The Bog Squad ventured north at the end of March for a return trip to the stunningly beautiful Glen Affric. We last visited in November 2015 when alongside Trees for Life volunteers we installed some plastic piling dams. Since then the British Dragonfly Society has started its own local team of volunteers who are carrying out peatland restoration work in the glen to aid the local White-faced Darter colony. And so we traveled north to join them at their monthly work party.
And what a day we picked for it! Stunning weather with barely a cloud in the sky and temperatures pushing 18 degrees celsuis........not bad for March!
The site is a former pine plantation that has been felled and is now been deemed too wet to plant further trees on. It will therefore remain as a large open clearing providing good potential habitat for species such as Dark Green Fritillary butterflies and White-faced Darter dragonflies. We were creating peat dams in the many old forestry ditches in order to help keep the site from drying out to much and turning to rank scrub. It proved to be hot work digging in the sun for the volunteers, but their efforts produced eight new peat dams and five new pools.
Several moths were out enjoying the sun too and an eagle-eyed volunteer managed to spot a freshly emerged Yellow Horned moth.
And that evening we set up three light traps in the glen which yielded a good number of moths for the time of year including a total of 72 Rannoch Sprawler. This rare moth only inhabits mature birch woodlands in certain parts of the Scottish Highlands, so it was a pleasure to see it in such large numbers!
Many thanks to those who joined us and see you again soon!!
This last weekend the Bog Squad were at Kingshill Local Nature Reserve at Allanton in North Lanarkshire. Kingshill is a great nature reserve with a wide variety of habitats from lovely flowering meadows to pine woodland. Included in the mix is of course some bog (or why would we be there!).
Once upon a time the bog at Kingshill would have been a fairly standard lowland raised bog with many other peatlands in the local area. Nowadays the bog is but a small fragment of isolated peatland habitat. Part of the cause of this was a coal mining operation in the 20th century nearby which resulted in thousands of tonnes of spoil material being dumped on the peat. Whilst this has meant that part of the bog habitat has been lost forever; it has also created some new, completely different new habitats. These include some spectacular flowering meadows which play host to the rather wonderful Narrow-bordered Bee Hawk-moth. These meadows are at risk of being overtaken by scrub so some volunteers with Butterfly Conservation Scotland's Urban Butterfly Project tackled the task of clearing some of that scrub.
The Bog Squad managed to install eight new ditch-blocking dams during the day. An excellent effort considering most of the piling had to be carried in and then sawn up. Thankfully all activities were carefully monitored by our volunteer supervisor Mr P......although as the above photo reveals he can get stuck in too!
Many thanks to all those who came along to help out - maybe see you at the next one!
The Bog Squad returned to action this past weekend at Black Moss in Armadale, West Lothian. This moss has undergone some significant restoration work in the past few years funded by Peatland Action. However the far eastern corner of the moss is still criss-crossed by ditches which take precious water away from the bog leaving it dry and degraded.
So our task for the day was to begin blocking some of the ditches with dams. We were using a material called plastic piling which is inserted vertically into the ditch and slots together forming a near-watertight barrier. The idea is to use these dams at strategic points in the ditch network to help slow the rate at which water drains from the moss. Hopefully pools of water build up with the wetting effect spreading out through the peat behind each dam. The effect of re-wetting in turn creates improved conditions for key bog species such as sphagnum moss to re-establish.
Many thanks again to those volunteers who came along to help. Next time out we shall be at Kingshill Local Nature Reserve (near Shotts) on Sun 12th Feb 2017. Maybe see some of you there.......
Butterfly Conservation Scotland are delighted to announce that the Bog Squad team of volunteers will be returning to continue their peatland restoration activities in early 2017. New work party dates will be announced in the coming weeks. We would like to thank all those who've supported us on our journey so far and we hope to see some old and new faces in the new year!
The Bog Squad is supported by the SNH-led Peatland Action project.
