Monday, 25 August 2014

25th August: Fire of the North Festival 2014

The Fire of the North Festival 2014 is well underway, but don't worry - you can still join in with the events still to come!

Tomorrow, 28th August, John will be greeting visitors to the Farne Islands NNR as they land to tell them more about the amazing St Cuthbert and his care for the wildlife of the Islands. On Sunday 31st August, John and Reserve Warden Laura will be leading a walk around Holy Island titled "Cuthbert: Lindisfarne's First Nature Warden".

Detail of St Cuthbert in the Transfiguration window, Durham Cathedral (Thomas Denney)

For a full programme, please visit

On Thursday 4th September at 8.30pm, the festival comes to a spectacular end with beacons being lit on Inner Farne and at St Abb's Head NNR. A walk will be led to the Lookout on Wild Lindisfarne on Holy Island to view these beacons. It was amazing last year and this year will be even bigger and better than before!

Saturday, 16 August 2014

16th August: Late summer flora

It may be nearing the end of the summer and getting a bit more chilly now, but Lindisfarne's summer floral show is not over yet. There are still plenty of beautiful plants to be seen among the dunes if you look closely.

Grass of Parnassus - this beautiful late-flowering plant grows in the damp dune slacks of Holy Island.

Eyebright - this delicate plant with tiny white, purple and yellow flowers can be found across the Reserve close to paths. Its bottom petal is shaped like a lip, and the yellow markings help attract pollinating insects into the flower.

This pale lilac flower is Michaelmas daisy, a popular garden plant which has 'escaped' and made its way to the Snook where it is invasive as it smothers the native vegetation. We host a flock of sheep in the area where it grows every winter in order for the sheep to graze on it, keeping it in check.

This is Sea Aster, a saltmarsh plant with pretty purple flowers. It can be seen from the Causeway among the saltmarsh at the edge of the road. As it flowers well into September, it provides a valuable nectar source for late-flying butterflies and bees.

Remember to stay to the main paths as you walk through the dunes, avoiding accidental damage to the Reserve's wonderful, fragile plants.

Thursday, 14 August 2014

14th August: Events this weekend

Two events are taking place on Lindisfarne NNR this weekend:

Saturday 16th August, 11.30am - 1.30pm
Butterfly Walk

Join Reserve Warden Laura for a walk around Lindisfarne NNR to learn how to identify and record our spectacular butterfly species. This is also a great chance to see the rest of our amazing wildlife including the NNR's birds and flora along the way.
Booking is essential as places are limited.
Meet at the Window on Wild Lindisfarne, grid ref. NU129419

The Peacock butterfly, one of many you might see on our butterfly walk

Sunday 17th August, 1.30pm – 4.00pm
The Lost Buildings of Lindisfarne

Come along to Lindisfarne National Nature Reserve to see there's more than nature hidden in the dunes! Join local historian and volunteer John Woodhurst to explore some of the island's less well known historic sites and discover Lindisfarne's once thriving, but now mostly forgotten, industrial heritage.
Booking essential.
Meet at Holy Island Main Car Park - a car parking charge is applicable.
Grid ref: NU 126 423.

John leading the group on a previous Lost Buildings of Lindisfarne walk

Monday, 11 August 2014

11th August: Shorebird season update

Mhairi, Northumberland Little Tern Project co-ordinator, has an update on what the shorebirds are up to now that the breeding season is over:

Shorebird Season – ups and ups but still more to do!

Well on the coast here we have had a brilliant breeding season for our shorebirds! New fences have meant that new areas have allowed ringed plovers to thrive where there was high disturbance from humans and dogs in the past. All along the Northumberland coast, we have also had good numbers of breeding terns, which have translated into a great year for fledglings.

Collecting fencing from one shorebird area
Rolling in the fencing

So that’s it, 31st of July the fences come down, give ourselves and the birds a pat on the back - and relax knowing we have done our bit until April next year?

