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4 reasons why Scotland is great for bone collecting


It has almost been four years since I have been blogging (look out for a special post on Sunday about that) and five years since I have been collecting bones. One of the questions I most get asked is how do I find all my bones ?  The main answer is that I am very lucky to live where I live.

I didn't realise how lucky I was until I went to London. London is a great place and everyone was friendly but there are a lot of people living close by each other, and not much countryside or green spaces. My village in Scotland has about 500 people living there, but where we were staying in London, there might be that same number just living in one block of flats.

So here are my four reasons why I think Scotland is brilliant for wildlife and bone collectors:

1. There is so much wildlife

Within three miles of my house I can find red and roe deer, red kites, red and grey squirrels, ospreys, sparrowhawks, kestrels, foxes, rabbits, hares, stoats, badgers, mice, voles, woodpeckers, buzzards, toads and frogs, cuckoos, otters and much much more. I have lived here all my life, and I am still finding new animals that I haven't seen before (like the lesser redpolls that came to my garden feeder this spring). Elsewhere in Scotland there are golden eagles, white-tailed eagles, seals, pine martens, salmon, seals, beavers and porpoises. For a place that isn't really that big, Scotland has basically got tons of wildlife.

That means Scotland is fun if you're at all interested in nature.  It's also fun learning about how they live together, and which ones have to be controlled and which ones are protected by law.

2. The law allows you to collect most bones.

The law on collecting bones in Scotland and the UK is very complicated. It is not just one law but lots of laws applying at the same time. Even when I asked Scottish Natural Heritage for advice, they said it was very very complicated - and they are the ones who give out licences. Some animals have their entire own laws (like badgers). Even so, the law on collecting bones here is much better than other countries. For most animals, if you find a skull you can keep it.

Some animals are protected by European law, and you need a licence to have their bones. It seems pretty random which ones are protected. You need a licence for a bat, but not for a golden eagle, and you need a licence for an otter but not a badger.

The main thing for bird skulls is that you have to prove that the animal died naturally. That is almost impossible to do, unless you pay a vet to check a body every time, and if it skeletonised you might never know.

The law isn't perfect, and I would make it simpler, but I think it balances protecting nature with letting people who are interested in nature collect bones.

3. The right to roam law

In Scotland you can pretty much walk anywhere in the countryside without asking permission. This is an amazing law. Every country should have it.

It is a bonkers law but a brilliant law. A lot of the exploring I do is on land belonging to Scotland's richest man. I don't have to ask him to go on his land, and he can't stop me. But if he kicks his football in my back garden he has to ask to get it back.

The reason that this is a brilliant law is that it allows everyone living in Scotland to enjoy the land, and other people can't stop them just because they are richer than them. Half of Scotland is owned by just 500 people and not many of those are from Scotland. But Scotland should be for everyone, not just the rich.

There are some things that you are still not allowed to do when walking in the countryside. You can't walk through crop fields, you can't walk through military ground or in land where you normally have to pay to go in, you can't let your dog bother sheep or cows, and you can't shoot deer or pheasants. These are sensible things. They don't stop you enjoying the land. This law is still brilliant.

4. It is beautiful here

Being a bone collector is also about being outside a lot and enjoying nature.

This is what it is like where I live (scroll the bar at the bottom to see the whole lot).

This picture was taken from the hills opposite my village, up at the top where Highland Spring's water comes from. You can see some of the woods where I go bone collecting, like Titus Well wood (where the new powerline pylons are going to go) and Suicides Graves wood, right over to Torlum which is on the Drummond Estate.

This is the view from the other way looking back onto the moor. The middle of these mountains is where Highland Spring water comes from. You can see the hills by Blackford (where I found my first bone), the Carsebreck geese lakes, the Pheasant woods and Tam Breck wood (I was there this morning). I haven't labelled it but the big wood I use for leaving animals to rot down is there too, I call it The Mortuary.

I am very lucky that I live here.

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Christine Sutcliffe said...

Ah, what a familiar landscape I see at the bottom - my grandpa's in Comrie so I know those hills well. :D

Jake said...

Yes the back road to Comrie goes down the bottom of Titus Well wood in the first panoramic !

Christine Sutcliffe said...

Whenever we go up there I always yearn to be able to go for a wander in the woods and see what I can discover but we're always somehow in a rush and only rarely get to stop the car for a couple of photographs. (usually if the Red Kites are flying low that day or the sun's out over the hills)

Jake said...

Cool ! There are a lot of red kites nests near hear.

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