Fake snow photo tricks condemned by bird reserve staff

By Steven McKenzie
BBC Scotland Highlands and Islands reporter

  • Published
Fake snow on part of a pine treeImage source, RSPB Scotland
Image caption,
Fake snow on part of the pine branch prop

A visitor to a nature reserve has been criticised for creating a prop made from branches and sprayed with fake snow for taking pictures of birds.

Peanut butter was also smeared on the branches, found at RSPB Loch Garten, in the Cairngorms, to lure birds..

Reserve staff have described the pine tree branch structure as "ridiculous".

They said the fake snow risked exposing wildlife to harmful chemicals, while birds have been spotted with feathers covered in peanut butter grease.

Staff at the site at Abernethy, near Nethy Bridge, have found other artificial "perches", which they said had caused damage to the natural environment.

The site's staff said the majority of visitors respected the surroundings.

But they added that it was "not okay" for a minority of visitors to use the reserve as their "personal studio".

'Coated in grease'

Branches have also been found on picnic tables along with foodstuff to lure birds, and snapped branches have been discovered forced into deadwood to create props.

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Birds have been seen at the reserve with feathers coated in grease and oil from peanut butter

A spokeswoman for RSPB Scotland said: "We strongly discourage the use of peanut butter on the reserve as it gets stuck in the bills and feet of birds.

When the birds then preen themselves, their feathers become coated in grease and oil, potentially affecting their ability to fly and insulate themselves against the cold.

"We've had several visitors inform us of their sightings of coal and great tits with feathers covered in grease and peanut butter all over their bills."

Image source, RSPB Scotland
Image caption,
The reserve is no stranger to real snow with falls in the past burying an osprey in her nest

She added: "The fake snow is not appropriate for a lot of reasons - it is full of potentially harmful chemicals and quite possibly plastic and again, covers the plants and the feet of the birds in what is a very unnatural substance.

"Also, the fake snow is just not natural and looks awful in such beautiful surroundings, detracting from the experience of our visitors."

RSPB Loch Garten is known for ospreys. The birds of prey arrive from west Africa to breed.

The reserve's best known osprey is a female called EJ, who returned for her 15th breeding season this year and in a previous year incubated her eggs while buried under snow.