RSPB Trainee Ecologist, David Freeman, tells us more about his work at Forsinard Flows.
In search of the Golden Bog Moss
Before arriving at Forsinard I had already decide to try to use some of my spare time constructively by improving my knowledge of the Sphagnum Mosses, commonly known as the Bog Mosses.
When most people think of bog mosses I’m sure the image that springs to mind is of something dank and snot green. While it is true, some species do fit this description, it is far from the whole truth. For example, there is the deep glittering crimson of Sphagnum warnstorfii, Sphagnum caplliifolium can have the colouring of raspberry ripple ice cream and Sphagnum teres has a head of striking ginger, however there is one bog moss in particular that stands out from the crowd, the golden bog moss Sphagnum pulchrum. This is a relatively rare moss in the UK and as well as being distinctively gold in colour it is also remarkably symmetrical in structure. Looking at this moss close up reminds me of 1920’s art deco and geometric shapes.
I decided to dedicate a surprisingly bright and warm March weekend to search for a range of intriguing mosses, all the time keeping an eye out for S.pulchrum. Trekking across an expanse of undulating moorland, it was not long before I came across area peppered with icy lochans. These pools had a surprisingly diverse moss flora and on the edge of one of these pools I spotted S.pulchrum. It was not the distinctive golden sheen of the plant, which first grabbed my attention, but rather the distinctly ordered structure setting it apart from the surrounding vegetation. I was ecstatic to say the least.
This was a fantastic find and certainly one of the highlights of the weekend. I believe my exeprience at Forsinard proves the best way to learn about any plant or animal is to go out and start looking for them. Over those couple of days, utilising the samples I had collected, I was able to make a real improvement on my understanding of the bog mosses. This was just as well as that Monday I was delighted to be offered the position of Trainee Ecologist at RSPB Scotland's HQ, focussing on mosses and liverworts.
Photo by Sharon Pilkington.
RSPB Scotland Trainee Ecologist, David Freeman, on his first trip to Forsinard Flows.
A trip to the far north
The Flow country of Scotland is one of the most important and dynamic landscapes in the world, its deep peats have built up over thousands of years locking away masses of carbon and preserving forests from ages past. The Lochs and Lochans that collect on the peat form a strange patterned landscape that reflects the metallic greys and crystal blues of the Highland sky. This majestic landscape has long been high on my agenda to visit.
When the opportunity to spend a month volunteering at Forsinard arose, I leapt at the chance. Forsinard Flows is a reserve that covers huge areas of this landscape stretching from the Caithness/Sutherland boarder in the east to loch Druim a’ chliabhain in the west. I arrived at the reserve on a clear and crisp February night. Immediately I was struck by the scale of the landscape. The vast undulating moorlands and the horizons of snow-capped peaks combine to make one of the most spectacular landscapes in the UK.
The next morning after a brief introduction to the other volunteers and staff, we headed out to undertake some essential habitat management tasks. During this first day I was amazed by how peaceful the surrounding landscape is. I was also surprised at the abundance of wildlife present. Even though it was still early in the year there was still plenty to see. Routinely we would stumble across herds of red deer (Cervus elaphus) on the open moorland. Amongst the pines the bright orange of male crossbill (Loxia curvirostra) could often be glimpsed flitting about in the higher branches. Of particular interest to me was the rich carpet of mosses, like the rich burgundy of Sphagnum capillifolium, the bog pools edged with the shining gold of Sphagnum pulchrum and the ever present glossy green creep of Hylocomium splendens. However, the highlight of that first day has to have been a nocturnal visit from a highly inquisitive pine marten (Martes martes). I was certainly pleased to be calling this Landscape home for the next 4 weeks.
Photos 1 & 2 by Eleanor Bentall. Photo 3 by Karl Stevens.
Scottish Birdfair team member, Stacey Maden, on preparing for the big day.
Countdown to the Scottish Birdfair
With just 1 month to go before the Scottish Birdfair, it’s all go in the office as we finalise plans for the big day.
This year we are excited to welcome even more exhibitors showcasing the very best in optics, clothing, arts and crafts, books and bird food (just to name a few) and we are looking forward to browsing the stalls ourselves.
One of the perks of being a Birdfair team member, aside from being issued with a walkie talkie, is the opportunity to meet so many people who share our love for wildlife and Scotland’s natural environment. We have a dedicated team of volunteers who help us with every aspect of the event, from marketing to traffic marshalling and we really couldn’t do it without them.
We are looking forward to welcoming a diverse range of conservation organisations, all with a commitment to protecting and enhancing our natural environment. Be sure to visit our friends and find out more about what they do and how you can help.
For those of you who like to take advantage of a full day- Set your alarm clock for a guided Dawn Chorus Walk around the beautiful grounds of Hopetoun House. Enjoy a coffee and the amazing sounds of songbirds greeting the day.
There’s also an opportunity to discover the remarkable wildlife of the Firth of Forth on a special seabird cruise. Experts will point out the diverse range of species found right on our doorstep from puffins and gannets to seals and jellyfish.
There’s lots to keep the little ones entertained too with pony rides, storytelling, puppet shows, nest box building and more!
And let’s not forget the truly important things...the food and beverage options! Our friends at the Duddingston Arms are back this year to offer a range of specially brewed beers and our very own ‘Birdfair Best’ beer brewed by Tryst Breweries. Fantastic coffee from Steampunk coffee will help you start the day right. A wide range of delicious lunch options including risotto, burgers, hog roast, and traditional Cullen skink will keep the entire family happy.
So, if you enjoy nature, wildlife, the outdoors, delicious locally sourced food and fun for the entire family- The Scottish Birdfair is the perfect event for you! We look forward to seeing you there!
You can view the full event programme and purchase tickets on the Scottish Birdfair website.
Photo: Ken Jack Agencies
Check out the Scottish Birdfair video to find out what it's all about: