremely scarce of [sic; or] localised.

Over the next ten years, with the help of schoolchildren in Strathspey, volunteers from across Scotland and local contractors, the conservation charity will plant close to 100,000 trees at the reserve, including birch, aspen, two species of willow and alders. It is hoped that at least 40,000 of the planted saplings will survive grazing pressure from hares and other herbivores to reach maturity, leaving the full range of species and ensuring the forest’s continuity.

Jeremy Roberts, the Senior Site Manager at Abernethy, said: “We have conducted some of the most comprehensive surveys of regeneration in Britain, and this has shown that the recovery of broadleaves has been extremely slow and localised compared to the pine element at Abernethy. Few broadleaves remain to provide the vital seed source, and of those that do are highly immobile and restricted.

“To give the forest a helping hand we are restoring these species, with the welcome help of local schools and volunteers to assist with the planting of these under-represented broadleaved trees. As these small groups mature they will themselves provide the seed source, inoculating the forest edge and providing a locus for these species to regenerate more widely, and restoring the forest to its diverse and species-rich former glory.

“It may well be that the children and grandchildren of the school children who have been assisting with the planting will be the ones who see the difference rather than us. However, it is enormously satisfying to know that this is this generation that is creating this legacy.”

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Scotland’s oldest osprey Lady still on eggs

This is a video from Loch of Lowes in Scotland, on 31 March 2014. It shows Lady, world’s oldest osprey at 29 years at her nest, together with her (smaller) male partner Laddie.

From STV in Scotland:

Britain’s oldest breeding osprey lays record 69th egg at reserve

14 April 2014 11:23 BST

Britain’s oldest breeding osprey has flown her way into the record books by laying her 69th egg.

Lady, the 29-year-old raptor, excited twitchers at the Loch of Lowes reserve, in Perthshire, by displaying typical laying behaviour at around 12.30am on Sunday and emerging with a new egg 20 minutes later.

She broke her own record last year by laying four eggs, one of which hatched as audiences watched round the world on the Scottish Wildlife Trust’s webcam.

Ranger Emma Rawling, who co-ordinates the osprey watch, said: “This is really exciting. Everyone here is over the moon to have her back at Loch of Lowes.

Lady is a very old girl now and we weren’t sure if she would be coming back.

“The staff and volunteers here are over the moon and we are so relieved that our beloved female is still breeding at her advanced age.”

She added: “She dug herself deep into the centre of the nest, flattened herself out and passed the egg.

“You could see her panting and pushing so it is quite like a human birth in some ways.

“It’s just as well the birds have such a deep, snug cup in the centre of the nest as it was so windy that the whole tree was rocking.”

Ms Rawling said that Lady‘s partner, nicknamed Laddie, has also taken his fatherly duties seriously and is taking his turn minding the egg.

She said: “Since it was laid, the egg has been carefully tended and both birds have taken a turn incubating.

“This is a fantastic sign that he is bonding with the egg and his instincts to provide and care for it are fully roused which bides well for it.

“Some male ospreys don’t get involved with the young much but Laddie is your typical ‘new man’. He is very much the besotted new dad and it is very sweet to watch them together.”

The next few weeks will be tense at the Scottish Wildlife Trust’s reserve as staff wait to see if more eggs arrive and if they are fertile.

On average, osprey incubation lasts between 37 and 39 days making the earliest hatching possible on May 20.

Lady has returned to the reserve, near Dunkeld, from Africa to breed every year for 24 years and thousands watch her on a specially set-up webcam.

Ms Rawling said: “Some people have been volunteering here since she first came 24 years ago so I think it is fair to say that we know her very well.

“She is an extremely experienced and capable Mum. Nothing ever gets past her. She is now onto her fourth partner so knows exactly what she wants. She trains Laddie well and nags him to get her fish.”

She added that her return to the reserve, year after year, showed the success of the osprey conservation project.

Ospreys were extinct in the British Isles between 1916 and 1954, but it’s estimated there are currently between 250 and 300 nesting pairs in the UK.

Ms Rawling said: “She is a very old bird and for her to undertake another successful migration is testament to just how special she is. However, it does demonstrate the conservation success story of the species as a whole.

“To think that ospreys were extinct in Britain just over a century ago really brings home how accomplished the concerted effort of conservation has been in that time.”

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Cardinal O’Brien’s sexual abuse inquiry by pope

This video from Britain in 2013 is called Cardinal Keith O’Brien‘s accuser ‘warned of damage to Church’.

From the BBC:

4 April 2014 Last updated at 13:36 GMT

Vatican launches investigation into Cardinal Keith O’Brien

The Vatican is to investigate claims of sexual misconduct which led to the resignation of Cardinal Keith O’Brien, it has emerged.

Cardinal O’Brien resigned as Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh in February 2013 following allegations of improper conduct in the 1980s.

He admitted at the time that his sexual conduct had “fallen beneath the standards” expected of him as a bishop.

The inquiry will be carried out by Maltese bishop Charles Scicluna.

