Monday, 26 July 2010

Butterfly guided walk

I had a fab day yesterday. I led my first butterfly guided walk! The weather was looking a bit iffy but it turned into a really sunny afternoon and eight lovely people turned up. Some of them were butterfly beginners, some of them really knew their stuff, but they all seemed to enjoy the walk.

I explained a bit about butterflies in general then we caught a few to have a close look at. I managed to net a ringlet, meadow brown, small white, green veined white, common blue, small copper and a grayling. We also saw lots of large whites and six-spot burnet moths but unfortunately no northern brown argus. You can't have everything I guess. The highlight was a bramble bush that we came across near the end, which was absolutely teeming with butterflies including at least five or six small tortoiseshells!

I am leading another one on Sunday 1st August 1.30-4.30pm. The walk is weather dependent so booking is essential (0844 493 2256). Under 16s must be accompanied by an adult. Please wear suitable clothing and footwear. Meeting outside the visitor centre. Adults:£3 Children: £2

Hopefully see you there!


Saturday, 24 July 2010

Help needed locating text for ‘Conservation at St Abbs’ sign

Regular divers at St Abbs will remember the old harbourmaster’s shed that stood at the harbour wall for 40 years. They may also remember the ‘Conservation at St Abbs’ sign that hung on the shed since the Marine Reserve was formed over 26 years ago. The sign showed the names of the dive clubs who had agreed not to ‘take one for the pot’ as had been common practice before the Reserve was set up. These clubs were instrumental therefore in the declaration of Voluntary Marine Reserve status along the coastline between St Abbs and Eyemouth.

The sign and shed it hung on were badly damaged in the storm that caused much devastation along the east coast at Easter 2010 (see photo), and I am desperately trying to find a photograph of the sign in its entirety so it can be remade and hung back in its rightful place, on the new harbourmasters shed.

If you have a photo of the sign (or know what it said) then I would be really grateful if you could get in touch. Send me an email at or call me on 0844 493 2256.

Thank you,

The Marine Ranger, Georgia

Friday, 23 July 2010

A lovely day at the seaside

Undertook a beach clean of Linkim Shore with the National Trust for Scotland Conservation Volunteers Lothian Group. This group of hardy volunteers visit Trust properties at the weekend and undertake a variety of conservation tasks. This week saw them visit The Marine Reserve for a spot of beach cleaning and beach litter surveying at Linkim Shore.

The beach litter survey is part of the Marine Conservation Society Adopt-a-Beach project. The Marine Reserve 'adopted' Linkim Shore in 2002, and since then have carried out quarterly clean ups of the beach and counted every piece of litter collected! The results are then sent off to the Marine Conservation Society who analyse the data. They use this information to find out where the litter is coming from and in what quantities, and try to tackle the problem at source.

The most common type of litter found was made of plastic, and the most unusual item found was a vacuum cleaner. The day ended with a stone skimming session on Milldown Beach, and an ice cream from the beach cafe on Coldingham Sands - so all in all a pretty successful day at the beach!


Unsynchronised shags

First thing's first; I'm cheating slightly here. This is a photo from the Farne Islands and not from St. Abb's Head. My camera is not good enough for seabirds here but at the Farnes you can get much closer and this is the result!

Anyway, as well as counting the shags (we have 157 nests this year compared with 138 last year and 131 in 2008) we also calculate their productivity. This is a measurement of their breeding success. I do this survey every 7-10 days and in each nest I'm looking to see how many eggs or chicks there are and how close they are to fledging. Most of the species that breed here are very synchronised: individuals lay, hatch and fledge at roughly the same time. Shags, on the other hand, are incredibly spread out. The first chicks fledged on 2nd July but today I saw some chicks that must have hatched within the last few days and there are even some birds that appear to be incubating!

Monday, 19 July 2010

Berwick High School lends a hand

Today we had a group of nine students from Berwick High School here to carry out some work towards their John Muir Awards. In the morning they went out with Liza to learn all about how and why we carry out seabird productivity surveys. They used binoculars and telescopes to map out the kittiwake nests on a section of cliff and then recorded the number of chicks present.

In the afternoon we did some thistle bashing! There are a few types of thistle that grow on St. Abb's Head but creeping thistles (see photo) cause problems if we let them grow unchecked. They grow very aggressively and can take over large areas of grassland, outcompeting other plants. The students from Berwick High School helped us to clear a large area of thistles helping to keep St. Abb's Head in tip top condition.