As we approach mid-summer the Large Heath butterfly season has suddenly come upon us. Once widespread on lowland raised bogs throughout the UK this peatland specialist butterfly has declined rapidly due to habitat degradation, loss and fragmentation. North and West Scotland’s upland peatlands remain the butterfly’s stronghold but it is also known from around 40 lowland raised bogs in central Scotland ranging from Ayrshire in the west to the Lothians and Fife in the east. Many of these sites have not been surveyed for Large Heath for some time. Additionally there are nearby peatlands to these with no records that may yet hold unknown colonies.
With much current conservation sector focus on peatlands we are very keen to improve our knowledge of the distribution of Large Heath in central Scotland. This will help enable us to focus our conservation efforts in the right place. Some recent digital mapping of Large Heath records has produced a list of bogs that have either previously held colonies or are close to known colonies. If anyone is interested in looking for Large Heath in their area please contact David Hill at email@example.com for further information and a list of sites.
There has been some good news regarding the potential colony of Narrow-bordered Bee Hawk-moths found last year by the Bog Squad at Kingshill Local Nature Reserve near Shotts in North Lanarkshire. Back then three moths were observed together on a section of wildflower meadow on the peatland edge. A follow-up visit this year revealed more records with the moth seen nectaring widely across the reserve. The moth has also turned up on a weekly butterfly transect at Kingshill. The reserve may represent the only known colony of this nationally scarce moth in central Scotland. It is more widely known from the West coast and Speyside.
Last weekend the Bog Squad celebrated Easter with a work party at a very soggy Blairbeich Bog. We had returned to finish off the ditch blocking that we had started a few weeks earlier in slightly sunnier weather.
Despite the rain we managed to build a further five ditch-blocking dams which will help retain valuable water on the bog. By the end of the day the dams were all holding good amounts of water which wasn't too surprising given the amount that was falling out of the sky!
We also found time to clear some of the invasive pine scrub that is encroaching onto the bog. All in all a great days work! Many thanks to those who came along to help us out.
On Sunday the Bog Squad revisited Fannyside Muir to continue with the clearance of small pine trees from the bog.
The pine trees threaten the fragile bog habitats by sucking up valuable water from the bog. Previously at Fannyside we've been able to make quick progress in removing the scrub with around 17 hectares now successfully cleared of during the three work parties. That's an area of around 25 football pitches!
During our pine blitz the Bog Squad's first macro moth of 2016 was sighted, a rather delicate looking Dotted Border. Before we all headed home there was time for a quick bit of damming as we extended some dams that had been built last year.
Many thanks to all those who came along. Next time the Bog Squad will be at Blairbeich Bog near Gartocharn on Saturday 26th March.
On Sunday the Bog Squad enjoyed the rare treat of glorious sunshine at Blairbeich Bog near Gartocharn. It's been over a year since we last visited Blairbeich when we worked to improve the fortunes of the northern half of the bog. This time however we were to work on the southern half where the major ditches are found. Our task for the day was to make a start on blocking these ditches up in an attempt to retain more water in the bog.
Ditches are blocked by creating dams from plastic piling which is a special material with interlocking grooves. When inserted vertically into the bog the piling forms a near impermeable barrier to water flow and this helps to reduce water loss from the peat.
Installing the piling was hard work in the sun,but the rewards of our efforts were already beginning to show by the end of the day as all five new dams were holding small pools of water. We also managed to cut down some of the nearby pine trees which soak up water and threaten to dry the bog out. The cut pine material can then be placed into ditches which helps further to slow water loss from the bog.
And we even managed to record a moth! A tortrix micro-moth was spotted and subsequently captured and ID'd by a fleet footed volunteer.
Many thanks to all those who came out to help us. We shall be returning to Blairbeich on Sat 26th March for more damming. Before that though we will have a day at Fannyside Muir on Sun 13th March. If you'd like to come along please get in touch and maybe see you there...........
On Sunday Butterfly Conservation Scotland's Bog Squad was once again at Fannyside Muir near Cumbernauld. This vast stretch of peatland has been extensively damaged in the past but is now making a much needed recovery thanks to some large scale restoration being led by Buglife. The Bog Squad has lent a hand on two previous occasions and we were back again.....
