Report on the core area from Jan 15th to April 15th 2007

Report on the core area from Jan 15th to April 15th 2007

1. Management
i) Grazing
The Flats, 29.4 hectares of dune grassland to the east of the American Road, is still being grazed by 64 cattle. In the next week or two c24 of the cows will be moved into the grazing trial area. Redundant internal fences have been removed to create one grazing block enclosing Soay Plain, Lamprey’s Block & Fox Slack area. 

ii) Biosphere Volunteer Conservation Tasks
An established group of volunteers now exists and at least 5 help regularly with tasks such as monitoring the water tables, rabbit & newt counts and other activities. Several scrub clearance tasks have taken place on two islands in D Lane Pond and the banks around Venner’s Pond and in Adder Slack where birch, sallow and sea buckthorn are encroaching on an important water germander site. An area c50x15M has recently been cordoned off temporarily on Crow Point in an attempt to provide a sanctuary for Ringed Plover to nest and raise their young. This group of regular volunteers has contributed 23 ‘volunteer work days’ to the management of the Burrows this quarter.

2. Research & Monitoring
The monthly water table and rainfall readings have continued this winter. As a result of the heavy rain at the end of Feb & beginning of March some of the wet slacks and recently excavated areas have been flooded for the first time this year – which is good news. Natural England has appointed a contractor, Dr N Robins of BGS, to analyse the water table data. He considers that the quantity of collected data for BB is unique in having such a good series of dip well sites (18 are currently monitored) and a complete run of measurements since 1972 plus some for 1968. The analysis has highlighted a continued drop in water levels in the Burrows since 2000, which is a worrying trend. This points to the data having a possible relevance in future studies concerning effects of climate change. 

Crested newt counts commenced in I Lane pond on Jan 14th with 26 plump individuals being found - this count rose to 64 on April 8th. Twenty rabbit counts have taken place with 10 in the Training Area showing a slight rise from a minimum of 601 to a maximum of 885 and 10 in the grazing trial area where numbers ranged from a min of 46 (on a very cold night) to a max. of 193.

NE has commissioned 2 lichen surveys that have produced some interesting findings that include an ancient woodland indicator species Sticta limbata being found on old sallow trees in Hog Wood and an extensive colony of the 'scrambled egg' lichen Fulgensia fulgens being discovered on the cliffs at Saunton

3. Undesirable Activities
Dogs The pollution from dog excrement continues. Visitors have frequently voiced their disgust at the ongoing abuse of the Burrows by uncaring dog owners. Despite notices, bags of poo continue to be dumped in the car parks and alongside tracks with piles accummulating at the junction on Dog Lane. A group of visitors from outside N Devon were particularly horified at the number of dog owners who throw bagged dog poo into the bushes. The problem of unbagged faeces also continues to defile the site and is causing an increase in nettles etc near the car parks through soil enrichment. The request to keep dogs under control during the bird nesting season is also being ignored.

The Police have been visiting the Burrows and have booked scrambling motor-cyclists. This has had a positive effect in greatly reducing the problem.

4. Publicity
On March 12th Lt Col M Portman, Barry Greasley & myself attended Braunton Parish Council to update them on the management and responsibilities on BB. News releases on the sea buckthorn task, the round-headed club rush survey and the beach & estuary clean up have been produced and published in local papers.
Braunton Countryside Centre opened on 3rd April and again houses a good variety of interpretive material on BB.

5 Events
The 2007 programme of summer events has been produced & is now underway. It includes 23 guided walks of different lengths that cover a variety of themes such as orchids, moths & bats, WW11 history, looking at the benefits of the management and family events with pond dipping for children. The first of the guided walks took place on Easter day attended by 12 people who enjoyed a spring flora safari. 

A programme of monthly practical conservation tasks organised in conjunction with NDCCS is also under way with three tasks having so far been successfully completed - digging out sea buckthorn, surveying the round-headed club-rush and cleaning rubbish from the beach, dunes & estuary river bank where volunteers agreed the foulest part of the task was encountering discarded bagged dog poo. These events have contributed another 32 volunteer work – days making a total of 55 this quarter. The forthcoming task programme includes – more beach cleans, bracken cutting, butterfly counts, water germander monitoring and moth recording sessions etc.

We have qualified as guides for the 'Walk and Talk' initiative and this year will be leading 6 of these 'health' walks on the Burrows and fortnightly walks in the Braunton area. The first of these walks on the Burrows attracted 12 people.

Illustrated talks have been given to 3 groups - the Barnstaple Stroke Society, Pilton W.I. and the Exmoor Society. A series of 14 talks is again being planned to take place at Braunton Countryside Centre this summer/early autumn

J M Breeds, 
Braunton Burrows Education Warden