Surfing dolphins and the scent of coconut

Nature is bursting into life at St Cyrus NNR. Therese Alampo, the Reserve Manager, describes the seasonal antics of its regular inhabitants as well as those of some of its more unusual visitors.

Primroses at St Cyrus NNR. ©Lorne Gill/SNH

Primroses at St Cyrus NNR. ©Lorne Gill/SNH

The wild weather seems to be settling down and the reserve has at last re-emerged from the flood waters! A little muddy and tatty but the spring growth of grass interlaced with primrose and yellow lesser celandine flowers are stitching things back together nicely.

The first queen bumblebees are out and about, clumsily buzzing from flower to flower and the new found warmth of the air is allowing the gorse flowers’ coconut scent to be detected by our primitive human noses too! Skylark numbers are looking very hopeful so far, with birds scattered all over the dune system and neighbouring grasslands. Some mornings the whole reserve is filled with the songs of the male birds as they sing from their celestial perches to establish territories and attract mates!

Skylark. ©Lorne Gill/SNH

Skylark. ©Lorne Gill/SNH

The ravens are back for the third year running and we are enjoying watching their antics as they choose a nest site! The ravens, peregrines and buzzards all seem to be happy enough on the cliffs with all three clashing at times but it looks like they’ll all be nesting neighbours again! The reserve is obviously a good spot for them and, with each species specialising in slightly different food types/prey items, there is enough food to go around. I look forward to their eggs hatching and fluffy chicks growing fast throughout the spring and summer months and all the fun and games that accompany them!

Raven. ©Lorne Gill/SNH

Raven. ©Lorne Gill/SNH

Sadly, a few months back, the body of a leather back turtle was washed ashore on the reserve. We now have the results from the necropsy or post-mortem. He was a juvenile male, weighing in at 209kg. He was pretty thin and although he showed scars from being entangled in fishing nets in the past, he had survived this and healed. He had a large bag in his oesophagus (throat) and a crisp packet (Walkers salt and vinegar) but these were not the causes of his death. He appeared to have been eating but just not enough to keep his blubber layer up, so the cause of death was likely to have been hypothermia. What a shame. Tissue samples were also taken so I will let you all know the results when they are sent through to me. Thanks again to the people who helped uplift him from the beach, lifting 209kg is no easy feat. His body will be preserved by National Museums Scotland – perhaps we could borrow him one day, you can be sure that I am on the case.

Bottlenose dolphins. ©Lorne Gill/SNH

Bottlenose dolphins. ©Lorne Gill/SNH

The bottlenose dolphins have been spotted more and more recently. Our team was lucky enough to see them twice in one week. On one of these occasions we were with a class from Angus College, it was brilliant seeing the kids’ reaction to the dolphins, it made their day and ours as we managed to let everybody have a turn with our binoculars before they disappeared! Keep your eyes peeled and report any sightings to us please, there is even an individual who loves surfing in the shallow water!

Grassland and gorse. ©Lorne Gill/SNH

Grassland and gorse. ©Lorne Gill/SNH

Wildlife highlights – seeing the mighty ravens’ footprints on the early morning damp sand. The ravens are up early to scavenge on the sands of St Cyrus NNR and leave signs for you and your family to track! Watching the dolphins from the top of the cliff path – including previously mentioned ‘surf dolphin’, who clearly enjoys surfing on the gorgeous waves! Seeing the reserve’s grasslands recover from the floods and the beautiful fresh blooms of primrose our ‘prima rosa’ or ‘first rose’ bursting into life from the damp soils, simply wonderful.

Red kite and raven. © Alex Sheppard

Red kite and raven. © Alex Sheppard

As I type I have just been sent a great picture by a local gentleman, Alex Sheppard, showing a red kite visiting the reserve and battling with our raven! Great shot and great record!

Breeding season is nearly upon us once more, so please remember, from 1 April, to keep dogs on a lead or close to heel throughout the reserve. Dogs can run on the beach. Thank you so much for your co-operation!

 

If you would like to visit St Cyrus NNR you will find details about how to get there on our St Cyrus NNR webpage.

 

 

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