Birds of the Hinterland

Bird species of the Hinterland,  Park and Bay

Welcome to the fantastic world of birdwatching.

People often ask me what kind of bird species are present in our community grounds and the surrounding Hinterland? Well I can tell you that we have about 45 species that have bred consistently in recent years, 2 more that have bred here in the past and about 22 others that can be seen flying, regularly or occasionally, above the Hinterland but breed elsewhere.

Birds of Gardens and Woodland

Throughout the gardens of the Park there are a considerable number of bird species, many of them colourful and singing beautifully as spring approaches. The most common include: Blue Tit, Coal Tit, Great Tit, Long Tailed Tit (occasionally), Robin, Dunnock, Goldfinch, Chaffinch, Blackbird, Wren, Goldcrest, House Sparrow, and our intelligent and beautiful Magpies. Magpie numbers have increased in numbers thanks to human activity. 

Blue tit (Cyanistes caeruleus) with caterpillar for its young, on the branch of a rowan tree (credit Alan Featherstone)

Almost all of these species present in gardens also reside in the surrounding woodland. Some tend to nest quite high in the trees, such as the Goldcrest, which makes them difficult to see close up, whilst others tend to live quite close to the ground and love to nest inside the piles of brash that we leave behind such as Blackbirds, Robins, Dunnocks and Wrens. Chaffinches come to feed on the ground too but nest high up in the trees. Some of these species like the Dunnock and Wren rarely visit bird feeders so you are less likely to be familiar with them. Others are strictly woodland species like the tiny Goldcrest, the Treecreeper, the shy Bullfinch and the Siskin. Treecreepers are a particularly interesting species that crawl along the trunk of  trees just as a mouse might do. We have only a few pairs nesting, mostly in the trees near Bagend.

The Soundtrack of the Hinterland

The most common songs that you hear include the high pitched random songs of the Robin, the watery soft tones of the Blackbird, the high pitched and quick song of the Dunnock, the downward trill of the Chaffinch, the loud repetitive song of the small Wren, or the two-syllable song of the Coal Tit and Great Tit. You will also hear Woodpigeons and Collared Doves singing, and the calls made by Carrion Crows. On certain roofs and tall trees you might also see and hear flocks of Starlings with their amazing vocal repertoire. The dawn chorus heard early each day in March and April is a good time to hear the full orchestra of bird songs.. As spring advances, you will also see the fast flights of Swallows and House Martins, birds that are migratory and only come to Scotland to breed when the weather is warmer. 

Birds of Prey

The largest breeding bird of prey is the secretive and fierce Sparrowhawk. It nests in our woodlands, building a large structure high in the trees and hunts many species of birds including pigeons which are its favourite prey – if you see a bird plucking a pigeon it is very likely to be a sparrowhawk. Birds of prey are prone to human persecution which is why I will not disclose their nest sites although in the summer their chick’s begging calls for food help locate where they are.  The rest of the time these birds tend to keep silent and hidden so that they can attack by stealth.

Besides the Sparrowhawk, two species of Owl have nested in the Hinterland in recent years: the more common Tawny Owl, and the more elusive Long Eared Owl, which gave birth to a small family last year, and is featured in an article linked here.

Birds of the Open Areas near the Wind Turbines

In the grasslands and dune heath, one finds farmland species like the Greenfinch and the Song Thrush. The real stars are the Yellowhammer and the Linnet. Both species are red-listed, meaning they are in serious decline in the UK. The Yellowhammer is a distinctive yellow bird that sings a song that sounds like the sentence “a little bit of bread and no cheese”. Each year there are about 8-12 territories occupied by pairs of yellowhammers. The Linnet forms larger flocks above the gorse and has a more subtle melodic song. These red-listed species are threatened by loss of dune heath and grassland habitats which are becoming increasingly rare in the UK. The Trust manages these special habitats in its care so that they do not revert to pine forest in the future.

In spring you will also stumble upon two migrant species singing in the area, the Willow Warbler (quite widespread across the open shrubby areas) and the Chiffchaff (usually higher up in taller trees, singing a metronomic song “chiff, chaff, chiff, chaff, chiff, chaff). 

