Looking back over the past couple of weeks, our new foals continue to do well, although they spend quite a lot of time asleep, so if you’re looking for them they may be curled up in the rushes or flat out in the sunshine! In the Save Our Magnificent Meadows project area, the first lesser butterfly orchid plants are coming up, there’s quite a bit of ragged robin showing, and northern marsh orchid spikes are flowering. Our Education Staff have been busy with several local schools involved in the SOMM programme, looking at bugs and beasties and the flowers of the meadows.
Ragged robin (rspb-images.com)
Our Tuesday evening ‘Pick Out a Puffin’ Walks at Fowlsheugh have proved popular, and have been fortunately blessed with some good weather – there are still a couple planned on 16 and 23 June, and we may be able to run some more after that, so watch the website and Facebook/Twitter for news. The wardens have been working hard on the seabird colony counts at Troup and Fowlsheugh; it’s looking hopeful this year, with lots of guillemot, kittiwake and gannet chicks on the ledges. On Starnafin Island, black-headed gull and common tern chicks are now hatching, and the parent birds are extremely protective, and very loud! Recently we’ve seen Arctic tern, American wigeon (elusive), 2 little egrets, up to five little gulls, at least one female marsh harrier, a drake garganey (also elusive), a great white egret on 7 June, and several broods of shelducks and mute swan cygnets.
Guillemots - Andy Hay (rspb-images.com)
Looking forward, we’re holding our first ‘Meadows Walk’ this Thursday, 18 June, where you can get out on the reserve with a warden to see what’s coming up and what the ponies are achieving in the way of rush control – booking essential, as are wellies! In the SOMM project area, our University students’ projects will be starting soon. We’re planning for our National Meadows Day Event on 4 July, lots of things to do and see so make a note in your diaries and come along! If you’ve been inspired by BBC Springwatch to get your own trail camera, the North East Scotland Biological records Centre (NESBReC) are running a camera-trapping workshop at Strathbeg Visitor Centre on 10.30 am – 3.00 pm on Sunday 12 July – to book a place contact firstname.lastname@example.org (please note, children must be accompanied by an adult, and on this occasion, no dogs, thanks).
Our summer trail to the Loch hides is still open, but we’d like to point out that although well-behaved dogs are normally welcome on the reserve, the path crosses our neighbour’s land and they have asked that no dogs are permitted on that part of the trail. You can still drive round to the airfield car park and walk from there.
Common toad - Ben Andrew (rspb-images.com)
Have you seen the new Give Nature a Home advert yet? Want to get involved? To get your FREE ’20 ways to give nature a home’ pack, complete with 32 page booklet, poster and sticker, order a copy online at rspb.org.uk/homes or pick up a leaflet from the Visitor Centre.
It seems our great white egret was a different bird to the one that was around at the beginning of the month – the first one was ringed, but the second one wasn’t, and bill and leg colours differed. The little egrets are still around, the wood sandpiper lingered until the 23 May, when it was seen along with a male ruff which is coming into breeding plumage. Up to five little gulls have been recorded on the Starnafin pools, including an adult pair trying to take territory amongst the black-headed gulls and common terns on the island in front of the Visitor Centre – quite a hazardous occupation! An odd assortment of wildfowl are still hanging around from the winter visitors – three barnacle geese, a pair of greylags, five pinkfooted geese, and at least one whooper swan (seen from Bay Hide). On 24 May there was a pochard on the loch, and on 25 May, a drake American wigeon turned up, visible from the Visitor Centre, although it proved elusive after the initial sighting. On 1 June, at least 160 swifts were over the loch, a real sign that summer is on the way, despite the current spate of wild weather.
Fowlsheugh – Andy Hay (rspb-images.com)
As the seabird breeding season swings into action, life on the ledges at Troup Head and Fowlsheugh is getting lively, and the wardening team are busy with the annual seabird counts. Our ‘Pick Out a Puffin’ guided walks continue at Fowlsheugh, with the next walk scheduled for 9 June. Further walks are planned for 16 and 23 June; there are a limited number of places available, so book soon to avoid disappointment. We do ask that folks confirm on the day before the walk that they’ll be able to come along, so that any last-minute spaces can be filled.
Puffin – Andy Hay (rspb-images.com)
The Natura 2000 network of sites (Special Protection Areas and Special Areas of Conservation) protect the most important homes for wildlife in Europe. These amazing places are protected by the EU Nature Directives, but these laws are under threat. We hope you will #DefendNature with us. Visit rspb.org.uk/defendnature to ask the EU to protect the laws that protect nature today.
Over the next few weeks we will be sharing photos of some right here in NE Scotland on our Facebook page. If you have any photos you’d like to share, we’d love to see them!
So as soon as I hit the 'publish' button on the blog yesterday, the egrets proved me a liar - the great white egret is still around, visible from Fen Hide, and the little egrets - or at least one of them - are back on the Low Ground. In addition, a wood sandpiper was recorded from Fen Hide yesterday.
People sometimes ask 'Why don't you have such-and-such a bird on your year list, I had one here last week!' - the simple reason is that although they saw it, none of the staff did, and nobody told us! If you find a rarity, please let us know by one means or another; via ABZ, email, twitter, Facebook, put a record in the log-books (takes longer but we do collect the sheets in regularly) or just tell us! It makes keeping reserve records, and subsequently the Annual Bird Report (a copy is in the Visitor Centre, along with the Rarities of Strathbeg report), so much easier, and I speak as the one who wades through all the data trails to put it together!