Catchy title, eh? Contrary to popular belief, ‘puffballs’ aren’t some sort of cheesy corn-based snack, or a lightweight expletive that you can use in front of Granny. No, we’re talking about fungi here. And anyone that’s walked the footpaths at Forvie during late autumn has probably seen a puffball, even if they didn’t realise it at the time.

A puffball beside the footpath
A cluster of puffballs
Close up

Puffballs, like other more familiar mushrooms, are the fruiting bodies of a fungus. These are the means by which the fungus releases spores (broadly speaking, the fungal equivalent of seeds) in order to reproduce. In most cases, the fruiting bodies are just the ‘tip of the iceberg’, the actual fungus being very much bigger, and hidden from view in the soil or dead wood. Consequently, we only ever see a fraction of what’s happening in the world of fungi.

Fungi have various strategies to release and spread their spores. In the case of these puffballs, their strategy is to produce a rounded fruiting body with a small hole in the top through which the spores are propelled when pressure is applied. This pressure may come from falling raindrops, trampling by wildlife and people, or simply the breeze blowing over the ground. Once released, the spores are dispersed by the wind.

Puffball with pressure about to be (artificially) applied
Spores beginning to be released
There they go!

The spores are tiny and dark brown in colour, and resemble a puff of smoke when they are released. This fairly obviously gives puffballs their common name. Their scientific name is rather more bizarre – the Latin name Lycoperdon translates literally as ‘wolf flatulence’. I can’t even begin to suggest an explanation for this; I imagine you would require a better working knowledge of wolves than I have.

There are several species of Lycoperdon puffballs in Scotland, and not being expert mycologists here we struggle to identify them. But we think the ones currently visible on the Reserve, along the edges of the footpaths in the dune heath and grassland, are Lycoperdon lividum. Their altogether more prosaic common name is the Grassland Puffball. But for any readers out there with a better knowledge of fungi, please do get in touch and correct us if necessary!

Launching more spores skywards
All puffed out now

While it’s generally not advisable to touch fungi – some species are poisonous, and it’s always best to err on the side of caution – it’s hard to resist the temptation to have a quick prod at a ripe puffball. And it’s nice to think that the resulting little puff of spores might help to produce more puffballs in future. Who knows, maybe these have evolved to take advantage of our (my) curious and easily-amused nature?

Anyway, do keep an eye out for these next time you’re out and about walking the trails. They’re another little piece of the massive jigsaw of life here at Forvie. And by the way, if you can explain the wolf thing, please do give us a shout…

Cleaning beaches for the BBC

It has been a long day at Forvie. Daryl, Finn and myself have been filmed from all angles down on the beach and back up at the Forvie Centre today for the Landward programme. They have been finding out about our Great Forvie Beach Craft challenge (see here) and what we are suggesting people can do with the rubbish off the beaches.

It seems like it might go out in December but we will let you know the time and date when we know it. It will be well worth watching just for Daryl’s “Jack Hargreaves” impression (kids just ask your grandparents) !

In praise of bare sand

At Forvie we do a lot of bare sand. The Forvie sand dunes are some of the most active in the UK. What is an active sand dune? Does it move? Well yes that is the whole point. At Forvie there is a combination of sand washed ashore from the seabed where it was dumped by the ice age, and wind that blows the sand off the shore and across the land. And we have lots of sand and lots of wind. This has lead to dunes of bare loose marching across the landscape through history. But when the sand reaches a place out of the wind, in the lee, then it becomes stationary and then it can be colonised by plants. Marram grass is often one of the first and it offers shelter for other plants and mosses to move in afterwards. There is a whole succession of different plants that grow in the different stages and aspects of the dunes. This range of niches for plants and the animals that use them, from bare sand to well vegetated stable dunes means that a dune system can hold many more species of different types.

So any dune system always need dynamic bare sand so that there is a constant creation of new habitats. If the whole dune system is stabilised all of the species that use the early stages of succession are heading for extinction. So at Forvie we welcome bare sand as it means we will be passing dunes onto future generations.

