Friday, 29 April 2011

A wedding outfit with a difference...

At the very time that today's Royal wedding was taking place our seasonal ranger, Elaine, was getting dressed up in a special outfit too. I was giving her some strimmer training, so this was the first time that she had donned all the gear that is required to keep you safe when operating the machine. Not exactly glamorous, but needs must!

There are lots of people around and about on the reserve today, as we expected, making the most of the extra bank holiday, which is why both Elaine and I are working. We won't be strimming all the day, we will be around and about the property too so that we can be on hand for visitors if they need us.

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Telling the Marine Ranger's story

I was joined last week by Verity Walker, Mike Bolam and Andrea Protheroe, interpretation consultants working for the Trust. They were working on a project called 'Scotland's Stories' which uses sound recordings and photographs to tell the stories of people doing the huge variety of jobs in the Trust from Stalkers in the Highlands to Conservators in castles and Marine Rangers on beaches!

We were very lucky with the weather with beautiful blue skies for the 2 days they were at St Abbs. We even ventured out on a boat and took a trip up to St Abb's Head to record the fantastic sounds of a seabird city.

This project illustrates the huge diversity of people and skills working across the Trust all over Scotland and will be well worth having a look at when it is completed later in the summer. The photo shows Andrea using an underwater microphone to capture underwater sounds to use on the soundtrack to my story, the Marine Ranger's story.

Saturday, 23 April 2011

Eggstraordinarily early season for guillemots!

They do say never work with children and animals, I have worked with both for over 20 years now, and neither of them ever fails to amaze me! The seabirds at St Abbs have been studied for decades, and very detailed records have been kept since the mid 1980s and the guillemots have never been recorded laying before 25th April, and sometimes they will leave it as late as 9th May. So, we were rather taken aback to hear from the folk on the Isle of May, that they had seen their first egg on the 15th, and sure enough, when we went out to check (it was the 21st by now) there were quite a few birds sitting on eggs! Have yet to hear what is going on on the Farnes, but I have no doubt that they will be early too. We are all scratching our heads a bit as to why they are breeding so early; is it something to do with the hard winter, or something to do with the birds reacting to climate change warming North Sea? It'll be interesting to hear from the colonies on the west coast of Scotland to see what is happening there - I am yet to hear back from our Seabird & Marine Ranger on St Kilda.

But whatever is happening elsewhere, we are now keeping a wary eye on all the other seabirds to see if they are going to follow suit; certainly the kittiwakes are nest building already. So, if you are planning a visit to St Abbs to see the seabirds, you may wish to come a couple of weeks earlier than you originally planned! We will keep you posted.

And it just goes to show; however much we humans think we know about the natural world, it can always catch us out and leave us with egg on our faces (sorry...couldn't resist!)

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

First Small Copper


I'm Elaine, the new seasonal ranger at beautiful St. Abb's Head. Last year I volunteered part-time with Georgia on the VMR and feel very blessed indeed to be able to spend a whole season here this year. Anyway the most important thing to remember is that I'm the one writing in BROWN.

Yesterday I conducted the first butterfly transect of the season and recorded the first Small Copper (Lycaena phlaeas) of 2011 near Mire Loch. Unfortunately I don't have a photo of it, so just to confuse matters, I did take a photo of the first two butterflies I netted, which turned out to be Green Veined Whites (Pieris napi). Sorry for the poor picture quality, it's really annoying the way bright sunshine spoils photos ;)

Friday, 15 April 2011

VMR events of the web!!!

The Voluntary Marine Reserve will be running a number of events this summer which you can come along to and find out more about the special wildlife that lives beneath the waves. Fancy meeting some marine creatures but don't want to get wet? Then join me for a Seashore Safari amongst the rockpools of the VMR. If you're a diver and want to find out more about the marine life you are seeing underwater, then why not take part in a Seasearch Observer Course? It's a national project that aims to record marine life and habitats in UK waters and increase protection of them. Also for divers, the annual underwater photography compeition, The Splash In will be taking place as usual on the bank holiday weekend at the end of August. So you can see, there's loads going on the VMR for all ages and interests. Visiti for more information. We look forward to seeing you over the summer!

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Bursting out all over!

