Stirling Members Centre Annual Newsletter

April 2012 - 2013

1. Membership

Local membership has increased from 605 in 2012 to 632 households in 2013.

2.   Winter Meetings

Our meetings this year have been well attended, 52 were present for the talk given by Anne Chambers and Liz Mills on 'M
ountain Flowers'. Three of our speakers' presentations resulted in 'actions': 
  • Keith Cohen's talk on 'Scottish Bats' included a flowchart which could be used to determine whether the presence of bats would be an issue in planning applications.  Subsequently the 'planning group' has successfully deployed it to draw local authorities' attention to cases where protected bats might be endangered.
  • During the discussion accompanying Zoe Clelland's (RSPB) talk about the £2m Lottery funded Inner Forth Landscape Partnership's proposals for the upper Forth Estuary, it was suggested that a meeting with local naturalists' representatives should be convened so they could have some input into the planning process. The main concern was that the improved public access to the banks of the Forth envisaged in the plans could endanger the internationally important bird populations found there. A very productive meeting was organised with reps of SWT, RSPB and SOC.  A follow-up meeting will take place this spring.
 
  • John Knowlers' talk on moth recording late in 2011 made us aware of under-recorded areas in Stirling and Clacks.  As a consequence we have obtained a grant to purchase a moth trap and generator and in 2013 we will set about trying to fill in some of these gaps in our knowledge.
 
Next year 2013 -14 the Raploch Community Centre has been booked for our talks on the first Tuesday in the month at 7.30pm. There will be an experimental afternoon meeting in January 2014.

3.   Walks

A number of walks were run in collaboration with the Callander MC. John Holland specifically organised a visit to the Breadalbane Hills to the West of Ben Lawers. This is an area inside Stirling District Council Boundaries but outside the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park (LLTNP) and so is represented in Stirling's Biodiversity Action Plan. Guy Harewood Stirling's Biodiversity Officer together with other Countryside Rangers accompanied members to be shown some of the rare alpine plants growing in the area.

During preparations for a January walk round Stirling University Campus we found that the trees in the 200 year old arboretum had never been labelled. Tree expert Robert Gray kindly agreed to name them and the garden staff are currently busy creating new labels. In spite of initial pitch black clouds and snow flurries 25 members turned up for the walk and thoroughly enjoyed being shown round by Stirling University Nature Society members. During the afternoon the Biology Department put on a display of skeletons of native species ranging from bats to beavers which members had fun trying to identify.


 4.   Conservation and Wildlife Monitoring

  • The group's main practical conservation work involved the removal of the scrub and rank grass which threatens to overwhelm several rare orchid sites. One method of management is to seed the area with yellow rattle which parasitises the grasses and reduces their vigour. This has been particularly successful around our reserve at Cambus where several sorts of orchid have spread in.
 
  • We have also grown up and planted out rock rose plants in Alva Glen. This is the food plant of the rare Northern Brown Argus Butterfly.
 
  • The group continued its annual monitoring of endangered species at over 30 local sites. At one of these a colony of the diminutive Bog Orchid on Conic Hill appeared to be threatened by the widening of the adjacent West Highland Way and the attention of LLTNP ecologists was drawn to the problem. In Clacks the lack of grazing of the only remaining greater butterfly orchid meadow at Coalsnaughton saw the number of flowering spikes reduced to 1 as scrub overwhelmed the site. On a more positive note a member notified us of a new site of Birds Nest Orchid in a wood at Doune.
  • Our search for an explanation for the decline in the lesser butterfly orchid has focussed on the possible lack of pollinators. Moths are thought to be involved but in two previous summers we have failed to trap any with orchid pollen on them in a large colony of lesser butterfly orchids at Loch Leven . This year with the collaboration of Tim Brain from Fife MC and two Stirling University students Lorna Blackmore and Stuart Bence we caught a Beautiful Golden Y moth with orchid pollen on it. We also marked flowering plants to return later in the season to see if they had set seed and nearly half had succeeded.
  • The only remaining site of Schleicher's Thread Moss in the British Isles is this spring in the Touch Hills. The moss nearly became extinct in 2011 when it was found overwhelmed by the forest of rushes which are still apparent in the background. The situation was so serious that two of the remaining stems were sent to the Natural History Museum to be kept in culture. It was a wonderful wet summer for moss growth and, by the end of the year, numbers had risen from 50 to 1,400 shoots. Local SWT members have visited the site every month in 2012 with sickles to keep the spring clear. As a result the numbers of moss stems had increased from 50 to 1,400 by 0ctober.

