Little ways to encourage wildlife

As an environmental charity it is important to have areas around our grounds dedicated to housing wildlife. However, it can be quite daunting in your own garden, especially when you don’t want to spend lots of money or if you’re not quite sure if what you’re doing will benefit the wildlife around you. Here at Kindrogan we have gotten into the habit of making homes for wildlife for free using everyday recycled materials. Here are a few examples of how to encourage wildlife without breaking the bank:

The wee bug hoose!

This bug house was made completely out of recycled materials found around the centre! The foundations was an old, unused wood store, which was cleared out and repaired using scrap wood from old bed slats. The wooden box compartments are old wooden microscope boxes that are no longer used and the bottles were taken once empty. We found some plant pots that had been emptied and some bricks that were found scattered around the ground. The rest of the materials are natural such as; twigs, leaf litter, pine cones and logs.

Bug hoose

This bug house is now home to a variety of wildlife including nesting birds! We hope that this will continue to encourage a variety of invertebrates and be enjoyed by many of our visitors.

If you wanted to make one of these in your own garden the best thing is to find a structure that is already established such as some wooden pallets that have been left outside for a while or a pile of old plant pots as it gives you a good starting point to build from.

Mammal runs

Most people don’t like to encourage small mammals like rodents into their gardens, however, at Kindrogan we enjoy watching and studying small mammals such as Bank Voles and Wood Mice.

Encouraging small mammals can be as easy as having a small piece of MDF wood lying down on the grass, you may see some at our centre and think it’s just been left and forgotten. But if you lifted it up you would see a network of tunnels weaving through the dead grass and sometimes even see a small mammal before it runs away.

Dead hedgerow

A dead hedgerow can be a great resting spot and hiding area for small birds, voles and the occasional Red Squirrel. All that is required is a few thick branches to use as posts and lots of thin long twigs to weave in between the posts to fill it.

dead hedgerow

Here is a hedgerow made by some volunteers who visited Kindrogan in the early spring, follow the link to learn more on what they got up to during their stay.

Log piles

You may think a pile of logs in the corner of your garden may look a little messy and not too inviting. However, they are perfects for small birds and mammals to shelter and hunt for food such as invertebrates hiding in the dead wood. It sometimes helps to put some food out, like bird seed, on the log pile to encourage a variety of wildlife to visit. At Kindrogan our log pile has had many visitors such as: Tawny owls, Red squirrels, Hedgehogs and the occasional Pine Marten (seen below).

pine marten

As you can see there are many methods to attract all kinds of wildlife into outdoor spaces near you. If you are visiting Kindrogan anytime soon, be sure to look out for all the little ways we encourage wildlife at our centre and maybe take a few ideas home with you.

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Practical Wildlife Conservation Society Take Over!!!

This week we have had some volunteers from The Practical Wildlife Conservation Society (PWCS) helping us with our sensory walled garden at Kindrogan. Throughout their stay one volunteer has been writing a diary of their progress. Here’s what they have gotten up to for the past few days:

Day 1 – went very well! After a very (very) early start we set off, travelling up through the lake district, having breaks in Gretna Green and Edinburgh and then arriving at FSC Kindrogan this evening! We’ve seen roe and fallow deer, lapwing, pheasant, brown hare, red kites, buzzards, oystercatcher, curlew, red-legged partridge, and plenty of other “garden” bird species! This evening we were also treated to the resident pine marten showing up at the hide! 🐾🌾 Tomorrow we are reconstructing a wildlife garden and camera trapping!

day 1

Day 2 – this morning some of us got up a bit earlier to spot the resident red squirrels! For most of the day, we all worked very hard volunteering for the FSC, we are restoring an overgrown and under-loved walled garden! We plan to make it a sensory wildlife garden and vegetable patch, up-recycling materials from the centre to do this ♻️ We also put three camera traps out focusing on otters at Straloch, a lovely estate consisting of 3 SSSI’s, and placed another 4 cameras at the centre to try and capture photos of pine marten, deer and hedgehogs! This evening we visited Black Spout, a nearby waterfall where we saw lots of otter spraint! We finished the day with a bat walk, talking all about bats, how to detect them, their ecology, protection and feeding habits! Afterwards we also had at bat call sound analysis! Off for another busy day tomorrow…

