Taynish through the eyes of an artist

Jane Smith, a local wildlife artist, describes her inspirational year as Artist in Residence at Taynish NNR and all its natural riches.

Under the waves, hand-made screen print.

Under the waves, hand-made screen print.

Our village is a cluster of houses around an Argyll sea loch. On the far side of the bay are some oak trees – quite a lot of them. There are paths through the trees and up over the hills to wonderful views of the wooded peninsula and the sea-lochs that surround it. We sometimes take this place for granted as it’s always been there. In fact it’s been there for nearly ten thousand years. 

In the last 40 years, since Taynish became a National Nature Reserve, more and more visitors have arrived to visit our woodland. Three years ago SNH started an Art Trail with installations throughout the reserve, leading to a poet’s seat. The poems and comments left there have helped us all see our woodland through the eyes of others and appreciate it more.

With this in mind, in 2016, SNH offered me the job of Artist in Residence for a year. I am a wildlife artist, and have worked and exhibited across the UK, but like many of us, have paid less attention to the familiar sights on my own doorstep. Part of my job was to run art workshops and bring new people to the woods, but I myself learned as much about Taynish as the visitors. I was then able share what I had seen with a wider audience through my artwork.

End of winter, acrylic and crayon.

End of winter, acrylic and crayon.

The proximity of oak woods and sea is what makes Taynish so interesting, affording unusual views such as the combination of gannets and oak trees. I especially enjoy the shapes and colours of winter when the cloak of green leaves has gone. There is also the promise of renewal, as fat oak buds lie dormant, waiting for the warmer weather.

Great tits and polypody ferns, hand-made screen print.

Great tits and polypody ferns, hand-made screen print.

Moisture-laden air from the Atlantic dumps plenty of rain on the coast here, and the Gulf Stream current ensures that the temperature never drops below freezing for long. This warm, wet atmosphere means that many mosses, lichens and ferns grow on the oak trees in this Celtic Rainforest. The micro-jungle in the branches shelters many insects – good food for all the birds which live here.

Sea surrounds the reserve on three sides, and the wildlife under the waves is every bit as rich as that found in the oak woods above. The variety of brittlestars, starfish, sea urchins, sea squirts and crustaceans makes snorkelling a voyage of discovery. I always find myself shivering, both from the excitement and the cold.

Autumn visitors - fieldfares, hand-made screen print.

Autumn visitors – fieldfares, hand-made screen print.

In October the north wind brings Scandinavian raiders to plunder the autumn berries in Taynish. Fieldfares are thrushes, but bigger and seemingly more fierce than our song thrush or blackbird. These impressive birds arrive in their hordes, perhaps as did the Viking invaders of old. It only takes them a few days to strip all the rowan trees of their berries, and then they move on.

If you are interested in seeing more of the artwork from the project visit Jane’s blog or follow her on Instagram.

For more information about Taynish National Nature Reserve go to our website or make a visit there yourself.





Restoring Scotland’s damaged peatlands

Sunday 23 July is International Bog Day 2017. It’s an opportunity to celebrate bogs across the World and the essential role they play in our lives. As Julia Quin explains, there is funding available to restore Scotland’s damaged peatlands through Peatland ACTION.


Covering just 3% of the earth’s land area, bogs are second only to oceans in the amount of carbon they store, which is still twice that held by the World’s forests! By protecting and restoring damaged bogs there are multiple benefits for people and nature, particularly in combating climate change.

This is why the Scottish Government has announced £8 million of funding to restore a further 8000 hectares of damaged peatlands in 2017/18. This is in addition to the 10,000 hectares that have started their road to recovery since the project began in 2012.

Peatland Action - COMMS - Images - 2017 - Peatland Pound 1 Andrew McBride

 ‘What can you get for the peatland pound?’ © Ewan Campbell

The funding is available through the Peatland ACTION project, administered by Scottish Natural Heritage; open to land owners, managers, farmers, crofters and individuals. We are accepting applications from now until the end of October.

Restoration techniques start, in a large proportion of cases, with the rewetting of peatland habitats through ditch blocking; as in the past, many peatlands were drained in order to make them more ‘productive’. However, with a greater understanding of the role bogs can play in carbon storage, upstream water storage, slowing river flows helping, in some cases, to alleviate downstream flooding, and supporting clean drinking water supplies and fisheries, there is so much more to be gained.

