RSPB Scotland has embarked on a mission to make the conservation charity's Nigg Bay nature reserve even more special for visiting birds and birdwatchers. The reserve, which is just along the road from the Nigg fabrication yard on the Cromarty Firth, is well-known to local birdwatchers for its ability to attract thousands of visiting wading birds and wildfowl during the autumn and winter months.
However adopting a technique used at other RSPB reserves the RSPB team at Nigg Bay has created a "scrape" in order to attract birds to feed and roost much nearer the hide on the reserve. The work is being funded by the Landfill Communities Fund.
Isabel Morgan, warden at the reserve, said, "One of the most celebrated birdwatching sites in Britain is the "Scrape" at our Minsmere reserve in Suffolk. The Scrape is, basically, a manmade pond, which has extensive shallow edges which are designed to produce as much invertebrate-rich mud as possible. Birds just love it and touch down there to refuel on migration. The hides which overlook the Scrape provide wonderful views for visiting wildlife enthusiasts. We wish to do something similar at Nigg Bay so we have set about creating our own scrape by widening and re-profiling an existing pond that was dugout about 15 years ago.
"Although the pond was being used by the odd little grebe, mallard and heron, which are great to see, it was too deep for lapwing, redshank curlew and other waders to benefit from as well. Since then our understanding of managing wetlands for waders has developed so we decided to make some changes."
Isabel discovered on commissioning the work with local contractor DH Munro that they had created the original pond 15 years earlier. She said, "It was nice to welcome them back on site. DH Munro did a great job and were really on board with what we were after. Among the new features are islands which we hope will be used for breeding by lapwings or other waders. We have also installed a system which will make it a lot easier to alter the water levels in the scrape to create the best feeding and habitat that we can, which wasn't really possible with the pond.
"The scrape is easily viewed from the hide and with the benefits of better feeding the scrape can provide, compared to the original pond, it should encourage the birds to use the area more regularly and provide a far better viewing opportunity for visitors to the hide."
Isabel added, "The scrape still looks a bit raw at the moment but the vegetation will recover. At the moment a pair of mallards have been in residence pretty much since the water was allowed into the scrape and a couple of oystercatchers and curlew have already visited but now it's just a waiting game. It will take a bit of time to mature into its full potential but other than a bit of tweaking as the ground settles and keeping an eye on the water levels we will leave it to Nature to do the rest."
Nigg Bay can be reached from the A9. Heading north, turn right at the Nigg roundabout onto the B9175 signed to Arabella. Continue on this road for approximately 3.75 miles (6 km) until you see the RSPB sign on the right, directing you to the car park.
More information is available at www.rspb.org.uk/niggbay