More People Flock To South Scotland’s National Nature Reserves In 2020

NatureScot’s National Nature Reserves (NNRs) in South Scotland saw an upsurge in visitors in 2020, as part of over a million estimated visitors to NNRs across Scotland. The figure is an increase from an estimated 650,000 in recent years.

The increase, initially due to lockdown, was followed by continued interest and enthusiasm across the nation for spending time in nature in this difficult year.

Winter is a wonderful time to continue that habit. There’s plenty to see on nature reserves in the South of Scotland, from whooper swans, to barnacle geese, ducks, waders, deer, and even the occasional hen harrier.

NatureScot Chief Executive Francesca Osowska said:  “People throughout Scotland have been enjoying spending time outdoors more than ever in 2020. Nature is helping us all cope with anxiety throughout this difficult time and strengthening our resilience. I’d encourage people to get out and enjoy their local national nature reserves over the holiday season, following the latest government guidelines. Our nature reserve staff have highlighted some spectacular sights to see on our reserves this winter.”

Birdwatching at Caerlaverock reserve is spectacular in winter. Visitors can watch the geese in their characteristic V-shaped skeins during morning and evening. The sight and sound of thousands of geese in the air at sunrise or sunset is unforgettable. Barnacle geese can also be observed settled on the saltmarsh most days. There are also oystercatchers, curlew, redshanks, shelduck, pintails, and knot on the reserve now.

This year, Caerlaverock has seen good numbers of little egrets, a striking small white heron with distinctive black legs and yellow feet, with over 40 recorded at the latest count. There was also a first-ever recorded sighting this year for Southern Highlands of a tiny and rare stonefly at Caerlaverock.

At Cairnsmore reserve, hen harriers sometimes pass through the reserve, and as winter merges into spring, frogs, toads and newts appear in ditches and ponds. There are also big plans to improve biodiversity on the reserve. There have been 3000 broadleaf trees planted so far this year, and the next phase of the reserve’s peatland restoration plan begins in January 2021 on the next 80ha.

Finally, visitors can enjoy a new section of boardwalk along a newly restored area of peatland this year at Kirkconnell Flow reserve. The biodiversity benefits are already in evidence on the newly created shallow ponds, with sightings this year of the rare lesser emperor dragonfly, as well as various other dragon and damselflies, including the very large and impressive emperor. The wonderful mix of shady wood, soft shrubby edges and open space at Kirkconnell provides a home for species ranging from roe deer to adders to dragonflies, as well as nightjar, cuckoo and the rare six-spotted pot beetle.

Francesca has some final words of advice for those visiting nature reserves: “It’s been amazing to see so many people enjoying our reserves this year, but we’d also like to remind people to protect our reserves for future generations. For example please don’t litter or light campfires, as these can damage plants, trees and wildlife.”