  • In 1906 an account was published of the plants in Kings Park, an area originally used for Royal hunting. Together with Friends of Kings Park we have resurveyed the flora of the area to find out how the biodiversity has changed over the previous century. Of 209 species listed 100 years ago only 138 have been re-found but 101 new species were also recorded.
Many of these were non-native plants that had either been planted around the golf course or had spread in from adjacent properties. One of the sad losses was the wild pansy which has not been recorded since 2007.
 
Originally it was described as 'growing in great profusion over the higher slopes' which sadly are now dominated by scrub, bracken and coarse grasses. The use of herbicides, fertilizers, sophisticated drainage and mechanical cutting on the golf course areas together with a lack of stewardship around the periphery are thought to be responsible.
  • Unfortunately we had to make a formal complaint to SNH about the invasion of a Site of Special Scientific Interest in Kippen Rait Glen by Giant Hogweed. This highly invasive species has formed an impenetrable forest in a small meadow area where it is destroying a colony of golden saxifrage first recorded there in 1793. SNH advanced a series of technical reasons why they could do nothing about it. We intend to take up the offer to discuss this issue with them.
5.   Protecting the Wildlife Interests Associated with Local Authority Planning
  • A network of members is in place to screen local Council planning applications for wildlife impact. Our membership also provides a steady stream of issues.
  • We have commented on a number of major Stirling and Clacks planning proposals including the Beauly to Denny power line where we hope the planners will avoid sites of wildlife interest that we have pointed out to them. We objected to the Black Devon Wind Turbine application and the Holmehill development in Dunblane both of which were refused.
  • There is a number of large forestry applications in the Ochils at the public consultation phase. We have found it difficult to access details of these plans from the Forestry Commission's Perth and Angus Web site. Representatives of our planning group and SWT Head Office have met with FC officials to resolve this difficulty.
6.   Watch Group
 

The children's Watch Group run by Debbie Spray continues to put on monthly programmes. They have had problems funding meeting places and so have adopted a mainly outdoor programme.
 
7. Our Local Reserves

During the course of the year our reserves manager Alistair Whyte left the SWT and has been replaced by Rory Sandison (rsandison@swt.org.uk)

Alloa Inch: (Convenor Roy Sexton). This 100 acre island reserve in the river Forth continues to attract large numbers of geese, ducks and waders. Due to lack of boat availability we were unable to carry out our annual surveys in both 2011 and 2012.

Cambus Pools (Convenor Roger Gooch). Measures are being pursued to stop these ponds from being further overwhelmed by reeds. As a result of funding from The Clackmannanshire and Stirling Environment Trust (Administrators of Landfill Tax) the site has been fenced and subsequently grazed by ponies.

8. The Committee
Thanks are due for the enormous amount of work done by the Committee.

Chairman:
Vice Chairman:
Treasurer:  
Membership Secretary:
Committee Members:
Secretary:  
Roy Sexton
Roger Gooch
Liz Albert
Jan Harbidge
Tony Rogers, Heather Young, Cameron Rae    
Sue Sexton (sextonsp@aol.com)

 

Stirling Members Centre Annual Newsletter

April 2011 - April 2012
1.   Membership

Local membership stands at 605 households in 2012.
 
