A day in the Life of Ed Tooth – Black Grouse Project Officer

The Galloway Glens Landscape Partnership is about bringing together people from a wide array of backgrounds, and today was very much about getting together and discussing how we can work together to improve the natural heritage of our uplands. My colleague Julia Gallagher (project manager) and I met with Emily Taylor from the Crichton Carbon Centre, to take a look at the work being carried out on a Peatland ACTION funded site, and to discuss how we can work together to improve the landscape as a whole, for both nature and people.

Our primary focus here at the RSPB is Black Grouse, specifically the open-ground habitats that they need to nest in and raise their young. Whilst Black Grouse chicks are very young (less than 3 weeks), their diet consists wholly of insects. And what sort of habitats produce lots of insects? Wet habitats of course! Therefore, the work of Emily and her colleagues is of particular interest to us, as restoring peatlands creates the sort of wet, boggy areas that Black Grouse need. Throw in some drier areas of heath and scattered native woodland and you’ve created the perfect Black Grouse habitat.

The site we visited is at Beggars Moss, just west of Clatteringshaws Loch along the Black Water of Dee. It’s a truly stunning part of the Glens, and one which is not far from some key Black Grouse habitat. A large area of peatland restoration, funded by Peatland ACTION and being carried out in partnership with Forest Enterprise Scotland (FES) is well underway, and the valley is opening up giving some fantastic views. Sadly not today though, as there was a lot of low cloud hanging. Further up the valley, FES are undertaking works to remove Sitka Spruce saplings from an area of native deciduous woodland, which will one day be a key part of a network of habitats for Black Grouse which I am currently writing management plans for.

So, by working in partnership we will be able to exchange management advice for areas key to both of our projects. It also happens that as part of the Galloway Glens Landscape Partnership, the Black Water of Dee is undergoing a restoration project led by the Galloway Fisheries Trust. The sort of management and restoration work beneficial to Black Grouse and peatlands will also improve water quality and aid in the restoration of native Salmon and Trout populations in the river. That means cleaner rivers with healthy fish populations, better carbon storage from restored peatland, improved habitat for Black Grouse and a host of other key upland species and restoration of an important cultural landscape!

To get a feel for what we’re aiming for with woodland edge habitat, you can take a short walk from the FES carpark at Clatteringshaws to Bruce’s Stone (https://scotland.forestry.gov.uk/forest-parks/galloway-forest-park/clatteringshaws-visitor-centre). Not only is it an important bit of history, but it also happens to be situated in some fantastic peatland edge woodland. The boggy areas, mosaic of vegetation and mature trees are exactly what Black Grouse need.

Despite the beautiful start, the weather soon turned and we were driven off the hills by a blizzard, and back to the warmth of the office.”

I’ve attached 3 photos too. There are two of Emily and I chatting, and the final one is of the peatland restoration site, where the view has been opened up across the valley and up towards to top of the Merrick Kells.

All the best,

Ed Tooth
RSPB Black Grouse Project Officer – Galloway Glens