Monday 29 September 2014

Heather Trust visit Corehead

Last week we had a visit to Corehead by the Heather Trust in the form of Patrick Laurie. Patrick is not just knowledgeable in upland management, but is a particular guru on black grouse. Our local steering group were keen to get the Heather Trust involved at Corehead in order to get their opinion on our management of the site to date and their thoughts on future management. 

Unfortunately the weather was somewhat against us. By the time we had walked up the hill and across Cocklaw Knowe we were well and truly in the mist. We managed to make our way across our woodland plantation in Whitehope, around into Lochan Burn (which is just below Hartfell, one of the highest hills in the area). This is where we have our largest flowering 'stand' of heather. Since we removed sheep grazing from this part of the site, it would appear that the heather has really started to blossom. Unfortunately on this day it looked like this.

But on a good day it looks like this!

We then took a walk back across Cocklaw Knowe. We know that this has been a Black Grouse lek site in the past and there have been a number of males spotted up there this year. So needless to say Patrick was keen to find some evidence. And luckily he was not to be disappointed! We didn't see any birds but we did find this feather of a juvenile black grouse.

We then found what (to the untrained eye) looks like a small pile of poo, but Patricks expertise immediately identified it as that of a black grouse, suggesting that a female has probably used this area. 

As we walked down into Tweedhope we also found the feather of what Patrick was able to identify as coming from a short eared owl. It's great to find evidence of these birds on site as it suggests active habitat restoration is underway following the removal of grazing.

Overall a really interesting day and some useful thoughts were shared with us by Patrick. 


Friday 19 September 2014

Work experience with the Borders Forest Trust

My name is Annabel Scott and I am a fourth year student at Glasgow University studying BSc Environmental Stewardship.  I have joined Lynn at The Borders Forest Trust this week to give her a hand and see what exactly goes on at BFT.

The first day consisted of hiking into the hills of Carrifran Wildwood with Lynn and four volunteers. 

We then proceeded to spray 1000 bamboo cane stakes with bright colours (in order to see them in the long grass).  These canes were placed randomly on a section of hill (550m altitude) to mark where the new trees will be planted.  Lynn followed on behind us, spot spraying round each cane with glyphosate herbicide.  This is necessary to remove all the current vegetation that would be competition for the tree seedlings.

Our next three days were up in Corehead on the Tweedhope site.  Lynn and I began the annual tree beat up surveys, which are important as they establish roughly how many trees need to be planted in order to bring the average number of trees up to the level they were at when first planted.  This survey required that fifty points were to be assessed randomly across the hillside, using the Nearest Neighbour Method (Pepper, 1998).

Number of trees, tree species, number emerging from the tree guard and number browsed or dead were noted.  Additional remarks were made for trees that were being outcompeted by grass inside their guards and whether or not kerbing (another form of herbicide) was possibly required in that area. 

We had some serious climbs at some points in our day:

But it was all worth it in the end when we got all fifty plots done and the results all typed up.  We encountered more spiders than I have ever seen in one day!  However, we saw some nicer animals too, such as a tiny shrew I rescued from a tree guard, and this common frog:

Thank you for having me with you all week Lynn and I am sure I will be back to visit sometime in the near future!

Annabel Scott (Student Volunteer)

Pepper, H. (1998). Nearest Neighbour Method for Quantifying Wildlife Damage to Trees in Woodland, Edinburgh, Forestry Commission FCPN1.

Scything in the Orchard

Last Saturday we ran our first ever Scything event at Corehead Farm and the Beeftub.

We brought over scything expert John Grundy who lead a group of keen enthusiasts who came to learn all about this traditional skill.

We were lucky to have a perfectly sunny day (although it's always like this in Scotland right??) and John set the scene perfectly by talking through the background to scything and giving everyone a bit of an introduction to all the equipment necessary.

We also learnt about the importance of getting the right size of a scythe and how to adjust the handle and blade. This was followed by an important session on blade maintenance, making sure to keep it as sharp as possible at all times.

And then it was time to have a go.

It was a lovely sight to see the orchard full of people scything and we even managed to cut around some of the trees for practice.

A big thanks to everyone who attended and John for leading a great day. Anyone interested in learning how to scythe or purchasing a scythe can contact John directly via his website

Site Officer

Wednesday 10 September 2014

Bats at Corehead.

Blind as a bat? That was the first myth to be debunked by Freda Seddon, a local bat expert who came to Corehead to lead a bat talk and walk.

Bats arn't blind they can see almost as well as humans but at night they use echolocation to hunt in the dark.  It is sounds of the echolocation we hoped to hear as after a fascinating talk we headed out in the twilight with bat detectors to see if we could find and listen to bats.