Wheaters, sand martins, swallows, chiffchaffs, willow warblers, blackcaps - are all here and the warblers (the last three) are definitely a-warbling; and the skylarks are in pretty fine voice too! The shags and the peregrines are on eggs, and although the rest of the seabirds are not totally settled there is plenty of courtship and mating going on, and they are in and around in large numbers more often than not. The swans on the Mire Loch were busily building their nest yesterday - lets hope that they actually use it to hatch some offspring this year, as we haven't had cygnets on the Loch for 3 years now.

On the butterfly front small tortoiseshell, peacock and green veined white have all been spotted. As far as mammals are concerned, we have daily sigthings of roe deer and hares. And Elaine, our new Seasonal Ranger, saw a stoat with a baby in its mouth on the Mire Dam the other day.

The plants are also waking up from the winter. The little bit of blackthorn that we have on the reserve is in flower, which along with one or two wild cherry (or gean) in blossom, adds a splash of white to the sea of yellow gorse around the More Loch. The leaves on some of the early trees, like rowan, hawthorn and sycamore, are starting to burst out and there are two or three whitebeam in the car park that are looking particularly splendid in my eyes!

And who says that St Abbs is all about seabirds?!

Monday, 4 April 2011

Voluntary Marine Ranger needed!

Looking for a career in marine conservation? I am recruiting for a Voluntary Marine Ranger to assist me at the marine reserve over the summer months. This is a full time voluntary post but travel expenses will be paid and a structured training programme offered. (Please note that no accommodation is offered). The post is a 6 month unpaid structured training placement based at the St Abbs and Eyemouth Voluntary Marine Reserve which is near Eyemouth in south-east Scotland. There is 1 post available. The trainee will be involved in raising awareness of the marine environment through education and interpretation. Full training will be given and tasks will involve organising and leading public events – including seashore safaris, beach cleans and guided walks. Plus organising and leading environmental education activities mainly working with school groups, particularly on the rocky shore. Other tasks will include giving talks, community involvement, developing new interpretation material, manning the visitor centre and promoting the St Abbs and Eyemouth Voluntary Marine Reserve Code of Conduct. Training in environmental education techniques and marine species identification will be given as well as ‘on the job’ training from the current Marine Ranger. Excellent interpersonal skills are essential for this post and also enthusiasm for the placement and interpreting the marine environment. Some experience of working with young people would be advantageous. A marine background and knowledge of rocky shores is beneficial but not essential. A driving licence and own transport would be advantageous. The post involves volunteering for 5 days per week and will include unsociable hours at weekends and on bank holidays. The post is subject to an enhanced Police Disclosure Check and references. The volunteer is required to start as soon as possible and finish at the end of September/early October. For more information and/or an informal chat please call Georgia Conolly – 018907 71443 or email To apply, please send a CV and covering letter to Georgia Conolly, Rangers Office, Northfield, St Abbs, Berwickshire, TD14 5QF or email to Closing date – 5pm on Monday 18th April.

Saturday, 2 April 2011

This week we were visited by Alicia Said from Malta. In Malta divers are campaigning to get an area of rich marine biodiversity called Cirkewwa declared a marine reserve. Frustrated by government red tape, they have decided to follow in the footsteps of the St Abbs and Eyemouth VMR by establishing a voluntary marine reserve. Alicia is actively involved in the project and spent 2 days with us in Scotland sharing information about how it’s done. Find out more about the project at!/group.php?gid=105453622821848

Friday, 1 April 2011

More signs of spring

Well, now its definitely spring as our new Seasonal Ranger, Elaine O'Mahony, arrived at St Abbs on Monday! Elaine has decided to swap a life in academia, for a life as a Ranger. Up until recently she was carrying out post-doctorate research on Malaria at Edinburgh University, but decided that this wasn't really fulfilling her love for wildlife and the countryside, so she decided it was time for a change. So over the last year or so, Elaine has been gaining invaluable experience by volunteering for various conservation organisations, including the Marine Reserve last year, helping Georgia out with her educational work. Elaine has a particular passion for seabirds, so is most excited to be living in a bothy in the heart of the reserve, right next door to tens of thousands of seabirds. Although rather camera shy, I did persuade her to pose with some daffodils, which have burst into flower this week along with the primroses. Over the week I have been showing Elaine some of the variety of jobs that we, as Rangers, are expected to turn our hands to; I think the biggest look of surprise I got was when I introduced her to the internal workings of a loo!