NATURE RESERVE

The village of St Cyrus has something very special at the bottom of the cliffs ……… a warm, sheltered haven for birds, flowers and insects including lots of rarities not normally found this far north!

This area of cliffs, dunes and grasslands is so special it has been designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest and became a National Nature Reserve in 1962.

The reserve is managed by Scottish Natural Heritage and is open free to visitors. The visitor centre is normally open 10am to 5pm every day April to October and Monday to Friday between November and March.

If you would like to visit the reserve with a group or have a query please contact the reserve office on (01674) 830 736.

This area of cliffs, dunes and grasslands is so special it has been designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest and became a National Nature Reserve in 1962.

The reserve is managed by Scottish Natural Heritage and is open free to visitors. The visitor centre is normally open 10am to 5pm every day April to October and Monday to Friday between November and March.

If you would like to visit the reserve with a group or have a query please contact the reserve office on (01674) 830 736.

Geology

The andesite cliffs, made of lava from a volcano which was active 395 million years ago, are essential to St Cyrus NNR. They shelter the grasslands from the prevailing south westerly winds while the dunes provide shelter from easterly winds making the grasslands warmer and drier than normal, allowing our wildflowers to thrive. As the cliffs weather and break down extra nutrients are released into the normally poor sand dune soils so there is more for the flowers to feed on.

Flowers

Our wildflowers are the most spectacular feature of the nature reserve with a display that varies with the seasons. Flowers grow on every part of the reserve from the windswept beach and exposed cliffs to the sheltered grasslands and damp marshy areas. Little maiden pinks and tall spikes of clustered bellflowers are at their northern limit here enjoying the warmer, drier conditions similar to the east coast of Yorkshire 200 miles south. The best time to see flowers here is during June & July when the dunes are carpeted in pinks, purples and yellows.Flowers

Flowers are at the bottom of the food chain at St Cyrus, the essential source of food for the insects that live here.

Insects

If you go hunting for mini-beasts at St Cyrus you can find everything from spiders and millipedes to grasshoppers and snails.

A warm sunny day is the best time to look for some of the 230 types of moths and butterflies that live on the reserve, feeding on the flowers. Most moths fly at night but during the day you might see the distinctive black & red cinnabar moth. The common blue butterfly is also easy to spot as it stands out from the green grass. Some of the butterflies feed on grasses as well and during July and August you can find hundreds of meadow brown and small heath butterflies amongst the dunes.

As the next link in the St Cyrus food chain, our insects provide food for the birds that live here too.

Birds

We have over 65 species of breeding birds here at St Cyrus during the summer; some that live here all year round and some that travel great distances to breed on the reserve.

ButterflyThe variety of habitats on the reserve encourages a range of birds from dunnocks and stonechats in the gorse bushes to skylarks and meadow pipits in the dunes. Sedge warblers and reed buntings nest in the reedbeds while the fulmars and peregrines live on the cliffs.

Our summer migrants include lots of swallows and house martins which fly all the way from West Africa to use the special bird boxes put up around the office and visitor centre.

Many of our birds, including the skylark, make their nests on the ground so between April and August the southern half of the reserve is closed to the public to give them more of a chance to breed without disturbance from humans or dogs.

As you head out onto the reserve, remember to keep one eye on the cliffs as you might spot one of our impressive birds of prey. The cliffs are a brilliant place for top-of-the- foodchain birds like kestrels and peregrines to nest and hunt, as long as they avoid the spitting fulmars!

Humans

St Cyrus National Nature reserve is now a haven for wildlife but the area is steeped in human history too. From Stone Age hunters and cannibal lairds to brave soldiers and amazing innovators the reserve and surrounding area have lots of secrets to tell.

Salmon fishers have also played an important part in shaping the reserve over the centuries catching salmon and sea trout with stake nets on the beach for hundreds of years. Unfortunately the 2007 season was the last but you can still find the shapes of the nets marked out by stakes in the sand.

 More Nature Reserve