A Day at Cander Moss

Last week I took my practical group of volunteers to a different Scottish Wildlife Trust reserve for the day. Cander Moss, near Larkhall is what remains of a larger raised bog and is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). We were joined by the Butterfly Conservation’s ‘Bog Squad’ on what was a very wet, windy and cold day! Our task was to remove an area of birch woodland that was encroaching onto the moss. The cut birch did not go to waste though; the larger logs were used to fill up ditches which had previously been dammed. The logs will help sphagnum mosses colonise the ditch faster, raise the water table of the surrounding area and increase the condition of the bog. The brash (smaller branches) were piled up, deeper into the woodland, providing nesting habitat for birds and a place for invertebrates to live.

Small heath butterfly (c) Margaret Holland

Small heath butterfly (c) Margaret Holland

These peatland habitats are incredibly important and are increasingly valued for their biodiversity, and the ‘ecosystem services’ they provide, such as flood prevention and carbon storage. Many butterflies and moths that are rare in the lowlands, such as Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary, Green Hairstreak, Argent & Sable, Lunar Hornet and Wood Tiger can be found on the edges of raised mires associated with the heather and woodlands.

The Bog Squad is a group of volunteers who are restoring peatland sites across the Central Belt. The work is satisfying, fun, and there is something for all abilities.It also involves monitoring butterflies and moths. If you would like to join in please contact David at peatproject@btconnect.com or at their Stirling Office on 01786 4497753. There is more information on the Bog Squad Blog at http://bogsquad.weebly.com/ including updates, upcoming work parties, work locations, etc.

Laura Preston – Scottish Wildlife Trust, Falls of Clyde Ranger

Posted in Butterflies, Moths, Reserve work, Volunteer Opportunities, Wildlife | Tagged , , , , , , |

Volunteer with MARINElife!

Over the weekend I popped down to the Cumbria Wildlife Trust headquarters to attend a training course held by MARINElife. MARINElife is a leading charity conserving marine wildlife through research and education. Their focus species include whales, dolphins, porpoises, seals and seabirds in European waters. I went on their Marine Mammal and Seabird Survey training course. They do a number of these training courses across the country and if you are interested in learning how to identify marine mammals and seabirds, then I would highly recommend it.

Short-beaked common dolphin (c) Gregory Smith

Short-beaked common dolphin (c) Gregory Smith

I had no previous knowledge of marine mammals and a basic knowledge of seabirds. We talked through all the species most commonly sighted around the United Kingdom and although you are unlikely to see a whale from the shoreline there are opportunities to see dolphins and porpoises off the Scottish coast.  One of the really interesting things I learnt was about their behaviours. For example ‘porpoising’ is when a dolphin jump/leaps out of the water, often alongside a ship (oddly enough, a porpoise does not porpoise). ‘Spy hopping’ is when a whale pokes its head out of the water and ‘logging’ is when a whale is resting on the surface of the water and looks like a floating log!

MARINElife are always looking for volunteers to help them carry out their survey work. They have 17 ferry routes which they monitor monthly. Basically, two volunteers head out on the ferry and monitor the sea from the bridge for any signs of activity. Every time they spot marine life they make a record of it. Currently in Scotland there is only 1 route from Rosyth but if more people express an interest in helping out, then more routes may become available. Check out their website, www.marine-life.org.uk for more information.

Laura Preston – Scottish Wildlife Trust, Falls of Clyde Ranger

Posted in Miscellaneous, Volunteer Opportunities | Tagged , , , , , , , , , |

Falls of Clyde – Christmas tradition

For the past twenty years we have been providing our local primary school with a Christmas tree. I have only partaken in this tradition for four years but to me it really signifies the beginning of the festive season. I am not one hundred percent certain, but I’m pretty sure that our school thinks we just go out into the woods with our trusty axe, fell a beautiful 8ft tree, sling it over our shoulders and off we go. I wish it were that easy! In fact my boss and I wander through the woods looking at the tops of huge conifers trying to decide from our terrible ground level viewpoint, which would have the best top. Invariably we have to fell a few to find one good enough!

