Firstly, CONGRATULATIONS to Fraserburgh and District RSPB Wildlife Explorers, who celebrated their twentieth birthday this weekend with the ‘Big Bird Box Bash!’ Over thirty members and leaders, past and present, held a party ...
Jim Lister and Kirsty McLeod get down to some serious construction
... they made bird boxes (this was the very first thing they did 20 years ago), decorated cupcakes, did lots of wildlife craft activities, and had one big celebration! Of course there was cake...
...and presentations; John Bruce and Iona Duthie received their Bronze Wildlife Action awards, and leader Irene Jappy (below) got her long-service award! Well done to everyone!
Thanks to Sandra McLeod for all the photos!
The party was also the swansong for the Visitor Centre in its current configuration; work commences Monday 28 September on the new office, revamped VC and upgraded volunteer accommodation. This will include quite a bit of demolition work, so the Visitor Centre and current toilet block are now shut until further notice. There will be some Portaloos on site soon, and the hides and wildlife garden all remain open. Car parking will be limited, beside the farmhouse for the moment, with overflow into the field behind; we’ll make sure there are signs to show you where to go! Please watch out for construction traffic if you are visiting. Things may change as the build goes on, and I’ll keep you updated here, and on Facebook and Twitter.
On the birding front, recent sightings include red-breasted flycatcher on 24 August, buff-breasted sandpiper and pectoral sandpiper from Tower Pool hide on 23 September, and a yellow-browed warbler in the garden on the same day. The geese have started to arrive, with over 1000 pinkfeet on the Savoch Low Ground on Saturday afternoon, 27 September. They’re spreading out onto the stubble fields during the day, so dusk may be the best time to watch for them at the moment; how many will we get this year? Lapwing and golden plover numbers are building up, and there’s quite a good starling murmuration at the south end of the loch at dusk.
The black stork stayed around until almost the end of the month and the great white egret was definitely still here on 30 Aug. The autumn migration seems to have got well under way with falls of migrants all along the east coast – over the last week, the Plantation yielded lesser whitethroat, pied and spotted flycatchers, garden warblers, a couple of whinchat and a greenish warbler, one of our visitors encountered a long-eared owl by Tower Pool hide, and another met a wryneck between Fen and Bay hides on 26 Aug, and a bee eater flew over the Plantation heading south on 29 Aug, bringing the Reserve Year list to 161. With the strong winds currently battering the area, the weekend might be a good time to get out looking!
Long eared owl – Oliver Mockridge
Wryneck – Ally Barron
Our new office build has finally got the green light, so that will be starting in the very near future. Although we're really quite excited about this (after all, we've been waiting long enough!) it will inevitably mean disruption in and around the Visitor Centre, including some closure of the VC and the toilet block. We’ll try to keep you informed of what’s happening – follow us on Facebook/Twitter (RSPB Aberdeen and North East Scotland) for the most recent information.
Recent sightings: The black stork continues to make regular appearances, in between skulking in the rushes – it’s usually seen on the pools in front of the Visitor Centre, and occasionally on the Low Ground. The great white egret has proved more elusive, tending to be seen in the reeds along the north-east corner of the loch, north of the Cut. 17 August saw a spotted redshank and a little stint drop in briefly on Starnafin Pools. Numbers of waders continue to build, with dunlin, black-tailed godwits, ruff, at least 17 greenshank, snipe, and an unexpected turnstone all seen from the Visitor Centre. With a number of rarities showing up along the coast, it might be a good time to check out Rattray and the Plantation for migrants!
Black stork and Koniks, Michele Emslie
The common terns remain unimpressed by the visitor, however.
Tern & stork, Michele Emslie
Down in the Meadow: The ‘Magnificent Meadows’ guided walk on 29 July was very well attended, and enjoyed by all those who came along. For once the weather was kind, and as usual, the Koniks stole the show! We’ve had the Softrak machinery on site for a couple of weeks topping the rushes in selected parts of the project area, and the operator reported that, this year, the places where the ponies have been at work were much easier going, both with a reduction in rushes and through packing-down of the sphagnum mosses by a large number of pony hooves! Two new additions to the herd arrived on 13 August, a couple of 14-month old colts from the National Trust Wicken Fen reserve; we hope these lads will become a key part of our ongoing breeding programme in the next year or so, when they’ve grown up a bit. Conditions on Vet day were appalling, with an all-day downpour; nevertheless, our team and the vet managed to round up all three herds, put them through the corral and race for their annual checks, inoculate 22 ponies against tetanus and microchip our two new foals in an hour and a half, which is pretty impressive! Almost as impressive was the amount of water our Reserves Manager wrung out of his sweater when he got back to the office...
Comings and goings: We said farewell to our Habitats and Species Warden, Derren Fox, who leaves us to spend a year on Gough Island in the South Atlantic, studying seabirds – this is possibly one of the most remote places on the planet! Long-term local volunteer Roger Vernon also left us, as he and his family are moving south – we wish him all the best, and congratulate whichever reserve he volunteers at next on their gain!