High Tides and Hale Stones

Mother Nature clearly couldn’t make her mind up this week regarding the weather, with a mix of sun, rain, wind and hale, it feels as if we’ve experienced nearly all four seasons! Changes in the weather can’t stop us getting plenty of work done and making the most of it.

Upon heading out to the reserve on Monday, Mark noticed that the estuary at high tide looked a good bit higher than what we usually see. At 4.4m the tide was considerably higher than what we normally see which can vary on average between just above 3m up to 3.9m. Looking at the photos you can really see the difference!

You’d be needing your wellies to walk along Newburgh beach…
Waterside looking rather wet…
Inch Point would’ve looked like a small Island if the tide was any higher!

Many of you that frequent the visitor centre and the heath and sand loch trails may have seen our wildflower information boxes dotted along the paths. These 15 boxes are put out every year in the late spring next to spots where their corresponding flowers can be spotted to allow people to learn what’s what along with a small fact file about each plant. Some are fairly easy to spot and more abundant than others as Richard and I learned earlier in the year as we went out with boxes in a wheelbarrow trying to find the best spots for each. At this time of year the boxes need taken back in again with most of the plants not matching the pictures as they’re either dead or looking rather worse for wear.

A particularly sorry looking Ragwort.

The boxes are taken in for the winter to save people looking for something that isn’t actually there! Mark stepped up to the job and collected all of the boxes and brought them back to the office in the pickup where him and I offloaded them on Tuesday and put them in the shed for what you could say is their winter hibernation, where they will stay until they re-emerge next spring to be placed back on the trails.

With just the two of us here this week and a list of jobs needing done mark and I decided to pair up and take on the task of giving the area around the visitor centre a bit of a tidy up, which ended up being quite the task. On Tuesday we set out with the brushcutter and allen mower on a mission to get it all done before tea time. This was certainly a two man job, with mark even working into the evening to get as much done as possible.

On Wednesday we kitted up in our wellies and waterproofs and spent the day raking up all of the cuttings. Mark decided we should make one big pile to see just how big it would be. With a rakes, pitchforks and wheelbarrows at our disposal we worked the whole day to tidy up the area only taking a break to avoid a brief shower of rain. These kind of jobs, while slow and often tiring always come with the satisfaction of seeing the finished product afterwards. In this case our finished product (or almost finished product as I think a second cut will be needed!) was a mountain of vegetation that ended up being considerably larger than we first expected. Then came the mammoth task of putting the majority of the cuttings in the pickup and spreading them over the nearby meadow, and putting smaller piles of it into our compost bins.

Obviously I had to lay on top of it just for scale!

Over the two days we saw plenty of little critters including lots of small spiders and a plethora of other insects as well as a handful of toads and toadlets! Not to mention that every passing dog simply had to have a nosy around and investigate this new monument on their usual walking route.

Hello there friend!
Some kind of small larva that I have yet to identify. Look at that colour!

As the week moved on, the sporadic showers became more frequent and the days started to feel more like winter. I was welcomed to the office Saturday morning with torrential rain and even hale stones! As the hale began to build up around the office door I was seriously hoping that I wasn’t going to be stuck inside for long, even on the cold days I still want to work outdoors!

After such a warm summer, weather like this is a huge change!

After checking the forecast which predicted the weather would clear by lunch time I braved the elements and headed out to the reserve, checking the bird hide on my way. Upon arrival I spotted a reasonably sized white bird which I quickly registered was not a swan nor a gull from a distance while I was driving along the edge of the track. This bird I realised was a Little Egret, something I personally have never seen in the flesh before so I fumbled around the car grabbing the scope and crept out the car to try and get a snap of it and at the same time kicking myself for not taking the camera in the car. It didn’t hang around for long and shortly afterwards it flew off, though still an exciting start to what seemed to be a pretty miserable Saturday morning.

Ruffling those feathers.

The dreich weather didn’t hang around for long thankfully, and by mid-morning the dark grey sky had turned blue and the sun had emerged, making me reach for my sun cream in preparation for the day ahead.

As I was going about my regular weekend work, chatting to folk and getting a spot of bird watching in from my usual post at Waterside car park I was accompanied by a Buzzard which flew right above me, gliding, almost looking as if it was levitating on the spot whilst looking around below it. Against the clear blue skies it seemed like the perfect photo opportunity but without the camera I didn’t think I would have time to run to the car to set the scope up for a photo, so a rather shaky through-the-binoculars photo would have to make do!

On the blurry side but beautiful nonetheless!

Finally, the weekend comes to a close with a chilly morning that turned into a gorgeous day. It’s apparent that people wanted to make the most of the nice weather with visitor numbers today totalling at a whole 194 people that I interacted with throughout the day at Waterside. Plenty of great conversations had today and clearly lots of people getting out to enjoy both nature and the sun.