Wednesday, 7 October 2020

Surveying disturbance


Over the weekend we began our most extensive study into disturbance of the internationally important numbers of wintering waterfowl and waders on Lindisfarne National Nature Reserve. The aim of the study is to map disturbance incidences across the Reserve to get a better understanding of the effect that this has on the movements and redistribution of birds across the site and whether repeated disturbance moves them off the Reserve entirely. To get an overview of the whole area, 4 stations are dotted around the Reserve and observed over a protracted period of time. These surveys will be undertaken frequently through autumn and winter.

Surveyors eye view

While undertaking these surveys it would be remiss of us not to get more detailed counts on top of the counts already undertaken through casual observations, WeBs and Grey goose counts. From the observations so far it is clear that ducks and geese are approaching their peak on the Reserve with almost 10,000 Wigeon and 3,200 Brent Geese recorded at one station alone. Numbers of Pink-footed Geese are also beginning to peak with thousands flighting in and out of the Reserve every day. Over the weekend large numbers of Barnacle geese have also arrived fresh in from the high Arctic. Some of the Barnacle Geese remain on the Reserve throughout the winter but others make a quick stop to refuel before heading further west towards the Solway Firth.

Waders on the shoreline ©JJD

Big influx of Wigeon ©JJD 

Observing and recording disturbance events and how this affects bird numbers, distribution and movements will help inform the future management of the National Nature Reserve. We will keep you updated with the progress.

Half the worlds population of Light-bellied Brent Geese can be seen on the Reserve ©JJD 

Thursday, 1 October 2020

Let the grazing begin!

This morning under leaden autumnal skies the familiar yellow cattle trailer pulled by a tractor arrived at Lindisfarne National Nature Reserve containing very special cargo – 30 cows. Over the next few months they will be roaming the 110 hectares of the links on Holy Island as part of our conservation grazing works. The dunes are reknown for their botany and so these living lawnmowers provide a valuable service for the Reserve, digesting all the rank grass; clearing the way for the full floral diversity of the dunes to bloom come spring. This area would be far too large and undulating for us to be able to cut mechanically.
Already getting stuck in to the grass!
Arriving onto the dunes

These cattle have been specifically chosen for their docile nature but there are still a few things to be aware of when entering the dune system.

 • As is always the case around livestock please keep dogs on leads at all times and keep to existing paths and desire lines. 
• Please remove the seed heads of any Pirri-pirri bur that have become attached to your clothes or any dog fur. Warning signs about this plant can be found at the main access points into the dunes 
• Please don't startle or try to pet the cows.

Tuesday, 15 September 2020

September update

The Reserve is in the midst of it's annual transition as summer breeding birds begin their long migrations we welcome the 50,000 waders, geese and ducks that call the Reserve home during winter. Last week the last of the shorebird protective fencing has been removed from the Reserve. Whilst the fences and seasonal restrictions have been removed it is important to remember that the restriction regarding dogs on leads is still in place across the Reserve. This is one of the byelaws and remains in place throughout the year. Lindisfarne National Nature Reserve is not only an important breeding ground for several species of vulnerable shorebirds but is also a vital wintering ground and refuelling stop for tens of thousands of birds. Waterfowl will travel from the frigid arctic circle every autumn to use the vast rich intertidal area to feed on worms, molluscs and eel grass that can be found here. If they remained in their summer breeding areas the ground would be frozen solid and they would have nothing to eat so the mild british winters offer ample opportunity to feed throughout the coldest months of the year. Many of these birds will move in and out with the tide and as a consequence be in direct conflict with people and dogs along the coastline. This is why we ask that dogs be kept on leads at all times on the Reserve even on the beaches. If flocks of birds are continually disturbed they are unable to lay down the fat reserves required to either recover from their migration to Lindisfarne or make the arduous migration back to their breeding or wintering grounds and many perish as a consequence. So if you see a flock of birds along the coast please give them space to relax and feed.
It has been nice over the last week to hear the first Pink-footed Geese returning to the Reserve. Numbers of Wigeon and Light-bellied Brent Geese have been building on the Reserve and are currently at around 2000 individuals each. It is a reminder that we have already reached autumn of this very strange year.
We are busy collating the data from the breeding shorebird season but the initial headline is that it has been a tough season for them with several high tides accompanied by higher than normal disturbance. Once the numbers are crunched we will update you with the final figures.

Friday, 14 August 2020

Shorebird update

The eggs have hatched and most young have taken to the wing for their first tentative flights. However, the young of some of our late breeders are still balls of fluff and downy feathers, being furiously fed by attentive parents. For this reason, we have decided to keep the access restrictions in some areas of the Reserve in place for the time being. Locally breeding birds are now moving through the site with numbers of ringed plover slowly increasing and all 5 species of breeding UK Tern using the Reserve as a feeding and roosting site. This is more apparent in the restricted areas as the lack of disturbance creates makeshift refuges.
The Reserve is an important feeding ground

As we move into the last couple of weeks of August there will be a noticeable shift as the breeding birds begin their epic migrations south and the wintering birds arrive from their breeding grounds in the cool tundra. As many as 50,000 wildfowl, geese and waders descend on Lindisfarne National Nature Reserve to feed on the rich mudflats and eel grass beds.
50,000 birds descend on Lindisfarne National Nature Reserve each autumn/winter

Please keep dogs on leads and give birds the space to feed and roost without disturbance. In the coming weeks, we will be collating the data from the Shorebird season and will give you results of this strange season in due course.

Tuesday, 4 August 2020

COVID-19 update

The summer has arrived and since the campsites have by and large re-opened we thought we would give you a quick update on current access restrictions on the Reserve.

