SWSEIC Wildlife Recorders’ Gathering 2019

Wildlife recorders from around the region gathered in Dumfries on Saturday 30th March to learn about and celebrate the region’s special wildlife. SWSEIC’s Wildlife Recorders’ Gathering 2019 was the first full-day wildlife recorders’ conference in D&G for 10 years, and it was nice to see a broad mix of new and familiar faces. A fantastic total of 129 people attended the event which was hosted by the Dumfries Baptist Church Centre in Georgetown – less than a year old, the Centre provided excellent modern facilities and made a superb venue for the day.

Brian Smith of North Solway Ringing Group kicked off the conference with a close-up look at bird ringing in Dumfries and Galloway. Brian’s passion for birds, and his beloved Pied Flycatchers, shone through and he showed many examples of how bird ringers operate to help us gain a greater understanding of our local wildlife. Ellen Wilson of RSPB and chair of the Scottish Biodiversity Information Forum then talked about the recent review of the biodiversity information infrastructure in Scotland, and the potential changes that the review might bring about – we await eagerly the response of Scottish Government to the recommendations. Following quick break, the programme moved into a series of short talks: Philip Munro introduced the work of the South Scotland Golden Eagle Project which aims to reinforce the Golden Eagle population across southern Scotland; Mark Pollitt, SWSEIC manager, highlighted the progress on an updated moth website for Dumfries and Galloway,  Sarah Cooper from Scottish Wildlife Trust talked about Red Squirrels and the ongoing work to monitor and manage Grey Squirrels in SW Scotland; and finally Peter Norman, SWSEIC project officer, provided an introduction to the National Plant Recording Scheme, highlighting opportunities for volunteers in D&G and Ayrshire.

After lunch, Paul Kirkland from Butterfly Conservation got the afternoon session underway with a look at some of the special butterflies in the region, focusing in on the Northern Brown Argus  – a small, brown butterfly found on the D&G coast – which carefully selects Rock-rose plants to lay its eggs on. The potential threats posed by invasive non-native species found in the marine environment around our coast were highlighted by Clair McFarlan of Solway Firth Partnership – from Skeleton Shrimps to sea squirts and much more. The River Cree was spotlighted by Courtney Rowland of Galloway Fisheries Trust who introduced a wonderful video of Sparling, a rare migratory fish which returns to spawn in the Cree on just a few nights each year.  The underwater footage was fantastic. Matthew Cook from Peatland Action presented the valuable work that has been carried out restoring some of the regions peat bog habitats, and Kirkcudbrightshire county plant recorder David Hawker wrapped things up by describing the value of recording our wild flowers.

Numerous local organisations had stands and displays, which gave participants the opportunity to find out about how they can get involved in recording wildlife or support the work of local conservation groups. A challenging wildlife quiz was won by local dragonfly expert Barbara Mearns, and a Certificate of Appreciation was presented to Katie Shellard who has been volunteering at SWSEIC for over 10 years.

SWSEIC are grateful to Scottish Natural Heritage whose support for the Centre helped to make the event possible.

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