Common species like Wren, Robin, Dunnock, Blackbird, Wood Pigeon and Carrion Crow are also widespread in the open areas near the wind turbines. If you think it’s too many species by now, then we should walk together and I would be happy to point out these birds to you.

Further out in the dunes, one can also find species like the Stonechat, Lesser Redpoll, Meadow Pipit, Skylark and Sand Martins. Sand Martins are the birds that form a colony in the faces of the sand cliffs at the beach. Finally, Pheasants are a common bird in the area. They are an introduced species (and the only game bird species in the Hinterland, as there are no Red Grouse, nor Grey Partridge in the area).

Common species like Wren, Robin, Dunnock, Blackbird, Wood Pigeon and Carrion Crow are also widespread in the open areas near the wind turbines. Herring Gulls are very common, and Rooks can be seen too. If you think it’s too many species by now, then we should walk together and I would be happy to point out these birds to you.

Song thrush (Turdus philomelos) on the branch of a Scots pine (credit Alan Featherstone)

Rarer birds

Of the 45 breeding species, 6 have a currently unconfirmed breeding status (meaning we do not know if they have nested and bred fledglings), because of their very low population in the Hinterland. Most of these species are red-listed in the UK. Mistle Thrush are seen occasionally, and numbers vary from year to year. The species needs grasslands that harbour a good number of invertebrates like snails. Our pony field attracts them as well as Cullerne garden. The Spotted Flycatcher is a scarce species seen in summer but numbers are declining (the species prefer moist habitats which are rich in insects). Maybe our ponds are helping to attract the species. The Crossbill is an iconic Scottish species. They are big, orangy birds with huge bills to rip apart pine cones. I know when they fly above the trees because of their unique piping calls. Another iconic bird species is the Crested Tit, a sort of punk rock hairstyle sort of bird. It is restricted to the NE of Scotland and we suspected that we had 2 pairs nesting in the Hinterland last year. Cuckoos are scarce and an irregular visitor. One pair seems to have bred in 2020 near the wind turbines but no pair was seen in 2021. The Whitethroat is another scarce species, present on the dune heath.

Other bird species

Two birds of prey have bred in the past but not in recent years. The Kestrel is a small falcon that used to be common in the Hinterland dunes, but it’s now absent, probably because of rodenticide use (which is the most common cause of fatalities for this bird). This species still breeds at the Bay. The legally protected Barn Owl, which is a beautiful white ghost-like species of owl, used to nest in the Hinterland, but not recently. It still very occasionally visits our grassland areas. Other bird species are seen more rarely, such as Lapwings and birds of prey that occasionally visit our lands such as PeregrineRed KiteShort Eared Owl and Merlin.

I counted 22 more species that can be seen flying above the Hinterland, some regularly and some only occasionally.  Common Terns and Sandwich Terns are often seen and heard during the summer, and Curlews are regularly seen flying above the Pony’s field. Curlews need areas of tall and moist grassland, so the Hinterland is too dry for them. They breed by the Bay and the species has sparked serious conservation efforts due to its long-term decline in numbers. Grey Heron occasionally visits our woodland (and even some gardens!), and Woodcock also visits the woodland occasionally in winter. Other species can be seen flying regularly, like Mallard duck  and Shelduck (that breed at the Bay), Pink Footed Geese (which breed in Iceland), and raptors like Osprey and Buzzard (that occasionally fly above our community grounds). Other bird species are seen more rarely. In winter, the Hinterland also receives some winter visitor species, such as RedwingFieldfareBrambling, and Waxwing (rarely).”

Flock of curlews (Numenius arquata) in flight (credit Alan Featherstone)

Other birds / Surroundings

Although not part of the Hinterland, we live next to another bird haven. The Findhorn Bay presents an opportunity to see waders (birds that wade through the tidal muds hunting for invertebrates with their very long bills) like OystercatchersRedshank, Curlew, DunlinKnotBartailed Godwits, and also several Gull and Duck species, and in summer, the majestic sight of Ospreys hunting fish. Pied Wagtail is commonly seen at the edges of the bay. Gull species include Herring Gull, Common Gull and Black Headed Gull.

