By Dave Parish, Head of Scottish Lowland Research
Auchnerran is a hive of activity right now. For a start, we have more people working here than we’ve had before as we pull together more information about our wader and rabbit populations. And by all accounts the sheep flock, under Allan’s shepherding skills, is doing well.
Emily, an MSc student from Leeds University, who will be with us for around two months, is focusing on lapwing and curlew, but mostly lapwing that we seem to have in abundance. New nests are still being found; indeed there was a worry that two nests might have to be moved from one of the fields that is being re-seeded. One clutch of eggs, however, has now hatched, but not so good for the other, which has been lost to predation, we suspect.
Preliminary findings would seem to indicate good numbers of lapwing chicks. Emily’s work also covers establishing predation rates and assessing the level and availability of invertebrates for food for the birds.
Sarah, an MSc student from the University of Aberdeen, is studying our rabbit population, and her project should give us not just a better picture of their numbers but also an assessment of the damage they are doing. It is very early days and her fieldwork programme is expected to run to the end of July. We know we have rabbit issues and Sarah’s work hopefully is going to show us how great they really are.
Also on the wader front we are now two thirds of the way through our woodcock count. Last year my preliminary count suggested a healthy population and we expect that to be verified and a more accurate result delivered this year, with a number of observers doing simultaneous counts at different points around the farm. The early results look very promising.
Three fields have now been re-sown for grazing/silage. The replanting of these last year did not produce the required result, so we are hoping for better this time. A bag of herb-rich meadow seed has also been spotted on the farm!
Finally, some of the sheep, the ewes with single lambs, have now gone to the hill, whilst those with twin lambs are being kept on the farm for the time being.
The last few weeks have been dry and warm – which has been fantastic for the fieldwork team of Marlies, Sarah and Emily, but some of the staff would like to see a little rain to put some growth on the grass. I think that may be on the way - the current summer spell is simply too good to last!