As we come to the end of the year RSPB Scotland’s Allie McGregor takes a look back at some of our highlights. It’s impossible to capture all the highlights in one post – do let us know your favourite nature and wildlife moments from the year in the comments!

Our 2019 highlights

This year has marked a turning point for our nature as safeguarding our environment has risen to the top of the global agenda and recognition of the importance of our nature is growing. While much of the news has painted a concerning picture, it has also sparked action worldwide. Many of our highlights this year are a reflection of people coming together to celebrate and protect Scotland’s nature and wildlife. Here are some of them:

#DolphinFest

For the past seven summers, Dolphinwatch has run at Torry Battery recording more than 27,000 visits and spotting dolphins on more than 90% of days. In April this year, we organised Aberdeen’s very first Dolphin Festival. 

#DolphinFest aimed to celebrate the amazing marine wildlife around Aberdeen and the North-East coast, especially the bottlenose dolphins which are seen regularly from Torry Battery, and to encourage people to help protect it.

3 kids crouch amongst rocks
Rockpooling at Torry Battery

It was a huge success with special talks, a science day, performances and, of course, dolphin watching! Now we are busy planning for #DolphinFest 2020 part of the Year of Coasts and Waters #YCW2020. 

Celebrating 60 years of Operation Osprey

group of people pose in front of tent wearing old fashioned clothing
The Loch Garten team dress up for the birthday party 

This year marked the 60th anniversary of ‘Operation Osprey’ giving us the chance to look back on an incredible story of a people-powered conservation success which brought Ospreys back to the UK. While unfortunately we had no Ospreys to celebrate with us at Loch Garten this year, a special exhibition was a highlight as well as a fabulous birthday party complete with costumes! The story of Operation Osprey was also covered on BBC’s The Watches who were at the Cairngorms all year showing off some of the remarkable wildlife to be found there.

Corn bunting in the community

Corn buntings were once one of Scotland’s fastest declining birds, but thanks to the efforts of farmers and landowners across Fife, Angus and North East Scotland they are now on the road to recovery. Leading on from all the amazing work land owners and farmers have been doing in Fife to help corn buntings, the People’s Postcode Lottery provided funding this summer to help us deliver a new project called ‘Corn Bunting in the Community’.

The success of corn bunting recovery has been a massive team effort. The positive outcomes we’ve seen wouldn’t have been possible without incredible volunteers, farmers and landowners and funders. Thanks to the dedicated efforts of so many people, we’re hopeful for a bright future for corn bunting in the east of Scotland.

Spotlight on The Flow Country

Peatlands make a huge contribution to our wildlife and our environment and The Flow Country is one of Scotland's most important natural treasures. This year has had many highlights for The Flow Country as people across Scotland have had the opportunity to learn more through art exhibitions and volunteers from across Europe have visited as part of the World Heritage Volunteers scheme. A stunning exhibit from photographer Sophie Gerrard toured Scotland and in August art of a different kind showcased the magic of The Flows in Edinburgh’s Botanic Gardens and has since also been exhibited in Glasgow. Also in August, 13 young volunteers from across Europe came to our Forsinard Flows reserve. During the visit they took part in hands on conservation work, talks, visits to archaeological sites on the reserve and even a ceilidh! This project was the only UK project to be part of the World Heritage Volunteer scheme this year.

several people standing spread out on the peat bog making celebratory gestures
Our WHV volunteers pose for a photo

Climate Strike

Hundreds of thousands of people took part in the climate strike across the UK, with millions taking part worldwide. Young people led these incredible demonstrations of demand for action on the nature and climate emergencies. We were thrilled to be a part of it on the day at marches and demonstrations in cities and towns across Scotland. While the emergency that brought us all together on the 20th of September is scary, and overwhelming at times, the positivity and hope felt throughout the immense crowds on the day was incredibly uplifting. It was a powerful moment which is just one part of a powerful movement making a real difference for our environment.

crowd gathering amongst trees at beginning of climate strike

Puffarazzi

2019 saw the return of the brilliant puffarazzi project. Project Puffin is a fantastic example of citizen science, using photographs people have taken of puffins to learn how the puffin diet has changed, and is continuing to change. This year we’ve already received over 2500 photos from nearly 800 people!

A key difference this time around is that we’re looking for photos of puffins with food in their mouths from any time as long as you know when and where it was taken. Currently some of the oldest photos submitted go back to the 80s and 90s.

We are still collecting photos so keep sending them in!  

Loch Leven Underpass

Two people pose in an underpass with loch visible in background
Olympian Eilidh Doyle and RSPB Loch Leven Senior Site Manager Yvonne Boles at the underpass opening. Credit DCT Media

A new accessible underpass opened to the public at RSPB Scotland Loch Leven this autumn. Instead of steep steps, the new underpass is accessed by gently sloping paths that are suitable for wheelchair and mobility scooter users, cyclists and families with pushchairs. This amazing project has made it much easier for everyone to connect with nature by linking up the reserve’s visitor centre and car park to the loch-side hides and trails, and also connects the Loch Leven Heritage Trail, an accessible route that runs around the entire loch, to both the reserve’s facilities and the Sleeping Giant path.

Rare Invertebrates in the Cairngorms

The incredible rare invertebrates’ team have gone from strength to strength. The project, which focuses on six of the UK’s rarest insect species, was shortlisted for the Nature of Scotland Species Champion award and the amazing volunteers were recognised with a UK National Parks Volunteer Award in November. The Rare Invertebrates project was also highlighted on BBC’s The Watches which featured Project Officer Gabby Flinn and volunteer Xander Johnston. 

 group of people pose in forest
Some of the Ri6 volunteers with an ants nest

I would like to extend an extra special thank you on behalf of all of RSPB Scotland to all the supporters and funders who make our conservation work possible. From connecting people with nature to protecting and restoring habitat, campaigning for environmental protection on a global scale to surveying wildlife on reserves, these highlights and many of our wins would not be possible without that support.

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