Bird Boxes

We have 6 bird boxes and 3 bat boxes on the south side of Wilkies Wood near Soillse and the pond, on the way to the Pony field, and 2 other boxes in the northern side of that woodland. We also have 4 bird boxes on the northern side of the Corsican Pine woodland near Pineridge and 3 boxes just next to the new Conservation Hub – about 20 boxes in total.

Every winter, we clean the Hinterland bird boxes. This year, John Willoner and I met a few times (usually in glorious sunshine weather) and we used a ladder to get up in the trees, bring the boxes down, open them, clean them, and then return them back to the trees. Our bird boxes have many different designs and therefore can be host to different species (Blue tits, great tits, robin, flycatchers, etc). In Wilkies Wood we found a blue tit nest in one of the bird boxes (a nest from spring 2021), as last year I monitored each box and I knew that a pair of blue tits nested inside that box and gave birth to 3 fledglings. I also found a dead magpie inside a large bird box. I wasn’t sure exactly why the bird died but it was a juvenile. I also found a dead magpie inside a large bird box. I wasn’t sure exactly why the bird died but it was a juvenile. Some of our bird boxes have also been damaged by Great Spotted Woodpeckers, which “drill” holes into the boxes. We have taken inventive measures to prevent that from happening.

John Willoner installed bird boxes at the Hinterland, in February 2022 (credit Paulo Bessa)

John Willoner and Paulo Bessa preparing to install bird boxes at the Hinterland, in February 2022 (credit Jonathan Caddy)

Surveying birds

Every spring I also survey the birds of the Hinterland. This is not as complicated as you might think. The surveys are done by two very early walks in April and June, when I record the birds seen and heard, along defined transects (lines across the area). So basically it is a walk listening/ seeing/ counting birds. When I do that, I record the distance where I see each bird, and their behaviour. This way we are able to know how many breeding pairs of each species are present on the land, and know any variation from year to year that might be the result of our conservation or other activities.

Crested tit (Lophophanes cristatus) on a lodgepole pine (credit Alan Featherstone)

I hope that you have enjoyed this detailed journey into the birdlife of our community lands. Take your time to appreciate the birdlife when you walk outside during these spring months. Their songs delight us year after year, remind us of the beauty of nature and are synonymous with warmer weather and brighter moods.

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FHT and Timber for the New Sanctuary 

Storm Arwen was devastating in terms of windblown trees in our woodland but it also created opportunities. The logs that were large enough have been gathered at the east end of our woods and funding found through generous donations from the Hygeia Foundation and a supportive community member to convert these to timber that will be used in the building of the new sanctuary. 

The FHT has taken on enabling this process by using its tools and expertise to line up the use of a local harvester and portable mill to move and convert the wood and a host of community volunteers to process the resulting timber, which involves moving, brushing, stickering and covering the planks so that they can successfully season before being used later in the year.  

Although it will be mid-March before there is a definitive design for the building, the opportunity to use round timber as beautiful structural elements has not been missed – over 30 posts, beams and rafters have been identified and are in the process of being debarked, meticulously stripped and treated with a tree derived tar and oil mix before being left to season under cover.  In this way community members can take an active part in helping the building of this important community structure – they have the opportunity to put a bit of themselves into the very fabric of the building.

It feels a very wholesome and organic process using material literally grown in our backyard to help rebuild the sanctuary and also a way of bringing people back together after the impact of covid and other devastating events over the last couple of years.  The FHT is stepping up in a very meaningful way as one of the community organisations helping to make this a building a structure built by the community for the use of the whole community.

Jonathan Caddy

FHT Chair

March 2022  

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Greetings from the Pony Field

Greetings from the pony field, especially from Jock who joined last April and has enjoyed the last 10 months of exploring and making friends. Jock is an Appaloosa cob/Irish draft pony and was living and working at a riding school until he developed back issues and had to take early retirement from riding. The Hinterland pony field has been really good for him, keeping him fit and full of interest in life. The two resident ponies have generously allowed him to join their herd and change their dynamics and routines.

