One of the best places I’ve ever been

Before getting into the main section of this post, I’ll just let you all know I finally saw a newt. A Palmate Newt, Lissotriton helveticus, on a field trip.

Palmate Newt

So you’re probably wondering where this amazing place is. Or you’ve already seen my tweets and know exactly where it is. Other places that I have given this prestigious title are Loch Leven, Findhorn Bay, Glen Tanar NNR, Muir of Dinnet NNR, etc.

Mar Lodge Estate was amazing. We had a somewhat last-minute organised weekend staying on the estate in the bunkhouse.

The weekend started with the trip there on the Friday afternoon. Passing through Ballater we saw the damage that the flooding at the start of the year had caused; all the shops on the high street were shut, bar one.

We arrived at the lodge, unloaded all our food and things we’d brought, and headed out on to the hillside above the lodge to have a look at the estate. Just before heading out we placed my trail camera in some woods, the better clips are below..:

Also see Scottish Squirrels to see what they had to say about the above clip.

From up on the hillside we could see far down the valley. The ranger, Kim, informed us that the area of the estate around the lodge is more conservation/restoration focused, with other parts more focused on game shooting because the aim of the National Trust for Scotland when buying the property was to also conserve the cultural values of the area. We never went to the shooting end so my picture of Mar Lodge Estate is almost completely unflawed.

Here’s a link to the Mar Lodge Estate NTS page, not much point me typing up info that’s already out there!

Some botanising was done on the hillside, 2 new plant species for me, and later in the evening we watched Woodcock, Scolopax rusticola, roding.

The next day was the day of actually doing things. We headed up into an old forestry plantation (fording a river in my dream car on the way there) where all the Scots Pines, Pinus sylvestris, were growing unnaturally, i.e. straight and thin. They aren’t meant to look like that, they only grow like that when tightly packed. This is what they’re meant to look like…

Scots Pine

So our job was to give the big trees some space amongst the wee forestry trees, and also to give some space to a selected few of the forestry trees in the hopes that they will end up replacing the old mature Scots Pine such as the one above. The mature trees are remnants of what was once the Great Caledonian Pine Forest that covered much of Scotland. Unfortunately, these big, old trees are on their way out.

How did we give the trees space? Ring barking and haloing. Ring barking is the process of removing a ring of bark around the tree, getting rid of the xylem and the phloem which are the parts that transport nutrients and water up the tree from the ground. Haloing is when you ring bark the trees surrounding one central tree, giving it a halo. Without this, the tree slowly dies. I know it sounds bad but giving other trees a better chance means that regeneration of our once great forests is more likely. That and the controlling the extreme overpopulation of deer in the area. But that’s a whole other blog post…

In the uplands there was a wee selection of new species for me…

On the Sunday we went to the Linn o’ Dee just to make sure we got some tourist-ing done. Beautiful place and we were there relatively early so there weren’t many people there. I don’t really have anything to say about it other than it was beautiful and I want to return some time to explore on my own terms!

One thing I did mean to point out was the fact that all non-native conifers have been removed… Except European larch Larix decidua. This is because it has become well naturalised in the area and provides a good food source for Capercaillie Tetrao urogallus and Black Grouse Lyrurus tetrix. Or at least that’s what I was told so don’t shoot the messenger. Apparently Larch was also present in Britain before the glaciers wiped them off the island. I can’t find any information that though, so that might be wrong.

I have nothing left to do other than add a slideshow of loads of pics from the trip for you to sift through if you want.

Last bit of news before that: my camera, after 2 and a bit years of good service, stopped working today. Therefore, I have bought a new one. A bridge camera, so hopefully you’ll be seeing a lot more bird pictures now!

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If you’ve decided to read past the slideshow, I’ll let you know I’m surveying up north next week in an area of Scotland I’ve never visited! Hoping for eagles mostly. And also, look out for my next article on BiOME Ecology. If you missed my first article you can see it here. Have a look around the site, I’ve read almost every article so far, definitely plenty on there so it’s unlikely you won’t find something you don’t like!

One of the best places I’ve ever been

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