A big project we have been working on recently is the re installation of the tern platform at Loch Spynie, near Elgin. This proved to be a good challenge for the team - battling bad weather, problem solving and deadlines along the way.


 The old platform, Kim Grant

Back in February, we began the destruction of the platform. Rowing out to the middle of the loch armed with equipment on a small boat, required a lot of negotiation and team work. We worked out quickly that working as a team of 3 worked most effectively. Our first job was the removal of all the gravel and dirty that had built up on the platform over the years. This required filling several bucket loads and transporting them back onto dry land to be disposed. This was one of the most straightforward parts of the process and one which myself and Lorna enjoyed immensely.


Getting ready to launch 'Delilah', Kim Grant

 Dismantling the old platform, Kim Grant

Once the gravel had been removed, the next job was removing all the rotten wooden boards and planks. Some fell away easily while others required a lot of hammering and strength. Some of us found this easier than others, as I found out one day when I lost a brand new hammer into the depths of the loch (oops – I don’t think the team will ever let me live that one down!).


 Paddling through the reed bed, Kim Grant

The final part of the destruction proved to be the most challenging. Due to extensive corrosion, the scaffolding poles which held the platform up above the water, were very tough to remove. We had to use a portable angle grinder for this job. With much time and caution, we were able to use this from the boat to remove the corroded bolts, safely anchor the poles to the boat and row them back to land. As we were working from a small rowing boat, finding the right angles to grind the bolts off, without putting the machine in the water and trying to calculate battery life, was not an easy task to say the least! We were fortunate enough that the team persevered and with a lot of brain power and motivation – we were able to complete this part of the process just in time for the construction.


 Not much left, Kim Grant

Next came the construction of the new platform, which we sourced new scaffold poles, recycled plastic and perspex to build it. Anchoring the new scaffold poles to a few of the existing ones, allowed us to create a very stable base for the new platform. Once we were happy with this, we began to ferry out the recycled plastic to begin building the main structure. Once these were in position the perspex sides were fitted. These allow a clear view of the terns so those visiting the reserve can see the terns but also act as a barrier to prevent any chicks falling into the water. Holes were then drilled into the recycled plastic base to allow drainage and the final job was ferrying out the gravel to line the platform, in order to provide a natural base for the terns to begin building their nests.


 Discussing logistics, Kim Grant

It was a great privilege to work on this platform and embrace the natural beauty of Loch Spynie from a new angle. After many challenges, it’s a joy to see it now complete just in time for “The Re-Tern of the Terns”. It is hoped that the new platform will be enjoyed by many and offer a safe a secure place for the breeding terns for many summers to come.


The perspex getting added, Kim Grant

The finished platform, Lorna Dow


Kim Grant, Reserves intern