Ecology

Langass is home to many species of bird, plant, tree and insect. The woodland provides a sheltered environment for wildlife and plants to develop and with the introduction of more broadleaved trees it is hoped that Langass will contain a more diverse range of wildlife and plants in the future. During a visit to the woodland you might see or hear some of the following species.

Trees
The first trees were planted at Langass in 1969 by the Forestry Commission as part of an experimental project to monitor the growth of conifer trees in an exposed environment. Since Urras an Craobh Uibhist a Tuath was formed in 2005 they have begun to introduce more broadleaf species to improve the woodlands biodiversity.
 
Conifer trees
The majority of the trees in Langass are conifer trees. Conifers bear pinecones and are evergreen with spiky, needle-like leaves. Most of the conifers in Langass Woods are Sitka Spruce and Lodgepole pine which were introduced in 1969. These hardy species came from Canada and Alaska and were selected for their ability to grow in the wet peaty soil and the harsh coastal environment of North Uist. However there is also the odd Douglas Fir which is very distinctive in the autumn and Scots Pine.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Broadleaf trees
Thanks to the shelter provided by the conifer trees in Langass it has been possible to plant a number of native broadleaf trees, such as Rowan, Holly and Willow, some of which have been planted by S2 pupils from Lionacleit School. It is hoped that even more species such as Alder and Birch will be planted soon. These trees provide a rich source of food and shelter for many birds and insects.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Birds
The woodland provides an excellent source of food and shelter for many birds. During a visit to Langass you might be lucky enough to spot some of the following species so keep your eyes and ears alert.
 
Female Chaffinch
(Photograph by LJ Hadley)
Songbirds
Many small songbirds can be seen in Langass Woods, among them the Chaffinch, Siskin, Willow Warbler, Pied Wagtail, Robin, Wren and Goldcrest. They feed on pinecones, seeds and insects. Many of these birds would not have been seen on North Uist up until relatively recently, but as the woodland has started to mature it has provided shelter and food for them. With the introduction of broadleaf trees the woodland will attract many more species of bird in the future.
Listen to birdsong on the Virtual Map of Langass Woods.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Waders
In the winter Woodcock, a type of wading bird similar to the Snipe, is common in Langass. As its name suggests the Woodcocks native home is in the woodland. This large clumsy looking bird uses its long bills to search for insects in soft ground.
Birds of Prey
Birds of prey don’t generally breed within the woodland but the following birds can often be seen on passage. Buzzard, Peregrine, Merlin, Short Eared Owl, Hen Harrier, Golden Eagle and Sea Eagle.
For more information on these birds please visit the RSPB website.
 

Insects
A variety of bugs, slugs, snails, centipedes and millipedes make their home among the leaves, under bark and beneath fallen branches within Langass. Broadleaved trees support a much more diverse range of insects, so as more broadleaved trees are planted the diversity of insects will increase in turn creating richer source of food for many birds. A species of woodwasp occurs in the woodland and looks very menacing yet is completely harmless. It lays its eggs in the wood of living trees. Larvae feed on the wood for two years before emerging as adults.

Flora
The woodland is home to a variety of plant species. Depending on the season you visit you may see some of the following.
Flowers
The denser areas of conifer woodland support a poor range of flowering plants, however in contrast the open areas support a much richer variety. Tormentil, St Johns Wort, Wood-sorrel and Bramble are some of the species which currently grow in Langass. Once more broadleaved trees are planted they will create conditions for a more diverse range of flora to establish.
Ferns
Many ferns like the damp and shady conditions of the woodland. The most common fern you will see in Langass is the Lady Fern, which grows almost everywhere. Other varieties such as spleenwort are also common.
Moss and Lichens:
If you look closely at the moss carpets growing on the woodland floor at Langass you will be able to appreciate the beauty and variety of these miniature plants. They provide cover for insects and perfect conditions for seeds to germinate and grow. Sphagnum moss is common in the wetter areas and is the main building block for peat formation.
Lichens grow in areas where other plants find it very difficult to grow e.g. on the bark of a tree or the vertical surface of a rock. Some lichens are very sensitive to pollution and only grow where the air is very clean and pure. Certain species of lichen were traditionally used in the islands for dying yarn and produce a wonderful array of warm russet shades.

 

Fungi
Fungi are very important in woodlands as they recycle all the dead plant material, releasing food which can be used by living plants to grow. The majority of the fungus grows under the ground so we only know they are there when the fruiting body (mushroom, toadstool or bract) is produced. The best time to see fungi at Langass is in the autumn.