Volunteer report on surveying tree regeneration at Glen Finglas
John Wheatley, a long standing volunteer with Woodland Trust Scotland, has shared many hours of his time with us over many years at several sites including Glen Devon and Glen Finglas. He also sits on the Scotland Advisory Group, a voluntary group that works closely with the Scotland Director. Here he shares with us his story of ecological monitoring at Glen Finglas:
One of the regular ecological tasks undertaken by the Trust at the 12,000 acre Glen Finglas Estate in the Trossachs is a tree natural regeneration survey. Currently the survey is done every two years in the early summer, and was due to take place again in 2021. However, principally because of the pandemic, it was not possible for the full survey to take place this time, and it was postponed until next year.
The survey is conducted on the basis of a series of transects and plots in the three glens on the estate, Glen Finglas, Glen Meann and Glen Cashaig. A transect is simply a settled line across the landscape, taking in a varied route, sometimes climbing high up on the hillsides, and sometimes down to lower ground and the rivers in the glens. The line is usually about one kilometre in length, divided into continuous sections of 100 metres marked by small wooden pegs in the ground. A line is laid along the section between the wooden pegs, and the line is then walked, noting all of the natural tree regeneration within I metre on either side of the line. The type of the tree, its size, all other relevant information about the surrounding area, and all other points of interest are recorded. A plot is a single peg in the ground, and all natural tree regeneration within a 360 degree radius is noted in the hope that the progress of growth of individual trees can be observed over successive surveys. All this information is fed into the continuing development of the management plan for the estate.
Although the survey could not be done this year, Gwen Raes, the Trust’s Estate Ranger at Glen Finglas felt that in view of the length of time that would now elapse between surveys, it would be desirable if possible to check over the transects and plots to make sure that next year’s survey should be as trouble free as possible. As I had been one of the volunteers involved in previous surveys, Gwen asked if I would help. It took us about twelve days, between the end of May to early July; Gwen usually had other tasks to do on the day, and spent some time checking on things at other times, as the opportunity presented itself. It proved to be a useful exercise.
We found almost all of the pegs in all of the plots and transects. The pegs are small, about one and a half inches square; they stick out of the ground about 3 – 4 inches and are well weathered. They cannot be any larger, as cattle or deer would be likely to rub against them. Almost all of the pegs required to be replaced, as they were in the main beginning to disintegrate; they had been in the ground for 8 or 9 years. Of those we did not find, a couple had been buried under quantities of rock following a major landslip two winters ago, 3 or 4 more were in the middle of cattle activity and had probably been sat on; one was almost completely disintegrated by the weather, and 2 or 3 had simply disappeared. All the peg sites were photographed and described, and their GPS recording details confirmed.
One of the great pleasures of working in the glens at this time of year is the amazing profusion and variety of the wildflowers. The great swathes of bluebells are almost over, but they were still present on the west side of the river well up Glen Finglas. From a distance, the hillsides present a lovely fresh covering of green, but close to there are tormentil, lady’s bedstraw, hawksweeds, buttercups, bugle, milkwort, butterwort, bistort, sundew, and as the season goes on, orchids(including some fragrant orchids), saxifrage, wild thyme, rattle, bog ashphodel, harebells and foxgloves, as well as the heathers. By the time we got to Glen Casaig, the blaeberries were ready. And on our last day, we were treated with the sights of an eagle, three or four buzzards and a red kite.
As always, it is such a pleasure volunteering for the Trust, and Glen Finglas always has something special to offer.