Sunday, 11 February 2018

The Scottish Government's consultation on the restoration of the beaver to this country ends on the 6th March 2018.

The following is a letter that we are sending friends of the beaver and our Scottish Wild Beaver Group members.

It would be good to give a really strong signal to the Scottish Government that we should protect this returned native.

Dear Beaver friend / SWBG supporter

Soon the legislation allowing beavers to remain in Scotland will be debated in the Edinburgh Parliament. Before that can happen, the Scottish Government is obliged to issue a report and hold a public consultation on the conclusions of that report. The report was issued in December 2017 and the consultation is now underway. 

The Cabinet Secretary for the Environment indicated in 2016 that she is minded to allow beavers to remain in Scotland. However,  the final decision is not a forgone conclusion, and she may well be influenced by the results of the consultation and the subsequent debate in Parliament.

If you want beavers to remain in Scotland, please could you contribute your views to the 5 substantive questions in the consultation which can be found at the following link:

The deadline date for receiving responses is 6 March 2018 - and the more of us who reply positively, then the more likely the Cabinet Secretary will be persuaded to stick to her initial decision to allow beavers to stay. As we have seen in the press recently, those who are opposed to beaver’s presence in Scotland can be very vocal - and we need to make our voices heard.

The government report on beavers in Scotland is technical and lengthy. So to make responding to the 5 questions easier, we set out below a summary of the answers that Scottish Wild Beaver Group has provided to the consultation. You should of course, feel free to respond to the questions as you see fit. If you feel uncomfortable or unqualified to answer any particular question, we suggest you just leave it blank.

Please help us to keep beavers in Scotland - by responding to the Consultation by 6 March

Kind regards

Louise Ramsay

Convener Scottish Wild Beaver Group

Question 1
Do you agree with the re-introduction policy and that the Environmental Report has correctly identified the potential impacts and appropriate mitigation?

-Yes ✔

Please explain your answer
We strongly agree that beaver populations in Scotland should be allowed to remain,and that beavers should receive strong legal protection.
Beaver bring many benefits such as flood risk reduction, improved water quality and increased biodiversity.
In addition their presence has socio-economic benefits  (such as  ecotourism potential)
Beavers should be actively managed to reduce any negative effects on farmers, but culling should only ever be a very last resort after all other mitigation methods have been exhausted

Question 2. 
What are your views on the evidence set out in the Environmental Report that has been used to inform the assessment process?
Very positive   
-Positive ✔
Very Negative
Please give details of additional relevant sources:

The evidence contained Environmental Report is generally detailed and thorough.

Question 3
What are your views on the predicted environmental effects as set out in the Environmental Report? See page 15 and Section 4
Very positive
Positive ✔
Very Negative
Please explain your answer

The report’s findings on the predicted environmental effects of beaver reintroduction are generally comprehensive and well reasoned. 

Question 4 
Are there any other environmental effects that have not been considered?

The creation of riparian buffer zones (involving beaver dams) could potentially provide a critical solution to combatting agricultural run-off pollution in intensively farmed areas. 

Question 5 
Please provide any other comments you have on the environmental report
The environmental Report has correctly identified the the potential impacts and appropriate mitigation – but it will be critical to see how the identified mitigation measures are implemented in practice, that sufficient funding is made available for beaver management, and that any evidence of wildlife crime involving beavers is swiftly investigated and prosecuted.

Saturday, 3 February 2018

Runoff and Dams

I was surprised when I found this pool of muddy water as I walked through the beaver swamp here at Bamff. I used to call this the 'Wet Wood', but the character has changed so much with all the work that the beavers have undertaken over the years.

Downstream of the dam the water was clear.

I went in search of the source of the muddy runoff and found that it started with a puddle on the public road.

The water flowed down this ditch. The dam in the first photograph is a few yards round the corner in the distance.

some of it flowed into this tributary of the main ditch and 

flowed into this pond. You can see the lighter sediment laden plume of water. It is joined by another sediment rich body of water that has run off a nearby field. The direction of flow is towards the dam in the top right of the photo, built by the beavers that inhabit this swamp.

Here is the dam through which the muddy runoff must flow. I think it is between 70 and 80 paces long.

This shows the clean water that the dam has filtered.

It was good to see such a clear example of the capacity of beaver dams to stop excess sediments. I suppose that the water on the road contained traces of oil, rubber from tyres and so on. 

Wednesday, 23 August 2017

Oh dear, about two months since my last post!

(I have just noticed a draft today, 23 August 2017, and thought I would write a bit more, add a couple of photos and post it all the same.)

Well, here goes!

That was back in May, I see. The beavers in the burn/ditch west of the drive have been doing great things. I notice tree stumps I had thought were dead sprouting coppice shoots.

A hazel stump sends out coppice shoots.

An ash does the same. I fear for the ash here because I see many signs of the ash die back.

Water spearwort is a spreading feature of the burn side.

