Britain's largest reedbed suffers devastating fire


A swathe of Britain's largest continuous reedbed has been destroyed by a fire, which took hold on Monday [27 April].

Tay Reedbeds, between Dundee and Perth, supports a great variety of rare and restricted-range wildlife, including breeding Western Marsh Harriers and the nation's biggest population of Bearded Tits, with in excess of 600 pairs thought to have bred there in 2019.

But a significant portion of this special habitat, more than half of which is owned and run as a nature reserve by the RSPB, has been wiped out by the blaze. It is thought that the fire started at around 11.30 am, with large plumes of smoke rising from the river bank near the village of Errol for most of the day.

Nine fire engines rushed to tackle the blaze at the wildlife reserve and a helicopter was also deployed, due to the threat to nearby properties.

At its peak, flames reached heights of more than 12 metres and the smoke clouds were seen as far away as Portobello, in Edinburgh. Eventually, by around 9 pm, the fire was under control and extinguished. However, the extent of the damage was shocking – scorched earth stretched for an estimated 3 km by 1 km, an area that just hours previously had been one of Britain's most bustling and wildlife-rich habitats.

A spokesperson for the RSPB commented: "This is a tragedy for many rare and threatened birds, right at the time when they are nesting and trying to raise their chicks.

"We currently have no idea how the fire started. Conditions have been exceptionally dry like elsewhere and the fire hazard in the countryside is very high right now.

"It is designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest, Special Protection Area, Special Area of Conservation and a Ramsar site."

Denise Reed, Scottish Natural Heritage Area Manager for Tayside and Grampian, added: "We are extremely saddened to see such an extensive fire at this nationally and internationally important wildlife site.

"The effects of wildfire can be devastating at any time but particularly at this time of year for nesting birds and their young, including the important populations of Western Marsh Harrier, Water Rail and Bearded Tit that nest at this site."