Our NatureScot student placement scheme provides great opportunities for recent graduates to get invaluable work experience that puts their new skills into practice.
Countryside Management graduate Fraser Wilson continues his series of posts about his work as a National Nature Reserve Assistant, helping to maintain and improve these special locations for the many thousands of visitors they receive each year…
We recently made use the dry weather to remove two old bird hides from Caerlaverock NNR, ready for the new ones being built.
This is “Holland’s hide”, a fairly square edged bird hide with glass windows and flat roof. Built in sections, this was the easier of the two hides to dismantle. Getting it off the reserve however was another story!
The hide dismantled in to six large walled sections, a stack of decking wood floor and trim, along with a whole lot of corrugated asphalt roofing sheets and windows. The weight of each section was too much to lift safely between two people across 600+ metres of boardwalk to the trailer, and travelling back and forth with just a handful of timber at a time was not practical. We needed a better solution.
Thought of by the reserve team, and built with repurposed castors, we managed to create a sort of heavy duty trolley, helping save us so much time and effort in getting the various parts of the hide off the reserve.
The frame of the trolly consists of two sleepers from the base of the hide bolted to boards which have the castors fitted underneath. Two castors spin freely to help give us steering as some of the boardwalk sections have tight turning. You can see from the picture above just a small section of the boardwalk we needed to get the hide out ascross. A long way to lift such a large amount of heavy timber!
We loaded up the trolly with three large sections at a time then rathched strapped them down to prevent them coming loose. We then took turns pushing and pulling the trolly across the length of the boardwalk to the trailer. We did around five of six loads like this before we managed to clear the site of all the various parts.
During one of our runs we spotted this common toad (Bufo bufo) at the edge of the boardwalk. Although a common species around most of Scotland, It’s always nice to see wildlife about when out on the reserves.
After a tidy up of all the tools and loose rubbish, we were done. We decided to keep the original foundation posts in place in case the new hide can be built atop of them. If not, we will come in and chainsaw them away to tidy them up.
I slept well after this, thats for sure, and I went home aching from muscles I never knew I had but it was another great job to get done and be part of. Well worth the effort.
I am looking forward to what the new hides bring. This one is being replaced by a hide a whole metre higher than the current base, helping elevate the position from which visitors can see some of the many species around the reserve. As a team, we actually frequently use this area to carry out or WeBS (Wetland Bird Surveying) surveys. A new, more practical hide for our own use too could be very handy, especially in such an exposed location where winds and rain during surveys can be……interesting.