Archive for ‘Birds and animals’

August 13, 2016

Reindeer are not just for Christmas

reindeer sled

Reindeer are not just for Christmas although they are intrinsically associated with Christmas celebrations. This relatively recent tradition appears to have come from a poem written in 1822 by an American, Clement Moore, called A Visit from St Nicholas in which he appears to draw on Scandinavian and German legends to create the now iconic image of Santa Claus riding across the sky on a sledge drawn by reindeer.

Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house

Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;

The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,

In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;

The children were nestled all snug in their beds

… 

When what to my wondering eyes did appear,

But a miniature sleigh and eight tiny reindeer

 Most deer sightings in Scotland are of roe, red or sika deer. The reindeer that once roamed our mountain sides disappeared a long time ago – estimates run between 800 and 8000 years. We do have small numbers of them now; semi-domesticated and the results of reintroduction programmes.

reindeer and dogs

According to some sources it was in the tenth century when the threat to our reindeer population materialised and within a couple of hundred years they had disappeared entirely from our forests and mountains. The reasons for this are uncertain but there were attacks on their habitats – pine, birch and oak forests which once grew up to levels of 2,500 feet – were being burned or cut down to create land for crops and grazing animals as well as harvesting of timber for building and boats. Deer were also predated by bears and wolves in addition to the most ruthless killer of all, man driven to kill every one of them until none remained – wiping out the last of Scotland’s native reindeer population.  

In intervening centuries some attempts were made to reintroduce them – in the late 18th century by the Duke of Atholl and in early 19th century a handful of animals were released into Orkney and Aberdeenshire but none of these survived. In 1916 Robert Traill collected three reindeer from the Russian area around Archangel and released them in Orkney but he was no more successful.

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Mikel Utsi and his reindeer

A more scientific approach was taken when in the 1950s reindeer were reintroduced into Scotland following a suggestion by a Saami herdsman from Sweden, Mikel Utsi, and his wife Ethel John Lindgren Utsi, who also supervised the project. They thought conditions in Scotland were similar to parts of Scandinavia, Russia and Canada in that they could provide reindeer with the foods they grazed – lichens and reindeer-moss, a kind of boggy carpet.

An area of forest in the Cairngorms at Rothiemurchus estate was fenced-off for a small number of beasts, no more than 25 plus a herder, for it was understood that rather than releasing the animals to roam wild they would benefit from being semi-domesticated.

Eight deer were shipped in from Sweden and quarantined for six weeks at Edinburgh Zoo then shipped out by train and lorry to their Highland home. One of the eight, a calf died immediately but the rest were then transferred to Rothiemurchus. Soon there were two more deaths, then another. A bull deer then disappeared and it was assumed had been shot by a poacher. By the end of the first winter only three animals remained alive. A major problem was their vulnerability to insect infestation in a climate that was warmer and damper than they were used to.

group reindeer

The small herd of Scandinavian reindeer was given freer rein over tracts of the Cairngorms to try to prevent the problem with insect pests but the weather the following summer was wet and warm, not at all suitable for reindeer and led to an increase in the numbers of black flies, midgies, cleggs and mosquitoes attacking the herd and leading to yet more deaths.

The Forestry Commission offered higher land that was drier and freer of insect pests and when more reindeer arrived in Scotland and were put to this new habitat and sure enough it was more suitable with fewer beasts dying.

last reindeer

Post-mortem examinations of stomach contents of deceased animals indicated that Scottish reindeer had been living on less varied diets than their counterparts in sub-Arctic Russia which had access to birds eggs, voles and bones of carrion (providing them with phosphorus) while Scottish reindeer fed mainly on grasses, sedges, pine needles, dead heather tops and very little lichen and moss. Despite setbacks and early failures the Utsi reindeer did survive in the Cairngorms, albeit in small numbers. Reindeer are built for extreme cold; their coats are very dense and well-insulated and their hooves act like snowshoes so one wonders what the future holds for this Arctic species of deer with global warming heating up the environment.

