Managing 14km of coastline as a bird reserve

Culbin Sands Reserve is listed by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), a national conservation charity, as a ‘remote and largely undisturbed’ reserve ‘for quiet enjoyment’.  This means that there are no permanent RSPB staff on site.

Just one RSPB warden covers a large area in this part of Scotland, which includes Culbin and many other reserves such as Fairy Glen on the Black Isle.  Activities such as bird counting and ringing do take place at Culbin from time to time, but to a large extent the reserve is left to its birds and its visitors.

Doesn’t a bird reserve just look after itself?

Both bird habitat and human access need monitoring.  Work is required to maintain the open dune habitat which many unusual bird species need, as tree seeds blow over from the forest and take root in the sand.  Whilst natural seeding is a blessing in the forest, here seedlings need to be regularly removed, but more keep coming, so there’s always work for volunteer work parties!

What’s the issue with human access?

Most visitors to the foreshore enjoy the coast and perhaps some birdwatching, and the RSPB only wants to encourage this.  It’s unauthorised vehicles such as quad bikes that are one of the warden’s biggest headaches.  Quadbiking on the reserve is a criminal offence as the noise and activity can disturb or injure birds and quad or motorbike tracks also damage Culbin, notably its fragile saltmarsh habitat.

Riding horses can also cause the same problems of bird disturbance and habitat damage, where riders try to cross the saltmarsh to reach the sands beyond.

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