The task for the volunteers this time was to continue with the removal of Lodgepole pine seedlings from the northern end of the bog. This area was drained and planted up with pine during the 1970's before later suffering from fires that swept across the bog and killed off the trees. The seeds of Lodgepole pine are specially adapted to burst into life following fire events though and this has resulted in a large area of Fannyside becoming a forest of pine saplings.
Lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta) is a species native to the western seaboard of Canada and the USA where it is noted for its ability to withstand waterlogged soil conditions. Thus making this alien species to the UK an ideal candidate to be planted on bogs! Unfortunately this practice endangers the precious peat resource below the trees leaving it vulnerable to drying out and potentially releasing large quantities of carbon into the atmosphere.
After several hours of hard graft the volunteers had ensured that another 8.5 hectares of Fannyside can be declared pine free. Another great result for the Bog Squad which means that more than half the area of pine has now been cleared in just two work parties! Many thanks to all those who came along to help out. Next up for the Bog Squad is Blairbeich this coming Sunday - perhaps see some of you there.....
Before the Bog Squad gets started for 2016 below is a quick update on our progress during the past year. The volunteers continued their quest to restore peatland habitats during 2015 with 19 work parties place during the year. A total of ten different bogs across Scotland benefitted from volunteers efforts including sites in the Highlands, Perthshire, Angus and throughout the central belt. During the year Bog Squad volunteers have………………….
Many thanks to everyone who has helped us along the way. Our first work party of 2016 will be on Sunday 31st January at Fannyside Muir. Maybe see you there..........
Last Sunday the Bog Squad was at Fannyside Muir again working alongside Buglife to help improve the fortunes of this degraded peatland. Despite the recent rains and flooded roads 15 hardy volunteers came out and were rewarded with some splendid December sunshine and free xmas trees!
To stop this continuing the Bog Squad set about cutting down the pines. By the end of the day and after some furious lopping and sawing around 3 hectares of pine had been lain to waste. The cut pine was used to fill in some of the ditches which should help slow the loss of water from the bog.
Some of the nicer looking pines were eagerly snapped up by the volunteers and are now enjoying a second lease of life as Christmas trees.
And that is it from the Bog Squad in 2015. Bring on the new year when we'll be back with more work parties................
As always a huge thank you to all the volunteers who have supported the Bog Squad this year. From everyone at Butterfly Conservation Scotland we wish you all a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! See you in 2016!!
Yesterday the Bog Squad was at a very sunny Easter Drumclair bog up on the Slamannan plateau. We started our day with a peat depth survey of a peatland called Salterhill bog which is nearby to Easter Drumclair. Salterhill bog is a narrow strip of peatland surrounded by forestry giving it a very peaceful feel. We took ten depth samples across the bog discovering that the peat there is up to 5.5 metres deep.
We then set about clearing scrub from Easter Drumclair. Last year we managed to clear small pine and spruce seedlings from much of the bog area. This just left a small section of sparse scrub to tackle and an area of thick scrub that is growing at the western corner of the bog.
And after a couple of hours hard graft we'd managed to clear almost a hectare of scrub and there was a distinct smell of freshly cut pine hanging in the air.
Next time out on the 6th December we shall be returning to the Slamannan plateau yet again, this time at Fannyside Muir where we'll be cutting some small pines. And at this time of year that only means one thing...............free Christmas trees! Maybe see you there.........
This last weekend the Bog Squad teamed up with Buglife and visited Fannyside Muir near Cumbernauld to lend a hand in the restoration of this huge peatland site. In the past large areas of Fannyside have been drained and commercially stripped of peat whilst other parts have been subjected to damaging afforestation. Recent restoration works at Fannyside organised by Buglife have seen many ditches blocked by hundreds of plastic and peat dams. And we could certainly see the effects of these dams as large pools of water have been building up following recent rains. But there's still more to do!
We began by removing some willow and gorse scrub from an old railway embankment that crosses the muir. With the bog beginning to wet up following the improvement works, the railway embankment is a key (and dry!) access point for much of the muir. So keeping it clear means that future work parties and visitors will be able to gain access easily.
