Archives for June 2016

Cromarty at Aviemore today

Just heard that Cromarty (PP7) was photographed this morning at Aviemore lochan this morning (27th June) so he made it back successfully. Sadly there was no news of his journey from the 13th, when he was heading for Cambridge, because the GSM transmitter malfuntioned again. Really disappointing – hope it bursts back into life and sends all the missing data.

Wildcat & Lynx – always remember the bigger picture

Earlier this year, I started cataloguing over 60 years’ worth of field notebooks, diaries, lectures, papers and reports in the hope of writing books. Its time-consuming work, made more so by the number of fascinating letters and wildlife records which draw me back over the years. I’m surprised how often wildcat comes up although it seems I saw as many hanging dead from fences as I saw alive. In the 1960’s and 1970’s they were pretty widespread, whereas the other mid-sized carnivores were surprisingly scarce. Between 1960 and 1963, working as a full-time field ornithologist in the Scottish Highlands I failed to see a single pine marten despite actively searching for them. Badgers and otters were scarce, and I well remember an old crofter telling me that a fox he’d killed in 1952 was the first seen on the Black Isle for nearly a century.

I’m a great believer in history as an important part of successful wildlife management and essential to ecological restoration, nowadays called rewilding. It’s clear now that hybridisation with domestic cat has been at the root of the recent decline of the wildcat, but what of the other problems. My diaries don’t tell me, but I think I remember that the wildcats I saw, 50 years ago, whether alive or dead, all looked like wildcats rather than hybrids. Could it be that when wildcats were common, there was far less chance of them breeding with feral cats? Or catching diseases from them?

Clearly, in those days, killing by trap, snare, poison or gun reduced the numbers of mammals but that persecution seemed somehow to have a greater impact on the other middle-guild predatory mammals than on wildcats. May be because the others had more easily found resting and breeding dens. This almost certainly changed later in the century, when spotlights became an effective way of shooting predators at night, leading to the killing of more wildcats. Nowadays badger, pine marten, otter and fox (in some areas) are probably commoner than they have ever been in northern Scotland, yet wildcat is in serious decline. Could there be a link? Could the high numbers of its competitors put the wildcat at a disadvantage? I have a sneaking suspicion that it could.

With that thought, I believe it’s necessary to look at the bigger picture, not to concentrate solely on individual species but to think of those species’ place in larger ecosystems. We need to recognise that successful restoration of iconic species may be very difficult unless we think and act in a more holistic way. This brings me to the debate about lynx.

When I hear people say that we cannot bring back the lynx for fear of putting paid to the wildcat, I wonder if they really understand the functioning of ecosystems for wildlife conservation. I remember one winter riding through deep snow in a Carpathian forest and coming across a wildcat eating the remains of a roe deer under a hazel tree. I had earlier followed the footprints of a lynx along a forest track for maybe 2 km. My hosts, experts on large carnivores, knew exactly where I had seen the wildcat because they had seen it with its kill in the snow several days earlier. To them, lynx and wildcat were both simply part of the wildlife community in the mountains of Romania.

The return of the lynx to Scotland truly is an essential part of restoring nature to our country and re-establishing a functioning ecosystem to show the real benefits of rewilding. Instead of posing a threat to wildcat, the impact of lynx on fox and badger would undoubtedly, in my view, benefit the wildcat by reducing the numbers and ranging behaviour of its competitors. In the very long term, true recovery of wildcat may not be possible without restoring the lynx. Time to get on with it?

No news

No signals received but I think this is due to the really heavy rain making Cromarty stop his migration, possibly in a place with no mobile coverage, and the lack of sun will mean the battery is low.

Cromarty heading for Cambridge 11.30am

Cromarty reached the English coast at Saltdean in Sussex at 8.45pm last evening. He turned NNW and by 9pm was roosting in woods just north-west of Falmer. This morning he started migrating just after 7am and flew over Crawley at 8.47am. At 10.08am he flew over the River Thames to pass over Canary Wharf, heading north he flew over the Walthamstow reservoirs at 10.27am, and then on up the Lee Valley. The last signal of this batch was at 11.29am when he was flying N at Puckeridge and appears to be heading for Cambridge. He is dodging rainy patches and light west winds, so his NNW heading is taking him up the east side of England, which is unusual for migrating Scottish ospreys in spring.  Lee Evans tweeted me last night suggesting this is a late migration. It’s an OK time for 2nd year ospreys, and even the occasional first year bird, but is late for a third year, and too late for him to breed this year.

June 13th - 14th

June 13th – 14th

Crossing English Channel

Cromarty reached north coast of France at 1307GMT and turned NW to the Cherbourg peninsula. He left the NE corner of Cherbourg at 1637GMT and tracked NE across the channel with a westerly wind. At 8.11pm he was heading for the Sussex coast and should come ashore between Brighton and Newhaven just after 9pm this evening.

June 13th

June 13th

No change

Roxy continues to spend her time near the nesting site

Change in her behaviour

Calluna has started to move around more in her home range in the North Angus glens

Usual two area behaviour

Agnes flew north from the upper Dulnan River area on 28th May to her usual haunts near Loch Monar. On the 30th May,  she returned by the western route to the Monadhliaths.

May 18th - June 9th

May 18th – June 9th

Ranging in the Cairngorms National Park

Mackay has been ranging widely as usual in the Cairngorms National Park from the Angus glens north to Abernethy nature reserve on June 7th – 8th – just north of Bynack More

May 12th - June 9th

May 12th – June 9th

Usual wide ranging in West Sutherland and Wester Ross

Globe has been ranging widely in the north-west from Laxford Bridge in north-west Sutherland south as far as Loch a’Bhraoin in Wester Ross

May 18th - June 11th

May 18th – June 11th