Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Warm days, frosty nights, this early spring comes as a surprise after the past two winters. To the North-West a great column of smoke shows that pyromaniac tendencies latent in humans are triggered by the fine dry weather. Luckily for us the wind is in the South.

A compartment of mainly Norway spruce is being clear felled. Industrial scale machinery can quickly make a mockery of any desire for the small scale. Timber can no longer be left in laybys and passing places, ready for uplift. Special loading bays may have to be prepared, bottoming laid and earth moved, to allow the lorries to pick up the timber and take it to the sawmill. A little water running down the drive became a possible problem and so I agreed to minimal dismantling of a couple of dams to allow a lowering of the water level.

The beavers responded to this quickly by building up the notched dam. The contractors' reply was to make a bigger notch, which breached the dam. The flood cascaded down the ditch, overwhelmed the culvert and rushed down the drive, leaving bars of sand and gravel, and turning it into a temporary river bed. Luckily the flood defences saved Aileen's cellar.

The beavers are now building back the dams that were breached.

In the meantime the Minister's Good News has been tempered by the Scottish Land and Estates organisation's assertion that the Minister's declaration that the beavers of the Tay are not protected by law means that they can kill beavers if they wish.

Friday, 16 March 2012

The Minister speaks!

Today's hot news is that Stewart Stevenson has announced a three year period of study for the beavers of the Tay. A committee is to be set up to advise farmers and others who may be troubled by their presence. It seems that translocation from one place to another will be possible. This is great news and we of the campaign for the Free Beavers of the Tay and the Scottish Wild Beaver Group are delighted with the Minister's decision. We are most grateful to all those who have supported our campaign. At the same time we are looking forward to working with other interested parties for the conservation of the Eurasian beaver in Scotland.

This is one of the photographs that Ray Scott in May/June 2010. It looks like a young beaver - a yearling perhaps.

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Spring and Volunteers

Now, here is an interesting paper. It is entitled 'Effect of beaver dams on the hydrology of small mountain streams: example from the Chevral in the Ourthe Orientale basin, Ardennes, Belgium
by: J. Nyssen, J. Pontzeele, P. Billi.


I have to admit that, though I have read the summary, I have not yet read the whole paper.

We have been very lucky to attract the attentions of groups of volunteers. The Dundee Conservation Volunteers come to cut rhododendrons. Here they are on a stretch of the Cateran Trail that passes through Bamff and runs next to the Burnieshed Burn, the home of one of the families of beavers that live here.

One of the draws of cutting rhododendrons is the bonfire that consumes the cut branches and stems. We have also enjoyed the visits of the New Caledonian Woodland volunteers. They have respaced birch, planted trees along the banks of the burn, and joined in the assault on the rhododendron, as did a group of Dutch students last summer.

Every year for the last four or so a group of First Year students from Edinburgh University has come to visit the beaver habitat. I look forward to this annual visit and enjoy the enthusiasm of the young people. Here is a photograph taken during their latest visit:

The students are taking samples of the water which they will take back to Edinburgh and analyse.

Otters are active along the burn. I thought this spraint was rather small for otter and wondered if it belonged to a mink. However, getting down to my knees and sniffing, I could detect no repulsive odour to qualify it for mink spraint, so I guess it must be otter. The folded Leatherman Utility Tool is 10cm (4 inches) long. 

Spring is in the air and the up-rushing sap in the beaver cut birches confirms that this is the case. Frogs and toads are migrating to the ponds to breed. 

The sap was dripping from this tree yesterday morning

Here is the fine old birch that is on its way to being felled. What insect life will enjoy the dripping juices?

Chris Potter pointed out the whereabouts of a couple of red squirrel dreys along the back drive. They are on both sides of the road, high in the overgrown mainly beech hedge.

Here is a link to the Martinez Beavers web site: MartinezBeavers.org

This is a brilliant web site with some extremely helpful links.