By early afternoon the promised sunshine had duly arrived and we moved onto our second task for the day which was to extend some plastic piling dams. During the late summer a number of very large dams were built across a deep ditch and these have been filling-up nicely with water ever since. In fact so much water has been trapped that it some has started to escape round the side of the dams! So the Bog Squad set about using some left over plastic piling to seal up the edges.
We managed to extend 3 dams before we ran out of time (and plastic!) which leaves us a few more to extend at our next work party at Fannyside on 6th December. We'll also be tackling an area of lodgepole pines which have been regenerating in an old plantation which will make excellent mini Christmas trees! Maybe see you there..........
As summer draws to its conclusion I thought I'd post a wee update on the work that the Bog Squad has carried out this year.
In June we teamed up with the British Dragonfly Society to dam up an a ditch that was adversely affecting important damselfly habitat at Logierait Woods SSSI near Pitlochry. A recent visit has shown that the main dam is holding water well and in time hopefully this will help raise the water level at the pond.
None of these successes would have been possible without all the effort and time that the volunteers of the Bog Squad have given. So a huge thanks you to all those who've helped so far in the Bog Squad' s journey!!
Over the last 20 years Langlands Moss on the edge of East Kilbride has seen a variety of dams installed to block its many drainage ditches. Gradually these ditches are filling up with sphagnum mosses and returning to their boggy origins. However some of the damming materials used in the early days are starting to fail. Plywood boards have become rotten, early plastic piling dams have become brittle in the sunlight and a few even melted when a small fire swept across the moss some years ago. Instead of using more plastic piling, could these ditches be re-blocked by simply using peat? The Bog Squad with help from The Friends of Langlands Moss went to find out.........
Firstly we needed to excavate a section of the ditch to remove all the unconsolidated peaty material that has built up over the last few decades. We also began to excavate a borrow pit nearby from which we were able to take consolidated peat. This 'good' peat has clay like properties when compressed and acts as a natural barrier to water movement. By digging deep and wide enough to reveal the old profile of the ditch we exposed the 'good' peat on the ditch sides and base to which our dam could be bedded into.
After much toil and graft by everyone we managed to build the dam up to the height of the moss itself,well above the ditch level. And we finished it off nicely by replacing the original mossy turves from the ditch so that the bare peat wasn't exposed to the elements. All that remained was to take all the ditch spoil over to refill the borrow pit...........which took quite a while!!
Last weekend the Bog Squad visited Black Moss on the edge of Armadale, West Lothian where we indulged in a spot of ditch damming. Our previous ditch damming exploits at places such as Langlands, Kingshill and Blairbeich have all used plastic piling as our damming material. However this time the material of choice was the peat itself!
There is small network of old drainage ditches on the edge of Black Moss and whilst they have naturally filled in with peaty material over the years they are still conducting water away from the moss. Our task for the day was to remove a section of the 'unconsolidated' peaty material from the ditch and refill the resulting gap with well humified 'consolidated' peat which when compressed acts a natural barrier to water flow.
To find the 'consolidated' peat that was required to build our dam we had to 'borrow' it from a nearby pit that we had dug and then refill that pit with the peaty material excavated from the ditch. Once we'd built the dam up to just above the level of the ditch we topped it off with the original turf to protect the bare peat from erosion.
Many thanks to those who came along and gave their hard efforts. Hopefully our dams will be a big success. Next up for the Bog Squad is a return to Langlands Moss on Sunday 30th August.
Hi there, my name is Ruth. I’m studying Conservation Biology and Management and am currently doing a placement with Butterfly Conservation Scotland.
Last Friday I was lucky enough to take part in a dragonfly training day at Flanders Moss led by Daniele Muir, the Scotland Officer for British Dragonfly Society. Fifteen people of all ages turned up despite the dodgy forecast and their enthusiasm really made the day.
