Representatives of a partnership of wildlife organisations are hosting a special event in Dornoch which will showcase Coul Links, the internationally important dune complex located near to Embo in Sutherland.
The event will take place on Thursday 11 May at Ross House, Grange Road, Dornoch. The presentation will be held at 4.30pm and again at 6.30pm. Experts from RSPB Scotland, Butterfly Conservation Scotland and Buglife are planning to attend. The event is free of charge and members of the public are warmly welcomed.
Alison Searl of RSPB Scotland said, "This should be a fascinating and informative event and I am very pleased that we have been able to attract experts in their fields to speak to us.
"Coul Links is a very special place. It is internationally important for wildlife with a particularly rich variety of plants, insects and other invertebrates and birds including many rare species. Coul Links is particularly special because it comprises a complete undisturbed dune complex from the foredunes at the top of the beach through immobilised older dunes and wet dune slack environments to heathery heath developed on ancient windblown sand dunes. Similar dune systems previously existed elsewhere but have been destroyed by development. Many of the plants, birds and animals within Coul Links are dependent on the undisturbed nature of the mosaic of linked dune habitats within the site.
"As well as the presentations by wildlife experts there will be time for questions and answers."
Coul Links are protected as part of the Dornoch Firth and Loch Fleet Special Protection Area which has been designated for its importance to foraging osprey in the summer and for thousands of over-wintering wildfowl and waders. It supports internationally important wintering populations of Icelandic greylag goose, wigeon and bar-tailed godwit and nationally important populations of teal, scaup, curlew and redshank.
Coul Links are also protected as part of the Dornoch Firth and Loch Fleet Ramsar site which is designated for its sand dune, saltmarsh and estuary habitats that are of international importance for their flora and geomorphology. The Ramsar citation notes that the tidal flats support internationally important numbers of waterfowl in winter and are the most northerly and substantial extent of intertidal habitat for wintering waterfowl in Europe.
Coul Links are also part of the Loch Fleet Site of Special Scientific Interest, designated because of its important intertidal and coastal habitats, vascular plant assemblages and breeding and over-wintering birds. The SSSI citation notes that Coul Links is an extensive dune system which is unusual in displaying a complete transition from foredune to slacks with well developed coastal heathland in drier areas. It also notes the rich floral diversity including variegated horsetail, purple milk-vetch, rue-leaved saxifrage, moonwort and frog orchid. Breeding birds highlighted in the SSSI citation include ringed plover, oystercatcher, shelduck, eider, arctic tern, common tern, little tern, wheatear, sedge warbler and reed bunting and over-wintering birds include a nationally important population of eider that benefits from the low level of human disturbance.
The Links are also noted for the presence of the Fonseca's seed fly, an endemic species restricted to a short stretch of dunes in northern Scotland.