Site of the Month: Merrick Kells (February 2024)

In the heart of Galloway, the Merrick Kells is a fantastic example of habitats carved by glaciers during the Pleistocene (the last Ice Age). The area is home to important moraines which may help us to unravel mysteries on the climate and floral history of the region from 17-18 thousand years ago and the glacial melt has left a suite of upland lochs and formed diverse bog systems.

The granite cliffs exposed by the ice are home to Scotland’s southernmost populations of a range of otherwise alpine and highland specialists; these including Alpine Saw-wort Saussurea alpinaPurple Saxifrage Saxifraga oppositifolia and the rare Silky Swan-neck Moss Campylopus setifolius. The area also provides important nesting and roosting habitats for Peregrine Falcon Falco peregrinus.

The most extensive unforested landscape left in Dumfries and Galloway, the acid grassland is an important hunting habitat for wintering Hen Harrier Circus cyaneus and Short-eared Owl Asio flammeus and the ubiquitous Purple Moor Grass Molinia caerulea provides larval food for the Scotch Argus Erebia aethiops and a refuge for the timid Mountain Hare Lepus timidus.

Malcolm Haddow

SWSEIC Support Officer

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SUP is registered in Scotland as a company limited by guarantee with charitable status. Registered address: The Southern Uplands Partnership, Studio 2, Lindean Mill, Galashiels, TD1 3PE. Company No. SC200827 / Charity No. SCO29475

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