‘Flying’ sheep at local reserve

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STAFF at Montrose Basin Nature Reserve were faced with an additional and unusual problem during the recent cold snap.

While most of the wildlife on the reserve can fend for itself in all seasons, the staff had the task of taking care of a flock of sheep which are currently resident at the Basin.

The 17 beasts are part of the Scottish Wildlife Trust’s (SWT) ‘flying flock’, which have been at the Basin since the beginning of October.

They are used to carry out important management on SWT property by cropping the grasses and rushes which will allow wading birds to nest and open up areas for other birds to feed.

The sheep spend a set amount of time in one area then ‘fly’ to another SWT reserve to carry out the same task. This technique is also used on reserves managing flower meadows.

Basin ranger Adam McClure said that although they are extremely hardy animals and coped well on their own, sheltering under gorse and finding enough to eat, their food had to be supplemented with ewe nuts and an energy lick.

With road closures and disruption at the start of December, staff were faced with similar problems to local livestock farmers by ensuring their animals had enough food.

When stocks ran out the closure of the A92 between Arbroath and Dundee ruled out getting extra supplies from the flock’s shepherdess so centre staff had to undertake a hazardous journey to Forfar where they managed to buy feed.

Basin ranger Adam McClure said the experience had given him an insight into some of the difficulties faced by local farmers during the severe weather.