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26 Sept 2023

Record-breaking species monitoring at St Abb’s Head NNR

Written by Paul Williams
A group of people stand in front of a green gazebo on a grassy field, all smiling. It's raining and they're all in wet weather gear. There is a mix of adults and children.
53 members of the public joined in the St Abb’s Head BioBlitz event activities, setting a new record for species monitoring at the National Nature Reserve.
Our team at St Abb’s Head are celebrating a record-breaking number of different species recorded at the National Nature Reserve. This will help them build an accurate account of the biodiversity at this special coastal landscape.

The BioBlitz events in August were delivered by our team of rangers at the nature reserve near Eyemouth, in the Scottish Borders, in partnership with the Berwickshire Marine Reserve. The team were assisted by 53 members of the public to carry out species monitoring and land-based surveys. They helped to record more varieties of flora and fauna than ever before, with 326 species documented in one day (2 August) – an improvement on the previous record of 298 species in 2018.

A dive to explore the coastal marine environment near St Abbs harbour at two sites – Anemone Gullies and Peanut Wreck Boilers – was rescheduled to 23 August due to bad weather conditions on the day of the BioBlitz event. Data gathered during these dives by Trust rangers, staff from the Berwickshire Marine Reserve and a visiting scientist from the Traversing European Coastlines (TREC) project complemented the land-based surveys, helping to boost the total number of species recorded to 349.

The members of the public recorded their findings by using a specialist app to photograph the species of plants, insects, mammals and seabirds that they encountered. The event was designed to get people excited about their local wildlife and the important work of both charities.

Jordanna Kitching, National Trust for Scotland seasonal engagement ranger at St Abb’s Head NNR, said: ‘We’re delighted with the outcome from our BioBlitz event in August. The bumper number of species recorded – including minke whale, Atlantic wolffish, peregrine falcon and great skua – shows the diversity and scale of the wildlife that call this special landscape home, as well as demonstrating the importance of our work here. This information will help us to compile a comprehensive set of data on the various species, informing how we best care for and protect their habitats. It will also help us to create a baseline set of data to allow us to compare future data to potentially identify indicators of change in the species found here.’

Jordanna’s role is made possible thanks to the Love Our Nature project, supported by players of People’s Postcode Lottery (PPL). PPL have now raised more than £1 billion for thousands of charities and local good causes. This includes a total of over £2.5m for the Trust since 2014, to support our work to enrich and protect Scotland’s landscapes and wildlife.

“We’re incredibly thankful to the members of the public who joined our species-monitoring efforts. Despite the wet weather conditions, they helped us to beat the last count carried out in 2018.”
Jordanna Kitching
Seasonal Engagement Ranger

Jordanna continued: ‘We’re also grateful for the continued generosity of our members and supporters, who help us to continue our vital work to protect Scotland’s nature and heritage, now and for future generations to enjoy.’

In addition to the species monitoring, there was a host of other events taking place throughout the day at the BioBlitz event including a guided bird and wildlife walk, whale and dolphin watching using telescopes from the area by the lighthouse, a guided bug hunt, and a rock-pooling session in St Abbs harbour.

Berwickshire Marine Reserve, who worked in partnership with the Trust to deliver the BioBlitz events, is Scotland’s only voluntary marine reserve and was set up in 1984 by the local community to care for this unique ocean environment. Lauren Nieuwenhuys, Berwickshire Marine Reserve Project Officer, said: ‘We had a fantastic day working with the National Trust for Scotland on the BioBlitz event – it’s really highlighted how special this part of the world is and how important the work of both reserves is. It’s great to see so many members of the public getting involved and showing an interest too. We’re thankful to the Simpson McCreath Trust for their support in funding the boat for the marine survey activity, and we’re already looking forward to BioBlitz 2024.’

Events like the St Abb’s Head BioBlitz support our mission to provide access to nature, beauty and heritage for everyone, outlined in our 10-year strategy that was launched in 2022. This work supports our conservation and engagement goals to enrich Scotland’s protected heritage, enable nature to flourish and provide inspiring heritage visitor experiences.

A smiling young woman takes a selfie, as she holds a butterfly net in the other hand. She is surrounded by green hills. Behind her are a man in a woolly hat and dark clothing and a woman in dark clothing, both making notes on a paper pad.
Jordanna Kitching and the rangers at St Abb’s Head NNR undertaking species-monitoring activities

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