Monday, 18 March 2013

Taking stock...

The winter months are a time for taking stock, and, amongst other things, examining data gathered during the previous field season.  Surveying and monitoring is an incredibly important part of the Trust's nature conservation work.  Because you need to know what you have got, and how what you've got changes over the years, in order for you to know whether you are managing an area correctly.

At  St Abb's Head we carry out annual monitoring of various types of wildlife, but we concentrate mostly on our seabirds and our butterflies.  The data that we have gathered over the years has helped guide our management of St Abb's Head National Nature Reserve, but has also been fed into national databases to help inform wider scale conservation work.

On top of this annual monitoring, we also carry out less frequent monitoring.  Last summer our Nature Conservation Adviser, Lindsay Mackinlay undertook some monitoring of our grasslands (see blog entry for last October) and we also commissioned a survey of the entomological (insect) interests of our grasslands too.  This work all forms part of our Grassland Management Plan for St Abb's Head.

Well, I have just finished reading the report on the Diptera, or True Flies, to be found at at St Abb's Head.  The wet and windy weather that we had so much of last summer was not ideal for surveying insects, but even so, the study still turned up some interesting results.  It found one species rare in Scotland, and several that are uncommon in Scotland, including Cheilosia vernalis (pictured top), which was found by the Mire Loch.  It makes you wonder what they could have found had the weather been more conducive!

And you may be thinking, who cares about flies, they're just annoying!  But as we know, every single organism in an ecosystem has a vital role to play, and if you take out one link in the web of life, everything could come tumbling down, so its vitally important that we know as much as possible about all the different types of wildlife on the reserve.

Friday, 1 March 2013

Face to Face...

By the way - if you want to keep up with what's going on at St Abb's Head on a more regular basis then please check us out on Facebook

Time flies!

So, today is 1st March, but where did February go?  Sorry that things have been a little quiet on the blog front over the last few weeks, the reason being that I have been somewhat busy with so much other stuff that there just hasn't been time.  So what has been going on then I hear you cry!

Well, apart from the seemingly never ending stream of office work that needs to be done - report writing, work planning, updating our Safe Systems of Work, that sort of thing - I have also been managing a big project to upgrade the visitor facilities and footpaths around the property.  It has taken some time, and has been a bit of a battle with the weather, but we got there in the end.  So we now have a completely resurfaced car park (much easier for folk of all abilities to walk on), with demarcated bays (including two reserved for disabled visitors) and a path to the Nature Centre that is of a gradient suitable for wheelchairs (pictured left).  This should make life a whole lot easier for our less able visitors, and ties in nicely with our All Ability Trail which enables visitors in wheelchairs or with baby buggies to get to the viewpoint overlooking Starney Bay. We also have improved signage and a leaflet dispensing machine so that people can get a copy of the property leaflet (and map) even when the Nature Centre is closed.  And we have installed bike racks so that folk who are using a more sustainable form of transport can explore the reserve without fearing that their transport may not be there when they get back!

On top of all this we have also had work done on about 650 m of the coast path, primarily around the Starney Bay area (pictured right) where is the path was getting very gullied and muddy, and generally uncomfortable to walk on.  And also a good deal of path work has been carried out around the Mire Loch which has been a bit of a quagmire with the incredibly wet weather that we have "enjoyed" this year.

So, as I say, a lot of work, but the results have been great and should really improve visitor access to the Reserve.  The work has been 50% funded by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) because St Abb's Head is a Spotlight National Nature Reserve (NNR).  The designation as a NNR means that the area is nationally important for wildlife (one of only 50 or so in Scotland) and the term "Spotlight" indicates that SNH see St Abb's Head as one of the creme de la creme as far as visitor access and enjoyment is concerned.

And if all this wasn't enough to keep me occupied, I also has to go through the complicated process of recruiting a new member of staff as Georgia, our Marine Ranger, is moving on to pastures new, or more accurately, she is running away to sea!  She will working as crew on a dive boat that travels all around Scottish waters and even across to Norway on occasions.  Georgia will be leaving us at the end of this month, so you will need to get in quick if you want to say your goodbyes.