Monday, 30 January 2017

It's been a cold few days here at St. Abb's Head with temperatures falling below zero for the last 5 nights in a row. As a result the Mire Loch has nearly completely frozen over, with most of our waterfowl concentrated into a small area of open water near the middle of the Loch. Today I spotted Mallard (pictured), Wigeon, Tufted Duck, and Coot. Lizy

View of frozen Mire Loch and boathouse
Two male Mallards, Anas platyrhynchos, one in the water, one standing on ice

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

St Abbs has had great media coverage in the last week or so.

A piece about breeding seals on NTS land up at Lumsdaine on ITV Border Life on Friday 20th (the bit about us starts at c 12 mins 30 secs, although the rest of the programme is interesting too!).

Then there is BBC Radio Scotland's Out Of Doors, a programme that was due to be aired on the 14th Jan but ended up being aired on the 21st, so kind of back to back with the TV piece.  Myself and Sarah Russell from St Abbs & Eyemouth Voluntary Marine Reserve talk about what makes the area such a fantastic place to enjoy being Out of Door (starts at about 20 mins); David Wilson and Paul Crowe talk about St Abbs Independent Lifeboat (about 36 mins); and Jim Evans talks about the 125 Memorial Sculpture in Eyemouth commemorating the Black Friday fishing disaster (at about 64 mins).  There's also an interesting piece on harbour porpoises at about 49 mins.

Why not check them out?  Liza.

Friday, 20 January 2017

This winter we have really been making inroads into the gorse that is invading our species-rich grasslands.  But what does gorse-bashing, as its affectionally known, really involve?
Firstly, you have to decide which areas of gorse are causing issues and which are not.  Gorse, is a native plant, and is attractive to wildlife of all kinds, so is not bad per se, and we certainly do not want to get rid of it all.  But as gorse is pretty well protected by its prickles against all but the hardiest grazers, if it were left unchecked, we would have a monoculture of gorse and no meadow species.

We are starting on the smaller areas, and working from the outer edges of the "area of invasion".  This is because these are the areas that will have been under gorse cover for the least amount of time and so will have been less effected by the presence of gorse (nutrients increased by rotting foliage and a bountiful seed bank) and so we are likely to get a faster recovery to a species rich grassland.

Then you need to cut down the gorse, as low to the ground as possible, so as not to leave trip hazards.  The stumps are then treated with herbicide to prevent regrowth, this has to be done within minutes of the stems being cut.  After that, the cut brash needs is put into big dumpy bags which are dragged to a fire site and burned.  Burning is not done directly on the ground, but is on sheets of corrugated tin raised on concrete blocks.  This prevents the fires from scarring the ground (which can cause erosion of the bare, thin soil) and fertilisation of the ground by the ashes, which we take off site once they are cold.

So its all very hard work and time consuming.  Luckily we have received a generous private donation this year, and this has meant that we have been able to employ Lizy, our Ranger, for the full twelve months.  In turn, having Lizy here full time has meant that we have been able to take on an Assistant Ranger, Ed, for 4 months this winter, and he and our weekly gang of local volunteers have been helping with the effort.  Lizy's presence has also meant that we have been able to have a dozen or so of the NTS Lothain Conservation Volunteers out on site for two weekends over the winter, and that has had a tremendous impact. 

Here's a series of images to help put you in the picture.  Liza.
Photo taken May 2016 - gorse in flower so showing up well
Photos taken January 2017 - areas removed highlighted

NTS Lothian Conservation Volunteers working hard in the wind and rain in October 2016
Ed and Lizy hard at work bag dragging and fire loading

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Regular readers might remember that I went out to our land at Lumsdaine with a film crew last November, to film the breeding seals. Well, the fruits of our labours will be being aired on ITV's Border Life this Friday (20th January). If you aren't able to watch it live, you can catch up online at: Worth a watch, there should be some great seal footage. Liza.
Out and about last week with Mark Stephen from BBC Radio Scotland's Out of Doors programme. He was doing a piece on the importance of the new St Abbs Independent Lifeboat to locals and visitors to the area alike. We at the National Trust for Scotland have been staunch supporters of the campaign to make sure St Abbs retains a lifeboat, right from the start. 50,000 people visit St Abb's Head National Nature Reserve each year, so it is inevitable that some will need emerge...ncy assistance on ocassions. With a lifeboat based at St Abbs, and it being capable of 45 knots (its the fastest rescue vessel in the country) help can arrive literally within minutes.
Unexpectedly we got to go out on the boat and experience what it can do first hand - a fantastic experience. With the state of the art vessel, and the highly trained crew, who, as fishermen, dive boat operators and dive instructors, know this stretch of coast like no one else, we are all in safe hands.
The programme is due to be aired at 6.30am this coming Saturday, 20th January.
Pictured below, Mark Stephen and Sarah Russell from St Abbs and Eyemouth Voluntary Marine Reserve.

Saturday, 14 January 2017

We had a great day today with the National Trust for Scotland's Lothian conservation volunteers who came out to help us with our gorse bashing. Behind them you can see the enormous mountain of gorse which they cut down and dragged to our fire site. Normally there are only two of us who work on practical tasks, so having 11 people makes an enormous difference in the amount of work we can get done. Thanks very much to everyone who came out and helped. Lizy

NTS Lothian conservation volunteers

Thursday, 5 January 2017

I went for my New Year walking the bounds this morning (it was a tad too breezy to be out on the cliff path yesterday). I am pleased to say that everything seems to be as I left it before the festive break! It was stunning out there - frosty, sunny, blue sky, hardly a breath of wind. Glad to see a few other folk out on the reserve too. Liza.