Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Now you see it now you don't!

As the rest of the country is thrown into turmoil by a thick covering of snow, we at St Abbs find it quite difficult to really appreciate what all the fuss is about, especially when we have onshore winds (see picture taken earlier today, top left)!

The air over the sea is warmed by the relatively warm water (which is at about 6 degrees at the moment), and the onshore winds bring this warm, salt laden air onto the land and thaws any snow that has settled. The stronger the wind, the further this maritime influence comes in land. And its quite breezy today, as the picture on the right shows, so there is no snow within about 100m of the shore (except where the cliffs are higher as this interferred with the airflow).
However, if you do decide to come to the seaside to appreciate the warm breezes, I fear you may be disappointed, its pretty parky as the wind chill is fierce. And also don't go zooming up the lighthouse road looking for the perfect vantage point, as the road is far enough from the sea only to be passable by tractors and rabbits (picture bottom left)!

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Snow at St Abb's Head...again!

You may well be thinking that this is nothing surprising as much of the east side of the UK is gripped by snow. However, we seldom get it here at St Abbs because of our proximity to the sea; the warming maritime influence usually stops it from settling. In fact, the picture on the left shows quite nicely that we here on the coastal strip have less snow than just a little way further inland.

It may be coincidence, but we do seem to have had much more snow since Georgia arrived in the area. In fact, the day she moved hearalded the most snow that St Abbs had seen for decades! Sadly, she has not quite acclimatised to the temperature yet, and our office gets particularly chilly when the wind is in the north, but she soldiers on (picture right).

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

So, what do you do in the winter?

A question oft asked of us rangers, and I'm sure people think that we just sit around twiddling our thumbs - but that couldn't be further from the truth. There may not be quite so much wildlife or so many visitors around, but this means we have time to carry out all the other tasks that are involved in managing a nature reserve. Usually, the winter is over and the new season has begun long before we have got to the bottom of our "to do" lists!

Last week was a case in point. I had a site visit from an NTS Nature Conservation Advisor to review our biological monitoring on the Reserve; an architect to advise us on repairing the boat house on the Mire Loch; and an NTS Rural Surveyor to discuss grazing management and applying for funding from the Scottish Rural Development Programme. And that was just on one day! The rest of the week was taken up with footpath work with our weekly volunteers; writing and giving a talk to a local WRI; having a site visit with several specialist footpath contractors so that they can tender for carrying out work on the coast path; putting the final touches to next year's budget; and having a site visit with Scottish Natural Heritage to seek permission to carry out the proposed footpath work on our highly designated reserve. Phew!

In the mean time, Georgia is busily beavering away, putting together funding applications, as part of her role is to raise funds to support her post. She is employed on a fixed term contract dependent on funding, and the current funding package finishes at the end of next February...so no pressure there then! So if anyone has a spare few quid, Georgia can put it to good use!

No rest for the wicked, as they say. But it keeps us out of mischief! Also quite a lot of weather around last week too, the picture above was taken on Friday at Burnmouth Harbour (on the reserve, not at Burnmouth!). There was no wind at all that day, but it had been blowing an absolute hoolie the two previous days - spectacular!

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Its hard work being a supermodel

As I have said in one of my earlier posts, life as a Ranger is always varied, often busy and sometimes surreal, and yesterday was a prime example!

A Wednesday, so the volunteers were coming to help out and Georgia had a university group coming for a site vi st. Sadly she had to go to a family funeral so I stepped in; not a problem, as I'm used to having to talk to groups off the cuff, but it did mean that I had to rethink what I was going to do with the volunteers. I was hoping to do a bit of gorse cutting and burning (where it is spreading out and taking over our flora rich grasslands), but this would be out on the Reserve and the group were coming to the Visitor Centre. So, I decided we would start on some vegetation clearance at the Visitor Centre car park instead so I could be on hand for safety reasons for the volunteers and also talk to the students about managing coastal and marine nature reserves at the same time. I was just about to start up the strimmer and have a go at some brambles before the students turned up when a photographer arrived ready to take some photos for the spring edition of the Trust's magazine. He had left messages on our answerphone but we never got them as, unbeknownst to us, there was a fault with the system!

So, after a little veg clearance and discussion about the potential implications of the new UK and Scottish Marine Acts; the volunteers, myself and the photographer went off for an impromptu photo shoot. And this is where it really became a bit surreal, perching on barnacle covered rocks with the sea breaking behind you and water lapping around your ankles; the low winter sun burning your eyeballs; freezing to death as we had to strip down to show off our logos; and being told not to squint or move as the photographer was using a slow shutter speed to catch the movement of the sea. I'm sure it will be worth it, but we will have to wait until next spring to see the end results!

Thanks to Dave and John for all their patience. Photo top - what the photo looks like in my minds eye.

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Life in general

So, what's been going on it the last couple of weeks? The car has been recovered from over the cliff which is great. Sadly recovering it resulted in more damage than when it was pushed over, but hopefully the scars in the grassland will heal when the growing season starts again in the spring. All in all, a lot of effort was put into the job, with one member of the recovery team (Alan) toiling up and down the cliff track (some 300 foot climb) on several occasions carrying bags full of debris and the battery to make sure that the foreshore was left as clean as it could be. And it was all done very swiftly before the car got swept into the sea.

And all this happened just after the repair to the lighthouse road had been completed with the erection of a new fence (picture right). As you can imagine, I wasn't very keen on the recovery vehicles going up the lighthouse road as I didn't want a repeat performance of the oil tanker, but conditions were just too rough to get the wreckage out by sea so there was no other option. Anyway, the road looks very smart now, and we will be keeping the 2m axel width restriction on the road from now on to be safe.

Wildlife wise. There are plenty of migrants moving around with skeins of geese passing daily. We have had a few waxwing (picture left) sightings too, and a flock of 9 whooper swans flying about. So always worth taking the bins with you. And that's what I'm going to do now - get out there and see what's about!

Oh - and top tip for the day. If you have a padlock that will just not shift however much you persuade and squirt it with WD40 - heat it up, it works a treat (thanks to my brother in law for that little gem)!