13 June 2015:
I led three walks for the Suffolk Walking Festival entitled 'Rounding the Point' in May. The first and last walks were lucky enough to enjoy good weather but the second had rain for at least half of the walk. It was very gratifying when people at the end of the walks let me know how much they had enjoyed it and donated very generously to the Bungalow bird feeding station, where incidentally the House Sparrow colony are thriving better than ever!
In my seventeen year countryside management career I have noticed the positive reaction by visitors to a site that is well maintained and the opposite to one that is poorly maintained. People tend to respect and follow site rules more readily if their first impression is a good one.
This could be in the case of Manor Terrace car park that its entrance to the Reserve has margins that are well trimmed and growth cut back, just to try and get rid of that neglected look. It can also be that there is adequate visitor information and also an inviting welcome to explore. You don’t have to be Sigmund Freud to understand the psychology behind it but intent and a will are needed. Have a look at the photo (shown below) of an interpretation and notice board complete with bench. Hands up if you think one of these would grace the entrance to the Reserve and would enhance the visitor perception of the Reserve. Okay pipe dream over, for the mean time I have at least installed a new notice board to replace the single A4 sized board that was there.
The Northern half of the Reserve plays host to a colony of Common Lizards. They are fascinating creatures and are the most northerly occurring reptile. They are widespread throughout Europe and have a conservation status of 'least concern'. Here in the UK they are protected by law.
The population at the Reserve are really hemmed in by urban life and commerce and it occurred to me when I was musing about their plight that if this population dies out, that’s it you won’t see them here again and the Reserve will be all the poorer for it. I have recently placed six refugia (in this case bits of tin ) around the Reserve. These attract the reptiles to either bask in the sun on or hide underneath. It will be interesting to see if they are taken up.
Heavy foot fall on the grassland areas of the Reserve in some places have resulted in complete erosion. This happens when the mat of plants that knit the thin top soil together die as a result of many people simply walking over it.
An example of this is the ground leading away from Manor Terrace car park, port side of 'The Butts'. Even moderate footfall can negatively affect the vigour and success of the plants in the sward. The heavily walked route that runs alongside the enclosure that has the 'Sea hide' building in it, makes up part of the most valuable lowland acid grassland areas on the Reserve. As you can see in the photo (below) it is suffering from this traffic and looks close to giving up in places. This combined with the knowledge that even moderate footfall affects these fragile communities of wild flowers, lichens, grasses and mosses has led me to believe that enclosing an area of this pasture as a ‘Conservation Area’ through the growing season must be a good idea. In fact it is a necessity to keep the sward in favourable condition to maintain its Site of Special Scientific Interest status. Yes visitors of the site have to be taken into account and they are but as I have said before if we can’t conserve nature in an area reserved for nature, where can we do it?
As part of the ongoing maintenance of the sward the Ranger must keep an eye on the encroachment of shrubs, mainly Bramble. During the Winter months unwanted areas were brush cut down to ground level and burnt but unless it is cut almost weekly through the growing season it won’t give up growing. As this is not possible I have applied an appropriate herbicide to the regrowth this Spring to great effect.
If you thought I was going to get off the subject of Bramble you might want to skip this one. The Bramble inside the Pond area was beginning to creep ever closer to the pond so last winter it got brush cut back to a suitable margin. The Willow that grew next to the pond was also cut right back. "Oh why I hear you cry!". Well, all small water bodies especially are open to natural succession leading to dry land and the Willow was part of this transition. Willows readily drink dry, wet areas and its mass of dead leaves falling in the pond, starve the water of oxygen and build up the silt, still accelerating the natural succession. As we want to observe pond life and maintain a valuable wildlife watering hole we take out the Willow. That’s conservation, quite often you have to kill something in order to conserve something. I saw Common Red Damselflies ova positing (laying their eggs) last time I was there.
I have been helping Laurie Forsythe record the Reserve flora. Laurie is a great botanist and having spent many years working as a Warden for Essex Wildlife Trust has also developed a great knack of imparting his knowledge which has been a real bonus for me. Many of these coastal plants are completely new to me, coming from the woodlands and grasslands of the Chiltern Hills as I do. After last year’s surveys with Lowestoft Botanist Arthur Copping many of the species are already stored upstairs but as Laurie confided that if you don’t keep it up ie. refreshing you knowledge each year it can be lost.
How could I end this marathon blog without an update on the ups and downs of the nesting Ringed Plovers?
So far we have had two nest failures both where eggs had started to be incubated, but for some inexplicable reasons failed, one must suppose some sort of disturbance or predation of their eggs. The first pair to begin nesting managed to keep four chicks alive for a good time and all four were ringed by the Bird Observatory. I did see three of the chicks at twenty five days old which is into fledging time but did go on to see two of these chicks flying strongly some days later.
Another pair hatched three out of four eggs and as the local Kestrel has been seen hovering overhead it can be supposed that two have now been predated as only one remains to date.
One other pair are currently incubating but have decided to nest within a few feet of the enclosure boundary. Despite all the ups and downs nothing will detract from my momentary feeling of sheer elation at seeing those two chicks flying along the beach.