Walkers asked to look for Ptarmigan

Ptarmigan by TigerenteWalkers on Goatfell, Ben Lomond and Ben Lawers are being asked to play their part in a National Trust for Scotland survey of the Ptarmigan population.

The sightings will contribute to a detailed survey to be carried out by the conservation charity this year and will go some way to assessing possible climate change effects on the Trust’s high mountain peaks.

The survey will provide reliable population information for one of Scotland’s most popular mountain birds, the Ptarmigan. The data will allow conservationists to examine the changing patterns of the bird’s populations, with a particular focus on any effects from a changing climate. The study will also allow a comparison to be made with populations further north at the Trust’s Mar Lodge Estate in the Cairngorms.

Mr. Lindsay Mackinlay, Nature Conservation Adviser with the National Trust for Scotland said:

“Ptarmigan are one of the few birds that specialise on living on our mountain tops. The general belief is that a warming climate could make Scotland a less suitable place for them to live and breed. Some current predictions suggest they may only be able to survive on our highest and most northern ridges and plateaux in the future. In theory, this could mean they disappear altogether from mountains like Goatfell and Ben Lomond. However, the Trust is not satisfied that we have sufficient scientific data in the field to know what will happen to this species.

“We know that there are other factors that may well affect the Ptarmigans, including grazing levels which affect its food supply and predicted increases in wind speed. Indeed, increasing wind chill may act in favour of the Ptarmigan. We just don’t know.”

He continued: “We are keen to begin detailed annual surveys at Goatfell, Ben Lomond and Ben Lawers to study long-term changes in the Ptarmigan populations there. This fieldwork will hopefully feed into our management of these properties and other work out there to determine what is happening to much of our wildlife as the weather changes.”

The Ptarmigan survey is the third call for walkers to help record different species this year. SNH is keen to hear of wildcat sightings while the Tick Alert Survey is asking people to record where they pick up ticks.

Photo by Tigerente, GNUFDL

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