Peatland Action - COMMS - Images - Symposium - Field Trip 13

Creating peat dams at Dalchork blanket bog, Lairg © Julia Quin/SNH

Other restoration techniques are being trialled, such as peat hag re-profiling, re-vegetating bare peat and forest to original bog recovery. When peat is exposed it reacts with oxygen, causing it to degrade and releasing carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, which contribute to climate change.

Soils are the main terrestrial store of carbon in Scotland and peaty soils are estimated to hold the equivalent of 140 years’ worth of Scotland’s total annual greenhouse gas emissions. That’s a huge amount of carbon! We must do all we can to preserve this precious asset.

To celebrate International Bog Day 2017, local community groups ‘Our Portmoak’ and ‘Portmoak Community Woodland Group’ are hosting a ‘Tales of the peat bog’ event, in which a peat core sample will be taken to tell the history of the bog. For every metre of peat, 1,000 years of history can unfold.

More than 20% of Scotland is covered by peat – covering some 2 million hectares, which is almost exactly the same size as Wales! In a global context, Scotland holds 13% of the world’s blanket bog, with the Flow Country and the Lewis peatlands probably representing the largest contiguous areas globally. By protecting and restoring this precious asset now we are planning for our future.


Did you know? The Peatland Action Team is based all around Scotland; from Shetland to Sutherland, Argyll to the Hebrides, and Deeside to the Dumfries. We’ll be attending a number of agricultural shows and game fairs over the summer, which we’ll be promoting via @SNH_Tweets.


For more information, please visit www.snh.gov.uk/peatlandaction or email us direct to peatlandaction@snh.gov.uk .



DYW Interesting Practice- Ellon Academy: ‘Work-related Learning’ offer enhance pupils’ employability skills

In response to the new Work Placements Standard, Ellon Academy has introduce their ‘Work-related Learning’ model  in collaboration with local business and employers offered as an option choice for all pupils in the senior phase.   Leaners are given the opportunity to   participate in  internship-style work placements one day a week from August to Easter and are able to select from a wide range of  sectors including journalism, education, hospitality, performing arts, event management child care.  Supplementary lessons in school allow participants to reflect on their   learning experience, enhance newly developed skills and at the same time gain a National Progression Award in Enterprise and Employability at level 4 or 5.

Access the summary information sheet to find out more about this innovative approach:

Interesting Practice in Skills DYW – Ellon Academy

Hear from some of the pupils about their ‘work-related learning’ experiences:



What is green infrastructure?

We only have to be stuck in a traffic jam, be waiting for a delayed train or not getting a mobile phone signal to realise how vital infrastructure is to us. But all of that is part of the grey, or built, infrastructure. What is green infrastructure? And is it as significant as the grey infrastructure to us and our society?

Green Infrastructure project site at the Halfway Park by Moss Heights, Cardonald, Glasgow. ©Lorne Gill/SNH

Green Infrastructure project site at the Halfway Park by Moss Heights, Cardonald, Glasgow. ©Lorne Gill/SNH

Green infrastructure includes the parks, woodlands, street trees, play spaces, allotments, private gardens, playing fields, road verges, green walls and living roofs, rivers, streams, wetlands and sustainable drainage in our landscape, but also the footpaths, signs and seating that help us use, experience and enjoy our environment. We are beginning to realise that green infrastructure is more than its sum of parts. The way all of these parts work together is what makes it special.

What makes green infrastructure important?

There is increasing evidence that well designed green infrastructure in our towns and cities can be as important to us as built infrastructure, and is likely to increase in value as climate change continues.

Part of green infrastructure’s value derives from its multifunctional nature. The right type and spacing of street trees not only makes a place look good, but can also cleanse and cool the air, reduce problems caused by rain, reduce noise and promote better health and well-being. There is clear evidence that if patients can see greenspace from their hospital bed they recover faster[1].

Green space in Dundee. ©Lorne Gill/SNH

Greenspace in Dundee. ©Lorne Gill/SNH

Climate change is expected to cause more heavy rain. If drainage systems cannot deal with the stormwater, street flooding can be the result. It doesn’t take much standing water on a road to cause congestion. Features such as swales and rain gardens can help avoid or reduce the problem.

Green walls on buildings can be made by training plants to grow up a frame. The plants reduce heating costs in the winter by reducing the effect of strong winds, while in the summer they can help reduce air conditioning bills by reducing heat transfer into the building. Multifunction again!

