Report on the core area from July 17th to Oct 16th 2006

Report on the core area from July 17th to Oct 16th

1 Staffing

The Braunton Burrows Education Warden contract was delayed due to financial cuts imposed on English Nature now re-constituted as Natural England since Oct 1st. The contract commenced on September 10th as a part time contract, managed by NE and funded by MOD. 

2 Management

i) Grazing

The Flats, to the east of the American Road, have been grazed by 64 cattle throughout this period.

ii) Scrub Clearance has taken place on two islands in Venner’s Pond

iii) Litter clearance from the beach and foredunes was carried out on Sept 24th with over 50 volunteers collecting 2 truckloads of litter.

3 Flora & Fauna 

i) Rare Species - Bryum warneum, the rare moss reintroduced in October 2005 by Dr D Holyoak, has been found in 2 of the 6 locations and it has spread significantly in one of these. It may be present in the others but it is not visible unless fruiting. Dr Holyoak also reported that Sand bowl amber snail is prospering on the nearby excavations that recreated suitable habitat. Water germander was surveyed by counting individual stems: 9 sites showed a total increase of 21,344, 4 sites showed a total decrease of 1,270, giving an overall increase of 20,074 stems. 

ii) Flora - the relentless growth of rank vegetation and scrub continues to increase its hold on both managed and unmanaged areas over much of the site. This year has been exceptionally dry (see monitoring) and sites that were excavated for rare plants and dried out ponds have shown impressive colonisation of scarce species such as lesser centaury, knotted pearlwort and brookweed, especially on the damp shallows.

iii) Fauna – I assisted the Devon branch of the British Dragonfly Society with a survey of the rare Red Darter, which was found to be breeding in 3 of the ponds. It was an exceptional year for the migrant clouded yellow butterfly, which bred successfully on the Burrows.

4 Research & Monitoring

The lowest water table readings ever were recorded at the beginning of October with all the dip wells except for one being dry. Nearly all the ponds were also dried out by the beginning of October. 

5 Undesirable Activities

i) Parking The illegal parking of vehicles on the Crow Point area has continued throughout the summer bringing on to the dunes other activities such as children on motor bikes. There is some resulting damage to the salt marsh vegetation. These activities and associated public pressure probably influenced the demise of the Ringed Plover nestlings. .

ii) Dogs Many dog walkers and their pets responsibly enjoy Braunton Burrows. However, many uncontrolled dogs are allowed to roam the Burrows causing serious disturbance to the wildlife especially birds and mammals. The increase in pollution from dog excrement continues, both from it being dumped naturally by the animal and also by the owner after they have carefully bagged it.

6 Publicity

Manned display boards & exhibits were erected at Georgeham & Croyde show, U3A conference at Filleigh and Watermouth Castle ‘Our Coast,’ Mary & I gave presentations at the latter. Display boards will be erected in Barnstaple library foyer for 2 weeks beginning 28th Oct.

A public information meeting about the Burrows is to be held in Braunton Parish Hall on Thursday Nov 16th at 7 30pm. All are invited to this meeting, which will provide an update on the current situation and plans regarding the future management of Braunton Burrows. Those concerned with the site will each give a brief presentation that will be followed by a time for questions.

7 Educational Groups

This summers’ programme of 22 guided walks and other activities has ended with most events being well supported. The themed walks such as orchids, herbal plants, creatures at dusk and childrens’ activity days that included pond dipping proved most popular, attracting up to 50 people on a walk.

5 college groups have been led and the students were assisted with their fieldwork. 

6 illustrated talks have been given to:- ‘A’ level students, Braunton Countryside Centre and the U3A.

J M Breeds, Braunton Burrows Education Warden 15.10.06