Time for a Catch Up

Here is my contribution to 'The Alyth Voice' for August 2017

A Burnside Drama

High summer! A brilliant day of sun with thermals to send buzzards soaring. Swifts fly screaming at altitude and the swallows dart out from their nests on endless sorties. Perhaps there is a second brood to raise?

Life moves on. There are new routines to adopt. Recently, and don’t tell the foxes, pine martens, badgers, stoats, pole cats and others who might be interested, we bought six pullets from Mrs Bruce at Woodside. Now they are here I have to alter my routine to include them in it. They must be shut into their house at night and let out by day to wander and forage through what was once a tennis court. They must be supplied with food and their water supply maintained. Well, that is one new responsibility. Luckily the world is full of people who know about poultry.

Next, a researcher has installed a notched weir and various devices with which to record the flow of water along the Burnieshead Burn. Unfortunately beavers react to the sound of flowing water by going to check where it is coming from. If the flow results from an overflow that they have made themselves they leave it, but if the flow is unauthorised, so to speak, they will do their best to block it. This is what they are doing with the researcher’s notched weir. What is he to do with the situation? The altered flow resulting from the beavers’ work will affect his data. A solution must be found. For the moment I have to visit the notched weir every day to remove the beaver’s efforts of the night before. Perhaps they will give up?

After clearing the notched weir one day I walked on, turned left over the bridge that used to carry the drive to the house, and took along the northern endrigg of the field called Dance Naked. I stopped half way along by the big beech tree that stands there, and looked in towards the burn. A substantial area had been cleared of nettles, dockens and thistles. Climbing over the fence, I went to look more closely: a path led from the top of the bank into the burn: a beaver had cut this clearing among the bankside vegetation. I was fascinated because I had thought that the animals avoided plants like nettles and thistles: clearly not. Beavers do create characteristic areas of lawn along the banks of water courses, but my impression has been that they graze the tender species and leave the more fibrous grasses. I left the bank and crossed the fence back into the field.

I trod on my way, reflecting on what I had just seen, when I noticed a detached foot on the ground. I looked more closely. It was the right hind paw of a beaver kit. What could have done this? A few paces on and I noticed the rest of the creature among the rushes by a canal. All that remained of the little animal was its tail, skin and a shoulder blade. Some beast had scrobbled the kit and consumed it. 

After their first six weeks of life, when their parents keep them safe in the lodge, beaver kits can become surprisingly bold. They seem keen to explore their surroundings, while their parents stand guard nearby, mostly. Perhaps something distracted the parents’ attention in this case? A careless moment is enough to allow the alert hunter its chance.

Otters are around, so my suspicions fell on that species, but perhaps a badger had caught the beaver, or a fox? A Belgian correspondent has told me that it could have been a wolf in his country. So it goes.

Here is my contribution to the AV for September:

A Cock and Six Pullets

As August heads into September the first hints of autumn are becoming apparent; a touch of colouring on the crowns of trees, heavy dew on the grass. The swifts have been gone since early in the month. The house martins and swallows fly in gathering masses to catch their insect prey and fatten on it before setting off for Sub-Saharan Africa.

The pullets I bought in July have started to lay and to make some points clear about their contract with me as custodian. They made it plain very soon after arrival that confinement to their pen was too restrictive. No amount of reminding them of the danger of predators would make them change their mind. Every day as I went to visit their pen they would rush to the door and push as I opened it. Eventually I gave in and allowed the six to rush out, bearing at the back of my mind the thought that I owed them a duty of care as their protector. 

Once out they picked and pecked at the fresh blades of grass. They scratched at the ground with their feet. As the days have passed they have grown bolder and wander further afield. In the afternoon I round them up. Well, that gives you a rather inaccurate idea of what happens. I look around a hen-less landscape and wonder which of several species of predator will have enjoyed them. Perhaps it will be the fox I saw from our bedroom window recently, or the otter whose paw mark I saw by the burn yesterday? And there are pine martens and possibly polecats, not to speak of stoats and weasels. Then, all of a sudden, I hear the reassuring, conversational ‘toouck, toouck' of a hen. Two of the creatures have walked out of the undergrowth where they have been foraging. Soon most of them have come out into the open, curious to see what is going on.

An email arrived from friends in Argyll. They had bought a fine bantam cock for their hens and no longer needed the full sized beast they had on the strength at the time. At first I was unpersuaded: we didn’t need a cock for our hens. We were not planning to establish a breeding flock. Then, another email arrived.The cock in Argyll would face death if he could not be given away: an axe was at hand. Our friends would delay execution if we accepted the bird: they would drive him over to us. He was of a kindly disposition, would look after our hens and protect them from evil. He would even sacrifice himself rather than let his hens face death at the claws of a predator. 

This was too much for me. I emailed back immediately that the cock must come to Bamff without delay. He would be granted full rights of residence as an asylum seeker in danger of his life.

The cock has turned out to be a splendid red gold specimen with iridescent green black tail feathers, which include a white one for good measure. Our friends told me that he had an exceptionally pleasant character, was very quiet, would only crow at dawn and then only for a short time. We drank tea and I listened while my friends extolled the cock.

