The new Dunbar Hide: truly a team effort!

As I’ve quickly come to realise, any project at Strathbeg is a team effort, but the new Dunbar Hide which is currently taking shape on the reserve is a fantastic example of community partnership in action. Thanks to a lot of hard work by many people over the past year, visitors will soon be able to enjoy a new path and boardwalk out into the wetland, leading to the new hide which will give close views of ducks, geese and waders on the Savoch Low Ground. The hide will be named after Jim Dunbar, who was the first RSPB warden at Strathbeg in the early 1970s and is still a regular visitor to the reserve.

The hide project has been a great collaborative effort between reserve staff, HMP Grampian at nearby Peterhead, and the Aberdeen and District RSPB Local Group. Inmates at HMP Grampian have been making bird boxes and tables for the Strathbeg reserve for the past 18 months, but rose to the challenge of taking on the much bigger construction project of a new hide as part of their work towards the John Muir Award. The hide was fully constructed within the prison, but in kit format so that it could be transported to the reserve and reassembled in situ.

The Aberdeen and District RSPB Local Group generously funded the project with support from the Scottish Ornithologists' Club, and also took on the all-important job of overseeing the project to make sure that everything came together at the right time in the right place.

With the hide nearing completion, here’s the story of how the Dunbar Hide has slowly risen from the Low Ground over the past few months:

While the hide itself is under construction at HMP Grampian, RSPB staff and volunteers get started with the foundations.

The hide will sit in an elevated position to raise visitors above the vegetation and give a panoramic view of the Low Ground, and so an access ramp is needed.

With the foundations complete, the hide arrives in flat-pack form from HMP Grampian. Over the course of a Saturday morning, the first panels are carefully lifted in position...

...followed by the roof joists...

...and finally the roof panels - all under the watchful eye of Andy, who has supervised the construction from the start and so knows better than anyone how it should slot together!

Soon we have our first glimpse of the views from the hide...

...and an initial impression of how it will appear to visitors approaching along the boardwalk through the wetland.

Smiles all round: just a day's work to assemble the basic structure of the hide, but over a year in the planning and construction.

A big thank you to everyone who has been involved in making this project happen, but particular thanks are due to Rob Leslie from the Aberdeen and District RSPB Local Group for his tireless project management and to Andy Cooper at HMP Grampian for leading the hide construction, and all the RSPB staff and volunteers at Loch of Strathbeg who have been involved in the construction work.
The hide is not yet open to the public, but the rail along the boardwalk is being fixed and the benches constructed as I write this, so we hope to have it open very soon - watch this space for further updates!

James Butcher
North East Scotland Reserves Intern