Report on the core area from July 14th to October 13th 2007

Report on the core area from July 14th to October 13th 2007

1 Management
i) Grazing
Seasonal grazing has continued on the previously grazed areas. The Flats, east of the American Road, were grazed by 130 sheep plus their lambs, Soay Plain, Lamprey’s Block & Fox Slack was grazed by 35 Red Devon cows and 15 calves. This grazing has improved the flora by keeping the turf open and has controlled the regrowth of scrub that regenerated on areas where it was cleared by machinery.

ii) Biosphere Volunteers Conservation Tasks
The practical conservation tasks in conjunction with NDCCS have continued. The following three tasks were successfully carried out: August 8th Water Germander survey with 2 volunteers, Sept 6th Ringed Plover enclosure fence & signs removed with 3 volunteers and September 23rd beach and foredune litter clearance task with 30 volunteers (assisted by the loan of a Land Rover and trailer from Paul Tamlyn of Saunton car park). The July butterfly recording day was cancelled due to rain. Five volunteers have helped regularly with tasks such as monitoring the water tables, rabbit counts, moth trapping and recording flora and fauna. This group, along with others, has contributed 14 ‘volunteer work days’ to the total of 39 this quarter. 

3 Flora & Fauna
The exceptionally vigorous growth of vegetation this summer has smothered the flora on many of the flower rich swards that were formerly maintained by regular mowing. The swards have developed into rank grassland with tangles of spreading bramble and other scrub where previously open pathways have become overgrown and impassable. I have cut pathways to maintain access to popular guided walk venues such as Venner’s Pond. Over much of the northern third of the dune system unmanaged vegetation outside the grazing trial area restricts the opportunities for guided walks and is unsuitable for formal educational groups as the area is not an ideal venue to demonstrate the famous Biosphere Reserve flora and fauna .

Two new insect species have been recorded this summer, the Banded Agrion damselfly Agrion splendens as a vagrant and the very local Water Stick Insect Ranatra linearis in Partridge Slack.

Rare Species
The annual survey of Water Germander took place in August, however, 6 out of the 14 sites were flooded and a count was not possible. It has declined since 2006 in 5 sites by 13,426 plants but has increased in 3 sites by 12,902 plants with an extraordinary increase of 12,300 plants in Round Slack. In the flooded excavated site on Thyme Plain the submerged plants had developed etiolated stems with adventitious roots on them, fragments that had broken off were observed with the potential for them to float and colonise new locations in the Slack. A small colony of Scrambled Egg lichen Fulgensia fulgens in Beach Head Slack has been partly overwhelmed by Sea Buckthorn. 

4 Research & Monitoring
The monthly water table readings in 18 sites and rainfall readings at the White House were continued. Between July 1st and October 2nd the water tables dropped by an average of 30cm in 16 sites with a maximum drop of 48cm and a minimum of 15cm. Rainfall for this period was 2,609ml. Nine rabbit counts have been carried out, 5 in the Training Area and 4 in the grazing trial area with no significant change in numbers recorded. Seven moth trapping sessions have been held at various locations on the Burrows and 108 species of mico and macro moths have been recorded. Live specimens from these sessions have been shown at the beginning of some of the guided walks and have attracted much interest. 

5 Undesirable Activities
Although dog mess in and around Sandy Lane car park has significantly decreased since 5 new dog bins were provided much loose mess is not cleared by dog owners. The most unpleasant part of moth trapping evenings was clearing this mess before setting out the traps. Broadsands car park has no dog bins and constantly suffers from abandoned bags of dog poo; an unpleasant start to the guided walks at this site. The fine weather over the August Bank Holiday brought hordes of visitors and many with 4WD vehicles trespassed on the beach – c20 reported around Crow Point. A sign has been erected on the White House slipway in an attempt to control vehicle trespass but many drivers have ignored it. Campers and their litter were reported in the southern dunes near Sandy Lane car park and a lean-to shelter found in the dunes near Saunton was demolished and materials removed.

The Ringed Plover Project has demonstrated that the bird can nest and raise a youngster and that most visitors respected the project. However, the issue of illicit vehicle activity on and around Crow Point will need to be resolved should the Project be repeated in 2008.

6 Publicity
Braunton Burrows display boards along with interactive exhibits were manned at 3 venues: Aug 19th Georgeham & Croyde Show, and with the addition of a tree identification quiz, Oct 6-7th St John’s Garden Centre for their Wildlife Weekend and part of the display taken to man a second venue on Oct 7th at Eggesford Garden Centre for their Wildlife Sunday. Three news releases were prepared and published in the local papers: the Ringed Plover Project, the ‘Walk Back in Time’ event and the Beach Litter Clean. Handouts and posters advertising events were produced and circulated at various local venues. 

7 Events
This years programme of 24 guided walks once again proved successful with most of them being well supported. Fourteen public walks have taken place this quarter attracting 219 participants making a total of 427 this year. The themed walks have proved particularly popular with 25 people on the Family Nature Safari, 30 attended National Moth Night, and 62 came on the ‘Walk Back in Time to WWII’ led by author and historian R T Bass. David Edwards of Braunton demonstrated his restored American WWII radio reconnaissance/command car on the concrete landing craft to enhance the time warp effect. Walk highlights included 70 species of moths seen in the traps on Moth Night, 10 children on the Safari Tour discovering a shed adder skin, a Great Green Bush Cricket injecting its eggs into the ground and an Emperor dragonfly into water weed, and their fascination on the pond dipping sessions with their captures of Water Scorpions, dragonfly nymphs, newt tadpoles and Water Boatmen. The 'Walk and Talk' Walk to Health 1 hour walk in Braunton village attracted 2 participants.

Thirteen of the series of 15 evening talks on various subjects of local interest have taken place weekly at Braunton Countryside Centre between July 20th and October 16th with a total of 475 people attending.

8 Educational Groups
The following groups (totalling 309 participants) have been guided around the Burrows and shown various aspects of the sites ecology and management, flora and fauna: Minehead School, Devon Branch of Butterfly Conservation, a Polish Group, 6 officials from the Kenyan Marine Biosphere Reserve of Malindi Watumu, Croyde Bay Unison, Stephen Poole Director of Ecological Planning & Assessment Pty. Ltd Australia, N. Devon Deaf Society in conjunction with NDCCS, West Buckland School, National Trust - Farm & Countryside Advisors, Kingsacre Primary School, N. Devon College x2. The School and College A level Biology and Geography students were assisted with their fieldwork, the principles of sand dune succession and plant diversity recording were demonstrated and much assistance was given with plant identification. 

Illustrated talks on aspects of Braunton Burrows and the wider Biosphere Reserve have been given to Buckland Brewer Horticultural Society, Fremington Gardening Club, Torquay Grammar School for Girls, South Molton U3A and the Braunton Countryside Centre. 

J M Breeds, 
Braunton Burrows Education Warden