A group of 4 met at RSPB Inshes Car Park on a rather dreich day where Pete Moore, recently retired warden, introduced us to the reserve. He had also kindly arranged for Thijs Claes, Curlew Life Project Officer, to introduce the work that he and his team are undertaking.
Thijs had set up his scope on a Curlew nest that was being observed with a camera and showed us the equipment he uses to weigh and measure the eggs. He explained that the area is one of the best sites for breeding Curlew in Scotland. Curlew Life is hoping to increase the population by providing suitable habitats for Curlew to nest and rear their chicks by making the marsh more diverse. There are five priority landscapes for Curlew Life with Insh Marshes being the only one in Scotland, the aim being to create a ‘centre of excellence for curlew conservation’. It is a 4 year project being managed by the RSPB with support from the EU LIFE programme.
Insh Marshes is an area of 1000 hectares of wetland which is one of the least modified in Europe. It is a Site of Special Scientific Interest and Special Area of Conservation supporting breeding waders including Curlew, Lapwing, Redshank and Snipe. All these species were initially observed from the marshes looking towards Ruthven Barracks, along with Oystercatcher.
From the car park we observed Robin, House Sparrow, Chaffinch, Pheasant, Sparrowhawk and Jackdaw
We then walked to the Gordonhall Hide to allow for closer views of the marsh which allowed for excellent views of a male Hen Harrier quartering the area directly in front of us and flushing other birds.
Other wildfowl observed were a resplendent male Shoveler, Mallard, Wigeon, Teal, Greylag and Canada Geese
Pete suggested walking along one of the nature trails from the Lookout hide with an aspen woodland. Discussion was had about how aspen trees propagate and we were fortunate to see aspen flowering, possibly due to the hot summer last year. Aspen trees are important for the insects they support, such as the aspen hoverfly and the dark bordered beauty moth. We saw nesting Starlings using the deadwood cavities. The older trees may be covered in lichen which can give the trunk a black appearance and have lenticels attached
Then we wandered some of the Lynachlaggan Trail until we reached a clearing overlooking the marsh with a picnic table and stopped for a brew and another scan of the area. Whilst there we saw Mute Swan, Buzzard, Lesser Redpoll, Coal, Blue and Great Tits along with Wren, Song and Mistle Thrushes. Sand Martins and Swallow were hawking over the reeds. We were fortunate to have another excellent view of the male Hen Harrier. We also saw Konik ponies, borrowed from Strathbeg, and used to keep the marsh in good condition as they can graze where it is too wet for livestock.
Our final stop was at Loch Insh to view the Osprey on its nest and where we also saw Goldeneye.
An excellent, informative outing which finished at 2.30pm with 43 species seen.