RSPB Wildlife Explorers

Trip reports

RSPB Udale Bay Wildfowl and Wader

RSPB Udale Bay Wildfowl and Wader
Nicole Dunn

Saturday, 22 February 2020

Another blustery day for a session today...! Apparently we are the new weather forecasters to go by - if it's a WEx event then it's going to be dreich! Luckily we were inside again, in the swanky bird hide near Jemimaville on the Black Isle overlooking RSPB Udale Bay. Swanky it may be, but heated it is not! So we were still wrapped up snug and warm.

Before we had properly started our session one of our leaders spotted a ruddy shelduck, very rare in the UK. They come from South Europe, North Africa and Asia, although birds seen in the UK are believed to be domestic escapees or birds that have been released. We were able to set up scopes on the bird so that everyone could see it clearly as it was quite a long way away.

Once we'd discussed the special wetland habitat and the types of birds we might see on the reserve we played a game of bird bingo! What birds did we see? To name some: lapwings, teal, redshank, oystercatchers, common shelducks, mallards and wigeon. Pink-footed geese like to use the reserve, so these were on our bingo sheets. Unfortunately today they were replaced by Canada geese, which did trip some people up!

When we were happy that we'd seen most of the birds visible from the hide we settled down to learn about bird adaptations, looking at feet and beaks. We had some demonstrations, including some gruesomely cool bird skulls to pass around! After learning about why birds have differently shaped beaks we played the "wader race" - using differently sized pre-made beaks with hooks to pick up plasticine worms from first a bucket, then the floor. So, which beak was easier to use in which situation? It turns out that the speed of catching a worm was most effected by the technique used rather than the beak length! This was not necessarily what we were hoping to learn from this game (we expected the long beak to do better in the bucket), but you never quite know with these games!

Finally, the kids consolidated what they'd learnt about adaptations by designing their own birds that had specific adaptations for their habitat. We got the "Avojet" - a bird a bit like an avocet who has a jet engine coming from its tail that is powered by farts! Apparently the sexes differ by the male having just the one jet, whereas the female has two in order to keep the eggs warm (and to get away from predators more easily). Another was "Beaky McBeakface" - she had a prominent beak a bit like a goose, which was the best way to identify her. This beak was adapted to eat things on the surface of the mud, but she was a generalist and would eat both weeds and crustaceans. One of the key features of the female was that she had bright orange feet, whereas the male had brown feet. What creative minds we have in our group!

Nicole Dunn