Spring is a very busy time on the Estate’s moors as the days lengthen and the first signs of new flora and fauna appear. It’s also a time when visitors need to exercise a little extra caution when out walking to avoid disturbing the wildlife and to be mindful of the many moorland management duties in hand.
One the biggest tasks for moorland management in the springtime is heather burning. The heather is burned in strips about 30 metres wide and a well burned moor has the appearance of a patchwork quilt. Heather burning is necessary in order to maintain vigorous and nutritious heather moorland. It is not only a very skillful task but it is also very dangerous task so visitors to the moors are urged to very careful not to cause fires.
Heather burning normally stops on the 15th April just as lambing on the hill begins and birds are beginning to nest and lay their eggs. It’s also a time when a great number of visiting birds arrive to rear their young. Grouse and all ground nesting birds come into the young short heather to feed but can quickly be led back to the longer heather to shelter from the elements or predators. In snowy conditions the older taller heather is sometimes all that is available to both sheep and grouse.
It is therefore very important that during the Spring visitors stay on tracks and to keep dogs on a short lead. Sheep are now heavy in lamb or may have just had their lamb and disturbance may cause them to abort or the lamb to be separated from it’s mother and to become lost. Most of the moorland birds are ground nesting and by walking over the heather visitors may accidentally tread on a nest.
The Scottish Outdoor Access Code offers walkers lots of useful advice on best practice for visitors walking on farmland and moors. To view a copy please click here to visit their website.