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Motoring news

Audi’s new Q cars

April 12 2017

Another week, another new Audi. Two new Audis, in fact. The German car maker has announced a couple more additions to its Q line up of SUVs. The Q4 is a coupe-SUV hybrid that will go up against the BMW X4 and Mercedes GLC Coupe. As its name suggests, it’ll be positioned between the compact Q3 and bigger Q5. At the other end of the scale is the Q8, which will go head to head against the Range Rover. It’s lower and sleeker than the Q7 Audi is also producing. In concept form, it sat only four people, although it seems likely the production version will be a five seater. There’s a 630 litre boot as well. Eagle eyed Audi followers will notice the only SUV slots left to fill are the Q1 and Q6. Watch this space...

Nature Watch

The power of nature

January 7 2017

From atop the narrow ridge I watch the sparrowhawk skim over the woodland canopy, tumbling a small flock of siskins in his wake. But the hawk shows no interest in these little finches and glides low over the brow of a hill without a single beat of the wings. Perhaps he is heading to a favoured hunting ground or an oft-used perch. The siskins quickly settle and all is quiet again. What else is around? I sweep the area with my binoculars and down on the woodland floor in a flooded section of willow carr a moorhen carefully treads through the shallows, its stumpy tail constantly flicking. It needs to be careful because there will be mink about and each step is taken with measured caution. The toes seem impossibly long, but they are perfect for supporting the moorhen on the dark oozing mud. I watch the bird for a while longer until it disappears into a thick tangle of half-submerged branches. This wooded ridge near Tillicoultry in Clackmannanshire is such a wild place and one with a special draw. But this is no natural feature and when I claw my hands across the soil, tiny fragments of coal stick to my fingers. I am standing on a spoil heap from an old coal mine, yet nature has totally consumed these past industrial workings. Birch, sycamore, ash, alder and willow all abound and bird song rings through the air in spring. Wild strawberries thrive here and there are other surprises too, including broad-leaved helleborine, a tall and rather striking orchid which flowers in late summer. I find this power of nature to reclaim past losses so reassuring. Coal was mined here extensively until the mid-1960s but today it is wildness that reigns supreme. Not so long ago this would have been a noisy and bustling place, coal wagons trundling to and fro, the excited shouts of miners and the constant clings and clangs from the excavations below ground. Such clamour is now replaced by the gentle winter warble of a nearby robin. I head for home, cutting down towards the flood meadow of the River Devon and then striking a course upstream. This river too is a resilient survivor from our industrial past. From the mid-19th century onwards pollution from textile mills, bleach fields and the wash-out from mines would have devastated much of the river’s wildlife. But now it runs clear and pure. I disturb a dipper by the water’s edge and it whirrs upriver on stumpy wings before alighting on a rock. Dippers are like natural barometers, their presence an indicator that there is plenty of underwater invertebrate life for them to feast upon - caddis and mayfly nymphs and the like. This is a river that has recovered from years of neglect; a microcosm of the inherent ability of nature to bounce back if given the half the chance. It’s simple really - provide the opportunity and nature will do the rest. Info  Winter is a good time to see teal, goldeneyes and goosanders on our rivers. In spring and summer, daubenton’s bats are often seen swooping low over rivers at dusk, feeding on hatching flies.

