Forth and Lomond Reserves Warden, Allison Leonard, reflects on what turned out to be a busy, but productive, year at RSPB Black Devon Wetlands.

In 2015, when we signed the lease to the land that is now our Black Devon Wetlands reserve, we had grand plans for the site and with our funding from the Inner Forth Landscape Inniative and Ecoco Life ending in March 2018 we had a definite end point to have it done by.


The new viewing screen and benches (photo credit: David Palmar)

So, we installed the paths, the boardwalks, the benches and the viewing screen for the visitors, we opened up the pools and improved the grassland for the wildlife, and we began running events and working with the local schools so everyone could enjoy all the work we had done. But before we knew it, it was January 2018 and we had a lot to do before our March deadline.


Swans on the freshwater pools at Black Devon Wetlands (Photo credit: David Palmar)

We (eventually) got the pond dipping platform finished, the decorative stone installed in the viewing screen floor and the floating islands planted and floated into place (all with the help of our amazing volunteer group. The volunteers contributed over 300 hours to the pond dipping platform project alone) and with contractors lined up to install the green roof on the viewing screen and replace the deer gates on the path down to the reserve, we figured things would quieten down in April and we’d have a bit of time to catch up with ourselves.


Pond dipping platform and floating island installation (photo credits: Allison Leonard and David Palmar)

We were wrong!


During the summer months we concentrated on our events programme, with everything from dawn chorus walks, to family fun days. We engaged with hundreds of people and surpassed all the little targets we had set for ourselves, again with the help of our fantastic volunteers. But as the weather turned autumnal, we were getting fidgety. There was still so much potential in the site, things we wanted to do, so we started on another round of habitat works.


Pond Dipping at Black Devon Wetlands (photo credit: Ami Kirkbright)

First up was the new interpretation on the viewing mound, designed by the same artist who designed the panels in the viewing screen.


Volunteers installing the new interpretation (Photo credit: Ami Kirkbright)

Then we came up with the idea of planting a hedge along the fence line. ‘We could plant wildlife friendly trees to attract birds to feed, it’s only 250m long, it won’t take that long surely???’ Thirteen hundred trees (plus guards and canes) and over 100 volunteer hours later (most in the pouring rain) it was done.


The newly planted hedge (Photo credit: Ami Kirkbright)

There was also the new stepping stones in the path and some fencing around the viewing screen, wildflower meadow management, all part of our big plans to make the reserve as good as we possibly can and the volunteers were there to help with all of it.


We have done so much at Black Devon Wetlands, way more than we ever thought we would be able to do and we are not finished yet. We have two large chainsaw carvings to place on site, more path interpretation and nest boxes to install, willow screening to plant and more wildflower seed to sow. We are expanding our events programme to make sure there really is something for everyone and we will continue to work with local schools, all supported by the many wonderful volunteers we have.


It really isn’t an exaggeration to say that without the volunteers we would not have achieved half of what we have over the last few years at Black Devon Wetlands. No job has been too small, no challenge too big (although the chainsaw carvings may test that theory).


Our fantastic volunteers hard at work (Photo credit: David Palmar)

The volunteers really do keep us going when we are feeling swamped by our work load, for that and for everything else that they do for us, we want to say a huge thank you and a very merry Christmas.