Basin Notes - November 2006

Joined-up Thinking

A popular phrase at the moment is "joined up thinking" and is applied to many different areas of modern life where the there is a history of small scale action that doesn't address the main problem. It is no different in the wildlife sphere where being able to see the "wood for the trees" is a vital skill for those in strategic roles.

Organisations like the Scottish Wildlife Trust (SWT), Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, Scottish Natural Heritage, National Trust for Scotland and John Muir Trust own and actively manage reserves all over Scotland, yet these amount to only about 1% of the total land area. It is important that wildlife reserves are nurtured because people realise the damage that humanity has wrought over the centuries and the level to which the natural environment has degraded, to the point where species are in danger of extinction.

However, the process of protecting isolated tracts of habitat is fraught with danger and disappointment. Danger for the wildlife if we get it wrong and disappointment for us if the wildlife doesn't come to validate the investment of time and money. Yet we can't sit and do nothing.

Montrose Basin appears to be a wonderfully diverse and rich wildlife haven and one of the Scottish Wildlife Trust's top reserves. However, just because it is seen as a successful project from a human standpoint doesn't mean it is good for the wildlife. The problem is that wildlife can't tell us what they think - they can only vote with their feet (or wings, or fins, or flippers). Wildlife can't see the reserve boundaries and views the country as a whole, searching for food, mates and nest/burrow sites where they can.

Take for instance Shelduck, which are present on the Basin all year, with up to 900 during the winter months. The ducklings are seen in family groups and crèches during the summer months, yet they may not have bred on the reserve. Shelduck nest in old rabbit holes anywhere up to one kilometre from water. The ducklings are marched from the nest site to the preferred feeding site as soon as they are hatched. Hence it is vital that they can find a safe route from burrow to Basin.

Lapwing are another favourite Basin bird that nests a long way from the reserve. We need to help protect their nesting and feeding sites in the summer or we will lose the spectacle of their flapping flocks in autumn and winter.

The SWT's new vision for the next 25 years is to try to make that connection between the isolated reserves to ensure that there are at least some well kept natural corridors between them to enable wildlife populations to move about easily and find what they need to survive. If they find nesting, feeding and roosting sites off the reserves, then all well and good. SWT hopes to provide expertise and encouragement to landowners to help wildlife outside reserves.

Everyone can help by starting their own nature reserve in their gardens. This could double the cared-for wildlife habitat and provide those necessary wildlife highways and service stations that are so necessary to the survival of Scotland's wildlife.