He will take testimony from clergy in the archdiocese in an attempt to discover what evidence there is against the cardinal or any other clergy.

It will be the first time that such an investigation has taken place in Scotland.

The BBC’s religious affairs correspondent Robert Pigott said it was very rare for the Pope to actively and publicly investigate a cardinal in this way.

Cardinal O’Brien had been instructed to spend time in repentance and reflection outside Scotland after he acknowledged that his sexual behaviour had fallen short of what was expected.

He had faced allegations of inappropriate sexual behaviour from three serving priests and a former seminarian.

His successor as Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh, Leo Cushley, wrote to clergy earlier this week, urging them to co-operate with Bishop Scicluna in the inquiry.

Archbishop Cushley said: “I believe that this is a positive step towards truth and eventual reconciliation.

“This may not be an easy thing to do, but it is the right thing to do.

“In this sense I also hope that all those who wish to approach him will feel free to do so. It is important that such work be conducted in a way that protects those who wish to contribute to it.”

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British nuclear weapons radiation leak scandal

This video is called Trident poisons Scotland – Nuclear leaksFaslane – a 2009 clip.

By Rory MacKinnon in Britain:

Trident leak sees radiation levels soar to new high

Monday 10th March 2014

Trident‘s leaking nuclear reactor saw radiation levels in the area soar to more than 10 times the regular rate, furious campaigners revealed yesterday.

Defence Secretary Philip Hammond stoked anger north of the border last week when he notified MPs of the nuclear weapons programme’s malfunctioning reactor – more than two years after engineers first discovered radiation spilling out into the reactor’s coolant in January of 2012.

The Tory warmonger had assured MPs in the House of Commons that there had been “no measurable change in the radiation discharge.

“This water is contained within the sealed reactor circuit and I can reassure the house there has been no detectable radiation leak from that sealed circuit,” he said.

But records held by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency revealed that the programme’s release of radioactive gases over that period increased in intensity by more than 1,000 per cent, from 0.19 gigabecquerels of radiation in 2011 to 2.16 Gbq in 2012.

Friends of the Earth Scotland director Dr Richard Dixon said the minister had “very serious questions to answer,” with the affair demonstrating “arrogant disregard” for safety regulators and the public.

“He categorically stated that no radioactivity was released to the environment, we now know that this is definitely not true.

“It is hard to see how anyone can take assurances about nuclear safety from the MoD seriously when it clearly thinks it is fine to just keep quiet about the embarrassing bits,” he said.

Scottish Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament co-ordinator John Ainslie said: “The only safe way forward is for all nuclear submarines and nuclear weapons to be removed from Scotland.”

A ministry spokeswoman did not dispute the spike in radiation levels but told reporters the figures represented “a planned and deliberate gaseous discharge.”

The ageing fleet docked in Scotland’s Faslane naval base is due for a £65 billion replacement scheme by 2016 to remain functional. But anti-war and anti-austerity movements have pressed Westminster to abandon the project, while the Scottish National Party has vowed to eject the fleet in the case of a vote for independence in September’s referendum.

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Scottish corn bunting news

This video says about itself:

A portrait of a Corn Bunting family (Miliaria calandra)

Canon XL2 and Sigma 50-500 mm lens. Filmed in Falkenberg, Sweden, July 2010. Foto Karl-David Arvidsson.

From Wildlife Extra:

Corn buntings saved by Scottish farmers

February 2014: Numbers of Corn buntings could increase if there is a change in farming methods in line with a trial that has been running north of the border, say RSPB Scotland. Corn buntings used to be widespread throughout Europe, but are now one of the fastest declining farmland birds with just 800 singing males left in Scotland.

Most commonly associated with cereal cultivation, corn buntings would once have bred in hay meadows too, however intensification of farming, particularly a move to earlier mowing, has made this impossible across large parts of northwest Europe.

In northeast Scotland, silage and hay cuts remain late enough for birds to make nests in these fields. In fact, over the five year study, more than half of the nests started in May and June were in hay meadows. Sadly, more than two-thirds of these were then lost during June and July mowing.

Therefore RSPB organised a trial where 19 farms across Aberdeenshire and Inverness-shire delayed their mowing until August 1. This delay made huge changes, as less than five per cent of nests in meadows were lost, and overall breeding success increased by 20 per cent.

David Taylor, of Cauldwells farm in Aberdeenshire, who took part in the trial said: “I have been managing parts of my farm to benefit wildlife since 2002. Corn buntings certainly like the late cut grass and their jangling songs can be heard most summer mornings. I have had to make a compromise in grass quality, but this is just about compensated by the payment rate. Along with the other options, this wildlife friendly farming seems to be making a difference and long may it continue.”

Allan Perkins, RSPB Conservation Scientist, said: “This project was a great partnership between the RSPB and local farmers to develop an agri-environment option that delivers real benefits for birds and also works for farmers. By selecting this management option in future schemes, I’m sure that farmers in northeast Scotland will help to halt the decline of this fabulous farmland bird.”

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