"Bog Standard"

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8.00am yesterday, I drove into the carpark on the eastern edge of the UK’s largest remaining lowland raised bog in a predominantly natural state – Flanders Moss, Stirlingshire.

I hadn’t been here before, so was intrigued to see this place and whatever I might find.

A long time in the making, and still growing (the peat increases in depth at a rate of only 1 millimetre a year) but, in the 18th century, the local landowner brought in people to start removing the peat, drain the water and turn the bog into dry land for farming. They were mainly Highlanders who had become disposessed during the Clearances, and the “moss lairds”, as they were known locally, lived rent-free in return for clearing the peat, much of which was simply thrown into the River Forth to wash away.

Only as recently as 1995, Scottish Natural Heritage managed to purchase a large area of Flanders Moss and, since then has been working with other landowners to conserve and regenerate this raised bog. Much of the work involves damming to prevent water run-off and clearing the ever-increasing trees such as Alder and Birch, which suck a lot of the water up. The Moss is now a National Nature Reserve and visitors can now access a small part of it. The latest project, at the end of last year, was the construction of this raised observation platform, which lets people see this watery landscape from a “bird’s eye” PoF. Already, the platform has found favour with wildlife, as a pair of Redstarts raised and fledged a family this Spring on one of the horizontal beams.

SNH have also had constructed a slightly raised walkway, 900 metres (half a mile) long so that visitors can step out on part of the bog to see at close quarters the plants and wildlife to be found here in every season.

Only Mother Nature could create the perfect water garden – the colours and shapes are amazing. What about birdlife, I wondered? I could hear some, but nothing was coming at all close.

These are some of the birds to be seen here, but all I saw was the bird on the right in the above pic, and not close enough to positively ID. The Cuckoos were around a couple of weeks ago, but I suppose that April-June and then winter might probably yield better results. I did spot some noisy Rooks, Great Tits, one Greater-spotted Woodpecker flying overhead towards the woods, some Swifts catching insects around the viewing platform and the “ubiquitous” Pied Wagtail back in the carpark, with whom I shared my packed lunch.

As the morning advanced and the temperature rose (although the sun never managed to completely break through the cloud cover), the inhabitants of the Moss began to make an appearance.

Some of the insects will have to remember to steer clear of those amazing Round-leaved Sundews, with their fantastic, sticky leaf traps.

The walkway, I soon found, isn’t just a great way for visitors to get to the wildlife, it also brings many creatures to meet us. The walk isn’t wooden, it is of recycled plastic which heats up easily, and so is rather nice to lie down on in order to get up very close to take pics. The Moss also supports a healthy Adder population, and some will come up onto the walkway to bask, but I don’t think that yesterday was sunny enough for them, unfortunately, as I’d have loved the chance of getting a pic or two.

Common Cotton Grass, Common Field Grasshopper and now…..

…Common Lizards, and plenty of them, mostly babies, some very shy, but others quite happy for me to lie down right next to them and take pics. They are so photogenic, aren’t they? I kept thinking how “interesting” it might have been if I lay down on the walkway to get a close pic of a “not so cute” Adder, and always kept an eye open to see what might slither up and over the edge of the walk, while resisting the urge to peer through the slats to see what might lie beneath :-)

I could have stayed all day, but had to leave after 5 hours, to move on to the main part of my day out. A few miles away, in the hills, I had made an appointment to see some remarkably stunning birds which I had never seen before……………………

So, it was a sad “farewell” to this self-named “Land of Water”
:-)

Comments

21 Jul, 2012
A_menzies_hunt
m_squared said:

An inspiring narrative supported by lots of wonderful images.
Thanks, David.

21 Jul, 2012
Img_2610a
eje said:

Yet another brilliant informative blog David with great shots,but did you see the unseen before stunning birds,and what were they?

21 Jul, 2012
Dipper
david said:

Many Thanks, Malcolm and Eric.... I did, Eric - wild Red Kites
(to follow :-)

22 Jul, 2012
P1220732
bonkersbon said:

Wow David..incredible photos of the lizards...would have found it difficult to leave myself ! Thank you for the very interesting detail of the history of this haven Flanders Moss.

22 Jul, 2012
Dipper
david said:

Aren't they so beautiful, Bb? Wish I lived so much closer to here, just to see them regularly, as well as the other inhabitants. :-)

22 Jul, 2012
P1220732
bonkersbon said:

They are David...sure you will visit again if only to feed the Pied Wagtail !!!l

22 Jul, 2012
Dipper
david said:

Well.... that might be a Major+ , Bb..... Lol!

24 Jul, 2012
P1000246_edited_1
muddywalters said:

Super blog and photos (again!) David and I bet you'll be back to this wonderful place.

25 Jul, 2012
P1150022_1
jane said:

Wonderful wonderful blog David! I love the collages you have created showing the true diversity of life to be seen here.Would have been great to have seen an Adder too but its a great excuse to return ! ( Not that you need one). Amazing how the heat brings out so many creatures.....not unlike us humans when the sun breaks through...lol. Thank you for this amazing blog....:o))

28 Jul, 2012
Dipper
david said:

Many Thanks, Muddy and Jane, you're right - I will be back there. The colours in Autumn are supposed to be fantastic. Like your comment, Jane, re us when the sun makes an appearance.... :-D)

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