Scottish spy base converted for whales, astronomy?


This video says about itself:

Sunfish, Basking Sharks and Minke Whale encounters with Basking Shark Scotland

27 July 2014

A small video of 2 amazing days in the Hebrides, Scotland. We had warm waters from the Gulf Stream reach our coast bringing in a lot of food and ocean giants. We had 2 Minke Whales swim 4 x under the boat, over 12 basking sharks, ranging from 3m to 6m and a very rare visitor – the ocean sunfish (Mola mola). To top it off we had an otter and sea eagles sighted on the way in, numerous porpoises and many different species of seabird. All in water interactions were guided and closely monitored to ensure they meet our code of practice.

From The Press and Journal in Scotland:

Bid to turn former island Cold War spy base into whale-listening station

31 January 2016 by Mike Merritt

A crowdfunding appeal was launched yesterday to turn a former Cold War spy base in the Outer Hebrides into a whale-listening station and star-gazing observatory.

Locals formally took ownership of the isolated surveillance station at RAF Aird Uig on the Isle of Lewis, which was built to give early warning of a Soviet attack following the end of the Second World War.

They symbolically opened the gates of the complex in a ceremony attended by Western Isles MSP Dr Alasdair Allan.

The collapse of the Soviet Union and the advance of satellite technology made the base redundant and a pair of long distance radars which had protected the UK for decades were dismantled.

The Gallan Head Community Trust (GHCT) has used a £200,000 grant from the Scottish Land Fund to purchase the land from the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and turn a nearby building into a visitor centre, which should be open in the summer.

The trust plans to demolish some of the buildings at Aird Uig and convert the former base into a tourist attraction featuring an astronomical observatory, gallery and visitor centre, in a project that could cost between £1m and £3m.

They will also install underwater microphones to record whales and basking sharks which swim past the peninsula, the most north westerly point of the UK.

Minister for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform, Dr Aileen McLeod said:”The fact that such a small community has taken this step into community ownership is a testament to the skills, drive and tenacity of the members and directors of GHCT.

“I’m sure that the proposed developments will make a real difference to the local economy and beyond. The Scottish Government is committed to assisting communities in taking control of their own futures, this is why we provide financial support to local communities through the Scottish Land Fund.”

Giant worms discovery on Scottish island


This video from Scotland says about itself:

Giant worms the size of SNAKES are discovered by scientists on abandoned Scottish island

18 January 2016

Researchers says the creatures are three to four times bigger than the average worm and ‘slightly spooky’.

From Wildlife Extra:

Giant worms discovered on remote Scottish island

It sounds like the stuff of nightmares – giant earthworms that, if left alone, keep growing and growing to the size of a baby snake. But this is no bad dream – scientists working on the Isle of Rum, off the coast of Scotland, have found the biggest specimens ever seen in the UK, more than three times the length and weight of a normal worm.

The exceptionally large invertebrates measure up 40 cm (1.3 ft) long, having blossomed due to rich soil and a lack of predators. They’re similar in size to a newly-hatched adder.

In an interview on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme, Dr Kevin Butt, lead researcher on the earthworm study, carried out by the University of Central Lancashire, said: “These things weigh about twelve and a half grams – but the normal size for these things is about four to five grams.”

The worms, Latin name Lumbricus terrestris, were found at Papadil, an abandoned settlement on Rum, which is home to a tiny population of around 30 people.

“When these things came out of their burrows they were like small snakes,” he said.

However, far from being the stuff of nightmares, Dr Butt told the Telegraph the existence of the worms was “a delight” to discover as they are crucial to the ecosystem, and help lessen the risk of flooding.

“Without their activities we’d be a lot worse off. They’re just as important as bees are in pollinating plants. They help aerate the soil and drain away water and stop surface erosion,” he explained.

Dr Butt believes the Rum worms are bigger than average due to their remote, undisturbed location, with good quality soil. Rum also lacks predators such as badgers, moles, hedgehogs and foxes which would usually gobble the worms before they had chance to grow into monsters. Unlike most animals, which stop growing once they reach an adult size, earthworms keep on growing if left alone.

“These things have just have been left and have grown bigger and bigger,” explained Dr Butt, who has been studying earthworms for around 30 years.

