Emeralds and heaths return

Flanders Moss NNR

A quick life enhancing visit to Flanders Moss on Friday to check the visitor facilities revealed that the wildlife of the bog definitely approves of the restoration work we have been carrying out on the moss. A short distance from the boardwalk is an area of deep peat bog that 22 years ago was a dark, dry, wildlife free conifer plantation. Since then the trees have been remove and a huge effort has been put in to repair the damage and bring good bog back to that part of the moss. Sphagnum, cottongrass and cross-leaved heath are all spreading across the restore bog surface. And on Friday 2 special rare bog inhabitants were strutting their stuff – a sign that the habitat is well on the way to being repaired.

Most exciting were the 2 male northern emeralds doing a mixture of hawking along the edge of the site looking to catch food, and also a bit of lounging on vegetation in the sunshine. These rare dragonflies are only found in sphagnum-rich areas and Flanders Moss is one of the southerly most sites in Scotland. They were only discovered breeding on the west side of Flanders in 2007 but in the last couple of years have now been seen on the east side of the reserve. Have they spread as the habitat gets wetter? Later in the year we hope to do a survey for larva in the former plantation and if we find them, it will show a remarkable recovery of habitat for wildlife.

Also on the wing were a number of large heath butterflies. They only breed on good bog as their caterpillars feed on hares tail cottongrass. Many years ago they were quite patchy on Flanders but in recent years they have become a regular sight across the plantation and around the boardwalk as they have spread into restored areas.

These 2 species are a sign that all of the years of work put in by SNH repairing historical damage to the bog are starting to pay off.

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