Friday, 13 April 2018

Undergraduate Work Experience on Lindisfarne NNR

We may not have had warm, sunny weather the past week on Holy island, however this has not stopped me from getting stuck in to my Lindisfarne NNR work placement with Natural England! I am completing the placement as part of one of my BSc Marine Zoology modules at Newcastle University. I aspire to go into conservation and as I enjoy outreach this placement was ideal for me to gain valuable transferable skills and knowledge by working alongside Annie, the Reserve Manager.

Tuesday: Having been used to the relatively laid-back life as a university student it was quite daunting initially entering the work placement regardless of how prepared I felt when I arrived. Although I was a little nervous I didn’t let it put me off and I quickly settled into my role. The first day we were running a ‘Signs of Spring’ event which allowed visitors to complete a variety of spring crafts including dragonfly bookmarks and butterfly lifecycles. The aim of the events was to highlight key messages about safeguarding nature when visiting the Reserve, these messages included keeping dogs on a lead or at heel, keeping to desire lines and observing advice on signage. I felt like a sponge as I absorbed all the aspects of how to effectively prepare, set-up and run the events which are taking place over the coming week. I also got to know Gill and David, two Lindisfarne NNR volunteers who often help with various reserve activities.

Dragonfly bookmark making

Wednesday: By day two my nerves were a distant memory – I arrived on site and once greeted by Gill and David we went over the causeway to set up the days event, ‘Marine Pollution Solutions’. Having done previous marine outreach I was familiar with the main craft of the event - canvas bag decorating. I really enjoyed interacting with the reserve visitors to raise awareness of how marine pollution affects the wildlife and the environment around us. To help get the message across there was a litter sorting game that involves sorting litter into biodegradable and non-biodegradable items and guessing how long specific materials take to break down. Additionally, visitors were encouraged to pledge to ‘reduce, reuse, recycle,’ and their promises were displayed on the pledge board. During the afternoon I had the opportunity to develop my administration skills as this is a key part of Annie’s role; although I appreciate the importance of the admin tasks to the successful running of the reserve I much prefer the practical elements for sure!

Canvas bag decorating

 Thursday: Thankfully the weather forecast held out and we had a glorious day on the reserve for our shorebird event! Although birds aren’t my forte I shocked myself at how many species I could already recognise and from this I took the opportunity to learn more about the little terns, (Sternula albifrons). This species has long migrations from their wintering sites in Africa and are unfortunately the second highest declining shorebird species, therefore the protection the reserve provides is essential to maximise the chances of a successful breeding season. The crafts encouraged children to recognise the colour patterns of the little terns and ringed plover, (Charadrius hiaticula) and how to spot them when out and about on the reserve. The most popular activity was the badge making – I can now add ‘professional badge maker’ to my CV! David, being a keen birder, set up a telescope and got binoculars out for visitors to use through the ‘Window in the Wild’, overlooking some of the beautiful landscape which I has been my ‘office’. On our return to the mainland our plan to do admin was halted by a power cut, however being flexible workers, this did not cause any issues – Annie and I went to the most southern point of the reserve at Budle Bay and then on to Fenham le Moor bird hide to carry out essential maintenance checks. The views from the hide were stunning and I gained a new appreciation towards the importance of signage on the reserve as a management strategy.

Friday: On the penultimate day of my work placement it was my time to shine as I mainly focused on the execution of my ‘Signs of Spring’ event. It followed the same theme of day one however I expanded my skill set through successfully planning and preparing crafts such as a variety of animal masks and origami butterflies. The event went incredibly well and was very busy – there was a constant flow of visitors and spaces at the craft activities were always full – yey! This came as a great relief for me having executed an equally successful event to the three I helped with prior. It was very rewarding for me to see many excited children (and adults) getting involved in the event which I had planned. During Friday afternoon I utilised my organisation skills to sort through the event boxes, so to make preparation for future events on the reserve more efficient.

