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Ranger Newsletter January 2013
Fruit Trees and Wildflowers
The Friends Group and the Ranger Service have been working with volunteers, and partners such as Forth Valley Orchards to provide a pruning workshop to benefit the fruit trees. We will be replacing tree guards destroyed by careless strimmers, and earthing up around the bottom of the trees in anticipation of a 'fruitful' 2013 season!
We have also been taking up an area of turf at the gamekeeper's Cottage so that we may plant up with wildflower seed in spring, to create a mini meadow for wildlife and visitors to enjoy during summer (if we get one!).
Orchids and Butterflies
2012 proved to be a better year than the previous couple for the Greater Butterfly orchid population. A gang of intrepid volunteers helped out to count every single one in the Park in the summer, which helps us manage them better when it comes to meadow cutting time in autumn. Sadly, the butterflies did not fare as well as in previous years, due to 2012 supposedly being the second wettest year since records began!
Thanks also to all of the dedicated volunteers helping to find a wee patch of sun to count them in - hopefully we will have another load of willing helpers for 2013. Like the orchids, the information gathered feeds into the National Biodiversity network and helps create a bigger picture of how the country's wildlife is doing.
The first phase of installing the newly branded signage was completed in 2012, and the new interpretation boards arrived just before Christmas break. These will be installed over the coming months, and the old interpretation boards removed. The leaflet was been updated during 2012 to reflect the changes and additions to the path network. The new boards will reflect these changes.
Play Area Proposal
Non-native Invasive Species
The Stirling Council Criminal Justice team are continuing work to remove the Rhododendron Ponticum along the North Drive. They are leaving all other, non-invasive species. This is a continuous problem, as this mega-weed shades out all light to our native flora and fauna, and is of no use to our own native eco-system.
So thanks go to the continued supporters that help us get rid of this plant. We have also planned to try to eradicate Japanese knotweed which has been identified in the Country Park - before it spreads too far. Members of the Stirling University Nature Society have also reported an occurrence of Pirri-pirri burr, which we will need to try and remove quickly too.
In September, the Scottish Wildlife Trust were trapping grey squirrels in the Country Park area, to carry out tests for the lethal squirrel-pox virus, which the greys carry. It does not affect them, but transfers easily to our native red squirrels, causing them a horrific and painful death. If you see a red squirrel with lesions, this could well be the pox virus. We are still awaiting the results from the tests - fingers crossed!
The virus has been reported as present in Ayrshire, so this is a worry as it spreads quickly. Red squirrels have been reported in the Cambusbarron, North Third Reservoir, and Chartershall areas, so are likely to be in the Torwood adjacent to the Country Park. For more info on this, see http://www.red-squirrels.org.uk/
Please remember to send in any sightings of wildlife you think of interest. We keep a database at the Ranger Service, which proves useful in case of proposals for developments, such as housing, new roads, windfarms etc. If we know where the wildlife is, we can look after it better!
Central Amphibian & Reptile Group
As an enthusiast of these species in my spare (and work!) time, I am hoping to get this group started up very soon! I had a great time when I was in the Fife group, but having moved to this area, discovered no ARG group covers Perthshire, Falkirk, Clackmannanshire or Stirlingshire. So, the plan is to get together a bunch of people who wish to help out our slimy and scaly friends, by recording them, and carrying out practical jobs like building and restoring ponds, and creating refuges in many different locations. All good fun, and if you would like to get involved, please get in touch!