A hard day’s fun on Caerlaverock NNR

After frequently commenting that they never get out of the office, the Dumfries Admin Team (both called Susan) were finally let loose for the day on Caerlaverock National Nature Reserve. Susan Hepburn tells us what they got up to … 

My colleague Susan and I joined the Caerlaverock NNR team and volunteers for the day, to combine shark egg collecting with a spot of Himalayan Balsam shoot pulling and some litter clearing from the shore. We struck lucky on the day and although there was a cold breeze coming off the Solway first thing, it quickly turned into a braw day with sunny intervals and by midday I was very glad of the breeze.

Clearing the merse

Clearing the merse

After a morning walking the Merse looking for rubbish, I had a serious appreciation for the hard work that is done on the Reserve, even just getting from A to B.  After navigating barely visible channels and pools,  wading through sands which were deceptively soft in places and walking the high tide line, which was hard going to cross in my wellies – I was pooped!  But there was still work to be done before lunch.

Pulling Himalayan Balsam shoots

Pulling Himalayan Balsam shoots

We spent the rest of the morning in the shade of the trees, pulling up invasive non-native Himalayan Balsam shoots, then on the walk back for lunch we cleared more litter from the verge. Over lunch I took in the breath-taking view and noticed the results of the morning’s work. It was a treat for the mind as well as the senses.

Lunch break view - looking across the merse to Criffel

Lunch break view – looking across the Merse to Criffel

After lunch we headed down to a large expanse of reed bed known locally as the ‘flooders’.  By now the sun was out in full force and with less wind it felt rather toasty for the time of year in these parts. My wellies were starting to rub and my body starting to ache but I was not going to let it dampen my mood as we cleared the high tide line of rubbish.

Walking the high tide line required treading carefully on parts of the reed bed potentially not dry enough to take our weight. Unfortunately Suzanne McIntyre, SNH’s Caerlaverock Reserve Manager, learned this when she jumped to the aid of this big ‘scaredy-cat’, who wasn’t sure about jumping a ditch.  Suzanne misjudged where she thought she had already crossed and ended up with a welly full of water – yip, I felt really bad, especially as with her help I made it across dry.

After assessing improvements that could be made to the hide in the area, we carried all the rubbish back to the pick-up. Pink around the edges, a little soggy, wellies rubbing like billy-o, aching, hungry and shattered, but feeling invigorated to my core, it was back to the office.  Boy, did I sleep well !

Ruby Tiger moth Phragmatobia fuliginosa

Ruby Tiger moth (Phragmatobia fuliginosa)

One of the many highlights of the day was getting to see this beautifully coloured ruby tiger moth. The following week we soaked its egg casing overnight and, with help from reserve officer Adam Murphy, I learned how to identify the species and added it to our records for the reserve.  I look forward to the next time we get out of the office, before which I really must buy some better wellies.

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