Thursday, 25 April 2019

April update

The sun came out for Easter, bringing with it many of our summer migrants. From the shore, the white shapes of sandwich terns can be seen fluttering high and then diving deep into the sea. The first wheatears have been spotted – few in number, so far, but a lovely sight. Swallows fly their long pennant tail feathers over the Lough.

In the dunes, skylarks and meadow pipits are nesting and the song of the skylark is the sound of a sunny day in duneland, as it once was for farms. The collective noun for skylarks is ‘an exaltation’, and it is easy to see – or hear – why they have inspired poets and musicians for centuries.

Skylark ©JJD

In the wet dune slacks, tapioca-like frogspawn has developed into merrily wriggling tadpoles. Roe deer are a frequent sight in the dunes and fields on Holy Island. We have been busy as ever with monitoring, with Wetland Bird Surveys, Breeding Bird Surveys and Farmland Bird Surveys giving ample opportunity to enjoy the developing season.

We continue also to monitor the spread of Corella eumyota, the Orange-tipped Sea Squirt, although no removal will be conducted in the summer months as this is when the invasive invertebrate is suspected to be most likely to breed.

Returning also to our shores are little terns – a delightful seabird that travels all the way from West Africa to breed on the NNR. Little terns are the second rarest nesting seabird in the UK. Along with the charismatic ringed plover, they have adapted to nest on sandy shores – a precarious environment where they have found their niche.

Unfortunately, the breeding success of both these species is in decline. The major factor in this decline is human and dog disturbance – it is so easy for a stray foot or paw to unknowingly crush an egg, or for human presence to scare the birds so that they abandon their eggs.

From May until the beginning of August, wardens will be protecting nesting areas across the Reserve – monitoring the birds and talking to members of the public. We ask people please to respect the signage and the restricted areas, to keep dogs on a short lead on the Reserve, and to walk on the wet sand where possible.

Keep your eyes peeled and you may spot the ringed plover chicks – beetling along quickly like pom-poms on stilts. Or glimpse a bright white little tern with a silver sand-eel in its mouth, returning to feed its mate. It’s a special time of year, and we look forward to another shorebird season.

Finally, we are delighted to welcome some new members to the Lindisfarne NNR team – we have recruited a new Reserve Manager and two new Shorebird Wardens. We look forward to introducing our new colleagues soon!

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