Giving out Bat detectors 

A rainbow over the barn at Corehead that evening 

Heading out to find bats 

Its quite magical hearing the clicks and clacks of a bat coming through the bat detectors then watching it swoop across the skyline. Freda taught us to listen out for the 'feeding buzz'. As bats home in on an insect they make a series of very fast clicks so you can hear when they've caught their dinner!

Bat frequencies! 

The bats we heard at Corehead were the Soprano Pipistrelles (Pipistrellus pygmaeus). All 9 Scottish species of bat can be found in Dumfries and Galloway and its likely there are other species at Corehead Farm to listen out for.

If you'd like to find out more about bats in this area visit the website  of the Dumfries and Galloway bat group.

Many thanks to Freda Seddon for leading such a fascinating event.

and thanks to the weather as well! The sunset was beautiful that evening

Community and Education Officer

Monday 8 September 2014

Moffat Show

On the 30th August we made our annual visit to the Moffat (agricultural) show.

Our contract farmer Jim Henderland entered some of our Blackface sheep from Corehead farm and they were awarded 2nd place! 

Meanwhile we ran a stall to highlight the work we've been doing in the local area, the events we are running and how people can get involved.

We ran a 'guess the age of the tree' competition. The age was 75 years old  and the winner will recieve an FSC guide to tree identification.

Another attraction to the stall was an array of fungi collected from a trip the day before in Perthshire.

Many of these grow in a mutally beneficial relationship with trees. This is known as a mycorrhizal relationship (mcyo = mushroom, rhizal = root). The fungi threads (mycelium) grow inside the tree roots allowing exhange between the two. The tree will give the fungus sugars it makes and in return the fungus brings the tree vital nutrients and water. So without the trees you simply won't get this type of fungi and without the fungi the trees will typically be stunted, prone to disease and may not establish at all.

We won't see many of these fungi fruiting at Corehead Farm yet, but in future years it will be very interesting to see which  fungi arrive to partner up with the trees as they develop into woodland.

Some examples of fungi we had include:

The Scarlatina Bolete (Boletus luridiformis) 
This species turns blue instantly when cut!

The Wood Hedgehog (Hydum repandum)
This species has spines or teeth rather than gills under its cap! 

Ali Murfitt
Education and Community Officer



Wednesday 3 September 2014

Preparing for the winter

We may be an experiencing an 'indian summer' up in Scotland but at Carrifran Wildwood we have been out busily preparing for this coming planting season.

Every summer we do a number of tree surveys. This helps to identify how trees are growing as well as any areas where we could do more planting. We then use this information to plan how many trees we will be needing for this coming winter.

However before we head out to plant we need to do a bit of preparation. In many cases the areas to be planted are already covered in dense ground vegetation, mostly coarse grasses. As these are so vigorous with extensive root growth underground, they provide a lot of competition for the trees. 

There are are 2 main ways we deal with this. Firstly we can 'screef' when planting. This means clearing back a small area of the grass with a spade before planting. A second way is the use of herbicides. Where possible we keep this to a minimum but in some cases it is the only way in which we can really give the trees an early chance to 'get away.'

Yesterday the volunteers marked a number of canes with spray paint and started to put these out in one of the compartments for planting. 

We then followed behind with knapsack sprayers and treated a small area around the cane.

This will take effect quite quickly and hopefully we should be able to locate them when we come back to the area in winter.

We still have a few more compartments to do so keeping this nice weather would certainly help!

Site Officer

Monday 1 September 2014

Watching the trees grow

After the purchase of Corehead Farm and the Beeftub in 2009, one of the first things to happen was the planting of a few trees. Well..... more than 230,000 actually across 195 hectares of land. This happened over a 3 year period and included a range of species such as oak, ash, aspen, juniper, rowan, alder, willow, birch and cherry. After a huge effort by staff, volunteers and contractors the final tree was planted in May 2013.

The 3 main areas that were planted (there are a few other small areas along the river) are Tweedhope, Whitehope and Lochan Burn. Ever year we walk these sites and carry out a survey to see how well they are doing. 

Lochan Burn
These can take quite a few days to carry out but they are really important. We randomly select a number of plots (between 40 and 50 depending on the size of the planted area) and look at the number and species of trees planted, the surrounding ground vegetation, how many trees have been browsed, how many have died and how many poking out of their tubes.

A hazel poking out of its tube
And a holly!
And this rowan is doing well
But some tubes get a bit clogged with grass

This information is really useful. If there are any areas where we have identified trees are struggling we can look to replant these this winter. Whitehope and Lochan Burn plantations are surrounded by a deer fence but they can still sometimes get in and nibble at the trees. The surveys can show how much damage has been done and if we need to take further action to control deer in these areas.

Site Officer