Readers' letters

Complex problems of saving hen harriers

January 30 2016

Sir, - Nicolle Hamilton described Jim Crumley’s article (January 19) on grouse shooting as unbalanced and distorted. Strong words but are they justified? In his article, Jim made great play of the plight of hen harriers, implicating those who manage grouse moors. However, Jim knows it is not that simple. Hewill have read the recent article in Scottish Birds by Bob McMillan. Following a 12-year-long study on the Isle of Skye, Bob reported that of 88 nesting attempts by hen harriers, 47 failed, with predators the most likely cause. Monitoring nests with cameras revealed that red foxes were responsible for two thirds of the failures, killing chicks and fledged and adult birds. He will also have read the report in 2013 by David Baines and Michael Richardson on the first 10 years ofthe experiment onLangholm Moor. This showed that a grouse moor provides an excellent habitat for hen harriers as the game keepers controlledpredators such as red foxes and ensured there was abundant prey for the harriers. Following the protection of hen harriersin 1992, their numbers on Langholm Moor greatly increased. But by 2002 their numbers had againcollapsed following the removal of the keepers in 1999. This collapse was attributed to increased predation, particularly by red foxes and lack of prey resulting from the removal of the keepers. The keepers were removed because the increased numbers of harriers had limited the numbers of grouse for shooting. This is a complex, catch 22 situation. Jim knows all this but chooses to vilify many of those who live and work in the countryside. But dealing with the complex issues typical of the real world is not Jim’s remit. Keep it simple Jim; people are theproblem. David Trudgill. The Steading, Blairgowrie. Predationthreat to birds Sir, - I write in response to JimCrumlney’s column, Nature pays dearly for grouse shooters. Despite the trials of our lives including pressures on our sleeping patterns, few if any,people worry about being killed by another predatory species. However, for practically every other species, predation is a real and increasing threat. Growing evidence suggests that breeding populations of some ground-nesting birds, such as wading birds and gamebirds, are more likely to be limited by predation than other groups,perhaps because their nests or young are mostvulnerable to predation. This comes at a time when, with the exception of the kestrel, every other species of raptor populations has grown, in many cases exponentially, and that some form of control is required to limitfurther impact on rare and vulnerable species. The UK Government has recognised theproblem is not as one sided as bird charities would suggest and it has implemented a henharrier recovery plan in England. I could invite Mr Crumley to accompany me to visit a few of the areas he highlighted as being a problem to see the conservation effort and the tangible biodiversity from those he would castigate. But when did the truth ever get in the way of a good story? Jamie Stewart. Scottish Countryside Alliance, Director for Scotland. 16 Young Street, Edinburgh. Wildlife cleared from estates Sir, - George Murdoch (January 26) makes some interesting points about raptor crime, estates and conservation bodies. It would be a big step forward if all estates were transparent in a genuine way rather than the glossed-over attempt to portray themselves as the saviours of these Scottish moorlands. Some are keen topromote the view that all manner of wildlife is flourishing under their guardianship. Sadly, some estates have cleared their land of all Scottish red deer and Scottish mountain hares purely because they carry ticks, which if picked up by grouse can affect their well-being. This hardly helps the biodiversity of these places and is an affront to our natural heritage. Sadder still is the fact that hen harriers have not nested in Angus for 10 years. Robert Anderson. Kirkton, Arbroath. Ladies made homeless Sir, - Twenty years ago a group of ladies formed a craft group at the Damacre Centre in Brechin. Since then we have met every Fridaymorning to enjoy two hours of companionship and crafting. Now Angus Council has told us we can no longer use the centre but have to move to the new high school. However, until the old school is pulled down in 2017, there will be no parking or a bus service. Many of us are in our 80s so how are we expected to get there? The Damacre Centre is only two minutes’ walk from a good bus service. We have offered to pay more to stay at thecentre, at least until 2017, but have been turned down. So thanks to thecouncil and the SNP’s mania for centralisation, 24 elderly ladies are deprived of their Friday morning get-togethers and another building is added to the long list of buildings which blight Brechin. Mrs M. Armstrong. 83 High Street, Edzell. Litter blight in Kinross Sir, - As I was working in Kinross on January 21, I decided to visit the local Sainsbury’s supermaket for a bit of lunch. On travelling back from the store, I was shocked by the amount of litter on the pavement at Springfield Road. Further up Springfield Road I witnessed a group of school pupils who had been at the supermarket, leaving plastic foodcontainers, cans, leftover bread and so on, littering the pavement. It waslittle wonder the pupils were being followed by a flock of seagulls. This is the worst case of littering I have ever witnessed. Do these pupils not have anyconcern about the litter they leave behind and the cost to council forclearing up this mess? Ian Robertson. Hillview, Station Road, Crook of Devon. EU has Britain in tax trap Sir, - The disgraceful deal between Google and HM Revenue andCustoms is a simplecase of soft-targettaxation. Individuals and small businesses are pursued like war criminals, while for many multinationals, paying tax in Britain is an optional extra. It is not just in taxation that the authoritiesfollow this unfair approach of picking on the weak and ignoring the powerful. The police have long practised soft-target policing. It is easy to pursue motorists for speeding and fools on socialmedia; policing thehardened criminals in the country is quite another matter. For policing, what is chiefly needed is a change of heart, but for taxation that will not be enough. Multinationals know that there is nothing that we can do to make them pay in Britain on their British profits so long as we are in the European Union. To its credit, the coffee chain Starbucks haschosen in the last couple of years to start to pay its fair share. The other multinationals just laugh at us. Prime Minister David Cameron’s renegotiation should have included a change to EU rules on free movement of capital to ensure that profits are taxed where they are earned. Of course, he didnot because therenegotiation is simply cosmetic. A future in whichmultinationals pay their fair share of tax is yet another reason for usto vote to leave theEuropean Union. Otto Inglis. Ansonhill, Crossgates. SNP champions Tory austerity Sir, - I thank Councillor Kevin Cordell forhis generous comments (January 27) about my role as councillor for the West End on Dundee City Council. However, in relation to the impending huge budget cuts to Scottish local government,Councillor Cordellconfuses facts asopinion. I made no comment on whether or notthe block grant settlement from Westminster is generous or not this year but it is a fact that it has been increased by £0.5 billion a 1.7% increase. The SNP Scottish Government, despite this 1.7% increase from Westminster, has decided to slash local government budgets across Scotland by 3.5%, a massive cut in local services of £350m, across Scottish localgovernment. If anyone is the bag carrier for Tory austerity, Councillor Cordell has only to look to his own SNP Government. Cllr Fraser Macpherson. Councillor for the West End, Dundee City Council.

