A dull and drizzly day, like so many we have had lately. Up to Loch Linne to see how the beavers are getting on and to do a spot of fly fishing. Earlier sites of tree felling have been neglected in favour of several new centres of activity. The loch surface was littered with bulrush stalks which are proving popular with the beavers. In places the wind had gathered the stalks together. It was apparent that the loch level had risen since our last visit. Small islets were almost submerged and there was no difficulty getting through the channel to Loch Fidhle. A fairly large tree had been felled. It measured 360 mm at the base with a trunk of 180 mm. There were few signs of activity in Loch Fidhle - of fish or beavers. Back in the main loch, we followed the side of the loch, heading for the outlet burn. There are signs of burrowing all along this edge, none of the burrows very deep. It is little wonder that the beavers were easily hunted - their activities are easily spotted with clear tracks out of the water and easily spotted burrows.
A large number of trees had been felled along this part of the loch edge, some of the activity surprisingly far from the water's edge and quite high above the loch. Several of the trees had caught up in other trees so the beavers had been unable to to get access to the branches.
Following the burn south, we soon came upon a dam. It isn't particularly high yet but enough to raise the level of the water by several inches. There was a pile of sticks at the side of the dam which, from their colour and condition, looked as if they had been removed from the dam. This burn normally has sea trout running up it but the dam will be enough to stop them reaching the loch.
The only trout activity was one very small brownie which was put back to grow on for another season. It will not take much more damming activity for the fishing jetty to be underwater.
Photos 1, Loch Linne Dam, 2, Felled tree with 360 mm base 3, Bulrush Stalks, 4, Felled Trees, 5, Sticks at side of dam 6, Water Level at fishing jetty.
Visitors to Loch Coille Bharr have been disappointed to find the very popular walk around the loch has been closed. The signs give no reason for the closure but a short walk along the path beyond the fishing jetty answers the mystery. This walk, newly transformed into a Beaver Detective Trail complete with faux beaver nibbled signposts has been closed by the very animals it intends to celebrate. The path has been flooded for a stretch of about a hundred metres between the Dubh Loch and Loch Coille Bharr. A detour to the right of the path, through the scrub towards Coille Bharr will take you to the cause of the flooding - a fairly impressive dam which has stopped the water from the Dubh Loch draining into Loch Coille Bharr. The beavers are enjoying the rich feeding on the Dubh Loch and prefer to travel by water so their engineering skills have been employed to flood the area enabling easy access from Coille Bharr to the Dubh Loch. The Dubh Loch is part of a Special Area of Conservation which means it is strictly protected and raising the level of the loch could cause problems for some of the aquatic vegetation in the loch. The Coille Bharr walk is a waymarked path, well used by locals and visitors to the area. The 'solution' to the problem is to put a pipe into the dam to let the water flow into Coille Bharr but if it has been installed, it isn't working as the water is level with the top of the dam. The positioning of the dam, blocking gaps in the rocky ridge allows for a substantial construction and there is plenty of scope for the beavers to raise the dam and water level by another metre.
What is the answer? The dam could be removed but I would expect the beavers would immediately get to work to reinstate it. The Forestry Commission could re-route the path along the side of the Loch. The beavers could be relocated to another site (if there is another suitable site) but given the problems the trial has experienced to date there would be a reluctance to disrupt a settled family. Somehow I don't think the walk is going to be open any day soon.
The photos. The first photo shows the path which was above the level of the Dubh Loch, flooded to a depth of 18 inches for a length of 100 metres. The second photo shows the back of the dam with a newly formed body of water behind it. The third photo shows the way the beavers support the back of the dam with sticks placed at an angle to hold it in place against the pressure of water. The fourth photo is the sign advising that the walk is closed without any explanation of the cause of closure.
It is difficult not to feel contempt for Mike Russell, the Scottish Wildlife Trust, and Scottish Natural Heritage et al over the intended beaver introduction. Not the same contempt that they have displayed for procedure during the risible consultation period and subsequently, I don’t have the right sort of cynicicm. If the opposite of the truth is a lie then between them, from Alec Salmond down, they have indulged themselves. SWT`s campaign of deliberate misinformation and evasion seemed to spur the other participants on. We learn from Mike Russell that “the people of Scotland” want this introduction, yet if you read the SNH survey you will discover that only 39 people, not even 39%, were in favour. Alec Salmond says that beaver were “highlighted” by SNH in their species action framework; not so, it merely appears on a list. Mike Russell said he was confident that SNH would give him unbiased advice! Is this the same SNH that spent over £83,000 trying to introduce beaver themselves? The same SNH that SWT says asked them to apply for the licence so that they wouldn’t appear to be involved? The same SNH that produced a report that said it was highly unlikely that a viable beaver population could exist in Scotland without human intervention. SWT boast that they will release them anywhere they can and then wash their hands of any responsibility thereafter. This from a charity supposedly protecting existing animals; I wonder just how honest they have been with their membership.
