Birds, bogs and forestry - The peatlands of Caithness and Sutherland
Stroud, D.A., Reed, T.M., Pienkowski, M.W. and Lindsay, R.A.
Edited by D.A. Ratcliffe and P.H. Oswald
Birds, bogs and forestry presented the initial results of surveys undertaken by the Nature Conservancy Council (NCC) in the Flow Country of Caithness and Sutherland.




NCC’s Upland Bird Survey had surveyed a significant area of the Flow Country between 1979 and 1986, and the 1987 report analysed and published the data from those surveys, together with those obtained from eight sites in Caithness surveyed by RSPB in 1985 using NCC methods. 


The results highlighted losses of up to 19% of the populations of Golden Plover, Greenshank and Dunlin in the Flow Country area as a result of then widespread and rapidly occurring afforestation of the peatlands.  NCC considered that this land-use change represented “perhaps the most massive single loss of important wildlife habitat in Britain since the Second World War.”


Although Birds, bogs and forestry also included summary results from other NCC surveys in Caithness and Sutherland, these studies of peatland vegetation were reported in more detail in the complementary report The Flow Country, published by NCC the following year.


As a result of the case made by Birds, bogs and forestry and The Flow Country, a substantial proportion of the extent of these peatlands was designated as a Ramsar site and also classified under European nature Directives as a Special Protection Area and Special Area of Conservation.
Further information on the Flow Country is available on SNH’s website.


British Wildlife has recently published a thorough review of the events leading to, and following from, the publication of Birds, bogs and forestry (Scott, M.  2008.  The Flow Country revisited.  British Wildlife 19(4): 229-239).

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    • Contents & Summary  (PDF, 1.3 mb)                                                                                                                       


      1.         Introduction (PDF, 638 kb)

                  1.1       The peatlands of Caithness and Sutherland: the rise of  conservation problems

                  1.2       Survey methods           


      2.         The blanket bog (PDF, 1.8 mb)

                  2.1       The Peatland Survey of Northern Scotland       

                  2.2       The origin of the peatlands in relation to forest history   

                  2.3       Peat formation and bog types   

                  2.4       The international distribution of blanket bog

                  2.5       The significance of surface patterning    

                  2.6       Threats to and losses of peatlands in the British Isles     


      3.         NCC’s Upland Bird Survey in Caithness and Sutherland (PDF, 2.5 mb)

                  3.1       Introduction     

                  3.2       Programme of ornithological surveys    

                  3.3       Composition of the peatland breeding bird fauna           

                  3.4       Waders           

                  3.5       Other waterfowl

                  3.6       Raptors           

                  3.7       Other species

                  3.8       Conclusions     


      4.         Overall distribution and numbers of peatland birds in Caithness and Sutherland (PDF, 2.1 mb)

                  4.1       Introduction     

                  4.2       Wader densities and habitat characteristics       

                  4.3       The identification and mapping of areas of peatland suitable for breeding waders     

                  4.4       The use of landforms to estimate abundance and losses of  waders on peatlands    

                  4.5       The numbers of other peatland breeding birds   

                  4.6       Summary of the ornithological interest   


      5.         Unsurveyed habitats and species groups (PDF, 314 kb)

                  5.1       Lochans, lochs and rivers         

                  5.2       Invertebrates   


      6.         Effects of afforestation on the ecosystem (PDF, 1.8 mb)

                  6.1       Effects on birds

                  6.2       Losses of peatland birds          

                  6.3       The lack of compensatory gain in forest birds   

                  6.4       Effects on vegetation    

                  6.5       Effects on abiotic features        

                  6.6       An overall assessment


      7.         International implications (PDF, 323 kb)

                  7.1       The ‘Bern’ Convention on the Conservation of  European Wildlife and Natural Habitats

                  7.2       The ‘Ramsar’ Convention on Wetlands of International Importance especially as Waterfowl Habitat     

                  7.3       EEC Directive on the Conservation of Wild Birds         

                  7.4       The World Heritage Convention           


      8.         Birds and bogs: their conservation needs (PDF, 1.3 mb)       


      9.         Acknowledgements (PDF, 106 kb) 


      10.       References (PDF, 519 kb)             


      11.       Appendix (PDF, 222 kb)

                  Methods of ornithological surveys        


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Please cite as: Stroud, D.A., Reed, T.M., Pienkowski, M.W. and Lindsay, R.A., (1988), Birds, bogs and forestry - The peatlands of Caithness and Sutherland, Edited by D.A. Ratcliffe and P.H. Oswald