The Bog Squad have just returned from helping to restore a lovely peat moss on Islay. This was a return trip to build on the work started last winter. On one side of the moss Rhododendron ponticum has invaded with dense pockets of shrub dominating some areas. Scattered plants are also affecting large sections of the wider moss. On the other edge of the moss spruce is readily seeding in and growing away quite happily. The volunteers set about the two tasks determinedly and over four sessions managed to clear an impressive 14 hectares of the moss of these invasive species!
There was also some time to explore the island and of course search for butterflies and moths! We weren't too successful on the butterfly hunt, it was late September after all, but we did find quite a few moths including some very large Fox moth caterpillars and a lovely Lunar Underwing. There were also daily Hen Harriers to entertain us along with Merlins, Peregrines and the odd eagle! Thanks very much to the CANN project staff for hosting us again and to the volunteers for their excellent efforts.
If you would like to help the Bog Squad improve the fortunes of Scotland's peat mosses then please get in touch with David Hill via email@example.com
The Bog Squad returned to Langlands Moss last weekend to install some ditch-blocking plastic piling dams. We had a great day in the cool September sunshine - perfect weather for the tough work of banging plastic piles into the ground!
The need to install these dams is due to Langlands once being earmarked for forestry planting. Ditches were cut across part of the moss in an attempt to drain the peat of its water so the new trees would be able to grow better. The trees were never planted, but the ditches remain and they are still working to drain water from the moss. Our new dams will help to slow water loss and encourage natural bog vegetation including the all important sphagnum moss to recolonise.
As usual we spent some time looking at the local wildlife - this time around there were ladybirds just about everywhere. And thanks to a knowledgeable volunteer we learnt that the collective noun for ladybirds is a loveliness!
If you would like to come along next time and help out we shall be at Langlands Moss again on Sunday November 4th. Please get in touch with David Hill at firstname.lastname@example.org to book your place.
We are often asked why we remove trees and scrub from lowland raised bogs. The work can be costly, hard-work and seemingly never ending. And after all the target species for removal are often native species such as birch and Scots pine. So what's the problem??
The reason is all to do with water. Acidic peat bogs only form in areas of high rainfall (which is why Scotland is perfect for them!). They need a regular supply of rain to keep them topped up otherwise the top layers of peat begin to dry out. Drying is harmful to the natural vegetation layer which is dependent on water-logged conditions and leads to exposure of dry peat to the elements. Erosion of the peat then occurs harming the overall integrity of the bog leading to further drying. A vicious cycle of damage has now begun.
Scrub growth is a threat in some circumstances, particularly on lowland bogs as almost all of these are small and have been damaged reclamation and drainage for agriculture. They are therefore less resilient and even small changes can have long-term lasting effects. Scrub threatens by:
Simply cutting a birch tree down to a stump will just result in further multi-stemmed growth from the same plant which is then harder to remove. So the methods our Bog Squad volunteers use are designed to remove roots where needed to reduce regrowth and thereby reduce the need for further scrub clearance in future years. To achieve this we employ a variety of tools that include:
A few winters ago the Bog Squad ventured north and alongside volunteers from Trees for Life installed some plastic piling dams at a bog woodland site in Glen Affric. Recently I took a trip up the glen to see what the fruits of our labours look like two and a half years on. It was pleasing to find that the dams are performing well! Large pools of water have built up with sphagnum filling the pools and starting to cover up the piling.
The Bog Squad have just returned from a wonderful trip to Islay where we have been helping to restore a beautiful peat bog on the island.
Whilst the rest of the Scotland seemed to be engulfed in snow we were enjoying some lovely sunshine albeit accompanied by a rather bracing breeze. Our challenge for the week was to remove invasive spruce and rhododendron scrub that was encroaching onto the moss. By the end of the week we had ensured that a massive 54 hectares of the bog was now scrub free! A magnificent effort by the team.
