Spring is really taking hold now on the reserve, and the summer migrants are starting to appear. The first chiffchaff has been heard near Fen Hide, the great-crested grebes have been displaying on the Loch, a little gull and a black-tailed godwit made an appearance on the Starnafin Pools, lesser black-backed gulls have returned, and the first marsh harrier of the year – a female – dropped by this weekend, hunting over the Savoch reedbeds. Snowdrops have given way to daffodils and celandines, green leaves are showing on the trees, and when the wind drops, it’s gloriously warm in the sunshine! We’ll soon be saying farewell to the geese until the autumn, and welcoming the terns back to Starnafin Island (the black-headed gulls and oystercatchers are already staking out their nesting sites!) and to the rafts on the Loch.

Black-tailed godwit – Chris Gomersall (rspb-images.com)

Monday 6 April was sunny enough to make the wardens wish they’d taken suncream out with them – it was Vet Day for some of the Konik ponies; tetanus jabs and for Bilbo, the colt born last year, time to lose a couple of very personal assets. He’ll soon be joining the Mosstown Marsh grazing herd, along with the fillies from last year, and we don’t want him getting frisky with his sister and half-sisters! Out on the Marsh, the ponies are enjoying the new, fresh Juncus growth and making great inroads into it. We’ll be starting this year’s series of transect and quadrat surveys soon, to see what changes there are in the vegetation, and the promise of new species is quite exciting. We’ve increased the grazing herd with some of the recent arrivals from Middleton Lakes, and with Bilbo and his relations the Mosstown herd will number fourteen; we started with six ponies on part of Mosstown, and the work they have done, reducing the Juncus and allowing other plants to grow, means that the grazing has already improved enough to support more ponies. We’ve also allowed them into a larger area of the meadow, so there is still a lot of room for improvement – which is what it’s all about!

Less Juncus means more good grazing, and more variety! Andy Hay (rspb-images.com)

With summer on the horizon, the seasonal path from the Visitor Centre to the Loch hides is now open until August; the start point is in the Wildlife Garden. Please note, it’s not suitable for pushchairs or wheelchairs.

The other news is that we’re getting an overhaul! This summer will also see a new office building and toilet block, some changes in the Visitor Centre, and the volunteer accommodation is getting a complete make-over, allowing us to have more residential volunteers in better accommodation. This will mean some upheaval over the coming months, and on occasion the car park and toilets may be unavailable; we’ll let you know here and on Facebook and Twitter when there are closures. The hides will stay open throughout the building works.

Our events for the summer will be starting soon; ‘Pick out a Puffin’ walks at Fowlsheugh start in May, and there will also be a number of ‘Marvellous Meadow’ events. Keep an eye on the reserve’s events page for dates and more details!

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