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The Biological Recording Day at Moss of Cree

Today's blog, from our project officer Vicky, talks about the Moss of Cree peatland site and working with SWSEIC to host a biological recording day. Read more to find out what amazing species were found!


 

The CCC and South West Scotland Environmental Information Centre (SWSEIC) recently hosted a biological recording day out at the Moss of Cree, a restored site just south of Newton Stewart. This is an incredible site classified as an EU priority habitat and recognised as a very important, and one of the largest, lowland raised bogs.


Formerly a conifer plantation, and having undergone extensive restoration between 2017 and 2020, we are interested to find out how the site is recovering post restoration. With help from SWSEIC we invited local experts out for the day to roam free on the bog and record anything and everything they found there! We were particularly interested in seeing if ‘bog specialist’ species could be found on this site, a great indicator that the bog is recovering well following major restoration to improve the bogs hydrology.


Excitingly we not only found bog specialist species, but we also recorded new species for the region, more on that later!


The group of recorders at Moss of Cree.

Just to give you a brief history of the site in order to understand the complexities we are dealing with in forest-to-bog restoration, Moss of Cree was acquired by Forestry and Land Scotland (Formerly Forestry Commission Scotland) in the 1950s and 60s. The area was extensively ploughed and planted with conifers during the period 1961 – 1978. In order to dry the site enough to plant these trees, ditches and furrows were dug into the ground, extensively draining the area and changing the landscape and ecology significantly.


In 2004 the site was clear-felled as part of a bog-restoration process, which meant it was clear-felled and left to its own devices. With little ongoing management, dense areas of scrub and conifers appeared with little to no opportunity for the bog vegetation to fully return. This site was then sold in 2015 to Ian McCreath and family who engaged with CCC and Peatland Action to design and implement a phased process of restoration between 2017 and 2020.


The bare peat following Forest to Bog restoration works.

So, 3 years on and where do we stand? Forest-to-bog restoration is incredibly difficult to resource and finance long term as it doesn’t fit into any agricultural support mechanisms and wider support does not include sites like this. In light of this we have designed a long-term monitoring plan in order to demonstrate the importance of sites like this, not only for carbon storage but for biodiversity. This site is an island of diverse open bog habitat within a landscape of conifer plantations and intensive agriculture that is not getting the recognition it deserves.



Phoebe records vegetation on the site.

Alright, on to the more exciting bits! What did we find out there? Malcolm Haddow from SWESIC has beautifully summarised all the exciting records we obtained on the day and I’ll let you read that in his own words:


So far SWSEIC, the Carbon Crichton Centre and our volunteer recorders have recorded 184 species from the Moss of Cree. This will increase when additional botanical records are incorporated into the total. Whilst some of the records still await verification, a summary of what was found can be found below.


Most notably we recorded three new species for Dumfries and Galloway. Peter Norman found a bog specialist cranefly Tipula melanocerosand Malcolm Haddow recorded two new bugs for the region: Tytthus pygmaeus, a species that feeds entirely on the eggs of leafhoppers,and Pachybrachius fraticollis a bug associated with cotton grass.

We also recorded what we believe to be first vice county records for Wigtownshire. Local moth recorder Iain Leach trapped Diamond-back Marble Eudemis profunda, a species associated with oak, and White-blotch Bell Epinotia trigonella, whose larvae feed between folded birch leaves and Alison Robertson recorded the caterpillar of Shoulder-spot MarbleHedya atropunctana which feed on the terminal shoots of Bog Myrtle and willows. Additionally, Malcolm Haddow recorded three new true bugs: Chartoscirta cocksi a bug closely associated with Sphagnum mosses, Cymus grandicolor a specialist of sedges but not restricted to bogs and Charagochilus gyllenhalii a specialist of bedstraws that is certainly unrecorded.



Iain's moth table!

Spiders and beetles collected in the bug-vac by SWSEIC were identified by local invertebrate recorder Bob Merritt.



A bug-vac is a converted leaf blower with a mesh bag attached that sucks in invertebrates which can then be viewed, sorted and identified. It effectively allows us to sample an area or site much more efficiently than typical sampling methods such as sweep netting and pootering.

Two bog specialists included rove beetle Ochthephilum fracticorne and money spider Hypselistes jacksoni. The comb-footed spiders Floronia bucculenta and Episinus angulatus were notable, both associated with damp habitats. The money spiders Walckenaeria unicornis and Walckenaeria cuspidata are both generally under recorded due to their minute size. Additionally, a locally uncommon rove beetle was identified as Stenus geniculatus.


Pootering is a manual method of sucking invertebrates up through a tube into a container of some sort! Usually, a small glass or plastic vial.

Alison Robertson recorded a number of moth larval signs on the day including the deceptively named Common Birch Pigmy Stigmella betulicola which only has half a dozen records regionally. As with many of the Stigmella moths the adults are difficult to identify to species and larval feeding signs often offer the best chance to record these species locally. Alison also recorded the predatory Heath Damsel Bug Nabis ericetorum which is closely associated with heather, feeding largely on the larvae of Heather Leaf Beetle Lochmaea suturalis which was abundant at the site.


Additional, notable finds included a Vestal Rhodometra sacraria caught by Iain Leach, a migratory moth whose number vary greatly from year to year. Adder Vipera berus was sighted by Michael Jeeves whilst kneeling down to identify some plantsin a face to face encounter and two uncommon ladybirds were captured in the bug-vac — the Hieroglyphic ladybird Coccinella hieroglyphica a heather specialist and 11-spot ladybird Coccinella undecimpunctata a largely coastal species.



Photo credit to Michael Jeeves who stated: ‘It’s of a male Adder that I spotted just as I was crouching down to look at a caterpillar. There it was looking at me, only 3 or 4 feet away. I slowly withdrew, got out my camera and just managed to take the photo before the Adder slid off into the vegetation.’


Bog plants that were recorded on the day include White Beak-sedge Rhynchospora alba, Bog Rosemary Andromeda polifolia and Cranberry Vaccinium oxycoccus.

We are incredibly excited about these findings and hope to find more bog specialists as the years progress. These recording days will occur annually and will be used alongside our long-term monitoring plan to add to the wider research around forest-to-bog restoration.


 

Thanks to SWSEIC and local experts for lending their knowledge for the day, and to Ian McCreath (Moss of Cree land owner) for hosting us.





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