2.   Meetings and Outings

We have had another series of excellent winter talks with audiences between 25-45 including a good number of non members. It has been nice to have the support and enthusiasm from the members of Stirling University Nature Society. The programme covered the following topics:
  • Alpine plants in the Breadalbane Hills
  • The serious problem of alien species in the Upper Forth
  • Red kites in Stirlingshire
  • East of Scotland sea eagles
  • Why study moths? Scottish wildlife conservation policy
  • Breathing new life into old woodlands
 
As a result of the talk on moth recording we have applied for a grant to purchase a generator for a moth trap with a view to running our own surveys.

We arranged a series of local 'nature rich walks' one of which was featured on BBC Scotland's "Out of Doors" programme.

The Group was delighted to be represented at the Forth Naturalist and Historian's Wildlife Forum which was organised by the local Biodiversity Officer, Guy Harewood.  The purpose of the event was to bring together those involved in local wildlife conservation.

Salmon and red squirrel spotting
on a walk up the River Knaik



For many it proved an uplifting experience to find so many small groups like 'On the Verge', 'Ecoschools' etc. making such an impact.

The Chairman has given a number of talks to local clubs and gatherings usually pointing out the relentless loss of local biodiversity.

Next year 2012-13, the Raploch Community Centre has been booked for our talks on the first Tuesday in the month.  NB: There will be no talk in January.

3.   Conservation, Local Biodiversity Action Plans and Wildlife Monitoring

The group's main practical conservation work involved scrub and rank grass removal from: Bridge of Allan orchid bank, Plean greater butterfly orchid meadow, Callander Golf course lesser butterfly orchid site, and the Balgair Muir frog orchid colony.  We also helped with work in Mine Woods, Bridge of Allan, the bumblebee garden at Argaty and Wester Moss Fallin.

Removal of scrub on Lecropt orchid bank
The PLANT (Plant Local Action NeTwork) group continued its annual monitoring of endangered species at over 30 local sites. During the summer of 2011 a new site for the lesser butterfly orchid was found near Braco. As part of a UK wide survey of the small white orchid we found 46 plants at Morenish on Loch Tayside but sadly it appeared to be extinct at a site near Comrie.

Moth trapping was carried out to study the pollinators of local populations of  butterfly orchids. The burnished brass moth is a potential pollinator of lesser butterfly orchid. 
 

Small white orchid 

We are involved in trying to save the last few plants of a Schleicher's thread moss which grows in a spring on the Touch Hills. It has been over-run by rushes at, this, its only remaining UK site.

Together with Friends of Kings Park we are going to resurvey the flora of the area and compare it with a list of the plants that were present 100 years ago.

The SWT is represented at the meetings of both Clackmannanshire and Stirlingshire's Biodiversity Action Plan Steering Committees. Our contribution to the Clacks BAP is limited to conservation work on our reserves at Alloa Inch, Tullibody Inch and Cambus Pools together with annual monitoring of orchid sites. In Stirling our main effort has been to finalise the Species of Conservation concern lists which are used in planning application Environmental Impact Assessments. In the next few years we are committed to identifying and surveying new potential Local Nature Conservation Sites in both counties.

4.   Protecting the Wildlife Interests Associated with Local Authority Planning

A network of members is in place to screen local Council planning applications for wildlife impact. Our membership also provides a steady stream of issues.

We have commented on a number of major Stirling and Clacks planning proposals including the Beauly to Denny power line and objected to the Black Devon Wind Turbine application and the Holmehill development in Dunblane .  A representative spoke at the Council discussion of the planned development of the cowslip field and obtained a number of concessions from the developers. 
 
We have succeeded in getting both Clacks and Stirling Councils to recognise Local Nature Conservation Sites in their planning procedures (as defined in the New Local Development Plans). We are partners with the councils in a grant application to help fund the re-surveying of the sites that were designated in the 1980-90s. Our role will be to define new sites with the help of the local naturalist community.

A number of proposed development sites outlined in Stirling Council's draft New Local Development Plan which gave us wildllife concern have been dropped from the finalised lists of preferred sites.

