Forth Reserves Warden, Allison Leonard, gives an update on the Skinflats Managed Retreat Project.
We are now well into our second week of work and things are going well (despite the weather not being a co-operative this week).
The diggers have been busy building up the southern embankment on site using clay 'borrowed' from on site, this is the largest of the three areas that need to be raised and so required the most material. The embankments will be built up in layers with each layer being compressed to ensure it is as robust as possible and then all of the top soil which was removed at the start replaced to allow the site to green up as quickly as possible once the work is complete.
Material being 'borrowed' for building up the southern embankment (Photo credit: David Palmar)
All this 'borrowing' of material has meant we have been able to create a whole new lagoon on site (complete with it's own island) which being slightly higher up the site will hopefully retain water at low tide, adding just a little bit more habitat to the reserve.
The new lagoon from above (Photo credit: J Leonard)
The next step of the project is not to start creating the channels which will join up when the sea wall is breached. We have been really lucky with the timings of this part of the project as this week we have had the lowest high tides of the year allowing the diggers a long working window out of the saltmarsh to create the channel. The diggers began by removing the top layer of saltmarsh, which will be put aside to be replaced on the edge of the breach when it is complete. Then began the task of digging out the huge volume of clay which needs to be removed to create a channel 25m wide and 2m deep, all of this material is being used to block old drainage ditches which will no longer be required. All the back and forward movement by the dumpers to shift the material has meant the site is getting a little muddy but we were never going to be able to do all this work without making a bit of a mess.
Diggers starting to create the saltmarsh channel (Photo Credit: J Leonard)
The next stage of the project is to remove the existing infrastructure associated with the regulated tidal exchange. The existing pipe will be welded shut, the concrete headwall removed and then the channel filled in. Once that is all done we will be ready to breach the seawall. At the moment we're not sure exactly when that will be (mainly due to waiting on the specialist equipment needed to deal with the old RTE structures) but it will be in the next few weeks.
RSPB Forth Reserves Warden Allison Leonard tells us about a massive new project getting underway at RSPB Skinflats in the Forth.
On Monday 10th of September, a lot of hard work and effort by the extended team came to fruition when the diggers arrived on site to start the Managed Retreat project at our Skinflats reserve.
The diggers arriving on site! (photo credit Yvonne Boles)
Managed realignment involves realigning an existing coastline to allow tidal water to once again inundate an area of land. This is often undertaken on land that has historically been re-claimed from the sea and as such is at a higher risk of coastal flooding. Unlike other ‘hard’ engineering strategies, this managed process allows for the natural processes, and intertidal habitats that protect the coastline, to re-establish. It also provides a variety of other benefits, including, flood protection, habitat creation. Managed realignment has been successfully undertaken in many other parts of the UK, and this will only be the second time this has been done in Scotland.
Diggers creating the new lagoon (phot credit: James Leonard)
We will be providing regular updates on the progress of the project here on our blog, so if you are interested then do keep checking.
I've been the residential volunteer at RSPB Scotland Loch Lomond for 3 months now. Here are some of my favourite encounters in that time and my new found hobby.
It was early in the morning and I was still in my bed listening to the birdsong coming from outside. The hedgerows opposite my window in our residential volunteer accommodation are usually full of great and blue tits singing from its branches every day from sunrise. But the noise that woke me up that morning was quite different, more high pitched than any tit but considerably weaker. After a long battle against my tiredness I got up and opened my window. I was expecting to spot the common bulky yellow silhouette of the great tit in between the bushes, but it was a song thrush that flew out suddenly right in front of me. The high pitch sound had increased and I noticed then it seemed to come from right under my window sill! Being as cautious as I am capable of at 7am on a Saturday, I moved aside a couple of leaves from the bramble growing under my window to take a picture of whatever was hidden behind.
Song thrush nest under my window with four chicks calling for breakfast.
I didn’t want to break up such a nice family, so I decided not to open my window until they fledged to avoid disturbance. They decided to leave four days later, but they seemed to be quite comfortable at home as they only fledged from my windowsill to the windowsill of my our other volunteer, where they resumed with their morning songs (a bit further away from me this time).
I’d also like to tell you about one of my new favourite pastimes that I have adopted since volunteering at RSPB Loch Lomond. My new hobby is moths! Those harmful, small, dull creatures that sneak into your wardrobe on a summer’s night to have your blankets and clothes as a supper. That’s what many people (me included) thought about moths before I came here. But I’d like to dispel some of the myths and misconceptions about these fascinating creatures. Moth trapping involves setting up a light trap overnight to attract the moths and catch them. The next morning we carefully identify the moths caught overnight and record them before setting them free again.
HARMFUL?Only two out of 135000 species of moths are known to feed on bi-products of animals, such as leather or wool, whereas the huge majority feed on sugary substances from flowers or insects, as butterflies do. This white ermine from a week ago primarily consumes nectar.
SMALL?You wouldn’t think so after looking at one of the four poplar hawk moths I caught after a warm night in July. With a wingspan of 6.5-9 cm and it is one of the biggest you can find on the reserve.
DULL?The garden tiger moth, the elephant hawk moth and the buff tip are my favourites so far, their striking colours have nothing to envy from many butterflies. These beautiful examples became regulars in the moth trap this summer. The buff tip moth doesn’t match the others in colour, but their perfect camouflage resembling a birch twig left me astounded since my first encounter.
Garden tiger moth
Elephant hawk moth.
Buff Tip moth.
You can get up close to these creatures at some of our events. Coming up we've got a Mini-beast Safari this Friday (10 August) and a Bat and Moth Night on Friday 31 August. Full details can be found here: https://www.rspb.org.uk/reserves-and-events/reserves-a-z/loch-lomond/