New Temporary Ranger for South Perth and Kinross

I’m Calum Bachell, and I will be covering the South Perth and Kinross area until January 2019. Having worked as part of the community greenspace team as a graduate trainee in 2015 I was delighted to come back as a greenspace ranger.

Between leaving PKC in 2015 and now I have completed a Master’s degree in Biology at the University of Tromsø; spending 1 year in Tromsø and another 1 ½ years in Svalbard. I focussed on studying nest defence behaviour in eider ducks against arctic foxes and predatory birds. After completion of my degree I worked a field season for the Norwegian Institute for Nature Research, researching and monitoring seabird populations on the west coast of Norway.

My background is largely in ecology and wildlife, having studied a BSc in Ecological Science at The University of Edinburgh between 2010 and 2014. Working now as a Ranger allows me to apply my knowledge and experience in Greenspace sites in Perthshire. Now based back in Scotland I look forward to covering the South Perthshire area, including the incredible Kinnoull Hill, Loch Leven Heritage Trail and other great greenspaces in the area.

Tree cage clearing in Black Spout Woods

Last Friday (29th May) some of the conservation volunteers went to Black Spout woods near Pitlochry to help Greenspace Ranger Jeannie to clear out some tree cages. The wood is a semi-natural oak woodland which was managed as an oak coppice and is an easy walk from the town centre on pavements, or via the Edradour Path. There have been several trees planted over the last 5 years, including Hazel, Birch and Scots Pine.

Most of these trees were planted in cages or tree tubes to prevent them being eaten by deer or rabbits. The task today was to remove any overgrown vegetation from within these cages that may have a negative impact on the growth of the planted trees, as well as releasing trees that had outgrown their tree tubes.

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There was a huge difference made in some of the cages. In some cases it was difficult to tell there was still a tree in the Scots Pine cages before they were cleared, but they now stand a much better chance after removing the encroaching plants. Around 10 to 15 birch trees were also freed from their tubes now they are big enough to avoid grazing by deer.

To find out about volunteering opportunities in Black Spout Woods contact:
Jeannie Grant
Community Greenspace Ranger
Breadalbane Community Campus, Crieff Road, Aberfeldy, PH15 2DU
Tel – 01887 822 425
Mobile – 07788 190 876

Birnam Balsam Initiative

Today we have a guest post from a local conservation volunteer group based in the Dunkeld & Birnam area:

 

This is the third year we have been involved in removing H. Balsam in the Birnam/Dunkeld area. With the cooperation of landowners, our operations have been centred on the Birnam Oak woodland but have involved outcrops 800m or more upstream and downstream.

 

Our group is currently seven strong, but we would like to see more people involved more regularly and extend our operation to take in areas further up the Tay valley. Pulling balsam in the Birnam Dunkeld area is underway again and there is no doubt that it is starting to have an effect.

Heavy balsam growth around the Birnam Oak

Heavy balsam growth around the Birnam Oak

Slashing thick growth at mouth of the River Braan

Slashing thick growth at mouth of the River Braan

The alien plant population is certainly on the decrease, but there is much more to be done. Hopefully we will extend operations as far as the Dalguise and Balinluig areas this year, and there is hope that our Sustrans connection will see people pulling balsam in the Perth area as well. Some of us are out every day so there is every chance that we can fit in with your own availability.

 Contact and have a chat if you are interested:

Bill Melville
billmelville@ogoroad.com

01350 727048

 

Pitlochry Paths Group

On Thursday 14th May Pitlochry Paths Group carried out some work at the Pitlochry Recreation Ground car park, joined by Greenspace Ranger Jeannie Grant. Pitlochry Rec is a fantastic park with a play area, football pitches, skatepark, terraces and a pavillion, but unfortunately the car park was getting a bit overgrown.

It was important that gloves were worn during this task as many of the bushes had sharp thorns, making it quite difficult to deal with. Although the bushes were being cut back to only 1 foot from the road edge, it was amazing how much plant material was eventually removed. The cuttings were placed into a couple of piles to be collected by the council afterwards, and the dust and debris was swept up too. There was quite a significant difference made over the morning – allowing everyone to leave quite satisfied with their work.

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Pitlochry Paths Group are a relatively new group, formed in 2014 and would welcome new members. Their goals are to improve and maintain the variety of path networks in and around Pitlochry. The group meet every other Thursday; for information on how to join please email Councillor Kate Howie at: khowie@pkc.gov.uk

Amphibians in Drains Project

The Amphibians in Drains Project was started in Perth and Kinross in 2010 after observations that a significant number of roadside gullypots contained dead amphibians and small mammals. Roadside gullypots are essential for road drainage but can act as pitfall traps when animals fall through the grid at road level, and once trapped it is unlikely the animals will be able to survive for any length of time. It was identified that a more robust study to ascertain the scale of the problem was required. The Amphibians in Drains Project was born!

A large common toad wedged in a gullypot plug – escaping drowning, but with no way out.

