Earlier this month I found myself wandering my Wardenly way through the nature reserve and noting what an incredibly large amount of work has been achieved by the volunteer groups this year and indeed over the last four years that the reserve volunteer groups have been doing their thing. No more obvious is this than in the scenes of disappearing buckthorn and seeing all this made me smile a happy smile! It really is an amazing achievement and I think we should all be very proud of our work! There is still much to do but with your help is has become achievable.
For a second year running, over 1,500 hours of volunteer time was spent on the nature reserve on a great diversity of tasks from the old chestnuts, such as sea buckthorn hoiking, to new wildlife survey work which I hope we can develop next year in our Aberlady Bay Watch project.
Dates for volunteer events in 2012 are listed at the bottom. I thank you all sincerely for all your help and hope very much that you are able to join us again next year for more sawing, burning, digging, counting and general all-round good fun!
John Harrison, 22nd December 2011
Volunteer Projects in 2011
Sea Buckthorn Bashing
Nearly 700 hours was spent by you good people, mullering with mattocks and brandishing bowsaws (all in a very safe, risk-assessed manner!). Such a fantastic input has meant that we are well ahead of the plan to control our thorny foe. New patches have been cleared in the Gullane Point area and, importantly, we’ve been able to go back over previously cleared areas to keep that pesky young regrowth in check. Harry the tame digger drive returned once again to give us a helping hand and left more large piles of brash to appease our pyromaniac persuasions. So far that’s been 14 infernos this year with another twenty-something in 2012. What fun!
Conservation of Gastronomical Proportions!
And with such a plethora of opportunities for big fire, it seemed positively wasteful to resourceful folk such as ourselves not to make best use of them. And so cook on them we did. Starting out with simple (but very fine) baked tatties (many thanks to spud-provider extraordinaire, Liz!) we tried baked apple, vegetable concoctions, veg chilli and even a fire pit to cook meat. Who knows what we’ll try next year! Step aside Ray Mears.
Our woolly visitors from the Scottish Wildlife Trust continue to do great work on the nature reserve and I must thank all you lookerers out there who have taken the time to check on them. Only two break-outs this year and they were easily encouraged back into their enclosure (clearly they know what’s best for them). As I write, a hit squad of 15 sheep from the reserve are infiltrating a bunch of unruly and seemingly uncatchable Shetland sheep on Traprain to try to calm them into capture. Should they be successful in their quest, they will all return to the Bay, which may mean more escapes next year!
Volunteer Thank You Event
For the second year running, this was held at Yellowcraig. We made and got the best of some very wet weather. Not that that was a problem for the adventurous paddle boarders and kayakers who were kindly aided by Martin from the Council’s Outdoor Learning department. We also had talks in a tee-pee from a representative of Butterfly Conservation which were popular.
This year saw the modest beginnings of what is hoped will be a broad-ranging project to look at some of the less well-known wildlife on the nature reserve. The Aberlady Bay Watch – wildlife surveys are an attempt to get the keen amongst you to look at a particular area of interest and, with the help of experts and with the use of some shiny new equipment and guides kindly grant-aided by CSV, enhance our knowledge of what is happening out on the nature reserve whilst, at the same time, giving volunteers the chance to become local experts in their field! We were very lucky to have lichenologist Brian Coppins give us a training day in December and it is hoped that we can arrange other days next year, probably from springtime onwards.
Some of you helped greatly with lots of wildlife monitoring this year from wetland bird surveys and goose counts to vegetation plots and moth trapping. Special thanks go to Paul Johnson who has helped greatly with bird and plant surveys.
With the forthcoming Olympics in mind, two new sports were trialled on the reserve this year: those of Reedmace Rafting and Wheelbarrow Wanging. The former involving the construction of a raft of reedmace stems which was used to cruise the Wader Scrape, whilst the latter saw the challenge of hurling said stems into a waiting wheelbarrow at a variety of distances. We’ve yet to hear back from Seb Coe. We did do some meaningful conservation work too! A big area of reedmace was cleared, helping to reduce nutrient levels in the water.
The new volunteer website was launched in August. We’ve had a few problems with it, not least when it got hacked into, but it’s now fully functional (just about) and provides a one-stop shop for all things volunteering at the nature reserve. If you have any comments about the site I’d love to hear them.
Volunteer Group Name
Quite a while ago now I tasked you all with coming up with a name for the volunteer group and I received many a suggestion from you! Some good. Some unprintable! It has proved difficult to pin down a name but some time in the New Year a decision will be made and we’ll no longer be badged as ‘Friends of’.
Aberlady Spa Resort
Volunteering atAberladyBayis clearly very good for you. So much so that we have discussed through the year that it’s really akin to coming to a health spa. Sea buckthorn berries have great and proven health benefits, reedmace clearance provides you with a good mud-pack, there’s no doubt as to the gymnastic workout available and all this in the fresh air! I think I might have to start charging you all for the privilege!