Kirsty Potter, RSPB Scotland's Support Relations Officer, fills us in on her day at the official opening of the tree nursery at our Abernethy reserve. 

An exciting event at RSPB Scotland Abernethy!

Having just joined RSPB Scotland in March, I was lucky enough to visit our beautiful Abernethy reserve last month for a very special event; our official native tree nursery opening. Along with donations from the public, several trusts and organisations have supported the project and have helped make the tree nursery possible: ScottishPower Foundation; Laing O’Rourke on behalf of Scottish Water; Cairngorms National Park Authority; Awards For All – Scotland; Speyside Wildlife, Scot Mountain Holidays; Walkers of Aberlour; and Abernethy Conservation and Fundraising Group. 

Abernethy Primary School children officially open the tree nursery (Photo by Kirsty Potter)

The tree nursery opening marked an important stage in our visionary forest expansion project on the reserve and we were delighted to welcome children from Abernethy Primary School who officially opened the nursery. The lucky pupil who cut the ribbon seemed really chuffed to have this responsibility, especially because it involved a pair of shears!

It was fantastic to meet our guests from our supporter organisations who have helped to fund the tree nursery. Being so new to RSPB Scotland, this was my first opportunity to speak face to face with many of the people I’d been exchanging emails and phone calls with. I was struck with how enthusiastic they are about RSPB Scotland and the project and how pleased they are to be involved. It made me very proud to work here!

Abernethy is a really special place for some of Scotland’s most iconic species and the forest expansion project will ensure that it remains this way for years to come. It was so interesting to learn that many of the original tree species in the Caledonian forest at Abernethy are currently found at very low numbers and far below what they once would have been. The forest expansion project will regenerate and expand the ancient Caledonian forest by around 3,000 hectares, almost doubling its size over the next 200 years.

All of our guests got stuck in and helped to sow the tree seeds that had been harvested from the reserve (and stored in the fridge at Forest Lodge!). Reserve volunteers and staff took charge of small but exuberant groups that helped prepare the soil, measure out sections for planting, and finally to sow the tree seeds. It was very fitting that Abernethy Primary School children were involved in this process because it will be their generation and those to come who will see the long-term results of the forest expansion project of which the tree nursery is an integral part. They all had a lot of fun getting their hands dirty and enjoyed being outdoors instead of in the classroom. A few of the pupils seemed to be having a competition to find the biggest worm at one point....

Thanks to the help of our guests, and many more volunteers to come, the planted trees will re-establish some of the forest’s missing diversity, and the forest at Abernethy will continue to expand towards its natural limit, and connect with other native pinewood remnants.

Ann Loughrey, Trustee and Executive Officer, ScottishPower Foundation helps Abernethy Primary School pupils to plant tree seeds (Photo by Kirsty Potter)

We were all treated to a lovely reception at Forest Lodge afterwards as part of the official opening ceremony. Many of us were torn between naming the highlight of the day as visiting the forest edge to see where the regeneration and enrichment planting is taking place and helping out or the incredible tree nursery celebration cakes, kindly brought along by Sally Dowden, of Speyside Wildlife.

I was also lucky enough to have the chance to explore some parts of the reserve and came across red squirrels and also some Scottish crossbills that were absolutely beautiful. I’d seen neither species before and so it was a fantastic experience. There wasn’t time to visit the Osprey Centre at Loch Garten however.  In the short time I’ve worked at RSPB Scotland, I’ve become engrossed in the feathered soap opera that the ospreys give us so I’ll be making sure to go to Abernethy again as soon as possible to catch a glimpse of an osprey or two. There is also so much more of the reserve to explore because it covers such a large area and the changing seasons mean that no visit is ever the same.

Every time I visit Abernethy I will be really keen to see the progress of the seeds that were planted that day and I’m sure that there will be many more opportunities for our generous funders to visit the tree nursery again to see what a positive impact their funding has allowed us to have on the forest.