Sanderling stepsSustrans Volunteer Coordinator 19 Feb
With the back-to-back storms passing through, I've been reading more about nature than spending time out in it. I've been dipping in and out of so many books, that I cannot re-find where I read that sanderlings lack a hind toe and that this distinguishes them from other small waders. But it was before I took advantage of a break in the weather to spin down route 76 in East Lothian and take a walk on Aberlady beach. I was alone but for a couple of oystercatchers, and one strong but tiny white-grey sanderling, bracing in the wind and zig-zagging along the tideline, chasing the receding waves and then fleeing back when they changed direction. Remembering the fun foot fact, when the bird took off for other tides I traced its path and found minute three-toed prints in the wet sand, jinking back and forth. I often see these little winter silver sandpipers from coastal NCN routes that run along the long, sandy beaches that they prefer - route 7 through Ayrshire, route 1 in Angus, as examples. Unsurprising perhaps, as 16,000 overwinter in the UK - that's 96,000 toes.
Trip to Iron BridgeMs Holligan 19 Feb
9.1.19 We went to the iron bridge most of us for the first time we discovered it was the first ever iron bridge to be built in Scotland there use to be a house called Lallathin house and we looked at the deserted broken down green house and walled garden. we also saw horses.
Cumbria Eco Forum awards applicationAlison Bird 18 Feb
Cumbria Eco Forum are hosting an award ceremony next month and I agreed to submit an application for St Bridget's school, Parton, to showcase the environmental work we do in the community with the kids on the beach and related activities. My husband and I have worked hard to prepare a 5 minute video to share what we have been doing at school.
Family beach walk and fish boxesAlison Bird 18 Feb
Great to be out on the beach again with my family after a stormy two weeks. We had a windy walk from St Bees to Seamill along the cliff then back via the shingle beach. The sound of the waves crashing on the shingle, fresh air and even some sunshine on our faces was brilliant after being hemmed inside with the recent storms Dennis and Ciara. What made it even better was sharing some beach cleaning time with my niece, we both found fish boxes, pulling them along the shingle with some recovered fishing line and filling them on our way, imagining ourselves in Arctic travels pulling our sleighs and supplies! Super pleased to hear Joseph, my 7 year old son also found a fish box ahead of us and independently pulled his box off the beach too. We reused our last fish box found at Parton bay and it is now compost full and ready for planting in the school grounds.
Cowal - Pucks GlenDavid Igoe 18 Feb
Our group of Volunteer Rangers explored the Pucks Glen path which is situated on the Cowal Peninsula between Benmore and Cothouse. Puck’s Glen is deservedly the most famous short walk on the Cowal Peninsula. This dark and atmospheric trail is a magical experience full of tumbling burn, cross-crossed by bridges and is enclosed by rocky walls heavily hung with mosses and overshadowed by dense trees. The clear waymarked paths continues uphill, through a mixed woodland planted by the Estate in 1870 and the steep and narrow gorge is interwoven with waterfalls and shallow rock pools spanned by arched wooden bridges. The path up Puck's Glen was built by the Youngers brewing family but fell into disrepair before being restored in 1986. Our journey finished by walking back through the forest to the car park. David Igoe, Andy MacIntosh, Derek Kenney & Lauren Stewart
Cowal - Cormonachan WoodlandsDavid Igoe 18 Feb
The Cormonachan Woodlands, situated on the west shore of Loch Goil half way between Lochgoilhead and Carrick Castle is in the Argyll Forest Park and also within the Loch Lomond & Trossachs National Park. There are 60 ha of ancient Atlantic oak & hazel woodlands Ancient Semi Natural Woodlands (ASNW) being preserved for Education, Conservation and Recreation, with oaks of 300 years old or more and with areas of old coppiced hazel probably from around 100 years ago. Our group of Volunteer Rangers visited the Cormonachan Woodlands Association to assist cutting invasive Rhododendron ponticum near the new waterfall path, this strain of Rhododendron takes over native habitats by creating a dense, dark canopy of stems that stops anything growing underneath and needs to be eradicated. We finished our visit with lunch in the Contemplation Shelter overlooking Loch Goil. This Shelter was built in memory of Liz Evans who served as Chair of the Cormonachan Woodlands Association and provided the drive to maintain these lovely ancient Atlantic oak and hazel woodlands for education, community recreation and conservation. David Igoe, Andy MacIntosh, Derek Kenney & Lauren Stewart
