Good news and bad news with regards the Terns: After a rather long time of tern nest failures on Starnafin Island, we are still (finally!) seeing a wonderful result of successful breeding!! A total number is rather hard to come to as the vegetation has grown up so much that a lot of them are hiding in it, but at last rough estimate, there are at least 120 chicks there. So all the hard work by the wardening team last winter has paid off fantastically! However, we’re not sure what’s happened with the rafts that can be seen from Bay hide however, as there were 24 chicks on it but in the space of two days, it went from very busy to nothing, not even the adults still hanging around. We’re wondering now if a predator has managed to gain access.
And on the same note, the Black Headed Gulls are still nesting on the island, but have reduced their breeding pairs by quite a lot – a nice flip of numbers for terns and gulls.
Little Gulls have been regularly seen from the Visitor Centre, over the pools and at Fen Hide from middle to the end of June.
An exciting sighting of a Blue-Winged Teal from the visitor centre was noted down from middle to the end of June and on 25th June at Bay and Fen hides!
The Spoonbills were spotted again on the evening of 11th June on Starnafin Pools, and also seen from Tower Pool Hide on the Lowground on the 12th june.
A Lesser Redpoll was seen at Fen Hide on the 10th of June, and Great Crested Grebes have been seen from Fen and Bay hides throughout June and July, with a confirmation of nesting at the far south end (Starnakeppie area) on a wee island – this can be seen from the Old Kirk car park.
Ospreys and Marsh Harriers have been spotted round the reserve in June, most recent Marsh Harrier was 21st July, and a Sparrowhawk is now defending her nest of 4 chicks at Fen Hide.
Also from Fen Hide, the Bearded Tits have been heard and a Peregrine Falcon was spotted chasing terns.
Lots of Curlew (around 80 at last count) have been seen on the Lowground recently too.
Greenshank have been seen and heard over Mosstown during early July
On the pony front, we now have four foals from this year: Beatrice on the Starnafin Pools who is now of a size rivalling last year’s youngsters, and Brambles joined Bilbo Baggins and Brèagha on the 11th of June on the Lowground. At the beginning of August, we are planning to add five more geldings to the herd onto Mosstown Marsh, which will bring the total number of ponies to 28!
On the events front, keep your eyes peeled on the website for more information on a bat and moth night and Saturday moth mornings, as there are plans afoot for August! This will hopefully mean you could come and see moths up close, maybe do some identifying, and then head out for a wee bat evening with detectors to see what bats we have hunting round the Visitor Centre!
Around lunchtime yesterday we were alerted to a fire on the dunes at the northern end of our Loch of Strathbeg reserve, near St Combs.
Photo from 27 June: Richard Humpidge
It was in an area of grass on the sand dunes and was moving fast. By late-afternoon, the Fire and Rescue Service decided to send a helicopter to douse the fire and try to get it under control. It arrived at 7 pm and with the combined efforts of 80-90 firemen, 12 pumps, three all-terrain vehicles with soft track, and the helicopter it was under control by late last night.
Photo from 27 June: Richard Humpidge
The overall area that has been damaged is difficult to work out but is probably just over 25 ha or 0.1 square miles, which is equivalent to 35 football pitches, nearly one and a half Duthie Parks, or one fifth the area enclosed by the outer breakwaters at Peterhead Harbour.
Photo from 28 June: Ed Grace
As far as we know there has been no damage to livestock, but it will take a little while to assess the damage for the wildlife that lives on the dunes and would have been raising young. The casualty list is likely to include birds such as skylarks and ringed plovers along with countless insects and thousands of snails.
Photos from 28 June: Ed Grace
We do not have confirmation of how the fire started yet, but at this time of year, warm dry weather increases the risks of wildfire.
We are keeping an eye on things to make sure it doesn’t start again and we hope that because the fire moved quickly that the damage will be less than originally feared.
We’ll keep you posted when we know more.
On 7th June on the visitor centre pools, there were 2 spoonbills and 3 Canada geese.
An exciting event last weekend was the birth of another foal! We weren’t sure of the sex, and a couple of days later another was born. A wee trip out to the Lowground proved the suspicion that the first had been a colt, and was therefore named Bilbo Baggins, and the second born was a filly, so she was called Brèagha. Brèagha is pronounced ‘Bree-ah’ and is the feminine Scottish Gaelic word for “handsome”, or, in other words, it means ‘beautiful’. There’s still at least one more foal to come, so keep your eyes peeled on your visit for the extra small body out on the Lowground!
We have black headed gull chicks and oyster catcher chicks on the island in front of the visitor centre, with 60 apparently incubating adults – which is a wonderful site after all the work last winter to make the island more habitable for terns, and safer with the otter fence, which seems to be working for now!
We also have terns settling on the rafts that you can see from the left of Bay hide. There were 10 sitting birds counted on the morning of 10th June, which is equally exciting.
The Bearded tits are still seen and heard at Fen hide, though the author still hasn’t managed to see them on any visits – fingers crossed your own visits give better results!
An exciting discovery on Tuesday the 3rd was that of a snipe nest on Mosstown! There hasn’t been any records of a snipe nest on Mosstown that we could find, so are treating it as a first!
The tree sparrow nest box checks have produced a goodly number of tree sparrow eggs and chicks, along with the odd blue tit and great tit for variety. Although it’s probably a stressful experience for the chicks, it is very charming to be able to see them up close.
A Savi’s warbler has been seen and heard a number of times from Fen hide, starting from the beginning of June, and has moved from across the loch on the left hand side, to the trees surrounding the board walk along to the hide, so keep your eyes and ears peeled for this wee fellow!
The Little Egret is also back and has been spotted from Tower Pool Hide on Savoch Lowground – only one this time though.