Looking downstream on the River Cree
Looking upstream on the River Bladnoch
Felling of commercial forestry in Galloway Forest Park
Looking upstream on the River Luce
North American Signal Crayfish
The sandy beach at Loch Grannoch
Belted Galloway Cattle, or 'Belties'
Fly fishing on the River Cree
A small upland burn
The High Cree, looking towards Cairnsmore of Fleet
A small waterfall on the Buchan Burn
A salmon from the Kirkcudbrightshire Dee
GFT have been involved last week gathering data to inform an Environmental Impact Assessment for a proposed renewable energy scheme in the Stewartry District. It is essential that robust data is always collected to ensure these EIA’s are fit for purpose and able to consider fully how proposed developments might impact on native species and their habitats. EIAs will often result in changes to proposed designs to help to reduce any potential impacts and can help to direct future monitoring strategies.
Our work last week involved undertaking a detailed habitat survey and electrofishing surveys on some tributaries of the Kirkcudbrightshire Dee. These burns sadly contain North American signal crayfish in high numbers. It really is unbelievable that someone has introduced them to this part of the catchment as it has been publicised for many years the damage they do to natural habitats and species. Anyone found involved in moving and introducing AS crayfish to new waters will be charged by the police.
The low water made it far easier to observe the crayfish than normal and I have listed below some observations noted:
• There were numerous crayfish over many kilometres of the burn. Electrofishing found a wide range of sizes and when walking along the burn you could see many large ones moving around even in very shallow water (see figure 1).
• Where the burn ran through a recently felled forestry plantation it was very evident that extensive bank burrowing is taking place (see figure 2) where the banks are steep and earth. This burrowing is causing bank damage in some places. There appears to be less burrowing where the banks are lower within the grazed grassland.
• There was lots of evidence of predators feeding on the crayfish especially in the vicinity of the heavy bank tunnelling. The tops of the nearby stone walls were covered in old claws, carapaces and legs showing that birds are feeding on them although it was unclear what species. Otter spraints (see figure 3) could be seen which were entirely made up of crayfish remains and on the banks recent ripped up carcases could be seen. Even with heavy predation there were loads of crayfish still around.
• With the water flow very low and an algal growth covering the substrate it was easy to see where the crayfish had been active in the burn. Burrowing within the substrate was something I had not realised they do but columns of fine suspended silt and newly excavated substrates could be seen (see figure 4) showing that they were actively digging into the bed even though there were plenty of large cobbles and boulders around to hide under.
• It was encouraging to see that at this location decent numbers of trout were still present although presumably there would be a lot more if no crayfish were present. The trout found though were showing signs of crayfish damage. I have never seen so much fin damage on fish (see figure 5), in particular on the tails.