Tentsmuir NNR – an inspiration for artists and scientists

Today we hear from Tom Cunningham, our Reserve Manager at Tentsmuir National Nature Reserve. Having worked at Tentsmuir for 17 years, few people know the reserve as well as Tom. Here he updates us on the work of  the reserve’s 2013 Artist in Residence and some recent arrivals on the NNR.

The brilliant, award-winning wildlife artist Derek Robertson was appointed Artist in Residence at Tentsmuir NNR for Year of Natural Scotland 2013. It seems as though he hasn’t stopped painting, sketching, teaching, talking and exhibiting ever since.

Swell evening. Painting of eider ducks - Derek Robertson

Swell evening. Painting of eider ducks – Derek Robertson

I recently attended the opening of an exhibition celebrating the collaborative efforts of all the people who worked with Derek on Tentsmuir last year. During his residency Derek initiated a Art-Science Project, which brought together scientists and artists to be inspired by the reserve and its wildlife. These collaborations resulted in a varied range of artwork, including poetry and paintings, photography and storytelling.

At the exhibition opening Derek talked about his year on the reserve, his work and the honour he felt it was to be the Artist in Residence. In my introduction, I summed it up by saying it was definitely one of the best things I had managed to bring to the Reserve. Dr Jim Stewart, Poet and Lecturer in Creative Writing at the University of Dundee, recited a poem which had inspired one of Derek’s paintings, about a red squirrel that managed to bite the author.

Inspired by the poem “Squirrel” by James Stewart

Inspired by the poem “Squirrel” by James Stewart

The exhibition, Between Tides: Riddles of Tentsmuir, runs until December 13th at the University of Dundee’s Lamb Gallery. See below for more upcoming talks and exhibitions by Derek.

Coming home to roost

Pink-footed geese have arrived on the reserve for winter. We’ve around 1200 roosting at Tentsmuir, relatively small numbers compared to further north at the Montrose Basin and west towards Loch Leven. At Tentsmuir Point, common scoter and eider duck numbers are increasing, ringed and grey plovers have been observed and gannets are a regular sight. Beautiful red-throated divers are on the reserve, but I’ve only seen six lately.

Sea eagle on the shore- Derek Robertson

Sea eagle on the shore – Derek Robertson

Of course the UK’s largest bird of prey can be seen on the reserve, the white-tailed sea eagle, with one chick also around. However, for some reason sightings have been less frequent than last year when I was seeing them almost every day. Along Tayport Heath the birds are piling into feed along the mudflats of the Tayport Bay area, which is always a big draw when the tide is out. And at Morton Lochs the red squirrels can be easily seen around the feeders at the squirrel hide.

Upcoming talks and exhibitions by Derek Robertson

1 November  – Some Lines on a Landscape: A workshop in the Lamb Gallery in which Derek and Jim Stewart will give an insight into their science/art project at Tentsmuir NNR.

7 November – Tentsmuir: A nature-themed lecture by Derek at the Perth Museum & Art Gallery.

25 November – An artist in residence at Tentsmuir: Derek will talk about his work on Tentsmuir as part of a lecture series organised by the Dundee Naturalists’ Society, in the Tower Building, University of Dundee.

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