What of the reality on day two of his presence? He wandered round the house all day, crowing quite often. When it came to rounding up the hens in the afternoon he had only two with him. Is this the future, I thought, am I condemned to an old age of rounding up hens every day from two hours before dusk?

In the meantime our consumption of eggs has risen. Omelettes, scrambled, boiled, poached and fried eggs, mayonnaise, rum soufflĂ© (still to cook). 

This takes me to my last point: the poached egg. I have always consoled myself with the thought that the poached egg was an inferior fried egg. This was because I have never been able to cook one satisfactorily until now.  I would boil the water, break the egg into it and watch while the white spread through the water and seemed to curdle. Well, some months ago I heard on a radio programme that success with poached eggs depends on their freshness. 

With our own eggs I could put this to the test; so I did. I chose two eggs that had been laid that morning. I followed instructions from the internet ( and ‘Presto!’ They were perfect. Of course super market eggs may be months old by the time they reach the kitchen, so it’s not surprising they don’t poach well.

Sunday, 26 March 2017

A Walk to the Wet Wood/Beaver Bog

Last week it was the otter latrine that excited me. This week it was the chorus of frogs. The British frog is Rana temporaria and the song it sings is a simple one note trill - satisfactory in warm weather and bright sunshine as a harbinger of spring.

Here is a choral group.

The small pond at the west end of the Beaver Bog/Wet Wood has grown dramatically.

Otters, water voles, frogs whatever next?

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Memories of our visit to Seattle

Forests for fish should be recognised in Scotland as being important for the health of the Atlantic salmon. That doesn't mean monocultures of Sitka spruce but of a programme of ecological restoration as proposed by Helen Armstrong (, Duncan Halley and others.

I took the next few photos at the Seattle Aquarium.

The removal of the Elwha Dam has been a huge project (,

It is thrilling to think that, as with other river restoration projects, salmon are running up the Elwha River again.

I liked this tank of coho parr in the Seattle Aquarium.

The two photographs below are taken just above the hatchery and so rather upstream of the now removed dam.

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Spring Notes 2017

Being short of time I thought I would look out something I had written earlier and put it in for April 2017. But no, that would not do. The articles I found were all relevant to some extent, but not enough in the particulars. Snowdrops, aconites, migrating geese, beavers and wild boar were all mentioned in the articles that I looked through, but in the context of the year and seasons they described they were irrelevant to the present. There were late years and early years and comments that belonged to a particular year. No, I decided, I would not get away with it. I would have to start afresh and make time.

 This year I see that daffodils are beginning to flower, which seems a little early, but then the weather has been quite mild. Buds of the red berried elders are about to burst and I see one of those flowering currants coming into bloom. Greater Spotted Woodpeckers are drilling away in the snags of dead trees of which there are plenty here, especially along the banks of the Burnieshead Burn. Song thrushes are singing furiously from the tops of trees. One, at least, has been pretending to be an oyster catcher. 

What of the passing winter, revived as it is from time to time by frosts and teuchat storms? The green sandpiper that wintered here for the last two years made a brief touch down along the Burnieshead Burn a couple of weeks before Christmas, but I didn’t see it again. The dippers were absent too. Our Dutch shooters saw a flock of snipe during one of their visits. 

While walking in the Wet Wood I came across an otters’ latrine by the side of the burn. Usually I come across single spraints in various states of dissolution, but  this latrine comprised at least ten separate scats: clearly a meeting place for otters. The spraints are sources of information for the animals. They learn from each other’s faeces what there is to eat in the area and other important information such as the sex and state of sexual readiness of the informant. Otters are not seasonal breeders, but will breed whenever their body condition allows.

The species has made a wonderful recovery since the dark days of the 1970s when it nearly became extinct in this country owing to the widespread use of various poisons in the environment. Happily, scientists of the Nature Conservancy’s Monks’ Wood Research Station, led by the late Derek Ratcliffe, were able to persuade Government of the toxicity of the organochlorines and then the PCBs. This led eventually to the withdrawal and banning of these chemicals. Rachel Carson’s famous ‘Silent Spring’ was a classic summary of the case against the chemical companies’ irresponsible promotion of the use of these substances. And still the struggle continues: the British Government, unlike those of Germany and France, refuses to ban the neonicotinoid chemicals that threaten to destroy honey bees and bumble bees, essential pollinators of so many crops. 

Otters are still rare in various parts of mainland Europe, but making a come back just as ours have. There is the possibility of recovery: we must make the most of it.

There we go! Some photos of otter spraints

I should have pointed out that the short article is my contribution to April's number of 'The Alyth Voice'.

And now to the same walk at Bamff where I came across the otters' latrine.

This is the little pool that John Lister-Kaye dug with the excavator in September 2001.

The new dam for that pond - the dam topped with turf and mud.

Here is the pool created by the Long Dam. In the distance you see a mass felling grey alder. The trees are felled parallel to each other, but not facing specifically towards the water.

Here is the Long Dam, seen from near the lodge by the ditch.