Whenever plans emerge to reintroduce lost species into Scotland there are voices raised in opposition. In the 1950s opponents to the reintroduction of reindeer described them as ‘vicious beasts’ which had no place in modern Scotland and I suppose if you are a clump of lichen they are but humans have nothing to fear from them. There are also those who deny reindeer were ever native to Scotland or if they were it was too long ago to matter and claim what was thought to be evidence of reindeer was, in fact, red deer – for example bones discovered in Pictish middens. It’s a fair debate for a thesis.

coloured reindeer

Our landscapes, rural and urban, are products of actions taken in the past – the Highlands emptied of people and communities for sheep, then red deer with the rise of the myth of good land management by sporting estates whose gamekeepers act like demi-gods deciding what can live on the land and what must be controlled destroyed. It is all about economics not biodiversity. Scotland would not have the landscape it does today were it not for them they claim. No, it would not. We would lose much of the barren muirs that have wrecked the Highland economy and limited its prospects. We would have a greater variety of wild species living naturally and not persecuted for being rubbish or vermin because they are seen as a threat to artificially introduced species, or product in the lingo of the estates, that can be offered up for slaughter on a Saturday afternoon.

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Slaughter of mountain hares

The Scottish wildcat and several of our owls have suffered from this attitude and recently we’ve seen thousands of discarded carcasses of mountain – heaps of rubbish in the view of gamekeepers. Almost daily we learn of protected species, our golden eagles and other raptors that have mysteriously disappeared – poisoned, shot or trapped on the sly in hunting estates. Of all the many species of birds and animals hunted to extinction in this country a few have been reintroduced and others are in the pipeline: beavers, lynx, wolves, wild boar, red squirrel, polecats, goshawks, sea eagles, ospreys, red kites and pine martins.

Keep your eyes open when you are out and about and report illegal activity you come across that threatens our wildlife. You are unlikely to see a reindeer – or indeed any in the above list – and you may well wonder why though I suspect we all know the answer.

 

June 3, 2016

Polly Parrot and the Easter Rising

Polly Walker parrot 1929 at Cragievar

The feathered genius Polly Parrot on an outing into Aberdeenshire

This is a tale of two parrots, well three but one is only of passing interest.

The first account is of Polly, a male parrot, who shared a home with two women at 32 Whitehall Road, Aberdeen in the 1920s.

Polly was no bird-brain but an exceptionally bright bird who recognised and welcomed regular visitors to the house by calling out their names when they appeared. When he heard the postman coming he’d shout “Annie, that’s the postman, hurry up, hurry up!” It seems he didn’t just pick up words and phrases with ease but could produce conversation that related to his circumstances…I’ll give you an example.

One time when the women went off to Ballater for a short holiday Polly was taken along as well, in his cage.  When they arrived to catch the Deeside train at the Joint Station Polly shrieked out, “Hire a cab! Hire a cab!” All went well and the women settled in but somehow or other Polly escaped. This was on a Thursday and the following Sunday morning a local crofter opened his door to discover the poor wee bird cowering on his doorstep, cawing in distress. The man called out to his wife, as reported later, “There’s something at oor door. I ken na gin’t be beast, body, speerit, or deevil, but I wish ye wad come oot an’ see’t.”

The parrot sensing the woman was a body with a bit more sense spoke to the wife, “Take me in, I’m very cold, I’m very hungry, very thirsty. I’m Polly Walker, 32 Witehehall Road, Aberdeen. Take me home!”

And so they did take him in and fed him before heading out to the kirk service. There they heard of a missing bird and a reward of £5 for its return but thought little of it since the description didn’t seem to fit their visitor; the lost bird was said to have a crimson tail and the bird at the croft had no tail at all. Despite this a message was sent to the women in Ballater who quickly arrived at the croft in a phaeton and when they saw the bird they agreed it wasn’t theirs before Polly piped up, “I’m Polly Walker, 32 Whitehall Road, Aberdeen.” The poor thing had been so desperate and hungry when lost it had pulled out all its tail feathers, and now I’m reporting what was said, sucked the sugar from their roots.

Off it went with its owners who nursed it back to health but the trauma of its adventure was such that Polly complained, “Polly, far, far away; lost, tired, cold, hungry, such a disgrace.”

Oh, and during its sojourn in Ballater the bird had picked up the phrase “You’re a devil!” from some of the local rascals but that sentiment was excised from Polly’s vocabulary once back in Aberdeen.  

 ***

Three years later, in 1932, another Aberdeen parrot raised the alarm and saved lives when his owner’s house at 10 King Street went on fire and it called out, “Come here! I’m feart!”