At the time of writing in the middle of February we are in our winter routine of what is recommended as managed grazing in Hinterland’s Biodiversity Action Plan: every day the ponies go out to spend a good few hours on various areas of dune grassland around the wind turbines, keeping the grass short for a number of species of summer flowers, birds and insects. They are real experts, and deal with the grass efficiently and quickly. If you look around, you will see where they have been this winter as it looks so tidy. Moving ponies between fields twice a day is always an exciting moment, as they are always keen to go out and also keen to come back for their dinner. 

On the human side I have enjoyed the many people walking past, saying hello and taking an interest in the ponies and in the land. A special delight are Fiona and her group of toddlers who always stop to see the ponies. 

Of course it is very tempting to want to stroke a pony, and if Jock is at the gate I often let him decide if he wants to be stroked (he used to be part of the local RDA (Riding for the Disabled) team and is quite safe with younger people). It is also tempting to want to give them treats, but this is actually not safe: apart from some treats not being suitable, ponies might learn to snatch treats, to lean on the fence if you hold out the treat, or fight over it when it is thrown over the fence for them.

Winter in the field might look rough to us humans, but from a pony perspective is more fun than being in a stable. Native ponies develop a thick coat that acts as an insulation layer that may have snow on top but is toasty warm inside. Jock is wearing a rug right now because that is what he has been used to, he has already become much more woolly but it might take him a couple of years to get to full winter weather capacity. And all through the winter we’ve had new growth and flowers on the gorse! Both are a favourite with the ponies, and they manage to munch even the prickly bits.

Late winter might also be a good time for gardeners to get manure from us before all the other spring tasks begin in the garden, to either mix into your compost heaps or to mulch around your trees and shrubs. If you would like some happy pony manure contact Kathryn Kusa either on 01309 690712 or [email protected]

Katharina Kroeber, February 2022

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News from the land – Winter ‘21 / ‘22

I enjoy the winters. Nature’s invitation to turn inwards, to be cozy inside, meditate more, sleep and dream more. I love winters most when everything is covered in a bright white blanket of snow, which we don’t get here in our coastal part of the world very often.

It is a time when trees and shrubs are dreaming the next seasons, quietly building their buds and preparing for new growth.

This winter was a bit unusual. We had mild, spring-like days in December & January, with the hazels already beautifully decorated with their yellow catkins, some shrubs pushing the tips of new leaves forward and areas of gorse decked in yellow flowers. 

Alan wrote about storm Arwen, and we had two other slightly less severe storms after that, from the more common south westerly direction – so thankfully there was less damage to our trees.And as I am writing this, the south of the country is being battered by the next storm, with another one and snow  expected on its heels.

I can’t remember such frequent storms here. They kept us busy with all the clean-up work. A lot more chainsaw work than usual, and more dangerous. But we made good progress, and we decided to mill the more substantial timbers, having secured a contract for the timber to be used for the building of the new main sanctuary here in the Park. It is a comforting thought that the by-product of such natural destruction will be put to good use for our community here. The smaller timbers are being cut up and stacked in the woods for next winter’s firewood.

So most of the work this winter was focused on clearing up storm damage, and putting the last two glades into the NE compartment as part of it’s ‘restructuring – to make space for the planting of a new generation of oaks and the natural regeneration of Scots Pines.

Another project is nearing completion as well – we have cut pretty much all of the tall gorse in ‘Lyle’s wood’, have planted some trees there in the autumn and will plant some more in the spring.

Despite the wild weather the ‘Findhorn fledgelings’ – wee kids with their parents – have been in the woods near the picnic table every Friday morning. 

We’ve had a few funerals on the Green Burial Ground – with a new ‘Green Burial Group’ apprenticing with Will Russel.

And it’s been a joy to see new life being breathed into our ‘Woodland Garden’ by Draeyk and his enthusiastic helpers.

