Thursday, 31 October 2019

Autumn update

It has been a very wet month. The nights are drawing in and the days are getting noticeably cooler as we march toward winter; but that hasn’t stopped the frenetic activity on the Reserve from wildlife, staff and volunteers alike.

Wildfowl numbers are beginning to peak and the flights to and from the Reserve provide a daily wildlife spectacular. Pink-footed Geese numbers are looking good with over 9000 counted on the Reserve on the most recent Grey Goose counts. Wigeon numbers are also looking particularly strong with recent counts nudging towards 20,000, the highest in over 15 years..

Large numbers of Wigeon on the Reserve. Photo JJD
Now the breeding birds have left and the wildflowers have died back the cutting regime has begun in earnest. We have been out with the volunteers raking and removing grass from our botanically rich dune slacks. These dune slacks are a rare habitat in the UK and occur in depressions within the dune system where the water table is close to the surface, allowing plants easy access to water in an otherwise free draining area.
Grass raking and removal in the Snook
Cutting and removing the grass removes the rank vegetation and encourages new growth, allowing the floral diversity to thrive within this important habitat. In the coming weeks we will also be tackling some of the invasive species such as Cotoneaster and Pirri-pirri  bur and thinning out some areas of scrub regen that are beginning to succeed in areas of the dune system.

The livestock have been on the island for a few weeks now to undertake conservation grazing. The cattle have settled in well and are doing a fantastic job grazing the rank vegetation. The sheep have also been moved onto the Snook where they have been grazing invasive species such as Michaelmas Daisy. The sheep will be moved around in rough hectare blocks as they graze their way through the vegetation.
Cows settling in well
During the October half-term we have run a number of events from Migratory bird watches at Budle Bay to spooky children's craft events making bat boxes and masks. Much fun and wonder has been had while creating geese puppets or watching flocks of geese and wigeon swirl around Budle Bay while staff and volunteers extoll the virtues of Lindisfarne NNR. It really is a great time of year to visit!
Migratory Bird Watch at Budle Bay

Halloween: Bats and Bones Craft event
In the next series of blog posts we will be highlighting a species that uses Lindisfarne NNR and why the Reserve is important to it. We will begin with one of Lindisfarne NNR's star species. The Light-bellied Brent Goose.

Light-bellied Brent Goose

  • UK Status: AMBER listed
  • Light-bellied Brent Goose. Photo JJD
    The Light-bellied Brent Goose is a small goose with a wingspan 105-117cm.
  • The East-Atlantic Light-bellied Brent Goose that make up the population that winter at Lindisfarne NNR breed in Svalbard, Franz Josef Land and northern Greenland on low Arctic tundra. The cool weather allows them just a two month window in order to incubate and raise young to fledging age.
  • They are ground nesters, and are susceptible to Arctic foxes and even Polar Bears
  • Lindisfarne NNR has become increasingly important over the last 50 years as numbers wintering have steadily increased, and now support up to half the world’s population.
  •  The reason they come here in such large numbers is due to the extensive Eel Grass beds and the refuge the Reserve provides.

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