These snippets are an update on the Orkney Native Wildlife Project. If you are new to our blog and want to know more about the project do visit our website www.onwp.org

Covid-19

Over recent weeks the project has been continually reviewing and changing work practices to follow government advice concerning Covid-19. This week it has become necessary to close our office premises for three weeks and suspend our wildlife monitoring of voles and birds on the mainland and islands. We are also not able to make any non-essential journeys until the restrictions are lifted, which includes deploying and checking traps. We apologise for this situation and will be back out as soon as possible to continue our trapping work. If you have an urgent enquiry meantime please email stoatsightings@rspb.org.uk and we will try to respond as soon as possible. We will post any updates on our Facebook page.

 

Eradication update

This month work had started to open the east mainland trap network. This was partly delayed as our trapping team focused on deploying traps on designated sites including Sites of Scientific Interest and Special Protected Areas before the breeding bird season. You may come across a small number of boxes left together in situ which we will be returning to deploy later in the year.

Another reason we have kept the east mainland traps closed in position was to ensure the best possible chance of stoats finding the traps, becoming familiar with them and increasing a high chance of capture. This is common practice in trapping operations.

Deployment of traps in some of the more remote areas included the use of GoodNature A24 self-resetting traps – a new and novel technology for us, and we are excited to see what results we get. A camera on one caught lightening strikes, which is incredible! 

 

Lightning strike caught on trail cam

To date we have caught 335 stoats across mainland Orkney (since 2017). Biosecurity traps on mainland are continuing to operate, with those around Kirkwall now incorporated into the main eradication network. We will commence deployment across west mainland and continue checking open traps as soon as the Covid-19 restrictions are lifted. Until then thank you for their support and understanding in these difficult times.

 

Biosecurity update

From November to February the team were busy on Rousay setting monitoring tunnels, a way of looking out for stoats across the isles along with traps and eagle-eyed Orcadians!  Landowners were generous in giving permission to lay the tunnels and we had fantastic volunteer assistance from Rousay itself. The tunnels were active for three weeks, from the hilltops to the coast.  We ran a total of 60 tunnels and recorded tracks of rats (2), mice (7), shrews (2) and even bird tracks (3). Happily, we did not record stoat! But there is no resting on laurels as no method is fool (or stoat) proof, so we continue our biosecurity work here and on the other islands to ensure stoats do not spread from the mainland.

 

 Tracking tunnel. Photo by Lynda Kirk

 

Community events

Thank you to those who came to meet us at our ‘Connect with Nature’ events in Eday and Sanday this month. We held afternoon drop-in sessions and gave evening talks to give an update on the project and share opportunities for islanders to volunteer with us.  Sadly our events in Rousay, Shapinsay and Westray had to be postponed due to Covid-19 but we hope to visit these islands at a later date. 

 

Sanday drop-in event

 

In partnership with the RSPB Scotland team in Orkney, we recently held the first of our free training sessions designed for tourism providers including tour guides, visitor attractions and holiday accommodation providers. The sessions highlighted the importance of Orkney’s world-famous native wildlife and what the project is doing to protect this and gave ideas for where you can see and experience nature at RSPB nature reserves and events. The sessions were well received so this is something we will be running again.

Although we are not able to hold events and visit communities in person at the moment, we are near completion of our new website which will have more content and information about the project including online resources. Watch this space.

 Group of people looking at one of the traps at an event for tourism providers

Tourism event

 

Monitoring update

This is usually the time of year we and our volunteers usually undertake wildlife monitoring surveys for native wildlife species on the mainland and islands including the Orkney vole, lapwing, curlew, meadow pipit and skylark. Due to Covid-19 restrictions however we are disappointed to report that it become necessary to suspend this work. We are still very keen to hear reports of any stoats you see by posting on the ‘Stoats in Orkney’ Facebook page or emailing stoatsightings@rspb.org.uk. Please provide the date, time and location (preferably a grid reference).

You can also report any short-eared owls sightings on the ‘Short-eared Owls in Orkney’ Facebook page. Remember if you are outside please ensure you follow government advice and practise social distancing to keep yourself and everyone else safe.

 

 

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