Report on the core area from to April 16th to July 13th 2007

Report on the core area from to April 16th to July 13th 2007

1 Management

i) Grazing

Seasonal grazing has increased slightly on the previously grazed areas. The Flats, east of the American Road, were grazed by 19 cattle & 12 calves until early July. These have been moved to Soay Plain, Lamprey’s Block & Fox Slack area to join 33 cattle & 15 calves that have been grazing there for the last 2 months. 60 sheep remain on the Flats, to follow the cattle grazing.

ii) Biosphere Volunteers Conservation Tasks

Five volunteers help regularly with tasks such as monitoring the water tables and recording flora and fauna. This group of regular volunteers has contributed 18 ‘volunteer work days’ to the Burrows this quarter. The monthly practical conservation tasks in conjunction with NDCCS have continued, two tasks have been completed this quarter: collecting beach and foredune litter and bracken cutting (the former assisted by the loan of a Land Rover and trailer from Paul Tamlyn of Saunton car park). These tasks have added 28 volunteer work days to the total of 46 this quarter. The summer task programme continues with butterfly and water germander surveys, and a moth trapping session.

3 Flora & Fauna

Wet conditions have produced an exceptionally vigorous growth of vegetation this season, increasing the spread of scrub, mostly bramble, privet and sallow, that is progressively choking the flora. The regrowth on regularly mown areas following a year without mowing is now dramatic, for instance, the lush growth in Sandy Lane Copses has smothered and shaded out the Wasp orchid site. The scale of the regrowth around Venner’s Pond where volunteers cut scrub last winter is equally dramatic where open ground is now a carpet of bramble with cut sallow stumps now showing new growth nearly 2 metres high.

The former car park area in Broadsands where vehicles are now excluded is showing interesting recolonisation on many of the bare areas with the principal pioneer species being Sand toadflax and Sticky Stork’s-bill along with the re-establishment of carpets of Thyme rich turf. The ephemeral Sand toadflax, a flower unique to the Burrows in the U.K., has responded to the recent wet conditions by producing larger than usual plants in exceptional abundance in many open sandy areas. The scarce Lesser Reedmace Typha angustifolia has colonised one of the scrapes in Partridge Slack.

4 Research & Monitoring

The monthly water table and rainfall readings have continued and the exceptionally high rainfall has raised water levels with some of the excavated wet slacks becoming flooded. Seven rabbit counts have been carried out, 3 in the Training Area and 4 in the grazing trial area, showing no significant change in numbers. Moth trapping sessions have been held on the Burrows and at local Reserves – Swanpool, Uppacott and at West Down. Live specimens have been shown at the beginning of some of the guided walks and have attracted much interest. 

5 Undesirable Activities

The dog mess in and around Sandy Lane car park has sigficantly decreased since 5 new dog bins were placed in and around the car park by the new managers, Paul & Lucy Tamlyn. The Ringed Plovers nested in the enclosure and hatched one chick but it disappeared after the busy end of May Bank Holiday when many vehicles trespassed in the vicinity of the enclosure.

6 Publicity

Braunton Burrows display boards were exhibited and manned at Rock Park for the Walking Festival and Rosemoor for ‘Go Wild in the Garden’ event, . They were displayed in Barnstaple Library for a week and at the Landmark Theatre for the AGM of the Devonshire association and North Devon College for a Science Conference. Three news releases were prepared and published in the Journal and Gazette. We were interviewed and helped the producer and presenter on the Burrows with the recording of an outdoor programme for Radio 4 ‘Open Country’ series. They highlighted the story of the botanical succession and formation of the dunes, this will form part of a programme focussing on the coastline between Woolacombe and the Estuary. Handouts and posters for the different events have been produced and circulated at various local venues. Barnstaple & District Civic Society awarded a certificate of merit to the Ringed Plover Project, Maranda Coleman-Cook, Ringed Plover Surveyor, accepted this award on behalf of the volunteers. 

7 Events

Twelve public walks have taken place attracting a total of 191 participants, most of whom were impressed by the colourful, scented carpets of flowers and the richness of the fauna. The themed walks have proved particularly popular with over 30 people on each of the 2 Herbal Plant walks and an average of 25 on the 3 orchid walks. Highlights on some walks included a grass snake trying to swallow a large frog then releasing it (to cheers from the group!), bright orange Dark-green Fritillary and Marbled White butterflies, freshly emerged Small Elephant hawk moths in vivid colours, masses of bright red Poplar leaf beetles and dense stands of orchids with many visitors becoming fascinated by the Bee orchids. One of these walks took place as in the Devon Wildlife Trust Reserve at Swanpool.

The 'Walk and Talk' Walk to Health on the Burrows attracted 15 people and the shorter fortnightly 1 hour walks in Braunton village between 1 and 7 participants.

A series of 15 evening talks on subjects of local interest are to take place weekly at Braunton Countryside Centre between July 20th and October 26th.

8 Educational Groups

The following groups (totalling 248 participants) have been guided around the Burrows and shown various aspects of the sites ecology and management, flora and fauna: Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management, MOD Penhale Conservation Group, South West Naturalists Union, Lee Abbey Conservation Course, Saunton Sands Hotel, Croyde Bay Holiday Village, N. Devon Hospice supporters, staff from RHS Rosemoor, Biosphere Field Seminar, Wellington School, Bideford College & West Buckland School, Combe Martin Conservation Group, Tiverton U3A, Oakhampton U3A and Pilton W.I. 

The Biosphere Field Seminar on the Burrows was organised by Hallsannery Field Centre, we demonstrated plants, their adaptations and succession and management to maintain the biodiversity. The group then recorded the flora colonising the newly excavated slack near Sandy Lane, an exercise that can be repeated to record the botanical changes expected on this area. The A level fieldwork session with Bideford and West Buckland Schools was filmed by Neil Worth for use in a new interactive website project featuring 5 local schools carrying out fieldwork in the local environment. It will focus on the Biosphere Reserve and is grant aided from the Dept. for Education & Skills of North Devon District Council.

Illustrated talks have been given to the Devonshire Association, Unison at Croyde, South West Naturalist’s Union and ‘The Good Companions’ Barnstaple. 

A brief presentation was given to the Biodiversity Forum held at Bratton Fleming. 

J M Breeds, 

Braunton Burrows Education Warden