Wind Turbines Campsie Fells
5.   Watch Group

Stirling's successful Watch Group continues to put on monthly programmes to which the MC contributed to the bat box making event. The group is run by Sue Hunter, and Debbie Spray.   They have had problems funding meeting places and so have adopted a mainly outdoor programme.
 
6.   Our Local Reserves

Alloa Inch
(Convenor Roy Sexton)
This 100 acre island reserve in the river Forth continues to attract large numbers of geese, ducks and waders.  Due to poor weather conditions and lack of boat availability we unfortunately were unable to carry out our annual survey in 2011.

Cambus Pools (Convenor Roger Gooch)
These ponds at the side of the Forth at Cambus, continue to be overwhelmed by reeds. As a result of funding from The Clackmannanshire and Stirling Environment Trust (Administrators of Landfill Tax) the site has been fenced so that it can be grazed by SWT's Shetland cattle.
 
7.   Committee
 
Thanks are due for the enormous amount of work done by the committee:
Chairman:
Vice Chairman:
Treasurer:
Membership Secretary:
Committee Members:
Secretary
Roy Sexton
Roger Gooch
Liz Albert
Jan Harbidge
Tony Rogers, Heather Young
Sue Sexton (sextonsp@aol.com

 
 Alloa Inch (Centre) - picture courtesy of Clackmannan Council
SWT's island reserve in the River Forth was once a flourishing farm which was protected from the tidal waters by 2m high surrounding banks.  These were breached in the 1980s when it became flooded at high tides and was converted into a 100 acre salt marsh.  This now provides shelter for huge flocks of geese, ducks and waders.  In spring it resembles a snow field covered with the white flowers of sea scurvy grass which in autumn is transformed to sheets of purple when the sea aster flowers.
 
Stirling Members Centre Annual Newsletter

April 2010 - April 2011
1.   Membership

Local membership has risen from 676 households in 2010 to 705 in 2011. 
 
2.   Talks and Outings

We have had another series of excellent talks with audiences between 25-45 including a good number of non-members.  The programme covered the following topics:
  • Saving our Wonderful Seas
  • BTO's Garden Bird Project
  • Conservation in Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park
  • The Conservation of Rare Scottish Plants
  • SWT's Beaver Trial
  • Uses of Wild Plants in Medicine
A walk in SWT's Carron Glen Reserve

Next year, 2011-12, the Raploch Community Campus has been booked for our talks on the 1st Tuesday in the month which will no longer clash with Callander SWT.  We arranged a series of local 'nature rich walks' one of which was featured on BBC Scotland's Out of Doors programme. Wildlife highlights included smew on Linlithgow Loch, green hairstreak butterflies, cuckoos and grasshopper warblers on the Ochils, globeflowers and toothwort in Carron Glen and Grass of Parnassus at Geordies Wood.

3.   Conservation, Local Biodiversity Action Plans and Wildlife
 
The group's main practical conservation work involved scrub and rank grass removal from Flanders Moss, Bridge of Allan orchid bank, Callander lesser butterfly orchid sites, and Balgair Muir frog orchid colony. We also helped with work in Lower Wood, Bridge of Allan, the bumblebee garden at Argaty and reed removal on our Cambus Pools reserve.


The PLANT (Plant Local Action NeTwork) group continued its annual monitoring of endangered species at over 30 local sites during the summer of 2010.  A report of the surveys of species conservation concern like the lesser butterfly orchid, juniper, early marsh orchid, corn marigold and Clacks rarity, the sticky catchfly, were published in the Forth Naturalist and Historian.

 
Strimming reeds at Cambus
Surveys were carried out to determine the pollinators of local populations of lesser and greater butterfly orchids, frog orchids and broad leaved helleborine. The associated overnight family moth trapping event run by the Ranger Service at Plean Country Park butterfly orchid meadow was a great success.

The SWT is represented at the meetings of both Clackmannanshire and Stirlingshire's Biodiversity Action Plan steering committees.
 
