You heard me right, the Beached Bird Surveys at Strathan, Talmine and Armadale Bay turned up nothing..not a thing...zero! Four hours of scouring the beach, looking for the slightest sign of any species and we didn’t get a single bird. Although to tell you the truth we are absolutely over the moon that we didn’t find anything.
Why on earth would the RSPB be happy NOT to find any birds?!? – Well...read on...
Pollution of the world's oceans and seas with mineral oil is the most significant observable causes of death of large number of waterbird species and poses a serious threat to wintering seabird populations. Not only major oil spills affect seabird mortality; chronic oil pollution is a major seabird mortality factor.
The annual National Beached Bird Survey, first started in 1971, has existed in its current format since 1991. The survey is co-ordinated by the RSPB, with the Shetland Oil Terminal Environmental Advisory Group co-ordinating efforts in Shetland. Over 600 volunteer surveyors walk stretches of coastline around the UK during the last weekend in February and record the number of beachcast corpses of birds and their state of oiling.
The results of the annual survey are used in conjunction with those from other European countries and aim to contribute to international monitoring efforts to document trends in chronic marine oil pollution and to promote adequate methods of controlling illegal oil discharge to help reduce seabird mortality.
So not finding any beachcast corpses of birds on the beaches that we were surveying was a very good result. Of course we did see a lovely selection of LIVE seabirds. These included several great northern divers, two razorbills, a black guillemot, beautiful group of ringed plover, a great black-backed gull, many herring gull, and a shag. A good day out on the beach, and an interesting change of scene for our volunteers.
Beach at Strathan near the Kyle of Tongue
More beautiful beach at Strathan
Our volunteers enjoying a spot of birding at Talmine
View back along the beach at Talmine
Will - Armadale Bay, after checking out the tideline at the east end of the beach
Well, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that spring is in the air. Any subsequent arctic conditions, flash flooding or similar drastic acts of nature are therefore my fault!
On the reserve we have seen the arrival of workmen to carry out some maintenance work on our visitor centre and other buildings, ready for when we open at the start of April. “That’s ages away!” I hear you all cry, but time really does fly and we have lots to do in preparation for the new season.
We have seen Raven on the reserve starting to pair up and becoming increasingly territorial, there has been a flock of approximately 35 Fieldfare hanging around the fields at Forsinain and we have heard calling Golden Plover...a sure sign that spring is here/on it’s way/imminent (delete as appropriate!).
<<Just click on the birds above to find out a bit more about them! >>
Below are a couple of photos from the reserve this week...I was originally going to call this blog "Will Power"...the reason will soon become clear!
Will surveying the damage to one of the access gates
And a temporary repair swiftly carried out! (Will is a very useful volunteer to have around!!)
A nice secure waymarker now in place near the start of the Forsinain Trail
It turns out we have a mystery guest staying in one of our buildings here on the Forsinard reserve. Nobody saw our visitor moving in, and to be honest they have left the place a bit of a state with poo and leftover meals discarded all over the place.
In an attempt to catch the culprit in the act, one of our volunteers (Will) and myself have set up a series of camera traps. You can see some of our results below.
After quite a lot of this....
We were eventually able to identify the visitor with these...
So our visitor turned out to be a beautiful Barn Owl! We had our suspicions, but we also have many Tawny Owls in the area and we really thought it might have been one of those. However, in this case, the camera doesn’t lie. The heart-shaped face, buff back and wings and pure white underparts make the barn owl quite distinctive. I think that we will be able to forgive the lack of manners and social etiquette from our guest, and I hope to be able to show you the contents of one of the owl pellets later on in the week.
If you would like to find out more about Barn Owls then click this link
If you are interested in helping Barn Owls in your local area then why not have a look at some ideas for how to build Barn Owl boxes at Nest Boxes
If you love nature, enjoy it with us! | Find more information on events and facilities at RSPB Forsinard Flows by visiting www.rspb.org.uk/Forsinard