I won’t list all the many little chores which need to be done for the wellbeing of the land and all its creatures – from looking after the shelter area and the camping pads to pony field fencing, cutting out invasive lodgepole & sitka seedlings, replacing broken tree-stakes & tubes (especially after the storms) to keeping paths and trails open, etc, etc…

The Conservation Hub is pretty much complete, thanks to Jonathan and his helpers. A long held vision finally coming to fruition!  To me it is the physical manifestation of our commitment to look after the land in our care.

I finish with a word of appreciation to all of you who help us caring for the land in so many different ways – 


Many blessings,



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Infinity and beyond

A poem written by the sister of Martin Harker, our bee man, that captures the wonder of working and interacting with the natural world.  May it bring a smile, deep nourishment and a sense of hope that springs from this beautiful world we live in.

How many trees have you planted

How many seeds have you sown

How many lives have you touched

How many minds have you grown


How many ideas have you sown

In how many hearts and minds

How many minds have you blown

With a kiss of your butterfly’s wings


How many flowers have you grown

How many butterflies fed

How many of your bees have flown

How many birds have you fed


How many ideas have you launched

To fly like seeds in thermals fair

We can only guess how many take root

And how many still dance in the air


By Gillian Vergine in loving memory of Gary Vergine


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Conservation Hub Completion

The 19th February marked a significant event in terms of the work of the Findhorn Hinterland Trust – the completion of our new and beautiful physical base for our conservation and educational work created from trees from our woodland.  It is a symbol of our long-term commitment to the land we are custodians of and a very practical tool to help fulfil our charitable purposes of conservation, environmental education, building local community and providing recreational resources on the Findhorn peninsula.

The well-attended celebration and ceremony on that day was the culmination of a lot of thought and hard work which started over five years ago when members of the newly formed trust, George Paul, Kajedo Wanderer and I, visited a site near Lochinver where master woodworker Henry Fosbrooke was completing a similarly designed building.  The journey has required dealing with the details of planning permission, building control, employing a structural engineer, timing when to fell trees for building, reaching out for funding, involving folks in the hard work of preparing trees for the build, finding a skilled practitioner to lead the build, encouraging volunteers and professionals to help with the work and a thousand and one other details. 

The end result is a beautiful and functional building which brings more joy and efficiency to the work we do but equally as important has been the way that it has been created – the whole network of people that have willingly come together to freely contribute their time and skill to build something positive within our local community that has been challenged by covid, redundancies, fires and major restructuring.  It has definitely helped kick start the rebuilding of our sense of community and hopefully will inspire things to come in relation to the future creation of our new sanctuary and community centre as well as bring nourishment and hope to many.


For now let’s give thanks to the many, many people and organisations that have given of themselves by being involved in this whole process as we share a few pictures of our celebration together at the end of this part of the journey. 

Many blessings and appreciations,

Jonathan Caddy

FHT Chair 

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FHT Chair’s Roundup – November 2021 to March 2022

Although dealing with storm damage, finishing the building of the Conservation Hub and enabling the production of wood for the new sanctuary have dominated the Trust’s work this quarter, there have also been a whole host of noteworthy activities that have been going on in parallel.  To tell you the truth the organisation has been buzzing with positive activity and events these past months!

For example this year’s Christmas tree event was able to be held this year at the Woodland Shelter in a much more normal way with a fire, festive nibbles, drinks, a few crafts and a social time as individuals and families came from far and wide to select their own special tree.  Over £1000 was generated through this very popular event – a big thank you to all that helped to make it such a success particularly Judith Berry, Judith Bone and our land manager Kajedo.

The Woodland Shelter was also the location for a number of other gatherings notably a little Christmas Gathering put on by Sabine to once more get people out and experience the beauty of this convivial outdoor and social setting.

A couple of funerals for people in the local area also took place at our Wilkies Wood Green Burial Ground.  This allowed the new green burial team comprising Kajedo and Jamie who organise the physical burial and Laura and Juanna who coordinate the burial logistics to get a bit more practice in their new found roles with Will Russell who remains as our green burial consultant continuing to give support in the background.   It is a joy to know that such a strong team now holds this important aspect of the Trust’s work.  Thanks go to those that have been willing to step up to this challenge and Will who has gracefully orchestrated this essential transition that now ensures continuity and succession.