Road tests

Audi Q2 puts quality over size

March 21 2018

Audi’s Q2 was one of the first premium compact SUVs on the market. It sits below the Q3, Q5 and the gigantic, seven seat Q7 in Audi’s ever growing range. Although it’s about the same size as the Nissan Juke or Volkswagen T-Roc, its price is comparable with the much larger Nissan X-Trail or Volkswagen Tiguan. Even a basic Q2 will set you back more than £21,000 and top whack is £38,000. Then there’s the options list which is extensive to say the least. My 2.0 automatic diesel Quattro S Line model had a base price of £30,745 but tipped the scales at just over £40,000 once a plethora of additions were totted up. Size isn’t everything, however. In recent years there’s been a trend of buyers wanting a car that’s of premium quality but compact enough to zip around town. It may be a step down in size but the Q2 doesn’t feel any less classy than the rest of Audi’s SUV range. The interior looks great and is user friendly in a way that more mainstream manufacturers have never been able to match. The simple rotary dial and shortcut buttons easily trounce touchscreen systems, making it a cinch to skim through the screen’s menus. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4eQ5p5Z7-Ek&list=PLUEXizskBf1nbeiD_LqfXXsKooLOsItB0 There’s a surprising amount of internal space too. I took three large adults from Dundee to Stirling and no one complained about feeling cramped. As long as you don’t have a tall passenger behind a tall driver you can easily fit four adults. At 405 litres the boot’s big too – that’s 50 litres more than a Nissan Juke can muster. Buyers can pick from 1.0 and 1.4 litre petrol engines or 1.6 and 2.0 litre TDIs. Most Q2s are front wheel drive but Audi’s Quattro system is standard on the 2.0 diesel, as is a seven-speed S Tronic gear box. On the road there’s a clear difference between this and SUVs by manufacturers like Nissan, Seat and Ford. Ride quality, while firm, is tremendously smooth. Refinement is excellent too, with road and tyre noise kept out of the cabin. It sits lower than the Q3 or Q5 and this improves handling, lending the Q2 an almost go-kart feel. On a trip out to Auchterhouse, with plenty of snow still on the ground, I was appreciative of the four-wheel drive as well. The Q2 is expensive – though there are some good finance deals out there – but you get what you pay for. Few cars this small feel as good as the Q2 does. Price: £30,745 0-62mph: 8.1 seconds Top speed: 131mph Economy: 58.9mpg CO2 emissions: 125g/km

