Our regular blog shares the latest news and updates from the Orkney Native Wildlife Project. If you are new to our blog and want to know more about the project visit our website www.onwp.org


Project update during lockdown

During lockdown, we were unable to check our operational trap network except in emergencies. As we enter Phase 1, and lockdown restrictions begin to be eased, we are looking at resuming our stoat eradication trapping as quickly as possible in line with updated Government guidance. We have sent letters to all the local landowners who are so generously supporting us with land access to provide more details on the measures we plan to take to ensure the safety of our community. We will provide further updates on this through our Orkney Native Wildlife Project Facebook page, this blog and in local media.

Until this time please be reassured that there are no additional safety risks presented by the traps currently in place unless the housing boxes are tampered with, damaged or the actual traps inside can be seen. We have recently been able to get an exemption to quickly attend to any boxes in this condition but for the safety of our staff and our communities we would like to avoid this. So please help us by keeping a distance from any stoat trap boxes you see and immediately reporting any concerns to us by emailing  stoatsightings@rspb.org.uk

 Trap box nestled in short grass

Stoat trap


Urban wildlife university study

A few weeks ago, an article in the Orcadian asked residents to keep an eye out for unusual behaviour of wildlife in their gardens during lockdown as part of a study for Keele University.  If you would like to help out with the Keele University study follow this link for more information.

Here at ONWP we are keen too, to hear of native wildlife in your garden - have you seen short-eared owl or lapwing overhead? We are particularly interested to hear if you have seen any stoats during lockdown in or around your property including sightings in urban areas and gardens – whether you are from Kirkwall, Stromness or St Margaret’s hope or anywhere in between!  Any records will help us prioritise operations in the coming months, so email sightings to stoatsightings@rspb.org.uk or post on the Stoats in Orkney facebook page.

Stoat on garden bird table

Stoat on garden table (Orknithology 2017)


Spot the difference - meadow pipits and skylarks

Two birds we would normally be monitoring at this time of year are the meadow pipit and the skylark. These birds can often look very similar so the main differences to look out for are their call and their flight. Skylarks are famous for ascending and gliding high in the sky and singing a melodic fast long song but they spend a lot of time on the ground walking or scurrying like a mouse making a ‘chirrup’ call.  Meadow pipits fly in short bursts interspersed with wings held close to their bodies and have a short call that sounds like ‘tsip’. Skylarks are a larger bird with a head crest when displaying and they also have a white edge to their wings, easier to spot in flight. Skylarks have darker stripes around the eye that can look like spectacles and meadow pipits have pale eye-rings, with black face stripes below the bill that look like a moustache. Both nest on the ground at this time of year so are species we are concerned may be at threat from stoats. Hopefully next year we will be able to resume our monitoring to keep an eye on how these birds are doing.

Skylark on left. Meadow pipit on right

Skylark (left) and meadow pipit (right) 


Welcome to new Project Manager Charlotte

At the beginning of March, just prior to the COVID-19 restrictions, Charlotte Heijnis moved up from sunny South Africa to join the team. She brings a passion for native species protection and a background in conservation combined with project management and business analysis experience gained in the corporate world to the project manager role. Her passion for eradicating non-native, invasive species developed while working as the lead conservation officer for the 2018-19 over-wintering season on a remote Sub-Antarctic Island and seeing first-hand the devastating effects of invasive mice.

 Charlotte, the new project manager, leans on pole in wild landscape