The benefits of green infrastructure reach beyond what it can do for our cities’ human populations. Improving green networks allows wildlife to enter deeper into, and even across urban areas. Wildlife moving between urban habitat patches is approximately 50% greater if vegetation corridors are in place compared to patches that are not connected by corridors.

How is SNH involved in green infrastructure?

We are involved in green infrastructure planning as part of our day to day work. We provide advice to Local Authorities on their greenspace strategies, Local Development Plans and developer masterplans. We are members of, and help fund, the Central Scotland Green Network Trust, which is developing the biggest Green Infrastructure project in Europe. We now also manage a multi-million pound programme of funding for Green Infrastructure – the Green Infrastructure Fund.

Fishing beside the Forth and Clyde canal, Glasgow. ©Lorne Gill/SNH

Fishing beside the Forth and Clyde canal, Glasgow. ©Lorne Gill/SNH

The Green Infrastructure Fund

The Green Infrastructure Strategic Intervention is part of the European Regional Development Fund 2014-2020 Scotland programme and aims to bring transformative change to the 15% most deprived areas of urban Scotland through funding the creation of multifunctional green infrastructure. SNH is the lead partner for the Strategic Intervention, and we are delivering it on behalf of the Scottish Government.

The rationale is to use green infrastructure to help address some of the issues faced by urban communities living in areas of multiple deprivation, and in doing so, to demonstrate how multifunctionality can provide solutions to lots of different problems at the same time. We also want to demonstrate that place-making does not have to involve a choice between people and nature.

We fund projects that have the potential to make a real impact and that deliver strongly towards our five outcomes: 

  • Nature, Biodiversity and Ecosystems  Improved green infrastructure helps strengthen our urban ecosystems and species be more resilient to climate change.
  • Improving Environmental quality, flooding and climate change  Opening up and re-naturalising our urban watercourses helps to reduce flooding and improve the quality of our urban rivers.
  • Involving communities and increasing participation  Communities that feel positive about their local greenspaces and how it benefits them want to share their experience and influence its management.
  • Increasing place attractiveness and competitiveness  Places that are more attractive to live, work and invest in are economically competitive.
  • Improving health and wellbeing  Greenspace improves health and wellbeing. Using greenspace can complement or replace other therapies.



We recognise that not all projects will be able to deliver towards all the outcomes, but we do encourage applicants to think about the multiple functions their sites can have and work out how they can deliver towards as many of the outcomes as they can. The ERDF programme also has three Horizontal themes – Environmental sustainability, Equal opportunities and Social inclusion – which cut across all the work it funds and our projects need to clearly demonstrate what steps they will be taking to address these as part of the work they do.

Phase 1 of the Green Infrastructure Strategic Intervention runs until the end of 2018. So far, we’ve committed £5.8m of funding to 5 projects in the greater Glasgow area and 2 in Aberdeen (find out more about them here). The infrastructure itself is only part of the story. As well as telling us about the physical changes they’ll be making to their sites, we ask our projects to clearly demonstrate how they will be engaging and working directly with the communities they aim to benefit, and how the people in those communities will influence and help to shape their greenspaces. All our funded projects have strong community engagement angles, not just in terms of how they’ve developed the project, but in how they will go on to deliver it and in the legacy that their projects will have. Despite the uncertainties of Brexit, we’re hoping that we will be able to run a Phase 2 and fund further capital projects.

As well as our large capital projects, we also have another challenge fund – the Green Infrastructure Community Engagement Fund – which funds smaller projects aiming to increase people’s awareness and understanding of, and involvement with, their local greenspace. We hope that these projects will empower communities to have a greater influence on the development of green infrastructure in their area. Round 2 of the Green Infrastructure Community Engagement Fund will open in early August, when we’ll also be announcing the successful projects from Round 1.Focus on Greenspaces stamp.If you want to know more about our work on green infrastructure please visit the Green Infrastructure Fund visit the Fund website (www.greeninfrastructurescotland.org.uk), or email greeninfrastructure@snh.gov.uk.


[1] Ulrich, R.S.,1984. View through a window may influence recovery from GP practice. Science 224, 420-421

DYW Interesting Practice – Dalgety Bay Primary School: The Career Education Standard at the heart of school planning

Laura Spence  , HT at Dalgety Bay Primary School has adopted a unique approach to ensure that career education is an integral part of the school improvement planning.  Embracing  the Career Education Standard 3-18  all staff have used Learning Resource 1:  Introduction to the Career Education Standard in order to embed the entitlements into the learning and teaching across the school.