 
Our contribution to the Clacks BAP is limited to conservation work on our reserves at Alloa Inch, Tullibody Inch and Cambus Pools together with annual monitoring of orchid sites. During the year we were delighted to be involved in the re-establishment of the Stirling Steering Committee under the Chairmanship of Guy Harewood, Stirling's Biodiversity Officer. We helped organise the BAP Species Forum, a workshop at which 55 local experts (including a number of members) drew up lists of species of conservation concern and prioritised projects for the new round of action plans. The contribution of the Stirling SWT group to the juniper, frog orchid and lesser butterfly orchid action plans was acknowledged in the Stirling Council BAP Progress Report 2000-2010. Our organisation of three plant ID training courses involving 75 people was also noted.


Our juniper conservation actions featured on the front of Stirling BAP's Progress Report.
Responsibility of the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park BAP was handed over to Callander MC's new committee.

Our campaign to get Pirri Pirri bur and American Skunk Cabbage recognised as aggressive alien species, seems to be bearing fruit.

4.   Protecting Wildlife Interests Associated with Local Authority Planning

A network of members is in place to screen local Council planning applications.

We have commented on a number of major Stirling and Clacks planning proposals including the Beauly to Denny power line and objected to the Black Devon Wind Turbine application.

We were involved in consultation workshops concerned with defining the environmental policies of both Clacks and Stirling Councils for their new Local Development Plans. We hope to get Local Nature Conservation Sites identified in the planning procedures of both councils.

Stirling Council's New Local Development Plan proposals contained a large number of preferred development sites. We arranged for members to visit these and where appropriate we have commented on potential wildlife interests. We have also helped a number of local community groups respond to these proposals and to other planning issues.

We were interviewed by consultants charged with identifying Stirling Council's Green Corridors. They were keen to obtain information about past and proposed Local Nature Conservation Sites and we provided the data they required.

We were involved as stake holders with the development of Community Plans in Kings Park, Plean Country Park and Bridge of Allan. Proposals were submitted for wildlife management in Plean Country Park.
 
5.   Watch Group

Stirling's successful Watch Group continues to put on monthly programme to which the MC contributed a pond dipping event at Airthrey Loch. The children also talked about their John Muir Award projects at SWT's AGM in Edinburgh. 
 
The presentations varied from films of them undertaking conservation work to an investigation as to whether native plants were hosts to more insects than introduced species. The organisation of the group has been transferred from Clare Abel to Debbie Spray and Jess. Sue Hunter has also been trained to be a leader. They have had problems funding meeting places and so have adopted a mainly outdoor programme and are also limiting the age group to over eights.  
 Families trapping the moths that pollinate butterfly orchids at Plean
7.   Our Local Reserves
 
Alloa Inch: (Convenor Roy Sexton). This 100 acre island reserve in the river Forth continues to attract large numbers of geese, ducks and waders. The experimental barrier which was constructed to reduce erosion on the upstream bank was reasonably successful and remained in place through a series of major river flows. A new management plan for the reserve was written in 2011.

Alloa inch was once a flourishing farm which was protected from the tidal waters by 2m high surrounding banks.  These were breached in the 1980s when it became flooded at high tides and was converted into a 100 acre salt marsh.  This now provides shelter for huge flocks of geese, ducks and waders.  In spring it resembles a snow field covered with the white flowers of sea scurvey grass which in autum is transformed to sheets of purple when the sea aster flowers.
 
Cambus Pools: (Convenor Roger Gooch). These ponds at the side of the Forth at Cambus continue to be overwhelmed by reeds.

An experimental regime of cutting with brush cutters was undertaken in Autumn 2010. The meadows were not grazed in 2010 further encouraging the spread of reeds, however a grant proposal has been submitted to The Clackmannanshire and Stirling Environment Trust (Administrators of Landfill Tax) for fencing so that cattle could be sited there.
 
7.   The Committee

Thanks are due for the enormous amount of work done by the committee and particularly by our treasurer Bryan Hill who sadly died during the year.
 
