New hide is unveiled at Loch of Strathbeg

Pictured at the ribbon cutting are Harry Buck of Aberdeen Foyer, Andy Cooper of HMP Grampian, Jim Dunbar after whom the hide is named, Rob Leslie, Aberdeen & District RSPB Local Group and project manager
Pictured at the ribbon cutting are Harry Buck of Aberdeen Foyer, Andy Cooper of HMP Grampian, Jim Dunbar after whom the hide is named, Rob Leslie, Aberdeen & District RSPB Local Group and project manager

A new hide has been unveiled at RSPB Scotland Loch of Strathbeg near Crimond.

The new viewing structure is the result of an collaborative project which saw volunteers from the Aberdeen & District RSPB Local Group take the lead from the initial idea through to the grand opening.

The local group led on raising the funds, overseeing the construction and recruiting collaborators to help turn their dream of getting closer views of the wildlife at the loch in to a reality.

The group raised money from the sale of a local birding guide and a talk given by Chris Packham to celebrate their 40th anniversary.

They approached RSPB Scotland’s reserve manager at Loch of Strathbeg about relocating a bird hide closer to the water and the innovative idea that one member of the group would manage the project on behalf of RSPB Scotland was born. During the project the group recruited help and support from a number of other charities, organisations and local businesses. The Friends of Strathbeg and local branch of the Scottish Ornithologists’ Club (SOC) provided critical donations to turn the possibility into a reality.

Aberdeen Foyer agreed to supply labour to replace boardwalk timbers as part of their Introduction to Construction initiative, and HMP Grampian staff and inmates volunteered their time to construct the new hide at the prison. It was then transported and erected on site by four members of staff and two inmates.

In attendance at the unveiling was local group member Jim Dunbar after whom the hide has been named.

Jim was warden and later site manager at Loch of Strathbeg for more than 21 years.

He managed the reserve all through its initial setting up, including organising for the original visitor centre to be brought from Loch Leven on a fish wagon, and restored areas of the reserve from farmland to managed wetland. He continues to be passionately involved in the reserve to this day through his volunteering.