After the floods

Across three days of heavy rain last week from Thursday into Saturday, accompanied by amber weather warnings and severe flood warnings the flood damage has certainly left it’s mark on the reserve and wider Deeside.  The village of Aboyne recorded a whopping 71.4 mm of rain in just 24 hours on Friday the 18th November.

108 mm of rain fell across the reserve supercharging the Vat Burn into a raging torrent, leading to it bursting it’s banks and scouring out the lower Vat trail and leaving many of our other trails submerged.

It’s always humbling to witness the after effects of the ferocious power of nature.

The Vat is looking sublime just now. In torrent it just looks and sounds fierce and elemental. Wellie boots a must!
This long exposure shot was taken by CNPA ranger Will.. Cairngorms National Park Authority Ranger Service
Deep gullying on the lower Vat trail, at its worst half a meter deep and half a meter wide.
The last time the Vat trail was washed away was in 2015/2016 with the heavy rains and snow melt of storm Frank, a storm event leading to flooding that has been described as a one-in-500 year event.

But what has been incredibly uplifting was the immediate support that the reserve has received from ranger services across Deeside who have published our flood damage updates on their social media and the manpower we were really kindly offered by the Cairngorm National Park Authority Ranger Service to help stabilise the path line and cordon off the most dangerous bits. This is a temporary fix until we can get the path resurfaced by a contractor.

Last Wednesday Danny and myself were joined by Cairngorms National Park Rangers Will, Duncan and Pete Cairngorms National Park Authority Ranger Service who really kindly offered to help us with path repairs to make the lower Vat path safe for visitors.

The dream team worked for hours in the rain to stabilise and infill all the dangerous bits of the lower Vat trail. Will has created a couple of fantastic and rather amusing time lapses of everyone’s amazing hard work and effort.

There might have been a bit of love for the powered wheelbarrow going on! Thanks to everyone for your amazing hard work.
The Vat trail is currently open but please respect the cordon and detour around it when crossing the 2nd footbridge as this is where the worst damage has occurred.

Elsewhere long stretches of the Loch Kinord trail is submerged and it may take some time time for the flood waters to recede.

Loch Kinord itself is looking massive and beautiful with the shoreline inundated by a good 5 meters in places.

A flooded Loch Kinord swathed in pockets of low lying freezing fog

The birds seem to be thoroughly enjoying it with Goldeneye beginning to courtship display – in November! Monogamous pairs form as early as December into April, and the pair stays together until the male abandons the female early in the incubation period.

Goldeneye display. I can stretch my neck further than him….mate with me memememe! In winter, Common Goldeneyes form small courtship groups where males perform elaborate displays. The female responds with her own displays, most often the “head-forward” when she lowers her head and neck and swings it forward.

Across this year we have experienced wind storms, drought and flood damage. I feel the reserve has experienced a condensed version of the predicted climate change impacts of the future.

I am learning rapidly to appreciate the reserves landscapes and wildlife on a day to day – season to season basis – because there are no guarantees that they will remain “fixed” into the future.

Climate change is the single greatest threat to Scotland’s habitats.

Some direct impacts are predicted such as rivers will flood more often as rainfall patterns change and bring more heavy downpours.

Summer droughts are also due to occur more often. Changes in wetland habitats like our raised peat bog on Parkin’s moss may reduce their natural capacity to store carbon and filter pollutants.

More often, climate change will alter the intricate ecological balances that let plants and animals grow and thrive. For example, pinewoods may keep their pine trees but lose the heathery vegetation beneath trees to grasses and bracken due to reduced frosts and more nitrogen enrichment. Grass and bracken may grow in its place, in turn affecting local wildlife.

One unchanging spectacle for now is winter flocks of Siskin and the first snows of Morven.

As I stopped to admire the view on the South Shore of loch Kinord I had a flock of Siskin feasting on Silver Birch seeds directly above me. Hanging acrobatically upside down to strip the tendrilled catkins as they feed they shed a fine rain of tiny seeds. Siskin are stunning seed eaters who rely on trees such as alder, birch and pine for food. A large Silver birch can produce up to 1 million seeds in a year.

A feeding flock of Siskin. I thought is was raining until I glanced up and realised I was being covered in a drizzle of stripped birch seed
Morven with a snowy hat on. Winter has arrived!
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