Interview with Paula Baker
Loch Lomond’s Site Manager Paula Baker shares her day-to-day responsibilities at one of the RSPB’s most beautiful and awe-inspiring reserves; work that is supported by the generous contribution of people like you.
Working at Loch Lomond
What do you do at Loch Lomond? What’s your role in supporting wildlife on the reserve?
I'm the Site Manager for RSPB Scotland Loch Lomond. My role is to oversee both the day-to-day work and projects that take place on the site. That includes ecological work such as surveys, land management, grazing management and wildlife improvement projects; people-related work like overseeing our nature hub and visitor experience, working with the local community and visitor infrastructure projects; managing staff and volunteers; health and safety; building and structure maintenance and anything else that comes up!
What’s the landscape and habitat like at the site?
Loch Lomond is a beautiful and varied site. The view from my office has to be one of the best in the RSPB – I look right across the site towards Ben Lomond! The site has a mixture of habitats including oak, beech and alder woodland, fen, wildflower meadow, grassland, open water and wetland.
An even better home for nature
How is the RSPB managing the site to make it an even better home for nature?
Since the RSPB purchased the site in 2012, the team has been working hard to bring some of the habitats back into good condition. We’ve changed the grazing and cutting regime to reduce the dominance of rush that had developed across the site, providing many more opportunities for feeding and roosting geese such as Greenland white-fronted geese; we have also been developing a project to address issues with hydrology and nutrient levels, which are affecting the important plants found within the fen, and we’re also looking at simple ways that we can make areas of the site better for both wintering and breeding species.
Are there any notable species on which work is focusing?
Greenland white-fronted geese have been the focus of much of our work since coming to the site. We have a satellite population of between 250–300 geese, which doesn't seem a lot but is 1.5% of the global population! They need suitable grazing areas and safe roosting areas, so our work with local farmers to get the grasslands into good condition is really important.
What are the biggest successes from the work done here?
At the moment, it feels like the biggest success has been making the site more accessible for people. Over the past five years we have developed a small car park, Nature Hub and two new trails, and this has really helped us to provide more opportunities for people to come and see this fantastic site and its wildlife, and find out more about the work that we do. It's so important that people have the opportunity to learn about and connect with the wildlife on site so that we can generate more support and deliver more for nature.
Plans for the future
What are your hopes / plans for the future of this site?
One of the projects that has always been in the background is getting the fen back into good condition. Fen habitats are not that common in Scotland, or in the UK as a whole, and it has been fascinating to learn more about them. The Aber Bog, our fen site, is at the centre of many of our discussions, and getting the hydrology and vegetation management of the area right will affect much of the wider site and wildlife, including rare birds such as spotted crakes, breeding waders such as snipe and lapwings, mammals such as otters and water voles and a whole host of unusual plants and invertebrates.
Paula and her team are doing great things at this beautiful site. And it’s thanks to supporters like you that they are able to undertake this important work, restoring the fen into good condition for the wide range of wildlife for which it can provide a home. But there is always so much more to be done. Can you go a bit further for nature and help them to achieve even more?