Sawing Saplings with the School

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Pupil Removing one of the saplings

Every Tuesday a group come out from Crieff High School to help manage the woodland and park sites around the town. Whilst the group find the school environment a struggle they thrive in practical and outdoor activities. They are learning and developing skills that hopefully will assist them in getting in to training  and eventually a career in the future.

Recently the group were up the Knock carrying out some heathland management.  Using  loppers and saws the group were cutting any saplings or scrub that was developing within the heathland.

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Scleroderma citrinum Pers. – Common Earthball Found while working

 

The reason that we remove the saplings is because if we didn’t we would lose the heathland as it would turn in to woodland eventually. Heathland is a Biodiveristy Action plan priority habitat and supports a wide range of wildlife such as the earth ball seen in the picture to the left that the group discovered while carrying out the task.

 

By carrying out the brilliant work that the group do, they are learning about different habitats, the importance of those habitats and why sometimes we need to prevent natural succession to protect them  and also about the wildlife within those habitats. They are also assisting Community Greenspace achieve objectives and helping to keep the sites maintained.

 

 

 

 

 

 

BUTTERYBANK COMMUNITY WOODLAND AWARD 2017

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As a result of a visit from Scotland’s Finest Woods in May, judges have recognised the development of Butterybank Community Woodland.  Forward Coupar Angus supports the development of the woodland which was launched in December 2015 and since then about 800 trees have been planted by the Coupar Angus community. Butterybank facilities have been recently upgraded by the installation of an information panel, bench and picnic tables, courtesy of grant support from Perth & Kinross Council and Tesco. The woodland has been planted with a variety of species including oak rowan birch hazel hawthorn holly dogwood western hemlock and spruce. Several memorial trees have also been recently planted.

Butterybank was awarded a Commendation Plaque and Certificate in the Small Woodland Category competition run by Scotland’s Finest Woods. Project Convener Iain Bentley and volunteer Rona McKinnon were presented with the award by Fergus Ewing MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy. The event was held in the Scottish Government Pavilion at the Royal Highland Show and was supported by the Forestry Commission.

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Judges Penny Cousins and Douglas Wirrall commented ‘We enjoyed the opportunity to visit a woodland in the early stage of establishment and would very much like to re-visit the site in a few years’ time to see how it has progressed. The Butterybank Community Woodland group are to be commended on their vision and perseverance in bringing into being a completely new woodland on the edge of town that has the potential to provide a greatly valued and much used resource for the local community. The concept is inspirational and has been driven forward by a strong and committed leadership team’

A Butterybank spokesperson commented ‘This unexpected and prestigious award is particularly encouraging for the group who have led the community project, especially since it comes from without the town and from woodland specialists. The feedback from the judges was very constructive in helping us plan ahead towards a sustainable management plan. We look forward to installing the cherry wood plaque in the woodland soon’.

Iain Bentley and Rona McKinnon are shown pictured with the awards in the pavilion after the award ceremony and also on Butterybank along with volunteer Bill Ronald.

 

Salmon in the Classroom

Once again, the coming of March highlights our Salmon in the Classroom project where school-children from across Perth & Kinross are given the responsibility of looking after salmon eggs in their classrooms.

It’s great news once again for the ‘alevins’, as the newly-hatched salmon are called, as over 95% have successfully hatched this year.  Under the supervision of the Tay Salmon Fisheries Board the salmon will soon be released into burns where they will be monitored over the coming months.

Young Salmon

There are roughly 12 schools involved in this project each year, each of whom are asked to keep a diary of their project which is then entered into a competition with a £200 prize. Last year’s prize was split between Moncrieffe and Kirkmichael Primary Schools as it was declared a draw.

The winning school will be the one which produces a diary with lots of content and ideas as well as general facts about what they have learned about the Salmon lifecycle. The schools in the past have submitted models of salmon, poems and songs as part of their entry.

Among the schools involved this year are Stanley, St Madoes, and Rattray Primary Schools. Is your school involved?

You can find out more about this project in last year’s story here and more about the many conservation projects which the Tay Salmon Fisheries Board carry out here

www.pkc.gov.uk/article/2551/Biodiversity-Projects (ongoing Greenspace Rangers projects)

The Tay District Salmon Fisheries Board is the statutory body empowered to protect and improve the salmon fisheries in the Tay district.  http://www.tdsfb.org/index.html

The Tay Foundation is a Charitable Trust helping the River Tay and its tributaries, fish and environment. www.tayfoundation.org/

Wild Fox

Posted by Monty, Greenspace Ranger

Being a Greenspace Ranger doesn’t mean that you meet with wildlife every day, but there’s always the off-chance that if you keep your senses aware and your eyes open, you might just get lucky.

Here’s a lovely dog-fox I caught on camera yesterday near Maryburgh, south of Kinross.

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As he came across the field towards me, I stood perfectly still. I happened to be downwind of him, with my back to the sun, so he wouldn’t have seen me standing there.  He came right across the field in front of me and after I’d taken a couple of photos, I made a deliberate noise to watch his reaction.  He stopped and sniffed the air, though I doubt he could smell anything unusual.  Nevertheless he turned and trotted unhurriedly back across the way he came.  As he passed under the fence at the other side I happened to notice another large fox, perhaps the vixen, too far now for my poor camera skills.

