27 Jun 2020

Field Notes: Return to Glenlude

Conservation Ranger Sarah Livingstone is greeted by warm sun (followed by hailstones) when she makes a welcome return to the Borders

Rain shower at glenlude detail

After watching spring sweep across Edinburgh through lockdown, it has been a relief to return to site and see greenery on a much larger scale. It’s hard to remind myself what it looked like the last time I was there, even though it really wasn’t that long ago in the grand scheme of things.

I do remember being excited to see green buds, planting trees in the sunshine with a group of teenagers and lying back to watch the cloud shapes during lunch break. The promise of spring was in the air. The squirrel boxes were up with hair sample pads and bait for the survey season, and we had seen our first basking adders while creeping through the heather in the morning sun (see below).

Adder at Glenlude

Unfortunately all that took a bit of a nose dive, and suddenly we were offsite in lockdown. I found myself growing plants in my window to fulfil the polytunnel sized gap in my life and desperately seeking out the nature Edinburgh had to offer during my exercise breaks. Thankfully this proved to be quite a bit, with a heronry to observe, an otter sighting, wild food to forage and the welcome return of the swifts to the skies - screeching between tenements.

Thanks to the improving situation, I am part of a lucky cohort that can now return to work in a safe manner. Although a lot of work will now be pushed into next year, I have completed a Breeding Bird Survey, looked for signs of water voles, taken down the hair samples from the squirrel survey that have been up since March, and am watching some camera trap footage taken while we were away.

Small pearl bordered fritillary at Glenlude

On my first day back I was greeted by a red-legged partridge napping in a mole hill. The site was quieter of people, but louder with birds, bees and butterflies - in particular several small pearl-bordered fritillary butterflies (see above) which I’m sure haven’t been recorded before.

It did feel wilder - overgrown and brilliant green. Although the nursery trees needed a bit of extra water with all this dry weather, nature had been doing fine. I felt the warm sun on my skin, closely followed by hail stones. I had missed that.

Even though I feel grateful to have had a green and pleasant lockdown, city life does not compare to being out on site and in a truly wild part of the Borders. I am excited to be back on the land, and perhaps now the alder seeds can come out of the fridge. No doubt the fox can smell that somebody is back at Glenlude, but I hope we can continue to resume some of our work and help these wild places thrive.

Photographs by Sarah Livingstone