Whilst Andy is starting to plan his survey schedule for 2024, the monitoring has been ongoing. Red Squirrels (Sciurus vulgaris) are just as busy through the winter months, digging up stashes buried when food was more abundant in the warmer months and utilizing the energy to start their courtship rituals. Fingers crossed for more kits this summer!
This activity has given Andy the chance to catch footage of a very cute Red Squirrel, displaying its trademark tufted ears. Although the Red Squirrel will moult and lose the tufted ears through summer, it is one way to tell the difference between Reds and the tuftless Grey Squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis).
What has been very exciting, at the very same monitoring station, is a new Pine Marten (Martes martes). We have previously seen great footage to the North of the estate, with three distinct individuals and this footage shows very different bib markings, (the creamy white chest fur), indicating a completely different Pine Marten in a completely different part of the estate.
Current research is showing that this is great news, as the Pine Marten is known to easily predate the non-native Grey Squirrel and this interaction can help to protect populations of the native Reds.
We are also encouraging the use of the iNaturalist app (supported by The Wildlife Information Centre) for recording anything you may see when out and about on the estate. This is a great opportunity for you to contribute to our collective understanding of the amazing biodiversity at Bowhill.
The Estate now has six monitoring stations, so if you see signage when out and about please be mindful that there are some sensitive species in the area.
Volunteers at Work
It’s not just the wildlife that are busy at this time of year, our volunteers have been getting their hands dirty, maintaining and improving access around our core visitor areas.
Andy has been engaging with several volunteer groups and Works Plus, an employability charity working with 16 to 24 year olds, have been attending most weeks.
Pictured: Works Plus volunteers adding a non-slip surface to the bridge decking.
Skills for the Future
Having the extra hands is always appreciated, however these young adults are also learning just what goes into completing tasks. From identifying and prioritising tasks, through to risk management and best practice, the group have successfully carried out several small projects along the Bell of the Woods waymarked walk. This understanding and experience will hopefully improve the chances for volunteers to successfully secure employment in the future.
Pictured: Works Plus tackling a muddy stretch of path.
Improved Visitor Experience
Other work has been undertaken to improve the visitor experience at Bowhill, including new bin enclosures and improved waymarking. Andy of course picked a driech day to install new panoramic panels on the Duchess’s Drive, requiring a very keen sense of direction with limited visibility under low cloud! These new panels show views to the East and West and are a great place to stop to enjoy the magnificent views toward the Eildon Hills and along the Yarrow Valley toward St Mary’s Loch.
Pictured: Andy and volunteer Johnny installing interpretation panels along the Duchess’s Drive
Following on from the SRUC Ecology visit in October, both Oatridge and Edinburgh campuses attended en-masse in December, as part of their Rural Land Use module. Starting in the Theatre for presentations, the group of 50 1st year students received talks on how Buccleuch sustainably manages their farms, woodlands and visitor areas. Students (and lecturers) were amazed with how research and technology have been used for sustainable practice, generations ahead of its time.
Following lunch and a brief tour of the Gardens to discuss the Designed Landscape, students took a short walk with our Ranger Andy to look at how land use is compartmentalised to allow for factors such as topography, aspect, connectivity and not forgetting the beautiful landscape character. Mixed land use and its sustainable management, creates a very unique sense of place at Bowhill, bringing the community, the environment and the rural economy together.
Students had a memorable day exploring the grounds and learning how Buccleuch operate their estates, whilst taking in the peaceful setting of the Southern Upland fringes and valleys. We are very much looking forward to welcoming SRUC back in the near future.