We’re really excited to tell you more about a project that we will be completing on site at RSPB Scotland Loch Lomond this year, in partnership with Froglife, to create a new area of wetland. This improvement will benefit a range of species that the nature reserve is important for, including internationally important numbers of geese, lapwings, snipe, frogs, toads and newts. 

 

Our vision for the site: 

Since the RSPB purchased part of the Wards Estate in 2012, there has been an aspiration to improve some of the agricultural fields on the farmland areas that fall outside of the protected area. In particular, our mind has been focussed on creating a wetland in an area known as Schoolhouse Field. 

The biggest issue we’ve faced in this particular field is the dominance of soft rush (Juncus effusus), which out-competes all other vegetation types, providing a monoculture that most species won’t go near. The measures we are implementing will help us to provide a more varied habitat where rush no longer dominates. 

 

Tractor cutting soft rush on site © RSPB 

We know from historical records and our own survey work, that this field has the potential to host Greenland white-fronted geese (Anser albifrons flavirostris) – arguably the most important bird species that is found in this area. Greenland white-fronted geese are quite specific in the fields they choose to use, and have some particular requirements, which we would like to recreate.  

Greenland white-fronted geese are one of the rarest geese in Europe. They have been of conservation concern for many years – their numbers peaked at just 35,000 birds in 1999, but soon declined again to around 21,500 (2019/20 survey). Their wintering grounds include two major sites, on the Isle of Islay and Wexford Slobs in Ireland, plus a scattering of ‘satellite’ sites, of which Loch Lomond is one. Whilst our population is usually between 250-300 birds, this actually represents around 1.5% of the global population. 

 

Greenland white-fronted goose, © Ian Fulton 

And it is not only the geese that will benefit from this project, far from it in fact. A functioning area of wetland will support a huge range of species, including passage and breeding wading birds, wintering wildfowl, amphibians, invertebrates and plants. 

 

Common frog © Froglife 

Our aim with this project is to make more of the land RSPB Scotland manage into ground where geese, amongst many other species, can happily feed and roost, boosting their survival rate and chances of successful breeding when they return to Greenland.  

What are we actually doing? 

We will be creating four pools, interconnected by a closed ditch system (that is, not directly connected to any other waterbodies), with the in-built ability to raise or lower water levels. This means that in the winter, we can raise the levels to benefit wintering geese, ducks and swans. In spring, we can lower the water levels to expose mud around the edges of the pools, providing food for breeding wading birds such as lapwings, redshank and snipe.  

 

Our conversations with NatureScot (formerly Scottish Natural Heritage) have been very positive and, similarly, the National Park have been able to confirm that planning consent for this project is not required as this is covered by existing permitted development legislation. However, we will be seeking an Environmental Impact Assessment screening opinion to ensure that no element of this proposal is covered by those regulations. 

When will this be happening? 

Pending the outcome of the EIA screening request and providing there are no more major hiccups with Covid-19, there should be diggers on the ground in late-July 2021, with the project completed within a couple of weeks of this. Once completed, it will take a few weeks to see some vegetation re-growing, but we hope it will be looking great ready to welcome the geese back in the winter. 

 

If you would like to find out any more details about the project, please contact us on loch.lomond@rspb.org.uk  

The RSPB and Froglife are working in partnership to make a better home for nature at RSPB Scotland Loch Lomond. The project is funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund as part of Froglife’s Come Forth for Wildlife project, and via the RSPB through the Agri-Environment Climate Scheme. 

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