Wave upon wave of colour

By Therese Alampo with images from Pauline Smith

The conditions at St Cyrus NNR make it an absolute haven for a diverse range of pollinators, and spring, summer and autumn are a fascinating time for anyone who wants to delve into the buzz and hum of this world.

The climate at St Cyrus NNR, low rainfall, the shelter from the cliffs and dunes create a unique microclimate which supports a breath-taking variety of flowering plants some found at their Northernmost limit or very uncharacteristic of the area.  These plants do a season round Mexican wave of colour and scent offering up a veritable smorgasbord of pollen and nectar to the invertebrates on the reserve.

Early in the season the pussy willow offer pollen for the big fat queen bumblebees to delve into, turning them into buzzing yellow powder puffs!  They have been in torpor all winter and emerge hungry and needing to find food and a nest site for their developing eggs and brood.

Then the hoverflies start arriving, across the sea from Continental Europe to join in the buzz, the mining, mason and leafcutter bees join in the party soon after.  

Then to the lepidoptera. We have over 500 species, many of which are important pollinators, the moths are my favourite and with names like Merville de jour, gold spangle and Hebrew character who could resist the intrigue.

These species are key to our survival on this planet, how lucky are we to see a slice of the planet so rich in pickings and them enjoying every bit of it.

When you step foot on the main path into the reserve you are confronted with a scruffy haven, just stopping and looking at the umbel (flower head) of cow parsley or sweet scicily on the way past offers up a comedic clutter of hover flies, soldier beetles, bumblebees and others all head down and bottoms up.

Even offering a little information about a few key pollinator species in the form of a simple pollinator trail helps to connect people to the importance of pollinators, and can spark so much interest!  Everyday we see people stopping to read the information on the short trail, capturing an audience that may just be on the way to the beach.  I love people’s reactions to the trail and the fascination, particularly to the wasp panel, “really, wasps are useful I never knew that”!