Spring masks and origami butterflies

Saturday: This was my last day in placement; it has been very enjoyable and rewarding week! I started the day by researching Natura 2000 – this is the European network which protects the vulnerable habitat and species which the reserve hosts; during university I have studied relevant laws and policies such as the Habitats Directive and so through researching Natura 2000 it allowed me to consolidate my understanding of how various SPAs and SACs protect some of Lindisfarne NNR’s most valuable species and habitat. Once again we ran the shorebirds event. We chose the shorebird theme as the focus as by the end of April the entire reserve will host many species in great abundance thus, it is very important to correspond effectively the correct information to the public regarding protection of the shorebird nesting areas and feeding sites. I also developed my blog writing skills – something else which is completely new to me!

Overall this week has been inspiring and has given me a multitude of skills and a wealth of knowledge relating to conservation and reserve management. I have loved working alongside Annie and experiencing what the role of reserve manager entails – to be honest it is a much more interesting and varied role than I previously thought, and I will be sure to consider a similar role when looking for graduate jobs!

Wednesday, 21 March 2018

Second chance for injured seal
Lindisfarne NNR staff and British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR) volunteers mount two rescue missions to find and rescue injured seal
21st March 2018
This week, a badly injured seal received a second chance at life after rescuers spent two days searching for him. The seal - nicknamed Rufus - was found badly entangled in rope and fishing line, with a large infected wound on his neck where the line had cut into him. He is the latest casualty of ghost fishing on the Northumberland coast.
A rescue mission was first mounted on Sunday by BDMLR volunteers Jane Hardy, Jane Lancaster and Steve Dixon after a sighting was reported to the charity, on Ross Back Sands beach, part of Lindisfarne National Nature Reserve in Northumberland. After a 4 mile trek to the beach and 5 hours of searching in hostile weathers, they reluctantly had to admit defeat for the day. Lindisfarne NNR were contacted on Monday to say that the seal had been sighted again at a remote area of the reserve. He was finally found late on Monday afternoon lying at the top of a 10 foot dune, as rescuers left the beach to avoid the oncoming tide.
Rufus, rescued 19th March 2018, Pinnacles, Ross Sands
© Natural England/Annie Ivison
'I was so relieved when I saw him,' recalls Annie Ivison, who works on the Reserve, which is managed by Natural England. ' I alerted the others, and Jane [Lancaster] and I held him still while Steve [Dixon] cut the many pieces of rope and fishing line. I can't describe the smell from the infection in its wounds - it smelt like dead, rotten flesh. It was the worst entanglement we’ve seen.'
Jane, Steve and Annie then bagged and weighed the seal for the 4 mile trek back to the car. 'The seal weighed 26kg and proved a challenge to carry even with the three of us,' says BDMLR volunteer Steve Dixon. 'We eventually made it back to the car and headed for Morris and Plumley vets to get the seal the treatment it needed.'
The Alnwick vets cleaned Rufus's wound and removed the rotten flesh, then gave him antibiotics and much needed fluid. Happily, the rescued seal was well enough to be released on Tuesday afternoon,
Despite their aching muscles and having become covered in seal poo, it was a satisfying outcome for the rescuers. Yet there is a sense of deja vu - earlier this year they rescued seal pup 'Netty' from the same beach, where she too had been badly tangled in discarded fishing gear. Annie Ivison, who is reserve manager at Lindisfarne National Nature Reserve, says the rescues highlight the dangers of marine pollution.
Netty, rescued 3rd January, Budle Bay end of Ross Sands
©Natural England/Annie Ivison

Neck wound on Netty 
© Natural England/Annie Ivison

'People don't always realise the impact that litter can have - sadly, we see every day how it affects wildlife on the reserve. This year so far, amazing volunteers at Lindisfarne National Nature Reserve and Coastcare have already collected over a ton of beach debris from Reserve Beaches. If you have time, and want to help us to protect wildlife, please get in touch.
                        Lindisfarne NNR Staff and Volunteers cleaning the North Shore, January, 2018 
                                                        ©Natural England/ Annie Ivison
The Reserve office
01289 381470
About Lindisfarne NNR:
Lindisfarne National Nature Reserve (3,541 hectares) protects a long stretch of coast, including the dunes of Holy Island. Natural England works to ensure that the birds and plants of the area continue to survive in harmony with each other and the people who live and visit here.
About Natural England:
Natural England is the government's adviser for the natural environment in England, helping to protect England's nature and landscapes for people to enjoy and for the services they provide.

