The Fair Isle Bird Observatory reports on Twitter today:
This video, recorded in Scotland, says about itself:
The Battle of Dunbar
27 August 2010
On a hill in Scotland, I remember the distant relative whose ill fate became my good fortune.
From daily The Independent in Britain:
Skeletons of Scottish prisoners provide evidence of child soldiers in Britain’s civil wars
Troops at the brutal Battle of Dunbar in 1650 may have been as young as 12
David Keys, Archaeology Correspondent
Wednesday 02 September 2015
Physical evidence that children were used as soldiers in Britain’s mid-17th century civil wars has been discovered by archaeologists.
Investigations in Durham have identified the remains of up to 28 skeletons as Scottish prisoners of war including a dozen teenage soldiers, five of whom were aged 12 to 16.
Scientific and other investigations carried out by the Durham University show that they almost certainly died of malnutrition, disease and dysentery.
One 13-15 year old boy who may have been suffering from scurvy had infections in his leg and foot bones.
A 14-15 year old appears to have been suffering from malnutrition for several years – and had had severe tooth decay and a leg infection.
A 12-16 year old had leg and foot infections – and probably also suffered from rickets.
The Battle of Dunbar was short and brutal. After less than an hour, a 12,000 strong English parliamentarian army, under the command of Oliver Cromwell, defeated the 11,000 strong Scottish covenanting army who supported the claims of Charles II to the Scottish throne.
Between 1,000 and 2,000 Scottish soldiers were killed by Cromwell’s forces who only lost 20 men.
The Scottish army had suffered from desertion, political purges and a severe lack of fighting age recruits. That almost certainly explains the presence of child soldier prisoners-of-war, unearthed in Durham.
Around 6,000 Scots were taken prisoners after the Battle of Dunbar. A thousand were immediately released because they were sick or wounded. The remainder were marched 100 miles south towards Durham where they were to be incarcerated in the castle and cathedral. Around a thousand died on the march – from hunger, exhaustion and dysentery. A few were executed. Some others escaped.
Around 3000 finally arrived in Durham, of who some 1700 then died of dysentery or disease at the rate of around 30 per day.
The identification of the Durham skeletons as Scottish prisoners taken at the Battle of Dunbar has involved detailed scientific and historical research – including isotopic tests showing that the individuals came from Scotland.
“Taking into account the range of detailed scientific evidence we have now, alongside historical evidence from the time, the identification of the bodies as the Scottish soldiers from the Battle of Dunbar is the only plausible explanation,” said Dr. Andrew Millard, Senior Lecturer at Durham University’s Department of Archaeology.
This 2012 video is called The making of wildlife documentary Last of the Scottish Wildcats.
From Wildlife Extra:
Scottish Wildcat Action website launched
Scottish Wildcat Action, supported by the Scottish Government and Heritage Lottery Fund, and its new website has easy-to-use features which encourage people in the Scottish Highlands to report sightings, volunteer with fieldwork, and register their interest to help.
Labour MSP and wildcat champion Rhoda Grant said: “The Scottish Wildcat is part of our heritage that we are desperately seeking to protect. We have a limited time to stop wildcats from disappearing but we also need to reduce the risks from hybridisation and disease from feral cats in the meantime. The launch of the website today will not only help to identify where our remaining wildcats are but it will also help to glean invaluable information on hybrids and feral cat sightings which will allow for the required action to be taken to reduce the hybrids and combat the transmission of disease.
“The website will offer members of the public the opportunity to be involved in this fantastic project to save this most beautiful of species and will, I am sure, prove to be an invaluable resource in ensuring the wildcat’s survival.”
Dr Roo Campbell, Scottish Wildcat Action Project Manager for the work in wildcat priority areas, said: “Local sightings of all wild-living cats are key in our efforts to save Scottish wildcats and the new website will allow our local communities to report sightings.
“As part of our national work, our team of staff and volunteers will set up more than 400 trail cameras in wildcat priority areas to build up a picture of what’s out there, but public sightings will add valuable intelligence to this standardised monitoring.”
Trail cameras are motion-sensitive field cameras used for monitoring shy species that live in remote places.
The website gives users further tips on how to identify a Scottish wildcat, but the general advice is if it looks like a large tabby cat with a thick ringed tail with a black blunt tip, it could be one of few remaining wildcats.
Hybrid and feral cat sightings are also important to the project, which aims to reduce risks of hybridisation and disease transmission through a co-ordinated Trap-Neuter (vaccinate) and Release (TNR) programme in the priority areas.
Numbers of Scottish wildcat are now so low that it is difficult for them to find and mate with other wildcats, so inevitably they have hybrid kittens with unneutered domestic cats.
This inter-breeding is contributing to the attrition of Scottish wildcats as a distinctive native species. The presence of unvaccinated feral cats, often in poor condition, can also lead to diseases, such as feline leukaemia virus (FeLV), being passed on to wildcats.
