Culbin Sands is a dramatic sweep of saltmarsh and sand dunes with mountain views. At low tide, Bar-tailed Godwits, Oystercatchers and Knots feed along the shoreline, while high tide brings sea ducks close to the sand dunes. Part of the Moray and Nairn Coast Special Protection Area (SPA), remote and windswept Culbin Sands is a precious wildlife habitat.
Winter sea ducks including Common Scoter, Long-tailed Duck and smaller numbers of Velvet Scoter feed on our mussel beds. Visit at high tide for the best views of sea ducks, as it brings the birds closer to shore, making them easier to spot. Stop by at low tide for sights of waders as they come to the saltmarsh to search for food in the mud.
The reserve is dynamic and ever-changing, shifting with the winds and the tides. Our dunes were once part of one of the largest sand dune systems in Britain, and along with the saltmarsh, mudflats and shingle, provide a rich mix of habitats for wildlife.
Look out for our Second World War glider poles on your visit. Don't be fooled, they’re not dead trees or old telegraph poles. During WWII, there were fears the long stretch of coastline could be used as a landing strip for enemy glider planes and the poles were installed to protect it. Stretching along 9km of coast, the anti-glider poles are one of only 13 surviving anti-landing obstacles in the UK and the largest Scheduled Monument on an RSPB reserve by area.
Our moving sand dunes and the saltmarsh's sunny spots provide important, open habitats for rare species including the Dingy Skipper, Small Blue butterfly and an array of dune plants and fungi. We remove trees, gorse and broom from the dunes and shingle bars to restore the natural dynamic dune system. This also prevents shading out and lets the light stream in, benefitting the specialist plants and insects that rely on the open sunny habitats like Kidney Vetch flower and the Small Blue butterfly that feeds on it.
Culbin Sands is a site of international importance, which is reflected by our designations. We’re a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), Special Protection Area (SPA), Ramsar site and Special Area of Conservation (SAC). To learn more about what these designations mean, head here.