Monday, 6 April 2020

K is for Knot and other waders

Please remember! We ask that people do not visit the Reserve particularly if you have to travel. All car parks on Holy Island are closed to visitors until government restrictions are lifted. Many residents on Holy island fall into the vulnerable category. Please adhere to these guidelines for the health and safety of yourself and others during this time.

Starting this blog I knew their would be some letters that would be more tricky than others and K is definitely one of those. I have decided to use Knot to introduce you to the numerous species of waders that are found on the Reserve. There are many species that have been recorded on the Reserve but I am sticking to the most numerous species, particularly the birds that occur in important numbers.

During the winter, Lindisfarne National Nature Reserve hosts thousands of waders migrating from their high arctic breeding grounds to take advantage of the refuge and feed on the rich food resource that the mudflats provide. Spring and summer hosts the breeding waders with Ringed Plovers the most numerous. This is one of the many reasons that Lindisfarne National Nature Reserve is such an important site with many of these birds occurring in nationally and internationally important numbers. Waders populations have suffered over the last 50 years with many in steep decline. The issues are numerous and complex but climate change, human disturbance and habitat loss are major factors. Throughout the year we monitor numbers of waders using the Reserve. We monitor Ringed Plover breeding populations across the Reserve during the summer months. Counting winter numbers can give us an insight into the population and breeding seasons as many breeding sites are in remote arctic outposts away from human interference.

Meet some of the waders found on the Reserve below:

Knot (Calidris cantus) - Occurs in nationally important numbers. A gregarious wader that forms large flocks of over 1000 birds. They can be often seen out across the mudflats from Fenham-le-moor in starling-esque murmurations. They are also a non-descript bird in winter, moulting their brick-red summer best to don an all over grey plumage. Knot are noticeably larger that other non-descript waders such as Dunlin and Sanderling. 

Knot ©JJD
Bar-tailed Godwit (Limosa lapponica) - Occurring in internationally important numbers; their patternation can look a lot like Curlew, even in flight. However, they can be told apart from Curlew by their long slightly up turned bill. They can be often seen near the causeway furiously probing the mud for food. Wintering numbers have declined drastically on the Reserve over the last 30 years. 7,500 were recorded in 1990. Today the numbers are more like 1,500.
Bar-tailed Godwit ©JJD

Dunlin (Calidris alpina) - can occur in large numbers although these too are in significant decline. A small non-descript wader in winter their summer plumage shows a dark black belly.
Dunlin ©JJD
Golden Plover (Pluvialis apricaria) - can be seen wintering on the Reserve forming vast flocks of several thousand individuals. With their flutey call it can be an incredible experience as they fly low overhead

Golden Plover ©JJD
Grey Plover (Pluvialis squatorola) - occurring in internationally important numbers they can be told apart from Golden Plover by their different call and the diagnostic black auxillaries (armpits) as they fly overhead.
Grey Plover ©JJD
Redshank (Tringus totanus) - numbers have declined significantly over the last 30 years on the Reserve. One of the noisier waders on the Reserve they can be seen all year round with a peak in winter of well over 1000 individuals, as they come down to the coast to take advantage of the milder conditions. Redshank are now amber listed.
Redshank ©JJD
Sanderling (Calidris alba)- wintering in nationally important numbers these non-descript waders can often be seen on many beaches running in and out between waves looking for food. People often say that they look like little wind up toys.
Sanderling ©JJD
Ringed Plover (Charadrius hiaticula) - are a breeding and wintering bird on the Reserve. Lindisfarne NNR is the most important breeding site for this red listed plucky Plover. As an important part of the breeding assemblage of birds on Lindisfarne National Nature Reserve they will be getting their own dedicated blog post on an upcoming letter.
Ringed Plover ©JJD
Curlew (Numenius arquata) - common visitor all year round. Curlew have been added to the red list in recent years due to significant population declines. Post breeding flocks build up on the Reserve in the autumn, building up to 700-800 individuals.
Curlew ©JJD
When walking, not just on the Reserve, but anywhere along the coast  please be aware of birdlife. This can be at any time of year. During the spring and summer months many breeding birds will be trying to establish territory and nest. Waders are ground nesting birds and can be easily disturbed without people realising. They are particularly prone to dog disturbance. During the autumn and winter many birds will roost and feed along the coast and are easily flushed by walkers and dogs. This can have an impact on their feeding habits, wasting valuable energy flying to another spot. If this happens consistently it can affect their ability to survive the long migration back to their breeding grounds. We ask that on the Reserve (from Budle Bay north to Cheswick Black rocks) that dogs are kept on a lead at all times. As stated at the top of the blog post we ask that people stay away from the Reserve until restrictions are lifted.

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