Flanders Moss tower gets bird seal of approval

The viewing tower at Flanders Moss National Nature Reserve had some special visitors this spring, with a pair of redstarts nesting on one of the tower’s supports.

Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) staff was delighted to see the redstarts, which are listed as an amber species with unfavourable conservation status in Europe, where they are declining.

This brightly coloured, member of the thrush family makes a long journey from Africa each spring, usually seeking out holes in trees for nesting, but will use many different structures. In this case, the redstarts arrived back to the Moss to find what they thought was an ideal structure and built their nest at the top of one of the arching platform supports, just a few inches under visitors’ feet, below the floor of the viewing platform.

Redstarts are about the same size as robins but have longer, bright orange-red tails, which they constantly quiver up and down. The brightly coloured male and softer coloured female had been feeding the chicks right under the visitors feet for about four weeks .

David Pickett, Flanders Moss’ reserve manager, said, “It’s been a wonderful treat watching the redstarts and their chicks this summer. The chicks have just fledged, which is terrific news. The presence of the visitors using the tower is likely to have kept possible predators away so helping the breeding success. Flanders Moss is a great place to see summer migrant songbirds, such as redstarts, as the undamaged wild landscape holds a good food supply in the form of insects.”

The viewing tower opened late last year and is the only one in Scotland overlooking a bog, giving visitors an unusual and eye-opening experience. Early indications are that the viewing tower has already increased the numbers of visitors to Flanders Moss by half again. Flanders Moss is one of the biggest, best preserved peat bogs in the UK and supports a wide range of animals, birds, plants and insects – including the rare rannoch brindled moth, as well as dragonflies, lizards, frogs, toads, hares, deer, owls and many other creatures. Flanders Moss looks dramatically different throughout the year, with colourful mosses and heather shifting from reds and oranges to greens and purples. Along with the boardwalk on the reserve, the viewing tower provides a unique and terrific way to enjoy great views and wildlife.

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