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Meet your feathered neighbours…

While we collectively remain tucked up safely in our homes, spring is bursting into life all around us. These past couple of weeks, Fiona, Vickii and I would ordinarily have been bursting into a flurry of activity ourselves; through organising, overseeing and delivering aspects of the Ullapool High School S1 Isle Martin residential with various partner groups and individuals. The amended gap in our calendar is another reminder of how we are thoroughly missing exploring the great outdoors with the young residents of the Coigach & Assynt community.   So, as we cannot currently connect directly, I am here typing away from my kitchen table to share one of my favourite subjects of the season; that of birds and their singing antics. I hope you enjoy.   At this time of year, one of nature’s wonders is the abrupt increase in vocal activity from the resident birds, particularly through their joint orchestration of the dawn chorus as the sun rises on a new day. This music signals the rapid increase of activity in nature’s suddenly busy schedule, and – throughout

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What to Spot All Year!

May marks our year of What to Spot finished. Below I have placed all the blogs together so you can view the months more easily that trawling through all the blogs! We will keep updating with more spots from Coigach to add to the Assynt Field Club records. If you have any suggestions for species that should be included please email me vcampen@coigach-assynt.org with species and location.   I would like to say a big thank you to David from Assynt Field Club for his support and co-writing these with me and the use of his beautiful pictures. I would also like to thank Andy for his gorgeous photos, knowledge and the important proof reading!   We hope you enjoy your time out and about, and as always please enjoy your time responsibly exploring the wildlife of Coigach and Assynt. Stay safe everyone!   Please Click on the month below for the relevant blog: January February March April May June July August September October November December

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What to Spot: April Edition

Well, here we are with our final ‘what to spot’ blog. That’s a full year of wildlife for you to look out for in the Coigach and Assynt area. We have really enjoyed this collaboration and hope you have too. This month should see a few bumblebees on the move, these will be queens that have hibernated over the winter and are now looking for a food source. Early flowering plants are vital to the survival of our bumblebees as these queens need loads of energy to start the build-up of this year’s colonies. Even your garden daffodils will help. Want to know lots more about bumblebees? Have a look here www.bumblebeeconservation.org Don’t forget that many of the same plants that the bumblebees rely on are also vital to the butterflies that will be on the wing now too. Just a couple to look for are the Small Tortoiseshell and the Green-veined White. Other wildlife on the move, and so more visible now includes the Slow-worm. This reptile loves to bask on south facing rocks gathering heat from any sunshine

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Freshwater Lochan Survey Project Completed!

As you explore Coigach and Assynt you can’t help but notice the enormous amount of freshwater lochans; it’s no wonder that this is an important habitat for wildlife but also a large attraction for visitors and anglers. Many a photographer, artist and ecologist have flocked to the area to see the beautiful views the lochans enhance and the wildlife they sustain. Within Assynt alone, angling has been found to be worth £345,840-£432,300 per annum to the community. Even with this being the case the freshwater lochan habitat is little understood, often impacting on the management of the lochan system and could cause biodiversity loss or even a reduction in fish stocks. West Sutherland Fisheries Trust identified this as a problem and working with Coigach & Assynt Living Landscape Partnership have increased the understanding of what the current situation in our lochans is. The findings have now been gathered into a report and will help devise future management plans. Dr Shona Marshall from WSFT and a team of 12 volunteers and staff set out to carry out the research over 2018/19

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Tapping into Nature: Woodland Artisan Courses

Guest Blog from our course leader Chris on the recent Birch Sap course. As I slowly get to know other wood carvers around the country I’m becoming aware that everyone has their speciality – some people make spoons, others cups, some people make incredibly intricate wooden jewellery while others build houses out of logs. This has got me wondering what my speciality is within the world of wood working. At present I make spoons, cooking utensils, cups, bowls, furniture, pendants, tool handles and charcoal while I heat my wooden home by burning wood and also spend time in woodlands foraging for nuts, fruits and edible fungi. I feel that I’m a real generalist incorporating lots of tree related products into my daily life. And maybe that’s my speciality – making a living from trees and the wider woodland that they form, using them to provide a financial income as well as for heat and shelter and for some of the food that helps me survive. Collecting birch sap is another piece of this jigsaw as it serves as a healthy