This approach has become a cluster model and has been recognised by  and share across Fife Council .

The school’s vision of realising their ambitions to provide all children with opportunities to connect leanring with the world of work include the following actions :

  • Teachers will provide creative opportunities to develop the skills for life in meaningful and relevant contexts within their class.
  • All teacher will deliver 4D learning intentions, consistently linking each lesson to career education.
  • Our weekly assemblies will regularly include information on specific careers, making children aware of the range of employment opportunities on offer.
  • Children  from P5 onwards will have access to the ‘My World of Work’ website where they will have the opportunity to explore different career options focusing on skills and qualifications.
  • Classroom displays and planning will include links to Career Education throughout the school.
  • We will continue to engage with local business partners and beyond to develop contacts and create a database of professionals prepared to support the school in developing Career Education within school.
  • We will be planning and organising a Career Education Day that will take place on 22nd November 2016.

Find out more about Dalgety Bay Primary Schools approach by accessing the summary information and school DYW leaflet here:

Interesting Practice in Skills DYW – Dalgety Bay PS

Career Education Leaflet Dalgety Bay PS


DYW Interesting Practice – Larbert High School: Developing young peoples’ skills across all aspects of learning

Developing learners’ skills is high on the agenda at Larbert High School.  The leadership team have adopted a systematic approach to enhancing young peoples’ skills for life and work and implemented a holistic ‘Skills Framework’ across all aspects of the curriculum.  The school uses the DYW context to offer learners a wide variety of experience and  pathways in order to ensure all young people are developing the necessary skills and aptitudes for a positive vision about the futures.  Collaboration with both the wider community and employers is elementary to the successful realisation of this goal.

The ‘Skills Framework at Larbert High School complements this agenda and ensures that all young peoples know, understand and are able to articulate  their skill sets and are able to relate these to their  career aspirations.     The following document outlines the Skills Framework:

Interesting Practice in Skills DYW – LHS Skills Framework

Hear from teachers and pupils about the structure of the Skills Framework and its impact:

Meet the pot beetles, nature’s quirky architects

Teams of volunteers led by Buglife and supported by SNH have recently rediscovered two species of pot beetles that have not been seen in Scotland for many years. Athayde Tonhasca introduces these lovely beetles with peculiar habits.

The ten-spotted pot beetle. © Ross Piper
The six-spotted pot beetle. © Suzanne Burgess

The species that made the news are the six-spotted (Cryptocephalus sexpunctatus) and the ten-spotted (C. decemmaculatus) pot beetles (the less rare two-spotted pot beetle, C. bipunctatus, was also found). These species belong to a large family of leaf beetles (Chrysomelidae), with over 1500 species worldwide, of which 250 are present in Britain. Chrysomelids are usually oval or slightly elongated, brightly-coloured or metallic and have thread-like antennae.

Adult pot beetles feed on leaves and petals, usually from related species of plants, and their larvae eat mainly dried and decaying leaves in the leaf litter. Some species, like the ten-spotted pot beetle, are quite rare and believed to be threatened, mostly because of the reduction of their scrub habitats.

Many species of animals gather materials and put them together to construct homes or shelters that become familiar features of the landscape such as beaver dams, bird nests, bee hives and spider webs. Pot beetles however make use of a cheap, abundant but rather peculiar building material: their own poo.

A C. decemmaculatus laying eggs. © Ross Piper

A C. decemmaculatus laying eggs. © Ross Piper

Pot beetles and other species from the same family are known as the case-bearing leaf beetles (camptosomata is the technical term). Instead of simply laying eggs, a female pot beetle rotates each egg with her rear legs, wrapping it with a hardened case made of her own frass (the word entomologists use to describe insect droppings) mixed with body fluids. These beetles even have special body structures known as rectal apparatus to carry out the task of case-building.

The egg, enveloped in a flask-like structure or ‘pot’, is dropped to the ground. When the larva hatches, it stays inside its case, with only the legs and head projecting from an opening at the base as it moves around to feed. So you can say that pot beetles have movable homes, just as hermit crabs have theirs. As the larva grows, it expands the case by applying its own frass to the structure. It may take three years for a larva to complete its development.

