The Stirling Reserves have been enjoying the recent sunshine and flourishing of summer plants and wildlife. While this is a very exciting time with much to do, working on nature reserves is also very often about thinking ahead and that means planning for the colder, darker months.
When winter sets in and snow covers the bog the work that our team has to do becomes ever more difficult. As well as wildlife management, another looming task is the removal of Sitka Sprouse trees from the bog as they soak up much of the moisture we want to keep in the bog. Every winter volunteers help with this task, getting to take home a Christmas tree for their hard work. The argocat is a great tool for removing these large trees from harsher habitats with difficult terrain such as our bogs. They are among many vehicles used in land management best known for capabilities in tricky terrain and their amphibious nature which allows them to traverse even through water.
Last week the team at Stirling all received training on the argocat with Contour Training at Clydebank. An argocat, if you have never sat in one, is like driving a mini-tank with handlebars in place of a steering wheel. These 8 wheel vehicles are large and can be driven with our without tracks depending on the terrain and the job at hand. The team were excited to get out and practise but before we were let loose on mini-tanks, we had a lesson and theory test to complete. We learned the specifics of our vehicle and what it’s capabilities are that would help us on the bog and potentially other areas as well. The Stirling argocat can carry a load of around 900kg which will certainly come in handy come tree clearing time.
Once we had all passed out theory tests it was finally time to get out on the hills and ditches. The land used for the training is also part of the University of Glasgow Vet School and so we shared the hills with much of the farms livestock, including some curious welsh ponies.
We each were taught how to turn, ascend, reverse and pull a trailer. The final test being to successfully drive with a trailer in tow up and down some steep terrain, through a ditch, and finally reverse the trailer through a pair of cones, which unless you grew up on a farm with these types of vehicles, is pretty tricky as we each found out. We also got to practise our skills on the wetter parts of the hills which will help us when we take the argocat to the bogs. It was a long day of training for everyone but by the end we all had a fantastic time and were fully certified argocat drivers. See you on the bogs!
How have the ospreys done this year on the Island – it was thought last year there might be 4 pairs breeding ?