Carrifran valley (image by David Geddes)

Changes at Carrifran

A woodland scene at Carrifran

Visitors to Carrifran and those who drive past can now readily see the developing woodland near the mouth of the glen, where some trees are about five metres high, but it takes careful scrutiny to see the hundreds of thousands of trees and shrubs spread over the more remote parts of the site. Only hillwalkers will notice the tiny trees putting down roots at over 600 metres in Firth Hope.

Ecological changes resulting from the restoration of woodland at Carrifran are only now starting to become obvious. We shall get a clearer demonstration of the effects of our work in future decades, when formal comparison is made with baseline surveys of vegetation, birds, spiders, beetles and other flying insects. Additional systematic recording has been done on butterflies and moths. A photographic record of starting conditions was also established and will be repeated in due course.

Withdrawal of grazing by sheep and feral goats, phased over the years 2000-2004, led to immediate suckering from the bases of some surviving trees and rapid growth of suppressed tree seedlings (mainly rowan) in several parts of the site. A thicker mat of vegetation developed all over the valley. Field voles thrive in this habitat and are prey for many predators. Foxes and badgers are now common and otters, stoats and weasels are also present. Kestrels, buzzards, peregrines and ravens are regularly seen (as previously) and there are occasional records of short-eared, long-eared and barn owls.

Annual breeding bird surveys and other observations show a decline in wheatear and probably skylark populations. There are large increases in willow warblers and chaffinches, and many other woodland and scrub species such as blackcap, long-tailed tit, siskin, lesser redpoll, reed bunting and tree pipit are gradually establishing themselves. Wrens and stonechats were hit badly by the severe winters of 2009/10 and 2010/11, the latter species having been exterminated in the valley. Ring ouzels are variable in occurrence but black grouse have maintained a good population, recently with eight regularly displaying males.