The aims of the project were:

  • To estimate the number of drains that may be affected across eastern Perthshire and, through extrapolation, across Perth and Kinross.
  • To estimate the number of amphibians & mammals that may be trapped.
  • To record species of amphibian & mammals affected.
  • To investigate if there is an association between adjacent habitat type and high numbers of trapped amphibians.
  • To investigate if there is an association between proximity to ponds and high numbers of trapped amphibians.

Results from the survey illustrated that gullypots create a substantial problem for amphibians and small mammals. A total of 3007 animals were found in 1565 gullypots, which works out at an average of 1.9 animal per gullypot. From these results we can extrapolate that with 37,252 gullypots being found across the county, if an average of 67% (24,958) of these contain wildlife (with an average of 1.9 animals trapped per drain), the total number of trapped animals would be 47,421 across Perth & Kinross per year.

The survey showed that the majority of amphibians were found within 1km of a breeding pond. This information is significant for targeting road works involving gullypots or kerbs within a short distance of a breeding pond. If we were to target only these areas with a high incidence of trapped wildlife, this approach would ensure a low cost, high benefit solution.

Not all amphibians are as lucky to be rescued as this frog - but things are looking up.

Not all amphibians are as lucky as this rescued frog – but things are looking up.

In 2012 the Ranger Service started the Amphibians in Drains Pilot Project at Elm Drive in Blairgowrie, which involved replacing standard kerbs with wildlife kerbs, allowing wildlife to avoid the danger zone of the gullypot by following a recess in the new kerb. Consequent surveys have shown that these kerbs are working well, with far fewer animals falling into and drowning in the gullypots.

In 2015, working with the Tayside Biodiversity Partnership, ladders were placed in gullypots at a site in Lethendy, to enable wildlife which had fallen in to escape.

 

Salmon in the Classroom

Throughout the month of March, children from several schools across Perth & Kinross were given the responsibility of looking after salmon eggs in their classroom. During this period the eggs would hatch into ‘alevins’ – a stage in their life-cycle where they survive entirely off a yolk sac until they are ready to catch their own food. The eggs were very successful this year, with over 95% of the eggs surviving!

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Once the alevins were ready, they were brought to Annaty Burn at Quarrymill to be released. Here they will spend their next two years living mainly off small invertebrates, and avoiding the numerous predators including other fish, otters, heron and kingfisher. Before the salmon could be released, the children were also shown how to do several tests in the river – looking at the clarity, speed and pH of the water. It is important to know that the river isn’t too polluted, otherwise the fish would have little chance to survive. The children released the fish into the burn, watching as they quickly hid under rocks and stones.

In April the children were able to visit the hatchery, where their eggs originated from. Here they were able to see more stages of the salmon life-cycle from the initial eggs to adults. In the hatchery all of the half-million eggs are counted by hand, raised until they are ready to be put in the river, and given the best survival chances possible. The children learned about how fishermen have to be quite clever to catch their salmon, and how they worked to prevent illegal poaching – they especially enjoyed dressing up in the camouflage clothing!

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In June the health of the salmon released into Annaty Burn will be checked by the schools when they go electrofishing. Not as dramatic as it sounds, the fish are stunned using a small electric current and netted. This allows us to see the how well the fish are doing, and see the great difference in size from when they were initially released. The fish are then returned to the water quickly and unharmed.

Have you seen any salmon where you live, or have you ever had any experience fishing?
Let us know in the comments or on our share page.

Path Working at the Birks of Aberfeldy

The Perth and Kinross Conservation volunteers met up with  Jeannie Grant the Highland Area Ranger to carry out some path drainage clearance work on Saturday 9th May at the Birks of Aberfeldy. 

The worst natural thing for paths is water!  Especially water dripping off tree leaves!  To save and protect the paths, a number of different drainage systems are put into place to encourage the water to drain off the path as quickly as possible.  Due to the nature of the site there are a number of cross drains;  so the small group of volunteers managed to clear in the region of thirty drains! 

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Whilst clearing them it was identified that a number of them are needing realignment or minor repairs done to them.  It is slow work but when the drains work, it not only saves the path from further erosion but also is very satisfying.  So watch this space for a cross drain TLC day!

It’s starting to seem a lot like summer!

As the days are heating up, insects and birds are starting to return after hiding or migrating for winter.

Well garden 6

This Peacock Butterfly was seen at the well at Scotlandwell in Kinross-shire. Have you seen any where you live? What else have you seen? Let us know in the comments or the share page!

Well garden 4

Some colour appearing at the well!

Welcome!

Welcome to the Perth & Kinross Conservation Volunteers blog!

This isn’t just a place for us to share our stories and events with you, but somewhere for you to tell us all about your countryside or volunteering experiences. The blog is run mainly by the Community Greenspace Ranger Service, who organise and run numerous volunteer events across Perth and Kinross throughout the year as well as looking after the Coutryside Sites, such as Kinnoull Hill and the Knock of Crieff.

You can join in too!

If you have an interest in wildlife, the outdoors or you local community why not join in and volunteer with us? Find out more here

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We hope you enjoy following our blog!