Christmas traditions (c) Laura Preston

Christmas traditions (c) Laura Preston

In woodland such as ours, it often isn’t easy to find a gap to fell a tree into. If you don’t give them enough room you can sometimes damage the beautiful top you were looking for which is what happened with one of ours yesterday. Instead of an 8ft Christmas tree we ended up with a 4ft one which had snapped as it came down. Do not fret though as it has found a lovely home in my front room! We did eventually find the perfect tree for the school and it will be delivered to its new home shortly.

Now, as a conservation charity we would not fell these trees unless it was of conservation value.  Felling these trees (along with others) every year creates gaps in the canopy allowing for other native broadleaved species to flourish. It is part of our long-term management strategy to replace the conifers we have with naturally regenerated native broadleaf trees, which are more beneficial to Scotland’s wildlife.

Laura Preston – Scottish Wildlife Trust, Falls of Clyde Ranger

Posted in Miscellaneous, Reserve work, Trees | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , |

A Ranger in Rome

Whilst Heather has been entertaining you these past couple of weeks, I have been on holiday in Rome! I think I must have been missing home because as I was looking out across the city from the top of Il Vittoriano (the big ‘wedding cake’ building that Mussolini used to do his speeches from), I saw a peregrine falcon. I thought I had heard one the evening before when walking past but I thought I must be imagining things. Rome is ideal for them really; millions of starlings come through the city every autumn on their migratory route to South Africa.

Male starling with summer plumage (c) Magnus Hagdorn

Male starling with summer plumage (c) Magnus Hagdorn

Now, having millions of starlings come through the city every year causes lots of waste. So normally the council hire people to go along to their evening roosts and play the sound of starlings screeching as if they were warning of a falcon attack. This usually sends them to roost elsewhere. However in the 2013 the council had not got themselves organised early enough, causing mayhem and a lot of unhappy Romans. Hilariously, because the starlings preferred diet when in the area is olives. Their poo becomes rather oily and this meant that people riding around on scooters kept skidding on the roads! I heard the screeching recordings whilst in Rome and had thought it sounded strange, as a wildlife lover and non-resident I would have loved to have seen murmurations over the city.

An interesting fact for you: In Roman times from 30 BC to 212 AD if you weren’t Roman but lived within the empire you were called a peregrinus. Peregrinus meant ‘foreigner’ or ‘one from abroad’. To break it down further per means ‘abroad’ and agri means ‘field/country’. Talking of peregrines, ours have been rather elusive lately so if you spot them let me know.

Laura Preston – Scottish Wildlife Trust, Falls of Clyde Ranger

Posted in Birds | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Nursery Tales

Some of the more observant among you may have realised that last week’s post was not written by the Falls of Clyde Ranger, Laura, but rather by me, a volunteer at the reserve.

Yew berries (c)Liz West

Yew berries (c)Liz West

My role within the reserve is to organise the nursery and to start growing seeds from local trees. I have collected seeds from around the reserve and have prepared seeds of eight different species, including dog rose, elder and hawthorn, all of which bore fruits (rather than nuts or winged seeds). These seeds need to rest for at least one winter, before they germinate in spring. To do this, however, they needed to be separated from the fleshy fruit around the inner seed. This job was messy, fiddly, but also very pleasant. I’ve done a lot of tree planting in my time, but not so much seed preparation, and imagining what’s going to grow out of these tiny seeds has passed the hours very pleasantly.

Not all will germinate, of course, but those that do should make up for those that do not. Imagine a seedling rowan, and then think of the beautiful tree that can grow from humble beginnings. And yew, one of the seeds I am working with, is one of the longest living trees known to mankind. These seeds might end up living for 1000 years, or more! I find that hard to imagine but easy to admire.

The nursery is a lovely place to work. There are people going by regularly, many of whom stop for a chat (if you’re passing please do too!), the planting is a very enjoyable activity and there are robins flitting in and out of the trees, occasionally bursting into a song that lifts a chilly day into something spectacular. Yes, it’s a lovely place to work!

Heather Beaton – Scottish Wildlife Trust Volunteer

 

 

Posted in Trees | Tagged , |