At the south end of the reserve opposite Newburgh is an enormous bare dune of sand that is resolutely marching north with the prevailing wind. It is an amazing place to be on a windy day. The quantity of sand on the move and the energy that it does so has to be seen to be believed. The whole of the surface of the dune seems to be shimmering and sand is in the air, in your hair, in your clothes and in your lunch. Now that is a dynamic landscape. Above is the face of this dune which is gradually moving over the top and enveloping older dunes are in grinds forward.

The landscape at the south end of the reserve is constantly changing – each day it can look different and footprints can disappear on windy days in minutes. And the sand dominated land has an ever changing beauty with striking pictures to be seen in the distance and close-up.

But further south from Forvie is another part of the dune system, the Menie links that is being turned into golf course. Here part of the site has been stabilsed and just about all of the bare sand features no longer exisit. So the various stages of dune formation have been lost and for that reason it is being proposed that the site no longer has enough nature conservation interest to be designated as an SSSI.

You can read more about why the Menie golf course part of the Forveran Links SSSI is being proposed to be denotifed here.

Quite simply with sand dunes all green is not good, you need green and yellow to maintain dunes for future generations. .

The great Forvie beach craft challenge

We want to set you a challenge. Can you make use of beach rubbish recovered from Forvie beach? Or any other beach for that matter?

Every year we pick up tons of rubbish from the Forvie NNR coast line. Much of it is plastic and nearly all of it has to go into landfill. And every piece has been carelessly discarded.

Rather than burying it all in the ground, how about if some it could be put to use? Like a spoecia lepisode of where “Blue Peter meets Scrapheap Challenge” Forvie staff have been having a go at putting some of the beach rubbish to a working use. Here are some of the finished items.

A mat made from beach rope.
One of several different bucket designs we have tried.
A garden water butt made from a plastic drum off a beach.
Van storage using fish boxes.
Van storage using old netting off a beach
A cat-scratching pole using beach rope.

Do you fancy having a go? If so we have put some large ton sacks of all sorts of beach rubbish by the Forvie centre entrance for you to help yourself and get making.

There are also items that can be just reused as themselves. Fancy a couple of desk tidies? A stair banister? A football? Some rope? Boat bouys and floats? An inflatable flamingo? Just help yourself.

An inflatable flamingo of course.

All we ask is for you to send us some pictures of what you have made to forvie@nature.scot or tagging SNH into pictures on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

Also you might have been doing this for years, if so we would love to see your ideas and creations, please send them through or tag us on social media.

Every piece of plastic rubbish re-used might save you money and stop another new piece of plastic being purchased and entering the system.

So get making! And show us the result!

A bridge over a nature reserve – the Logie Buchan War Memorial

In the quietest corner of Forvie NNR is a bridge. It spans the whole NNR, crossing the Ythan where the estuary mudflats narrow and are taken over by reedbeds. It is a beautiful, peaceful place, away from traffic, sheltered from the nagging wind that batters the rest of the reserve; a place to see kingfishers and roosting swallows, to hear redshank and overhead geese. So this makes it the perfect place to also read the bronze plaques fixed to the parapets that are memorials to those of the surrounding parish that died in the 1st and 2nd World War and remember.

The bridge was built in 1935. Before that a ferry, the Boat of Logie, took people across the river. The remains on the jetties and pilings can still be seen and the cottage on the east side is the former ferryman’s house.

The bridge was a long time in the making. It was 1820s that the parish of Logie Buchan first cojnsidered replacing the ferry with a bridge but little progress was made. It became more likely when in 1891 Miss Mary Cruden left a bequest of £35 “for behoof of the parish as maybe considered most beneficial”. Miss Cruden’s sister suggested that the money should “be appropriated for any scheme that may be set on foot for the erection of a bridge at Boat of Logie.” By 1919 the funds stood at £700 and a bridge and war memorial committee was formed. But it wasn’t until 1934, with the funds at £3000, that bridge building was started. Finally the bridge was opened in 1935, a fine achievement for a small community, with an opening ceremony that was one of the outstanding events of the parish.