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Community Grants Scheme Deadline Approaches

The deadline for the fourth and final round of the Coigach & Assynt Living Landscape Partnership Scheme (CALLP) Community Grants Scheme is fast approaching. Individuals can apply for up to £1,000 and organisations can apply for up to £5,000 to support natural, cultural, and built heritage in the Coigach & Assynt areas. The deadline for applications is 12 noon, Monday 2nd March 2020. Over the last three years that the Community Grants Scheme has been running, grants totalling over £72,000 have been awarded across 10 individuals and 18 local organisations. The grants are boosted by in kind contributions, volunteer time, and match funding, giving the projects a combined total worth of over £225,000, allowing these heritage projects to have significant impact. Last year eleven projects were awarded funding to implement projects in the CALL area. These awards included heritage conservation, promotion of access to local heritage, and research. The Community Grants Scheme is funded thanks to players of the National Lottery through the National Lottery Heritage Fund, and Scottish National Heritage. The Assynt & Coigach Creatives (ACC) Creative Trails leaflet

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What to Spot: February Edition

February is a time when a lovely spring like day can encourage some flowers and animals to start emerging from their winter routines. Buds start to appear, reptiles come out to enjoy the few rays of sunshine, some flowers start to bloom and the birds start to sing. Already I have seen buds on hazel starting to break, flowers starting to appear on gorse bushes and grey herons flying about getting their nests ready for them to breed! Spring is coming! A few species that are likely to start appearing this month are covered below. It would be great to hear from you about when, and where, you first saw these this year. You may be aware but flowering times are getting earlier each year due to effects of climate change and it would be interesting to see how Coigach and Assynt are changing across the years. So, let’s start with having a look for trees, plants and flowers Gorse flowers – a few little yellow heads are starting to pop up over the mountainsides on these prickly bushes. Often

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January Volunteer Day

What better way to start the year than to take a wander in Culag woods and do a bit of maintenance as we go. We strolled off to try and protect trees that were planted by the primary school kids a few years ago. All are growing strong but unfortunately the tree guards are now too short, and the deer are eating the trees over the top! So, we thought we would give them an extension and allow the trees time and space to recover! Using branches from the wood and left-over mesh from the original guards, we constructed a second level of protection. It turned out to be particularly fiddly work, getting reusable cable ties through the layers and around the post, especially with cold fingers! You probably can’t notice from the photo (as they are so smiley!) but it was a pretty wet and windy day, even in the protection of the trees. Everyone worked together to make sure each tree was adequately protected, and we were pleased with the results. After a job well done, we walked

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Whittle by whittle: learning new skills on the Woodland Artisan evening course

Guest Blog by Chris Goodman Whittling. Something I associate with boy scouts and times gone by. I worry it’s not fashionable in our age of ‘smart’ or ‘i’ everything and wonder what people make of it. But whittling (or call it carving, wood working or whatever) is something that absorbs me in the moment, an activity that calms me, motivates me and fills my home with creations I’ve made for myself. And what better time of year than now to sit by the fire, work away on some fun projects and make some Christmas pressies for others (or yourself!) And so over the last 4 weeks we’ve steadily progressed our knowledge of carving techniques and how to keep our knives sharp to make a wand, spreading knife, decorative mushrooms and finally, to finish off before Christmas, some snow people. It’s been a really enjoyable way to spend my Monday evenings through December – getting to know some interesting people and seeing them go home with their own creations and increasing capability to take their new knowledge and apply it to

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What to Spot: January Edition

2020 has arrived! January is a time when a lot of our species are just trying to make it through winter. Food is a little scarcer and the pressure simply to survive, to keep breeding grounds or to migrate back home is increasing. David mentioned garden birds last month and January is still a good time to attract creatures close to home as they search for food. This month is also great for looking out for ducks, raptors and owls which can be easier to spot because of the early darkness! Here are some suggested species to look out for. A common sight in southern areas but shyer and more concealed in Coigach and Assynt is the Little Grebe (aka dabchick). Although here all year round, less vegetation means they are a little easier to find on inland lochs such as Loch na Claise, Loch an Aigeil, Little Assynt or Loch Culag. Little Grebes (Tachybaptus ruficollis) are rarely seen on land as their feet are placed towards the back of their body to help with swimming underwater. Listen out for

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