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Sound of peewits returns to Gow Moss peatland after restoration by Forestry and Land Scotland

By Lorna Thompson

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THE sound of peewits – a species in serious decline across Scotland – can be heard once again at a Moray peatland after work to restore the habitat.

A white carpet of bog cotton has been established at Gow Moss, near Fochabers, through a project by Forestry and Land Scotland (FLS) to restore the peatland.

As well as peewits (lapwings), increases in other bird species such as curlews, stonechats, skylarks and meadow pipits have been recorded at the 130-hectare Gow Moss site.

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

FLS environment ranger Alan Campbell 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."

Bog cotton growing at Gow Moss, near Fochabers, which has seen a surge in bird numbers through a project by Forestry and Land Scotland.
Bog cotton growing at Gow Moss, near Fochabers, which has seen a surge in bird numbers through a project by Forestry and Land Scotland.

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

In 2018, tracked excavators arrived on the north-eastern section of the site, at Douglasshiel Moss, 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 last year.

FLS east region environment advisor Philippa Murphy 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."

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