Wednesday, 15 October 2014

15th October: Birdwatching event a success!

Last Saturday and Sunday experienced local birder and chair of North Northumberland Bird Club, Graham Bell, held a special birdwatching event at the Window on Wild Lindisfarne. The event pulled in a good number of visitors, Graham's bird call impressions definitely caught the attention of any passers-by!

Just some of the keen attendees with Graham, being shown the many birds on the flooded field 

On Saturday, Graham met the group at the Window on Wild Lindisfarne where fantastic views of some Dark-bellied Brent geese could be seen along with teal, redshank and lapwing among other waders. The group spent some time here listening to Graham's knowledge of the bird species on the scrape before walking up to the Lookout on Wild Lindisfarne on the Heugh. Here, great views could be seen of the birds across Fenham Flats and around the Island's shores.

Some of the spectacular birdlife seen over the weekend...




Graham is keen to hold more birdwatching events with us so watch this space!

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

7th October: Cattle arrive

Today, the NNR team welcomed 30 cattle to the Reserve to carry out their yearly task of grazing the dunes of Holy Island.

 Cattle arriving - fresh off their trailer

Settling in

The cattle are checked daily by Reserve staff and volunteers, making sure they are settled among the dunes. The cattle are selected for their calm temperament but if you are visiting the Reserve, please be aware the cows are present and if you have dogs keep them on a lead. There are signs at access points to the Reserve with more information about the livestock.

Monday, 6 October 2014

6th October: Peak bird counts during September

Wintering wildfowl and waders are still arriving in large numbers from their breeding grounds to Lindisfarne NNR.

Here are some selected peak bird counts from the month of September across the NNR:

Light bellied brent goose 1200
Barnacle goose 7500
Wigeon 8500
Shelduck 205
Eider 372
Oystercatcher 1497
Golden plover 1200
Grey plover 452
Knot 1552
Sanderling 530
Bar-tailed godwit 2170
Redshank 975

Friday, 3 October 2014

3rd October: Settled sheep

The flock of sheep currently grazing among the dunes seem very content with their home for the winter. They have done a brilliant job so far, grazing all the long vegetation within their enclosure and helping the NNR team with preventing regeneration of scrub among the dunes.

Some well-chewed scrub! 

Their fence was extended yesterday to give them more area to graze, and will continue to be extended throughout the winter to ensure they have enough fresh vegetation to eat. This will also maximise the area of the Reserve that will benefit from these living 'lawn-mowers' this year.

Within the enclosure after a week of grazing

Area still to be grazed by the sheep

Doing a great job helping us look after the Reserve

Monday, 29 September 2014

29th September: Vegetation clearance at the Snook

Each year, the team at Lindisfarne NNR organise task days with the Northumberland Coastal Volunteer group. This weekend we were raking up loose vegetation cuttings and cutting some regeneration of scrub, particularly hawthorn. Any emergent Scots pine saplings that had appeared over the last year were also removed.

Raking up the cuttings into piles to be taken off the Reserve

This vegetation cutting on certain areas of the dunes is carried out annually to ensure removal of rank vegetation and to prevent regeneration of scrub and trees such as Scots pine.

There are already established trees and scrub among the sand dunes, providing valuable cover for passerines, but regeneration is prevented to preserve the unique ecosystem of the dunes and slacks.

Friday, 26 September 2014

26th September: Sheep arrive

Part of the Snook is now home to a flock of 22 sheep for the winter. The sheep are here to act as living 'grasscutters', opening up the vegetation to allow Lindisfarne's amazing summer flora to thrive and most importantly, to keep invasive species such as Michaelmas daisy in check.

Sheep arriving

Michaelmas daisy

The sheep have only been in-situ for a few days but have already made a big impact on the vegetation, especially the Michaelmas daisy - all of the pale purple flowerheads were gone from the enclosure by the next day!

The sheep enclosure before the flock arrives....
...and a few days after. Big difference!

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

23rd September: Geese incoming!

Winter wildfowl have started arriving in droves - approx. 3500 geese have arrived over the last few days, including a passage of 2500 Pink-footed geese and a peak of 200 Greylags noted at Budle Bay.

Barnacle geese have been especially numerous around the Reserve recently. Around 7000 were seen loafing on the mudflats north of the Causeway earlier this week, taking off as the tide came in and flying south to Budle Bay and adjacent fields.

Barnacle geese dropping in (John Dunn)

These Barnacle geese are probably on their way over to the Solway, stopping off here to have a good feed and rest.

A star attraction of the Reserve, the Light-bellied Brent goose, is also showing well with numbers currently at around 1200. The hide at Fenham-Le-Moor, signposted off the A1, is the best place to see and hear these charismatic small geese.

Light-bellied Brent geese (John Dunn)

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

16th September: Special blog from Millie, high school placement student

I’m Millie, a year 13 student who has just finished a work placement here at Lindisfarne NNR.

MONDAY: After arriving in the morning and registering as a volunteer, I was straight over to the Island with Reserve Warden Laura. We went down onto the beach at the Snook armed with black bin bags and a litter picker. I was surprised at the amount of rubbish that the recent, really high tide had washed up but we managed to clean all along the stretch of beach, leaving it litter free.

Litter-free, but we found many small crab shells

After lunch it was then time to visit the Window to Wild Lindisfarne building to refresh the box of leaflets about the Reserve and check it was clean and tidy for the public. We then proceeded to do the same for the Lookout to Wild Lindisfarne, not without admiring the view!

TUESDAY: the day started with another round of cleaning up after the high tide litter, but this time along the causeway.

It was then time to complete the weekly butterfly survey that runs throughout the summer. It was a very sunny day so we were hopeful to see a few, despite it being a little windy! Sadly, we were only able to see three different species and a grand total of six butterflies. This was due to it being late in the season, meaning many had died off, including the Reserve's “star” butterfly: the dark green fritillary.

Dark green fritillary

Back at the office, I was able to look at the data collection sheets from the most recent Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) and process some of the data in a spreadsheet. It was interesting to see the variation of a species over the years.

WEDNESDAY: after briefly helping with the BBS spreadsheets again and making some graphs, we were back out the office to another part of the reserve at Cheswick beach. The NNR site was larger than I realised! Here, Laura and I carried out a Wetland Bird Survey (WeBS), counting the number of each species with a telescope and recording it. Aside from the numerous herring gulls and cormorants, we saw some eider ducks, terns and a group of at least five porpoises just offshore!

The Reserve at Cheswick, where we started the WeBS

THURSDAY: on my last day, it was time to help remove some of the many Scots pine saplings that were sprouting up in the dunes. These trees would change the valuable sand dune ecosystem that is home to important species on the Reserve, so we pulled them up at the root where possible.

Scots pine sapling before removal

On another part of the island there is a freshwater pond, the Lough, with a hide looking out onto it. We walked there and gave the hide a quick check and clean. We had to be quick as inside there was one nest of swallows still not fledged and the parent birds wanted to come in and feed them.

Massive thank you to the whole team at the Lindisfarne NNR and Natural England for letting me have such a fantastic week of work experience. It gave me an insight into conservation work in this country and parts of the job that I had not even considered. I hope to volunteer with them again in the future!

- And from us at Lindisfarne NNR, many thanks to Millie for doing a great job helping the Reserve team throughout the week, best of luck in Year 13 and future studies!