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Bog restoration against the clock

Creating a trench bund

Habitat restoration work is underway at Fannyside Muir on the Slammanan plateau near Cumbernauld. This partnership project, led by EcoCo LIFE+  project partner Buglife, with additional funding from WREN and the Peatland Action Fund, is restoring a degraded peat bog which has previously been partly planted with commercial forestry and commercially worked over for peat. Other partners include Forestry Commission Scotland, North Lanarkshire Council, Scottish Wildlife Trust and RSPB.

The restoration project is rewetting the bog, restoring it to its natural state. This entails blocking the artificial drainage ditches which have been contributing to the degradation of the bog through loss of water. A variety of dams are being used, from peat dams to plastic piling. These will hold back the water, raising the water table and helping to re-wet the dried areas of the bog. In addition, trench bunds are being used to retain water on site within certain key areas. These techniques will hopefully start to allow some of the rare bog species already present on site to spread and repopulate across the bog.

Invasive scrub which has grown up since the site started drying out is also being removed. Some of this work will be carried out by the Butterfly Conservation-run volunteer work parties, aka the Bog Squad.

There is a very short timeframe to complete the work, and all machinery and personnel must be off site by the third week in September. This is because, as well as being  important bog habitat, the plateau  is also the site of Scotland’s only regularly wintering  flock of taiga bean geese, supporting over 50% of the total Great Britain population. Breeding in the boreal forests of northern Europe, the geese have returned faithfully to the site since they first started using it in the mid-1980s.

No one is quite sure why they are attracted to the plateau. It is certainly a large, undisturbed area with good nearby feeding grounds. Some people have suggested that the open landscape with distant pine trees might remind the geese of their summer breeding grounds, making them feel at home. It’s a possibility!

The geese feed out on the surrounding fields during the day, and return to the bog to roost at night. They make use of the shallow pools on the peat surface, which afford them some protection from predators.

The bog restoration project has been carefully designed not only to protect the goose habitat, but also to enhance it. Two new pools are being created, which will hopefully extend the roosting area available to the geese. The work is being carried out in the brief window between the end of the bird breeding season and the return of the geese. The work is on schedule, and the machinery is due to be off site well before the geese start to return. All eyes are now to the sky, looking out for the return of the geese!