***

My final parrot story is of a visitor to Aberdeen, this parrot was perched on the right shoulder of its elderly lady owner as she made her way  along Union Street. The year was 1924 and the parrot was called Monsieur Coco who bowed to a Press and Journal reporter, or so he imagined, who had been sent out to get an exclusive on the two strange birds gadding about the town. 

mrs pearce and parrot 1924

The reporter learnt the woman dressed in fur was a Mrs Pearse and her companion was “an intelligent Amazonian parrot.” Mrs Pearse was rather better known than her parrot. Formerly Mabel Cosgrove from London, her family were friends of Oscar Wilde’s and she was once married to a Mr Chan Toon, a Burmese barrister of the Middle Temple. She was something of a novelist, in her head at least, which may account for the following. On the other hand she was getting on in years and may have been suffering from senility but wherever the truth lay she claimed she was the widow of Pearse the Irish poet and nationalist executed for his part in the Easter Rising of 1916 and that the parrot had been with her husband in the moments before he was shot at Kilmainham jail but apparently sensing the approach of death it flew off into a hedge. 

In fact the Pearse she had married was an Armine Wodehouse Pearse who died in the Great War days before the Armistice.  She, herself, lived partly in Ireland but travelled extensively and appears to have maintained herself through robbery, blackmail and forgery, even claiming to have written or co-written plays with Oscar Wilde.

The parrot, she said, had been thrown from its nest by its mother when six hours old and quite featherless because its wings were paralysed. This was is Guadalajara and Mrs Pearse took care of him, feeding him on bread and milk and so he grew. From Mexico they travelled to New Orleans where she claimed the two witnessed the execution of two prisoners found guilty of murdering an Irish policeman.

She returned to Ireland and overcame reluctance to admit the parrot on grounds he was poultry and the Irish Free State was afraid of the spread of foot and mouth – though I don’t think birds get foot and mouth but then I’m no vet. The Irish customs officer let the bird in in exchange for a photograph of King George – which I find even more far-fetched than a bird with foot and mouth.

Once home in Ireland her parrot attracted suspicion, that it was “a new dodge on the part of the British Government for recruiting” and so Mrs Pearse and the parrot were given police protection. She countered these accusations by saying if anything the bird’s green and orange feathers were Sinn Fein’s colours and that, apparently, ended suspicion of it and her.

The parrot was a fluent French speaker, from their time in Paris and it was claimed had his portrait painted by the artist Dorin, as Monsieur Coco (the bird not the painter) and while in France he enjoyed a dejeuner of omelette and black coffee outside. In addition the parrot spoke excellent Spanish and English as well and was said to have had an extraordinary memory which is more than can be said for his mistress who appears to have confused memory with imagination.

 

 

 

March 21, 2016

Hares to the Slaughter

hare 2

Once upon a time in a land of snowy peaks and heather muirs there lived a hare whose pelt could change with the seasons. This hare was called Blue or Mountain for it had a tint of blue when the weather was fine and it turned as white as swan down when ice and snow were brought to the land of Scotland on the tail of a wind from the north.

Blue or Mountain was sometimes known as Lupus Timidus for Lupus meant hare and Timidus told what a gentle and timid creature this was.

One day evil spirits, known as the agents of darkness, claimed Blue’s land belonged to them and from that time Blue and all the other creatures of the muir lived in fear that the evil ones would hunt them down for the evil ones liked nothing better than destroying the animals of the muir for it made them feel heroic. But none of the evil ones were as fleet of foot as the creatures they stalked so they chased them on motor vehicles and fired at them with guns that could blast them to smithereens at long range or else they set metal traps that sprang shut trapping the foot of a grazing animal that might starve to death unless clubbed over the head as an alternative.

shot hares

One day a bird sat at an open window and overheard the evil forces talk of what they would do to Blue if they caught him for they blamed the hare for spreading tics which brought disease to their grouse and, they said, no other creature had the right to kill grouse who wasn’t prepared to pay to ‘bag’ them. The bird learnt that grouse were what was called property and not free birds of the sky and muirs like her.

When the bird told Blue what she had overheard Blue at first planned to escape but where could he go? The muirs were his, he thought, for generations of hares had lived in the mountains of his native Scotland for thousands of years which Blue knew was a very long time and longer than the evil spirits who claimed to own the land and the sky above into which grouse were released before being promptly shot back out of it.

