Despite the wet weather and the restrictions, Assistant warden Luke Wake and the conservation volunteers have been working harder than ever to complete the scrub clearance works at RSPB Loch Lomond this autumn. Work starts early with a muddy trek across fields, wellies and waterproofs are essential gear for the day! Luke moves along a stand of trees with the chainsaw and the volunteers follow at a safe distance. They ‘process’ the wood with loppers and bow saws before finally burning it. This isn’t always easy, as water is sometimes up past your knees and finding somewhere to burn can be tricky!  

The scrub in question is largely made up of Osier willow. A non-native tree that grows along the Aber burn and has slowly been encroaching onto the fen. The fen itself is home to a high diversity of plant and insect species and in the past would have been cropped for bog hay by the local community. It has been shown to hold breeding Spotted crake as well as some rarer roosting birds. To maintain its diversity, it’s important that it’s kept wet and free from encroaching scrub.

The practice of cutting and burning the Osier, while leaving some deadwood stands, has resulted in a larger and more open wetland habitat- this has already been utilised by geese, waterfowl, raptors and kingfisher. The habitat we will both improve, and create, includes some soft rush cover- with grasses, sedges and pool features. This will be ideal feeding habitat for an internationally important population of around 300 Greenland white-fronted geese, which roost on the site in winter. It will also hopefully attract vulnerable breeding wader populations of species such as Lapwing, Snipe and Redshank to the reserve.

It might be wet work but it’s well worth it!

 

By Ash-Lynn Tavener

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