It’s summer festival season, and here at Strathbeg there’s a lot going on.

 

Little gulls – Ian Francis (RSPB)

Headline Act: As you may have seen from the main Scotland blog we are rather excited. We have little gulls confirmed as breeding on the island in front of the Visitor Centre, (and conveniently also in front of the new office windows)! It’s a first for Scotland, only the sixth time it’s happened in Britain, and a source of both delight and trepidation for the staff and volunteers; we’re on 24/7 watch keeping an eye on them, so you can imagine our feelings when the rain lashed down relentlessly for three days last week. The fields flooded, and the water levels continued to rise despite Richard taking out every sluice board he could; we were seriously worried that the water would reach the nest. Fortune smiled, however, and the gulls proved dedicated to their task and sat tight throughout, ensuring their soon-to-hatch eggs stayed warm. Now we wait for the next stage...from hatching to fledging. I think there will be a few sleepless nights.

Little gull showing dark under-wing – Graham White

Out on the Meadow Stage: The fen meadow at Mosstown is full of blossom and colour as the orchids come into bloom, with skylarks, meadow pipits and snipe all using the meadow, and the added glamour of both a little egret and a great white egret seen regularly. The ponies staged a small rebellion and decided that the electric fence wasn’t going to stop them from going where they wanted – the result is we now have a new, improved fence unit which might keep them under control. The three new foals are doing well, and growing almost visibly! We have schools visiting us almost every day during the week, keeping Roddy busy showing them the web of life on the reserve, particularly in the meadows, and from the great feedback we’re getting he’s doing a terrific job. The Doric Poetry competition received a lot of entries, and the judges including Robbie Shepherd were very impressed by the general standard – it’s great to see such an interest being taken in the local heritage. You’ll have to wait to know the results of the competition, which will be announced at our upcoming Meadows Celebration on Saturday 2 July. We have a packed programme for the whole afternoon starting at noon and running until 5.00 pm, with music, poetry, storytelling, guided walks and self-guided trails, hands-on craft activities, face painting, a bumblebee safari and of course the prize giving! Please come along and give us your support – it’s going to be a great day!

Marsh orchid – Andy Hay (rspb-images.com)

Supporting acts: the common terns on Starnafin Island have chicks, as do the remaining black-headed gulls. Shelduck ducklings can be seen on the pools, with a lot of tufted ducks and gadwalls. Wigeon are grazing the islands, and we’ve had a few waders – dunlin, knot and a breeding-plumaged ruff. With our new office window, we have – of course – started a new ‘office window list’ for birds seen; at the moment it stands at 68 species (the reserve list is up to 141 for the year) with common crane, glossy ibis(18 May), marsh harrier, Arctic tern (19 June), a grey-headed yellow wagtail (17 May), osprey and the egrets being amongst the stand-out performers. We’ve also seen some mammals during our gull-watch, including brown hare just outside the window, badger, roe deer and pipistrelle bats. By the hordes of young tree sparrows chasing their parents around the feeders outside the window, they have also had a good year!

Brown hare – Chris Gomersall (rspb-images.com)

On the domestic front, the new office is almost sorted out, and the building inspector has been in to check things over. There are still one or two bits to be finished in the Visitor Centre, but we hope to be opening soon and definitely in time for the Meadows Celebration. We hope to see you there!

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