Muirburn in Assynt Project (2004-06)

In late February 2003 uncontrolled muirburn, on a scale unprecedented in recent years, occurred in the west of Assynt. The main burn ran for nearly 10 km in a dog-leg from north of Lochinver (NC0924), north-east to the edge of Loch Beannach (NC1326), and then north-west to the edge of Loch Poll (NC0930), but there were others.

In December 2003, Assynt Field Club asked Scottish Natural Heritage to grant-aid a project to investigate the impact of muirburn on the vegetation and wildlife of the parish.

The proposed project had three main elements:

a. Information gathering

b. Field survey and monitoring

c. Future practice

In January 2004, Scottish Natural Heritage made an offer to the Field Club of £4000 towards the costs of the project.  Contributions in kind have been made by members of the Field Club and other interested parties.

Fieldwork on the project commenced early in 2004. Robin Noble undertook most of  the information gathering, including detailed mapping of the boundaries of all identifiable areas of recent muirburn.  Viv Halcrow undertook vegetation surveys in summer 2005 of six sites straddling burn boundaries, together with a further one of an unburned juniper-rich area.

Other significant contributions were made by Dr Althea Davies and Dr Malcolm Bangor-Jones on the history of muirburn, Reay Clarke on the practice of muirburn, Dr Tony Fletcher on lichens and Gordon Rothero on bryophytes.

The project was supervised and the report edited by Ian Evans.

Muirburn in Assynt Report (155kb doc)

Muirburn Appendix 1 – Grant Application (4.5MB pdf)

Muirburn Appendix 2 – Map of Burns (1.6MB pdf)

Muirburn Appendix 3 – Photographs by Robin Noble (23.2MB pdf)

Muirburn Appendix 4 – Summary of palaeoecological evidence for heathland burning: Ruigh Dorch and Glenleraig, Dr Althea Davies (1.2MB pdf)

Muirburn Appendix 5 – Notes on historical evidence, Dr Malcolm Bangor-Jones (2.1MB pdf)

Muirburn Appendix 6 – Notes on ‘The Heather Burning’, Reay D.G. Clarke (2.2MB pdf) 

Muirburn Appendix 7 – Vegetation studies, Viv Halcrow (40.3MB pdf)

Report a Sighting

Recent Sightings

Black-tailed Godwit

single bird Bay of Culkein (Janet French). Photo - Gallery Birds (21/05)

Garganey

single male Loch Neil Bhain (DAH). This is only the third Assynt record of this species. Photo - Gallery Birds (19/05)

Lapwing

three adult birds and one chick, Loch Neil Bhain (DAH) (19/05)

Whimbrel

two birds near Culkein Drumbeg jetty (DAH). Photo - Gallery Birds (19/05)

Risso's Dolphin

four animals off Stoerhead Lighthouse (DAH) (19/05)

Arctic Tern

15+ birds on offshore island Culkein Drumbeg (DAH) (19/05)

Shelduck

pair still present Oldany estuary area (DAH) (19/05)

Golden Plover

at least four birds on grazing land Balchladich (Janet French) (18/05)

Map