Caught in a Trap

Stoat in a fen trap

As a follow up to an earlier post (scroll down to find it!) about animal traps in the Scottish countryside, I came across three traps containing dead animals on my wanderings in the Angus hills today.

The first contained a freshly snared stoat, killed as it scampered through a fen trap slung over a stream close to the Firmounth/Fungle Road in Glen Esk, on the Millden Estate. It is one of the few occasions I have spotted a stoat in the great outdoors – just a pity it was in such circumstances.

Rat in a trap

The second was a rat, again captured in a fen trap, this one positioned over the Burn of Cat, across the valley.

The use of these fen traps is legal as a means of controlling vermin, including both rats and stoats.

The third trapped creature was a very dead (skeletal in fact) bird lying in the base of what appeared to be a disused Larsen trap, again located close to the Burn of Cat.

Bird skeleton in Larsen trap

For more on animal and bird traps used in the countryside, visit Onekind’s excellent walkers’ guide.

Update Another day on the hills and another grim find in a fen trap, this time a stoat caught in a stream gully between Dog Hillock and Hill of Glansie.

 

Trapped stoat

West Highland Way Round

Delighted to announce the publication of my latest title for Kindle and Kindle apps – West Highland Way Round.

The ebook describes a 99km circular walking trail through the Scottish Highlands, starting and finishing in Glen Nevis, near the UK’s outdoor capital, Fort William.

The route follows the existing West Highland Way between Fort William, Kinlochleven and King’s House before heading east to join the ancient Road to the Isles at Rannoch Station. From there it heads north to Corrour Station before roaming through wild, uninhabited glens. Read more…

Animal and Bird Traps in our Countryside

During a recent hike in the Scottish Borders, I came across bird traps containing two crows. It is the first time I have found such a thing, although they are apparently quite common in this part of the country.

As a walker, I wasn’t quite sure what to do. At the time I was uncertain about the legality of the traps. Should I intervene and free the stricken crows or leave well alone? The birds were clearly in a state of distress. It is a dilemma other walkers have doubtless faced.

A little research revealed that such trapping is perfectly legal, provided the traps follow certain requirements (although there seems to be a very fine line between what is legal and what is illegal).

Traps are placed by keepers to catch birds like crows that may prey on the eggs of ground-nesting game birds such as grouse. That, however, raises the question of whether one species of bird should be persecuted for the sake of another, clearly more profitable one.

The traps I found were a Larsen trap (legal) sitting adjacent to a Snapper trap (illegal). The Larsen trap is placed with a live decoy bird in it (food and water should be provided). The idea is that this decoy bird will attract others to the site.

The Snapper trap, which had snared a crow, is a rather more basic affair, a small cage that snaps shut when a bird enters. By law only carrion crows, rooks or magpies can legally be used as decoys in Larsen traps in Scotland and the traps must be checked on a daily basis.

A variety of other types of trap and snare can be legally used in the Scottish countryside. The animal welfare organisation OneKind produces a useful guide for walkers.

If you find a trap in the countryside and are unsure whether or not it is legal, contact OneKind or Against Corvid Traps. They have a useful link on their website where you can report traps. Provide as much info as possible including details of the location (with a GPS/OS grid reference), the type of trap, whether there are birds in it and if there is a decoy bird, does it have food and water? You can also attach a photo.

If you find a bird of prey in a trap contact the RSPB and police immediately.

From waste to wildflowers

Invergowrie Bay

It is all too easy to miss great walking opportunities right on your doorstep. The other day I was dropping some rubbish off at the local civic amenity site where, by chance, I stumbled upon a relatively new path network right next door.

The Riverside Nature Park has been created on top of what was for many years Dundee’s main landfill site. Now full to the brim, the city’s waste has been covered in a generous layer of topsoil and replanted. The result is a square mile of grassy meadow and young woodland located alongside the estuary of the River Tay.

To enable exploration, paths have been created, there is a viewpoint at the top and a bird hide has been constructed overlooking the mudflats of Invergowrie Bay. A car park is located on the southern edge of the park, reached from Riverside Drive via Wright Avenue.

Riverside Nature Park

After disposing of my waste, I donned my boots and set off, spending a good hour or so exploring the area. The longest stretch of path runs from the car park up to the bird hide by the bay. Returning, I had the option of heading over the top of the mound – where the viewpoint is located – or following a path that runs between North Meadow and open fields usually occupied by Highland cows. Here there is a small pond where two swans were in residence.

