Thursday, 28 March 2019

Sun, Sea and Sand... A Shorebird Warden's Tale

Katherine Dunsford, Lead Shorebird Warden for 2019, reflects upon two seasons of wardening and looks forward to the next: 

I began my time on Lindisfarne National Nature Reserve on placement as Shorebird Warden. I was offered a placement as it was my first season working on the Breeding Shorebirds Protection Scheme and it was the perfect opportunity to gain experience from the wardens about how to successfully protect and monitor the birds, as well as how to engage with members of the public and encourage them to support the need to conserve rare and declining shorebirds.

Building on the knowledge I gained during the 2017 season, the following year I was offered a traineeship by Natural England and Coast Care as Shorebird Warden and Engagement Officer based at Lindisfarne NNR. This was a huge step up from the previous season, as I was given the responsibility of creating rotas for staff and volunteers, as well as training new volunteers and ensuring they were supported during the season. Due to the resignation of a contract Shorebird Warden, I spent a large amount of time at one of the main breeding areas on the Reserve than first expected.

Everything was going well for the birds – lovely warm weather and constant protection from disturbance and predators – until Storm Hector hit in mid-June. Despite valiant efforts from the wardens, many of the Little Tern nests failed. However, the Storm was a blip in the glorious sunshine, and favourable conditions made it possible for those birds to re-lay. In 2018 the Reserve was the most important site for both Little Terns and Ringed Plovers in the North East and I would like to think I played my own little part in contributing to this success. 

Staff and Volunteers at one of the nesting sites on Lindisfarne NNR in 2018
Photo © A Ivison

We are now fast approaching the 2019 Shorebird Breeding Season, and Ringed Plovers are already forming territories around the Reserve. I am lucky enough to be back on Lindisfarne NNR this year, taking on the role as Lead Shorebird Warden: supporting the recruitment and training of staff and volunteers, coordinating daily data collection and working closely with partners to get a better understanding of the numbers of Little Terns and Ringed Plovers breeding on the Northumberland Coast. We are hoping that our birds will do just as well, if not better this coming year!

Adult Ringed Plover  © JDD

In addition to the Shorebird Protection Scheme, this year we are building on the successes of a Ringed Plover survey done by staff and volunteers at Lindisfarne and the Long Nanny during previous seasons to gain a deeper understanding of the numbers of these little birds breeding on the Northumberland coast. We are hoping to work alongside the National Trust and the Northumberland Coast AONB to do this, as we need volunteers up and down the coast to monitor and map Ringed Plover territories. If you are interested in getting involved in either project, there will be an information session at the Coast Care Hut in Seahouses on Monday 1st April at 2pm. Alternatively please call the Lindisfarne NNR office on 01289 381470 for more information. 

Juvenile Ringed Plover  © JDD

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