After some pond dipping for larvae, we managed to catch and identify several species of dragonflies and damselflies. We got a good look at an Emerald Damselfly, Black Darter and a Common Hawker. They are absolutely stunning creatures and I like to think of them as little flying lava lamps! Daniele taught us how to distinguish males from the females and gave us some useful tips to help identify them in the field.
This last weekend the Bog Squad revisited Kingshill LNR in North Lanarkshire for a day of ditch damming. Along the way we also spotted plenty of local wildlife, soaked up the sun and then promptly got soaked by the rain.........
The intention for the day was to install some dams on some of the smaller ditches on the reserve. Whilst the dams were slipping into the peat easily enough it became tough work in the gloriously warm July sunshine.....
This last weekend the Bog Squad was helping to restore peatland habitat at Lockshaw Moss SSSI in west Fife. Last year on a visit to Lockshaw the Bog Squad discovered that the moss is home to a colony of the Large Heath butterfly. So whilst we were doing our work we kept our eyes peeled for this elusive creature.....
We started off our day by pulling out some pine and birch seedlings that were growing on the moss. These seedlings have the potential to become much larger trees that in time will suck water out of the bog leaving it drier and even more prone to invasion by birch. This drying of the bog threatens the specialised plant flora that is so well adapted to living in the boggy conditions.
One sharp eyed volunteer did manage to spot a large heath butterfly who was flying quickly despite the dull weather. In fact so quickly I couldn't manage to get a photograph! A few other interesting creatures turned up during the day including a couple of large emperor moth caterpillars and a beautiful common blue butterfly.
In the afternoon as a break from the tree seedling pulling we started a peat depth survey of the bog. We tested eight different points and discovered that the peat is almost six metres deep in places which represents about 6000 years of peat formation!
Next time the Bog Squad will be at Kingshill bog near Shotts in North Lanarkshire. Maybe see some of you there...........
This last weekend the Bog Squad traveled north to Logierait Mire SSSI near Pitlochry. The SSSI consists of several ponds nestled within Logierait woodland which are home to a colony of the Northern Damselfly whose UK distribution is restricted to ponds and lochans in a few areas of highland Scotland.
One of the Logierait ponds has begun to 'fill-in' with peat leaving fewer areas of open water for the damselfly to breed in. An artificial ditch draining water from the pond had been identified as potentially having a negative effect so the Bog Squad was called in to block it. Due to the site's natural history interest we teamed up with the British Dragonfly Society for the days work.
The day began with a stiff climb up a landrover track in the forest which with all the tools and materials turned out to be a quite a haul and a few breaks were needed! Once we got up to the site a plan was hatched to create two dams, one on the very edge of the pond and another a short distance down the ditch. In the end this second dam was reinforced with some mineral soil in order to create a better blockage as despite some hard efforts we couldn't get the plastic very deep below the level of the ditch bottom.
As the day wore on it began to brighten up and we started to see some of the sites wildlife including Four-spotted Chaser dragonflies and a Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary butterfly. And a final treat was seeing the Northern damselfly itself on our way out thanks to the quick net skills of a volunteer.
This last weekend the Bog Squad visited Kingshill Local Nature Reserve near Allanton in North Lanarkshire. After the horrible weather of the day before, we got lucky with an almost rain-free day and even managed to get some much needed sunshine. On our way to the bog an eagle-eyed volunteer spotted a slightly strange looking bee which actually turned out to be a moth!
The moth in question is the delightful Narrow-bordered Bee Hawkmoth which is nationally scarce and only known from a few sites in central Scotland. That was just the beginning of a series of mothy interruptions to our work......
We did manage to complete a fair bit of work too though and during the day cleared around a half a hectare of young birch seedlings from an area of bog. In addition to this we also surveyed the depth of peat in the bog at regular intervals using our peat probe. Some interesting results were produced with a maximum depth of 4.5 metres recorded although the bog was more usually around 3 metres deep. With peat formation rates often estimated at 1 millimeter per year this mean that the bog here is around 3-4 thousand years old!!
The tick season is well and truly under way!