Motoring news

Form an orderly Q for Audi SUV

August 10 2016

First there was the Q7. Then the Q5 and Q3. All have been a phenomenal success for Audi. I’d be surprised if that script changes when the Q2 arrives in November. Audi’s baby SUV is available to order now with prices starting at £22,380. Can’t quite stretch to that? Don’t worry, an entry level three-cylinder 1.0 litre version will be available later this year with a cover tag of £20,230. From launch, there are three trim levels available for the Q2 called SE, Sport and S Line. The range-topping Edition #1 model will be available to order from next month priced from £31,170. While the entry-level 113bhp 1.0-litre unit isn’t available right away, engines you can order now include a 113bhp 1.6-litre diesel and 148bhp 1.4-litre petrol unit, both with manual or S tronic automatic transmissions. Also joining the Q2 line-up from September is the 2.0-litre TDI diesel with 148bhp or 187bhp. This unit comes with optional Quattro all-wheel drive. A 2.0 litre petrol with Quattro and S tronic joins the range next year. Standard equipment for the new Audi Q2 includes a multimedia infotainment system with rotary/push-button controls, supported with sat-nav. Audi’s smartphone-friendly interface, 16in alloy wheels, Bluetooth connectivity and heated and electric mirrors are all also standard for the Audi. Along with the optional Audi virtual cockpit and the head-up display, the driver assistance systems for the Audi Q2 also come from the larger Audi models – including the Audi pre sense front with pedestrian recognition that is standard. The system recognises critical situations with other vehicles as well as pedestrians crossing in front of the vehicle, and if necessary it can initiate hard braking – to a standstill at low speeds. Other systems in the line-up include adaptive cruise control with Stop & Go function, traffic jam assist, the lane-departure warning system Audi side assist, the lane-keeping assistant Audi active lane assist, traffic sign recognition and rear cross-traffic assist.

This student took his Tinder profile to the next level by turning it into a PowerPoint presentation

February 21 2018

Standing out from the crowd on Tinder can be tough, but with the help of Microsoft PowerPoint a British student has managed just that – and gone viral in the process.Sam Dixey, a 21-year-old studying at Leeds University, made a six-part slideshow entitled “Why you should swipe right” – using pictures and bullet points to shrewdly persuade potential dates to match with him on the dating app. The slideshow includes discussion of his social life and likes, such as “petting doggos” and “laser tag”, and “other notable qualities and skills” – such as being “not the worst at sex” and “generous when drunk”.It even has reviews mocked up from sources such as “Donald Trump”, “Leonardo Di Capri Sun” and “The Times Guide to Pancakes 2011”.Sam told the Press Association the six-slide presentation only took about 20 minutes to make and “started off as a joke”.However, since being posted to Twitter by fellow Tinder user Gracie Barrow, Sam’s slideshow has been shared tens of thousands of times across social media.So, it’s got the seal of approval form Gracie, but how has the slideshow fared on Tinder? “I’d have to say it has been pretty successful,” Sam said. “Definitely a clear correlation of matches and dates beforehand to afterwards.“Most of the responses tend to revolve around people saying ‘I couldn’t help swipe right 10/10’ but I’ve had some people go the extra mile and message me on Facebook.“Plus some people have recognised me outside, in the library and on dates.”A resounding success.

Angus & The Mearns

Birds of prey numbers on local moorlands “encouraging”

