Did you know that ravens are bigger than buzzards?

Whilst out on the Falls of Clyde Reserve last week I heard the distinct call of a raven (it sounds like it has a frog in its throat). My bird book describes the call as a deep ‘korrp’ repeated 3-4 times and it is hard to mistake for anything else once you have heard it. The other distinctive feature of a raven is that fact that it is the largest songbird (passerine) with a wingspan of up to 1.3m, which is larger than a buzzard!

A pair of ravens (c) Doug Brown

A pair of ravens (c) Doug Brown

Now onto the fun stuff, ravens are very playful in flight, often momentarily tucking their wings in whilst flying, doing a half roll to one side and then shooting their wings out again, sometimes they will even do a full roll. Often this is done to impress a potential mate but the one I saw was flying solo and we are a good few months away from the breeding season.

Interestingly, during the Second World War, most of the Tower of London’s ravens perished through shock during bombing raids, leaving only a mated pair named Mabel and Grip. Shortly before the Tower reopened to the public, Mabel flew away, leaving Grip all alone. Sadly, a couple of weeks later, Grip also flew away, most likely in search of his mate. The incident was reported in several newspapers and some of the stories contained the first references in print to the legend that the British Empire would fall if the ravens left the tower.Since the Empire was dismantled shortly afterward, those who are superstitious might interpret events as a confirmation of the legend. Before the tower reopened to the public on 1 January 1946, care was taken to ensure that a new set of ravens was in place.

Laura Preston – Scottish Wildlife Trust, Falls of Clyde Ranger

 

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Did you know a house martin’s nest is made with 1,000 beak-sized pellets of mud?

When I was a little girl, a pair of house martins came and nested outside my bedroom window. I was so fascinated by these tiny birds; I spent hours watching them build their nest. Did you know each nest uses 1,000 beak-sized pellets of mud? As the days grew longer the female laid her eggs and before I knew it I was being abruptly awoken every morning by the sound a chicks cheeping for food. As summer drew to a close, it was time for the now juvenile birds and their parents to leave on their migration to South Africa. I remember waiting for their return the year after but sadly they did not appear, in fact I never had house martins nesting outside my bedroom window ever again.

House martin (c) Harry Harms

House martin (c) Harry Harms

It is estimated that house martin numbers have declined by over 65% in over 40 years and we don’t really know why. We know surprisingly little about house martins despite the fact that they breed alongside us, using our houses on which to build a nest. Important information about house martin numbers and breeding activity is needed now and the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) are beginning a two part survey starting next year.

BTO aim to discover more about house martins to help us identify why they are declining and provide scientific evidence to help inform policy decisions that could reverse the declines. The house martin survey over the next two years will collect more information on population size, breeding ecology and habitat preferences, so we can begin to tackle some key questions about this eagerly awaited summer visitor. If you would like to find out more about how to get involved with this survey, please visit the BTO website and register your interest – www.bto.org/volunteer-surveys/house-martin-survey.

Laura Preston – Scottish Wildlife Trust, Falls of Clyde Ranger

Posted in Birds, Campaigns, Volunteer Opportunities | Tagged , , , , , , , , |

Scottish Tree of the Year – it’s the final countdown!

There are only days left now to register your vote for “Lady’s Tree” in the Scottish Tree of the Year 2014.

Lady's Tree

Lady’s Tree

The competition, organised by the Woodland Trust, aims to highlight the incredible stories behind some of Scotland’s most iconic trees – none more so we would argue than the tree which has been home to our famous female osprey at Loch of the Lowes for nearly a quarter of a century!

Online voting closes this Sunday, 26th October so if you haven’t cast your vote yet then do so now by going to http://bit.ly/TreeoftheYear - Please note, one vote is allowed per email address.

The result of Scottish Tree of the Year 2014 will be announced on Thursday 30th October at an award reception in the Scottish Parliament. The winner will not only receive the Scottish Tree of the Year trophy but will also be put forward as Scotland’s entry into the European Tree of the Year competition for 2015.

So what are you waiting for? Get voting!

Laura Preston – Scottish Wildlife Trust, Falls of Clyde Ranger

Posted in Campaigns, Trees | Tagged , , , , , , |

Family Halloween Event: Fright By Lantern Light

Halloween is nearly here and to celebrate the Falls of Clyde are holding a ghoulishly good children’s event! On Saturday 25th and Sunday 26th of October children and parents can come to our visitor centre in New Lanark for an evening of fun Halloween activities and spooky stories.

Prepare for a night of spooky stories and terrifying tales at the Falls of Clyde!

Prepare for a night of spooky stories and terrifying tales at the Falls of Clyde!

The night begins at the visitor centre making pumpkin lanterns and witches brooms before a guided walk out into the woods for story-telling and hot chocolate around the fire. Fancy dress is encouraged so don your witches hat or your vampire cape and get ready for an evening of festive fun!

The event will be split into two age groups with the first for children aged 3-7 years old taking place from 4pm to 6pm and the second for children aged 6 to 12 years taking place from 6:30pm to 9pm. Places are £5 per person and to book places place call out Falls of Clyde office on 01555 665 262 and prepare for a fun-filled evening!

Hope to see you there!

Alex Kekewich – Falls of Clyde Seasonal Ranger

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The Best of the Best – National Nature Reserves

Last week our Reserves Manager led a group of rather important people around the reserve. They work for Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) looking after National Nature Reserves (NNRs). I have harped on about this before but the Falls of Clyde is part of the Clyde Valley Woodlands NNR. What is unusual about it is that it is a composite NNR – made up of multiple sites along the Clyde Valley. Another unusual thing is that CVW NNR is the only one to have a partnership with a local authority, in this case South Lanarkshire Council.

St Kilda (c) Colin Wilson

St Kilda (c) Colin Wilson

There are 47 National Nature Reserves in Scotland and they’re some of the best places for wildlife in the country.  They’re managed primarily for nature, but people are welcome too, many have facilities to enable visitors to appreciate the wildlife living there. Together, the suite of NNRs, showcase the wide variety of Scotland’s habitats and species from pine forest to blanket bog, from seabird colonies to mountain plants. They are located all over the country – the northernmost is Hermaness at the northern tip of Shetland, while Caerlaverock is at the other end of the country on the shores of the Solway Firth.

NNRs are incredible places to visit, they are the best of the best and we’re so privileged to have one on our doorstep. If you would like to visit one you can look at their website www.nnr-scotland.org.uk for more details. They have an interactive map facility so you can easily find out where they are. I bet you didn’t know that there is an NNR at Loch Lomond? It is aptly named Loch Lomond NNR, and probably one of the most well know NNRs which I and many others would love to visit is St Kilda!

 

Laura Preston – Scottish Wildlife Trust, Falls of Clyde Ranger

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