Teamwork on the outskirts of the ‘Forest Village’ of Nethybridge has delivered a successful conservation outcome for attractive pinewood plants. Recognizing that two kinds of wintergreen were at risk along a verge earmarked for the laying of a broadband cable, BSCG volunteers marked the plants with high visibility tape enabling contractors A. Willox & Sons to take the cable along a route that skirted the wintergreens.

Complimenting the teamwork with A Willox & Son, Dr Deborah Long, Head of Plantlife Scotland said, ‘This is a really good example of all the benefits that can be achieved when local conservation groups work with contractors. The wintergreens are a group of beautiful flowers that are highly characteristic of our native pinewoods. It is heartening to see their conservation as a key part of road verge management, which is sensitive enough to avoid harm to these plants, securing a stronger future for them in the National Park.’

The team
The team at the roadside.

Marked Wintergreens
The temporary marker tape in position.

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Wintergreen flowers.

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The River Spey and its tributaries is a European conservation site for otters and is vulnerable to major new developments.

Otters dependant on the River Spey and its tributaries may be facing growing problems in the Cairngorms National Park. A report soon to be published by SNH could shed light on how otters are faring in the River Spey Special Area of Conservation in Badenoch & Strathspey.

Threats to otters include climate change, habitat degradation and fragmentation linked to development, human disturbance and road traffic accidents. A 26% human population increase over 20 years is forecast in the Cairngorms National Park as a result of the National Park Authority’s controversial housing development proposals. This increase is likely to add to pressures on otters. (See https://www.flickr.com/search/?w=48558356@N04&q=infographic@N04&q=infographic ).

Otters, which feed in minor drainage ditches and small burns and pools as well as larger water bodies, are vulnerable to declines in amphibians and fish stocks. Eels, which can be a staple prey for otters, have suffered alarming declines in recent years, and extreme weather events can lead to the loss of river-bank trees used as retreats by resting otters.

To help otters we need to know more about which areas are important for mothers with cubs. This is especially so as natal holts, where cubs are born and spend their first few months, can be well away from rivers. Perhaps surprisingly, woodlands can be particularly important places for natal holts.

BSCG has long been concerned that woodlands are under major pressure in the Cairngorms National Park from development and recreation, and this could be critical for otters. BSCG is working with others to draw attention to threats to otters and has been helping the International Otter Survival Fund and Cardiff University by collecting otters found dead and sending them for analysis that includes measuring pollutants.BSCG is always interested to hear of otters found dead.


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A letter about otters at a threatened site in Strathspey.


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Otter tracks in sand by the River Spey.

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Naturalist Bobby Tulloch shared his experiences of watching otters in a book published in 1994 by Colin Baxter.


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Otters are vulnerable to road traffic accidents.


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Otter tracks in snow on a small lochan at a threatened site in Strathspey.

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An unexpected visitor put in an appearance at an evening talk in one of Nethybridge’s most well known buildings last Friday. The visitor an adventurous young swallow flew in through the open door during a public talk entitled 'Spiders in the web of life in the Cairngorms'. This illustrated talk by David Holloway of the Highland Spider Group was in the historic old kirk building on the outskirts of the village on the B970 near Castle Roy that is now looked after by the Old Kirk Association see http://www.oldkirknethybridge.org/

The old kirk has been the venue for a drop in exhibition on special wildlife of the Cairngorms organized by BSCG under the theme ‘Problems in Paradise’. Coinciding with the Year of Natural Scotland this has been celebrating some of the special and threatened wildlife of the Cairngorms. It showcases information on the top 26 list of species in the Cairngorms that the national park authority announced in May this year it has identified as in need of focussed conservation action in its 2013 – 2018 Cairngorms Nature Action Plan or CNAP. The CNAP successor to the 2002 Cairngorms Local Biodiversity Action Plan (LBAP) was launched by cabinet Secretary Richard Lochead in Aviemore in May over 10 years after the LBAP.

By overnighting in the rafters of the kirk it seems the young swallow made history. The visit for the youngster finally ended the following morning after the doors in the building were reopened when to mutual relief the swallow at last figured out a way to freedom by flying low enough to exit through a specially opened side door in the building. Our thanks are due to the Old kirk Association who kindly showed up to open up the building after the young swallow's unscheduled overnight stay.