We spent our spare time sampling the delights that the island has to offer and I don't mean the whisky! (Although a few wee drams were enjoyed during the trip.....) Gaggles of geese were seemingly in every field, waders called evocatively from the shoreline and the ferry trip yielded bottlenose dolphins and Black-throated Divers. There was even a Snow Bunting! Ironically found in just about the only place in Scotland with no snow. Though despite our spending of vast amounts of time on a bog Hen Harriers somehow proved elusive.
Moths were hard to come by too in the cold temperatures. Our moth trap was empty on the only night we ran it, a balmy 2 degrees Celsius not enough to tempt the moths out of their slumber. A lovely Northern eggar caterpillar was found out on the moss though.
It was however sunny enough to tempt out Marsh Fritillary caterpillars from their winter hiding places and quite of few of their larval webs were spotted one day. Caterpillars of the Marsh Fritillary live communally in a web on the ground and can be easy to spot during the late summer and then again in early spring when they re-emerge.
Thanks to our wonderful volunteers for all their efforts and to the staff of the CANN project for hosting us! I'll leave off with a few more images from the trip.........
February the 2nd is World Wetlands Day which celebrates the adoption of the Convention on Wetlands in 1971 and aims to raise awareness of the importance and value of wetland habitats. This is also a key aim of Butterfly Conservation Scotland's Bog Squad Project, which is funded by Peatland Action.
Our Bog Squad is a team of volunteers that restore lowland raised bogs on sites across Scotland in collaboration with partner organisations and landowners. The restoration work is aimed at re-wetting damaged bogs, so that natural flora & fauna can thrive and peat formation can take place again in the future. Lowland raised bogs are a special type of wetland which is very acidic and nutrient poor, and is associated with some specialised plant species such as Bog Rosemary.
After drying their wellies over the winter months the Bog Squad volunteers were back in action last weekend restoring one of Scotland’s special bogs. They spent the day at Lenzie Moss, a Local Nature Reserve, bordering the main Glasgow to Edinburgh railway line in the small town of Lenzie in east Dunbartonshire. Its boardwalk is a popular attraction for local walkers who go there to enjoy the fresh air, peace and tranquillity as well as all the delights that a lowland raised bog has to offer: butterflies and dragonflies, cotton grass and sun-dews, and if you are really lucky snipe and woodcock can be seen.
Over the last six months, with the help of PeatlandACTION funding the Bog Squad volunteers have been working to improve the condition of this fragile bog habitat. Despite successful extensive restoration to the central moss area the edges of the bog have remained drier and are vulnerable to invasive birch seedlings spreading from the nearby deciduous woodland. If left these trees can begin to suck vital water resources away from the moss. This is where the Bog Squad comes in - by hand-pulling these seedlings we can keep the birch at bay and protect the moss and its vital peat carbon store from drying out.
In September 2017 the volunteers managed to clear around 1.5 hectares of seedlings from the moss, a superb effort! Undeterred the volunteers were back last weekend to continue where they had left off. Restoring these unique wetlands is vitally important as peat bogs have a role in carbon storage, as wildlife havens and as green spaces which local communities can use and enjoy.
For future volunteering opportunities with the Bog Squad please see here
The Bog Squad returned to Lenzie Moss last weekend to continue with the removal of invasive birch seedlings from the bog. Unfortunately it was not the best of weather days and we had to brave a cold wind and drizzle for much of the day. Luckily the volunteers were hardy souls and fueled on flapjack and millionaire shortbread we got stuck into the task at hand.
A tough day but another good job done which will help to preserve this lovely little bog well into the future. Many thanks to those that helped and see you next time out!
Bog Squad volunteers visited Black Moss on the edge of Armadale last weekend with the aim of constructing some peat dams. The eastern section of Black moss is riddled with old drainage ditches which have infilled with vegetation over the years. They are still slowly taking water away from the moss however, so over the last couple of years Bog Squad volunteers have been working to retain more water on the site. One way to do this is by creating dams made of peat in the ditches.
