Scottish birds of prey news

This video says about itself:

This video looks at two often confused falcons, the Kestrel and Merlin, and discusses the key features for separating the two.

In the south of Scotland, there is Caerlaverock Wetland Centre.

They report today on Twitter:

Raptor fest on the merse this morning. Female Hen Harrier, Peregrine [falcon], Merlin and Buzzard all from the Saltcot Merse Obs[ervatory].

Scottish wildcats in danger

This video is called The making of wildlife documentary Last of the Scottish Wildcats.

By Peter Frost in Britain:

Highland tigers – the rarest animals on Earth?

Friday 16th January 2015

The intrepid explorer has been awoken in PETER FROST who heads fearlessly into the wilderness of the Ardnamurchan peninsula to catch a glimpse of the fabled wildcat

They call them Highland tigers — it’s a good name for one of the world’s most endangered animals.

Experts estimate there may be only 35 pure-bred individuals left. This compares with fewer than 2,500 wild Bengal tigers and makes them 70 times rarer than the giant panda.

So what are we talking about? The beast in question is the Scottish wildcatFelis silvestris grampia — the only wild member of the cat family to have survived in Britain and now critically threatened.

Compared to other wild cats worldwide, the Scottish wild species is small. However, it is larger than the usual domesticated housecat.

The wildcat is similar in appearance to a striped tabby cat, but has relatively longer legs, a more robust build, and a bigger skull to hold its larger brain.

The most obvious way to identify the animal is its magnificent tail — very thick and clublike with big bold distinct rings around it.

That tail is long, more than half of the animal’s body length. Ears are moderate in length, and broad at the base. Eyes are large, with vertical irises.

Males measure 43 to 91cm (17 to 36in) in body length, add to that a 23 to 40cm (9.1 to 15.7in) tail. Its normal weight is 5 to 8kg (11 to 18lb). Females are slightly smaller, body measuring 40 to 77cm (16 to 30in) the tail adding 18 to 35cm (7.1 to 13.8in). Females weigh 3 to 5kg (6.6 to 11lb).

Both sexes possess scent glands around the anal opening and along the tail. In males these play a significant role in reproduction and territorial marking.

The cats have good night vision and an acute sense of smell — that allows then to detect meat at 200m.

I’m on my tiger hunt on the Ardnamurchan peninsula in Lochaber, in the Scottish Highlands.

This is 50 square miles of some of Britain’s wildest wilderness. It is home to Gaelic speakers, pine martens, golden and white tailed eagles.

At the end of the peninsula a 118 ft (36m) lighthouse looks out from British mainland’s most westerly headland — Ardnamurchan point. You reach the Point by a single track road that runs the length of the peninsula.

The entire peninsula is the last and most important home of the true Scottish wildcat. Best estimates indicate that there are only three dozen or so left with perhaps another 150 that are crosses between true wildcats and feral cats.

This interbreeding is the biggest threat to the survival of the species.

A charity, The Wildcat Haven Project, aims to protect the species by catching and neutering feral and hybrid wildcats to prevent them breeding with pure wildcats.

Geneticist Paul O’Donoghue, the scientific adviser to the project since 2012, explains the strategy: “Feral cats are the biggest danger to the future of the Scottish wildcat. They interbreed and you end up with hybrids of varying degrees.”

His aim is to reduce and eventually totally remove the feral cat population from this area.

Eventually the wildcat population will become purer as feral animals and crossbreeds die out.

Wildcats, feral cats and crossbred animals are cought in traps baited with mackerel and fish oil. When feral cats or crosses are cought, they are neutered and released. If it looks like a pure wildcat, its DNA will be recorded to test just how pure-bred it is.

Today the Scottish wildcat is one of if not the most endangered animal, not just in Scotland but on the planet. It needs all the protection we can offer particularly in the Ardnamurchan peninsula.

There are many reasons why the 300 square miles of the Ardnamurchan peninsula is worth a visit for those who love the countryside.

You will see seabirds, marine mammals, pine martens, golden eagles, and white-tailed sea eagles all against a background of beautiful, untouched wild Highland country.

But the cherry on the haggis will undoubtedly be the spotting of the rare and secretive Highland tiger.

