Welcome to the 79th stoat snippet!

These snippets are an update on the Orkney Native Wildlife Project as well as addressing any concerns that folk have raised.

If you are new to these snippets and want to know more about the project, check out this blog and this one too.

Orkney Native Wildlife Project

Our trapping team continues to progress land access. To date nearly 500 landowners are supporting the project and the preservation of Orkney’s unique wildlife, including Alan Corrigall, chair of NFUS Orkney.

There has been some great news out of the newly reconstituted Orkney Goose Management Group, where all the agencies that can make a difference have pledged to support the solutions to the agricultural issue of geese damage and are collectively working together to solve this particularly frustrating agricultural problem.  As our project remit is specifically nature conservation, we have limited influence on these agricultural issues. Our funding has been awarded specifically for stoat eradication, of which only 7.6 percent of the funding comes from government sources. SNH has publicly confirmed their commitment, and NFUS has written to all their Orkney members with details of the plans to reduce resident geese by over 75%. In addition local MSPs have met with the  Scottish environment minister to discuss what future support would look like.

We hope that those farmers who have withheld land access to push for the geese management solutions will now acknowledge this progress. Collaboration from landowners is critical to protecting Orkney’s native wildlife and will help curtail the threat to native wildlife from stoats. Without neighbourly co-operation now, future generations of Orcadians will inherit an impoverished environment threatening lifestyle and a local economy which profits greatly from wildlife tourism.

Here is a photo of Mull Head that Martyn took recently, showing Orkney at its finest.

Education

The first ONWP secondary teacher working group met to discuss how the project can benefit secondary pupils. It presents a unique and valuable opportunity for Orkney youth, especially those interested in a career in conservation, to develop practical skills while the largest stoat eradication project in the world is based in Orkney. Children of school age now have an opportunity to get involved in everything from citizen science to maths, literacy, art and more.  The group meets again in the autumn term and if you are interested in being a part of these then please do get in touch by emailing lindsey.taylor@rspb.org.uk

Lindsey has also been busy piloting the ONWP lessons for all primary children at Stromness Primary school. The pupils engaged very enthusiastically and asked very intelligent and well thought out questions. They were particularly interested in the biology of the stoat and how this enables them to be such a successful invasive non-native species to our islands.  They also showed a keen understanding of just how devastating their impact will be on our wildlife and the economy of Orkney. 

Rousay is the first island school Lindsey visited to talk to the 11 pupils about the project bio-security.  They looked at the bio-security trap network out on their coastline and the pupils were very enthusiastic to learn how to spot a stoat, and the importance of reporting one if they suspect they have seen one on Rousay.

Biosecurity trap network

Mainland: Since our last Snippet no stoats were caught in the trap network.

High-risk islands: No stoats were found in the routine monthly check of the 22 traps in the network on Flotta recently. The good news is no stoats were found in the Hoy traps when Marina and Heather checked them last week. Marina was excited to see two curlew chicks, as this year has been a poor one for curlew breeding.

Monitoring programme

A large part of the work by the monitoring team has been focused on wader nest success, specifically targeting ground-nesting lapwing and curlew as the priority species as numbers are declining. This involves setting up motion triggered cameras (with permission) to record any hatching or predation of eggs or chicks by other species.

For nests without cameras the team must do some detective work on egg shells left in nests to determine what happened.  Typically, if an egg has been predated then the edges of the shell will be bent inwards from the animal breaking in to eat the contents.  An avian predator will typically leave a pecked-out hole in the egg shell whereas a mammal will chew the egg and leave more small fragments of shell.  If an egg has successfully hatched then the shell is broken out from the inside and the inner membrane of the egg will be more intact.

Here is a picture of a lapwing egg predated by another bird Alex found on South Ronaldsay and another (right) which hatched successfully.

Answering your concerns…

We would really appreciate folk who own land and are happy for wildlife monitoring and/or trapping to take place getting in touch. Please email ONWP.landaccess@gmail.com or call us on 01856 881451 as soon as you can.

Don’t forget to keep reporting any sightings of stoats (dead or alive), as soon as possible, by contacting our biosecurity team directly on 01856 881448, by emailing chris.bell@rspb.org.uk or through the ‘Stoats in Orkney’ Facebook page.

Remember, if you have any comments or concerns please contact orkney@rspb.org.uk, or telephone Orkney Native Wildlife Project on 01856 881451.

To keep up-to-date with the project, please follow our Facebook page.

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