Dragonflies species join rare butterfly in restored bog

The rare large heath butterfly is found at Wester Moss wildlife reserve, near Stirling. Picture: Contributed
The rare large heath butterfly is found at Wester Moss wildlife reserve, near Stirling. Picture: Contributed
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Restoration work at a Scottish wildlife reserve where one of the country’s rarest butterflies can be found has attracted some colourful new winged residents.

At least five species of dragonfly and damselflies have now set up home at the site, near Stirling, for the first time.

Wester Moss in Fallin is an important haven for the declining large heath butterfly, but no dragonflies were previously found there.

However, after years of work to repair damaged peat bogs on the protected site, there have been sightings of several species over the past few weeks.

Wester Moss, a site of special scientific interest, is owned by Stirling Council and managed by wildlife charity Butterfly Conservation Scotland.

David Hill, project officer for the organisation’s Bog Squad restoration team, said: “It has been a great thrill to see the dragonflies arrive and set up home here as there were no records of breeding dragonflies before this year.

“We’ve seen five species hunting and breeding over the Moss, including the common hawker, common darter, black darter, emerald damselfly and blue-tailed damselfly.

“We’ve also had one sighting of a large red damselfly.”

The appearance of the insects follows the completion of peatland restoration work carried out to protect the large heath butterfly and to stop the land at Wester Moss from drying up.

Wester Moss is also home to the green hairstreak butterfly, lunar hornet and wood tiger moths and rare plants such as bog rosemary.

The Bog Squad, a volunteer task force set up to carry out rehabilitation works on damaged peatlands, has helped create new freshwater pools on the reserve to maintain the damp and boggy lowland habitat the rare large heath butterfly needs to live and breed.

But healthy peatlands also play an important role in storing climate-warming carbon emissions and help to control flooding.

Mr Hill added: “The Moss has been drying out, but all the recent work we have done in conjunction with Stirling Council to make the land wetter appears to be paying off - and not only for the butterflies and dragonflies.

“A wetter Wester Moss will also provide more ecosystem services, such as carbon and water storage and flood prevention.”

Lowland raised bog is now very scarce, and in Scotland nearly 90 per cent of its former area has been lost.

A programme of work has been under way for several years to protect wildlife found at Wester Moss and to make it wetter, including the installation of an embankment and numerous dams across old drainage ditches.

The work at the reserve is supported by the Inner Forth Landscape Initiative and the LIFE+ financial instrument of the European Community.