December 5 2016

Conservation efforts by gamekeepers in Angus and Perthshire have been credited for an "encouraging" rise in birds of prey numbers. A new survey has revealed that species including golden eagles, red kites and hen harriers are thriving on prominent grouse moor sites. Scores of bird species have been recorded on estates in the Angus Glens and Highland Perthshire. Several estates have reported healthy numbers with Ballogie Estate, Royal Deeside, revealing a total of 15 buzzards regularly hunting on the moor. Figures from the Speyside Moorland Group were equally as strong with 12 species of birds of prey recorded on Strathspey Estate alone. Atholl Estates in Perthshire are also monitoring 12 different raptor species. The Tayside Moorland Group has also carried out species monitoring at a number of estates throughout the region with Glenturret Estate in Perthshire recording no less than 12 different raptor species hunting and nesting on the moorland this year. The estate tally included several breeding pairs of hen harriers, a nesting pair of peregrine fledgling four chicks, short eared owls and numerous red kites. Gamekeepers on Invermark Estate, near Brechin, reported nine raptor species including buzzards and golden eagles. Some of these are nesting and successfully breeding on the estate. Richard Cooke, manager at Invermark, said: “The survey is an extremely helpful way for us to monitor the biodiversity of the estate and which species are benefitting the most from our habitat management practices. "Throughout the year we carry out rotational muirburn and control predation under the general licence, including foxes, stoats and other mustelids in particular. "This is to the benefit of many ground nesting birds and is reflected in the rich birdlife recorded by the annual audit.” The findings are part of annual surveys undertaken using SNH guidelines. These surveys were conducted by Taylor Wildlife, an ecological consultancy specialising in upland environments. Conservation training, conscientious moorland management and favourable weather conditions can all impact positively upon species numbers found on Scottish moorland. Figures revealed in Wildlife Estates Scotland’s latest annual report show that 11 accredited estates reported the presence of golden eagles, with seven of these reporting 19 pairs. Eleven estates also recorded sightings of hen harriers with four reporting 18 breeding pairs. Buzzards were also reported on 20 estates, with a total estimated population of over 920 birds. It was also recently revealed in a national survey that golden eagle numbers have surpassed 500 pairs giving them a ‘favourable conservation status’ in the UK. Eagles have made a home on several moorland estates across Scotland with Millden Estate, a member of the Angus Glens Moorland Group, recording a particularly high number of sightings. Read more: RSPB Scotland responds to claims

Motoring news

Join the queue for littlest Audi Q

November 9 2016

Audi’s relentless release of new models continues with the launch of its smallest SUV. The Q2 goes on sale in the UK next week with prices starting at £22,380. There’s an extensive selection of petrol and diesel power trains as well as the option of front or Quattro four-wheel drive. More models will be added to the range later on, including powerful SQ2 and RSQ2 versions. Aimed squarely at a younger audience, the Q2 has bolder, sharper lines and a different shape to Audi’s bigger SUVs, the Q3, Q5 and Q7. Although it’s clearly meant more for buzzing around cities than growling across farmland, cladding and skid plates lend it an aura of ruggedness. Audi is also offering a range of vibrant colours to deepen the Q2’s appeal to youthful buyers. The interior is as plush as you’d expect from Audi, justifying its price hike over similarly sized SUVs like the Nissan Juke and Honda HR-V. The materials are high quality – softtouch plastics, leather on higher spec cars and brushed aluminium trim elements all blended into a smart-looking package. As standard, drivers get a seven-inch infotainment screen on top of the dashboard. It’s operated through Audi’s rotary dial system that’s far more intuitive and easier to use when on the move than rivals’ touchscreen systems. Among the many options is Audi’s excellent Virtual Cockpit - a 12.3in screen that replaces the manual instruments behind the steering wheel. Overall, the Q2 is 4.7in shorter than the A3 hatchback, but Audi says there’s enough leg and headroom for two adult passengers in the back. Boot space comes in at 405 litres – 50 more than you’ll find in the A3 hatchback and rival Nissan Juke, although it trails the Mini Countryman by the same amount. To begin with, the only diesel option is a 1.6 litre with 114bhp, although a more powerful 184bhp 2.0 litre unit will be added to the range soon. Similarly, the petrol engine range is limited for now but will be expanded by the end of the year. The 1.4 litre, 148bhp unit offered now will be joined by 1.0 litre, 114bhp three cylinder turbo and 2.0 litre, 187bhp options – the latter coming with an S-Tronic automatic gearbox. When it arrives the 1.0 litre petrol version will be the cheapest model in the range with a price tag of £20,230. Courier Motoring has yet to get its hands on the car but early reviews have been very positive and Audi looks to have yet another winner on its hands. jmckeown@thecourier.co.uk