Castle Semple Loch & Kenmure Hill, Jan 25thCoastal wanderings 16 Feb
A wild, grey Saturday, escaping from the city and the January blues. From the minute we stepped off the train, we were greeted by raging winds. Wrapping ourselves in every layer we had brought, we set off for the lochside, feeling the creak of the wooden bridge through our boots but unable to hear it over the wind gushing around us and across the water. Greeted more by birds than people, we were swept along the shore with the wind behind us, legs guided by the force of the air, turning to watch the water whipped into waves. As the path steered away from the loch, we headed up into the woods, finding dog walkers sheltering amongst the trees. Climbing muddy slopes, we found less trampled paths, slipping and sliding along the tree roots. Suddenly, tearing eyes away from muddy feet, we found ourselves surrounded by moss-covered trees, transported to a world of bright, vibrant green - as if spring had parachuted in around us. Up close, the moss held entire worlds - unfurling lush springy tentacles in every direction. In a glade of tall pines, we paused awhile, leaning back against the trunks to tilt our heads to the sky and watch the canopy shift and creak. Springing our heels against the moss-covered ground, we breathed in deep the freshness of the woods, reluctant to rejoin the path. Eventually, the growing cold nudged us on, feet leading us over Blackditch Burn and down the track to the Collegiate Church. At the edge of the loch, the sky had shifted, low clouds rolling away to reveal the view. With eyes set on Kenmure Hill Temple, we stumbled down the path along Black Cart Water, feeling the squelch of mud clagging to our boots. Stumbling up the hill, gusts stung our cheeks, threatening to sweep us away, reminding us how small we were in the midst of the landscape - one part of a much bigger puzzle. On reaching the temple, the loch opened up below us, a snake of blue-grey stretching in the midst of green. We took shelter in the lee of the temple, numb fingers warmed by tea, chocolate and oranges. The return walk was a workout. Wind in our faces, battering limbs and filling lungs. Heavy feet, heads bent into the gale. So cold my phone battery cut out, denying me photos and insisting I drink in the sights with my eyes whilst it was re-warmed by body heat inside my many layers. Reaching the woods offered calm respite, the trees taking the brunt and giving us space to linger. Returning to the loch, we found more people had emerged into the day, being blown along while the choppy slate-grey water was thrown against the pebbles at our feet. Not a day for swimming, and yet, the inevitable, irresistible tug of the water was still there - demanding a promise to return another day.
As the round earth rollsSustrans Volunteer Coordinator 16 Feb
After a bereavement it can be hard to find your footing again - the familiar can seem unfamiliar because facts have changed. So on my first day back at work - a bird identification course on route 1 in Edinburgh - when our trainer pointed out that a small brown bird in an urban bush was a chiff-chaff, I thought I had misunderstood. Chiff-chaff? Familiar. In Edinburgh in January? Unfamiliar. For me, the persistent zilt-zelting of the chiff-chaff's call is a welcome sign of Spring - one that I note down each year when I first hear it. Why was I seeing one now? Turns out that, as well as the summer visitors that I know, which arrive from the Mediterranean or Africa in Spring and leave again in Autumn, there is an increasing number of overwintering chiff-chaffs - ones that either stay here all year, or arrive from Scandinavia or mainland Europe as the summer ones leave. The RSPB website suggests there are 500-1000 overwintering chiff-chaffs in the UK, but only around 10 were recorded in the Lothians in winter 2017, so our little one at Roseburn was an exciting spot. And, in finding him, I was given new familiarity to help ground me. Nature, as always, will play its role in healing - giving perspective and providing reassurance, with events unfolding as they should. Already the routes are lined with snowdrops nodding towards a new season, and soon the swifts and cuckoos and (summer) chiff-chaffs will be heard here again, signalling brighter days ahead. As John Muir wrote in one journal in 1938, "This grand show is eternal. It is always sunrise somewhere; the dew is never all dried at once; a shower is forever falling; vapor ever rising. Eternal sunrise, eternal sunset, eternal dawn and gloaming, on seas and continents and islands, each in its turn, as the round earth rolls."