Ticks are small biting insects that live in our countryside. Their usual hosts are deer and sheep, however they will feed on humans too and can pass on infectious diseases such as Lyme disease. They can be found all over our countryside particularly in areas where farm animals or deer are found (this includes bogs!).
Please have a look at the links below which provide excellent information and advice on staying safe from the dangers of ticks whilst you are out and about in the countryside.
Lyme Disease Action
NHS Lyme Disease Information
This last weekend the Bog Squad went off on a big adventure to the wilds land of Angus (well 5 miles north of Dundee anyway!) After a relatively problem free journey to the farm where the bog is located we continued in a pick-up truck which took us on an 'interesting' journey over the farmland to our bog.
The bog in question was Carrot Hill Meadow SSSI and this particular bog is very different to those that we've previously worked at as it's a fen fed by nutrient-rich spring water. This means there's a wide variety of wildflowers and scarce plants growing there. So not much in the way of acidic loving species such as heather and sphagnum.
Our task for the day was to block up various ditches and channels that were leading to water loss from the site and threatening the plant communities that thrive here.
Firstly there were two plastic piling dams to put in - they put up some resistance but we got there in the end thanks to the volunteers hard efforts.
After that we took to blocking up some of the smaller channels with soil and turf. That meant things got a fair bit muddier.... This technique was a previously untested Bog Squad method but I'm pleased to say it worked out well and by the end of the day we'd made 11 of these.
Now all that was left was the long road back to Stirling via a pick-up ride over the fields and then a plush hire car trip on the motorway. I'd like to say a massive thank you to those that came along and helped, it was a long hard day for everyone - but a good job well done!!
Last Saturday the latest peatland to get a Bog Squad makeover was Wester Moss near Stirling. This lovely little bog is tucked away in woodland beside the village of Fallin. With a mixed bag of tasks to do the team rattled through them so fast we even had time at the end for a spot of rhoddy bashing!
After quickly clearing a few felled trees from the access track we set about installing three new dams. All the main drains on Wester Moss have previously been dammed up, but I stumbled (literally!) across a small un-dammed ditch this week in the centre of the moss. So a couple of small plastic dams were whacked in here to see if they can make the centre of the bog a bit boggier!
After a quick bite to eat we went off on a search for bog rosemary. This beautiful little plant flowers in late spring and only occurs on peatland sites. Despite its name it does not actually relate to the herb family, but is in fact a relative of heather and other heath plants. It is known to be found in places on Wester Moss, but up until now its full extent was unknown.
After finding around 15 sites on the moss for Bog Rosemary we just about had time to finish bashing the last remaining rhododendron bush at Wester Moss. I'll leave you with a picture of a spider we found hiding under some dead bark - I think it's the rather exotically named Walnut orb-weaver spider which according to the Natural History Museum is apparently one of the few British species that has been recorded as biting a human!
Last weekend the Bog Squad was once again at Langlands Moss on the outskirts of East Kilbride. With a small army of volunteers from the Friends of Langlands Moss turning out alongside the Bog Squad a lot was achieved on the day.
We started out in the morning by putting in some dams using the z-shaped plastic piling. This material usually goes down into the peat quite easily - assuming you avoid the old tree roots of course! So many z-shaped piling dams were completed we sort of lost count..........although around nine is a fair guesstimation I think........
With the spruce bashing continuing into the afternoon, the damming team moved onto the other side of the bog to pop some hexagonal piling dams into place. This type of plastic makes for sturdier dams with the disadvantage that it's much harder to bash into the ground! We encountered few difficulties though and three dams were constructed in a fairly short time along with a wee bit of peat re-profiling where a ditch side was collapsing.
Some of the dams were built to replace old rotten plywood dam's that had been installed in the 1990's, these have been doing a great job with sphagnum mosses recolonising many ditches. Hopefully our new dams will last a fair while longer though and in time these ditches will fill up completely with peat and mosses.
The Friends of Langlands Moss also conducted a community litter pick for the area around the bog in the afternoon with several large bags of litter being taken away from the site.
All in all it was a great day, many thanks to all of those who came along and donated their time and efforts. Hope to see you all again soon............