Loch and Wet Meadow

The lochs on the island can be classified into two main types: oligotrophic (nutrient poor with little vegetation) and eutrophic (nutrient rich with abundant vegetation). Gretchen Loch, near the Observatory, and Trolla Vatn, near the new lighthouse, are good examples of oligotrophy. Bridesness, on the southeast peninsula, and Ancum Loch, which is almost at the island's centre, are eutrophic.

Most of the lochs are fringed with wet meadow, with dense Yellow Flag beds and other common wet meadow plants, such as the Northern Marsh Orchid and Marsh Marigold. The open water is rapidly invaded in the summer with the protruding heads of Marestail. During this season it takes an observant viewer to spot the wildfowl and occasional otter!

Water Rail

Up to ten species of duck breed on the island, most using this habitat. North Ronaldsay is the most northerly breeding area for the Mute Swan, which lives alongside Coot, Moorhen and Water Rail. Snipe, Redshank and Lapwing prefer these wetter areas to nest, but sadly the Rednecked Phalarope is now seen only in passage, having ceased to breed here in the 1950's.

The larger lochs host colonies of Black-headed Gulls with Sandwich Terns breeding in amongst them. Songbirds such as Reed bunting, Meadow Pipit and occasionally Sedge Warbler also nest.

Outside the breeding season, the reeds provide shelter for large roosts of Starling and migrant thrushes, as well as smaller numbers of Pied Wagtail and finches. Migrant songbirds regularly feed in the shelter of the reeds but the main users of these areas are the migrating wetland birds. Many an exciting duck (at least 25 species recorded!) such as crake, wader, tern are found. In winter, large numbers of duck occur with Grey Herons, Whooper Swans, geese and a variety of gulls.