High Windswept plateau’s , and the United Kingdoms only true sub arctic plateau may not be the first place that springs to mind when you think about Wetlands, but over the last week I’ve had my eyes opened to the wetlands that abound this vast area.
As part of my thesis I collected some sample cores from the Cairngorms to complement those I collected at the end of June from the Migneint in Snowdonia. The rationale behind this being that if any trends are observed in my data, the cores from the Cairngorms has shown that it is not an isolated phenomenon to one site in Snowdonia but instead happens across sites 450 miles apart.
I worked with Sam Thompson from Wildlife Estates Scotland who showed me around the area and facilitated my access to the wetlands of the region. The sites were classic landscape depressions, that under classic succession theory would have been small tarns after the last Ice Age and have slowly filled with sediment and plant matter until they are as we find them today nutrient poor fen sites as the water drains from the surrounding land into the basin.
These fens sit among scattered remnants of Caledonian Forest, home to the enigmatic Capercaille (Tetrao urogallus) and holds their lekking sites. Lekking is the name for the mating display that occurs in clearings. This is where similar to Stags in the rut, males compete to display who is the fittest and therefore best mate.
The fens contained many familiar species from Wales, so finding my samples proved no problem.
As part of the whistlestop tour I saw the river Spey, a first class fly fishing river where water quality is important for this major local industry. Gravel beds are of particular importance ans they act as spawning grounds where the next generation of wily Trout and Salmon are born. Efforts are taken to ensure these beds are in good condition to ensure that those in the future can enjoy the challenge of this quintissential countryside sport.
Also I ventured into the Cairngorms and from Cairn Gorm mountain itself the many icy becks running from the moors of the plateau spread out before me as they obeyed gravity calling them to the dark brooding waters of Loch Avon.