Guest Blogger: Jim Densham – Senior Land Use Policy Officer (Climate) at RSPB Scotland.
After 7 years of hard work the kind people at the RSPB allow staff to take a sabbatical. Quite a lot of RSPB staff do bird surveys for their sabbatical but whilst I love nature, I’m only an occasional birdwatcher (when I remember my binoculars). At the same time as I was thinking about what to do on my sabbatical, I had been chatting to a colleague about ‘slow travel’ and was working on how we can do better at telling people about real examples of the impacts of climate change on birds and wildlife – especially impacts we are already seeing on our reserves. So my sabbatical Green Travel to Green Places fuses those two things:
I am doing my journeys in weekly chunks through the summer and I have recently finished the first week, taking day trips from my home in Glasgow. Already I’ve seen quite a few climate related things on my low-carbon journeys.
RSPB Baron’s Haugh reserve – Floods and high water levels have been much more frequent on the Clyde in recent years and this is causing problems for birds at Baron’s Haugh. The wetland is often flooded at winter, but even when I visited in June heavy rain upstream meant water levels were up, the river bank had been eroded and nests had been lost.
RSPB Skinflats reserve and the Inner Forth - Climate change is causing sea levels to rise and is squeezing and eroding the remaining saltmarsh habitat between the tidal river and the sea walls. Without the protective saltmarsh, sea defences need more regular costly maintenance or could be breached leading to a potentially disastrous flooding. At the Skinflats reserve I saw how the RSPB is working to return a field to a saltmarsh habitat by carefully managing water levels and how more of this habitat recreation along the forth could help to prevent future flooding.
RSPB Loch Leven reserve - Managing the water levels on the reserve is increasingly difficult. With climate change projections showing even less summer rainfall in the future the reserve staff are creating new reservoir area to store winter rainfall on the reserve. This will help to keep the wetlands wet through the year.
RSPB Lochwinnoch reserve – It’s well known that we will expect to see bird species moving north with climate change. Although I didn’t see them on my visit, the reserve staff told me that nuthatches have been more frequent here since 2001 and are moving north.
It has been a wonderful experience so far – especially showing that you can get to RSPB reserves without a car. It has also been fascinating to see how our dedicated reserve staff are working to manage the reserves in new ways which will help wildlife to adapt to the impacts brought on by the changing climate.
You can find out more about my travels and future journeys at my blog Green Travel to Green Places http://greentraveltogreenplaces.wordpress.com/ or follow me on twitter @JimDensham
Are you taking the slow travel route this summer? Do share your experiences!