Has spring really sprung in St Cyrus?

It’s not just the weather that’s been busy these last few weeks at St Cyrus NNR as Andrew Ferguson, our reserves assistant, student placement, recounts.

Skylark. © Lorne Gill/SNH

Skylark. © Lorne Gill/SNH

It was a day peculiar to this piece of the planet,
when larks rose on long thin strings of singing
and the air shifted with the shimmer of actual angels.
Greenness entered the body. The grasses
shivered with presences, and sunlight
stayed like a halo on hair and heather and hills.
Walking into town, I saw, in a radiant raincoat,
the woman from the fish-shop. ‘What a day it is!’
cried I, like a sunstruck madman.
And what did she have to say for it?
Her brow grew bleak, her ancestors raged in their graves
as she spoke with their ancient misery:
‘We’ll pay for it, we’ll pay for it, we’ll pay for it!’

Alastair Reid

The weather has been nice at St. Cyrus NNR for about three weeks now. Too nice. Worryingly nice. Skylarks are reeling and singing over the cattle field, the first early wildflowers (primrose and lesser celandine) have started to bloom, the ravens have built their new nest, the number of geese overhead is dwindling and at home there is more frog spawn in the pond than water.

“Spring is here!” people announce recklessly.

I am less convinced, squinting suspiciously at the sunshine and staunchly wearing full thermals, ready for the inevitable April blizzard.

Another month, another carcass washed up on the beach. This time it was something a bit different to the usual occasional porpoise. The carcass was about eight feet long, definitely cetacean and in quite an advanced state of decomposition. Identification of marine mammals in this state (known as blobsters) is difficult but based on the size, the skull and the shape of the body the team at SMASS thought that it could be a beluga whale, an arctic species and extreme rarity around the coast of Scotland. It was collected and necropsied as far as possible by a team from the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh. On closer inspection it turned out to be a very large bottlenose dolphin with some spinal deformities. Still very exciting but not quite on the beluga level.

We have almost finished the mammoth job of arranging our events programme for the year. Our events kicked off on Saturday the 1st April with a spring beach clean! We were joined by ‘Surfers against Sewage’ and lots of locals to blitz the beach! Greggs the bakers also kindly provided cakes. The events program then takes an arty turn and on Sunday 7th May weopened an exhibition in the visitor centre collated by the team at Arthoos, a collective of local artists. Ther will be three weeks of art workshops and, linking in with the Aberdeenshire Wellbeing Festival, an art therapy workshop. In summer we have an eclectic mix of events including wildlife identification workshops, four sessions with bushcraft expert Willow Lohr and our popular fungal foray. We will advertise exact dates and times on the Facebook page and down at the reserve.


The singing of the skylarks, the ravens’ nest-building and the imminent return of the swallows and house martins all serve as a reminder that the bird breeding season will soon be underway. As always we ask that from this time of the year dogs on the reserve are kept on a lead and under close control to minimise disturbance to the birds at this critical time and to respect the sanctuary area in the Southern part of the reserve.

You will be glad to know that in the time since I wrote the first paragraph of this article, the wind has picked up, the bins have blown over twice and some malevolent-looking dark clouds have closed in from the direction of Montrose. That’s more like it.


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