Saying that, I captured this lovely view of Loch Leven with Vane hill just right of centre, around about the same time yesterday.

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Looking towards Vane Hill

 

Volunteering at Loon Braes, Rattray.

There has been a hub of activity at Loon Braes in Rattray over the past few weeks. As well as our usual monthly ‘Loon Braes Task Force’ meetings, we have been lucky to have the support of The Conservation Volunteers and Strathmore Centre for Youth Development (SCYD) to help us keep the park looking beautiful for both wildlife and people.

Over the past few weeks we have worked with various volunteers to plant new trees in the wildlife hedge and to weed around the hedge to make way for some wildflower plugs, which will be planted next week. We have also made a hibernaculum, which is a safe place for amphibians and reptiles to hibernate over winter time. And today we removed lots of Rosebay willowherb from the fruit trees and night-scented flowers that we planted to help the park’s bats by attracting moths (moths are a tasty bat-snack).

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If you would like to help out then please do join us! The Loon Braes Task Force meets on the first Tuesday of the month from 1.30pm to 3.30pm at the Pavilion. We will provide tools, gloves and any training needed. Thursday is our day with The Conservation Volunteers, meeting at the Pavilion at 10.30 am, finishing about 3pm (though you only need stay as long as you like). Again, tools and gloves are provided, along with tea, coffee and biscuits. Please wear old clothes and sturdy shoes and bring waterproofs. If staying for the day, please bring a packed lunch. Have fun, get fit, meet some like-minded people and help your local wildlife and greenspaces!

Kinnoull Hill clearing with Edinburgh conservation volunteers

This past weekend we were fortunate enough to be joined by the Edinburgh University Conservation Volunteers, aka “The Dirty Weekenders”. They are a student-run Uni society dedicated to carrying out practical conservation work, often along side local rangers and conservation organisations. They usually complete a project every weekend; undertaking work at a wildlife park, nature reserve or similar place in or around Edinburgh.

The volunteers crown one of Kinnoulls wooden sculptures

The volunteers crowd one of the wooden sculptures

Kinnoull Hill woodland park, right alongside Perth, is a valuable resource for the people and wildlife of surrounding areas; boasting magnificent views, great biodiversity and a network of paths and cycle routes. There is a large mix of tree species in the woodlands, from coniferous species such as scots pine to deciduous oaks and rowan. In some areas the understory is dominated by young, fast-growing beech and sycamore saplings, which are not native to the park. Throughout the weekend we aimed to clear some of the worst areas of these species to promote the growth of the native species of ash, scots pine and the slower-growing oak.

Removing the stubborn beech often required a saw

Removing the stubborn beech often required a saw…

The weather on Saturday was warm and very sunny, making it quite enjoyable to spend the day outside on this task. After a quick briefing on how to identify the target beech and sycamore, progress was made swiftly on some key areas alongside the paths. We would occasionally find and learn to identify other tree species including oak, hazel, ash and birch at a range of stages from sapling to mature trees.

…or a mattock

For the afternoon we moved onto an areas with slightly older sycamore. The chosen area had not been cleared for quite a number of years so was dominated entirely by the species. It was harder work to remove them here, as the soil was a bit tougher and the trees larger. However, with the persuasion of a mattock or saw, the sycamore and beech were removed and made into habitat piles – these are great refuges for invertebrate, amphibian and small mammal species.

Richard starting a rather large habitat pile

Richard starting a rather large habitat pile

Sundays work continued from the previous day, however heavy rain overnight appeared to loosen some of the soil and the sycamore were much easier to pull out by hand. By the time the volunteers had finished the area was completely transformed, giving a much better chance of survival to the young oaks.

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Find out more about the Dirty Weekenders, check out their blog here
Find out about volunteering with the countryside rangers visit our volunteering page

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.

 

Have you volunteered recently?

Would you like to help us with some volunteering?

We have been involved in a great number of tasks around Perth and Kinross; from improving ponds for amphibian life in Blairgowrie to the removal of invasive plant species on countryside sites, such as the Knock of Crieff and Kinnoull Hill.

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Task on Kinnoull Hill was enjoyable, even in the rain!

We have a number of tasks coming up that we would love for you to join us on.

  • 29th May – we will be visiting the Black Spout Woods at Pitlochry to clear out tree cages with Greenspace Ranger Jeannie Grant
  • 3rd June – we will be doing vegetation maintenance on St Magdalene’s Hill, Perth, with Greenspace Ranger Fergus Cook.
  • 15th June – removal of invasive, non-native plant, Himalayan Balsam at the Loon Braes in Rattray with Greenspace Ranger Daniele Muir
  • 4th July – more removal of Himalayan Balsam, but at Lady Mary’s walk with Greenspace Ranger Richard Armstrong

There may also be tasks involving protection of Oak trees on St Magdalene’s Hill and clearing bracken on the Knock of Crieff – TBC

You can be kept up to date with volunteer tasks in your area by looking at our Upcoming Events page.

If you would like to volunteer see our volunteers page or email communitygreenspace@pkc.gov.uk

So what are you waiting for? Come join us for our next volunteering event!

 

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!