Wednesday, 21 February 2018

February- Launch of the Reserve’s New Events Programme

February may have been cold but it was full steam ahead on the reserve! We undertook beach cleans at the far north of the reserve, Goswick Black Rocks (supported by Coast Care), and to the far south at Budle Bay. Half term was busy, as expected on Holy Island, despite the inclement weather. We celebrated our love of birds on Valentine’s Day and continued the theme of ‘Love Bids’ for 4 days. We spent time with around 330 visitors, highlighting the wonderful array of wildlife that inhabit the reserve.

Photo courtesy of Lindisfarne NNR volunteer, ©Ceris Aston. 

We provided binoculars, telescopes and identification advice for the watching of birds on the Rocket field. Additionally, we enjoyed bird crafts and games designed to educate visitors of all ages about the resident and migratory birds of Lindisfarne. All of the activities were focused on key conservation issues and how visitors can help to support the protection of vulnerable species across the reserve.

Photo courtesy of Lindisfarne NNR volunteer, ©Ceris Aston.

For information regarding upcoming events contact the Reserve Manager:

Wednesday, 31 January 2018

Cetacean & Sea Bird Survey

After the snow, sleet and ice of recent weeks, it came as a relief to be welcomed by blue skies and sunshine for the cetacean and bird survey last Thursday. Eleven volunteers gathered in the hopes of spotting whales or dolphins off the eastern rocky shore of the reserve, in an event organised by Coast Care and Natural England.
Photo © Anna Chouler (Coast Care)

Sporting binoculars and telescopes and well bundled up in layers, we separated into pairs and perched at intervals along the coast. Partner One scanned the sea for ten minutes, in slow steady sweeps, while Partner Two sat poised, pencil and clipboard at the ready for the call – any moment now - ‘Dolphins at two o’clock!’ Every ten minutes, we alternated.
Photo © Anna Chouler (Coast Care)

My partner Philip, who took part in the cetacean identification training earlier in the week, shared some of his newfound knowledge. The four species we were most likely to spot in Northumberland were the bottlenose dolphin, the harbour porpoise, the white-beaked dolphin and the minke whale. The harbour porpoise is the smallest of our local cetaceans and have more triangular and less curved fins than the other three. Different sizes are hard to make out through binoculars and against a backdrop of sea. Bottlenose dolphins will attack harbour porpoises (savages with a smile). White-beaked dolphins are rarely seen near shore waters – locally, they are resident at Farnes’ Deep. On our shared clipboard we had a handout with pictures and descriptions of UK cetaceans. We were ready.
Me in action!

Photo © Anna Chouler (Coast Care)

Over the next two and a half hours, we discovered several things that can appear suspiciously like cetacean dorsal fins to the hopeful eye, including rocks, birds and buoys. We did not, however, spot any actual whales or dolphins. And this, it seems, is the common experience amongst cetacean spotters. Oh whale.*

It would be hard to complain. Sitting by the sea on a bright clear day, with views of Bamburgh Castle and the Farne Islands, it felt as though any cetaceans would have been a mere bonus. The sea and skies were far from empty, with bird sightings to delight both the birder and the novice. Dark-bellied Brent geese flew low, and settled to eat on the shoreline; oystercatchers strode through the shallows, then skimmed the water as they moved onwards; a tall heron waited; curlews waded and called their names; and a group of huddled golden plovers baffled the non-birders until expert David helped us out.
Dark-bellied Brent geese as they flew over the surveyors
Photo © Anna Chouler (Coast Care)

As far as cetacean surveying events without any cetaceans go, it was a good one. And who knows? – maybe next time.

