Pleasures in reserve

Malcolm  Lindsay at Hare Moss SWT Reserve near Selkirk.

Malcolm Lindsay at Hare Moss SWT Reserve near Selkirk.

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THE SCOTTISH Wildlife Trust’s (SWT) Borders reserves are holding their first open day at the end of the month.

The charity is inviting visitors to two reserves where enthusiasts will show the area and wildlife and talk about what people can see there.

Chairman of the charity’s Border group, Malcolm Lindsay hopes the day will prove popular but also encourage people to come back and visit themselves.

“All of our Borders reserves are under-visited and under-used. Much more could be made of their educational potential. For example last year we hosted two very successful and much-enjoyed springtime visits to Hare Moss from a P2/3 class from Knowepark School in Selkirk. We would like to see schools regularly using our reserves as an educational resource.

“But we’d also like to see more weekend and evening family visiting. Most of our reserves aren’t dramatic or high-profile in terms of very rare species or habitats but they are ideal settings for children to learn about wildlife and for adults who are beginning to develop their interest.”

The two of SWT’s nine Borders reserves chosen for the open day on Sunday May 27 are Hare Moss, near Selkirk, and Bemersyde Moss, near St Boswells.

Malcolm said: “We have selected the two reserves in the central Borders area which have good access and hides. We welcome visitors of any age and would be particularly pleased to welcome children and families. We hope that, having been introduced to the reserves, visitors will be keen to make return visits on their own.”

Hare Moss, on the A7 between Selkirk and Hawick, is easy to get to says Malcolm: “It’s just a very nice and very accessible reserve and it’s a shame it’s not used more. It’s a very compact reserve and it’s got a lot more in it than meets the eye. It has a very nice hide, the Arthur Smith Hide, named after a prominent Selkirk naturalist who was a pharmacist in the town.

“It’s one of the best sites in the Borders for close views of little grebes, a small water bird which whinnies like a small horse! Sometimes water rail can be heard –they squeal like a pig in distress – and it’s also good for plants, mosses and mushrooms, frogs, toads and newts.”

As a marshland reserve, Bemersyde is less accessible on foot but much can be seen from the hide, said Malcolm.

“There’s a good range of water birds at most times of the year and otters can been seen, especially in the evening.

“Until a few years ago the reserve held a huge number - 14,000 pairs of breeding black-headed gulls. But then they deserted the site and only small numbers are present now. The cause was not clear but many suspect it was otter predation.

“At both these reserves, patience is often the key to seeing wildlife. People often have to wait quietly for 20 minutes or so and let the wildlife come into view.”

Malcolm, a retired Galashiels GP is a member of the RSPB, Scottish Ornithologists Club and Butterfly Conservation and is also a moth recorder. His love of the natural world started relatively late, when he was in his 30s at a training job in Crieff. “I saw a male bullfinch in a garden in Crieff and it was the first time I realised all British birds weren’t small brown things.”

He and others have organised the open day: “I want to put something back. You gain a lot of pleasure recording wildlife and I particularly want to encourage children to be interested in wildlife and that’s one of the main reasons I work with SWT.”

The open day runs from 10am to 5pm. More information from Malcolm Lindsay 01896 753425 or Frank Brown 01750 21819 or visit www.scottishwildlifetrust.org.uk