2021 started in much the same way as 2020 finished, we were in lockdown.  Thankfully, we were able to reopen the Argyll Beaver Centre at the end of April and have been exceptionally busy ever since.  An increased number of visitors to the area due to more localised travel restrictions, a greater appreciation of the benefits of being surrounded by nature and a steady rise in peoples awareness of our centre have all contributed to us seeing more people.

An unexpected blow has been Oly’s prolonged illness over the summer.  Despite suffering constant pain and fatigue, she has nevertheless managed to prevent me from falling into administrative chaos.  Admin is not one of my talents!  This is where we both would like to offer our heartfelt thanks to our wonderful volunteers; Michael, Lynsey, Dave, Phil, Sue and Sam, without whom we would have been unable to carry on more or less as normal throughout the summer.

(and as I’m proof reading this before distributing, I’d also like to give my huge thanks to Pete who has worked a ridiculous number of hours and has been an absolute hero keeping everything going! Thank you. Oly)

Beavers and all things wild

What a summer it’s been!  Very little rain, lots of sunshine and beautiful, calm evenings:  Perfect for beaver spotting! It’s been our most successful year to date both in the frequency of beavers seen and the number of folk attending the walks.  We have been running two per week during the summer, and could have run three if we’d had the capacity, we’ll have to rethink this for next year.  The two families of beavers on Coille-Bharr are still not happy with each other’s close proximity and because of which we have been treated to quite a few pushing and shoving matches interspersed with hefty tail slaps as they seem to be disputing their territorial boarders.

We’re also happy to report that Bjorna and Millie have had two kits again this year.  Knapdale’s oldest couple continue to produce offspring well into their twilight years!  We wish them and their new-borns all the best.

Our seashore safaris have also been popular again this summer, helped by some significantly low tides.  Carsaig Bay continues to produce a huge diversity of creatures, and the ID guides are starting to look a bit tattered with the frequency of use with the strange and fantastic things that were being found.  Last month we discovered the wonderfully named sea lemon and a hooded shrimp.

Walk no Further than the Argyll Beaver Centre 

A frequent question asked by those visiting the centre is ‘Where can we see red squirrels?’  The answer is often, ’Just look through our window’. On a number of occasions this year we have also been able to add pine martens to the sightings from the window.  What’s more, our wildlife viewing hide os now complete and has been offering visitors to the centre a place to linger longer watching the wildlife through more windows than our small one in the centre can offer.  Some of our volunteers and others who have used our hide out of hours have been treated to performances from badgers and pine martens feeding, playing and fighting right in front of the hide.

We’ve managed to identify five individual red squirrels regularly visiting our feeders, all of which continue to delight our human visitors, many of whom have never seen one before and the delight on their faces is often the highlight of our day.  The pair of greater-spotted woodpeckers have also had another successful year raising two youngsters.

HAWO Projects

Following the completion of the reinforcement project by The Scottish Wildlife Trust and The Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, that brought a further 19 beavers into the area, we have continued to monitor the progress of all the beavers in Knapdale.  We made a considerable investment in more camera traps in order to carry on collecting data, not only in regard to the beavers, but of the other animals that also show up on the camera footage. This is allowing us to build up data about the abundance and diversity we have of many species in Knapdale.


Native Oysters

During the last few weeks of the summer school term we finally got to work with four primary schools getting them out to Ardfern Marina to monitor the growth and progress of the Loch Craignish oysters.  This five-year, Lottery-funded, community-led restoration project is being run by Seawilding and we are delivering the educational aspects working with five primary schools (and other groups) per year.


Water voles

Beavers make fantastic habitat for water voles!  With that thought in mind we have embarked on the provisional stages of a water vole reintroduction project.  But first we have to establish American mink numbers and distribution within the area as these have significant impact on water voles.  With support from the Highlands and Islands Environment Foundation (HIEF) we are currently monitoring mink numbers using rafts that incorporate a clay pad.  If mink are in the area of the raft, being incredibly inquisitive creatures, they will investigate the tunnel on the raft and leave their prints on a clay pad alerting us to their presence.  We very occasionally see them on footage from our camera traps too, and receive reports from the public of mink sightings on our social media pages. However we do see far more otters than mink in the area, which is a good sign.

Powered by Sunshine!
Our new solar panels are fantastic.  We are now entirely free of having to use our petrol generator for all our power needs, as the new array will cope with everything from vacuum cleaners to our water pump. We will use the excess energy produced by our 5KW system to recharge electric bikes.  Hopefully it will also recharge an electric car for us at some point in the future.

Plans for the Future
If both our centre visitor numbers, and our involvement in various projects continues to increase, we will need to take on a seasonal staff member next year to help us run the centre and activities we offer.  Hopefully, with the awareness of the importance of nature and our natural environments increasing, there may be more environmental funds becoming available which we hope to access for this position.  There has never been a greater need for the face-to-face visitor information and education of the type that has been provided by Scotland’s Wildlife Rangers, and unfortunately the number of government funded positions in this field are drastically diminishing, leaving it to independent charitable organisations like ourselves to find and raise funding to offer this essential service.


Opening Times and into Autumn and Winter
Check our website for our current Argyll Beavver Centre opening times as we move into the autumn.  From the end of October, we will remain open 10am-4pm, one day per week.  The day chosen will be determined by our teaching commitments and will be announced soon.


And Finally…

People continue to like and follow our Facebook page, a good place to read about some of the wider issues surrounding our wildlife and to keep up to date with forthcoming events. https://www.facebook.com/WildlifeArgyll/

Our Facebook group also continues to grow and has now reached nearly 2,000 members, of which over 1,400 actively engage with the site.  https://www.facebook.com/groups/1209056745790124/   This is the best place to post any photos of our flora and fauna, if you don’t know what it is, one of our members will! There are some wonderful pictures on this page, but images can be of any quality, this isn’t a photography site so feel free to add that picture of a distant buzzard, red squirrel tail or submerged frog, We do! It’s all about sharing our appreciation for what is around us.

Also, take a look at our Instagram page:  https://www.instagram.com/argyll_beaver_centre/    to see some of the images of the plants, animals and habitats we encounter during our work.



If you know of anyone else who you think might like to join us, they can do so either via our store on the website by emailing us at info@heartofargyllwildlife.org or writing to HAWO, Crown House, Ford, Argyll PA31 8RH.  Membership is just £10 per year and your support is greatly appreciated.


If you’re looking for a gift for a friend or family member, we have a fabulous range of books, guides, crafts and native fluffy animals, from beavers to barn owls.  Some of these are also available from our website shop.

We look forward to seeing you in the near future.

Heart of Argyll Wildlife Rangers

Pete and Oly