Monitoring Wildlife at Alladale Wilderness Reserve

A promising snapshot of the reserve's wildlife on camera.

Our partners Alladale Wilderness Reserve have an inspiring vision for their 10,000-hectare reserve in the Scottish Highlands. They are trying to restore the reserve to its former self - a variety of landscapes brimming with biodiversity. This project will be helping to discover what wildlife is already there and how we can welcome back more.

Restoring Alladale Wilderness Reserve

The Alladale team have already done great work to restore and rewild the reserve through reforestation, peatland restoration, sustainable deer management, species reintroductions and more.

With support from The European Nature Trust and NatureSpy, Alladale undertook a three-month camera trapping project in Summer 2021 to gather a detailed inventory of the species on the reserve. To support this project, Mossy Earth intern, Charlotte, processed and analysed the data collected by the camera traps to identify the species that were recorded.

Little green saplings stand out amongst autumnal grass with mountains and blue sky in the background
We have been supporting Alladale in planting thousands of trees to help restore forest habitat to the reserve.

The Intervention

30 camera traps were installed across the reserve’s main habitat types- pinewoods, broadleaf woodlands, heathland and peatland, and grassland. Each camera ran for approximately three months and was set to record 30 second video clips. What we saw gave us great joy and inspiration.

A camera trap strapped to a tree at Alladale Wilderness Reserve in the Scottish Highlands as part of a project to monitor wildlife.
Camera traps are a great tool for the conservationist. They allow us to monitor wildlife behaviour and track changes in species composition over time in a non-invasive way.

The Results

Overall, an impressive 56 species were recorded. Among these were a number of species of conservation concern. These included dotterel, ring ouzel, black grouse, golden eagle, red squirrel, water vole, pine marten and mountain hare.

The diversity of species recorded demonstrates the importance of the reserve in supporting many of the UKs vulnerable species. With repeated monitoring, it will be possible to detect changes in species composition through time as Alladale continues to restore habitats and return missing species.

From these initial results, it seems that pinewoods, broadleaf woodlands and grasslands support a high diversity of species when compared to heathland habitat. However, heathland is important for a number of specialist species, with the endangered dotterel only found there, along with mountain hare, ptarmigan and several birds of prey including golden eagles. These findings emphasise how vital diverse habitat types are to sustaining these specialist species and biodiversity in general.

A mountain hare caught on a camera trap during the wildlife monitoring project at Alladale Wilderness Reserve.
A mountain hare hops into view on a misty evening.

The Rationale

The results provided by this survey will enable the reserve team to have a better understanding of which species are present and where, to help guide future management decisions and monitor changes over time. It also provides a wealth of engaging communication and marketing material for the reserve to inspire others and increase awareness of the value of rewilding.

 

A badger a Alladale Wilderness Reserve in the Scottish Highlands.
Badgers are some of the wildlife happily settled in the Alladale Wilderness Reserve.
Heart Image

the team behind the project

Team Member

Hannah Kirkland - Mossy Earth conservation biologist

Team Member

Charlotte Riley - Mossy Earth intern and MSc student