Ringed but only little!

19 April 2017:

There has been a larger than usual gap between this Ranger blog and the one before due to me hastily using up annual leave before the beginning of April, this meant having most of February and March off. I won't be making that mistake again!

SanderlingsThe temporary conservation area enclosures on the beach were put up by members of the Landguard Bird Observatory and the 'Footprints' countryside conservation volunteers. The two groups that are well versed in its construction worked like a well-oiled machine and the task was completed in record time. The only incident that really marred the morning was a visitor that refused to put his dog on a lead and argued vociferously. Unfortunately many visitors believe that Nature Reserve requests don't apply to the foreshore, believing it to be owned by the Crown Estate. Not all foreshore is owned by them and in this case it is owned by the council (ESC) and Nature Reserve requests apply to it. The beach and foreshore are such important areas for breeding Ringed Plovers (now a red listed bird) and for birds such as Sanderlings making their way to their high Arctic breeding grounds, it is their preferred area to rest and feed. It is for these reasons that the request to visitors to put their dogs on leads on the beach and foreshore is made. Last year the Landguard Nature Reserve had more success with breeding Ringed Plovers than anywhere else on the Suffolk coast. Key to this success, are the large beach enclosures, so a huge thanks to all the voluntary help concerned.

Location of new boardwalkThe Landguard Partnership agreed that it would be a good idea to go for a Dog Control Order three years ago. After consultation with Waveney District Council's environment team they recommended that a Public Space Protection Order is the way forward. This is particularly needed on the southern half of the Reserve where there is a request for dogs to be on leads. The PSPO will enable fixed penalty notices to be issued.

A PSPO has recently came into force at Suffolk Wildlife Trust's Carlton Marshes Nature Reserve and is already making inroads in ensuring that wildlife isn't disturbed by dogs off leads.

Have a look at the following video to see how vulnerable these shingle nesting Ringed Plovers are. Please click on the link: www.arkive.org/common-ringed-plover/charadrius-hiaticula/video-09a.html

Building the new boardwalkThe 'Footprints' volunteers were busy in March building a wooden boardwalk on the Reserve. The idea of the boardwalk is to take the footfall on this already well trodden route and funnel other users over the shingle at this point. This will not only make access over the shingle to the foreshore much easier for some visitors but will also serve to conserve the vegetation of the globally rare habitat.

First of all consent from both Natural England and Historic England had to be gained. The fact that the construction required no excavation helped in gaining consent from Historic England. The construction is essentially simple and straightforward but the execution took a great deal of care to ensure that the finished product didn't look slapdash. The 'Footprints' were also making an imprint on the County Wildlife site just down the road, where rotted posts and rope are being replaced.

County Wildlife site

They were also busy replacing dilapidated steps on the 'Rifle Butts' (these are the large man made mounds on the northern half of the Reserve). The mounds acted as a back drop for a military firing range and stopped any stray rounds. They were also active in removing invasive Brambles, in fact the Footprints group that is affiliated to East Suffolk Norse's Countryside Team, namely myself and Peter Ross, have completed an amazing amount of work on the Reserve over the past few months. This work just wouldn't have happened unless for their generous public spirited help. Equally most of this work would not have happened without the use of East Suffolk Norse's vehicle and trailer used for shifting large amounts of timber, Brambles and tools to various locations.

Newly replaced steps on 'Rifle Butts'The veteran Botanist Arthur Copping has been recording plant life at Landguard since the Reserves inception in 1979. Now, turned eighty he visited Landguard in March, I picked him up from the station as he has never driven and had taken the train from Diss to Felixstowe. Arthur is responsible for identifying most of the plants on the Reserve and his ongoing observations have seen plants come and go and ensure that these records are kept. In March a particular grass which was of interest to him was Poa infirma. It's common name is Early Meadow grass. This grass manages to flower and go to seed in March.

Earth StarLast February I found an Earth Star species of fungi on a patch of grassland that had a Bramble bush removed from it a year ago. This fact can be pertinent to it being there as the Brambles may have had an enriching effect on the soil. It is always near Bramble bushes that I have found Wood Blewit's, a species more readily found in woodlands, not surprisingly. I thought the Earth Star might be Little Earth Star or Dwarf Earth Star but after broadcasting my find on Twitter it seems it is highly likely to be Geastrum fimbriatum.

At the time of writing I have led two 'Bird Watching for Beginners events'. Each group were happy to see a Ringed Plover on its nest. Other good spots were Wheatear, a name which I am always happy to point out is a derivation of the Saxon name for the bird 'White Arse'. Well named by the Saxons as you see the white rump on the bird as it flies away from you. One group managed to see a rarer bird to our shores which was a Black Redstart.

Bird Watching for BeginnersThe event which was specifically aimed at 7 to 12 year olds is a deliberate attempt to inspire this age group to become interested in natural history before the hormones of puberty kick in and so many things become not cool. Most people that are working in this area will trace their awakening of interest back to their primary school days.

The Reserve has had its earliest recorded Ringed Plover nest this year. I believe this was encouraged by putting the beach enclosures up around mid March rather than later, coupled with good weather. The eggs unfortunately have already been predated but as of 14 April there are another two pairs of Ringed Plovers incubating eggs. This year a lone Little Ringed Plover has joined them and resists the efforts made by the Ringed Plovers to oust it. Could this be a case of avian identity crisis!

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