Pot beetle larva inside a case. © Ross Piper
Pot beetle larvae. © Ross Piper

Frass may seem an odd and unappealing choice for protecting one’s offspring, but it does have many advantages: it is lightweight and obviously readily available; because of its colour and appearance, it blends into the landscape and camouflages very well. Additionally, most animals generally avoid faeces because they may be sources of diseases. Some researchers believe that case-manufacture could have originated as protection against predators, particularly ants. This has not been proven, but experimental evidence has shown that casings do dissuade parasitoids (insects whose larvae live as parasites that eventually kill their hosts) and protect larvae against desiccation.

Fecal matter has desirable physical properties as well. It can be combined with digested and undigested plant tissues to produce composite materials of different strengths and densities that resist breaking under tension and compression – just like reinforced concrete. Faeces also have thixotropic properties (their viscosity decreases when stress is applied) like mud, a material widely used by humans and animals. Then it is not surprising that an estimated twenty percent of leaf beetle species cover their eggs or larvae in waste products, and other species (particularly among termites, moths and flies) use frass as a building material.

For more on the biology and ecology of pot beetles, check Ross Piper’s report and Buglife’s information page.

How good is our early learning and childcare?

Tha “Dè cho math ’s a tha ar tràth-ionnsachadh agus ar cùram-chloinne?”  a nis ri fhaighinn ann an Gàidhlig aig:


The Gaelic version of “How good is our early learning and childcare?” is now available at:



Ginormous whirligigs and camera trapping – a year at Caerlaverock NNR

Our graduate placement at Caerlaverock NNR, Ellie Oakley, reflects over the year and looks back on the highlights and achievements.

Ellie Oakley.

Last year, I had to make a decision to either carry on with my study of Countryside and Environmental Management or take up a student placement with SNH.  It’s hard to believe this was a whole year ago. Now my year at Caerlaverock NNR is already up andit has been a pure joy and pleasure. I have been reflecting over the year and looking back on highlights and achievements. There have been so many!  I loved the diversity of tasks I had, including surveying wetland birds for our Breeding Birds Survey (BBS),  finding amphibians, meeting new people, getting stuck into practical work, going out on the merse enjoying the morning and evening flights of the geese.  Every day was different which I absolutely loved.

Ellie Oakley.But I think my proudest achievement was the education. Outdoor education is a passion of mine and in my opinion is so important, so this year I tried to get involved with any education projects as I could.  For example, on 1 May 1 the sun was shining and it was a perfect day for a Brownie visit. Adam, Reserve Officer, and I were pretty excited to take them out on the Reserve after spending one evening with them talking about animal tracks and signs.

Ellie and the Brownies.We walked down Hollands Loaning to try and spot the bird boxes that the brownies had decorated for us, as earlier in the week Adam and I had noticed a pair of tree sparrows popping in and out of the bird boxes painted by the Gnomes group.  Walking around the board walk the Brownies where on point and spotted frogs, butterflies and flowers. We enjoyed a picnic in the sun and closed our eyes to concentrate on how many different things we could hear; reeds swaying in the wind, sedge warbler, reed bunting, and skylark singing, and giggling Brownies. When lunch was all eaten up we spent the rest of the time pond dipping to find interesting creatures lurking around at the bottom of the pond. One of the surprises was a ginormous whirligig beetle the size of your palm, which we were able to scoop up to put in a tray for closer inspection.

The other major project I have been a part of was the SNH Schools Camera Trapping Competition.  I worked with the local primary school Caerlaverock, and fantastically they won first prize across the whole of Scotland in the innovation category. For the competition, SNH loaned camera traps to 20 primary schools throughout Scotland to record wildlife. Pupils gathered footage over a number of months and the schools submitted a compilation video of their favourite scenes and pictures. Camera trap prizes were awarded to those judged to have made the most innovative use of the equipment in the context of their school’s location.  P4, 5, 6 and 7 children from Caerlaverock primary school used their camera trap to capture pictures and video footage of a wide range of species right on their doorstep, and then edited the footage themselves to make a short film. This was a brilliant project and I enjoyed every moment, planning, working inside the school to show them fast track nature detective skills, and bringing the whole school out on the reserve to put out a camera trap.

It has been a brilliant year with lot of fond memories. I’ll be sure to come back for a visit to this special part of the world.

This year Caerlaverock NNR celebrates its 60th anniversary. Come along to the celebrations on Saturday 15 July where there will be something to excite and inspire everyone. Find out more here.

And for more information about the Reserve go to the web page.


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