Scouting for Nature

Flanders Moss NNR

My time as a Seasonal Reserve Officer with the team at Stirling is coming to an end. After a whole summer of events, conservation work and getting to meet all of the wonderful visitors to our reserves I will be moving on to new adventures. What better way to end my time in this role than with a day spent helping a scout group obtain their nature badge. The past week fellow Seasonal Officer Emma and I invited the 4th and 6th Stirling Scout group out to Flanders Moss for a day of activities and education in nature. The group have been working towards their nature badge which requires them to explore, learn and reflect upon nature in different ways.

To kick off, we had a tour around the boardwalk where we showed the group different bog species and talked about how the environment changes with the seasons. The bog at this time of year is taken over by the golden oranges of the grasses and bright greens of the moss. Stepping off of the boardwalk and onto that bright green moss Emma and I demonstrated the depth of peat on the bog using a fan favourite prop, the peat probe. The peat corer is a tool designed to gage peat depth, pushing 1 metre poles one by one into the ground until it hits the bottom. With the help our enthusiastic scouts we pushed 5 metres of the peat probe into the bog before we hit rock. With peat forming at a rate of approximately 1mm per year, that’s 5000 years of history in all that peat! The peat probe is a fantastic method of showing visitors what could otherwise be difficult to visualise.

Scouts at the ready with parts of the peat probe ready to test the depth

To finish up the tour we all climbed to the top of the viewing tower where we had telescopes positioned so that the scouts could get a better view across the bog. We waited at the top to see if any bog creatures would come out to see us. As though they were paid actors, two red kites came soaring across the tree line and swooped around only metres away from the viewing tower, giving us our own personal flight display. Emma and I could not contain our excitement, happy that the scouts got to witness some animals in action given that some our famous bog residents such as the common lizard and adder are tucked up and hibernating for the winter.

Showing the scouts the absorbent powers of sphagnum moss

With the tour wrapped up we returned to our crafts tent where the scouts got to reflect upon their morning and create some nature plates, drawing their favourite animal, plant or landscape. Lunch time followed and a strange scene emerged as despite it being November it was mild enough that some scouts opted to have a picnic on the grass as we enjoyed the rare November sun. As if cued by the same force that brought us the red kites, at that moment a farmer with fields bordering the moss ventured out with his dogs and we were given a brilliant display of sheepdogs at work as we finished up our sandwiches.

After lunch time it was on to the main activity of the day. Emma and I had been told the scouts moto was ‘learning by doing’ and were eager to give the scouts the opportunity. The task at hand was building some hibernacula in the wooded area of the Moss. These unassuming piles of wood will be homes for bugs and other bog creatures for hibernating. The scouts, and adults, all got stuck in with loppers and saws, chopping some birch branches into manageable sizes for the hibernacula. There are different ways to build hibernacula, we built ours by first digging a hole approximately 50cm deep and no bigger than a metre squared. With our assorted branches and logs, we then got to work filling the hole with alternating sizes and directions of branches, leaving space in between for creatures to hide. With the branches all laid down, the soil that had been dug up was put back on top of the branches ready for bog creatures to be lured down into the dark and warm spaces between the wood and soil.

One hibernacula in progress

With our hibernacula complete we finished the day’s activities with a nature hunt around the boardwalk. Following a trail of clues, the scouts had to use what they had learned that day to answer questions to find the answer to their next clue which would lead to images of various bog creatures. Once all 5 questions had been answered and all 5 creatures’ images retrieved it was a race back to the car park to claim some prizes in the form of nature pencils. Emma and I were both so impressed with the enthusiasm and curiosity of the scouts as well as their eagerness to get stuck right in with the tools and work together while creating their hibernacula. We didn’t admit it but I think all of the supervising adults had just as much fun, if not more, than the scouts.

As my time now wraps up with the Naturescot team at Stirling I feel very grateful to have gotten to work in the places I have and meet so many groups like the scouts who are always a delight to host. I hope the scouts take away happy memories and learning experiences from their day with us and are soon to return.

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2 Responses to Scouting for Nature

  1. Anne says:

    I hope you will enjoy your next adventure too.


  2. Ladylanders says:

    Great work, Robyn and Emma. And a huge thank you for all your good work over the summer! Sorry to see you go, but wishing you well for the future – and it’s on to the next adventure! I hope you keen a soft and watery (if not boggy!) spot in your heart for Blawhorn, Flanders and Loch Lomond.

    Liked by 1 person

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