Former quarry draws in the birds

Pochard Aythya ferina swimming with autumn reflections, Martin Mere Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust, Lancashire
Pochard Aythya ferina swimming with autumn reflections, Martin Mere Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust, Lancashire

The former quarry at Lafarge Tarmac’s Dunbar plant is living up to expectations a year into its landmark agreement with RSPB Scotland.

It has become home to some important winter visitors from northern climes including pochard duck and barnacle geese.

RSPB Scotland’s Project Officer Michael Thornton says the site, now called Whitesands Quarry, is quickly becoming a haven for rarer species because of its unique freshwater habitat so close to the coast.

“In late October and early November we had four species of geese using the lake,” he says.

“These included pink footed geese from Iceland and also barnacle geese from the Svalbard Islands between Norway and the North Pole,” he continued.

“We also have up to twenty pochard ducks, winter visitors from eastern Europe and Russia, using the lake at the moment. It’s a very exciting development and shows the potential of the site for attracting wildlife in future years.

“With the right combination of habitat creation and public access management Whitesands Quarry has the potential to attract regionally important populations of waders and wildfowl.”

Mr Thornton was engaged by Lafarge Tarmac and RSPB Scotland last year on a 12-month project to design the new habitats at Whitesands Quarry as well as future public access plans.

The long term aim is for visitors to experience nature close at hand through carefully managed access, provided through trails and hides.

There are also plans to support nature-based activities and education.

“We aren’t just focusing on the bird populations – unusual species of plants, insects and mammals are also emerging, as well as some fungi that are rare in Scotland,” adds Mr Thornton.

Plant manager at Lafarge Tarmac’s Dunbar plant, Florin Stoiean, says: “A year into this project with RSPB Scotland, we are delighted with the ideas Michael is coming up with. We are confident that in due course, the Whitesands Quarry will become a great attraction for the area and a magical place local residents will enjoy visiting.”