The 'Problems in Paradise' exhibition continues until Tuesday in the Old Kirk when it will be open between midday and 5pm. The concluding talk, the 4th this month will be by Dr Tim Poole and is the first to concentrate entirely on a species in the top 26 list that includes 3 birds It is entitled 'The Capercaillie a flagship for Scotland’s pinewoods' and is scheduled for 8Pm on Monday 22nd July. Admission is free refreshment will also be available and all are welcome but hopefully no swallows will be reappearing inside the building.

A Report by CNPA Ecologist Dr David Hetherington (released by the CNPA on 7 July 2013) is making news. See:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-highlands-islands-23348628

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-highlands-islands-23343202

http://cairngorms.co.uk/resource/docs/publications/...

BSCG welcomes the release of this report yet remains highly concerned that the Park Authority is failing to properly look after the important species and habitats that are key features of the Cairngorms today. Regrettably, the Park Authority is still approving and allocating controversial developments that impact on Scotland's most endangered species such as wildcat, capercaillie and freshwater pearl mussel. Nearly half of the species in the 2013 Cairngorms Nature Action Plan Top 26 list of species in need of urgent conservation action, stand to be impacted on in this way. The Cairngorms National Park supports 25% of the UK's threatened animal and plant species as well as 25% of Scotland's native woodlands.

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As a token of appreciation for his outstanding contribution to conservation BSCG on Wednesday 19 June presented a framed photo of the Aspen Hoverfly, one of the most celebrated rare hoverflies in the UK, to Alan Stubbs. The occasion was the opening of the Alan Stubbs library at the English headquarters of Buglife in Peterborough.
Alan Stubs, who is on the board of Trustees of Buglife the Invertebrate Conservation Trust, wrote ‘British Hoverflies’ an illustrated identification guide. This landmark guide first published by the British entomological Society in 1983, and republished in an expanded form in 2002, has successfully encouraged people across the UK to take a detailed interest in hoverflies. These attractive and astonishingly agile creatures are in their life styles one of the most diverse and fascinating groups of insects. They are rightly considered valuable indicators of environmental health and it is now appreciated they play important ecological roles including for example in pollination of plants once thought to be entirely wind pollinated.
The photo taken earlier this month by BSCG member Tim Ransom while searching for hoverflies in Badenoch and Strathspey with Buglife entomologist Steven Falk , illustrator of the landmark 1983 British hoverfly book, is of an aspen hoverfly initially spotted visiting flowers of bird cherry at Insh Marshes National Nature Reserve. Few naturalists have been privileged to see this rare insect in the wild where it is even more rarely subject of such a detailed close up portrait.
As Alan Stubs explained after the presentation this sizeable orange hoverfly (Hammerchmidita feruginea) is a flagship species for a number of other endangered species that like it depend on decaying wood in a few areas where relatively sizeable stands of aspen survive in Badenoch and Strathspey.
The aspen hoverfly With the pine hoverfly Blera fallax both features within the top list of 26 species identified by the CNPA in the Cairngroms Nature Action Plan as requiring focussed conservation attention between 2013 and 2018.
Alan Stubs who played a key role in establishing Buglife has also written a book on British Soldier Flies and is currently engaged in a work on British craneflies.

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See also BSCG’s leaflet on Groundhoppers of Badenoch & Strathspey written by Tim Ransom.

 
This book  on grasshoppers and their allies, that are in the insect order of Orthoptera, is packed with information. It has a feast of illustrations and includes a CD and written commentary that provides a fascinating insight into the behaviour of many British species.
 
A chapter on ecology and conservation of the British species includes what I found to be an absorbing account of pioneering studies of the ecology of this group. It also reviews more recent studies providing insight into the very low abundance and species richness in modern intensively farmed landscapes where biodiversity has been lost and opportunities need to be taken to restore it.
 
As well as numerous photos of grasshoppers, crickets and groundhoppers the pictures extend to representations of grasshoppers like the Gresham grasshopper at the Royal Exchange in London. There are photos of a range of other invertebrates. For example a stick insect, cockroaches, a mantid, a wasp spider, a solitary wasp and the striking caterpillar of the sycamore moth find a place too. There  are even portraits of birds - an Asian paradise flycatcher and a satin bowerbird.  These, with photos of the naturalists Alfred Russel Wallace and Charles Darwin, are  included in a chapter on mating systems and sexual selection.
 
