A £250,000 project to restore wetland habitat is under way at the RSPB Vane Farm nature reserve at Loch Leven.
According to site manager Uwe Stoneman, the conservation work will make the reserve ‘bigger, flatter, wetter and better — for birds and for visitors’.
The project, the largest of its kind to be carried out at the nature reserve, is one of 13 across the country being financed by Biffaward, a multi-million pound environment fund managed by the Royal Society of Wildlife Trusts (RSWT) using landfill tax credits donated by Biffa Waste Services.
Major work is being carried out to restore wet grassland areas around the loch’s shoreline that were lost when the water level was lowered between 1830 and 1832 to serve the growing needs of industry, agriculture and a rising population.
Three years of detailed scientific research and studies have gone into planning the habitat improvements at Vane Farm, supported by funding from Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH).
Denise Reed, SNH’s operations manager for Tayside and Grampian, said: “Loch Leven is the largest lowland loch in Scotland and is one of the most important sites for migratory ducks, geese and swans in Britain.
“About 200 years ago the loch was mostly marsh and reed beds, but most of these have now been drained to provide prime agricultural land.
“There is still a rich mix of marsh, grassland, reed bed and willow carr on the margin of the loch where wildlife thrives.
“Vane Farm has the most extensive area of wetland on the loch, so we are pleased to have been able to support RSPB to enhance the wildlife value of this special part of the national nature reserve.”
The project will seek to improve water control measures across the reserve’s wetlands, allowing better water dispersal over a larger area.
Much of the current landscape in front of the viewing hides consists of raised areas punctuated by deep pools of water.
The rejuvenation of the wet grassland will level out these high areas and reduce the depth of the deeper pools to create shallow pools and surface water over a larger area.
The aim of the work will be to spread the water more widely over the reserve and have better control of the flow.
This will create ideal habitat for priority wading birds, like lapwing.
The improvements will also benefit other species such as amphibians, aquatic insects and should make the area more attractive to water voles and otters, the latter of which are regularly seen on the loch.