Snowy, Flowy, Blowy,
Showery, Flowery, Bowery,
Hoppy, Croppy, Droppy,
Breezy, Sneezy, Freezy.
— The Twelve Months; George Ellis (1753 – 1815)
As far as I can remember, I have been a fan of words. I was an avid reader and creative writer growing up; my well-thumbed “Collins Gem dictionary and thesaurus” testimony to my literary ruminations. As a mature college student, my tutor commented on my often flowery language, and suggested on one occasion that I should consider another simpler word for ‘plethora’ in one of my assignments….. Taking all this into consideration, I can still appreciate the punchy imagery of satirist George Ellis above; however, in my own verbose style, here is a (brief) re-cap of my first year at Cameron House.
The old “Fairy Wood” was my first port of call;
Overgrown with brambles, unloved and forlorn.
No light filtered through to the dark woodland floor
The birds were all silent; and flowers? None at all.
A Gnome made his home in the herb garden one day;
The birds came a-flocking to the seed and nut buffet.
Toads in abodes, and fairy door dwellings;
A new lease of life breathed into the woodland.
“Bracken for Butterflies” was a management plan,
Designed to increase flora on which they depend.
Otter spotting by day; bat surveys at dusk;
Kingfisher on The Fruin; my cup overfloweth.
Red squirrel project, pine marten, fungal foray;
Woodland thinning, bird ringing; vegetation surveys.
Barn-owl chicks; ticks; more otters! Brown hares.
An abundance of wildlife to be treated with care.
There has been plenty to do this year, orientating myself and getting to know the 117 hectares of land occupied by The Carrick. Eleven areas of dry grassland, 6 areas of marshy grassland, a single area of wet heath, 17 lengths of hedges, tree groups and linear scrub, 5 lagoons and 7 ponds make up The Carrick, as well as a 26 hectare nature reserve separated by the River Fruin which runs east to west (and a partridge in a pear tree).
The Carrick supports a variable range of birds, perhaps due to its extensive range of habitats. The nature reserve contains the most significant habitats for breeding birds; particularly the woodlands surrounding the lagoons, therefore this is just one of the reasons why this area must be managed sensitively. There are currently 70 nest boxes located around The Carrick and one of my jobs this winter will be to locate them, clean out the ones which are in good condition and remove / replace those which are damaged. Once this is done, monitoring of the boxes can begin again in the near future.
Signs of otter activity on the reserve have been high this year with numerous otter spraints, widespread otter paths and several otter shelters. The total otter habitat within the reserve is 400m of river, 1300m of loch shore and 4250m of lagoon edge, which makes it a strategically significant location between a substantial river and the loch. Otters are classified as protected in the UK under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981; they are absent in many parts of the UK, therefore we are extremely privileged to have them living near us. Wildlife footage of the otters has received very positive feedback, and allows us a unique insight into their private lives.
There are fourteen bat boxes in total dotted around The Carrick, made up of a combination of regular roost boxes installed in woodland compartments, as well as two heated bat boxes based at Auchentullich Guest Lodges. The boxes were installed in 2007 following a tree survey conducted by a licensed bat surveyor, who concluded that The Carrick has good habitat for foraging bats, which are areas of open water, linear features, hedges and areas of mature trees. The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 protects bats and their roosts in Scotland, England and Wales, therefore anyone involved in roost checks must hold a personal licence. I am very much looking forward to continuing my bat training next year, so watch this space!
As a custodian of the environment I take my moral duties and responsibilities extremely seriously, and I am immensely proud to be able to hold the conservation banner for Cameron House within the National Park. Nature conservation is at the very heart of what Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park stands for; for more information on Wildpark 2020 visit www.lochlomond-trossachs.org/looking-after-the-park/wild-challenges-nature/
Finally, as this is will be my last correspondence until 2017, may I take this opportunity to wish you all well for the New Year, and I hope you and your friends and family have a safe and relaxing holiday.