SNH has a list of invasive species, and more are arriving all the time, from Knotweed to American crayfish, Japanese shrimp to the New Zealand Flatworm, and let’s not forget the mink, the grey squirrel, and Sika Deer. They are big on reports because it looks like they are doing something, but action on the ground is a bit thin. So much more fun to connive with SWT to spend £2 million pounds on the introduction of another non-native life form. Mike Russell, parroting SWT, calls it a “charismatic” creature. It is certainly one way of describing a giant water rat famous for its destructive habits; in Europe hundreds of millions of euros are spent annually putting right the damage they cause to the infrastructure.
It’s worth remembering that SNH are the people who would rather slaughter hedgehogs on the Uists, because “they might get stressed” in a box on the ferry to the mainland. Now they have no qualms, moral or ethical, about trapping 40/50 beavers in Norway, transporting them in box to Scotland, quarantining them in questionably suitable security, trapping them again, putting them back in a box and taking them to Argyll. The release site in North Knapdale is designated SSSI and contains rare aquatic plants and other protected species such as, adders, newts, divers and dragonflies. It is an eco-system that has evolved over several hundred years without benefit of beaver and is a rich and diverse habitat. It was 4th on the SNH list of suitable beaver release sites, but presumably being on Forestry Commission land (themselves historically notorious for landscape abuse) it was the easiest option. Mike Russell, again parroting SWT, points to the creation of ponds and wetlands as one of the benefits of beaver, as these already exist, as he well knows, I wonder where he is referring to. All parties are keen to stress the species diversity advantages, without actually being able to be specific. No one has as yet revealed what it is that Argyll lacks that beaver will encourage. They also of course fail to point out that the existing species will be put at risk and that some will disappear altogether, but as there doesn’t appear to be a comprehensive species audit, we`ll never know. If at the end of the trial period the beaver are removed, will SWT and SNH be able to restore the ecosystem they have wantonly destroyed in the name of some very doubtful science?
If you or I were to pick the rare water lily or catch a newt, the full force of outraged environmental guardians would be brought to bear. So how is it that Mike Russell can get a giant rodent to do it and it’s all right? If this ill-conceived and pointless endeavour is successful, there will be a cost, financially and environmentally, a tab to be picked up by our children, who will no doubt wonder who the arrogant, self aggrandising perpetrators were, and why they were allowed to get away with it.
Open letter to papers and the Scottish Government
Dear Sir, It seems that it might be up to eight beaver that have died, certainly five died during their incarceration in a concrete floored shed during quarantine. They died to boost the ego of the former Environment Minister. They died as a consequence of lies told by Alec Salmond. They died because of Scottish Natural Heritage and political chicanery. They died because of the arrogance of the Scottish Wildlife Trust. They died because no one cared enough, not the opposition in Edinbrough, not the big businesses upon which they might deprade, nor the public, lulled and gulled by SWT’s pernicious propaganda. Presumably they are considered the broken eggs for the TWO AND A HALF MILLION pound eco-omelette being foisted on Argyll.
Now that so many have died, is the trial introduction still a valid endeavour? It has been admitted that the original number of beaver was insufficient for a proper trial, and that the five year trial period was not long enough for a proper study. So one does rather wonder how so many people got caught up in this fraudulent scheme. Because of the former minister’s ludicrous ambition to be known as the man who brought beaver to Scotland, no independent assessment was ever conducted. All the information, most of it of a blatant bias, has been generated by SWT and SNH. Should beaver become a problem after SWT’s Simon Milne has achieved his ambition to release them all over Scotland his solution is to issue hunting licences.
This whole ill starred enterprise is as ethically and morally bankrupt as the instigators who sponsor it. It was an act of despoliation to introduce a giant destructive rodent into a centuries old closed eco-system, which incidentally, already contained everything supposedly encouraged by beaver, except the hairy dragonfly. A TWO AND A HALF MILLION pound dragonfly needs to be bloody spectacular! It’s all there will be, that, and some dead trees.