The animals of the muir living in a place called the Cairngorms National Park gathered together to discuss what could be done to put an end to the persecution of Blue by the mob of evil ones. First to speak was a rook, who was a very intelligent bird,  and told of something called the BBC which told stories it wanted people to believe and one of them was how landowners, who the rook explained was another name for the evil forces, sought to reassure the public that mountain hares must be culled. The rook told how the BBC had UNDERLINED words which meant they must be believed and it accused Blue of endangering plants, though it never provided any evidence for this claim.

bbc hare

 

“An organisation representing landowners has sought to reassure the public on the culling of mountain hares.

The Scottish Moorland Group has responded to concerns raised earlier this month about the shooting of the animals in the Cairngorms.”

All the assembled animals gasped for Blue’s future sounded bleak as it was widely known that when the evil forces spoke of culls it was for the animals own good though none at the meeting had ever spoken to a culled creature who had returned to tell the good it had done them.

A red deer that had been nibbling at grass during the discussion spoke up – “I lost my brother to an evil one who admired his antlers so much he said they would look better hanging on a wall in his castle,” she reported sadly. “When I asked questioned him the evil one and his friends laughed and waved their rifles at me and told me it was legal and when things are said to be legal for people it often spells bad news for us animals.” The deer then lay down and listened to the others.

“I’ve had to flee persecution,” whispered a fox recently arrived in Scotland from England.

The fox’s words were met with a growl that was traced to a sleek black dog whose mouth hung open revealing a jaw full of sharp teeth. “Too many like you makes a need for culls,” he snarled.

The other animals studied the dog who some suspected lived with the evil ones. “Culls are only necessary when too many of one kind of animal lives in these parts,” it barked underlining its message that responsibility for culls lay with the animals and not those who did the culling. 

“Who decides there are too many?” enquired an owl.

“Those who manage the land,” snarled the dog, “it is a responsibility they take very seriously. Land doesn’t just look after itself it has to be managed and that means everything on it. Only insiders know what’s best for the land not external commentators.”

“It used to manage itself very nicely,” said a Golden eagle, “back at a time there were many like me, now I fly for miles without seeing another of my kind.

“I don’t want anyone deciding if I live or die, I’d prefer to do that myself,” remarked the owl but by now the black dog had slunk away.

The rest of the animals sighed for they could see no escape from the evil forces, specially now they learnt what they did was LEGAL. They suspected for all of them there was a season when they might be killed LEGALLY even though they believed the land belonged to them as much as it did to the evil forces.

What will happen once Blue is killed? asked a voice from the back. Surely a Scottish muir without Blue would be less beautiful for us all? They turned to the rook for an answer.

“If Blue was property his death might be delayed but he is what is known as vermin and the evil forces are sworn to remove vermin whenever they choose, LEGALLY,” explained the rook sagely. He looked over at the deer who was paying no attention.

“My family were hunted to near extinction in a time called feudal,” purred a wild cat, “are we still living in feudal times?” it asked.

hare

“Oh I think we are,” chirped a grouse, looking over its shoulder in the direction the black dog was last seen.

As jagged-tooth traps snapped and guns blasted both day and night the creatures of the muirs ran for their lives in all directions. The last they saw of their friend Blue was him running uphill as fast as his legs could carry him with the forces of evil on his heels.

The Raptor blog https://raptorpersecutionscotland.wordpress.com/tag/mountain-hare/

http://www.heraldscotland.com/news/14340402.Outrage_of_landowners_mass_killing_of_mountain_hares/

March 27, 2013

Aberdeen Beach – Puffin Graveyard

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Aberdeen’s famous miles of golden sands were distinctly chilly today despite some bright sunshine.

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The tide was running high washing up all kinds of everything onto the beach including large amounts of unused lengths of 2 X 4. So if anyone has a DIY job in mind the beach could provide your timber for free.

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Unfortunately the most common item on the beach – aside from nappy liners which begs the question why do people flush them down the lavatory – were dead birds, mainly puffins.

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The harsh winter weather has caused havoc with wildlife this year and puffins are just one of the obvious victims of starvation.

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I think this is a goose. Perhaps dead from starvation or a victim of high winds and seas.

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There were several cuttlebones washed up. The first time I’ve seen them here.

The cuttlebone is the inside of the cuttlefish and is made of aragonite. Cuttlebones were used as moulds by jewellers and silversmiths. Some people stick them through the bars of budgie cages.