Vice Chairman:
Treasurer:
Membership Secretary:
Secretary:
Watch Group:
Committee Members:
Chairman: 
Roger Gooch
Bryan Hill and Liz Albert
Jan Harbidge
Sue Sexton (sextonsp@aol.com)
Clare Abel, Debbie Spray
Tony Rogers, Heather Young
Roy Sexton

Items from Previous Newsletters
 
August 2010 
International Year of Biodiversity and the 2010 Biodiversity Target.  How are we doing locally? 
The UN has declared 2010 as the International Year of Biodiversity (resolution 61/203). This coincides with the target which was adopted by Heads of State and Government at the World Summit for Sustainable Development in Johannesburg in 2002 "To achieve a significant reduction in the current rate of biodiversity loss by 2010". So how are we doing in the UK and what has been our local record in Central Scotland.

To monitor UK progress towards these objectives a suite of 18 indicators was selected. Public expenditure on biodiversity projects is one way of assessing the priority given by government and UK wide it has risen by 124% since 2001. In the local context we were delighted that both Stirling and Clacks Councils have just re-appointed biodiversity officers in spite of their budgetary constraints. However there does not seem to be adequate funding at present to set up a Central Scotland Local Wildlife Record Centre which would allow planners to avoid unnecessary habitat and species destruction.  Positive changes have also been recorded in the area of countryside with statutory wildlife protection which has increased from 2.3 to 3.8 million hectares. The designation of Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park provides a local illustration of this increase. The amount of woodland in the UK under sustainable management has also risen by 8% and here Scotland leads the way with 56% of woodlands in this category. Corn Bunting picture kindly supplied by Stuart Andrews

Locally the Woodland Trust is an example of an organization doing a great job re-afforesting Glen Finglas and Glenquey.


The indicators showing trends in the components of biodiversity are generally less favourable. UK's breeding farmland birds have declined over both the short and long term and although locally we have not suffered as much as some, we no longer have corncrakes and corn buntings. To try and reverse this loss the RSPB has been active in encouraging farmers to sow wild seed cover and by providing local tree sparrow feeding stations.  As reported in the last newsletter we have also experienced a decline in a number of wetland birds on the Forth and this is in line with another of the UK monitoring trends. Our SWT reserves llike Alloa Inch help moderate this loss.


Nationally plant diversity continues to suffer a reduction in the species richness of broadleaved woodland and wild flower rich grassland. Herb Paris and Yellow Star of Bethlehem are two beautiful woodland plants that we fear have become extinct in local woodlands.
 One site was affected by a drainage scheme and a second was lost when building debris was dumped in a steep glen.  Our local grasslands are perhaps our most degraded habitats, the result of decades of dranage schemes, application of fertilizers, ovegrazing by sheep, afforestation and destruction by developers.  We have recently repeated two Victorian wildfloer recording trips to grasslands on the Touch Hills and Ochils and the comparisons show what wildflower deserts they have become. Our continuing disregard for our biodiversity legacy is illustrated by the plight of what once were some of the best greater butterfly orchid (GBO) meadows in the UK.


Herb Paris
In Stirlingshire we are about to lose one to a housing development at Plean and another is subject to a planning proposal in Kippen - which just leaves us with the meadow in Plean Country Park. Similarly in Clacks, one site is the subject of a planning proposal, one was lost to a trail bike track and another has become overgrown through lack of grazing. For the first time no flowering GBOs were found in Clacks last year.

There is a danger of assuming that reversing the present headlong decline in biodiversity is just a concern in the rainforests of the third world and that local and national government has our UK and Forth Valley sitution under control. The glimpses given of some of the local losses show this is definitey not the case.  Habitats and species are best conserved as a result of local communities being aware of where they are and valuing them enough to be prepared to fight for them.  This must be your role - the SWT members - to be guardians of your local patch.  So please keep an eye out and alert your committtee (sextonsp@aol.com) if anything seems threatened.