Scotland

Fewer birds of prey poisoned

December 2 2013

The number of cases of illegal poisoning targeting birds of prey fell last year, according to a new report. Seven incidents of deliberate poisoning were recorded, down from 17 in the previous year, wildlife conservation charity RSPB Scotland said. A golden eagle, two buzzards, two cats and a raven died after eating bait laced with highly toxic and banned pesticides. Poison bait was discovered in a seventh case but no victim detected. The charity welcomes the drop but warned about the illegal killing of birds of prey by other means, with 13 further incidents also recorded. These include the shootings of two golden eagles, a hen harrier, a goshawk nest and a short-eared owl. Another golden eagle, two buzzards and a peregrine falcon were caught in illegally set spring traps. Two goshawks, a tawny owl and a buzzard died in illegally operated crow traps. A further 27 probable incidents were identified in the charity's annual report, including cases where satellite-tagged birds disappeared without explanation. Stuart Housden, RSPB Scotland director said "We applaud the continued focus on tackling raptor persecution by the Scottish Government, but much remains to be done. "We also welcome the decline in illegal poisoning. However, if those who wish harm to our country's birds of prey simply turn to other forms of persecution, such as shooting or trapping, then there is little to celebrate. "The deaths of these golden eagles are particularly appalling, given that the golden eagle was recently voted the nation's favourite species in the SNH poll for the Year of Natural Scotland." He called for a review of how the law is applied in cases of birds of prey being targeted. The majority of reported or suspected incidents happened in areas managed for driven grouse shooting in the eastern and central Highlands and the southern uplands of Scotland, the charity pointed out. Ian Thomson, RSPB Scotland's head of investigations, said: "Again, most of these crimes were discovered purely by chance, by local residents, walkers or birdwatchers, in remote areas of countryside, so we thank the public for their continued vigilance. "We accept that legal predator control of foxes and crows, alongside appropriate habitat management, can have conservation benefits for some ground-nesting birds. "But we need our moors to be managed sustainably in ways that are not narrowly focused on ever-increasing grouse bags, and this includes giving a home to the raptors which should occur on these moors."

Scotland

Raptor crime dropped by a quarter across Scotland in 2016

March 27 2017

Bird of prey crimes across Scotland fell by more than 25% last year, according to new figures. Data delivered by the Partnership for Action against Wildlife Crime Scotland (PAWS) shows a national crime map of 14 confirmed crimes during 2016, compared to 19 the previous year. They included the killing of buzzards and a goshawk, with golden eagle and osprey nests the subject of disturbances. The offences included four shootings and a similar number of poisoning incidents, as well as illegal trapping. Across Tayside, 2016 incidents included the shooting of buzzards in February and May and the trapping of the same species Experts in the crime partnership say they remain committed to bringing the figures down and have pledged to work with the game shooting sector with which incidents have previously been linked. A dip in poisoning incidents from six to four was the second lowest number in a single year since PAW Scotland began publishing the crime maps in 2004. Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham said: “I have ordered a review of the data from satellite tagged birds of prey in an attempt to shed new light on the disappearance of a number of tagged birds. “So while I welcome these figures today, my message remains clear: The illegal persecution of Scotland’s magnificent birds of prey must end. “The National Wildlife Crime Unit, now based in Stirling, plays an important role in protecting our wildlife. I’m delighted to confirm a further year of funding to allow the unit to continue its important work and help protect all of our wildlife, including birds of prey.” Douglas McAdam, chief executive of Scottish Land & Estates, a partner in the Partnership for Action Against Wildlife Crime Scotland (PAWS) said: “There is still work to do to eradicate this problem and the evidence points to measures that have been put in place having the desired effect. “Scotland has one of the toughest legislative regimes around bird of prey crime, some of it introduced quite recently. “These figures clearly show that it is playing a significant part in reducing bird of prey crime, even though proposed new penalties for wildlife crime generally are not yet introduced. “The land management sector recognises that some of the incidents may have been related to game shooting interests and is committed to keep working to bring those figures down even further in future. “We strongly endorse the careful use of proven police evidence in drawing up these maps and although there is limited information about some incidents, the range of species and locations indicates that the motivation behind these crimes is varied.” A spokesman for the Scottish Gamekeepers Association said: “The Scottish Government deserves credit for a targeted approach which is achieving results, with more measures due to be enforced regarding tougher penalties. “No one can change the past and no problem can be sorted overnight but there is definite evidence of changing attitudes regarding crime against wildlife in Scotland. “The SGA does not condone wildlife crime and seeks legal solutions, only, to solve species conflicts. “Our membership, the vast majority of whom are wholly law abiding, are supportive of this stance and respect the clear message it sends.”

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