Day 2

Day 3 – Today our volunteering work really paid off as we’ve made some really good progress! We’ve completed more of the path around the garden that we marked out yesterday, and have also constructed a leaf litter bin and compost bin! Our main pride and joy today however was the reptile and mammal refugia area we built, we created mammal runs using scrub, rocks and old drainpipes and used wood and metal to create shelter and basking areas for both species groups. Throughout the day we have seen lots of voles so hopefully they’ll enjoy our work! We bordered this area with rocks we moved out yesterday to make it look even nicer too! We also had a venture into Pitlochry town and then off to a local woodland and loch (where we heard a tawny owl!) for some sunset photography before catching up on the pine marten hide footage tonight. On site today we have seen plenty of fallow deer, pine marten, woodpecker, siskin, treecreeper, chaffinch, coal tit, long-tailed tit, blue tit, great tit, pheasant and red squirrel! Tomorrow we plan to finish the garden pathway and put in some “bath-tub planters” so vegetables can be grown in the garden!

Day 4 of Scotland – Today we finished the walled garden! We created reptile/amphibian and small mammal refugia, small mammal runs, sink and shelf herb planters, a wildflower corner, bathtub vegetable planters, a dead-hedgerow, a bird feeding station and an insect hotel! We also created a path around the garden with a campfire area in the middle as well as creating an archway at the entrance! We also planted pear, apple and hazel trees! This evening we have done stargazing, moth trapping, attempted a campfire and are now looking for the pine martens on the cameras!

PWCS Volunteers

Again, a big thank you to our lovely volunteers! We hope all who visit the centre will appreciate all your hard work!

For more information on the volunteer group, visit: https://pwcsociety.wordpress.com/

Citizen scientists are the future!

Since the 19th Century, amateur naturalists were at the forefront of collecting specimens and developing our understanding of the natural world. Many conservation organisations today still rely on the public to get involved, for example, RSPB have more than a million members and the National Trust has 60,000 volunteers helping manage and protect the natural landscape.

All contributions are valued in the name of science whether it is cleaning up litter from our beaches to recreational divers counting and monitoring of invasive Japanese seaweed on our coastal areas. Citizen science is a fun interactive way to be a part of collecting valuable scientific data, there are many events you can be a part of throughout the year. One of them being FSC Kindrogan’s BioBlitz which will be happening on the 17th June 2018, where you could be helping us find out what species are living on our doorstep.Bioblitz advert

For more information check out: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/feb/02/driving-future-conservation-ordinary-people-citizen-scientists-bbc-winterwatch

To get involved with citizen science at home follow these links:

https://www.zooniverse.org/projects

http://www.bigbutterflycount.org/

https://www.rspb.org.uk/get-involved/activities/birdwatch/

https://www.earthhour.org/

 

Real Family Holidays- Easter 2017

Over Easter weekend we were joined by families from all over the country looking for a holiday that would not only keep the children occupied but also get them in touch with nature. Over the weekend we had a range of activities every day, going from rock pooling and wildlife walks, to team challenges and orienteering.  While all the activities were very successful, there were 3 that really stood out to me as a FSC staff member.

The first of these was the Wildlife boat trip. While we do many boat trips for groups such as universities, it is not very often that we are able to simply focus on the wildlife that we are seeing for the whole trip. While the weather was not perfect, we managed to just about avoid rain and see lots of wildlife such as Eiders, Guillemots, Seals and Cormorants to name but a few. The highlight of the trip was an appearance by the local Common Dolphin, named Colin by FSC staff, who can often be seen near the buoys opposite the centre. Colin put on a great show for us by swimming close and bow riding in the wake of the boat.

The second highlight for me was our Beach art session. Loads of families battled some dubious weather to get to Kames bay where this session took place. Fortunately the sun did make an appearance and we were able to make the most of the time to make some great beach art. Each family used only what they could find on the beach to make something beautiful and hopefully meaningful. While doing so we learnt about the important status of Kames bay as a site of special scientific interest, as well the impact humans have on environments such as beaches, noticing how much of what is found there was rubbish left by humans.

The final of my favourite activities of the week was habitat creation. This was quite a quiet activity with a couple families deciding to join us. We first looked at what people could be doing at home to create different habitats in their gardens, such as creating wildflower patches for pollinators and feeding garden birds at home. We then went on to building our own micro-habitats that the families could take home to encourage wildlife in their gardens. The options were to build and decorate insect hotels, bird boxes or bat boxes and in the end all 3 were built by our families.

