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SRUC Students have Tree-Mendous Time at Mar Lodge

Students studying Countryside and Environmental Management at SRUC Aberdeen recently went on a weekend adventure to Mar Lodge Estate in rural Aberdeenshire. After settling into camp, the group set up camera traps in woodland nearby. Jam and peanut butter were chosen in an attempt to lure the local wildlife to the cameras.

SRUC students pose for a photo at Mar Lodge
The following day, the students met Kirsty, a ranger based at Mar Lodge and Andy an ecologist who also works for the National Trust for Scotland. The main aim of the weekend was to ring bark trees in a plantation of Scots Pines. On the way to the site, the group discussed the management of deer and how it related to Scots Pine regeneration on the Mar Lodge estate.
When they arrived at the plantation, ecologist Andy demonstrated how to safely & efficiently use an axe to remove a ring of bark from the trees. The students split up into groups of 3 or 4 and got stuck in to the job in hand!

Ring barking the trees within the plantation not only helps increase the amount of standing dead wood for a variety of wildlife and invertebrates but also helps to make the woodland feel more natural and less man made. The groups had to chose whether to create a small glade by ring barking a group of trees together or to remove some of the smaller trees around a larger one to help increase the size of its crown. Both of these options help to add to the structure of the woodland and also promote natural regeneration of the Caledonian Pine Forest.

Student with axe performs ring barking on a tree

The number of ring barked trees was tallied up at the end of the day and the group of SRUC students had succeeded in ring barking a grand total of 307 trees!
Later at dusk, the group went to search for bats. Using a new bat detector which the Craibstone Rural Skills Club recently received from the All Campus Sustainability Scheme, the students were lucky enough to detect a Soprano Pipistrelle bat flying around the Lodge!
On Sunday morning the camera traps were collected from the woodland and the group eagerly checked the footage. To their luck the footage captured a pine martin, a red squirrel and an extremely cheeky Labrador who appeared interested only in the jam! A variety of wildlife was also observed whilst on a walk close to base camp including black grouse, a pair of golden eagles, narrow headed wood ant and even a newt!
Commenting on the Mar Lodge field trip, 1st year Countryside & Environmental Management student Alexander Paterson said;

“I think the best part of our trip to Mar Lodge was the sheer amount we learned in just a couple of days as well as the chance to do some practical conservation work in a beautiful area of Scotland! It was really rewarding. I’d definitely encourage students to participate in this field trip in the future.”

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