West Stormont Woodland Group

West Stormont
Woodland Group

Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation (SCIO) SC051682

Join us today to bring Taymount Wood and Five Mile Wood into community ownership

The Silent Watchers in the Wood

The female roe deer stands alert, yet unflinching as the dogs race past her. Oblivious to her presence, their attention is fixated on her mate who - unlike her - began barking loudly at the first sight of the dogs and their owner. His actions betraying not only his presence, but also his inexperience and impetuosity of youth. Not surprisingly, the unleashed dogs immediately responded and began the chase. However the roebuck is on home ground and easily evades the dogs and they soon return to their frantic owner.

The buck will hang around the doe at a distance until the mating rut begins from late July to mid August. For the doe it will be a long gestation – with delayed implantation occurring around four months after mating. 

The outcome of that long process lies hidden in the lush vegetation – nose twitching ever so slightly, catching invisible scents, ears straining for every sound in this strange new world in which it now finds itself. Like its mother, the fawn’s default mode of defence is to sit out the danger undetected if possible. When the doe is confident the threat is past, she will return to feed her fawn. 

Contrary to what many walkers believe when finding such a sight – fawns are never abandoned or lost.

Welcome Visitors

Unperturbed by all the drama, a male redstart – his beautiful colours radiant in the sunshine – flits between branches collecting caterpillars to feed his chicks.  A flycatcher supreme, he darts forward, tail fanned out working the breeze, hovering and dodging here and there with effortless aerial agility as he hunts down flying insects. 

From inside one of many old woodpecker nest holes in a decaying pine tree, his four chicks await in eager anticipation of their next meal. For now at least, they are safe – having escaped the predations of pine marten and woodpecker – the ever present danger to young nestlings.   Soon they will leave the nest and continue to be fed, as they build their strength and hone their survival skills to meet the challenges ahead.

An Uncertain Future

Before the end of summer, the chicks and their parents, driven by diminishing insect abundance and daylight hours, will embark on an epic journey of thousands of miles to Africa, where they will spend the winter. How they know where to go and how they navigate has been the subject of scientific research for decades. It’s now thought that they use the stars, landscapes and the Earth’s magnetic fields amongst other methods. Such are their navigational skills, the chicks born in this nest may return to this very woodland next year to find their parents using the same nest hole. 

However, their world is changing fast and it is unclear just how long these beautiful birds will grace us with their presence. Like most of our summer migrants, their wintering grounds are under constant pressure from human expansion and global warming impacts. Each spring those that manage to make the perilous journey to breed here find an ever-diminishing insect population with each passing year – currently plummeting by around 2.5% of insect biomass (living weight) per year. 

Global warming also influences the timing of arrival of summer migrants and the hatching of their insect prey. Many migrants are now arriving a week or more earlier than they did in the 1960s, while their invertebrate prey are often hatching even earlier. This “phenological mismatch’ as it’s called can negatively influence the breeding success rate of some bird species, although migratory birds have resilience built into their DNA and will always adapt their behaviour to optimise their access to food availability, whether during breeding or non-breeding periods. 

However, it may well be how we define our relationship with our insect neighbours that ultimately decides the fate of the redstart – and our own!

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Previous Articles

Community Monthly Update – March 2024

It is a disappointing thing to have to do, but a surprisingly rewarding thing to have done. We are talking about picking up someone else’s litter. We all know Taymount Wood car park occasionally suffers from fly tipping, but it is regular littering which is more of a chronic problem, clogging the ditches, being strewn around the verges, blown into the brambles and nettles, overgrown by rank grass, buried in the soil, or crushed by vehicles if not removed regularly.

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Community Monthly Update – February 2024

First up this month, a big thank you to the Community Payback Team from Westbank in Perth who very kindly made an impromptu stop when passing to remove the worst of some fly tipping they spotted in the Taymount Wood car park in January. A heap of black bin-bags full of spent growing medium and general rubbish had been dumped near the entrance gate a few days earlier. They were unable to clear it all up in one go but are going to come back to complete the task for us. Moreover, they have offered to keep a watching eye on the site in future and clear up what they can. That will be such a help.

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Community Monthly Update – January 2024

Unusually, we’re starting this Monthly Update with a “What’s Coming Up Next” item! This message is principally for people in the Stanley and District community but we’d love to suggest all villages in the West Stormont area follow suit with their own aim of becoming a Biodiversity Village.

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Community Monthly Update – December 2023

It’s another year end and this time WSWG member Françoise from Stanley has created an exquisite 2024 calendar of “Wildflowers and Friends” she photographed in Taymount Wood this year to help raise funds for WSWG. Having gone for a print run of 50, these gorgeous calendars are available on a first-come, first-served basis for a donation of £10 (or a bit more if you wish!) with net proceeds going towards the purchase of the woods.

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Community Monthly Update – November 2023

We are really thrilled to let you know that Forestry and Land Scotland (FLS) has approved WSWG’s Revised Wildwood Proposal and Business Plan for Taymount Wood. This is the first big goal achieved in our Community Asset Transfer Process to bring Taymount and Five Mile Woods into community ownership!

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Community Monthly Update – October 2023

A highlight for the WSWG Project this month has been the timely teaming up of a group of employees from Aviva in Perth with some unexpectedly lovely autumn weather for a day of corporate volunteering. On 2 October, five enthusiastic Aviva colleagues spent the day with WSWG in the middle of Taymount Wood on a range of interesting and very useful tasks, quite a contrast to their usual office based working environment.

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