Wildcat priority areas identified by Scottish Wildcat Action are Strathpeffer, Strathbogie, Northern Strathspey, the Angus Glens, Strathavon and Morvern. Sightings and volunteers within these areas are particularly important to the conservation of the species but sightings from across Scotland are also welcomed.
Colin McLean, Head of the Heritage Lottery Fund in Scotland, said: “By working together as organisations and individuals we have a better chance of saving this rare native creature. It is thanks to players of the National Lottery that volunteers will be trained and cameras installed to track the elusive Scottish wildcat. However, it is down to us all to keep our eyes peeled, report any sightings, and give this species a brighter future.”
Behind the scenes at Aigas wildcat breeding centre. Louise Hughes of Aigas Field Centre reveals how she cares for her three wildcat pairs and encourages them to breed: here.
This video from Scotland says about itself:
4 April 2015
The organisers reckon this was the largest EVER anti Trident demo that Glasgow had ever held.
By Paddy McGuffin and Conrad Landin in Britain:
Osborne’s cash for Faslane stirs Labour division
Tuesday 1st September 2015
GEORGE OSBORNE was accused of subverting democratic protocols for the sake of stirring up divisions in the Labour Party yesterday after he announced a further £500 million investment in the nuclear submarine base at Faslane.
The Chancellor said the cash would fund the construction of sea walls, jetties and other projects.
But critics said this further evidence that the government intends to plough ahead with plans for Trident renewal before MPs vote on the issue next year.
“George Osborne is making this announcement today partly to stir it up within the Labour Party, to exacerbate some of the issues around the stance taken by Jeremy Corbyn,” he said.
Faslane is home to missile-carrying Vanguard submarines, and the Ministry of Defence is also expected to base the Successor class on the Clyde when they come into service from 2028.
The Chancellor … savaged the SNP and Mr Corbyn for opposing nuclear weapons, branding the latter a threat to “national security.”
He smarmed: “I’m proud to say that this government continues to recognise that our brave armed forces across Britain have always been resolute in defence of liberty and the promotion of stability around the world.”
The row came as new Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale confirmed the Scottish party would support unilateral disarmament if members voted to do so at its conference in October.
Her deputy Alex Rowley is an avowed opponent of replacement.
Ms Dugdale insisted taking the line would not divide the Britain-wide party.
“It’s devolution and that’s a good thing, people want power to be closer to people,” she said.
From Wildlife Extra:
Insect thought extinct found in Edinburgh
Mike Smith, Buglife intern says: “Finding the lacewing has been a really exciting start to my project and now we know that it’s not extinct, we can start learning more about it.
“We think it might live on Wood Sage but we’re not sure and so we need to investigate further to make sure that this rare Scottish insect has everything it needs to survive.”
Colin Plant, the national recorder for lacewings, who confirmed the identification, says: “The rediscovery of the Bordered Brown Lacewing in Edinburgh is really good news for biodiversity.
“The discovery gives hope that other rare invertebrates might still be hanging on in areas where their micro-habitats still remain.
“The ongoing campaign by Buglife to preserve habitats remains key to the long term survival of a huge range of invertebrates.”
Further work will now be done to work out how healthy the population at Arthur’s Seat is, as well as searching other old sites where the lacewing had been found previously.
Nida Al-Fulaij, Grants Manager at PTES, which has been supporting the internship, says: “It’s really important to support and nurture the next generation of conservation scientists and biologists here in the UK.
“Mike Smith, who discovered the specimen as part of his intern project, has shown what can be achieved by an enthusiastic and dedicated young researcher when given the backing and guidance they need.”
By Peter Frost in Britain:
The endless allure of a non-existent monster
Friday 21st august 2015
In January of 1934 the Daily Mail, just as much of a reactionary rag as it is today, excelled itself with its most despicable and notorious headline.
In the April of that same year it was the first London newspaper to report on a strange unknown creature in Loch Ness and the first to publish a photograph.
In the Daily Mail you could read about horrible slimy reptilian monsters emerging from the primordial depths to wreak mindless death and destruction.
But when you had finished with Mosley’s anti-semitic cretins, what did the Mail have to say about the creature in the Scottish loch?
Well, some of its story was nicked from the Inverness Courier which the year before was the first to report on the loch monster with an article headlined “Strange Spectacle on Loch Ness.”
The rest of its story and picture it bought from a prominent London gynaecologist named Robert Kenneth Wilson. He wanted to remain anonymous and the picture was nick-named the “surgeon’s photograph.”
The Daily Mail paid Wilson £100 for the picture (over £6,000 today) but he was later fined £1,000 (£60,000 today) by the British Medical Association for allowing his name to be associated with it.
In his story Wilson claimed to have been walking by the loch when he saw the creature break the surface. He hurriedly took four photos, only two of which came out and one of them was rather blurry.
Tales of a beast in the loch had first came to national prominence in 1933 when a new loch-side motor-road gave easy access to unrestricted views of the loch.
