Scotland is an amazing place for wildlife and with just over a month left of 2018 we’re taking a look back over some of the nature highlights from this year. RSPB Scotland’s Jess Barrett has rounded up five of them here but you may well have your own top nature moments from 2018 – if so we’d love to hear what they are, let us know in the comments.

Five nature highlights from 2018

  1. 521,428 birds counted in Big Garden Birdwatch

Cast your mind back to the last weekend in January – were you one of the 29,362 people in Scotland who took part in this year’s Big Garden Birdwatch? The results revealed that house sparrows held on to their top spot here for the seventh year in a row, starlings came second and chaffinches rounded up the top three. However, it was siskins who were the biggest movers in the 2018 top 20 – they flew in at number 19 with a whopping 93 percent increase in their numbers recorded the previous year. Did you record any?

You can catch up on this year’s results here. 2019 will be the 40th anniversary of Big Garden Birdwatch and registration for the survey opens in a couple of weeks. Visit rspb.org.uk/birdwatch

  1. Snow swept visitors

Fieldfare eating berries

Credit: Geraldine June Hobbs.

The low temperatures and high snowfall that hit much of the country at the end of February and beginning of March in the Beast from the East brought some unusual feathered visitors into many people’s gardens. Redwings and fieldfares tend to stick to open countryside and only venture into gardens in search of food when there’s snow on the ground, and there was certainly plenty of that then! Many of you got in touch with us on social media to share your photos of these birds, often making the most of the berries they found.

Fieldfare

Credit: Ron Wilkinson

  1. Success on the Shiants

3 puffins on Shiants

Credit: Jim Richardson

It was a milestone year for the Shiants Isles Recovery Project, culminating in the news that storm petrels were breeding on the islands. The project on the Shiants began back in 2014, funded by EU LIFE, and a partnership between RSPB Scotland, Scottish Natural Heritage and the Nicolson family – the custodians of the islands. It aimed to make the Shiants a safer place for more of Scotland’s threatened seabirds, including storm petrels, to breed by eradicating the invasive non-native black rats found there. It was a very challenging undertaking due to the Shiants remote location and rugged terrain.

In March, two years after the eradication finished with no sign since of any rats since, and in line with internationalbest practice, the islands were officially declared free of rats, a momentous occasion. And the hard work is already paying off. A calling storm petrel chick was recorded on the Shiants this summer. These birds were not previously found nesting on the islands due to the rats so to have confirmation was a special moment for the project, and an important one for the future of the species.

Find out more on the project here and more on the special storm petrel chick here

  1. First white-tailed eagle chicks in Orkney for 145 years

White tailed Eagle on Hoy

In spring we had some very exciting news – a pair of white-tailed eagle chicks hatched at our Hoy reserve, the first in Orkney for 145 years. White-tailed eagles were wiped out in the UK 100 years ago when the last one was shot in Shetland. A reintroduction programme began in Scotland in the 1970s but it wasn’t until 2013 that a pair were seen in Orkney.

While it wasn’t possible to see the nest, known as an eyrie, with the naked eye, because of its location perched high and well-hidden on a cliff face, many people were able to see the chicks and their parents without disturbing them through “Eaglewatch” which we ran over the summer in the nearby Dwarfie Stone car park with plenty of binoculars and scopes. Thanks to the dedicated care of their parents both chicks thrived and fledged successfully. These young eagles mark a significant expansion in the range of breeding white-tailed eagles in Scotland and are a bright hope for the future of the species. You can read more about them here.

  1. #SaveCoulLinks call in campaign

Aerial view of Coul

Credit: Craig Allardyce

We’ve been campaigning with six other environmental conservation organisations to save the triple protected Coul Links from proposals to build a golf course on the site and were incredibly disappointed in June when Highland Councillors voted to approve the plans despite over 1,800 objections being lodged.

However, the response to our call in campaign was incredible. Almost 13,000 of you took part in the e-action contacting your MSPs asking them to tell Scottish Ministers that the proposals needed to be called in and scrutinised further. Thanks to this fantastic support Scottish Ministers did just this; it’s not something that happens often and is a really important step in our campaign to save this special place. As a result, the proposals will now go before a public local inquiry which starts in February next year. We’ll be there, along with our partners, and will keep you updated. See rspb.org.uk/coul-links

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