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Looking towards Footdee (Fittie) from the esplanade.

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Aberdeen beach is a great place to go for all kinds of reasons. But …

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…you must not do this, do that do that.

This sign was put up to prevent youths walking into the sea after leaving this monstrosity night club.

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The club has gone. Unfortunately the ugly building continues to be an eyesore at the beach. Time it and this sign were torn down.

Aberdeen Beach

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March 12, 2013

Mr W. Dunbar and the rare Bohemian Waxwing 1847


This letter appeared in an Aberdeen newspaper letters page on December 8th 1847.

Thankfully sensitivities towards preservation of bird and animal life have improved since then, to some extent, but I believe it is still the practice to kill a previously unknown species of captured bird to confirm its unique identity.

 1

A Rare Bird Shot

We (Inverness Courier) have received the following letter, which may be interesting to some of our readers: –

“Bonar Bridge, 20th Nov.; Dear Sir, –

It affords me much pleasure to be able to state, that I have succeeded in killing one of the most rare and beautiful birds that visit the British Isles.

The bird is a fine male specimen of the Bohemian Waxwing (Bombycilla garrula.) Yesterday, my brother on his way to Lairg, discovered on the top branch of a mountain-ash, in Mr Cuthbert’s garden at Balblair, a bird with which he was not at all acquainted. On his return, late in the evening, he mentioned the circumstances, and from his description, I thought that it might be the bird which it actually proved to be.

Early this morning, I started with my gun, and to my great pleasure I found the bird feeding on the berries of the same tree, and brought him to the ground. I have him now preserved. A more beautiful bird is not easily found, combining, as he does, a graceful figure with a varied and brilliant plumage.

The Waxwing is a rare bird in Britain; and, so far as I am aware, has not been detected in the northern counties until now. It is a native of Asia; but where it breeds has not been ascertained. Perhaps it would not be out of place to give a sort of description of the bird, in case there are some more stragglers about; it is possible some may yet be captured:- The bill, black; eyes, dark red; forehead, rich chestnut; an ample crest adorns the head; feathers of the crest, drab; breast and abdomen, yellow drab; the coverts of the primaries, black, tipped with white; quill feathers of the wing, black, tipped with yellow – the four inner quill feathers terminate in a small oblong spot, resembling red sealing-wax; upper tail-coverts, grey drab; tail feathers, smoke-grey, tipped with rich gold-yellow; under tail-coverts, reddish brown; legs and toes, black; – all the plumage a soft and silky appearance. –Yours truly, W. Dunbar.”

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January 27, 2013

A glass of metaldehyde please

 

Recently I was speaking to someone involved in the distribution of agricultural chemicals who mentioned the over-use by some farmers of metaldehyde slug pellets.

These common slug controls are cheap. Very cheap at £5 to treat a hectare of land and so the tendency is to spread them as directed and then add a bit more for luck.

Six to ten thousand tonnes of slug pellets are spread each year on farms in the UK. 

The point is metaldehyde is a hazardous pesticide and when it’s applied to land around crops and then it rains some of that chemical ends up in water run-off and some will find its way into drinking water.

It is rain which adds to this problem. Our climate is becoming wetter leading to higher numbers of slugs and snails. In England and Wales farmers are no longer allowed to burn stubble, I think they still are in Scotland although it is discouraged because of environmental damage. Burning was a means of controlling large numbers of molluscs in agricultural land in the past now slug pellets are the normal means of dealing with them.

Rainwater which falls on the land must run off somewhere: onto roads or ditches, burns and eventually into rivers. We get our drinking water from these freshwater streams and inevitably some of what is sprayed over land and crops finds its way into reservoirs. This something will sometimes include metaldehyde in areas where it is used. Tests on fresh water supplies have shown alarmingly high levels of this pesticide in some parts of the UK.

Filter it out you may say but that is not easily achieved. The problem with metaldehyde is that it is very stable in water making it virtually impossible to be removed in treatment plants.

 

What is metaldehyde?

Metaldehyde is the commonest molluscicide. It is a cheap ingredient of slug pellets and so commonly spread on land growing cereals such as winter wheat, potatoes and oilseed rape as a means of controlling slugs and snails from wreaking havoc with crops.

