Snow scarts – word of the day

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Flanders Moss NNR

Flanders is set in an amphitheatre of hills and mountains. They are our constant backdrop and on them we get our bearings. With the mass of snow gradually melting, the mountain’s snow-bones or snow scarts (scarts is Scots for scratch or scrape) gradually appear. Today they were clear to see so remember to look up and take it in if you are visiting.P1050524

 

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First adders of the year

Flanders Moss NNR

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It was a glorious day at Flanders today. And the warmth when out of the cold wind brought out the adders, the first I have seen this year. They are amazing creatures having spent the winter in hibernation, buried beneath the peat close to the water table, dormant but able to detect small changes in temperature and come out when it is warm. Well worth keeping your eyes open for them as you visit the reserve over the next couple of months.

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For me there is always real pleasure in finding the first adder. Not only is it a sign that winter is fading but also they are one of those creatures that just give a bit of fizz to your day.

I found 5 adders today and from the pictures below you can see some different aspects of their life.

This one was still a bit grubby from being underground for the winter with dirt stuck on the top of its head.

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They are very adept at positioning themselves to regulate their temperature. This one had propped itself up on the vegetation to angle its body so it could catch the maximum amount of warmth from the sun.

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This one below must have been out for longer as it had already warmed up and was now using the dappled sunlight to regulate its temperature. If it was too hot it moved to get more shadow, if it got cold it would move to get more sun.

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The one below looked really tatty. It was so grubby that you can hardly see its pattern and is likely to be shedding this tatty old skin soon. Not long after coming out of hibernation they will slough their skin and will look a lot smarter.  P1050541

This one was also not looking its best, the pattern is faded with a dusty look to it. P1050543

We are trying to locate as many adder hibernaculum (places where they hibernate) on Flanders Moss so we can safeguard the sites so expect to see lots more pictures of adders as we go through the season!

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Just a grey day?

Loch Lomond NNR

Another early start, another stomp down a very muddy land in the dark – it is goose roost counting time again at Loch Lomond NNR. The forecast said a bit of rain, little wind, thick cloud – all signs of it to be a grey day. The early start, the long drive, the frustration of finding camping fisherman had moved geese from the top half of the reserve and the thought of another dull, grey day didn’t help my mood for the start of the day.

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But as the day gradually dawned, the swamp came to life and as the geese took to the wing things took a turn for the better. It turned out that geese were still on the south half of the marsh despite the night of disturbance, over 1500 of them of 5 different species (greylag, pink-footed, Canada, Greenland white-fronted and even barnacle). As a backdrop to the main goose event teal, wigeon, curlew, golden plover, barn owl and tawny owl all made themselves heard. But perhaps best of all is that a grey day can actually be quite beautiful. There is grey and grey. Today was a soft pearly grey with wisps and banks of mist wandering across the landscape, silky ripples caressing the loch and a dappled silver sky. A calming start to the day that begged to be savoured.
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And even when the sun came out later it was the grey that stuck in the mind. It’s not that sunny days are overated but just that there is still plenty to reward on the grey days aswell so don’t dis the grey but get out and enjoy. The same applies to hair.

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Not many like leaving a job half done

Flanders Moss, NNR

Another Wednesday out with the volunteers has been and gone and it was no surprise the weather didn’t disappoint us!  Over the last months the volunteers have battled through the elements and everything Mother Nature has thrown at them and it hasn’t been pleasant.

This time their task was to extend 5 plastic dams since the water was going around the current dams in place.

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It was tricky as the surrounding area that they needed to get to was really deep in some places.  It was a great upper body work out and our shoulders were on fire as we needed to cut the 4 metre plastic sheets into 1.5 metre pieces and then hammer them in place.

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Even though the volunteers worked extremely hard not all 5 dams were finished, so next Wednesday they are already fired up to get back out there to finish this job! Not one of them likes to see a job half done and walk away. We couldn’t ask for a better bunch of volunteers and can’t highly praise them enough for all their efforts.

If you would like to join us on a volunteer work party please get in touch stirlingnnrs@snh.gov.uk  –  the more hands the better.

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Improving the welcome

Flanders Moss NNR

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We know that recently the track and path at Flanders Moss have not been of the standard one should expect of a top wildlife site. For this we apologize and thank all our visitors for bearing with us.   But the good news is that on 5th March work starts to upgrade the road to the car park and improve the path.   The track work will take about a week but will mean that the NNR will be provisionally  closed for:

 Monday 5 March to Friday 9 March.

We apologize for this but by closing the reserve the machinery can work quicker at least it will mean a smoother ride up to the reserve when its done.
The path work which involves replacing the flooded path with boardwalk and other work to improve the surface and raise the flooded boardwalk, will take several weeks. So once the reserve is re-opened parts of the path will be closed up to 23 March but some access will be possible for those wanting their Flanders fix. The path flooding is due to us overachieving with our rewetting the damaged bog surface so in some ways it is a ringing endorsement of our restoration work. All these dates are provisional as the speed of the work is very dependent on the weather.
Thank you again for bearing with us and I look forward to meeting visitors out on the spruced up reserve in the spring and summer.

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The Lowering Heath

Flanders Moss NNR
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Today was the sort of day that reminded me of the dramatic start to Thomas Hardy’s Return of the Native (check it out it, it’s worth a read), a different habitat, different part of the country but the same sense of loss of daylight, heavy sky and dark foreboding heath. It was a dark, dark day with the bog in the grip of winter (frost, snow sleet and rain – the full set). A lowering sky and the dark heather embrowning the view. I wouldn’t have been surprised if the reddle man appeared with his cart though he would have found in hard going on the bog.

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But despite the the dark day the wildlife was still there: 80 teal, 3 snipe, 50+ red deer and a fox. There is always something to see.

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Looking for a spore capsule in a bog wood

Flanders Moss NNR

Yesterday we were out in the wonderfully wild and wet west end of Flanders Moss in Ballengrew wood looking for evidence of the green shield-moss (Buxbaumia viridis). Enthusiastic followers of this blog might remember that last year there was great excitement in the moss and liverwort world when a shriveled spore capsule of this very rare and endangered moss was found at Flanders Moss (read here)  about 80 miles further south of the limit of its previous range.

The best time to look for this moss is now, in the winter. It has tiny leaves that are virtually invisible in the field but it’s 1cm high, bright green spore capsule is visible with a bit of searching. So on a bright but bitterly cold day Rory Whytock of the British Bryological Society and myself set ourselves the task of searching rotten logs on the west edge of Flanders. Well, to keep it brief we didn’t find any. Four hours of searching but no bright green spore capsules. This wasn’t a complete surprise because in other surveys for this plant further north it was found that surveyors had to walk an average 25 km for every plant found.  There are an awful lot of rotten trees in the woods at Flanders but very few with the perfect state of rottenness for Buxbaumia.

But we won’t give up, we will keep looking this winter and in future years but for yesterday it was a day to just enjoy the shape and form of the miniature world of the small stuff. I don’t know the names of most of these but that didn’t matter, it was just a pleasure spending some time looking at them.

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