Monday, 6 April 2009

A Forest Walk

After a morning last week doing a guided walk with a fantastic family from Northern Ireland I decided the rest of the day was too good to waste and walked home from Brodick through Glencloy. The glen has a mixture of open fields, where the gorse is currently in glorious bloom, commercial forestry plantations, and native woodland.
The native woodland runs along the burn at the bottom of the glen, and although the buds on the trees are only just staring to come in to leaf, honeysuckle is rambling through many of the trees with bright green shoots, giving the trees an illusion of full leaf (spring tends to be later here on Arran than further south- for obvious reasons). After crossing the burn, the path climbs up and joins a forest road through a conifer plantation. A significant part of Arran's landscape is managed by Forestry Commission Scotland. This includes areas of commercial forestry, clearfell, and open moorland. In many places these clearfell areas that are left after the trees have been felled are being allowed to regenerate naturally, or native trees are being planted in the place of the imported sitka spruce that has been removed.
Dead trees are left standing in the empty places as calling posts and perches for raptors and other birds. This is not the only thing that the local forestry officers are doing for our birds, in some parts of the forest, curious objects have been appearing in trees. I am often asked by people why plastic barrels have been placed high up in trees. The answer is simple, they have been put up to provide homes for barn owls. The scheme has been very successful, and the evidence points to an increase in the population of barn owls as a result of these innovative owl boxes. During the Wildlife Festival it will be possible to join Forestry Commission Scotland for a special guided walk during which the FCS Rangers will be investigating the breeding success of one of these nest sites. Spaces are limited and disappearing fast so book early to avoid disappointment! Link to barn owl walks page.