Once again Tentsmuir Forest and NNR will play host this year to over 500 children keen to learn about the reintroduction of white-tailed eagles to East Scotland.
Following the success of last year's outdoor learning sessions based at the reserve, pupils from primary schools throughout Perth & Kinross and Fife will have the opportunity to participate in hands-on activities that bring the breeding cycle of the sea eagle to life; from giant nest building, to experiencing the pressure of hunting for prey.
'Year of the white-tailed eagle'. Photo Credit: S.Rasmussen
Thanks to funding from RSPB Scotland and Forest Enterprise Scotland free transport to the reserve will enable schools to participate in a choice of two learning experiences; 'The Year of the White tailed Eagle' and new for this year, the 'Habitat of the White Tailed Eagle'.
'Beaky' and her newly built nest. Photo Credit: S.Rasmussen
Pupils will have the opportunity to explore the wider landscape of woodland, dunes and coast. They won't only learn why it is an attractive hunting ground for the white-tailed eagle, but discover what other species inhabit this special place.
The outdoor classroom. Photo Credit: S.Rasmussen
Tentsmuir is one of the most dynamic coastlines in Scotland, from the sands of Abertay and the Great Slack at Tentsmuir Point in the North, to the shifting dune systems of Kinshaldy and the wader rich Eden Estuary in the south.
The quantity of water exiting the River Tay into the Forth is more than any other river system in the UK, with 2000 bathloads of freshwater flowing into the North Sea every second. This constant shifting sediment creates the perfect conditions for a rich and biodiverse habitat.
Tay Estuary, The Great Slack, Abertay Sands and Tentsmuir Forest. Photo Credit: Ken Whitcombe/SNH/Kenbarry Photography
The coastline is renowned for an incredible number of species such as grey and harbour (common) seals, common scoter, pink-footed geese, bar-tailed godwit, long-tailed duck, sanderling and red-breasted merganser.
Sanderling. Photo Credit: R.Tough
The diversity of this wildlife has contributed to the area receiving several national and internationally recognised designations, including 'Site of Special Scientific Interest' and 'Special Protection Area'.
Grey Seals. Photo Credit: R.ToughThe mixture of dune slacks, heathland and acid grasslands play host to butterflies such as common blue and grayling and day-flying burnet moths and a stunning variety of plants, including northern marsh orchids, the grass-of-Parnassus, bird's foot trefoil and an array of mosses and lichen.
Common Blue. Photo Credit: R.Tough
The tranquil pools of Morton Lochs are home to an incredible variety of dragonflies, damselflies, amphibians, water rail and the local flashy kingfisher.
Common Darter. Photo Credit: S.Rasmussen
Kingfisher, Morton Lochs. Photo Credit: R.Tough
Whilst the native broadleaf and Scots Pines are frequented by green woodpecker, crossbill, siskin, roe deer, bats and of course the much loved red squirrel.
Red Squirrel. Photo Credit: Ben Andrew RSPB Images.com
Ospreys are becoming a more common sighting in the area and of course the coastline of Tentsmuir, the dune heath and the inter-tidal zone of the Eden Estuary have been a successful hunting ground for the sea eagle pair known as 'Z' and '1' for several years. The reserve and extended coastline provides the perfect balance of prey, from flat fish and rabbit, to sea birds such as eider and any dead carrion that may get washed up.
White-tailed eagle pair 'Z' & '1'. Photo Credit: R.ToughIt will be interesting to see what species, sightings, tracks and trails our intrepid school pupils discover on their journeys. We will report back later in the year with their findings and tales of exploration.Tentsmuir Forest and National Nature Reserve are managed by Scottish Natural Heritage and the Forestry Commission Scotland. You can find out more about the reserve and their work here;http://scotland.forestry.gov.uk/visit/tentsmuir