Strathbeg celebrates collaborative project to bring people closer to nature

Kirsty Nutt

Thursday 22 March 2018

Dunbar hide opening_ribbon cuttting

RSPB Scotland praises volunteers who led ground-breaking project

Yesterday was the official opening of a new hide at RSPB Scotland Loch of Strathbeg. The new viewing structure is the result of an innovative collaborative project which saw volunteers from the Aberdeen & District RSPB Local Group take the lead from the initial idea through to today’s grand opening.

The local group led on raising the funds, overseeing the construction and recruiting collaborators to turn their dream of getting closer views of the wildlife at the loch in to a reality.

The group had raised money from the sale of a local birding guide and a talk given by Chris Packham to celebrate their fortieth anniversary and it was important to them that the money should be spent locally. They approached RSPB Scotland’s reserve manager at Loch of Strathbeg about relocating a bird hide closer to the water and the innovative idea that one member of the group would manage the project on behalf of RSPB Scotland was born. 

Over the duration of the project the group recruited help and support from a number of other charities, organisations and local businesses. The Friends of Strathbeg and local branch of the Scottish Ornithologists’ Club (SOC) provided critical donations to turn the possibility into a reality. Aberdeen Foyer agreed to supply labour to replace boardwalk timbers as part of their Introduction to Construction initiative, and HMP Grampian staff and inmates volunteered their time to construct the new hide at the prison. It was then transported and erected on site by four members of staff and two inmates. 

Mark Sullivan is the Chairman of the Aberdeen & District RSPB Local Group. He said: “This new hide has been a great opportunity to work with other charities in the area and has enriched the training opportunities for teenagers and prison inmates. The successful completion is due in no small part to Rob Leslie's project management, liaising with all parties, including the staff and volunteers at RSPB Scotland Loch of Strathbeg nature reserve. Many thanks also go to the Local Group members for financially supporting the project and providing volunteer labour. Since completion, the hide has already been a great hit, getting visitors closer to fantastic wildlife such as otters and wintering bittern and we are delighted to be able to celebrate this great testament to the power of collaboration. We hope it continues to be a resource to be enjoyed by the local community and visitors to Strathbeg for many years to come."

The official opening was attended by representatives from Aberdeen Foyer, HMP Grampian and Friends of Strathbeg, along with local members of the Scottish Ornithologists’ Club, members and the committee of the Aberdeen & District RSPB Local Group and RSPB Scotland staff and volunteers. 

Harry Buck from Aberdeen Foyer, said: “It was a privilege for the Foyer to be asked to construct the walkway at Loch of Strathbeg. Being involved with and helping the wider community has always been part of the Foyer’s ethos. Undertaking this project gave a group of our trainees an excellent opportunity to make use of their training to accomplish a task which was real and would be in place and used by the public for many years to come.

The trainees we work with are endeavouring to move into employment and a project like this gives them real experience for inclusion in CVs and job applications and something tangible to discuss at experiential interviews. We can only thank RSPB Scotland for allowing the Foyer to be involved and are pleased that our contribution helped to achieve your objective.”

Andy Cooper from HMP Grampian said: ““HMP Grampian is the first of the community facing establishments. It's all about unlocking potential and transforming lives so getting involved in a good cause (the Loch of Strathbeg hide project) was a way for us to give back to the community. Those in our care were involved in the construction of the hide. Some of the men had never worked with wood before so the project turned out to be a great learning tool. We also ran the John Muir Award at the same time which resulted in six of the men and two staff achieving a John Muir Discovery award. Through this work with RSPB Scotland, we’ve now been asked by the National Trust to build a hide for them at Crathes Castle allowing us to work in the community helping out with another good cause.”

Richard Humpidge is RSPB Scotland’s Site Manager at Loch of Strathbeg. He said: “It’s been really great to work with HMP Grampian, Aberdeen Foyer, the Aberdeen & District RSPB Local Group and others on this project and we are really grateful for their help and support. It’s a great example of how by working together we can achieve so much more”.

Also in attendance was local group member Jim Dunbar for whom the hide has been named. Jim was warden and later site manager at Loch of Strathbeg, working here for more than 21 years. He managed the reserve all through its initial setting up, including organising for the original visitor centre to be brought from Loch Leven on a fish wagon, and restored areas of the reserve from farmland to managed wetland. He continues to be passionately involved in the reserve to this day through his volunteering with the Aberdeen & District RSPB Local Group.

Local birdwatcher, Kenny Buchan, said: “"Let’s hope this hide is as legendary as the man it’s named after Mr Jim Dunbar".

Keep up to date with news about Loch of Strathbeg via their blog, on Facebook and Twitter.

Last Updated: Tuesday 28 August 2018

Tagged with: Country: Scotland Topic: Getting involved Topic: Reserves Topic: Volunteering Topic: Loch of Strathbeg