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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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Taking the Posties Path – Gabhail a’Chreig

In the 1860’s postman Kenneth McLennan carried the mail twice a week from Ullapool to Achiltibuie, a distance of 23km. Today’s Posties Path is still challenging but runs for a shorter distance, covering the 11km between Achduart in Coigach, and Blughasary at Strathcanaird. Although both ends of the path are incorporated into core paths (Culnacraig Circular and Dun Canna Core Paths), the central section of the route is still a serious undertaking with treacherous sections. Improvement to the Posties Path are being implemented by the Scottish Wildlife Trust (in coordination with Keanchulish Estate) as a project within the Coigach & Assynt Living Landscape Partnership (CALLP) Scheme. The aim of the project is not to provide an aggregate-topped path, similar to other CALLP projects such as Acheninver Path or sections of the Suilven Path, but rather to improve access over the most awkward sections and obstacles. Early one sunny morning in March I walked the path with the Scottish Wildlife Trust North Reserves Team to review the work so far. Starting from Achduart on the Ben Mòr Coigach Estate we walked

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What to Spot: March Edition

March sees our joint ‘Wildlife to Spot’ blog with Coigach & Assynt Living Landscape (CALL) move on to a busy time of the year for lots of our wildlife. But, just before we get too excited, being this far north we can still expect to see this sort of thing for a while yet! This month sees a big increase in the types and numbers of birds returning to their breeding sites throughout, and outwith, the CALL area. Just a few of these to look out for include- Skylark; having wintered much further south these aerial singers are a welcome sound and sight at this time. The males claim their territories by singing for minutes on end from heights up to 150m and all the while holding station on fluttering wings. Lapwing; another one of our migrant breeders that winters further south will be returning this month. Like Skylark, Lapwing is a declining species mainly due to habitat loss and changes in land use. Locally though our breeding numbers, while very small, seem stable at the moment but way down

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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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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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What to spot: December Edition

Hard to believe but here we are on the last What to Spot blog of 2019 in partnership with Coigach and Assynt Living Landscape. It may be the bleak mid-winter but, there is still plenty of wildlife to look out for throughout the area. To make the most of the short daylight hours wrap up warm, take a hot drink of your choice and simply go for a wander. Of course, you can appreciate some of our most endearing wildlife from the comfort of your own home – garden visitors. The visitors most of us are likely to see are the numerous birds that make a bee line for garden feeders at this time of year. Peanuts, seeds, fat balls and apples are just a few of the different foods that will attract a good variety of birds to your garden. The more frequent garden birds include: House Sparrow; Great Tit; Blue Tit; Coal Tit; Chaffinch; Goldfinch; Siskin, Blackbird and, of course the Robin. An added bonus could well be the sight of a Sparrowhawk sweeping through your garden; they

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Thanks to You for 25 Years

The 19th November 2019 saw the 25th Birthday of the National Lottery and its funding of community projects such as us. The quiz this year was slightly different to the last. Instead of a December Christmas theme we had a Birthday party! Plenty of snacks and, of course, birthday cake, where shared amongst the 31 attendees as well as laughs and frustrations! Questions were based on the wildlife, landscape and people of CALL with added knowledge needed of 1994 to win this quiz. The scores were tight all night and the winners won by a quarter of a point! Congratulations to the winning team, The Indecicives and to the randomly picked team, The Developmentalists, we hope you enjoy your prizes. The baskets had a mix of local produce including the limited-edition Isle Martin Gin from the Highland Liquor Company in partnership with the Isle Martin Trust. CALLP has received £1.4 million from the Heritage Lottery Fund to the end of September 2019, with a further £1.5 million due over the next 2 years. This funding has, so far, helped us

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What to Spot: November Edition

Continuing our partnership blog with Coigach & Assynt Living Landscape here are a few ideas to help you spot our wildlife during the coming month. During November, it can often look as if there is no wildlife to see. While the more obvious activity from cetaceans, birds and insects has definitely decreased dramatically there is still an amazing range of things to see. The Minch, for example, is home to three species of cetacean all year round: Harbour Porpoise, Phocoena phocoena; Risso’s Dolphin, Grampus griseus; and Orca, Orcinus orca. Good places to watch from? Really anywhere with an elevated view of the open sea, when it’s pretty calm; but, remember you do need to have patience and wrap up warm! This month should see the arrival of more and more winter thrushes as Redwing, Turdus iliacus fly in from Iceland; and, Fieldfare, T. pilaris along with Mistle Thrush, T. viscivorus arrive from the east. Many of the Blackbirds, T. merula that we see now will also be winter visitors. All these species are escaping much colder weather and reducing food

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Going Wild in the Woods

Last week our 7 day Woodland Activity Leader Training came to an end. This is a little sum up of the week! What are the benefits of outdoor education?: exercise, resilience, learning coping strategies, risk awareness, sustainability, build immune system, develop skills such as problem solving, confidence, suits different learning styles, love and respect for natural world, knowledge, personal development, social, motor skills, coordination, stress reduction, balance, wonder and imagination, awaken the senses, wider context understanding, fresh air, muscle development, help sleep, reduce depression, reduce anxiety, economic benefits (free learning, reduce pollution and better education) and most importantly its FUN!!! What are the worlds needs for it: biodiversity loss, pollution, climate change, loss of natural spaces, fragmentation of habitats, natural resource depletions, increase in loneliness, depression, anxiety, stress – ‘epidemic’, disconnection to environment, diabetes, obesity and an increase in health issues. And there are many more for both! Outdoor learning’s value is constantly growing and is supported by many government bodies, charities and legislation, giving children every chance to experience their environment and love it while learning. Many have heard

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What to spot: October Edition

Welcome to our October Edition of what wildlife you can look for when out and about. A lot of migrants are arriving this month to spend the winter with us in Coigach and Assynt. The beautiful red heads of Rowan berries are a favourite of several species including Waxwings, Redwings and Fieldfares.   Waxwings (Bombycilla garrulus) are a stocky bird that can be seen in small groups to large gatherings. On their heads, they have a prominent crest and black chin as well as yellow flashes on their wings and tail. They are arriving now and through November. The birds that visit us have flown from Northern Scandinavia and Siberia where they breed. Redwing (Turdus iliacus) are a shy bird with red flanks and the smallest of the true thrushes we can see. Its favourite foods are berries, apples and insects. Some arrived towards the end of September but most birds will arrive this month, flying all the way from Iceland. Few breed here but they can arrive in their thousands. Interesting fact: Redwing first nested in Scotland in Inverness

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