Dunbar quarry restoration will create haven for variety of wildlife

(Left to Right) Mike Fraser (RSPB), Nigel Blair (Lafarge Tarmac) and Duncan Orr-Ewing (RSPB) at the quarry's bird viewing platform
(Left to Right) Mike Fraser (RSPB), Nigel Blair (Lafarge Tarmac) and Duncan Orr-Ewing (RSPB) at the quarry's bird viewing platform

A LANDMARK agreement on the future management of a quarry near Dunbar is set to turn the site into one of East Lothian’s most important wildlife areas.

A new memorandum of understanding, signed last Thursday (January 24) by Lafarge Tarmac’s Dunbar Cement Works and RSPB Scotland, agrees how the north west quarry will be developed over the coming years to support future safe public access and attract a wide variety of wildlife.

RSPB's Duncan Orr-Ewing and local conservation specialist Abbie Marland

RSPB's Duncan Orr-Ewing and local conservation specialist Abbie Marland

Nigel Blair, works manager at the Dunbar site, said he was delighted RSPB Scotland was advising Lafarge Tarmac on the future management of the site – now known as White Sands Quarry among local birdwatchers – and was looking forward to it becoming a valuable asset to the local area in the future.

“The agreement contains a vision of restoring the quarry for the long-term benefit of biodiversity and the local and broader communities,” he said. “RSPB Scotland believes that the area can make a significant contribution to local wildlife, whilst also benefitting local people and the local economy, and we wholeheartedly support that.”

Duncan Orr-Ewing, head of species and land management with RSPB Scotland, said: “The greatest economic impacts delivered by conservation come from tourism spending. Employment supported by tourism to RSPB reserves has trebled since 2002. The prospects for Dunbar and the surrounding area, given the potential of this site, are very exciting.”

Mike Fraser, conservation officer for Lothian and Borders with RSPB Scotland, added that access for the local population was also a priority; the restoration of the quarry had already provided a rich variety of new and valuable habitats for wildlife, particularly birds, and it was important that communities in the area had every opportunity to enjoy these.

Sand Martins are regular visitors in the winter

Sand Martins are regular visitors in the winter

“The open water is especially favoured by wildfowl, with many species of ducks, geese and swans recorded, “ said Mike.

“The wildfowl have included Gadwall and Pochard, both of which are scarce in East Lothian. Flocks of over 200 Lapwing have roosted and fed at the water’s edge. One of the most unusual species recorded so far is the Avocet, with two of these striking wading birds making a brief visit last spring.”

He added that the wildflower-rich grassland areas have also proved very attractive to songbirds such as Skylark, Yellowhammer and Stonechat. Over 500 Linnets have been seen feeding on seeds, and Short-eared Owls, a very uncommon species in East Lothian, have been much appreciated by birdwatchers.

“With appropriate habitat creation and management, we can expect to see many more species making use of the quarry in future and the site becoming one of the most important in East Lothian for wildlife.

“Once restoration work is complete, visitors will be able to enjoy nature watching here through the provision of carefully managed access with trails and hides,” said Mike.

The main objectives of the parties are:

1. To draw up a feasibility study to assess the workability and cost of the ambitions of the parties.

2. To agree a scope of research and works which the project ecologist needs to carry out and to establish a project steering group to oversee delivery of this work programme.

3. To agree, devise and implement an overall vision and strategy for the restoration of the Blue Land for the long term benefits that it will provide for biodiversity and the local and broader communities.

4. To ensure that any proposals for altering the existing landscape and services within and under the Blue Land are discussed between the parties.

5. To work together to secure the long term sustainable management of the Blue Land to safeguard and enhance its biodiversity value. Any future commitment for RSPB to adopt the site as part of its UK nature reserve network is not part of this Memorandum of Understanding. This would still be subject to internal RSPB approval, including full consideration of the organisation’s ability to resource any acquisition and future management of the site. RSPB will however use reasonable endeavours to seek such approval.

6. To encourage, develop and work with relevant third parties who can contribute to the joint aims.

7. To provide transparent information to the local community and other interested parties at all times.

8. To develop and agree an overall strategy for an appropriate level of managed and controlled public access.