Just over a month ago, the dreaded ‘F’ word hit North East Scotland: floods. Just following Christmas, the rain came in droves and brought destruction with it; roads were washed away, houses crumbled, trees were felled in the accompanying wind and puddles morphed into flowing rivers that carried cars with them. For a short time, Aberdeen was completely cut off from the rest of Scotland with major roads and railway lines shut down – even flights were affected.
It was pretty shocking. Luckily, I live far away from any rivers and so all I had to deal with was a slight leak in the ceiling and soggy shoes. But people on the outskirts of the city, in places like Banchory, were severely affected. Another worrying aspect was the wildlife – how would the flora and fauna in these areas cope? With whole chunks of riverbank swept away and the ground waterlogged, what were their flood defences?
One of the worst affected areas near to me was Seaton Park, which connects to the Donmouth nature reserve and supports a whole host of wildlife, from deer to sea otters to a plethora of birds. It is one of my favourite places in Aberdeen, with a path that follows the river Don through the woods and out to the estuary on the other side where you can spot waders, terns and seals haul themselves out on the sand spit. Whilst these species may be indifferent to a spot of flooding, I wondered how the other more land-loving animals and plants would fair when the Don burst its banks in January. So I decided to head out with my camera and have a look – and I was pleasantly surprised! Seaton park has turned itself into a wetland, attracting a whole host of new wildlife.
The park itself is in a sort of basin, with high steep banks on either side, and so floods easily. However, with the extreme floods of late, the ground is saturated and the lake here is now permanent. Clusters of reeds are beginning to grow amongst other wetland vegetation, and with it the wetland birds have followed – mallard ducks, mute swans, herons, gulls – even a lonesome tufted duck. If the birds are there, you can almost guarantee other life will be below the glassy surface of the water; the ducks (in between naps) were seen diving for snacks. The swans and gulls, however, waited expectantly for breadcrumbs and other titbits kindly donated by some enthusiastic kids!
It always amazes me how nature can colonise a new habitat so quickly, and make it their own. This section of the park as already been identified by the authorities as a wetland habitat and hopefully management will be put in place to make it so. At the moment however there is still evidence that this was, until recently, the playground of humans – take the submerged bench and ‘no golf practice’ sign, for example.
A rather nice reminder that what we consider a bad situation may actually prove to be an ideal situation for wildlife.