N E W S F E E D S >>>
Action Plan Contents Index

Action Plan Front Page

Biodiversity Index

Nature & Environment Index Page

The Caithness Biodiversity Action Plan - February 2003



Habitats and species

Pockets of open water, reedbed and fen such as at Loch Lieurary near Westfield, or Loch of Durran near Castletown can be found within hollows of the rolling farm and croft land. The mosaic of arable land, fen and damp grassland is important for lowland breeding waders such as lapwing, curlew, snipe, redshank, greenshank and oystercatcher.

A diverse and colourful range of aquatic plants is found in these open water and wetland habitats. The wetlands are carpeted with an array of flowers including marsh marigold, ragged robin, northern marsh orchid and water avens.


Three nationally scarce pondweeds and one scarce water lily occur in wetlands in Caithness. Four lochs have around their margins the nationally rare narrow small reed and one loch has the only known population in the world of the Scottish small reed.

Main issues

  • Securing the correct grazing balance is vital for the continued management of wetland habitats. Without management, overgrazing can occur, leading to a loss in the diversity of species. In today’s economic climate, there is also a real threat of undergrazing as land is abandoned, leading to dominance of rushes and otherinvasive species.

  • In the past, many small pockets of wetland were lost to agricultural improvements such as drainage and fertilising. Due to the present state of agriculture, this is less of a threat today.

Current biodiversity projects

Some farmers are managing wetlands under agri-environmental schemes such as the Countryside Premium Scheme or its replacement, the Rural Stewardship Scheme. However, the reason why Caithness is such an important site for breeding waders is because of the way these wet pockets have been managed, and agri-environment schemes do not recognise or reward farmers for existing good management. Furthermore, national schemes are not always relevant to northern Scotland due to climatic differences.

Scottish Natural Heritage, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and other organisations fund breeding bird surveys and ongoing monitoring work on protected sites. 

Habitat Map

Paired common blue damselflies

Opportunities for action

Build on the current positive wetland management undertaken on farms and crofts around Caithness, and enhance local input through increasing the uptake of the Rural Stewardship Scheme.
Undertake a series of farmland wader demonstration sites on a number of farms and crofts across the county.

Encourage the creation of new wetlands through the blocking of drains or old mill laids. Trial waste management techniques such as reed beds that are new to the county. Raise awareness of the link between current management practices and the importance of Caithness sites for breeding waders through e.g. erecting a bird hide at Broubster. Undertake a Caithness-wide survey of breeding waders, linking breeding success to available habitat. Map the distribution of fens across the county. Raise awareness of the legislation surrounding wildfowling, and the shooting of geese in Caithness.

Back to River and Loch     Forward To Farm and Croft Land