It has been a strange 6 months on the Reserve but as lockdown has eased we have seen a flood of visitors heading to Northumberland, particularly over the last couple of weeks. Visitors can access the Reserve but with an increase in visitor numbers it is vital that we keep maintaining social distancing with others across the Reserve and try to minimise transmission of the virus wherever possible. For this reason we have decided to keep all our bird hides closed for the foreseeable future.

There are still some great places to stop and observe the diverse range of life that Lindisfarne National Nature Reserve supports. The viewing platform at Budle Bay provides spectacular expansive views across the mudflats and sand that form this important wildlife refuge. Waders are beginning to migrate back to the Reserve from their breeding grounds and this is the perfect place to see them feverishly refuelling on the rich mudflat after their long journey.
Budle Bay viewing platform in pre COVID times
The nature trail on Holy Island is also open but as stated above the bird hide at the Lough will remain closed. It is a beautiful 5km walk that takes in stunning views along the Northumberland coast and winds its way through some of the botanically rich dune system with several species of Orchids dotted along the trail. The downloadable leaflet containing the nature trail is available on the blog website. Please be aware of pirri-pirri bur that grows within the dunes. The spiky seed heads are perfectly designed to attach themselves to anyone brushing up against them. This plant is an invasive from New Zealand and so to stop the spread further afield we ask that before leaving the Reserve visitors remove any burs. Check thoroughly as they have a habit of sticking to absolutely anything.

 Seasonal Shorebird restrictions are still in operation across the Reserve as birds are still rearing young, readying them for the long migration south. This will be up for review next week. It has been an odd year for Shorebirds as well as people. Numbers of Little Terns across the Reserve started increasing from May but unfortunately nesting areas were washed by high tides in mid-May (fortunately before any birds had settled) but unfortunately spring tides accompanied by large swell flooded the site twice more. This resulted in the birds moving to another area of the Reserve where a number have nested successfully and are now rearing young.  Please read the signs and listen to any wardens when accessing the site to help us keep disturbance to a minimum at this critical time.
Juvenile Ringed plovers can be seen at this time of year on the Reserve

Thursday, 30 July 2020

Help us keep Lindisfarne National Nature Reserve a refuge for wildlife

As we transition out of lockdown with many people choosing ‘staycations’ over travelling abroad the pressures on our coastline are likely to be far greater than ever before. 

This is something that we are acutely aware of at Lindisfarne National Nature Reserve and the last few weeks have proved to be much busier than normal with incidences of dogs off leads and littering a far too common occurrence. Here are a few key rules to follow when entering the Reserve to allow pleasant visit for you, others and the wildlife that the Reserve supports. A full list of the byelaws can be found in the codes of conduct tab on the website.
Litter left on the Reserve

 ·         Keep dogs on leads at all times on the Reserve – The Reserve is from mean high water to the sea so that means keeping dogs on leads on all beaches and intertidal areas across the this area. The main reason for this is disturbance of breeding, feeding and roosting birds. This restriction is year round and isn’t just for the breeding season.

Lindisfarne National Nature Reserve supports nationally important numbers of breeding shorebirds that use our beaches to rear their young. Some of these birds travel from as far away as Africa to breed here. There are many pressures on these birds such as habitat loss and climate change but the biggest threat is human and dog disturbance. These birds are masters of camouflage with eggs that blend in perfectly to the environment so many people don’t realise that they are causing any issues. To keep this to a minimum we ask that you follow a few simple rules.
o   Keep dogs on short leads
o   Walk along the wet hard sand  – birds will nest in the dry soft sand above the high tide line
o   Keep a wide berth of protective netting
o   Keep a wide berth of any roosting birds – repeated disturbance means that they may not survive the migration to their wintering grounds.

·         Read all signs before entering the Reserve – At each main access point on the Reserve there will be signs informing you of any restrictions that may be in place such as breeding areas and any warnings of things to watch out for such as Pirri-pirri bur. Too often we see people walk straight past these signs and ignore the warnings.

·        No wild camping or fires Since lockdown has eased there has been a surge of interest in wild camping. This seems like a perfect time to remind people that wild camping is not permitted anywhere on the Reserve – this includes motorhomes. There are many designated camping sites that surround the Reserve where you can still enjoy the tranquillity of North Northumberland coast.
 Any campfires or BBQ’s are not permitted anywhere on the Reserve. We have had incidences of wildfires caused by BBQ’s that have destroyed large swathes of sand dune habitat. Duneland grasses can get tinder dry during the summer and only require an errant spark to ignite. These fires can get out of control very quickly.

Please get out and enjoy the Reserves beautiful coastline but adhere to the bye-laws so you can enjoy it in a way that still preserves our habitats and allows wildlife to thrive.

Tuesday, 7 July 2020

We have been working with the Northumberland Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority on a number of projects in recent years and in June we kicked off a project to look at the populations of periwinkles at the NNR and along the wider Northumberland coast.

NIFCA kindly penned this;

Periwinkle Surveys Holy Island - within Lindisfarne National Nature Reserve

In June, as part of intertidal fisheries monitoring surveys along the Northumberland coast, officers from the Northumberland Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority (NIFCA) visited Holy Island on a lovely sunny day to collect important information about the health of the rocky shore.

NIFCA manages the exploitation of sea fisheries resources, ensuring that fishing activities, including hand gathering, are appropriately managed to achieve long-term sustainability in the marine environment. 

These surveys are monitoring the impacts of collection of edible periwinkle which takes place on rocky shores throughout Northumberland. They will provide information on the health of the habitats and populations of flora and fauna found on the shore. The information collected can be used to monitor rocky shore communities in areas where this activity takes place. Working closely with representatives from Natural England at the Lindisfarne National Nature Reserve, NIFCA was able to select the most appropriate site to begin this monitoring work and will continue these surveys year-round to determine the health of rocky shores on Holy Island in terms of the diversity and abundance of species found there.