Wednesday, 6 October 2021

Autumn update

Now the dust has settled over the frantic last few weeks of the breeding season we can finally sit down and analyse the results of the shorebird breeding season. The preliminary findings are broadly positive for Terns but Ringed Plover breeding territories are down. There were record numbers of Arctic Terns breeding across the Reserve with good productivity. Little Terns were doing very well with Lindisfarne NNR holding all the North Northumberland birds with 76 pairs, the highest level since records began. Sadly, the weather hit us with a cruel blow when the spring tides accompanied with a strong northerly wind resulted in large proportion scrapes getting washed out at one of the 4 protection areas, in late June, despite a valiant effort from our staff and volunteers.

Record numbers of Arctic Terns ©JJD

Ringed Plover breeding attempts were lower across the board despite approximately 3,500 migrating through the Reserve in spring, often utilising the protection areas as a safe haven to roost and feed. A combination of high tides and disturbance were the likely cause for pairs failing at egg stage or just giving up entirely. This was particularly evident at Budle Bay where immense visitor pressure has been the likely cause of no pairs attempting to breed for the first time in many years.

The first wildfowl began arriving in late August. To me they always herald the end of summer and a return to the dark cold mornings filled with the cacophony of calling Geese as they move from roosting to feeding site – a real treat to experience and probably my favourite time of year. The Reserve currently holds over 2,500 Light bellied Brent Geese and over 10,000 Wigeon although these numbers will swell significantly as new birds continuously arrive into October. Pink-footed Geese were late this year but can now be heard and seen flighting in and out of the Reserve.

Brent Goose are back on the Reserve for the winter ©JJD

September is also the month that we turn our attention to the return of livestock to the Snook and Links to carry out conservation grazing.  As usual a herd of cattle have returned to graze the Links area of the island. These cows are specially selected for their calm demeaner. Sheep will return to the Snook where they will graze movable 1 hectare fenced blocks. The livestock remove much of the rank grasses that have grown up through the summer months and reducing the height of the sward. This allows the diverse range of botany unique to dune ecosystems to burst through by next spring. The sheep also nibble away at invasive plants such as Michaelmas daisy and occasionally some Pirri-pirri Bur.

Cattle on the links 

Our events programme is back in full swing, staging a wide array of activities from Fulmar and history walks to seal and migratory bird watches. Our events schedule can be found on our blog website and also in any of the NNR bird hides and also Chare Ends car park. On Tuesday 26th October we are running a dawn chorus event at the Budle Bay platform from 7:30am. Come down with a hot thermos and view one of natures great spectacles as thousands of geese leave their roost to head out to feed. You can find more details on our Twitter, Facebook and blog. Please come down and help us clean up the stunning coastline that makes up the National Nature Reserve.

Budle Bay platform will host a dawn chorus event on 26th October

The Dog Zonation trial ended on September 1st. The monitoring data collected is currently being independently analysed. We will share the results of this report in due course. Please be aware that the Reserve has now reverted back to the original bylaw which states.

bringing into, or permitting to remain within the Reserve; (i) any dog unless it is kept on a lead or at heel and is prevented from worrying or disturbing any animal or bird, or (ii) any other animal;”

This is applicable across the whole National Nature Reserve.

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