One of the first sightings from the new road were from a couple named Spicer who reported seeing a 25ft (7.5m) animal with a long neck crossing the road in front of their car before splashing into the loch.
The Daily Mail sent big game hunter Duke Wetherell to investigate and, like many a good Mail reporter before and since, when he found no real evidence, he made some up.
He used a hippo foot umbrella stand from his hotel to make giant foot prints in the loch-side mud. The Mail printed the pictures.
It has even been suggested that the Mail’s man Wetherell created a plastic head and neck and attached it to a toy submarine that much later proved to be the real object in the surgeon’s photograph printed on the front page of the Daily Mail.
The legend of a loch monster is an old one. A 7th century book relates how St Columba told the legend of a man who had been attacked and killed by a water beast in Loch Ness.
Perhaps the commonest theory about the creature in the loch is that it is related to plesiosaurs, marine reptiles that existed in prehistoric times. No less a naturalist than Peter Scott held this view.
Since 1933 over a thousand sightings have been recorded. Most are controversial, with much argument and debate about their veracity.
A million people visit Loch Ness each year and nearly nine out of 10 say they are there to try and spot the monster. They put more than £25 million into the local economy.
Despite all those visitors and despite the fact that virtually all of them today carry a high-definition camera, if only in their phone, there have been very few sightings and even less reliable photographs or film in recent years.
The best recent pictures are probably satellite images and both Google Earth and Apple Maps have had pictures that some think prove the creature’s existence.
The £1,000 prize for best monster picture of the year wasn’t claimed at all. The 2014 prize was won this January by somebody recording Google Earth images from his laptop in Sweden.
Does Frosty have a theory? Well I have taken the advice of a real expert and, if pushed, I’d put my money on a member of the cryptobranchidae family — more commonly known as giant salamanders.
The Chinese giant salamander (Andrias davidianus) can reach a length of nearly two metres (6ft 6in), is fat and lumpy, black in colour and lives in deep freshwater lakes, only coming to the surface very infrequently.
That description matches exactly many of Nessie’s reported sightings.
Whatever it is, or was, there is a very good chance that, like any tiny population in a remote and isolated location, it must be under great threat of extinction.
So with the lack of recent sightings it may be that the last specimen of whatever it was is lying rotting at the bottom of the loch and, as that is 755ft (230m) down, we’ll probably never know for sure.
But I am sure that won’t stop many people heading for Loch Ness for many years to come. I wish them all good hunting.
This video is about hen harriers in Scotland.
From daily The Independent in Britain:
Tuesday 11 August 2015
The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) has issued an appeal for information after a post mortem confirmed that a rare bird of prey found dead on a Scottish grouse moor had been illegally killed.
According to RSPB Scotland, the young female hen harrier, which had been named “Annie” by conservationists and was fitted with a satellite transmitter, was illegally shot on remote moorland near to Daer Reservoir in South Lanarkshire.
Scientists first became concerned about the rare bird in March, when tracking data confirmed it had stopped moving. An extensive search by conservationists, recovered the body at the end of April, but only now have scientists confirmed that the bird was illegally shot.
The shooting in Scotland follows a string of hen harrier disappearances and nest failures in England this summer. These prompted fears that the endangered bird, which feeds on grouse chicks and is known for its beautiful aerial displays, is being targeted by “rogue gamekeepers” and is facing “extinction by persecution”.
Stuart Housden, Director of RSPB Scotland, said: “This case shows very clearly what happens to some of our hen harriers when they leave protected nesting areas and move around the UK’s uplands. This is just the latest incident of criminal persecution of this species, following the confirmed shooting of birds in Aberdeenshire, Moray and Ayrshire in the last two years. It is little wonder these magnificent raptors continue to be absent from large areas of our uplands.
Of all the UK’s protected birds of prey, the hen harrier is among the most heavily persecuted. The bird’s population in Scotland is larger than in England however, which last year consisted of just four breeding pairs despite a Government study showing their [sic] is suitable habitat for 300 breeding pairs.
Chris Packham, naturalist and television presenter, told the Independent: “My reaction sadly is that I’m not the slightest bit surprised. There is no ambiguity in our claims that these birds are being illegally persecuted.”
On 9 August the Springwatch presenter led a protest for “Hen Harrier Day” to defend the embattled bird. He has backed called for a ban of driven grouse shooting and also backed calls for an extension to England of a Scottish law which allows for the prosecution of land owners if protected birds of prey are illegally killed on their land.
Mr Packham added: “This is one instance where we have the evidence and I’d like to see the owner of the land prosecuted and be publicly shamed to the extent that they became the social pariah they deserve to be for robbing us of a very valuable part of our natural heritage.”
According to the RSPB hen harrier numbers declined 20 per cent between 2004 and 2010, however the timing of the appeal, the day before the so-called Glorious Twelfth, the start of the grouse shooting season, is likely to be questioned by members of the shooting lobby.