1 May 2018:
The New Year started really well for me as on New Year's Day I found an Earth Star fungus on the Reserve that I couldn't identify. Looking in my Collins book of fungi, the closest one to my reckoning was the Field Earth Star Geastrum campestre but it couldn't be that as it is rare, or could it? I took a couple of photos of it and 'tweeted' them and it wasn't long before it was stirring up interest in the mycological world. Andy Overall a London based mycologist with the Twitter address @fungitobewith advised me to send the specimen to him and he would look at it along with Geoffrey Kibby another mycologist based at Kew. I placed the fungus in a small container surrounded by cotton wool and posted it in a jiffy bag. It didn't take long for the fungus to be confirmed as Geastrum campestre which accounted for only the fourth record of this species in the UK.
Finding something rare in the natural world is always a memorable and almost sought after moment by people that have a close interest, but as I write I question why this is. For anyone involved with the nature conservation, their first reaction should be concern that a species is rare. Why is it rare? Is there anything that can be done to ensure that it becomes less rare? In many cases as with Geastrum campestre there are no immediate answers as to its rarity, although loss of habitat will probably be part of it. Sometimes it's just that it's under recorded. How many people go out on a windswept coastline on New Year's Day looking for fungi? For myself it is just very satisfying being able to add to the already huge list of identified wildlife on Landguard Nature Reserve. This particular fungus is thought to be a naturalised species but when I read that it is more commonly found across the North Sea in the coastal dunes of The Netherlands and then consider that this part of the world not so very long ago in the scheme of things, was joined to what is now the Netherlands; it does make me wonder if it might be a native species after all? The link below shows New Year's fireworks over Harwich, with the ships foghorns sounding it's a very atmospheric place to be.
With the new ground reinforced path that now makes a circular route around the Point completed, the Footprints Volunteers turned their attention to fencing in a new Conservation Area next to the Bungalow. The idea was to provide a substantial area free from Rabbit grazing, providing a longer more rougher sward. This in turn will attract more invertebrates and attract small mammals such as Voles and Mice providing hunting opportunities for passing Short Eared Owls for example or perhaps it will entice a Meadow Pipit to nest on the Reserve once again. The new fence has the added benefit of stopping visitors stepping over what was the post and rope reserve border from the old aggregate yard and then missing important information at the proper entrance to the Reserve.
With most of the area towards the Point being short turfed grassland it will provide a sharp contrast. I wanted the fence to be robust so chose to use stock netting in combination with Rabbit netting as Rabbit netting on its own can fail more easily. A British Trust for Volunteers book on fencing was invaluable, as with many practical jobs there are more wrong ways to do it than right ways and it was satisfying to know that we were doing a relatively pukka job! I'm now looking forward to seeing a Short-eared Owl out of my kitchen window quartering over the fruits of our labour.
The post and rope beach cordons went up on the 15th March thanks to the efforts of the Bird Observatory members and Footprints Volunteers, and on the day, I deliberated about putting in the seaward line of posts as there was yet another storm with gale force north easterly winds in the forecast. I decided to risk it but the storm blown tide eventually took out several posts but not a complete disaster. It was good to get the cordons up early as ten or more Ringed Plovers were already moving in. After the storm that brought with it an incredible amount of unprecedented sand inundation we were left with around three pairs of Ringed Plovers other birds seemingly deciding that this wasn't the beach for them this year!
Several migrating Black Redstarts made use of the landward side of the cordoned areas. The cordoned off areas prevent a pincer movement by bird watchers and photographers which can end up pushing the birds elsewhere prematurely. I forgot to take a photo on the day but below is one of the Footprints at The Haven SSSI after putting up similar beach cordons.
As I mentioned before the sand inundation this winter has been unprecedented and as such it can only be coupled to the loading of the beaches between the granite groins further up the Felixstowe beaches as sand inundation wasn't recorded before the sand was added to the sea defences. The sand I am reliably informed was added to increase the resilience of the shoreline defences. I have heard that Aldeburgh would like a 'shingle engine'. This is terminology for dumping at one end of a part of coastline huge quantities of shingle or sand and then letting the natural forces distribute it further along the coast letting nature add to shoreline defences. This a relatively new innovation first thought up by, yes you guessed it, the Dutch. I for one would like a 'shingle engine' at Felixstowe. No I am not trying to keep up with the 'Jones's' but I would like to see the globally rare Coastal Vegetated Shingle of Landguard Nature Reserve remain exactly as that.
