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May Musings 2024

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Hello B[L]OG Friends …..

By the end of the month I’d cleared a strip three to four meters wide, from a beyond Shep’s bench to the big steps on the east side of the dome. The willow was such a devil to get out that I’ve not included the species in the statistics. I will need to repeat the weeding exercise again, probably more than once this summer, as new seedlings sprout and the willow regeneration goes crazy. Oh, well, gives me an excuse to be out of doors.

Totals for clearing the north side of the path in April and May:

34 hours spent removing regeneration / total trees removed 1,834

Majority birch with only 49 spruce, 14 Scots pine and 37 rowan.

All the rowan was at the big steps end.

Favourite wildlife encounter: a pair of greylag geese sitting on the Moss.

Least comfortable moment: getting covered in Moss juice when pulling up a large birch in a deceptively wet spot.

Email me via the Contact Page with your comments, questions and thoughts.

Thank you.

Blogged by Lesley B.

April Averages 2024

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Hello B[L]OG Friends …..

With the bird nesting season coming in this month we’re not tramping across the Moss to pull trees until the autumn now. I’ve been clearing the northern edge of the path instead as it’s unlikely the meadow pipits will nest close by. The willow is a devil to get out, particularly as we’ve left it to grow for rather too long. April’s total trees removed is about 430.

Looking back over the main pulling season (if you see what I mean) here’s some summary data for September 2023 to March 2024:

114 hours spent removing regeneration / total trees removed 6,312

2,376 birch / 3,817 spruce / 98 scots pine / 21 rowan

Average number of trees removed per hour : 55

The ratio of birch trees to conifers averages out at about 40% birch to 60% conifer. The area I worked in September however had the opposite proportions of 60% conifer and 40% birch. This latter area was closest to the centre of the Moss.

Favourite wildlife encounters: saw a red squirrel two days in a row.

Least comfortable moment: spending a whole hour digging up one small patch of willow.

Email me via the Contact Page with your comments, questions and thoughts.

Thank you.

Blogged by Lesley B.

March NoMo 2024

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Hello B[L]OG Friends …..

March was a complete bust! The NoMo in the title is for “Not Motivated” to go out in the wind and rain. To be fair I was out of the country for 9 days including a visit to Suffolk where spring had definitely sprung. The photo above is a lovely lane in the north of the county. Oh, and I did pick up a virus (not that one) which has laid me low. Excuses, excuses, excuses.

March Data:-

339 total trees removed

95 Birch trees (28%)

241 Spruce (71%)

And 3 Scots Pine.

Above achieved in just 2 visits for the whole month amounting to five and a quarter hours.

Favourite wildlife encounter: found a toad.

Other days not included in my stats: I was with SEPA when they did another staff volunteer day on 11th March.

Email me via the Contact Page with your comments, questions and thoughts.

Thank you.

Blogged by Lesley B.

 

 

February Figures 2024

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Hello B[L]OG Friends …..

Disappointed to miss the 6,000 trees pulled mark, but not a bad month’s work really.

February Data:-

1004 total trees removed

321 Birch trees (32%)

666 Spruce (66%)

And 16 Scots Pine and 1 Rowan.

I’ve spent just under 19 hours removing trees from the Moss on 13 different days in February.

Favourite wildlife encounter: not strictly on the Moss itself, but one morning I was coming in from the Scotlandwell side and saw two red squirrels chasing each other up one of the old scots pine there. If you want to know which tree, it was the one with a plastic squirrel on it!

Other days not included in my stats: The Bog Squad (Butterfly Conservation) and Nature Scot spent a day each clearing regeneration from a different area. Both groups did great work fuelled by the famous Portmoak Marje’s hot fruit crumbles.

Email me via the Contact Page with your comments, questions and thoughts.

Thank you.

Blogged by Lesley B.

January Jottings 2024

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Hello B[L]OG Friends …..

Quite a Weather Month was January! A week of below zero and then TWO storms, Isha and Jocelyn.  All conspired to stop me hitting the 5,000 trees-removed target.

January Data:-

898 total trees removed

217 Birch trees (24%)

660 Spruce (73%)

And 18 Scots Pine and 3 Rowan.

I’ve spent just under 14 hours removing trees from the Moss on 10 different days.

Favourite wildlife encounter:  a small group of deer bouncing away from me.  They looked like they had springs for legs.

Least comfortable moments:  I lost my trusty sword, aka my root saw.  I crawled over the area but couldn’t find it.  A week later I had another look.  As soon as I stopped actively searching, there it was.

Email me via the Contact Page with your comments, questions and thoughts.

Thank you.

Blogged by Lesley B.

December Data 2023

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Hello B[L]OG Friends …..

December has been frozen, sodden, windy and sunny. I’ve been kind to myself and not ventured out on really foul weather days and been rewarded with sunshine just a little bit too.

BIG NEWS – on 29th of the month I broke the 4,000 trees removed barrier. I am chuffed.