Thanks guys!


Saturday, 17 July 2010

Butterflies fluttering by

One of my many duties as the seasonal ranger is to carry out the weekly butterfly transect. This involves walking around the nature reserve, along a set route, and recording the butterflies that cross my path. This may sound, quite literally, like a walk in the park, but in July and August there are so many of them that it can all seem quite overwhelming! This is my second year of surveying and last week I recorded my highest number so far; 342 butterflies on one transect! There were 10 different species but most of them were Meadow Browns (see photo) and Ringlets, which are both mainly brown and can be tricky to tell appart when they fly past at speed. I was hoping to get out and do another survey today but it can only be done when weather conditions are right. It has to be sunny, warm, not too windy and not raining. Exactly the kind of days that I want to be outside! Fingers crossed for some good weather later in the week.


Thursday, 15 July 2010

Having terrible trouble with the wind

I've just had to abort my kittiwake productivity monitoring because I was having great trouble with a force 5 wind trying to blow me and my equipment off the cliff. Plus the fact that I couldn't hold the binoculars or the telescope steady enough to see the birds clearly. This particular part of the seabird monitoring we do is to monitor the breeding success of our kittiwakes, pretty important stuff as these are the birds that have declined most markedly over the last decade or so. I will have to hope for a better forecast for the weekend and I can have another try.

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Thistle do nicely

I mentioned the other day that on occasions we have to disturb the peace by using machinery like strimmers to clear overgrown footpaths. But sometimes "old technology" is the way to go. For instance, this morning, Laura, John, Dave and I were undertaking a little thistle thwacking with a hand tool call a brashel basher. Now the reason why we are thwacking thistles is not just to deal with any stress and aggression that has built up over the week, but to control creeping thistles that are attempting to take over our wild flower rich grasslands. Brashel bashers are the perfect tool for this job, they are shaped a bit like a golf club and have a blade on both sides so that they cut on the fore and backhand stroke with minimal effort, and only take out the plants to are aiming to cut not everything around it to. With the added bonus that without the engine noise we don't disturb your peace, and we can enjoy the sounds of the countryside too.

Here's a shot of Dave modelling a brashel basher, his favourite tool!

Monday, 12 July 2010

Is the circus in town...?

Well, you could certainly be forgiven for thinking so if you were on the Reserve today (see photos). But, it was only a film crew, who were using the dramatic views that you get at Petticowick as a backdrop for a scene in the film they are shooting for German TV. Although it looks like they are taking over, and some may think it an inappropriate use of a nature reserve, they were only there for an afternoon, and every care has been taken to make sure they did not cause any damage to the reserve at all. And they had to pay for the priviledge, and this money will be ploughed directly back into conservation management at St Abbs. So, best to view it as an interesting diversion really, as any circus should be!


A Warning to us all

We had an incident up at the Head on Saturday where someone fell off the cliff. Luckily the story had a happy ending, and thankfully it is not something that happens every day. However, it should be a reminder to us all not to get so carried away with the spectacular scenery and wildlife that we get too close to the edge.

There are reports in various newspapers, but this one in the Scotsman gives the best account .

Be safe, Liza.

Saturday, 10 July 2010

A boat trip with a difference

As Liza said in her last post, life as a Ranger is very varied! On Thursday Liza and myself hosted a meeting of artists, poets, National Trust for Scotland colleagues and a composer to name a few. The idea of the meeting was to get them inspired about the magical beauty of the place, and what better way to inspire them than by taking them on a boat trip! We also wanted them to understand that the waters around St Abbs are teeming with weird and wonderful marine life, so we went on the glass bottom boat and glimpsed at life both above and below the waves, and of course the stunning scenery around St Abbs' Head. The aim of the day was to scope out the possibility of carrying out a music and arts project at St Abbs as part of the National Trust for Scotland's pARTicipate scheme of conservation and education through the arts, and I think the day was very successful. Everyone came away feeling very inspired and keen to be involved in the project, so watch this space over the coming months for further details about this exciting venture.

Here's a shot of some of the attendees enjoying the boat trip.

