Report Apr 2004


The major threats to the biological diversity of the dune system which continue to need addressing are:¬

I. Increase in scrub and coarse grass through insufficient natural grazing* resulting in a decline of the rich and diverse dune habitats.
Action taken: extensive areas of grassland and low scrub were mown this winter, totaling c. 650 acres. Taller more dense scrub has been dug out with mechanical digger, some spoil burnt, most piled & buried. Four areas of rank grass were stripped recreating bare sand habitat suitable for colonisation of rare species such as the Scrambled Egg lichen and Sand Toadflax. Small, warm hollows created in Small Blue butterfly colony. Stock grazing continues in the current grazing plots.

2. Drop in water-table levels reducing the extent of wet slack habitats that are rich in many uncommon species.
Action taken: 9 older slacks excavated, creating bare areas interspersed with some of the turf replaced at a lower and therefore wetter level, recreating conditions suitable for the return of rare species such as: Fen Orchid, Water Germander plant, the liverwort Petalwort and the Amber Sand-bowl Snail.

3 Increasing numbers of uncontrolled dogs are having a detrimental effect on breeding bird populations and are a potential problem in the implementation of wide-scale grazing management (dogs have killed a Roe deer and, on Braunton Marsh, 5 sheep).
Action needed: Ideas are welcome as to how we can effectively control dogs and gain the co-operation of dog owners so they can see the need to keep dogs on leads to prevent disturbance to nesting birds, respect dog free zones, and keep the site free from offensive fouling (see letter 8.4.04 N.D. Journal and ‘Grot Spot’).

2004 Events Programme:
Mary has compiled a programme of Biosphere walks, talks and other activities, commencing with a beach and dune clean on Sunday May 23rd., followed by a special D-Day Anniversary Talk on May 27th. in Braunton Parish Hall.
The need to get the message across!
The guided walks this summer will be an ideal opportunity to show concerned members of the public the positive benefits of the winter management that may initially seem destructive.
New interpretive notices are planned explaining the need for active management and control of illegal activities such as camping and scrambling.
Mary’s book on Wildflowers of Braunton Burrows has been well received (see launch 8.4.04 in N. D. Journal). It is available locally and will promote visitors’ enjoyment and enhance their understanding of the need to actively manage the unique nature of this site. Her accompanying exhibition is currently on view at Braunton Countryside Centre, which is now open for the summer season and will be the venue for the evening talks. The Centre, visited by many thousands of appreciative visitors, is invaluable in interpreting the Biosphere Reserve, but remains in need of secure funding — it still relies on a few dedicated volunteers to man and fund its running.

Other Initiatives:
MOD is siting 3 otter holts, plus owl, bird and bat boxes on the RMB Chivenor base.

Other Reports:
80 Crested newts counted in one pond. Four Porpoise bodies washed in on beach

*Rabbit numbers are high at present and some naturally-grazed rabbit lawns are evident.
Average per count for first quarter of year: 1999 – 46; 2002 – 127; 2003 – 373; 2004 – 631

J M Breeds 19.4.04