Bird criminal jailed in Scotland for the first time

This is a video about a goshawk (and a buzzard) in Spain.

From Wildlife Extra:

Landmark jail term for gamekeeper George Mutch convicted of killing birds of prey

A gamekeeper, found guilty at Aberdeen Sheriff Court in December of illegally killing a goshawk, illegal use of a trap, and illegally taking away another goshawk and a buzzard, has been jailed for four months.

George Mutch is believed to be the first gamekeeper in Scotland to be given a custodial sentence for wildlife crimes.

Mutch was caught on footage taken by hidden cameras between August and September 2012.

These had been set up by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds to monitor how traps were being used on the Kildrummy Estate in Aberdeenshire, where Mutch was the gamekeeper.

In the film Mutch was seen killing a young goshawk by removing it from the trap and hitting it with a stick. He was also filmed putting a buzzard and a goshawk into white sacks and walking out of view.

Mutch claimed the traps were for catching small birds to stop them from eating food scattered on the ground for young pheasants. However, some of the footage showed him taking a wood pigeon out of a trap and releasing it.

Duncan Orr Ewing, head of species and land management at RSPB Scotland, said: “We would like to thank the Crown Office, Scottish SPCA and Police Scotland for helping to bring this case to a successful conviction, as well as the exemplary work of the RSPB Scotland investigations team.

“This penalty should be a turning point, sending a clear message to those determined to flout our laws that wildlife crime will not be tolerated but instead will be treated with the seriousness that it deserves.

Wildlife criminals must expect no sympathy from now on.”

Sara Shaw, the Scottish Procurator Fiscal for wildlife and environment, issued a statement: “Birds of prey are given strict protection by our law.

“Goshawks in particular are rare birds: the court heard evidence in this case that there are only about 150 nesting pairs in Scotland.

“It is highly important to preserve Scotland’s natural heritage, including the wildlife that forms part of it. Our environmental laws exist to provide this protection.

“This case involved serious contraventions of those laws. The conviction of Mr Mutch and the severity of the sentence given by the court highlights that message.”

The Scottish Gamekeepers Association has expelled Mutch from its membership.

Lynx reintroduction in Scotland?

This video from India is called Rare Eurasian Lynx in Ladakh.

From the BBC:

29 December 2014 Last updated at 13:00 GMT

Scottish Wildlife Trust calls for lynx reintroduction

he Scottish Wildlife Trust has called for the reintroduction of the lynx to Scotland.

The charity said there was a “moral and ecological” case for the return of the once native Eurasian lynx.

The animal was hunted to extinction in the UK hundreds of years ago.

The wildlife trust believes the reintroduction of predators like the lynx would help restore balance in Scotland’s natural ecosystems.

The lynx is the third largest predator in Europe, after the brown bear and the wolf.

It can currently be found in the forests of western Europe, Russia and central Asia.

‘Right locations’

Jonny Hughes, the Scottish Wildlife Trust’s chief executive, said: “The Scottish Wildlife Trust has experience in bringing keystone species back to Scotland, having been a lead partner in the ground-breaking Scottish Beaver Trial, a trial reintroduction of the Eurasian beaver to Argyll.

“We believe that lynx should also be considered for reintroduction and in many ways could be a flagship for the restoration of native habitats, particularly woodlands, into the future.”

He added: “Finding the right locations will be one of the major challenges for a potential lynx project and there will be a range of stakeholders who will need to work in partnership to ensure the best chance of success and support, as has been the case in the Scottish Beaver Trial.

“It is important that we all understand the potential benefits of bringing back the lynx to our woodland ecosystems, but also to our forestry and tourism industries.

“At the same time we should understand the challenges that this beautiful once-native cat will bring with it.”

Earlier this year, conservation charity Trees for Life and writer George Monbiot promoted the reinstatement of the Eurasian lynx to Scotland.

Lesser redpolls and kissing wood pigeons

This video from Scotland says about itself:

Lesser Redpoll & friends [eg, chaffinches and siskins]

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. Had to have some fun with the video captures to celebrate :-)

This morning, again lesser redpolls, in the same birch tree as yesterday.

On the fence to the left of the tree, two wood pigeons kissing each other. Minutes later, they were cleaning their feathers.