Monday, 27 March 2017

I was in Newcastle yesterday, down by the quayside. It was great to hear some familiar voices whilst I was there - the kittwakes, on the Baltic art gallery, the Tyne Bridge and even the Guildhall. It was like a home from home! They were in on the cliffs this morning too, along with some guillemots, razorbills and fulmars. At this time of year they are not a guaranteeable spectacle, as they come and go (we don't know why) but when they're not on the cliffs you can still hear their calls from the seas surrounding the cliffs where they hang out instead. Things will start to settle down towards the end of April when the guillemots will start to lay their eggs. Liza.

Thursday, 16 March 2017

Another sign of spring - the primroses are starting to come out!  Liza.

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

More signs of spring - I spotted these alder catkins in the woodland near the office this morning. Not a brilliant picture (I was having troubles with wind) but you can see the shorter, oval, woody female catkins from last year. These will have released their seed over the winter to get dipersed by wind and water. You can also see the longer male catkins - the darker ones are yet to open, and some are half open, and some fully open, releasing their pollen into the wind. Liza.

Monday, 13 March 2017

A project that I have been working away on over the last couple of months is to produce some pull-up banners for the reserve. The idea is to have something eye-catching that we can use at venues and events, both local and further afield, to promote what is special about St Abb's Head. Last week we took delivery of them - and I am very pleased with how they turned out! If you run an event or have a venue where you think you'd like to display these, please get in touch. Liza.

Why do jumplings jump?

A fascinating and rather amusingly written article - definitely worth a read! Liza.

Friday, 10 March 2017

We had a beautiful day here yesterday at St Abb's Head. Down by the Mire Loch it was warm and sunny and I spotted my first queen bumblebee of the year (a Buff-tailed Bumblebee, I think). Queen bumblebees have been hibernating over the winter and will now be emerging and, after stocking up on some nectar, looking for a suitable site to build their nest, usually under the ground, in tussocks of grass or even in bird boxes. This is why you sometimes see bumblebees in spring flying very close to the ground, as if looking for something, but ignoring any flowers they come across. Lizy

Bumblebee queen soaking up the sun

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

After all the rain we've been having recently the paths around the Mire Loch have been getting a bit muddy, so one of the main tasks on the reserve has been putting down stone to improve the footpaths. Here's a before and after picture of a particularly bad stretch we did this afternoon. Lizy

Mire Loch footpath before and after repair work

Monday, 6 March 2017

You remember a few weeks back I posted about being out on Nunnery Point carrying out a topographical survey of the archaeological features with our Regional Archaeologist, Daniel Rhodes. Here's a link to a 3D image that he has produced of the main feature, Ramparts Hall, from the measurements we took. We didn't quite get to finish the survey, but hope to soon, and will post a link to a more complete picture when we have it. No one is quite sure what Ramparts Hall is - its medieval, and quite big - but still a bit of a mystery. Who knows, maybe in the future further investigations will give us more clues! Liza.

Last week I chaired a meeting of the East Coast Seabird Network (ECSN) in Berwick upon Tweed. The group was set up last year as a way of sharing good (and bad) practice, ideas and population trends between various seabird colonies along the East Coast. It was a great meeting, covering topics as diverse as using lasers to discourage predatory gull species from nesting in tern colonies, to the use of drones in seabird monitoring. It was a great turn out too, with folk from as far afield as Yorkshire and the Firth of Forth, and a whole host of different organisations. Pictured is Keith Clarkson, Site Manager at the RSPB's Bempton Cliffs giving us the low down on kittiwake population trends on his reserve (which are holding steady compared with the major declines we have been seeing up further north). Really interesting and inspiring stuff! Liza.
Last week Lizy, Ed and I were working down at the Mire Dam. Whilst Ed and I carried out repairs to the fence, Lizy offloaded a trailer full of surfacing material for footpath repairs and tidied up the pipe and sandbags that we had used to siphon the water level down with. As you will see, I donned my dry suit yet again and Ed was sporting chest waders to get the fence repaired. It was a tad chilly in the water - 5 degrees according to the thermometer, and so its taking me a while to get my core body temperature back up to normal. In fact, I'm sat at my desk wrapped in a blanket! It was worth is though, the fence is now stock proof and looks much neater than it did this time last year when it was very much a ramshackle affair after a number of years of temporary repairs. Liza.

Last year's Assistant Ranger, Jill, showing off the temporary repairs carried out by her and Lizy after the fence had been taken down to let machinery through to carry out repairs on the dam.
Its a glamorous job, being a ranger - me and Ed showing off the latest in underwater ranger garb!
Out of the water now - whilst I sought warmth in the truck, Ed and Lizy put the finishing touches to the fence. Its now a much neater affair and should see me till my retirement, I hope!

Sunday, 5 March 2017

We've had some lovely sunny days here recently at St Abb's Head, and I was lucky the other day to spot a group of guillemots (and a few fulmars) apparently enjoying the sun on White Heugh. Although most of our 30,000+ guillemots won't return to breed until mid April, they will be visiting the cliffs more and more over the next month, which is a real treat if you, like us, can't wait for the seabird season to begin! Lizy

White Heugh in the sun

Guillemots on White Heugh