Tuesday, 11 December 2012

11th Dec: Winter at Lindisfarne

Welcome to our brand new blog for Lindisfarne National Nature Reserve. The Reserve is currently alive with wintering water birds. From the gurgling calls of Light-bellied Brent Geese to the spectacle of two thousand Golden Plover flying together, Lindisfarne truly is a special place to be in the winter. We will be updating the blog throughout the changing seasons with contributions from staff and volunteers.

The Lindisfarne team
Left to right: Andrew Craggs (Senior Reserve Manager), John Woodhurst (Volunteer), Graham Bell (Volunteer), Daniel Richardson (Placement Student), Jo Wilkes (Lead Adviser), Ajay Tegala (Reserve Manager), John Steele (Volunteer)

December has got off to a cold start with northerly winds and temperatures falling below 0C. Light snow fell last Wednesday while we were out on the Snook clearing scrub (mostly Scot's Pine). Reserve staff maintain small areas of scrub primarily for migrant birds, however encroachment is cleared regularly to prevent it from taking over and altering the habitat of the sand dunes and dune slacks.

Scot's Pine on the Snook

Following an exceptionally rainy October, November had several bright and mild days, with the dunes looking golden in the setting afternoon sun. Short-eared Owl sightings have been frequent hunting amongst the dunes with numbers reaching double figures. There have been occasional Hen Harrier sightings throughout November and into December. A small group of Roe Deer can sometimes been seen on the island.

In October there were a number of rare migrants recorded on Holy Island with several sightings of Yellow-browed, Dusky and Barred Warblers as well as a Pied Wheatear. On the 23rd there was a big fall of thrushes having just crossed the North Sea, hundreds of Fieldfares landed in the dunes along with several Blackbirds and Redwings - it was quite an experience to witness these birds literally dropping out of the sky in the mist.

Throughout autumn there were several sightings of Waxwings along the coast and further inland. These fine-looking, Starling-sized birds have flown over from their breeding grounds in northern Scandinavia and Russia to feed on our berries.

Wigeon numbers peaked at 9,000 on the 2nd of November. There are around 2,900 Light-bellied Brent Geese on the reserve, but this could increase in the coming days as the cold temperatures in Denmark (-15C) may cause a number of geese to fly to Lindisfarne. Pink-footed Goose numbers peaked at 3,500 in October. Large numbers of Barnacle Geese pass through in autumn, but this year and last, a group has over-wintered at Lindisfarne, at the moment the group is made up of around 270 geese. Small numbers of Whooper Swans are present on the Reserve and on the 6th of December 42 were recorded just outside the Reserve near Fenham-le-Moor.

Barnacle Geese with Wigeon behind (John Dunn)

Follow our blog to keep up to date with our work and wildlife sightings on Lindisfarne NNR. Throughout the changing seasons we will be reporting on a wide variety of projects including the stock grazing scheme regime and our Reserve events. In the spring and summer we will share our breeding shore bird, small mammal, butterfly and flora data.

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