The newly established citizens’ group, Friends of Findhorn Bay, called a public meeting in Kinloss on 14th December to share their vision for the Bay as a local, national and international resource. There was an overwhelming public response with an attendance of over 120 local residents from Kinloss, Findhorn, Forres and surrounding areas. The group, which has a fast growing membership, aimed to bring all interested parties together to discuss and explore the vision and aims of the group and the best way forward for the Findhorn Bay Local Nature Reserve.
So far 800 signatures of residents of Kinloss, Findhorn and Forres have been collected in just 29 days on a paper petition that is calling for a total ban on shooting in the Findhorn Bay Local Nature Reserve. At the public meeting, lead petitioner, Lisa Mead, highlighted the strength of public feeling that had been articulated during the collection of signatures.
A local piper welcomed the meeting attendees on arrival to a varied and pleasant evening of talks, film footage, poetry and open question time. A presentation by local ornithologist Richard Somers Cocks gave an indication of the variety and rarity of the wildlife of the Bay. He noted that a number of bird species that visit or inhabit Findhorn Bay are recorded as ’Near Threatened’ on the IUCN Red List, including the Long-Tailed Duck, Curlew Sandpiper, Oystercatcher, Bar-tailed and Black-tailed Godwit and the Knot. An enlightening presentation was given as to the relevant legislation that protects the Bay, at least in theory, and to the fact that Findhorn Bay is not only designated as a Local Nature Reserve, but also as a Site of Special Scientific Interest and as a RAMSAR site.
It was outlined that under Criterion 5 of the RAMSAR Sites Criteria, Findhorn Bay has international importance for bird migration, which could also be of value in terms of sensitive ecotourism. Both individual bird species and habitats are also protected under the EU Natura 2000 directive. Many wintering species, including waders, need the South East corner of the Bay to feed and roost. Gelda MacGregor, a Steering Group member of Friends of Findhorn Bay, noted in her talk that the RSPB rated it as “one of the best places for wildlife in the UK”. The RAMSAR site designation report states that “in the educational use of the Findhorn Bay its potential value is high”.
Some evocative film footage of the beauty of the Bay and the migrating geese was shown by Rev. Louis Bezuidenhout. Included was some disturbing footage of the shooting of Pink Footed geese, with one falling onto the B9011 Findhorn Bay Road at Kinloss. It narrowly missed being hit by a bus and fell close to where school children wait at the bus stop. The fallen goose staggered along to a ditch, repeatedly trying to fly, but failing. Other local residents have also related discoveries of injured birds dying a painful death.
Following the presentations there were animated discussions, with points of view expressed by a diverse audience, which included several local wildfowlers. All who shared expressed heartfelt interest in and concern for the future of the Bay. Frustrated residents of Kinloss and Findhorn complained of waking up to the sound of shotgun fire for almost six months of the year and of effectively being unable to access the Nature Reserve to walk or birdwatch when the shooters are present, which is often during the morning, daytime and evening.
The audience were made aware that Friends of Findhorn Bay is now open for membership and has a website, www.findhornbay.scot, where further information can be found and also a Facebook Group – Findhorn Bay Goose Watch – which can be joined. This Facebook Group has been set up primarily so that people with concerns about shooting on the Bay or incidents to report can have their voices heard.
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