The Spring Sparling Project 2020

6th Mar 2020
by Courtney Rowland

This sparling themed community engagement and education drive project, supported by the Co-op local community fund, has been a sucess this spring (even though the sparling eluded us).

The Sparling Project Officer visiting P2/3 of Minnigaff Primary School
The Sparling Project Officer visiting P2/3 of Minnigaff Primary School

This year our Sparling Project Officer has continued to engage and educate the local community about sparling, as a continuation of our recent Saving the Sparling Project. Alongside reconnecting our local communities with this culturally significant species, Courtney has used an established model based on water temperatures, river flows and tide heights to accurately predict the approximate arrival of the sparling this spring. The daily river temperatures and the high tide heights indicated that the spawning event would occur approximately during the last two weeks in February.

In spring of 2020 the first sparling eggs were found on the 18th of February in the riffle section upstream of the A75 Bridge, known as the rag run. Over the following few days an increase in known sparling predators were recorded, including Grey Herons, Goosanders and Cormorants.  Then our efforts to search for the sparling were halted as the rain came and the river rose, preventing us from accessing the river to search for signs of the sparling.

This year, however, the model to predict their arrival was accurate. However the location of the spawning event was not in the ideal riffle section (rag run) above the A75 Bridge. Instead evidence (large numbers of eggs and predator presence) suggests that the sparling spawning occurred in an area called the batteries, roughly 1.5km downstream of the A75 Bridge. This section of river is not safe to access at high tide, and therefore it was not possible to observe the spawning event during the night.

So unfortunately this year we were unable to go ahead with planned night observation sessions along the banks of the River Cree, but the project has still been a success as the Co-op local community funding has allowed us to continue to deliver another round of ‘The Sparling Goes to School Project’. ‘The Sparling Goes to School Project’ aims to educate local primary pupils about sparling through interactive games and activities. Courtney visited classes and eco committees of 5 local primary schools, teaching approximately 150 local primary pupils about the sparling and the important cultural significance to the area. The session starts with a really short introduction to sparling and their unique smell of cucumber, which is normally the favourite fact for the classes. The schools involved were P4 and P5 of Penninghame Primary School, P2/3 of Minnigaff Primary, P5 and the Eco Committee of Dalbeattie Primary School, the Eco Committee of Wigtown Primary and the Eco Committee of Kirkcowan Primary School.

If you want to know more pop along to our stand which will be in the Co-op in Newton Stewart on Friday the 13th between 10am and 2pm. This spring sparling project has been supported by the Co-op local community fund.

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