Over the last five years that I have been Ranger at Landguard I have seen the march of Marram Grass. It's not surprising to find it on the Reserve as the peninsula has always been a mix of shingle and sand. Located for many years in a corner where the Reserve is divided by the seawall defence, it then started to appear within the beach cordon historically put up in front of the Sea Watch Hide building some distance from the seawall defence where originally identified. Over the last four years I have added another large beach cordon covering the growing season and 'bobs your uncle' up pops more Marram Grass. I had better explain here that Marram Grass is a pioneer plant of sand dune systems so with the sand inundation we have experienced since the loading of Felixstowe beaches you can get the picture.
There is another piece to the puzzle in as much as there is no Marram Grass on the beach that isn't cordoned off and is open to continual footfall, which is a very visual justification of the beach cordons in protecting beach plants. It now remains to be seen how much these contributing factors change the habitat in the long term and if the 'powers that be' decide to replace the lost sand on the beaches of Felixstowe. Perhaps we could have shingle this time and keep up with the enlightened folk from Aldeburgh.
See in this photo above far left how well the Marram grass hung on despite being buffeted by storm waves and gale force winds. The fibrous roots are not usually exposed. Sea Kale is losing its lovely purple colour before turning green.
At the time of writing we have three pairs of Ringed Plovers nesting on the cordoned beach. The last pair have eggs that are directly on sand presumably out of desperation as usually they will find shingle and often shingle that is a similar size as their eggs to nest between, this for the sake of camouflage.
The Landguard Public Space Protection Order (PSPO) was ready to go by January 3rd this year and has already had a positive effect as regards the amount of dog walkers that have there dogs off leads in prohibited areas. Andrew Reynolds from Waveney District Council came down to the Reserve office to give advice on gaining evidence against people that ignore the PSPO to eight people including two regular dog walkers that want to help ensure that the PSPO works. Whilst the meeting seemed to leave some grey areas it was good to receive the advice that we did. The PSPO means that a spot fine of £60 can be imposed which goes up to £80 if the fine still hasn't been paid within two weeks. Ultimately a fine of £1000 can be imposed. Collecting evidence and fining people is something that no one involved wants to do, there are far more interesting and enjoyable things to be getting on with. But putting an end to the disturbance of wildlife is well worth the leg work. Already it has taken the best part of four years to get this far. The PSPO lasts for three years so we must make it work and hopefully see its continuation.
The northern half of the Reserve was alive with birdwatchers as at one point in late March three White-spotted Bluethroats were blown in across the North Sea after strong NE winds. This being one bird that I have been waiting for since living on the Suffolk coast and while a large group of birdwatchers were gathered around the Reserves pond I caught up with one of the birds on the seaward side of the Rifle Butts (large mounds). The encounter was all to brief but there is no mistaking that blue throat, TICK! For someone that doesn't claim to be a 'birder' I think I must be doing quite well for a 'birding list' since being Ranger at Landguard. You can keep up with the bird life on the Reserve by following the Bird Observatory link: http://lbobs.blogspot.co.uk/
The new interpretation panel will soon be ready, here is a preview.
We recently had a young Grey Seal resting on the beach. If you ever come across a Seal on a beach where Seals are not often seen, you can satisfy yourself that the Seal is okay by contacting the British Divers Marine Life Rescue: www.bdmlr.org.uk/index.php If you can send them a picture of the Seal they might be able to assess the Seals health just by that. Please don't try to shush it back into the sea. Do not get to close as this will alarm the Seal and even small ones have very sharp teeth. Keep your distance and dogs on a lead in the vicinity. This particular young Seal had a good body condition and was healthy. After a day or so it left in its own time.
The snow last winter covered the Reserve like an iced cake and sent my children into an uncontrollable delight, having not come across or been old enough to remember the stuff before. For me digging away the drift which blocked the garage door wasn't such a delight but waking up and hearing the muffled silence of a white cloaked landscape, before opening the curtains, certainly was.