Our Conservation Volunteers lend a hand at St Abbs

Hi, it's Georgia here, I thought I would introduce you to some of the other members of the team at St Abbs. Our conservation volunteers, John, Dave and Sue (and Sue's son Johnathon during the school holidays) help us out on a wednesday with practical management of St Abbs' Head and the Marine Reserve. They undertake a wide variety of tasks, from scrub bashing, to beach cleaning and assisiting with montioring work. This week saw John, Dave and Johnathon tackling the rubbish that washes up on the beaches of the Marine Reserve by undertaking a beach clean of Petticowick. Sue assisted Liza with a bit of Kittiwake productivity montioring up on the Head, then we all met up for a cup of tea and biscuit afterwards. Thanks guys, we couldn't do it without your help!

Here's a photo of John, me, Dave, Sue and Johnathon

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

I'm a spice girl through and through!

They say that variety is the spice of life, well I have had a fragrant curry of a day! A fair amount of time sitting at my desk working on the Management Plan for the property and making sure it fits in with the new National Operation Plan for the National Trust for Scotland Countryside Team. Had to pop out for a bit to check up on some decorators who were painting the lookout at the lighthouse. Then I had to record an interview as part of the interpretation for the new visitor facility in St Abbs. Back to the office to sort out a contract with a film crew that is coming out to film on the Head next week and then carrying out a bit of maintenance work on the strimmer. Not to forget a bit of cow chasing in between!
Cheers, Liza.

Monday, 5 July 2010

The Lone Ranger?

I am working on my own today as both Georgia and Laura are on days off. Now, lone working can be really great if you've got lots of paperwork to do because their are no disctractions from other people. But if you need to go out and do something where you might come to more harm than a paper cut, like strimming paths around the Mire Loch as I was today, then its good if there's someone to notice if you don't come back, and maybe even send out a search party. And this is where friends come in, as they can act as your Lone Working Buddy and do just that. What would we do without friends hey?

As you will see from this shot, the Mire Loch is a place of peace and tranquility, unless we're strimming the paths of course (sorry!). Bye for now, Liza.

Sunday, 4 July 2010

Meet the team - Laura

Laura is our Seasonal Ranger, she works with us during the busiest months of the year, starting in April and running all the way through to the end of September. Laura is mostly here to help out on the NNR at St Abb's Head, but as all our jobs overlap somewhat, she also helps out Georgia with her work with the VMR too. Laura is now in her third season at St Abbs, she first came as a Voluntary Seasonal Ranger for the VMR in 2007 and then has been back with us as a Seasonal Ranger (and being paid for it!) for the last two years. Laura has also worked at Deep Sea World and Edinburgh Zoo as well as carrying out voluntary conservation work in Mexico.

Here's an action shot of her in our inflatable about to count seabirds!

Meet the team - Georgia

Gerogia is the newest member of our team, she came to join us just after Christmas last year and immediately got snowed in to her new home in the worst snow St Abbs has seen for 30 years! Georgia is the Marine Ranger, so her primary concern is getting people involved in the conservation of the sealife contained in St Abbs & Eyemouth Voluntary Marine Reserve which lies off the Berwickshire coast. Georgia has come to us from Sussex where whe was working for the National Trust as a Coastal Officer and before that she was a diving instructor in the Red Sea.

Here's a shot of Georgia looking very happy with life, and why not?

Meet the team - Liza

Hi, I'm Liza, and I have a very long winded title of Property Manager / Senior Ranger Naturalist. Basically I am the Ranger in charge of the National Nature Reserve at St Abb's Head (plus a couple of other bits of land that the Trust owns in the area) and the team of Rangers at St Abbs. I have been working at St Abbs for 5 years, having been the Marine Ranger here until about a year ago, and have been working in nature conservation for over 20 years. During that time I have been lucky enough to work in some fabulous places starting in Inverness-shire and ending up in St Abbs taking in Anglesey, Mid Wales, North Devon, Dorset and Fiji en route.

This is a slightly odd picture of me doing strange things with my hands with my eyes closed, I was doing a TV interview and obviously being very expressive. Ssdly, its the best picture we have of me!

Welcome to our world!

One of the things people are often intrigued about is what Rangers do on a day to day basis. Some seem to think that our work merely consists of wandering around birdwatching, or paddling in rockpools or cruising around in a four wheel drive. And so it is not surprising that some people dispute that it is actually work at all! But, as with many things in life, things are not what they seem and we do actually work rather hard.

The biggest difficulty with our jobs is that they are so incredibly varied that it is actually quite hard to describe succinctly what we do. So, this is one of the reasons behind this blog, to help you build up a picture of what we get up to from day to day, and also keep you abreast of any exciting wildlife events that might be occurring.

We hope you enjoy our working lives as much as we do!