The species accounts follow a similar format to that found in Bumblebees also in the New Naturalist series and by Ted Benton, published in 2006. Both these well illustrated volumes have sections that can be dipped into for reference. There is an easily located identification  key (pages 216 -238) that acknowledges that groundhoppers can be difficult to distinguish  with certainty and confident identification should be  based on several characters.  This is illustrated with line drawings that are also numerous in a chapter on structure and function, describing such features as senses and acoustic apparatus.
 
The distribution maps of British species are a useful feature. The map for the slender groundhopper omits the first Strathspey record (recorded by BSCG from a site threatened with development at Boat of Garten) although this was reported in British Wildlife before the book’s publication date.
 
The account of the common groundhopper, citing a 1988 general work, mentions strong populations in ancient pine and birch woods. Benton comments that this species has quite exacting habitat requirements and is vulnerable to such things as habitat loss from ‘development’. The fully- winged (or ‘macropterous’)  form of the common groundhopper has been recorded by BSCG since 2009 on threatened sites in Strathspey.  No illustration of this long-winged form is provided.  Reviewing the status of this uncommon form, Benton  mentions that it  was listed from two Scottish sites by Kevan (1952) and referred to by Haes and Harding in the 1997 Atlas of Grasshoppers, Crickets and Allied insects of Britain and Ireland.
 
The book ends with many useful references covering an impressive range of topics, including for example the place of grasshoppers and crickets in Amerindian culture. I found Grasshoppers and Crickets an engaging  and authoritative account of a fascinating group of insects that deserve  increased attention in ScotlaSee also BSCG’s leaflet on Groundhoppers of Badenoch & Strathspey written by Tim Ransom.

Grasshoppers and Crickets by Ted Benton was published in 2012 in the Collins New Naturalist Series (paperback £30). 

This book  on grasshoppers and their allies, that are in the insect order of Orthoptera, is packed with information. It has a feast of illustrations and includes a CD and written commentary that provides a fascinating insight into the behaviour of many British species.  

A chapter on ecology and conservation of the British species includes what I found to be an absorbing account of pioneering studies of the ecology of this group. It also reviews more recent studies providing insight into the very low abundance and species richness in modern intensively farmed landscapes where biodiversity has been lost and opportunities need to be taken to restore it. 

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As well as numerous photos of grasshoppers, crickets and groundhoppers the pictures extend to representations of grasshoppers like the Gresham grasshopper at the Royal Exchange in London. There are photos of a range of other invertebrates. For example a stick insect, cockroaches, a mantid, a wasp spider, a solitary wasp and the striking caterpillar of the sycamore moth find a place too. There  are even portraits of birds - an Asian paradise flycatcher and a satin bowerbird.  These, with photos of the naturalists Alfred Russel Wallace and Charles Darwin, are  included in a chapter on mating systems and sexual selection.   

The species accounts follow a similar format to that found in Bumblebees also in the New Naturalist series and by Ted Benton, published in 2006. Both these well illustrated volumes have sections that can be dipped into for reference. There is an easily located identification  key (pages 216 -238) that acknowledges that groundhoppers can be difficult to distinguish  with certainty and confident identification should be  based on several characters.  This is illustrated with line drawings that are also numerous in a chapter on structure and function, describing such features as senses and acoustic apparatus. 

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Rare long-winged form of the common groundhopper

The distribution maps of British species are a useful feature. The map for the slender groundhopper omits the first Strathspey record (recorded by BSCG from a site threatened with development at Boat of Garten) although this was reported in British Wildlife before the book’s publication date. 

The account of the common groundhopper, citing a 1988 general work, mentions strong populations in ancient pine and birch woods. Benton comments that this species has quite exacting habitat requirements and is vulnerable to such things as habitat loss from ‘development’. The fully- winged (or ‘macropterous’)  form of the common groundhopper has been recorded by BSCG since 2009 on threatened sites in Strathspey.  No illustration of this long-winged form is provided.  Reviewing the status of this uncommon form, Benton  mentions that it  was listed from two Scottish sites by Kevan (1952) and referred to by Haes and Harding in the 1997 Atlas of Grasshoppers, Crickets and Allied insects of Britain and Ireland.  

The book ends with many useful references covering an impressive range of topics, including for example the place of grasshoppers and crickets in Amerindian culture. I found Grasshoppers and Crickets an engaging  and authoritative account of a fascinating group of insects that deserve increased attention in Scotland.