September 2007

The Birder's Market | Resource | Bird news for Britain / Rest of the World | UK Bird News | Bird News for United Kingdom 2007 |  September 2007

Revamped nature reserve offers great boost for Scottish wildlife tourism

25th September 2007
Extensive upgrades to facilities and major habitat restoration work will feature at a special open day and launch event for one of north-east Scotland's most impressive nature reserves.
Visitors to RSPB's Loch of Strathbeg nature reserve this Saturday 29 September will be able to watch up to 40,000 pink-footed geese roosting on the stunning restored and diverse habitats surrounding Britain's largest dune loch, all from the refurbished comfort of a completely upgraded visitor centre.
Wildlife enthusiasts or those just curious about nature will also have the opportunity to get involved in multiple activities on the day, including guided walks, wildlife tracking, pond dipping, birdwatching, beach-clean events and demonstrations by the British Divers Marine Life Rescue charity.
Stewart Stevenson, SNP MSP for Banff and Buchan, will officially launch the new visitor facilities and have a personal tour of the reserve and habitat improvements on the day.
He said: 'I am delighted that the RSPB has now completed the restoration and upgrades to the habitats and visitor facilities at the Loch of Strathbeg. Inspiring places like this, where Scotland's precious natural heritage is on show and positively promoted to the public, are vital in helping people realise the true benefits that this can bring to the region, both economically and socially. It is a pleasure and a privilege to be able to re-launch Strathbeg nature reserve.'
Joanna McFarlane, Loch of Strathbeg's Community Officer, said: 'Together with all the superb habitat restoration works, the upgrade to the visitor facilities here means that the fascinating Loch of Strathbeg experience is accessible to absolutely everyone - and not just the serious birdwatcher.
'Families can come and spend a few hours taking in the unique and boisterous drama of one fifth of the world's population of pink-footed geese taking flight in synchronised unison. There are also plenty of other amazing wildlife spectacles to be remembered and treasured for months.
'The Loch of Strathbeg is a truly inspirational slice of natural heritage that would surely be close to the top of any national league table. We just hope that people all over Scotland, but particularly in the north east, will now come and visit and that we can help them to realise the incredible value of our natural heritage and their right to enjoy, cherish and protect it.'
More than £1 million has been spent during the past two years undertaking extensive habitat restoration and improvement works to upgrade the condition of the reserve habitats that play host to a multitude of birds, mammals, insects and plants.
Funding for the work has been provided through European Regional Development Fund via ESEP (£480k), the National Lottery through The Heritage Lottery Fund (£367k), Scottish Natural Heritage (£150k), the Gillman Trusts (£20k), the Friends of Strathbeg (£20k) and by Shell UK (£6k) for education projects on the reserve.
Formed in the early 1720s, the 206 hectare loch and surrounding 915 hectares of reserve lands are a haven for wildlife, with 260 species of bird having been recorded at the site in addition to mammals such as otters, water voles, waters shrews, insects including more than 18 species of butterfly, 280 species of moth and more than 300 plant species.
However, the freshwater loch system has over the years been progressively collecting silt due to historical water management before RSPB purchased the reserve. This was degrading the ecological condition of the loch, but the works have allowed this to be stopped, along with other measures to rejuvenate the diverse habitats on the reserve and make them more suitable for the many species which live there.
New reedbeds have been established, the main feeder burn into the loch has been re-routed to a more natural meandering course, a silt trap has been installed, and water control systems built that will allow reserve staff to maximise the potential of reed and wet grassland habitats for breeding waders and wintering wildfowl, particularly pink-footed geese. This species can number up to 80,000 on the reserve in winter as they pass through and refuel on their southward migration.
Together with whooper swans, ducks including wigeons, teals, shovelers, pintails, and pochards, approximately 40,000 'pink-feet' remain at the reserve throughout the winter months - a truly amazing spectacle.
The last remaining island on the loch has also been stabilised and another that was lost in the 1970s has been recreated to preserve suitable habitat for breeding terns and gulls in the summer, and 26 hectares of willow scrub has been removed.
In the visitor centre new interpretation boards have been installed revealing fascinating information on the species that can be seen, and a 3x2 metre painting by a local artist Kath Hamper has been hung on the wall. An interactive play area has been created for children, and a camera and TV screen will be installed in the next few weeks to beam live pictures of bustling bird communities on the reserve direct into the comfort of the visitor centre for those cold and wild days when the comfort of an armchair and hot drink are preferred.
Two new wildlife observation hides have been built and relocated to optimise wildlife viewing opportunities and cut down visitor journey times between hides, and another existing hide relocated.

The Birder's Market | Resource | Bird news for Britain / Rest of the World | UK Bird News | Bird News for United Kingdom 2007 |  September 2007

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