Asked if an enthusiastic schoolboy might be able to achieve a similarly giant specimen by looking after it at home, he confirmed this is possible.

“In the laboratory we can keep them and feed them well and in a matter of a couple of years you can grow them to 15, even 20 grams,” he said.

However, those spooked by the idea of giant worms have little to fear if they visit Rum.

“If they feel footsteps they will just go down deeper into the earth. They’re not going to jump out and grab people,” he said.

News of the Papadil worms is contained in a paper recently published in The Glasgow Naturalist journal.

Puffins in Scotland, video


This 2011 video, recorded in Scotland, says about itself:

A short wildlife documentary about Atlantic puffins on the Isle of May. Run time approx. 14 mins.

Atlantic puffins return to the Isle of May each summer where they breed in their tens of thousands. Challenges abound, including the threat of predators, squabbles over burrows and finding a mate. Towards the end of the season, newly hatched pufflings face the journey to their ocean home alone under cover of darkness.

Mysteriously, during recent years the puffins have been facing an even greater challenge that has caused a dramatic population decline. Up to 30% of breeding puffins have simple disappeared. What is the force behind this alarming decline?

English bird news update


This video says about itself:

European Golden Plover (Pluvialis apricaria)

Filmed at Loch Ryan, Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland, UK, on 26th November 2013 with a Canon PowerShot.

The video also shows a few brent geese.

From RSPB Minsmere nature reserve in Suffolk in England, on Twitter today:

Two tundra bean geese found on South Levels this morning, as well as 2 peregrine [falcon]s & 4 golden plovers

16th century pirate’s skull and bones discovery under Scottish playground


A reconstructed image of what the recently discovered man could have looked like (left) and a digital image of the skull, photo: City of Edinburgh Council

From daily The Independent in Britain today:

Skeleton found under school playground could have belonged to a 16th-century pirate

The school’s headteacher said the pupils thought it was ‘fantastic’ that a pirate skeleton could have been found under their school

Doug Bolton

A human skeleton found under the playground of an Edinburgh school could have once belonged to a 16th-century pirate, archaeologists have said.

The skeleton was found by council workmen at Victoria Primary School in the Newhaven area of Edinburgh, and later carbon dated by experts to the 16th or 17th century.

The school is near Newhaven Harbour, the closest port to Scotland’s capital, which was once the site of a gibbet in which the bodies of executed criminals were displayed as a warning to others.

At first, archaeologists thought the man’s skeleton was from the Bronze Age, due to the poor condition it was found in.

However, further investigation and carbon dating revealed the man had died much more recently. Due to the condition of the skeleton and its proximity to the harbour and gibbet rather than any of the three nearby graveyards, it is believed he was executed, either for piracy or another crime, and displayed in the gibbet before being buried in a shallow, unmarked grave.

The firm which uncovered the skeleton, AOC Archaeology, worked with forensic artist Hayley Fisher to create a reconstruction of the face of the man, who is believed to have been in his fifties when he died.

Laura Thompson, the headteacher of the primary school, said: “The pupils think it’s fantastic that a skeleton was found deep underneath their playground.”

“The archaeologists will hold a special lesson with some of the children about how they have used science to analyse the remains and it will be a good learning opportunity for them.”

Bird news from London, England


This video from Scotland says about itself:

Lesser Redpoll & friends

20 February 2012

Redpolls at the (woodland setting) feeders of SWT Reserve Loch of the Lowes were a big surprise on our visit. We had never seen them there before.

From the London Bird Club in England on Twitter today, about the London Wildlife and Wetlands Trust nature reserve:

Shelduck, 71 Shoveler, 23 Siskin, 11 Redwing, 3 Redpoll, Chiffchaff

The chiffchaff is special, as most birds of this species migrate south in autumn.

Rare bird news from Scotland


This video is called Barred warbler (Sylvia nisoria) singing. Prespa lake, Greece, May 2012.

This species is rare in western Europe.

From Lothian Bird News in Scotland, on Twitter:

Barred Warbler still at feeders near Torness, also up to 5 Little Egrets at Belhaven Bay.

7:32 PM – 8 Dec 2015