March 2010

Monitoring the Internationally Important Wintering Wetland Bird Populations in the Forth Estuary
 
 
Viewers of BBC's Spring and Autumn Watch programmes will be familiar with the enormous flocks of geese, swans, ducks and waders that migrate to over-winter in the UK before returning to their breeding areas in Greenland, Iceland, Scandinavia, Western Russia etc. Some of these birds just stop off to rest and refuel on their way further south but the majority stay on our estuaries, lakes and flooded countryside.
 Goldeneye (Neil Calbrade/BTO)
In winter the UK hosts internationally important numbers of many types of wetland bird (i.e. more than 1% of all the individuals of that species).  This is because we have nearly a third of Europe's estuaries and compared with Northern and Eastern Europe our winters are relatively mild leaving the feeding sites unfrozen.  The concentration of all these water birds into relatively few sites provides the opportunity to monitor their populations and once a month throughout the winter just over 3000 volunteers go out to allocated sites and count the different species.  In our Members Centre area 44 volunteers are involved monitoring the Forth, Teith and Devon rivers.  This scheme has been running fior 60 years and is currently known as the Wetland Bird Survey (WeBS) which is co-ordinated by a team of professionals based at the British Trust for Ornithology's (BTO) HQ in Thetford.

In the UK, 218 "principal sites" have been identified as supporting 10,000 waterbirds or internationally important numbers of at least one species.  Of these the Forth Estuary ranks 12th with a five year average of 85,000 birds compared with 368,000 in the Wash and 120,000 in the Solway.  We have internationally
important numbers of Pink-footed and Icelandic Greylag Geese, Shelduck, Slavonian Grebe, Knot, Bar-tailed Godwit, Turnstone and Redshank.  In addition, seventeen other species are defined as nationally important and, of these, we have the biggest GB populations of Goldeneye, Red-breasted Merganser, Red-necked Grebe and Shag. 
 
 The WeBS Alerts system identifies species that have undergone major reductions in numbers. A "High Alert" is issued if the population of any species declines by more than 50% over the short (5yrs), medium (10yrs) or long (25yrs) term.  Worryingly in the most recent report:
(http://www.bto.org/webs/alerts/) a whole series of Forth species have triggered this alert including Scaup, Great Crested Grebe, Common Scoter, Goldeneye, Red-breasted Merganser, Golden and Grey Plover, Knot and Bar-tailed Godwit.
 
   Red-breasted Merganser (Jill Pakenham/BTO)

Fortunately there are also a few species which are increasing like the Curlew and Velvet Scoter.  I
f a decline is common to all the birds' UK sites then a generic cause is implicated such as adverse conditions in the breeding grounds. However if the Forth population is declining while the UK population is static then a local cause is more likely. Along the Forth, pressure from developments like the new bridges and disturbance due to easier access, are given as reasons for the decline. Ironically improving the water quality has also probably been detrimental to some species. For example the discharge of spent grain from breweries and distilleries used to provide a great source of food for some ducks. 
 
 Shelduck (Jill Pakenham/BTO)
Under treaty obligations specified in the EC Birds Directive (1979) and the International Ramsar Convention (Ramsar, Iran, 1971) the bird populations in the Firth of Forth require automatic designation as both a Ramsar Site and an SPA (EC Special Protection Areas). This gives them the highest level of protection with the possibility of EC fines if we are in default. The Scottish Wildlife Trust plays its part in this conservation activity having three wetland bird reserves in the upper Forth estuary at Alloa Inch, Tullibody Inch and Cambus Pools.
 
More Volunteers Wanted to Monitor Garden Birds

BTO urgently needs more Scots to become Garden Birdwatchers to monitor both birds and other wildlife in their gardens. The information is collected on a weekly basis either on-line or by paper forms and takes only minutes of your time. It enables BTO to support informed conservation and is a great way to increase your knowledge and interest in the creatures which share our gardens. Like many good things it costs a little - around 30p per week - which includes an excellent quarterly magazine. Please contact the editor for details or go to www.bto.org/gbw. Warning - this activity becomes addictive!
 Blue Tit (FreeDigitalPhotos.net)