Wish you were here?

Insects and other invertebrates dominate virtually every ecosystem in the world. They represent around 80% of the world’s biodiversity, and Scotland alone has at least 24,000 invertebrate species. Pollination is just one of the crucial ecological services they provide. 

With such diversity and such importance you might think we have pretty well got our insect knowledge and surveying nailed.  Yet, one of the greatest obstacles to insect conservation is the scarcity of information about population sizes, species taxonomy, and ecology. That’s where the work of groups such as the Pollinator Monitoring and Research Partnership (PMRP) is incredibly valuable. They are responsible for large-scale pollinator monitoring, under the UK Pollinator Monitoring Scheme (PoMS).

2020 was a difficult year for field surveys across many biodiversity monitoring schemes, with PoMS being no exception, and as the 2021 season gets underway, help is needed to survey the 1-km square plots across Scotland.  Whilst 10 of the 22 squares have been allocated, 11 have yet to be taken up by volunteers (see map below).

By contributing to this work, surveyors are adding valuable data to one of the UK’s raft of excellent pollinator monitoring schemes, and have the opportunity to enjoy the outdoors whilst helping nature.

If you feel that you could contribute to this survey please contact poms@ceh.ac.uk The UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology website contains all the information you need and details about the excellent training and support that all contributors are given. 

So what of those squares?  Here’s a look at some of the unallocated survey squares that could be waiting for you.

Square 42 is centred on the cleared township of Achanlochy near Bettyhill, and fair to say this area has seen huge changes over the centuries.  Instead of a once bustling village, the square now offers a variety of riparian, agricultural, and mixed semi-natural habitats, including a large freshwater loch.  Wildflowers supporting pollinators can be found in the hay meadows, riverside, lochside, woodland edge and heathland

You will find square 47 set amidst the fabulously rugged terrain of Assynt, near Ledmore. The square is surrounded by some of the finest hills, lochs and landscapes that the NW Highlands has to offer.  The site occupies an area of rough grazing, wet heath and moorland.  Stream sides offer some of the best locations for varied wildflowers and pollinators. 

Further south lies square 51, located at the geographic centre of Scotland low down on the northern slopes of Cruban Beag just above the River Spey. The site is primarily a wet woodland pasture, consisting of improved grass and birch woodland.  Flowers are fairly typical of damper areas and feature bog asphodel, devil’s-bit scabious, thistles and harebells.  

Into the central belt now, square 54 is situated near the western end of the Pentland Hills. This site is largely wet unimproved grassland, with extensive areas of rushes. This contrasts nicely with square  85, which takes in the slopes of Tulach Hill overlooking Blair Atholl and the River Garry.  Although bracken is a feature in places, further downslope, cuckoo-flowers make a delightful place for spotting insects in the early summer. 

Square 111  may appeal to anyone working or studying in Aberdeen. It’s located in historic Deeside, close to the waters of the river Dee at Crathes.  The site comprises a mix of pastoral and arable farmland.  

If you are based in Dumfries and Galloway, then square 121 in the Keir Hills, might appeal.  Much of the square is occupied by plantation forestry, but the location makes use of rough and improved grazing land that run uphill along a right-of-way.  

Glorious Glenfeshie is home to square 128: Situated on the western slopes of this beautiful glen, sampling starts close to the banks of the River Feshie and climbs up through the pinewoods making use of forestry tracks and wide sunny ride. Heathers and blaeberry are the dominant nectar sources. 

The sound of steam trains used to reverberate around Glen Ogle, which is square 157. The study areas contours the upper boundary of woodland, and offers fantastic views towards the Ben Lawyer hills.  Although not rich in flowering plants drier areas have heathland species such as heathers, heath milkwort and tormentil. 

Near the picturesque village of Stoer you will find square 160.  The square is primarily used for rough grazing, incorporating a range of habitats including unimproved grassland, moorland, rock, mires and lochs.  In mid-to-late summer the square is rich with typical moorland flowers such as heathers, devil’s bit scabious and heath spotted orchids.  White-tailed eagles can also be seen on thermals overhead should your attention wander at any point.

And let’s round off our Scotland trip by returning north, to Sutherland, for square 161. The most northerly PoMS square is located near the village of Talmine and feels almost like a holiday destination.  The seaward views are out over the Kyle of Tongue, with its golden sands and numerous islands.  The square itself features wet heath habitats and is used primarily for rough grazing.  Heathland plants are the main source of nectar here, with bog asphodel and devil’s-bit scabious all well presented.

Go on, sign up.  You know you want to!

For further information email @ poms@ceh.ac.uk