There are only names on the war memorials and the stories of who they are and how they fell are not there. I found a little bit more information about these soldiers and have included it below.

Though I don’t know the full stories of these soldiers, I do know a bit of the story of my grandfather who fought in the 1st World War, was wounded, recovered, went back to the trenches and was wounded again. And I know the story of his brother, my great-uncle who fought and died leading his men during the same war. So that peaceful spot on Forvie NNR with its war memorial on the bridge over the Ythan, is where I think of them, and remember.

Details of some of the soldiers named on the Logie Buchan bridge war memorial.

Murray Alexander H Pte 201587 2nd Gordon Highlanders eAberdeen Killed in Action F & F 04-Oct-17 Tyne Cot Memorial M. R. 30 Panel 135 to 136

Mackie Robert Pte 4311 7th Gordon Highlanders b Logie Buchan e Aberdeen Age 22 Died of Wounds F & F 14-Oct-16 Son of Christina & the late Robert Mackie, Tipperty Croft, Logie Buchan, Ellon, Aberdeenshire. Courcelles-Du-Bois Commuanl Cemetery Extension Fr 0133 Row A Grave 3 ADJ 23-10-16

Hardie Lewis John Pte 2234 5th Gordon Highlanders b Old Deer 24/03/1890 e Peterhead Age 26 Killed in Action F & F 13-Nov-16 Son of Margaret Hardie, Newark, Tipperty, Ellon, Aberdeenshire & the late George Hardie. Buchan Observer: 1914: Tipperty, Ellon. (Recruits). The Roll of Honour Vol III : Eldest son of Mr G Hardie : page 127. Y Ravine Cemetery, Beaumont-Hamel Fr 1490 Row C Grave 65 ADJ 30-11-16 RoH Eldest son.

Gray Adam Pte 39450 16th Royal Scots b Logie Buchan e Aberdeen Age 40 Died of Wounds F & F 15-Apr-17 Son of the late Adam & Annie C Gray. Native of Nethermill, Birness, Logie Buchan. Listed under 16th Bn maybe 12th Bn. Etaples Military Cemetery Fr 0040 Plot XXII Row H Grave 9

Slessor George L/cpl 292169 7th Gordon Highlanders b Ellon e Peterhead Age 22 Killed in Action F & F 20-Nov-17 Son of Mrs I Slessor, Bridgefoot, Birness, Ellon, Aberdeenshire. Orival Wood Cemetery, Flesquieres Fr 1498 Plot I Row D Grave 36 Ellon & Logie Buchan

Scott Thomas Hardy Cpl 33368 15th Royal Scots “D” Coy b Logie Buchan 07/04/1891 e Dundee Age 26 Killed in Action F & F 28-Apr-17 Son of the late Rev William Frank Scott & Henrietta Porteous (nee Hardy) Scott, St Andrews Manse, 11 Albany Terr; Dundee. The Roll of Honour Vol IV page 179: Grandson of the late Rev Thomas Hardy , of Foulis Wester. Educated Morrison’s Academy, Crieff Occ: Commercial Traveller. Roeux British Cemetery Fr 1194 Row C Grave 1

Guthrie Alexander Lt 32nd Royal Field Artillery “Y” TM Bty 1st HB Coull 23 Killed in Action F & F 12-Jul-17 Son of Rev William G Guthrie, & Mrs Mairia A Guthrie, Manse of Glass. City Roll of Honour: The Manse, Glass. Officers Book page 207. 1901 Census : 216: Logie Buchan: The Manse. 2/16. Ramscappelle Road Military Cemetery, St Georges B 173 Nieuport Mil Cem Mem 1 City Glass Logie Buchan & Town House

Guthrie Albert John Lt 5th Gordon Highlanders Age 25 Killed in Action F & F 30-Jul-16 Son of Rev William G Guthrie, & Mrs M A Guthrie, Manse of Glass. Officers Book page 242. Thiepval Memorial M. R. 21 Pier 15B & 15C ADJ 08/08/16 Glass Logie Buchan & Peterhead