Bees are quiet during the winter but our beekeepers have been kept busy. Reroofing the bee shed during an unusual snowstorm was more akin to working in the arctic – have a look at the snapshot video of Martin and Luis carrying on regardless in a blizzard.  The roof had been blown off twice by the unprecedented storms that we have had this winter.

The trust also felt very supported by the New Findhorn Directions team that, amongst other things, run the Findhorn Bay Holiday Park.  They dismantled the old toilet blocks for holiday makers and offered the FHT materials that have been so useful in a whole host of ways – hard plastic toilet cubical sheets that make excellent roofing material for timber stores or temporary shelters, plumbing material that saved us hundreds of pounds building the Hub, metal profiled roofing material that is essential for covering the sanctuary wood and will be used in construction in the future, the plastic water tank that is now storing roof water from the Outdoor Learning Space in the Woodland Garden, the metal water tank base that is providing a perfect rain shelter whilst we do our wood milling work…  Thanks goes in particular to these unsung heroes- to Kat their manager, Adrian in accounts and to Gus who does so much essential work on the ground and who was so helpful when it came to connecting the Hub up to the Park water system.  A huge thank you is in order for this much appreciated community spirited help.

Our monthly work parties have been able to happen again.   These have been very well attended and in these past few months, have focussed on helping with the backlog of tasks needed to happen around the Woodland Garden.  Draeyk who now focalises this aspect of the Trust has done so much to bring more life into the garden with regular daily volunteers and lining up the activities for these bigger work events.  It has been particularly exciting to see the new greenhouse donated by Carl and Jenni-Linn start to take shape with some expertise provided by local avid gardeners Hugh Andrews and Howard.

Last but not least there is the work that Paulo Bessa, one of our trustees and amongst other things a passionate bird watcher, and John Willoner have been doing caring for our bird boxes.  We have about 20 of them scattered in our woodland and they need annual cleaning and a little TLC to encourage our many feathered friends to make our land their home.  

I trust the above gives you some idea of the network of people that give freely of their time and skills to help with the dynamic work of the trust and the work of caring for this land that we so value. 


Jonathan Caddy

FHT Chair

March 2022   

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FHT Partnership with Equal Adventure

Providing opportunities to get individuals that are physically challenged out onto our special land that we live next to is what this partnership is all about.  It is progressing with planned Findhorn Friday events set for the end of March. To prepare for this development, Rowan Morgan one of the EA staff based in Grantown, was on the land with a couple of clients putting together a promotional video which we share with you here.  

If you are aware of any individual or family that may benefit from this programme do contact Rowan directly at [email protected]

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Storm Arwen – natural disturbance in action

On the night of Friday 26th-Saturday 27th November 2021, a major storm, called Storm Arwen by meteorologists, hit the east coast of Scotland with very strong winds of up to 90 mph. Unusually, the wind direction came from the northeast (most of the country’s stormy weather comes from the southwest) and this resulted in many trees being blown down in exposed areas.

Scots pines (Pinus sylvestris) blown down over a stack of cut logs by Storm Arwen on the night of 26th November 2021, Findhorn Hinterland.

Here at the Findhorn Hinterland over 100 large trees were uprooted and blown over, with most of those being in the northeast corner of the pine plantation, closest to the wind turbines. They were the trees that were most exposed to the direction the wind came from, and because they were tall and straight and had grown close to each other they were quite vulnerable to exceptionally strong winds like this. A few trees even got snapped off in the middle of their trunks by the sheer force of the gales they were subjected to.

Scots pines (Pinus sylvestris) blown down, & one pine snapped in half, by Storm Arwen on the night of 26th November 2021, Findhorn Hinterland.

While the first thought that many people may have had is that this was a ‘disaster’ and very bad for the woodland, it is in fact a relatively common occurrence that brings its own benefits for the ecosystem. It is an example of what is known in ecological terms as ‘natural disturbance’, and is one of several irregular events that create change in the ecosystem. Other examples include naturally-occurring forest fires, occasional outbreaks of insect infestations and unusually cold winter conditions. All of these have similar effects in that they disturb the status quo in the ecosystem, and create heterogeneity, or variation, where before there may have been uniformity. 