Real family holidays was great fun for not only the families but also all the staff that got to help with activities. If you are interested in joining us in the summer for a holiday have a look below at the link: http://www.real-family-holidays.org/locations/scottish-islands.aspx

Snorkelling at Millport

Despite cold temperatures in the sea of only just over 7 degrees, staff at FSC Millport took to the waters this week to qualify as BSAC Snorkel dive instructors. Five members of Millport staff, plus an extra recruit from Blencathra field centre, took part in the course during Tuesday and Wednesday of this week and all managed to pass!

The course took place over 2 days and included practical and classroom training followed by both practical and classroom assessments. This means that our staff not only had to put up with the freezing temperatures of the sea once but had to head out there twice, the second of which leading sessions of their own. Despite the uncomfortable conditions of the sea, not to mention the cold temperatures outside of the water (snow could be seen on nearby mountains) all managed to qualify and have a good time while doing so.

Snorkelling is a big part of many of the courses that take place at Millport during the spring and summer. This ranges from real family holidays, which take place both in the Easter and summer holidays, leisure learner courses such as ‘snorkeling, sand and sailing’, to university masters courses. We now have a large team of qualified instructors to join those already teaching snorkelling at Millport.

Thanks to the BSAC for running the course and well done to all the staff members that overcame the temperature and passed the course.C7h4_JqXkAAv-lo

New Pine Marten Hide at Kindrogan

Being an environmental education charity, wildlife is very important to us at FSC. At Kindrogan we are extremely lucky, not only because it’s almost impossible to go anywhere on site without seeing a red squirrel but also because we regularly get pine martens visiting us! Being from the South West of England, I had never seen a pine marten before and only knew they existed from seeing them on a nature programme that was set in Scotland. When I arrived we had a small plastic hide, which I sat in a few times and watched the pine martens. However, while it was good you could only fit 2 to 3 people in it. Before Christmas this problem was solved as we got a brand new hide, kindly paid for by Jessops. The new wooden hide looks wonderful and it is so much bigger than the old one. Soon after it was installed we took some students from a school group out to look for pine martens. Even with 5 students plus 4 staff, it still felt spacious!

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Pine martens are very elusive creatures, which does make them hard to spot. They are mostly extinct from England and Wales; the only place in the UK where a strong population of pine martens remains is the Scottish Highlands. The best time to see the pine martens is at dawn and dusk, or if you have a good torch when it is dark. They feed mostly on small rodents, birds, eggs, insects and fruit, though they also like peanuts which is why we put them on the log pile! At Kindrogan we have a camera filming the pine marten log pile 24 hours a day. The footage from this gets sent to an expert who is able to identify individuals. From this we know that we have one regular visitor, a female (named Squinty) and several different males have also been recorded.

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The pine martens are a truly wonderful thing to see and I would recommend anyone that visits Kindrogan to have a look and try out the new hide.

Bugingham Palace: Millport’s new bug Hotel

During the weeks before Christmas, staff at FSC Millport were working hard to create a bug hotel, aptly named Bugingham Palace. This was just in time for the winter, so that bugs had a place to stay nice and warm. Bug hotels are amazing tools for increasing the biodiversity of an area, attracting loads of different species of insects, such as bumblebees, solitary bees, woodlice and ladybirds, that will take refuge within it. They are also often used by insects as nesting sites, providing an environment for offspring to be reared.

So why do we care about insects at all and why do we want to attract them to our site? The first incredibly important role insects fill is that of pollinators, pollinating many of our crops as well as many other plants. While pollination is maybe their most well-known role they also provide many others. One of these is as primary and secondary composers. They help break down and dispose of wastes, dead animals and plants, and so without them these would possibly accumulate in the environment. By doing this insects can create much more fertile soils, improving their condition so that other living things can rely on the soil to live on much more easily. Insects are also a major part of the food web, providing a source of food for many species of reptiles, birds, mammals and amphibians. Bugingham Palace will not only increase the biodiversity of insects at our site but will also have a knock on effect, increasing the biodiversity within these other groups.

bug

Our bug hotel will not only provide a home for the bugs, but will also provide for small garden birds around the site. Bird feeders containing fat balls and seeds are hung from the side and gaps in the roof provide a perfect space for little birds like Wrens to keep warm during the winter. The roof is also a perfect space for nesting birds in the spring, and with a constant food supply from both the feeders and the insects themselves we will hopefully get some nesting there come next spring.