Discover what plants and animals have already been recorded at Whitelee.
Whitelee is made up of a patchwork of different habitats that provide homes to a wide diversity of species of plants and animals. The unusual situation of these habitats and species being within an operational windfarm poses challenges and opportunities. The windfarm operators, Scottish Power Renewables, employ an ecologist to monitor and manage the wildlife of the site. The countryside rangers carry out wildlife recording, monitoring and biodiversity improvement projects to enhance wildlife habitats and opportunities where possible.
Downloads of the full recorded species lists collected for the site can be found in the Related documents section of this page.
If you have any questions regarding wildlife and biodiversity from the windfarm, where to see it, or would like help to identify a species seen then please contact the countryside rangers using the details at the top of the page.
After the 2012/13 extension to Whitelee, the size of the windfarm grew from 53km² to approximately 78km²/roughly 30.3 miles². Prior to the extension the land area could be roughly broken down into 3 distinct habitat types:
|Modified/Unmodified blanket bog||1055ha|
|Acid grassland/marshy grassland & transitional habitats||1059ha|
11 defined habitats were identified in Whitelee 1 (pre extension), but these have been grouped together within 3 broad habitat types as indicated. Of these habitat types at least 5 are on the UK biodiversity Action Plan (BAP), and 3 are on the BAP lists of the 3 council areas. The extension to the windfarm will have potentially added further habitats to the site but these are yet to be fully assessed.
To date 145 plant species have been recorded within the Whitelee 1 site and this is expected to grow over time as surveys from the extension and the countryside rangers and members of the public continue to identify new species. Of the species recorded so far 1 is of national importance.
Veilwort (Pallavicinia lyellii) is the rarest plant found so far within the site and is considered 'vulnerable' in the UK and Europe and is therefore listed on the Red List of plant species of conservation concern and also has a Species Action Plan (SPA) dedicated to preserving and enhancing its status.
Veilwort is a leafy (thalloid), liverwort or lower plant meaning that it doesn't have stems and leaves. It has a 'thallus' or a flattened 'body' just a few cells thick. Veilwort is pale green in colour but its unlikely that you will get the opportunity to check this for it's an extremely difficult plant to find. It has highly specialised habitat requirements and is only found growing within the base of grass tussocks at Whitelee and there also appears to be a strong link/requirement for the grass tussock to also have mammal runs within it, that the plant grows within! Whitelee has one of only 2 known Scottish populations of this species making the site of importance for this little plant.
The fungi flora of the windfarm have largely been unrecorded. The countryside ranger service have been spotting and identifying fungi when they are encountered and to date 36 species have been recorded and positively identified. More are spotted all the time and it is expected that the list of recorded species will continue to grow. Fungi have now even been found starting to grow from the windfarm tracks (e.g. shaggy ink cap, probably growing from a root or branch below), so it will be interesting to see what else turns up over time.
One recently identified species, the Moor Club (Clavaria argillacea) is of regional importance but something visitors are more likely to see is a Russula found growing throughout the site. This is a red topped toadstool commonly seen at the margins of conifer plantations.
During dedicated survey work carried out for the extension of the windfarm, ninety-four lichen species were recorded from within the conifer woodland. Of these three are described as nationally rare, five as nationally scarce and six are described as locally rare. Five species are noted as indicating old habitat and one is within the red data book of vulnerable species of conservation concern. One species (Hypotrachyna sinuosa) was also found which the UK has an International responsibility to protect.
In addition to this the countryside rangers have recorded 7 lichens from other parts of the site and it is probable that more will yet be recorded.
Whitelee has always been a site of interest for bird watching (and in the past shooting), as well as for studying/observing other wildlife species. Records for wildlife are less detailed than for plants due in part to the fact fauna can be more difficult to positively identify as well as initial survey focus being on species of high conservation concern. None the less a growing list of birds, mammals and invertebrate (insect) species is developing for the site and in the case of the insect assemblage, is expected to grow significantly over time as the rangers and others continue to record from the site.
Birds have been well recorded within the windfarm and to date 95 species have been recorded including a number of red list* species that are shown below. There is still scope for this list to expand however - an example of this being the recording of a Great Grey Shrike (Lanius excubitor) in the first week of the countryside rangers starting in February 2010. This was a chance encounter with this nomadic species but illustrates that there are always new species waiting to be recorded.
- Black Grouse (Tetrao tetrix)
- Hen Harrier (Circus cyaneus)
- Skylark (Alauda arvensis)
- Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus)
- Fieldfare (Turdus pilaris)
- Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)
- House Sparrow (Passer domesticus)
- Song thrush (Turdus philomelos)
- Grasshopper Warbler (Locustella naevia)
- Tree Pipit (Anthus trivialis)
- Cuckoo (Cuculus canorus)
* Red list birds of conservation concern. These are species identified as being:
The location of the site on high open moorland but with the addition of the large conifer plantations makes the site a valuable habitat for raptors or birds of prey. Buzzards and kestrels are routinely seen hunting their prey of small mammals all over the windfarm but for the very fortunate there are more exciting species to be seen including:
- Barn owl (Tyto alba)
- Short-eared owl (Asio flammeus)
- Tawny owl (Strix aluco)
- Buzzard (Buteo buteo)
- Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus)
- Hen harrier (Circus cyaneus)
- Peregrine falcon (Falco peregrinus)
- Sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus)
- Merlin (Falco columbarius)
Aside of protected species surveys there has been little in the way of mammal surveying carried out. To date 13 mammal species have none the less been recorded within the windfarm including:
- Eurasian Otter (Lutra lutra)
- Brown Hare (Lepus europaeus)
- Short-tailed or Field Vole (Microtus agrestis)
- Roe deer (Capreolus capreolus)
- Stoat (Mustela erminea)
- Shrew (Sorex aranaeus)
- Bat species (Chiroptera)
Amphibians & Reptiles
5 species of amphibian and reptile, or herptofauna, have been recorded within Whitelee which is an excellent assemblage for the site. Common Lizard and Adder have both been recorded throughout the windfarm and the countryside rangers are currently engaged in a survey program to try and identify key areas and habitats for these species in the windfarm.
Common Frog, Common Toad and Palmate Newt have also been recorded with palmate newt only being identified as recently as 2011 - from the visitor centre carpark no less!
- Common Frog (Rana temporaria)
- Common Toad (Bufo bufo)
- Palmate Newt (Lissotriton helveticus)
- Adder (Vipera berus)
- Common Lizard (Lacerta vivipara)
Insect fauna have been largely under-recorded and those records that exist are purely from ranger service mini-surveys, carried out as part of events, as well as through incidental observations. Over time it is expected that this list will be expanded considerably through increased surveying. The rangers currently carry out butterfly and bumblebee transect surveys for example. So far approximately 48 insect species have been positively identified with moths accounting for the largest number of these to date. Interesting highlights include:
- Small Heath butterfly (Coenonympha pamphilus)
- 6-spot Burnet Moth (Zygaena filipendulae)
- Horntail / Wood Wasp (Urocerus gigas)
- Gorse Shieldbug (Piezodorus lituratus)
- Common Sexton Beetle (Nicrophorus vespillo)
- Violet Ground Beetle (Carabus violaceus purpurascens)
- Vapourer Moth (Orgyia antiqua)
- Emerald Damselfly (Lestes sponsa)
- Black Darter Dragonfly (Sympterum danae)