It’s summer festival season, and here at Strathbeg there’s a lot going on.
Little gulls – Ian Francis (RSPB)
Headline Act: As you may have seen from the main Scotland blog we are rather excited. We have little gulls confirmed as breeding on the island in front of the Visitor Centre, (and conveniently also in front of the new office windows)! It’s a first for Scotland, only the sixth time it’s happened in Britain, and a source of both delight and trepidation for the staff and volunteers; we’re on 24/7 watch keeping an eye on them, so you can imagine our feelings when the rain lashed down relentlessly for three days last week. The fields flooded, and the water levels continued to rise despite Richard taking out every sluice board he could; we were seriously worried that the water would reach the nest. Fortune smiled, however, and the gulls proved dedicated to their task and sat tight throughout, ensuring their soon-to-hatch eggs stayed warm. Now we wait for the next stage...from hatching to fledging. I think there will be a few sleepless nights.
Little gull showing dark under-wing – Graham White
Out on the Meadow Stage: The fen meadow at Mosstown is full of blossom and colour as the orchids come into bloom, with skylarks, meadow pipits and snipe all using the meadow, and the added glamour of both a little egret and a great white egret seen regularly. The ponies staged a small rebellion and decided that the electric fence wasn’t going to stop them from going where they wanted – the result is we now have a new, improved fence unit which might keep them under control. The three new foals are doing well, and growing almost visibly! We have schools visiting us almost every day during the week, keeping Roddy busy showing them the web of life on the reserve, particularly in the meadows, and from the great feedback we’re getting he’s doing a terrific job. The Doric Poetry competition received a lot of entries, and the judges including Robbie Shepherd were very impressed by the general standard – it’s great to see such an interest being taken in the local heritage. You’ll have to wait to know the results of the competition, which will be announced at our upcoming Meadows Celebration on Saturday 2 July. We have a packed programme for the whole afternoon starting at noon and running until 5.00 pm, with music, poetry, storytelling, guided walks and self-guided trails, hands-on craft activities, face painting, a bumblebee safari and of course the prize giving! Please come along and give us your support – it’s going to be a great day!
Marsh orchid – Andy Hay (rspb-images.com)
Supporting acts: the common terns on Starnafin Island have chicks, as do the remaining black-headed gulls. Shelduck ducklings can be seen on the pools, with a lot of tufted ducks and gadwalls. Wigeon are grazing the islands, and we’ve had a few waders – dunlin, knot and a breeding-plumaged ruff. With our new office window, we have – of course – started a new ‘office window list’ for birds seen; at the moment it stands at 68 species (the reserve list is up to 141 for the year) with common crane, glossy ibis(18 May), marsh harrier, Arctic tern (19 June), a grey-headed yellow wagtail (17 May), osprey and the egrets being amongst the stand-out performers. We’ve also seen some mammals during our gull-watch, including brown hare just outside the window, badger, roe deer and pipistrelle bats. By the hordes of young tree sparrows chasing their parents around the feeders outside the window, they have also had a good year!
Brown hare – Chris Gomersall (rspb-images.com)
On the domestic front, the new office is almost sorted out, and the building inspector has been in to check things over. There are still one or two bits to be finished in the Visitor Centre, but we hope to be opening soon and definitely in time for the Meadows Celebration. We hope to see you there!
On Saturday 2 July, like many people across the UK, we will come together to celebrate National Meadows Day.
The first ever national Meadows Day was held last year and a range of events took place across the UK. This year looks as if it will be an even bigger event and that's certainly the case at Loch of Strathbeg where we would love people to join us for our Meadows Celebration.
We are planning a day of fun and discovery, as part of our participation in the Save Our Magnificent Meadows project, and there will be plenty of activities for folk of all ages.
You can see what's in the meadow, get hand on with arts and crafts or by pond-dipping or planting wildflowers. You can show your skills in our open mic sessions or just enjoy the organised performances and poetry recitals. There will be a bumblebee safari and a meadows guided walk and we'll have volunteers on hand to point out birds. You can also discover the winners of our Doric Meadows Poetry Competition.
The Buchan Ranger Service, NE Scotland Biodiversity Partnership, Bumblebee Conservation Trust and local RSPB Wildlife Explorers are all coming along, and we'd love it if you came too.
Times and other important info
The Meadows Celebration will take place from 12-5 pm on Saturday 2 July. The visitor centre car parking is reserved for visitors with restricted mobility only. There will be in-field parking for some cars and a shuttle bus will run every hour from Crimond to the nature reserve. For more information call 01346 532017 or visit rspb.org.uk/lochofstrathbeg.
Photo of lesser butterfly orchid taken by Derren Fox at Loch of Strathbeg, where numbers of this rare plant have increased during the Save our Magnificent Meadows project.
What is Save our Magnificent Meadows all about?
Save Our Magnificent Meadows is the UK’s largest partnership project transforming the fortunes of vanishing wildflower meadows, grasslands and wildlife. Led by Plantlife, the partnership is made up of 11 organisations including RSPB Scotland, and is primarily funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund.
97% of UK wildflower meadows have been lost since the second world war and many of those remaining are damaged or degraded. Meadows and species-rich grasslands can provide homes for a huge range of wildlife including wildflowers, fungi, bees, flies, beetles, spiders, moths, butterflies, reptiles, amphibians, small mammals, bats and birds.
Save Our Magnificent Meadows is:
Photo by Northumberland Wildlife Trust
We’re IN!!! Admittedly, we’re not completely sorted out yet, and there are some issues with communications still to be resolved, but we have desks and computers, and the last week has been a veritable storm of putting up shelves , unpacking boxes and finding a home for everything....when we’re not distracted by the view from the window, that is!
This is the view from the yard:
New office block – Richard Humpidge
The Visitor Centre isn’t finished yet, and will need to be officially signed off before it can be opened to the public – we’ll let you know here and through Facebook and Twitter when that happens.
Out on the reserve, spring is finally here! After the last week of glorious weather, Mosstown Marsh is in full bloom, with more marsh marigolds than we’ve ever seen, lots of ladies’ smock, ragged robin and the gorse is in blossom – the ponies seem to be enjoying the gorse flowers in particular. The lesser butterfly orchids will be coming up soon, so we’ve tried to exclude the ponies from the area in which they grow, to prevent them getting nibbled. The new boys in the Konik herd are definitely getting frisky – if they step up to the mark, there should be even more foals next year to add to this year’s recent arrivals; may I introduce (from left to right) Dustin, Damsel and Drift, the class of ‘16! Two fillies and one colt, born over the last four weeks, they bring our herd to a total of 33 animals.
New Konik foals – Richard Humpidge
Common cranes and snipe have been seen using the area. Cuckoos, wood sandpipers and a knot have been seen and we’ve also had reports of a long-eared owl over the summer path to Fen hide and a red-backed shrike on the airfield (although sadly not seen on the reserve!). We’re watching out for more waders, and for signs of new arrivals amongst the ducks – the mute swans outside Starnafin already have cygnets. The common terns are settling in nicely on Starnafin Island, and some of the black-headed gulls are on eggs.
We’d like to welcome our new Assistant Warden, Amelie Sumpter, to the team; she’s already making her mark on the large amount of fencing we’ll be doing over this year, and is a dab hand with an electric drill, as can be seen by her work in the new office. Our interns for this year will be starting soon, having been put back a bit by the delays on the buildings – we’ll introduce everyone when they finally arrive.