December Data:-

828 total trees removed

355 Birch trees (43%)

445 Spruce (54%)

And 21 Scots Pine and 7 Rowan.

I’ve spent just over 16 hours removing trees from the Moss on 12 different days.

Favourite wildlife encounter: a crow came to check me out. I found a roe deer antler at the foot of a tangle of small birch trees. I’ve seen the bucks rubbing their antlers on the trees.

Least comfortable moments: I tested the hypothesis that if you fill your wellies with water eventually this will keep your feet warm!

Email me via the Contact Page with your comments, questions and thoughts.

Thank you.

Blogged by Lesley B.

November Numbers 2023

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Hello B[L]OG Friends …..

November has taken us from autumn deep into winter. I’ve experienced many calm, still, Moss mornings with the odd snowflake and a fair bit of rain. And I’ve absolutely loved all of it!

1,739 total trees removed

654 Birch trees (38%)

1,060 Spruce (61%)

And 18 Scots Pine

I’ve spent almost 24 hours on the Moss on 19 different days.

Favourite wildlife encounter: cheeky wrens warning me off their hideouts in the piles of pulled trees I’ve made.

Least comfortable moments: frustration at hitting a really difficult patch when I had my eyes fixed on the 3,000th tree target. Running total for this season is now 3,243.

Email me via the Contact Page with your comments, questions and thoughts.

Thank you.

Blogged by Lesley B.

October Overview 2023

28th October 2023

Hello B[L]OG Friends …..

October was holidays for me so I spent little time taking trees off the Moss this month.

Monday 30th was a special day as we were joined for the second time this autumn by staff from SEPA (Scottish Environmental Protection Agency). We were out on the Moss from 10am to 3pm and I completely lost count of trees pulled, so I have left them out of the statistics below, which are for my solo days only:

601 total trees removed

204 Birch trees (34%)

390 Norway Spruce (66%)

And just 7 Scots Pine

I spent 7 hours on the Moss on 8 different days.

Favourite wildlife encounter: skeins of Greylag Geese flying overhead chattering away anxiously.

Least comfortable moments: it rained on me quite a lot … !

Email me via the Contact Page with your comments, questions and thoughts.

Thank you.

Blogged by Lesley B.

September Summary 2023

05 Sep 2023

Hello B[L]OG Friends …

WOW! That month whizzed by like a hunting swift. You might be interested in some statistics from my solo tree-pulling for the month. Or maybe not!

For me, keeping these numbers is a way of staying motivated in the face of such a ginormous task.

Email me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with your comments, questions and thoughts. Thank you.

903 trees removed of which -

530 were Birch trees (59%)

349 were Norway Spruce (39%)

Other species were Scots Pine, Sitka and Rowan.

I spent 28.5 hours on the Moss on 21 different days.

Favourite wildlife encounter: 4 snipe and a Fox Moth caterpillar.

Least comfortable moments: red ants up my sleeve spraying formic acid.

Blogged by Lesley B.

A Day Out of the Office

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Hello B[L]OG Friends …

Wow, what a day SEPA (Scottish Environment Protection Agency) staff chose to come and spend time on the Bog. Hot sun, clear blue sky, the gentle hum of bees gathering pollen from the sweetly-smelling heather. Banana bread, tea cake and home-grown fruit crumbles on offer too. And all they had to do was pull up some birch trees! I think it’s great that SEPA gives all their employees the chance to volunteer for two working days a year and pays them to do that. For most, this was the first time they’d come to Portmoak Moss so they didn’t know what to expect. Sure, they were looking forward to seeing work colleagues in the flesh now that “going to the office” often means working from home alone. But only a couple of them had done anything like this before. All were surprised at just how physical the task of removing the birch was, even using tools like root saws, tree poppers and ragwort forks. But they absolutely got stuck in and warmed to the challenge of clearing the area marked out for them. They nearly managed it too, although the wonderful sunshine did make it more tiring than on a usual September day. “That was very satisfying” and “I feel like I’ve done something really worthwhile today”. “You can really see we’ve made a difference”. “It’s great being able to see the area we’ve cleared”. My favourite comment, I think, was “I’d definitely like to do this again”. I was really pleased that two Woodland Trust officers joined us for the morning so that they could experience for themselves what our Group has been doing to help restore the Bog. There’s nothing like trying it yourself to understand the nature of the task. For the record, in the 50 person hours we were working on the Bog last Monday, we cleared about 1,500 square metres. Oh, and a cream spot ladybird landed on my hand. Look it up!

Blogged by Lesley B

It's that time of year again

smallest birch

Hello B[L]OG Friends ...

Time to break out the pruning saw again as autumn approaches.  Check it’s still sharp ready to go work on the peat bog.  The meadow pipits have flown their nests and there’s no risk of disturbing them by tramping across the peat dome. Now I can walk across the surface to get at the small birch seedlings that have taunted me over the summer. Their days are numbered.

