The terning of the year

A frequent mention in this blog goes to the rapid turning of the seasons. Here at Forvie this is felt most keenly at either end of the bird breeding season. In early spring there is a huge volume of work to get through, with the erecting of the electric fence around the ternery to protect the birds from predatory foxes. Now in August, the birds have flown and it’s time to dismantle all that fencing again. It only seems like five minutes since we were putting it up!

Volunteers Jim and Richard with a heap of fencing materials

The ternery fence runs to 950 metres of mesh netting, 1,900 metres of steel wire, 400+ insulating fence posts and lots of ancillary bits and pieces. It’s a Herculean effort to erect, maintain and dismantle it all, and we owe a massive debt of thanks to our volunteers who take on a big share of the work. Without them, we – and more importantly, the terns – simply wouldn’t get by.

We hope to have the fencing all removed by the end of the month, after which the seasonal access restrictions will be lifted. People will once again be able to walk in the south end of the Reserve, without the risk of disturbing sensitive ground-nesting birds, or indeed being attacked by Arctic Terns defending their nests! Of course there is still the seal haul-out to consider, and we’ll cover responsible access in a future blog post.

Fencing under a brooding sky

This week’s weather has been somewhat hit and miss to say the least – check out the colour of the sky in the photo above. We all got a bit wet while dismantling the fence on Tuesday, though we were compensated by some warm sunshine and a fine rainbow later on.

Is there a pot of gold at the end? I’d settle for a rare bird or two…

While working at the ternery we were lucky to cross paths with this rather magnificent beast. It’s the caterpillar of the Elephant Hawk-moth, a large and spectacular species of moth which is resident at Forvie. The larvae feed on the leaves of Rosebay Willowherb – the tall, pink-flowered plant that grows in dense stands by the roadsides in late summer – and there’s certainly plenty of that at the ternery!

Elephant Hawk-moth larva
The adult moth – apologies for the pic; this one was photographed at Muir of Dinnet NNR having been caught in a light-trap there. But you get the idea!

We also happened upon quite a few butterflies during the sunny spells between the downpours. As some species’ flight-season ends, others are just beginning. This newly-minted Red Admiral was enjoying the Ragwort flowers…

Red Admiral on Ragwort

…while these Small Whites were busy, errm, making the next generation of Small Whites.

A mating pair of Small Whites

So the long days are shortening somewhat, the terns are away, and the fences nearly packed up for the season. But there’s still an abundance of wildlife to see; it’s the variety through the year that makes this place so special. Come and experience it for yourself – we’ll maybe see you out and about on the Reserve.

In the meantime, I’ve got some fence posts to collect…