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Friends of Beecraigs Newsletter

Issue 4 - Winter ‘12

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Birding in the Bathgate Hills

eecraigs Loch offers one of the best places in the park for viewing the areas resident bird life. While most visitors to the loch are either fishing or simply walking the circuit, I really recommend taking a pair of binoculars and investigating the loch a little further. The quite location and plentiful surrounding vegetation (in addition to the lochs fish population as a possible food source) results in a good variety of birds to be seen. A recent visit on a lovely summer evening revealed six Grey Herons keeping a watchful eye over the days remaining fishermen. This group potentially comprised a whole Heron family. Besides the Grey Heron, the most common species to be found are Coot, Moorhen and Tufted Duck. A population of Greylag Geese are also present in the summer months and can usually be found around the boat landing in front of the fishermen’s lodge. Spring offers the potential to spot a beautiful Great Crested Grebe, although it is likely to have strayed from Linlithgow Loch where they are a regular annual visitor. However, Beecraigs Loch does offer a regular habitat for breeding Little Grebes. This bird can often be seen during the summer months when the female protects her chicks in the nest while the male dives for food. The surface vegetation on the eastern side of the loch is usually the best place to spot the Little Grebe.

Close-by an interpretation panel shows the most common species that can be spotted and helps with identification if you have forgotten your bird book! Beyond the loch, the park also offers good chances of spotting certain Birds of Prey, namely the Common Buzzard and the Kestrel. The Common Buzzard is (as its name might suggest) Britain’s most common Bird of Prey and in the central belt they are particularly abundant. Often seen watching traffic from the roadside (like us, they love the easy life and the possibility of a ‘ready meal’ in the form of road kill attracts them to the A roads and motorways of the central belt), Beecraigs and the Bathgate Hills provide a really good nesting location. Good places to spot a soaring Buzzard are around Torphican, Hillend and Ravencraig to the south of Beecraigs. Although still relatively numerous Scotland’s Kestrel population is actually in rapid decline when compared to that of England. Thus, it is always good to spot one hovering over the country lanes of the Bathgate Hills. A summer evening spent waiting patiently on the summit of ‘The Knock’ will often be rewarded with really close views of the Kestrel that nests on crags close-by. I’m yet to spot an Osprey swooping over the loch for its trout super, but I live in hope - it must have happened! It seems that summer is over (did it ever begin?) but Beecraigs Loch and the surrounding area offers year round bird life to be watched. So the next time you’re passing, dig out the bins and take a closer look. As we all know, there’s more to Beecraigs than just trees and mountain bike trails!’ Rob Hutchinson- Friends of Beecraigs

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iary Dates

From the 28th Nov 1st Dec 15th,16th Dec 22nd, 23rd Dec

Horse Logging in the Park Christmas Tree Sales begin Christmas Deer walks- fully booked but if any volunteers wish to assist with the deer walks please contact the Ranger Service.

Christmas trees and deer walks pretty much take over during December. There will be a full volunteer and events program out in Early 2013!

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ews

Sorry there was no autumn issue- The Rangers have just been too busy so we’ve squeezed a bit more in to this winter issue instead! Horse Logging Starting on the 28th Nov, we will have horses carrying out traditional logging in the park. Although Caitlin and Angel will be working, you can see them at the Lochside car park LCF The Landfill Community Fund proposal is coming along well. The pre-proposal is to be submitted on the 5th December, but if we get through this round then there will still be alot of work to do. If anyone would like to get involved with this funding venture please contact either Tracey or Hannah on 01506 844516/848944. Events 2013 The Rangers are currently working on next years events and volunteer calendar. We will have this sent out in early 2013 so you can have your diarys at the ready for a busy year ahead! Storm Update Another windy day on the 25th September, fortunately we only had a few trees down in all the parks. Please stick to footpaths as there are still a number of hung up branches/trees within the woods. The majority of the park is now open, however the Pale Blue Route remains closed for the foreseeable future. Access to Cockleroy is available via the footpath from the Bus Park. Please as always, pay attention to any signs or diversions you come across in the park. We thank you for your continued patience and support.

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ews continued

MTB trail Update Clive was out on Friday 28th September flagging the route for the east loop and walked a lap of the west route, completing the first safety inspection. Practical work is not happening so frequently now as the nights and the weather have drawn in. The last few days have seen the ground freeze up at Beecraigs and more snow is forcast. Once Christmas is out the way and the weather improves, we will start regular sessions again for anyone who is interested. Animal Attraction The Rut (breeding season) is all but over now as the deer gear up for the winter. We bring many of the hinds (females) and calves in during the winter but hte stags remain outside as a group. Buddy, our hand reared deer calf was regularly out in the field during the summer, but has now been housed in the barn with the other deer calves for the winter. He seems to have settled in quickly, after so many months thinking he was a Highland Cow, he seems to have finally realised that he is in fact a Red Deer!

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et involved

From Plantlife: SAVE OUR MAGNIFICENT MEADOWS – SURVEY OF THE GENERAL PUBLIC Meadows are one of the UK’s most diverse and important habitats, but they’re under threat and disappearing fast. Only 2% of the meadows that existed in the 1930’s remain today. This exciting project aims to protect, conserve and restore wildflower meadows and grasslands in specific areas of the UK and raise awareness of their importance with the general public and landowners/managers. Please help to save these unique and beautiful places by completing this survey. There are 21 questions (mostly multiple choice), and it should take about 10 minutes to complete. Copy the link below to take part in this survey: http://tinyurl.com/savingmagnificentmeadows

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xtras

Maintenance and Patrols You can find the folder containing maintenance tasks that need completing each month, at the Reception of the Visitor Centre. Any volunteers that are looking to carry out tasks within the park in their free time are welcome to come in and chose what they would like to do. The tasks range from simply walking routes, noting down any issues within the park to cutting back vegetation and cleaning signs, some only take 15minutes to complete others would task a couple of hours. If you are interested, please contact either Tracey or Hannah on 01506 844516/848944.

Photo of the Month

Common Hawker Dragonfly at Balvormie Pond Taken by Kirsty Morland If anyone has a story, article, photo or anything else of interest that they would like to appear in the Spring issue please send it to Hannah by the 31st December at Hannah.crow@westlothian.gov.uk.

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