Scots pines (Pinus sylvestris) blown down by Storm Arwen on the night of 26th November 2021, Findhorn Hinterland.

With Storm Arwen, while it’s obviously sad to see the trees that have been blown down, one immediate result of that is the creation of light gaps in the otherwise relatively dense and evenly shaded areas under the pines in the woodland. These light gaps provide the ideal opportunity for pioneer species which need lots of light to grow, and they quickly become established after such an event. In 2004 an even stronger storm blew down a much larger area of the pine woodland on the Hinterland, which we now call the Fallen Acres. In the following two years foxgloves blossomed in profusion there, and they were followed by prolific regeneration of silver birches. In fact those were so dense that we have done regular work since then to thin them out, and the area is now a beautiful young birch woodland.

Alan with some of the Scots pines (Pinus sylvestris) blown down by Storm Arwen on the night of 26th November 2021, Findhorn Hinterland.

Other results of this natural disturbance include the creation of micro-habitats that can be utilised by small mammals, various invertebrates etc. A good example are the upturned root plates of the fallen trees and the bare soil that is exposed underneath them. Saprotrophic fungi of course have a literal field day, as they have a lot of newly-dead wood to feed on and decompose, releasing the nutrients stored there and making them available for other organisms in the soil.

For me, it’s part of the rewilding of both the land and ourselves to see the positive side of an event like Storm Arwen, and to recognise the benefits it can bring to many parts of our local ecosystem.

Alan Watson Featherstone

Upturned root plate of a Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris) blown down by Storm Arwen, showing the sandy nature of the soil, Findhorn Hinterland.

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Fungi on the Findhorn Hinterland

As part of our work to identify the biodiversity of the Findhorn Hinterland area we commissioned Liz Holden, Scotland’s leading mycologist, to carry out a survey of the fungi that are present on the site. She spent two days on the Hinterland in 2020, at the beginning of September and in mid-October, and then returned again with members of the Scottish Fungal Foray group, led by Cameron Diekonigin, for another day in September 2021. That group visit had been planned for 2020 but had to be postponed because of Covid-related lockdown restrictions that were in force at the time. I accompanied Liz on all three days, and have also been sending her fungal specimens from the Hinterland for identification for the past three years. As a result of this, we now have 216 species of fungi recorded here, including some interesting and unusual ones.

Amongst those of particular note is the sandy earthtongue fungus (Sabuloglossum arenarium), for which there are only a handful of records in Scotland. As its name implies it grows in sand dunes, and is thought to have an association with another fungus, the moor club fungus (Clavaria argillacea), so we were very pleased to find the two species fruiting together on the dune area of the Hinterland in October 2020. Another rare species that exists on our site is the rust fungus (Pucciniastrum goodyerae), which only occurs on creeping lady’s tresses orchids (Goodyera repens). This had previously been recorded on the Hinterland by Heather Paul, our local lichen specialist, and this is one of just a few sites in Scotland (all in the northeast) where it has been recorded.

Fungi come in a wide variety of shapes and forms, not just the typical ‘mushroom shape’ that is familiar from culinary mushrooms and children’s story books. They are the fruiting bodies of each fungal species, with the main part of the fungus being a fine network of thread-like structures in the soil. Those are called hyphae, and the network they form is known as a mycelium. The mycelial networks wrap around the roots of trees and other plants, and an exchange of nutrients take place, whereby the fungi (which have no chlorophyll and therefore cannot photosynthesise by themselves) receive carbohydrates and sugars from the trees and plants, while they pass on minerals and other nutrients from the soil in return. This mycorrhizal relationship, as it is known, is fundamental and crucial to the health of forests and many other terrestrial ecosystems. Other fungi are saprotrophic, meaning that they play an essential role in the decomposition and recycling of organic material – without them all woodlands would soon be overflowing with dead plant matter. The photographs here show some of the diversity of fungi we’ve found so far on the Hinterland. 


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Findhorn Hinterland Trust, Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation (SCIO) SC045806
228 Pineridge, Findhorn, Forres, Moray IV36 3TB