Staff blog: Counting butterflies and planting trees

Schiehallion Conservation Officer Izzy Filor takes stock six months into her new role

Izzy tree planting at schiehallion detail

I’m incredibly grateful for the opportunity to work where I do. I’ve had a brilliant first few months working alongside Schiehallion Manager Liz Auty, gaining valuable hands-on experience counting butterflies and planting trees among other things…

I started as the Conservation Officer at the John Muir Trust’s property at East Schiehallion in April, thanks to the ALA Green Trust who wanted to fund paid work experience for young people starting out in a career in conservation. I was taken on at the same time as two other rangers also funded by ALA Green: Isaac at Glenridding Common and Nathan who’s based up at Glen Nevis.

Our main focus at Schiehallion this year has been tree planting and installing a new deer fence on site - part of our work with the Heart of Scotland Forest Partnership to create a woodland corridor in Highland Perthshire. We’ve also done our yearly wildlife and vegetation monitoring and have run work parties to help with tree planting and path maintenance.

Community events

My first assignment back in April involved the ‘Schiehallion Experiment’ – or more accurately a series of workshops that focussed on the 1774 experiment by Neville Maskelyne and his team who used Schiehallion to make some of the first calculations of the Earth’s mass.

With the help of Artlink Central, we gained funding from Creative Scotland to run a series of workshops and walks for the local community, inspired by the experiments and run by visual artist Karen Rann.

Monitoring

Glorious summer weather made our monitoring wildlife and vegetation a pleasure.  We monitored various species including the UK’s only montane butterfly – the  mountain ringlet – which (we think) we recorded record numbers of on East Schiehallion, at least under the Trust’s watch.

Regular volunteers Gordon and Mike who come up from Yorkshire every year, helped monitor our regular heath plots and we also measured our marked tree seedlings and counted tree regeneration across our regeneration plots on the site.

New woodland

Our new 72 hectare off-set electric fence will hopefully help to make a difference to natural regeneration, which at the moment we’re not seeing very much of. There are a lot of grazing pressures on the site, so the second deer fence we’ve put up this spring will protect our 4.5 hectares of newly created native woodland.

Hundreds of volunteers – most had never tree planted before - helped meet our target of planting 7000 trees this year. Three quarters are now in the ground thanks to their hard work!

Volunteers also helped with path maintenance and drain clearing on the upland path which is due for repair next summer. Built 15 years ago, the surface has now worn pretty thin so we launched our Schiehallion Path Appeal in the autumn to help fund the helicopter lifts that are needed to ensure the repairs can be done.

Looking ahead

Next year we’re going to do a feasibility study for restoring an area of montane scrub habitat on the side of Schiehallion. Montane scrub is an important habitat in upland areas and is one which has virtually disappeared in Scotland. I’m hoping to look at similar projects that have happened at Mar Lodge and Glen Feshie in the Cairngorms, as well as comparing montane scrub in south west Norway which has a similar climate and altitude to the Scottish Highlands, to see what might be possible on East Schiehallion.

It’s been a really busy few months on Schiehallion and, with the prospect of our montane scrub study, I’m excited to see what the next year will bring.