2013-11-07  facebook twitter rss

Woodland Planting at Carrick Farm Approved Following Extensive Golden Eagle Monitoring

Work by UPM Tilhill ecology experts to monitor the behaviour of a pair of Golden eagles will lead to a better understanding of the interaction between new woodland creation and the potential loss of open ground to golden eagles in Scotland.

Following alterations to help provide suitable habitat for the eagles, Forestry Commission Scotland, the competent authority for administering the Environmental Impact Assessment (Forestry) (Scotland) Regulations 1999, has given consent for 563 hectares of new woodland planting at Carrick Farm, Lochgoilhead, Argyll.

Muirburn

Now owned by a sustainable forestry fund operated by FIM Services (www.fimltd.co.uk), Carrick Farm was previously managed as an upland sheep farm which became economically unviable. The 1,526 hectare property has been developed by the current owners for the creation of new productive woodland, a use which the area is well known for. The scheme will also help to meet the Scottish Government new planting targets.

Following the purchase, a pair of golden eagles was recorded nesting in the area - the first known breeding attempt for over 40 years. The pair produced a chick in 2011 and 2012, neither of which survived. Starvation is likely to have been a factor, with results from ground surveys suggesting a lack of live prey such as grouse on the property, possibly as a result of decades of overgrazing by sheep. This meant that the concept plan needed to be rethought by UPM Tilhill’s team of experts, so as to not lead to abandonment of the home range by the Golden eagles and to retain as much productive forest as possible as part of a well-balanced, multi-benefit forest.

Understanding the eagle pair’s current use of the ground at Carrick Farm has been critical to the design of the proposed new woodland. The woodland design incorporates data from over 200 hours of surveys of eagle flights from vantage points, results from computer-generated models to identify key topographical features in the landscape, data from nest cameras and satellite transmitters, habitat surveys, live prey surveys and site-specific advice from the UK’s leading eagle experts.

As a result, the original planting proposal has amended to provide better hunting areas for the eagles and important features for soaring and hunting such as crags and ridges. A key feature of the proposal is low-density native woodland planting on upper forest edges to contribute towards an increase in habitat suitable for eagle prey.

Following consideration of the woodland design and associated measures to protect the eagles from disturbance during planting, Forestry Commission Scotland and Scottish Natural Heritage have concluded that planting is unlikely to have a negative impact upon the eagle pair.

UPM Tilhill’s Regional Manager Tim Liddon said: “We are delighted, as is our client, that our team of experts, under challenging circumstances, skilfully and professionally designed the new woodland which will deliver Government woodland creation targets while protecting Scotland’s natural resources. At present, the interaction between new woodland creation and potential loss of open ground to Golden eagles is not fully understood in Scotland. The approach taken at Carrick Farm aims to contribute towards this understanding.”

A long-term monitoring programme agreed with FCS and SNH aims to assess the way eagles use the ground as a new woodland structure develops, while monitoring of prey abundance should contribute towards an understanding of the eagle pair’s future breeding success at Carrick Farm.

UPM Tilhill, established more than 60 years ago, is a national company operating from a network of offices throughout the UK. UPM Tilhill is the UK’s largest forest management and timber harvesting company. The company provides a full range of consultancy and contracting services to the forest owner and forestry investor. Further information is available at www.upm-tilhill.com

UPM

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