Birds flock to peatland following restoration work

A white carpet of bog cotton has been successfully established at Gow Moss, near Fochabers in Moray.

Birds flock to peatland following restoration work

The rare sounds of peewits and curlews – two bird species in serious decline across Scotland – can be heard once again at a peatland following work to restore the habitat.

A white carpet of bog cotton has been successfully established at Gow Moss, near Fochabers in Moray, through a restoration project led by Forestry and Land Scotland (FLS).

As well as peewits (lapwings) and curlews, the 130-hectare estate has also seen an increase in other birds such as stonechats, skylarks, and meadow pipits.

The project is the largest in the north-east so far undertaken by FLS.

Blooming: Birds are returning to Gow Moss.

Alan Campbell, FLS environment ranger, said: “The restoration of open, boggy habitats has been a while in the planning so seeing the amazing carpet of bog cotton and the surge in bird numbers – especially the waders – is a great reward for all that hard work.

“The timely boost for these species makes Gow Moss a really special, tranquil place to be on calm, spring and summer evenings. 

“It’s quite amazing to just sit and listen to the evocative calls of the peewits and curlews, which give you a real sense that nature is returning here.”

Peatland: Plans to restore the site began in 2014.

Plans to restore the site and its valuable peatland habitat began to be developed in 2014 when the trees that had occupied the site were felled after becoming diseased and windblown.

In 2018, tracked excavators arrived at Douglasshiel Moss, the north-eastern most section of the site to install peat dams to block drainage ditches. 

Tree stumps were then flipped over to bury them in the peat to smooth the site. Further work on an adjacent part of the restoration area was carried out in 2019.

Philippa Murphy, FLS’s east region environment advisor, added: “It has been really heartening to see the transformation at Gow Moss, after only a couple of years of working on the site. 

“The return of sphagnum mosses and the white of the bog cotton is a really striking, positive sign. 

“Gow Moss is a really important site for us in the north east of Scotland and it’s not only the bird species that are benefitting.

“Restoring peatland improves water quality and the restored bog can actually contribute towards natural flood management, by reducing the outflow peak at certain times, particularly after heavy downpours following dry periods, which is important for the local area.”