Well yes and no! The birds have finished the hard part having successfully negotiated high tides, threat of being eaten and the odd stray balloon which looks surprisingly like a bird of prey from the ground. However, the chicks are facing new threats now they have turned into fledglings (a word for those in the know to describe those chicks which are taking their wobbly, haphazard first flights), now having to flop and flap their way down to the water’s edge to follow their parents. They then hang around the shore waiting to be fed until the penny drops and they attempt to feed themselves (again rather haphazardly). All this time on the beach opens them up to new challenges. They are about to start their first ever migration to their wintering grounds. There is no dress rehearsal - once they leave the safety of Northumberland’s beaches they have to fly thousands of miles to find favourable areas for them to winter. Take the Little Tern, just one of the birds you will find on our beaches: the furthest a Little Tern from the UK has been found to migrate is Guinea-Bissau. A quick google search tells me Guinea Bissau is in West Africa on the sticky out bit - a massive 4000 miles.

The Little Tern

Guinea Bissau, Africa

The distance and the timing of this migration means that our beaches play one last role in the lives of our young terns before we see them in two years time when they return. And we can all help – if you see large roosts of terns or other birds on the beach keep dogs under control try to avoid walking through them and most of all enjoy watching this spectacle. Help by giving them the time they need to take some food from our North Sea larder, gain strength and get ready for their epic journey.

I’ll be giving an update from the breeding season when we get all our reports together and also give you an idea of how the EU Life project has helped nationally.



Sunday, 10 August 2014

9th August: Porpoise found on beach

Along with the jellyfish we posted photos of earlier in the week, a dead porpoise was also washed up onto the beach. It looked to have died from a large wound to its underside. One of our volunteers discovered it and took a photograph so we could try to find out what happened.

We contacted the Cetacean Strandings Project at the Natural History Museum who replied that it was not possible to say for sure what caused the wound, however one possibility is a Greenland shark which has been recorded in the North Sea. The Greenland shark is a scavenger and has been reported to feed on porpoise bodies, removing large chunks, and the porpoise wound does suggest one large bite. The photo has been passed on to experts who will hopefully give us a definitive answer. The further damage looks to have been done by other scavengers, possibly seals.

It can be distressing to see dead animals washed up on the shore, but reporting them provides important information which helps us understand more about these creatures. If you find a dead animal such as seals or cetaceans washed up on the shores of the Reserve, please call the Reserve base on 01289 381470 so we can report it to the relevant organisations. If you find a live animal that is wounded or looks to be in distress, it is crucial that you call us so we can try to rescue the animal.

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

5th August: Pirri-pirri bur work update

Since our last update on Pirri-pirri bur removal works we have removed burs from more of the main paths on the NNR and trialled a new machine.

First we used a grasscutter on the main paths to cut the Pirri seed heads and leaves, then used the new machine which is like a giant vacuum to suck up the burs loosened by the cutter.

The vacuum about to be used on patches of Pirri-pirri bur

Our volunteer John collecting Pirri-pirri into a bag to bring back to the yard for disposal

The combination of cutting the Pirri-pirri bur then using the vacuum has worked very well, meaning we can clear more paths of the burs which prevent them being spread to other sites on shoes, clothing and animal fur.

Monday, 4 August 2014

4th August: July's peak bird counts

Selected peak counts of birds on Lindisfarne NNR during July:

Little egret 21
Shelduck 234
Tufted duck 49
Eider 812
Common scoter 200
Red-breasted merganser 24
Oystercatcher 304
Ringed plover 54
Lapwing 61
Bar-tailed godwit 86
Curlew 931
Redshank 157
Sandwich tern 174
Arctic tern 51

These counts are recorded during the monthly Wetland Bird Survey (WeBS) and also from ad-hoc counts.

Thursday, 31 July 2014

31st July: Jellyfish washed up on the shore

A large number of jellyfish were washed up on Lindisfarne NNR recently after some high tides pushed them up onto the beaches.

Blue jellyfish (Cyanea lamarckii): the vibrant blue colour of this jellyfish is where it gets its name, but sometimes they can be pure white! It's tentacles can grow up to 1 metre in length but its body is normally around 15 cm in diameter. This is a widespread visitor to Britain's coasts.

Moon jellyfish (Aurelia aurita): these distinctive jellyfish are commonly found in estuaries and harbours as well as on the shore. The moon jellyfish is easily identified by its 4 round gonads seen through the translucent body.

Lion's mane jellyfish (Cyanea capillata): a large jellyfish, usually red or brown in colour. You may be surprised to learn that this is one of the largest animals in the world - it's body can reach over 2 metres in diameter with tentacles up to 150 ft long - much longer than a blue whale!

If you find jellyfish on the shore, be careful not to touch them as they may still sting even when dead.