RSPB FORSINARD RESERVE
SUTHERLAND, HIGHLAND (Thurso), (S)
National Grid NC891430 00o00´/00o00´ 18,000ha c.200m, flow country peatlands, fairly flat bogs and peat pools, surrounded by many lochs and mountains
Summer 1st April to end October (16.05.2008-)
Birding Site Guide
This is the RSPB largest reserve and it protects some of the remaining peat flow country from afforestation and peat extraction for barbecue briquettes and horticultural use.
For those of you who think Forsinard is isolated, well yes it is however not as much as I imagined. To reach the reserve, either take the train (3-4 a day each way, Scotrail), which stops at Forsinard station or drive via the Helmsdale to Melvich road A897 which carries on north to Thurso. The road goes through part of the south of the reserve and the RSPB visitor centre is located in the station, which is open summer only. Guided walks are available without pre-booked in the summer, every Tuesday and Thursday afternoon, just turn up at the centre. There is a short self-guided trail of 800m called the Dubh Lochan Trail. A longer trail 4 miles north of the visitor centre has just opened, this is the Forsinain Trail. Park at the signed layby and walk over the the bridge and along the track past the first house and round the corner past the second houses. Go straight ahead up the hill into the plantation (Forestry Commission) to the small lochan and then follow the trail west back to the road. The reserve has disabled access and toilets. There is some woodland near the centre where Spotted Flycatcher breeds. The visitor centre is open every day in summer 09.00 till 17.15 and is manned most days by the Information Officer and volunteers, but is open even when unmanned, there being a honesty box for hot drinks and snacks. There are some good displays and a constantly running DVD of the reserve.
As for accommodation there is the large hotel a short walk north from the centre which does food and has a public bar or a Bed & Breakfast just south of the rail line about 50m from the centre, however it is often full and booking should be made well in advance.
The reserve receives about 5000 visitors a year.
Typical birds to see are Greylag Goose (real wild ones), Red-throated and Black-throated Diver, Dipper, Dunlin, Greenshank, Lapwing, Oystercatcher, Golden Plover, Lapwing, Hen Harrier, Short-eared Owl, Common Scoter and maybe Golden Eagle. The harriers have a close-circuit TV on their nest which can be viewed in the visitor centre, but does not operate at present. Ptarmigan are found on mountains just outwith the reserve. Crossbills are common, Bullfinches, Twite and Goldcrests are scarcer. There are also Pied and Grey Wagtails and Common Sandpiper.
Red Deer are present in large numbers, and Pine Martens are sometimes seen. In the pools Common Frog and Palmate Newts may be found. Adders are also present.
There are some rare plants in this area, including the insectivorous sundew, butterwort and bladderworts and the area is covered in 3 species of cottongrass. Plants (some rare) include Lousewort Pedicularis sylvatica, Bearberry Arctophylos alpinus , Dwarf Birch Betula nana, Alpine Mouse-ear Cerastium alpinum, Alpine Cinquefoil Potentilla crantzii, Small Cranberry Vaccinium microcarpum, Common Juniper Juniperus communis, Bog Orchid Hammarbya paludosa, Lesser Butterfly Orchid Platanthera bifolia , Lesser Twayblade Listera cordata, Frog Orchid Coeloglossum viride, Butterwort Pingurcula valgaris , Pyramidal Bugle Ajuga pyramidalis, Pale ButterwortPinguicula lusitanica, Bog Asphodel Narthecium ossifragum, Round-leaved Sundew Drosera rotundifolia, Oblong-leaved Sundew Drosera intermedia, Great Sundew Drosera anglica, Heath Milkwort Polygala serpyllifolia, Downy Currant Ribes spicatum , Bogbean Menyanthes trifoliate, Moonwort Botrychium lunaria, Bog Myrtle Myrica gale and around 20 species of sphagnum, for instance: Sphagnum pulchrum, Sphagnum fuscum , Sphagnum imbricatum , Sphagnum austinii,Sphagnum subsecundum.