Thursday, 3 October 2013

2nd October: Sheep arrive

We now have some VIP guests on the Reserve - 24 Swaledale sheep, part of Northumberland Wildlife Trust's 'Flexigraze' conservation grazing scheme, have arrived on Holy Island and are settling in well near Snook House.

 The first sheep leaps out of the trailer, with Jess the sheepdog looking on

Making their way toward the pen - even attempting to stop for some lunch

The sheep were very well-behaved, walking straight into the pen (with a little help from the shepherd and his dog)! As we left they seemed to be settling in very well, heading straight for the Michaelmas Daisy - one of the invasive, non-native plants they are here to graze.

Michaelmas Daisy - the leafy, bright green plants - which sheep love to graze on

Michaelmas Daisy and other plants, such as Pirri-pirri bur, are invasive non-native species. They compete with native species such as Lindisfarne NNR's beautiful orchids, so sheep and cattle perform an important role of grazing the dunes and slacks to allow these sensitive plants to flourish. Rabbits historically kept the invasive plants in check, but the rabbit population of Holy Island has crashed in recent years, so we bring in livestock instead.

Settling in

The sheep will be checked daily until they leave the Reserve next March, to ensure they have enough water and have not found a way out of their pen! The flock will be moved around the dunes to target the most extensive areas of invasive plants.

For more information about Northumberland Wildlife Trust and Flexigraze, please visit their website here.

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