Tips for a cetacean survey:

  • Bring binoculars and scan the water slowly
  • Dress for the weather
  • The best time for cetacean watches In the North Sea is March-June  

  • Look for a day that is overcast and not too sunny – else sunlight will reflect on the water
  • Hope for calm seas
  • Watch out for feeding birds – cetaceans are often found in the same areas of sea
  • Don’t expect to see anything – but enjoy it if you do
  • More information on cetacean spotting at ORCA
*I couldn’t resist the pun. It was on porpoise.
Blog entry By Ceris Aston (Lindisfarne NNR Volunteer)

Friday, 29 December 2017

Egrets and Herons

Keen observers will have no doubt noticed the arrival in recent years of a small white heron, the Little Egret, on the Northumberland Coast. Now regarded as an established breeding bird much on the increase, it will require considerable research in order to establish any impacts of this new predator of fish and invertebrates on wetland and coastal areas. It is clear that the grey Heron has a slightly different hunting strategy, quiet stealth, an angled motionless poise then an explosive stab at the fish below.

Grey Heron

The Little Egret is a much more energetic hunter, chasing prey around in rock pools, raising wings to flush prey, or vigorously wiggling bright yellow feet to uncover the contents of the mud.
Little Egret

Though frequently mobbed by gulls and crows, other small waders and ducks are less troubled by feeding proximity to the Little Egret, however, they stay clear from the Grey Heron.
Little Egret & Black-Headed Gull
Blog Entry by a Lindisfarne NNR Volunteer.

There are several bird hides across the reserve including one fresh water hide at the Lough on Holy Island. Other hides look out onto coastal habitats at Fenham-le-Moor and Elwick. A new viewing platform has also been a commissioned for Budle Bay, this will be installed in 2018. For optimal bird watching experiences, wear natural coloured clothing rather than bright, vibrant outerwear, keep noise disturbance to a minimum, watch on a rising tide as this draws the birds closer to the observer….and enjoy!

Tuesday, 21 November 2017

November 2017-Panoramic Veiw of Budle Bay Flats

Panoramic Views from the White Railings

The white railings by the road north after Bamburgh provide panoramic views of Budle Bay mudflats.

Image 1: Budle Bay ©JJD

A wide array of bird life can be seen at all stages of the tide as it ebbs and flows from this vantage point. Binoculars or better still a telescope will enable good views of birds that make use of this precious ecological resource.

Image may contain: 2 people, people smiling, people standing, outdoor and nature
Image 2: Enthusiasts watching birds on the mudflats of Budle Bay during one of the organised ‘Migratory Bird Watch’ events ©Natural England/Annie Ivison

The best time to see birds here is throughout the autumn and winter months, when resident birds are joined by migrant geese, swans, ducks and waders, sometimes in huge numbers.

Image 3: A Mute swan on the waters of the reserve ©JJD
Image 4: A Curlew wading the mud ©JJD
Image 5: Light-bellied Brent geese from the Svalbard population feeding on seagrasses that are abundant across the mudflats at Fenham and Budle Bay ©JJD                    

Being adjacent to the North Sea coast, hard weather on continental Europe can result in even greater numbers of avian visitors

Birds to look out for are Shovellers and Pintail, among flocks of Wigeon, Teal and Mallard.
At high tide, Glavonian and Red-throated Diver are frequently spotted, fishing the deeper river channels.

Blog written by an NNR volunteer

Birds at Budle Bay should be observed from behind the railings, ideally on a rising tide, which will draw the birds closer to the observer.

Plans are underway to build a new viewing platform at Budle Bay, this will provide an excellent space for viewing birds without disturbing this space!

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

longterm monitoring network at the Lindisfarne NNR II

The long term monitoring network at the Lindisfarne NNR continues.

Liz shows the group how to identify grasses as part of the LTMN training.

The group gets stuck in identifying common grasses such as Marram grass, Crested-Dog's tail and Quaking grass.

what is this one?

Monday, 17 July 2017

longterm monitoring network at the Lindisfarne NNR

Day one at lindisfarne.17th June 2017

Everyone is meeting at the NNR office before going out for a bit of training and then starting the survey in earnest.