Problems with metaldehyde

  • It is a stable chemical compound difficult to remove from water.
  • It is dangerous if consumed by birds and animals, including domestic pets. Slug-eating hedgehogs are very vulnerable to the pellets. Once metaldehyde is ingested by an animal the chemical attacks the liver, kidneys and heart so that the animal finds it difficult to stand. It may become blind and its breathing it affected. It may sweat and salivate and death is accompanied by seizures.
  • In the less likely instances of human exposure to metaldehyde there may be skin damage but for a young child the consequences can be fatal – organ collapse and death.

In view of possible contamination from metaldehyde the EU set limits on its levels in drinking water. Greatest risk from this kind of contamination come in areas with the highest agricultural output such as we have here in the Northeast of Scotland as well as parts of southern England and in Wales.

Scottish Government figures for 2011 state that over 10,000 hectares of Scotland’s farmland was treated with metaldehyde mainly for winter wheat. In 2010 141 out of 1,912 hectares of strawberries were treated with it.

Contaminated water in the River Ugie near Peterhead was found to be seven times over acceptable levels in autumn last year and this was three times higher than the concentration found there in 2010. Higher levels of metaldehyde were also found in the Deveron.

Scottish Water is said to be doing what it can to remove traces of metaldehyde from its plant at Peterhead but as we’ve seen this substance is very stable and does not easily break down.

A Briefing Paper by Water UK reports

‘The characteristics of metaldehyde mean that it is not effectively removed by adsorption onto activated carbon –The normal treatment for removing any pesticides that may be in raw water. In addition, the relatively simple structure of metaldehyde means it cannot be broken down by other water treatment processes using chlorine or ozone. It is therefore a very difficult compound to remove even using existing advanced water treatment processes. Further research is being carried out into other treatment methods but early indications are that even if they work they would be prohibitively expensive and energy consuming to implement.’

 

Despite the incidence of metaldehyde in UK rivers we are reassured drinking water is safe. In October 2012 the UK Health Protection Agency which covers England assessed metaldehyde in water as not posing risk. It stated that while levels greater than the standard for individual pesticides has been found in drinking water this standard is ‘not set on a health basis.’

The EU specifies that pesticides should not be present in drinking water. That sounds totally reasonable to me. Why should we be happy with any level of pesticides in our drinking water when it could be avoided altogether? And some eyebrows may be raised by the HPA’s description of the EU ruling as ‘a technical and political issue’. The EU is not alone, the USA has had strict regulations over the use of metaldehyde for years.

I can understand the frustration of farmers faced with the voracious appetites of slugs and snails for there is no question they can wreak havoc with crops. Farmers tell us that if metaldehyde pellets are no longer available to them the alternatives will push up food prices. However it is the cheap nature of this control which has encouraged misuse by some farmers – £5 a hectare remember. The over-application of metaldehyde appears to be growing and inevitably some irresponsible farmers will overuse the pesticide and be careless over disposal of its containers – a direct danger to animals. But it is the threat to drinking water in those areas where the use of metaldehyde is highest which pose the greatest risks specially where farmers’ interests lie solely in their yields. In such cases run-off from their land is going to be a secondary concern.

Alternative slug treatment by using different chemicals would increase the costs of treating each hectare by £13, a trifle in most farm budgets and little more than the price of a set of rubber mats for the new Range Rover.

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January 3, 2013

2013 is the Scottish Year of the Coo

A few pictures from week one 2013

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Traditional image for New Year’s day – heid in a bucket

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Looking towards Bennachie – 2nd January

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Clouds like spaceships over Aberdeenshire – 3rd January

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Heading down Deeside with Clachnaben in the distance

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Burnbanks Haven at Aberdeen

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End of a warm and sunny day in the Vale of Alford

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The coos are back – up to their oxters in sappy dubs

December 2, 2012

Fieldfares on a Rowan Tree

Fieldfares feeding on a Rowan tree in Aberdeenshire

Fieldfares feeding on a Rowan tree in Aberdeenshire

I thought these were Mistle Thrushes but I think they are Fieldfares.

Fieldfares on Rowan tree in Aberdeenshire

There are flocks of Fieldfare in the fields around but close up they do have a look of the Thrush about them.

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Beautiful birds.     Sixteen of them on the Rowan tree this morning.

Fieldfares in Aberdeenshire

Are they known by any other name in Scotland?

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September 13, 2012

No court proceedings for beating crows to death | OneKind

July 11, 2012

Grazing – the summer of 2012

Summer grazing?

Yes  you