Report on the core area from October 20th 2008 to January 18th 2009

Report on the core area from October 20th 2008 to January 18th 2009

Educational Visits

Oct 21st - Ilfracombe College 5 'A' level biology students assisted with fieldwork
Oct 23rd - Plymouth University 16 post grad students + 2 lecturers studying dune ecology and management issues.
Nov 11th Robert Smythe School Leicester - 30 'A' level students shown details of sand dune management techniques.
.Specialist Visitors

Dec 11th Geoff Benn and group shown rare sand dune fungi winter stalked puffball Tulostoma brumales (see fungi)
Jan 8th Devon Wildlife Trust Consultant Ecologist Andy Charles re crested newt site. 


Management

Grazing 
This has continued on the Flats and grazing trial area – for details contact Christie Estates.

Biosphere Volunteers Conservation Tasks 
On organised tasks volunteers have contributed at least 66 work days during this period. Tasks involving 7 regular Burrows volunteers have taken place on 31 occasions. Work has been concentrated on monitoring tasks such as the water tables & rainfall, rabbit & newt counts and habitat management restricted to small-scale scrub clearance. Some volunteers worked independently, collecting & disposing of beach litter using their own 4WD transport & one keen volunteer collects & disposes of dog mess (see Dogs). 
Nov 26th Swanpool scrub & sedge cut & burnt with 12 volunteers.
Dec 8th, 31st Swanpool scrub & rush cut assisted by 1 volunteer.
Jan 17th Swanpool – scrub cut & burnt with 10 volunteers.
Nov 30th, Dec 5th, 7th & 29th Jan 1st, 3rd, 5th American Road scrub cut & burnt involving 3 volunteers.

Admin 

Meetings attended
Oct 21st Braunton Burrows site visit with Justin Gillett re proposed fencelines 
Oct 28th Fremington MOD/Landmarc Partnership.
Oct 31st Braunton Burrows site visit with Justin & Graham Weaver (NE Coastal Ecologist) re Burrows issues: habitat changes, past & future management, archive material etc.
Oct 31st Braunton Countryside Centre Trustees.
Nov 4th Biosphere Environmental Quality Group Hallsannery re HAPs .
Nov 11th Fremington MOD/Landmarc Partnership.
Nov 12th RMB Chivenor - Braunton Burrows Conservation Group (Nov 19th Barnstaple DWT local group committee.
Nov 25th Fremington MOD/Landmarc Partnership.
Nov 27th Braunton Countryside Centre Trustees. 
Dec 9th Fremington MOD/Landmarc Partnership.
Dec 18th Fremington MOD/Landmarc Partnership.
Jan 6th “ “ “ “ “ “ “



Sandy Lane car park

The car park was in use by the public throughout this period and remained a popular free car park with often 80 to 100 vehicles present over holidays such as Christmas. Potholes remain in the car park entrance and I have received reports of damage to cars. The dangerous pothole in the tarmac road c400M north of the entrance was filled in November.

Research & monitoring

Rabbit Counts A total of 8 rabbit counts were completed, assisted by 5 volunteers:
Training Area Nov 30th - 523, Dec 12th - 305, Dec 17th - 388, these are the lowest counts since the winter of 2002. 
Grazing Trial area Oct 30th -150, Nov 17th - 83, Nov 18th - 220, Dec 13th - 182,
Dec 29th – 147, Jan 16 - 184. Apart from the unrepresentative low count on Nov 17th these are the highest winter counts since 2003. The differing totals between Nov 17th & 18th were initially surprising as weather conditions were identical on both nights, however the timings were different, the count on the 17th commenced at 2200hrs & the 18th at 1735hrs leading to the conclusion that the rabbits were replete by late evening and retired underground. The higher counts in the grazing trial area leads to the possibility that rabbits may be encouraged by stock grazing. However, the counts are also easier to accomplish in this more open terrain compared with the unmanaged rank vegetation in the Training Area where rabbits can readily conceal themselves. 

Water tables
Water table readings and rainfall taken monthly, assisted by 2 volunteers

Dates readings taken between which change occurred No of sites Water level 
min changes
max 
average
Oct 1st – Nov 1st 9 fell -2 -15 -7
“ “ 6 rose +4 +18 +9.5
Nov 1st – Dec 1st 17 rose +7 +32 +17.6
Dec 1st - Jan 1st 2 fell -2 -2 -2
“ “ 14 rose +9 +1 +4.5

The moth trapping & rabbit count activities that are enjoyed by many volunteers, have unfortunately been severely constrained by the reduction in funding and affected by consistently poor weather. 

Observations

Flora
The vegetation growth that was exceptionally rapid throughout the wet summer and autumn has resulted in many areas and several popular pathways becoming overgrown and impassable. Ragwort visually dominated the Burrows over large areas - this is not a new phenomena as Henry Williamson describes it in one of his books written in the '30s. Within The Flats, east of the American Road, the ragwort which was mown in early September recovered and later produced a secondary flowering of small short stemmed plants.

Fungi
A large colony of 355 winter stalked puffballs Tulostoma brumales was recorded on December 12th on areas of short dune turf near Broadsands. 



Fauna
All 3 species of newt were observed in ‘I’ Lane pond by torchlight at night, an hour or so after dusk by when they have emerged from cover. Mainly males in breeding condition were seen and the majority were crested newts with some smooth and very few palmate. The sighting of such numbers in breeding condition at this time of year was unexpected especially as a spell of cold weather commenced with frosts becoming increasingly hard, leading to the pond surface freezing over by Dec 27th. 
The numbers of crested newts recorded:
Dec 13th 47
Dec 17th 56 - lightfrost
Dec 21st 27 - frost, thin ice forming
Dec 29th 4 - (under ice 5cm thick)
Jan 15th 9 - weather mild & windy, a full count was not possible with rippled pond surface
These observations have interested herpetologists leading to the site being shown to Andy Charles, the DWT Consultant Ecologist.

Dogs 

The problems caused by negligent dog owners continue unchecked and dog mess despoils large areas especially near the car parks. Over the Christmas holiday period the Burrows was heavily used by the public with their dogs and at times walkers were intimidated when areas were overrun with several groups of free ranging dogs. 
A new volunteer who is disabled makes dedicated attempts to clears large quantities of dog mess from around the Broadsands & Sandy Lane car parks and neighbouring dunes.

Undesirable activities

Vandalism
A post in the northwest corner of Sandy Lane car park was removed and a 4wd vehicle driven through, the gap has since been filled with boulders.
A few civilian scramblers used the Burrows over the Christmas & New Year period, the Police have attended on occasions. 

Notes
The demand for involvement in the core of the Biosphere Reserve continues, I have
received many requests for 2009 programmes of walks & tasks. 

J M Breeds
18.1.09