I need the saw to plunge into the peat around the wee trees cutting the horizontal roots.  You might think “Oh there’s a very small tree, let’s just pull it out.” and sometimes that’s what happens.  BUT birch trees are incredibly good at regenerating from just an old root left in the ground.  Or they happily sprout anew after the local roe deer have had their breakfast. That mini tree with a few green leaves can turn out to have a long and wide network of roots.  If you pull too hard and snap off the new stem then the tree will grow again.  During the summer I’ve done a lot of “Himalayan balsam bashing”.  It’s an invasive flowering plant that shares a survival tactic with the birch.  You’ve got to apply just the right amount of pull to the balsam or else its hollow stem will break leaving the roots in the ground.  It has beautiful flowers which the bees love.  So why remove it; surely its good for biodiversity?  Nope.  Trouble is that it is so successful that eventually it will crowd out all the other plants and become super dominant.  Birch trees are of course native to Scotland, it’s just that if they continue to grow on the bog, then the bog will never recover and be lost for ever.

blogged by Lesley

A Blog for a Bog: Portmoak School Does Science

Peat bogs facts poster drawn by school pupils

Hello B[L]OG Friends .....

Peat Bogs poster 1

On a fine summer’s day in June 2022 the P6/7 class from Portmoak Primary School gathered in Portmoak Moss. The children and their teacher were working on a conservation project relating to the John Muir Trust Award. Having an important raised peat bog on their doorstep made it an easy choice to direct their study there.


Healthy peat bogs are not covered with birch trees. Unfortunately, Portmoak Moss has a birch tree battle with thousands of young birch saplings striving to become established trees.


The children surveyed an area of the Moss where the birch saplings had been removed five years ago. With the implements of science, (string, quadrats, metre sticks and clipboards) they pegged out their sample zone and randomly sampled in 4 different areas. They counted the number of trees in each sample site and measured the height of the trees too. It was hard, hot, work requiring accuracy and tenacity; juice and chocolate biscuits helped a little!

Graph 1 June 2022
The results were gathered and analysed by the class and they produced graphs and posters showing both the results and an indication of why this is so important. The results don’t make good reading, the battle is certainly not going well. We have to work harder and pull out more saplings at a faster rate than before. But it’s not all bad news. Some lovely local children are on board. Their experience on the Moss helped them to understand the importance of peat bogs, they worked as scientists and learned how to plan and carry out a scientific study. They worked together in teams and reported their findings to the community woodland group.


The children know why this work matters because the Portmoak Community Woodland Group and Portmoak Primary School are looking to their bogtastic future.

This month's Bog Blogger: Marje.

 

Bog Blog: Tough love - how to treat a rare habitat

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Hello B[L]OG Friends .....

Blog One in a new series from members of the Portmoak Community Woodland Group with thoughts on the restoration of Portmoak Moss which is our very own rare habitat: a Scottish Lowland raised peat bog. Portmoak bog is near Scotlandwell in Kinross-shire. It is owned and managed by Woodland Trust (Scotland).

In a good week I can pull up 150 trees. When I say “pull up” I’ve also perfected the “sawing around the roots” technique. And when I say “trees” I mean “wee trees”. Saplings. The smallest conifers, up to about 12 inches tall, often come up with just a tug. The birch saplings usually don’t. They tend to snap, either at the stem or at the roots. If you leave the roots in the ground the tree can regrow so it’s better to get the roots out.

Hang on, wait a minute, hold your horses. What AM I doing? Trees are good right? To save the planet we need to grow trees, billions of them. Trees take the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide out of the air and the carbon is “stored” in their roots, trunk and leaves and in the soil around them. Healthy peatlands can absorb and store large amounts of carbon dioxide too. Here’s a fact from NatureScot’s website: Scottish peatlands store 1.7 billion tonnes of carbon; equivalent to 140 years’ worth of Scotland’s total annual greenhouse gas emissions.

Portmoak Moss is a raised peat bog in recovery. We’re nursing it back to good health because degraded bogs emit carbon dioxide. And that’s why I am pulling up trees on the top of the bog. Removing trees will help to raise the water table to less than 100 mm below the surface. Raising the water table will help stop trees, and other plants such as brambles, growing and adding nutrients. A healthy bog has only dwarf shrubs, sedges and cotton grass and sphagnum mosses growing on it.

On a good day I can remove about 30 trees an hour. The tallest I can manage is about two and a half feet. The smallest is about two and a half inches. I leave the bigger trees to someone else. Someone with more strength and different tools. Members of our Group do what they can and we organise tree pull events. In January NatureScot brought along some of their staff and volunteers and cleared about 3,000 square meters which represents about 3% of the total area to be de-tree-ed.

Finally, in case you’ve got the wrong idea, I love trees. We just need the Right Trees in the Right Places.

Blogged by - Lesley B

 

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