Spring has sprung in Edinburgh (amongst other places!)

We’ve been having a busy couple of months with the Edinburgh Midweek Group this season, having completed several projects in and around Edinburgh and the Lothians, as well as a huge display of teamwork and hard work at the Seven Lochs project in Glasgow where we worked alongside the Stirling and Glasgow volunteers for eight weeks!

Team Edinburgh!

Volunteers from Edinburgh, Stirling and Glasgow Mid Week Groups.

Back in February the group started helping out at the beautiful Howden Walled Garden in Livingston. Here our aim was to create an edible walkway around the garden’s walls for the community to enjoy. The first task was to clear the walls and the ground to make room for some fruit trees and bushes – no easy feat! Fortunately someone had kindly left a supermarket trolley in the grounds to help us with the moving!

The volunteers were also kept busy repairing a beautiful walkway made of willow, for the local community to enjoy.

A few weeks later we returned to the garden to plant the fruit bushes; raspberries, gooseberries, cherries and strawberries, among a few others. What a difference!

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At the end of February we started work at the Seven Lochs Wetland Park in Glasgow; an urban nature project focused on protecting and enhancing the biodiversity and heritage of the wetland area, as well as providing a space for locals and visitors to enjoy (GCV Green Network Partnership).
Alongside the Stirling and Glasgow teams, our volunteers worked hard over the course of almost two months! We undertook a variety of tasks; preparing the land for wildflower planting, digging ponds and creating water channels, as well as some general woodland management work.

We also worked hard to improve the boardwalk at Hogganfield Park, placing non-slip grip strips (try saying that quickly three times!) along each plank of wood to make it safer for visitors to enjoy the beautiful views over the loch.

Our favourite project (or mine at least!) was helping to create floating bio-havens to sit on top of the loch. These bio-havens were made of recycled materials and adorned with various wetland plants (gathered by our volunteers). They will be providing a key shelter for birds and pond life on the loch.

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Across April and May we’ve been doing various bits and pieces of work at the Peebles Community Action Network (CAN) Garden. Our first big job was to help lay the wooden foundations of the new flower beds and path within their brand new poly tunnel.

The next time we visited we spent an amazingly sunny (and very warm!) couple of days building an incredible 16 new raised beds for the garden. It was a brilliant team effort and we had some fantastic help from the local families who would be using the beds, giving them the opportunity to see how they were built and to be part of the building process. Even the little ones were keen to help!

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Although we’ve been busy doing work elsewhere, we certainly haven’t forgotten about our local Edinburgh parks!
In the lovely Figgate Park near Portobello our volunteers helped with some path clearance, working to make the stairs safer and more accessible. We were also helping to stabilise the river bank by panting native shrubs and trees, which will also help to increase biodiversity and create wildlife habitats.

We’ve also been busy in Starbank Park this year, working closely with their ‘Friends Of’ group. Some of the tasks we’ve been involved in were neatening their path edges, trimming bed borders, clearing away vegetation in preparation for summer growth, lots and lots of weeding and, of course, the most coveted job; helping to turn and cycle their compost area.

Last but not least, we were in the beautiful Braidburn Valley Park doing path edging. What a difference we made!

It’s been a wonderful and jam-packed few months and we’re all looking forward to spending some more time in the sun (and the rain) over summer!

Kathryn (Volunteer Officer)

Butterfly surveys with Citizen Scientists

Recording wildlife is a really important environmental indicator, but it needs regular visits and hours of commitment so it can be hard for organisations such as the Council to resource it.  Here TCV’s Claire Quinn talks about an innovative project she has been running in the Seven Lochs area to train and support volunteers to carry out Butterfly surveys with Citizen Scientists.

Butterfly surveys at Seven Lochs

Butterfly surveys at Seven Lochs

Butterflies can be useful indicators of the state of the environment and their numbers help us assess (among other things) the impacts of climate change and where conservation efforts should be focused. One method of recording butterfly population distribution and numbers are transect counts. Carrying out a transect count involves walking a set route through various habitats at a site and recording the species and number of butterflies seen within a specific distance from the path. The Glasgow Countryside Ranger Service was previously responsible for coordinating two butterfly transects within the Seven Lochs Wetland Park, one at Hogganfield Park LNR and another at Cardwan Moss LNR. However due to pressures on their time I was asked to take over the coordination of these transects and data collection for the 2014 season onwards.

I saw this as a great opportunity to train up volunteers to carry out the weekly transects as this would improve their identification skills and provide a sense of ownership and stewardship for our sites. I organised a workshop led by Butterfly Conservation on butterfly identification and survey techniques so that the volunteers would have the necessary skills and be confident to carry out the transects independently. Our group of volunteers did a fantastic job of monitoring the butterfly populations at both sites over the 6 month survey season. Four individuals were responsible for each of the two transects and a rota was drawn up at the start of the season. The volunteers sent me their records from each week to be entered into the online UK Butterfly Monitoring Scheme; which is a national database where the transect results are analysed and contribute to research into habitat and climate change.

Having trained volunteers who are able carry out the transects is extremely valuable as each route needs to be walked once a week for 26 weeks which is a big time commitment for one person. Butterfly transects are a great survey to be involved in as there is a lot of flexibility as to when you do it; you can carry out the transect on any day during your assigned week. Another bonus is that you only go out on warm, dry days as butterflies won’t be on the wing on cool, wet days. The Seven Lochs volunteers really enjoyed their surveying experience and were keen to see the trends at the end of the season. Learning a valuable new skill which can be used for formal recording as well as informally while out and about was something that a number of the volunteers were pleased to have taken from this experience. A few are keen to take on the butterfly transects again in 2015 which is great news for citizen science!

If you live in the Seven Lochs area and would like to get involved in wildlife monitoring please contact Claire at c.quinn@tcv.org.uk.  There are also loads of great ideas to get involved in citizen science on our website.

Our Citizen Science Fungi Survey even stumps the experts

The Seven Lochs Wetland Park is an exciting new Green Network project; encompassing Seven Lochs, five local nature reserves, a country park and one of Glasgow’s oldest buildings. Over the next 5 years Glasgow City Council, North Lanarkshire Council, TCV Scotland and others will work together to develop the park as a place for people, nature and heritage. TCV Scotland is responsible for delivering community engagement activities such as the Seven Lochs Volunteers through Claire Quinn’s role as Community Engagement Officer and Claire has been out with her group on a citizen science fungi survey…

citizen science fungi survey

A cut Bay Bolete fungi collected on a citizen science survey

The Seven Lochs Volunteers recently took advantage of a brief spot of milder weather and took part in a fungi walk at Drumpellier Country Park. With the help of an expert we found and recorded 26 different species. The group had a very enjoyable morning, so much so that we extended the walk to make sure we did not miss anything.  The group were amazed at how many different species we found in such a small area (1 mile) as well as the variety of sizes, shapes and colours. Our expert Ali Murfitt was very knowledgeable and told us folklore as well as facts about the fungi we saw. Stories about the hallucinogenic Fly Agaric and a demonstration of the Bay Bolete bruising blue were particular favourites. One jelly fungi even had the expert stumped so the group is waiting to hear back as to the exact species – every day is a school day! This session was an introduction to fungi identification skills and whetted the appetite of a number of the volunteers who have said they will continue to develop their ID skills so that they can record fungi independently. The aim of sessions like these is to provide volunteers with the necessary skills or at least to signpost them to where they can get the skills, to carry out wildlife monitoring themselves.

If you would like to find out more about using citizen science as part of community engagement, check out our website section: getting involved in citizen science.