Dean George Murray Lt 5th Gordon Highlanders Age 31 Killed in Action F & F 13-Sep-18 Husband of Margaret Dean, Rowan Cottage, Ellon, Aberdeenshire. Officers Book page 242. Voters 18/19 2nd Lt in Army (a) Station Rd; Philosophe British Cemetery, Mazingarbe Fr 0115 Plot IV Row E Grave 8 Ellon & Logie Buchan



 The Scottish Military Research Group – Commemorations Project Forum Index -> Aberdeenshire – Civic Memorials

The joys of the east coast

I’m fond of saying that Forvie’s not just about the birds. There’s the incredible landscape, the rare habitats, the rich flora and the diverse array of wildlife from fungi to marine mammals. But having said all that, today’s post is an unashamedly birdy affair, following a remarkable turn of events on Tuesday.

Upon leaving the house to walk up to the Reserve office on Tuesday morning, my eye was drawn to the unmistakably daft silhouette of a Waxwing perched on the telegraph pole next door. This was the first one to touch down on the local patch in 13 years – the previous ones have just flown over and not stopped. So this was a moment to savour.

A stunning Waxwing – the broad yellow tip to the tail probably indicating a male bird

The Waxwing eventually discovered the apples we’d put out in the garden for the birds, and gratefully tucked in, replenishing its energy reserves after its long flight across the North Sea. But this wasn’t the only surprise of the morning.

While trying to get photos of the Waxwing, we caught a glimpse of a small bird perched up in the bushes, tail cocked. It then dashed off after a flying insect before disappearing into cover. Red-breasted Flycatcher!

Red-breasted Flycatcher – a classic east-coast rarity. Only the males have a red breast; this is a juvenile

Red-breasted Flycatcher is a rare migrant here; their normal range is far to the east of the UK. They are plentiful in eastern Europe in the summer months, and migrate southwards in autumn to spend the winter in western Asia. But every autumn a few of them end up drifting westwards, crossing the North Sea and gracing our eastern seaboard. Encountering a little gem like this is one of the joys of living and working on the east coast.

Later in the day, having calmed down from the excitement of the Waxwing and Flycatcher, while returning from our area meeting in Montrose we dropped in by the estuary in the last of the daylight. On the Sleek of Tarty – the bit just upstream of the Waterside road bridge – the long-staying Great White Egret remained in-situ.

Great White Egret

Meanwhile the Whooper Swans, upon which we reported last week, continue to be a major presence. We carried out a quick population census and recorded no fewer than 392 individuals – we think this is an all-time record for Forvie. This must be one of the best wildlife spectacles in the region just now.

An estuary full of swans
Whooper swans at dusk

So there you have it – an absolute top day’s birding by anyone’s standards. Yes, there’s more to the Reserve than ‘just’ birds, but it must be said that days like this one are hard to beat. Whooper swans from Iceland, an Egret from southern Europe, a Waxwing from the far north and a rare Flycatcher from the east. And all here, right on our doorstep. That’s the joy of the east coast at Forvie.

A morning walk with the seals

My early morning walk on the reserve is often to commune with the seals at the Ythan mouth. It is such a fantastic sight to see so many large mammals gathering together in a great display of bioabundance.

But I always head down to Newburgh beach to see them. A short walk from the car park by the golf course and you can see the seals across the river getting on with their business quite happily, while having no impact on them. If you wait then those in the water will sometimes come closer to have a look. It is worth taking a bit of time to return the complement, you can see all sorts of interactions between individuals and also take in the sound of all those animals together (and smell if the wind is blowing towards you!).

You shouldn’t approach any of the seals on the north side of the river as, not only will you not get much of a view of the animals as they will quickly head into the water but it isn’t good for the seals to get disturbed. For this reason this haul-out location is a protected site for seals so to avoid disturbing the seals it is best to avoid the mouth of the river on the north bank of the Ythan.