As many of you will already know I have been the long term residential volunteer at loch of strathbeg this summer, but this weekend was my last and I am now back home in Leeds.
I just wanted to pop in and say a massive thank you to Dominic, Vicky, Emma and Diana, the Field Teachers, the local volunteers, all the short term volunteers that lived with me over the summer and the visitors that have made my summer a wonderful experience, and one of the best in my life. Not only do I leave the post with lots of fond memories and friends but also some very valuable skills that I hope to keep putting to good use at RSPB Fairburn Ings / St Aidan's here in Leeds this winter.
I would also like to thank all of you who wished me well on Friday, I had a lovely time and it was a good way to end my stay.
Now I would like to share just a few of my photographs that convey some favourite moments at Strathbeg / Troup / Fowlsheugh this summer.
one of many sun rises i saw when watching the geese and sawns leave
the many swallows we had in the byre and garage
Moth trapping - a lesser swallow prominent and a poplar hawkmoth
the Konik Ponies
sea bird monitoring at Fowlsheugh and Troup Head
our trip on the rib to count the birds on the cliff
watching two buzzard chicks fledge the nest
following the Sandhill Crane around the local countryside for a weekend
and finding lots of frogs in the marsh
We've managed to get through our first weekend without Dominic's guiding hand without too much going horribly wrong (the visitor centre was still standing when I left at 5 this afternoon anyway...). Although the birding has been reltively quiet we did have a brief reappearance of the Rough-legged Buzzard early Saturday afternoon and a lovely fly-past from the Hen Harrier on the Saturday evening Goosewatch.
With the clocks going back the geese are now leaving the reserve a little earlier in the morning. we're also getting what seems like another increase in numbers, with several thousand lifting off the low ground and over the tower at about half past eight this morning. There's a video of this morning's gooseflock at http://twitpic.com/7874yr It's a bit inexpertly filmed on my small camera, but it give you an idea of what a morning can be like.
We've still got room on tomorrow morning's Goosewatch so do come along if you've got a few hours free before breakfast!
Well the time has come to hang up my wellies (well throw them out really as they are a bit past it) and move on.
It has been privileged to be part of a superb team of staff and volunteers both past and present, for all your hard work and tolerance I thank you most sincerely– any reserve is only as good as the team that manages it and in my completely unbiased opinion the Grampian reserves are the best in Scotland and I am proud of my part in their on going development.
The highlights over the last seven years are too many to count but I will mention just a couple. Firstly the habitat restoration works that we have been able to complete – I have been extremely lucky in my conservation career to have been involved in three large projects but the restoration of the Savoch Burn was by far the most challenging and most enjoyable project I have ever worked on and to be able to see the Koniks on the restored Fen has been the perfect completion for me – I look forward to seeing the pictures of this area as they continue to do their work.
Secondly when things go slightly off plan – such as the ATV getting stuck at least 5 times in one day in the same place (if at first you don’t succeed keep on trying!) and the phone call from Duncan to say the truck was slightly stuck to find that it was actually axle deep into a ditch with water coming into the cab rather rapidly, the only regret was that I did not have a camera with me; we will draw a veil over certain land rovers getting stuck and needing contractors to pull them out!.
Thirdly the superb wildlife that this sometimes neglected corner of Scotland amazes me with – be it 70000 pink footed geese roosting on the loch; the sights, sounds and smells of a seabird colony in full swing; an otter eating terns eggs (a bitter sweet memory); displaying redshank on the Low Ground for the first time in 15+ years or major rarities such as sandhill crane, steppe grey shrike, upland and stilt sandpipers the Grampian Reserves always have something to enjoy.
The most enduring memories though, will be of the people with whom I have been privileged to share the last seven years. To all the staff, volunteers and visitors that I have worked with thank you for making this reserve a joy to manage.
I will think of you all in the snow as I throw another yabbie on the barbie and crack open another beer!
The weather this morning left a fair bit to be desired unless you like going out searching for migrants that is. With the winds over the last few days having a degree of easterly in them combined with the rainfall the plantation was calling very loudly indeed - and it did not disappoint!
The undoubted highlight was the single wood warbler that showed reasonably well to all of us ( a year tick and only the second reserve record - the previous one being in august 1998) but what was most satisfying was the fact that the plantation was heaving with birds - everywhere you looked there were things moving. Minimum peak counts were 40 blackbirds, 20 redwing, 2 song thrush, 6 robins, 2 treecreeper, 15 goldcrest, 2 willow warbler, 2 coal tit and 3 blackcaps. There was also a single brambling in the office garden. Given what else turned up at Rattray today (long eared owl, 4 black redstarts, pallas's warbler and prob olive backed pipit) I wonder what we missed - will try and head out again tomorrow!
Another fully-booked dawn Goosewatch on Saturday kicked the weekend off well. The majority of geese have been on the low ground, so once it was light enough to check their location we walked out to Tower Pool Hide The geese are still making us wait for a while before lifting off, but the sight of several thousand lifting off right in front of the hide is still definitely worth the wait. The Whooper Swans kept us entertained while we were waiting with a serious of low fly-pasts as they headed off reserve for the day.
Ducks have been the other highlight of the weekend, with Goldeneye, Wigeon, Teal and Gadwall on the circular pool, female Long-Tailed Duck on the visitor center pools and incredibly smart looking Pintail and Shoveler on the low ground. The American Wigeon showed well for our visiting group from RSPB Lochwinnoch on Saturday, as did a cruising Hen Harrier, and a single Greenland White-Fronted Goose mixed in with the pinkies provided the excitment (along with the challenge of finding it!) for today.
There's only one day left to vote for 'Growing Up With Loch of Strathbeg' in the RBS Community Force project. This project could help us get up to £6000 to help teach school children in the area all about wildlife and Loch of Strathbeg, if you'd like to vote for us and help us win this finding you can register and vote at http://communityforce.rbs.co.uk/project/1031