Continuing east, various paths skirt round fields and patches of woodland, emerging either into the car park or on to Wright Avenue, close to its junction with Riverside Drive.

The landfill site opened in 1967 as part of ongoing efforts to reclaim ground from the Tay Estuary (nearby Dundee Airport is built on artificially created land). The site closed in 1996 and has since been the subject of extensive landscaping. The meadows have been planted with an array of wildflowers and there are various patches and strips of native woodland.

Swans on the pond

One of the highlights is the opportunity to spot wading birds on the adjacent mudflats. Geese are regular visitors while other species you may see include lapwing, shelducks, oystercatchers and curlews. The Tay Estuary is also home to white-tailed sea eagles, which were released over the water in Tentsmuir Forest as part of an ongoing reintroduction scheme. Mammals which frequent Invergowrie Bay include otters.

For more information click here to open a copy of the park information leaflet (with map) in pdf format.

 

Lochs and Reservoirs – little gems in the landscape

My latest ‘big project’ is a book of 30 loch and reservoir walks in Scotland for Sigma Press and along the way I have discovered some real gems, places I had never visited before but wish I had found much earlier. Here are some of my favourites to date with external links to sites offering more info…

Birnie & Gaddon Lochs, Collessie, Fife – It is hard to believe that Birnie & Gaddon Lochs were once part of an industrial site. For many years this was a quarry from which sand and gravel were extracted. When quarrying finished in the late 1980s, two small lochs were created and the area was replanted with native saplings. Now it is a haven for birds and wildlife. Click here for more info.

Harlaw Reservoir, near Edinburgh – One of the many reservoirs nestling in the folds of the Pentland Hills, there is a good path looping round Harlaw and a wee visitor centre at the start. Click here for more info on this easy to access spot close to the nation’s capital city.

Lochan Spling, Aberfoyle – Lochside trails abound in the Trossachs and a real gem to be found lurking amidst the trees of the Queen Elizabeth Forest Park is Lochan Spling. Accessed from the popular tourist town of Aberfoyle, a track loops around the water and there is plenty of interest to see along the way, including some fascinating wildlife sculptures. Click here for more info.

Uath Lochans, Kincraig – Four small pools of tranquil water located deep in Inshriach Forest form the Uath Lochans, one of the most scenic spots in Strathspey. Carved out during the Ice Age, the captivating marshy pools lie in the shadow of Farleitter Crag, a dramatic escarpment of rough rock rising high above the canopy of ancient pine and tall fir trees. Click here for more info.

Gartmorn Dam, Alloa – Gartmorn Dam’s natural beauty belies its industrial past. The reservoir was created in 1713 as a source of power for water-driven pumps designed to combat flooding in local coalmines. At the time it was the largest artificial body of water in Scotland. Today, clues to this industrial past can be found around the reservoir. Click here for more info.

The book is due for completion by the end of the year and should hopefully hit the shops sometime in 2012. After all the walking it is now time to site down and do the write-ups. Will keep you posted!

Isle of Rona

Located to the north of Raasay, the Isle of Rona was once home to a thriving crofting community, then only sheep. Now, with two residents and a landscape returning to the wild, it makes an ideal getaway for those who savour solitude. Read my feature on this remote island in the current issue of the excellent Scotland Outdoors magazine (opens as a pdf file).

Glorious Good Friday on Rannoch Moor

I could not resist the lure of Rannoch Moor once again and, setting off to walk the Road to the Isles from Corrour Station to Rannoch Station, I was rewarded with an excellent day, dry with hazy sunshine and a cooling breeze. After driving to Rannoch Station, I boarded the 11.08am train for the short journey north to Corrour. The carriages were packed with walkers, the majority of whom spilled out on to the platform when we arrived at Corrour. Read more…

Elie Chainwalk

Enjoyed a cracking day out on the Elie Chainwalk today. However, as I arrived at the start point, it became apparent that some folk who set out to tackle the route are quickly put off by their fear of the unknown. Today I met two families facing such a dilemma. Having heard about the chainwalk, they wandered across the beach from Earlsferry keen to give it a shot. But when they arrived at the start point and were confronted by the first chain, both were immediately deterred by the prospect of what lay ahead. Neither group attempted the scramble. It was a real pity to see early hopes dashed by uncertainty. They may have been more than capable of doing it, but will now never know. For anyone interested in tackling this unique coastal scramble, I have put together an illustrated step-by-step guide which I hope will shine some light on the delights of the Elie Chainwalk and help quell some of those fears. Read more…