While lying prone in front of the fire recovering from the post-Christmas-dinner food coma, it’s become something of a tradition here at Forvie to reflect upon the past year. Like any year, 2022 has had its ups and downs, its cosmic highs and its mind-numbing lows. But for the purposes of this summary, we’ll forget the not-so-good bits, and focus instead on the highlights of the past twelve months. Fasten your seat belts, folks: your whistlestop tour of twenty-twenty-two starts here.
A series of clear nights gave us some spectacular sunrises and sunsets, and even some auroral activity. Two major storms during the last weekend of the month caused considerable damage to trees and structures, but compared with some places we got off lightly!
The estuary teemed with wading birds and waterfowl, with the ducks displaying furiously and looking their best. Among these was a Green-winged Teal all the way from North America! Footpath improvement works took place along the coast path, with another 180 metres repaired. We began to look ahead to the preparations for the forthcoming bird breeding season, with spring just around the corner…
The ternery fence was put up at the beginning of the month, marking the official start of summer at Forvie(!). The first Sandwich Terns returned from Africa on 23rd, a date so reliable that you could set your calendar by them. Seal numbers at the Ythan mouth built up towards their spring peak, providing a real spectacle for observers viewing from Newburgh beach.
The remainder of the terns arrived, and along with the Eiders they all got down to the nitty gritty of the breeding season. The first butterflies began to appear, and the trees and plants burst into life. A Pallid Harrier seen at the ternery was just the fifth of its kind ever to be recorded in north-east Scotland.
The bird breeding season at Forvie was in full swing, though the spring migration season was very quiet due to the westerly airflow. Wild flowers began to become more prominent, and insect activity also increased as spring merged into early summer. A ‘wreck’ of King Ragworms on the shore provided an unexpected wildlife highlight!
A month of endlessly long days, relentless daylight and constant activity on the Reserve. The first young gulls and terns started to fledge from the ternery, while our wild flowers and butterflies began to approach their zenith.
A packed summer events programme got underway, with illustrated talks, guided walks and a family fun day on offer. Attendance and feedback each exceeded our wildest expectations! The bird breeding season began to wind down, but Forvie’s flora was at its best. The ongoing dry summer produced many beautiful sunlit days for exploring the Reserve.
This is the ‘heather season’ at Forvie, with the heath in full bloom – a treat for all the senses. Bottlenose Dolphins put on a show offshore, with a Humpback Whale also sighted. Warm southerly winds brought an influx of Hummingbird Hawk-moths from southern Europe.
The first month of autumn proper brought the biggest September ‘fall’ of migrant birds since 2008, with foreign warblers, chats and flycatchers all over the Reserve. At least two Minke Whales were present offshore mid-month.
The heart of the autumn, and harvest time in the natural world. Fruits and berries served to provide sustenance for wildlife, both locals and immigrants alike. A great time for migration at Forvie, with swans and geese arriving for the winter, and oddities like Long-eared Owls passing through.
A couple of sharp frosts proved the exception to the rule in a remarkably mild month. Frequent rainfall helped top up the Reserve’s water table after the drought summer, while we were also battered by some violent storms from the North Sea. Wildlife highlights included a Dusky Warbler from Siberia – like the Pallid Harrier in the spring, only the fifth of its kind ever to be seen in our region.
The weather finally turned cold, and mid-December saw a significant snowfall. This made for some beautiful scenes on the Reserve, but was tough for the wildlife. Duck numbers on the estuary soared as they were frozen off the inland waterbodies, while parties of Fieldfares raided local gardens and hedgerows for any remaining berries and fruit. Down on the estuary, two Grey Seal pups were raised at the haul-out site (where they could be viewed from across the water at Newburgh), thereby ending the year on a high.
And so another action-packed year on the Reserve comes to an end. Get back in the saddle and do it all again next year? You bet. See you there!