This entry was mistakenly entered in the Green Gym blog!
4 volunteers from Inverness (Dave, Emily, Mac, Craig) along with Charlie from Stirling office went to South Uist for 2 weeks to do rhododendron control at Loch Druidibeg, an SNH reserve. The rhododendron was introduced accidentally to the area in soil carried across with imported saplings, and it is around where these were planted that there is most rhododendron, but it is now starting to spread. Our work there was part of a planned 3 year program of control.
Rhododendron is an invasive species, once grown its canopy shuts out the light and prevents and ground flora from growing beneath it, including any young trees. At loch Drudibeg, if left uncontrolled, it would threaten large areas of valuable bog habitat as well as the small areas of shrubby woodland where it is already established.
The larger rhododendrons were killed by putting herbicide straight into the holes drilled in the trunks, smaller plants were sprayed. The team spent most of the time injecting the larger stumps as it was too windy to spray most days! Getting in to the stumps could sometimes be difficult: unlike rhododendron on the mainland, which generally grows large stems, can be up to 10m tall with plenty of space to stand under the canopy of larger bushes, the rhododendron on Uist had a much denser, shrubbier growth form. Few bushes or trees on the island can grow to over 2m tall, due to constant exposure to high winds.
During the weeks, the weather was very windy most days and a totally dry day was rare. However, when the sun is out it is a beautiful place to be and at least we had lovely warm, dry accommodation to retreat to in the evenings! Most of us managed to visit the beautiful sandy beach on the west coast at some point during our stay. (Unfortunately noone had a camera with them, hence the lack of photos in this report).
Many species of bird use the various habitats on the Uists (including golden eagles, although we didn’t see any): flocks of lapwings and greylag geese are particularly abundant. We also spotted kestrels, buzzards and a hen harrier as we worked. The red deer rut had started, and standing outside the house on calm nights the stags could be heard roaring from the hills on the other side of the loch.
Leaving Uist was an adventure in itself…we were taking the 730am ferry to Skye, so had to leave the house at 6am! Only to find that the ferry was delayed due to exceptionally high winds (Force 11 in Uig, Skye). Once finally underway at 11am, it was a relatively smooth crossing home as the wind was westerly.