In many ways the hillsides of Dùn Coillich, as they were when the Trust purchased them, epitomised the impoverishment of so many of our Scottish Hills. They were barren, largely treeless and overgrazed.
The Trust has been working hard to reafforest about a third of the land with native trees and to promote a mosaic of habitats elsewhere. The other habitats include flushes, Limestone rich slopes, flower meadows, bog, water-filled scrapes and burns running through steep sided gorges.
The floral and faunal remnants of the once dominant Caledonian Pine Forest are still to be seen - wood anemones, wood sorrel and wood cranesbill cling on where there are now no mature trees. In the Allt Mor gorge there are junipers that hark back to primeval days. There is even one wood ants' nest with ants tending aphids on an adjacent rowan. The ants are the Scottish Wood ant, Formica aquilonia which is to be found in large numbers in the Black Wood of Rannoch.
Gradually the Trust is reversing the impoverishment.
Birdlife is rich and varied. Grasshopper warblers breed in the north east corner of Dùn Coillich whilst ring ousels and ravens breed in the rocky crags. A chick from our prized Hen Harrier nest has been tracked by the RSPB and has wondered widely before showing a preference for the areas around Braemar. Dùn Coillich plays host to Barn owls, Tawny owls, short eared owls and long eared owls are not far away. Merlin have bred on Dùn Coillich and are always a potential presence.
Dùn Coillich now has the second largest Blackcock or Black Grouse lek in Perthshire with approximately fifty males displaying. A lek is a place where males gather during the mating season and engage in competitive displays to attract females. Regular lek viewing visits are now arranged jointly by the RSPB, JMT and HPCLT. The Blackcock favour open woodland for their lek and so that is the habitat being promoted in that area.
The endangered water vole thrives in drainage channels and boggy areas. American mink have devastated water vole populations across the UK but a mink raft which monitors the presence of mink on Dùn Coillich shows that it is free from this invasive species.
Dùn Coillich abounds with amphibians - frogs, toads and palmate newts. The 'scrapes' provide a vital breeding place for them and are alive with spawning amphibian in spring. They are also home to dragonflies, damsel flies and the Great Diving beetle. The latter's predatory habits are a source of interest and wonderment to Primary School children who visit and go pond dipping to see what lives in the water.
Adders are present although seldom seen. They can thrive at these latitudes because they are ovoviviparous - their eggs hatch within them and they give birth to live young. They are beautiful diamond-backed snakes which are a delight to see even if infrequently.
As part of our management activities, we are monitoring and recording birds, fungi, invertebrates (spiders, harvestmen), plants, mammals and other taxa.
Dùn Coillich covers an area of approximately 1100 acres at an altitude varying from about 300 to 570 metres. Most of the area is montane moorland, with localised areas of woodland, which, apart from a small stand of Scots Pine on its south-eastern aspect, is largely confined to the gullies of the Goulandie and Allt Mor Burns.
The open water consists of these two rocky, fast flowing streams with a few areas of stagnant peaty water near the summit. Behind Glengoulandie farm, not on Dùn Coillich, there is a small artificial lochan constructed for fishing. Another sizeable fishing loch has been constructed off HPCLT property but within half a mile of it.
Other wetland consists of areas of marshland on the Schiehallion march, which extends across the border into low-lying areas just north of the Allt Mor. A second smaller area of marsh lies beside the Goulandie Burn adjacent to the derelict Sheep Dip. These wetlands are good sites for birds and may have important implications in future development of the property.
From: Report on Natural History of Dùn Coillich by Robin Hull. January 2005.
» Read the introduction section of the Tayside Local Biodiversity Action Plan.
» Read Scotland's Biodiversity Strategy.