This month I’ve been able to leave the wee home office behind here and there, as the staff have been resuming a few of our outdoor activities. So I thought I’d share some pictures of what we’ve been up to in the last few weeks.

I’ve been out several times assisting with carrying out electrofishing surveys with Iain from our science team. For the unfamiliar, the technique uses an electrical current to briefly stun fish, harmlessly, allowing us to gather them in a net and remove them from the water to be analysed before being returned to the water. We worked in rivers and burns in the Carron, Devon, and Esk systems, and recorded a nice variety of species.

We found salmon, brown trout, lamprey, stone loach, some wee minnows, and a few European eels (including the largest yellow eel I’ve personally ever seen). We also found many bullheads, a non-native bottom-living fish from south of the border.

I spent a lovely day at the Polbeth & West Calder Community Garden. It was the last stage of a project they’ve carried out with RiverLife to install ten information points around the garden highlighting the work that has been done and their projects and collaborations with other local groups. It was a nice team effort; Scot built the boards, Nim designed what would go on them, and I spent a day in the sun installing them (the easiest part).

It’s a lovely community-run space, and the woodland trails around it are perfect for wee ones to explore. Chatting to some of the team on the day, it seems like they have plenty of plans for the future of the garden. Their website can be found here if you want to learn more about the project.

 

In the last couple of weeks I’ve been out with my colleague Amy for a few days of tackling Himalayan balsam on the Almond. It’s an invasive non-native species which was introduced here as a garden plant in 1839. It’s a fast-growing annual plant which thrives in wet habitats at the expense of the other native species. It has explosive seed pods which allow it to launch seeds up to several metres, and the rivers and burns that balsam tends to grow alongside carry these seeds downstream, allowing significant dispersal further down the system.
We tackled a stretch of the Almond near Kirkliston, and there is plenty there to keep us busy! It’s relatively easy to remove, as the shallow root systems allow it to be pulled easily. We made several large piles of pulled balsam and left it to die and rot down, as plants left alive can re-root and lead to a cleared area reseeding over time. It’s tiring work, but the regular nettle stings kept us moving through it. There’s much more in that area alone to be done, but we at least made a dent in it. As balsam plants pull up quite easily, it’s quite satisfying work to do, as you can cover a good area in a day and look back to see the difference.

We’ve also spent some time this month completing and distributing the last of the nature activity kits we have been supplying to various communities around West Lothian. They were part of our community support work that we have been doing through the last few difficult months, and were intended to give families some fun nature based activities and games they could carry out while spending much more time at home and in the garden than usual. We’ve had some lovely feedback about them, and the last batch went away in the van this week to be distributed. It’s been a fun project for us, and something a bit different. But then again, hasn’t everything been a bit different recently?

It’s been really nice being able to get out and about a bit this month and do some work out in the catchment. Even on the rainy days.