To do this a section of the ditch needed to be excavated of the unconsolidated peaty material that has built up since the ditch was last cleared. A borrow pit was also excavated 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. Once filled up with 'good' peat the dam was topped with the original vegetation layer which had been carefully placed to one side at the start.
By the end of the day we'd completed two new peat dams which will help slow the water loss from a couple of ditches. Peat damming is a bit of a messy job but with some care and attention we managed to make it look as if we'd never been there. Well almost! Many thanks again to the volunteers who helped create the dams.
Last weekend the Bog Squad returned to Sergeantlaw Moss near Paisley to continue removing invasive scrub. We were lucky with the weather and enjoyed our day working in the glorious sunshine.
The increasingly rare Large Heath butterfly is found at Sergeantlaw alongside other threatened species such as Green Hairstreak and Dark Green Fritillary. However all of these butterflies need open sunny habitats that host the plants that their very fussy caterpillars like to eat. Therefore trees like birch that seed readily into open areas can threaten local butterfly populations by shading out valuable habitat. On a small bog like Sergeantlaw the trees have a second detrimental effect by drying out the bog. Removing trees whilst they are small helps to keep habitats open for butterflies and other insects whilst also protecting the moss from drying out.
The moss is home to some special creatures and even in early November we found wildlife enjoying the sunshine. There were several snipe, a kestrel, ladybirds and even a moth or two!
Many thanks to the volunteers who came along to help. We'll be several more work parties this winter, if you'd like to come along then please get in touch.
Last weekend the Bog Squad ventured out Sergeantlaw Moss near Paisley. This lovely little bog in Gleniffer Braes Country Park was another new site for us. The moss is home to the only known colony of Large Heath butterfly in East Renfrewshire and also hosts the Green Hairstreak, another bog-loving species. However these beautiful butterflies and the many other bog specialist species that make their home at Sergeantlaw are threatened by scrub encroachment and old ditches that are drying out the moss.
The Bog Squad's task for the day was to begin clearing some of the encroaching birch scrub from the moss. We did this by hand-pulling the smaller seedlings and using tools to remove the roots of bigger trees. These methods ensure that the trees will not regrow after cutting so hopefully it will be a long time before more scrub clearance work is needed. .
As ever we found a variety of bugs, beasties and moths of which a selection are below.......
Many thanks to those who came out to help. We'll be returning to Sergeantlaw Moss on Sunday 8th October for another work party, if you'd like to come along then please get in touch.
Last weekend the Bog Squad emerged from a period of summer hibernation and got stuck into some birch clearance at Lenzie Moss. The lovely wee community bog sits on the edge of Lenzie with its boardwalk a popular attraction for local walkers and their pooches. Like many bogs and mosses in Scotland Lenzie Moss has seen its fair share of past disturbance with a large chunk of it having been used for peat extraction. Happily though the moss has been treated to much restoration work in the recent past with Peatland Action funded work giving the central moss a new lease of life. Here cottongrass and sphagnum mosses are flourishing again in the re-wetted bog.
The edges remain drier though and are vulnerable to invasive birch seedlings spreading in. If left these trees can begin to suck vital water resources away from the moss. This is where the Bog Squad comes in - by hand-pulling seedlings out we can keep the birch at bay and protect the moss and its vital peat carbon store from drying out. On the day the volunteers managed to clear around 1.5 hectares of seedlings from the moss, a superb effort!
As you can see above we had an excellent day of nature spotting too with plenty of caterpillars and even some beautiful flowering Bog Rosemary. There was also a slightly ghoulish discovery when a Fox moth caterpillar was found being predated upon by a Spiked Shieldbug - photo below. Many thanks to David Palmar www.photoscot.co.uk for the use of his excellent photos.
The Bog Squad's next outing will be at Sergeantlaw Moss near Paisley on Sunday 17th September. If you'd like to come along and join in please get in touch with David Hill at email@example.com
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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!!