Friday, 30 November 2012

Grand Designs for our Natterjack Scrapes

Natterjack Toads need clear open pools in which to breed.  Over the years vegetation and silt have built up in our artifical breeding pools making them less suitable.

We employed a contractor to remove the vegetation and silt from the pools and to relay the inlet pipes.

The pools were relined with fresh sand from the beach
The sides were re-profiled for a gentle gradient which the toads prefer.  The water is warmer in the shallows.

The project was funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund through a project run by Amphibian and Reptile Conservation.

All works have been agreed with Natural England and measures were in place to minimise disturbance to wildlife.

Scrape 39 nearly finished with just the new fencing and boardwalks to go

New inlet pipes will help to fill the pools with water come April time for the start of the breeding season
Our stream complete with overgrown vegetation and collapsed bank
Excavation of the bank and removal of plants
An army of volunteers and staff laying in new recycled plastic revetments
The story so far, lets hope they stand up to the winter weather!

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Autumn Watch at Sandscale Haws

Ok so we don’t have wild beavers or pine martens but the change in the season is still pretty exciting here at Sandscale.  The wading bird numbers are definitely on the increase with flocks of knot, dunlin, redshank and sanderling being regularly recorded.  The size of our duck population has significantly increased too with the usual teal and shoveler taking residence on our wet meadow area.  A massive flock of about 70 whooper swans were also seen flying low over the reserve on the 29th Sept.
The lack of sunshine and the influx of yet more rain has seen our water levels on site rise to such an extent that there are parts of the reserve that even Neil (Ranger supervisor) hasn’t seen flooded before.  This has meant that many of our snipe which can usually be flushed out with a walk through the tall grass has not been there to flush, as many of their feeding ground is just too wet.
With the strong winds we’ve been experiencing, the tides have been pushed further up the beach and produced some dramatic erosion on the frontal dune ridge exposing a shingle bed.
Now is the time if you are looking at starting a shell collection or ticking off another “50 things” activity (finding treasure on a beach), there’s nothing more invigorating than a stroll along the sand on a crisp, cool morning with the wind in your face looking at what the sea has been churning up!

Monday, 17 September 2012

Great British Walking Festival

Use your feet to show your love of the Great British Countryside this autumn. Take part in our Great British Walks.

Sunday 28th October 2012 2pm-4pm
The Human History of Sandscale Haws
Pristine wilderness or post-industrial site?  The hidden history of a nature reserve. 
Approx 1-1.5 miles

Wednesday 31st October 2012 10am -12.30pm
Winter birds of the Duddon Estuary
See thousands of wading birds at high tide roosts and the possibility of migrating ducks and geese over the estuary
Approx 4-5 miles

Meet: National Trust Car Park, Hawthwaite Lane, Roanhead (SD 200 756)

What to bring and what to wear: Bring food and a drink if required. Please wear stout boots or shoes and bring waterproofs.

Suitable for: Mostly moderate but with some uneven terrain over sand dunes, shingle and grassland. May involve crossing stiles.  Children are welcome if accompanied by an adult who will remain responsible for them at all times. Please note that in the event of severe weather or other safety issues events may have to be cancelled, shortened or changed on the day.

More Info: Contact the rangers on 01229 462 855 /

Winter Weekend Volunteer Days


27th October 2012
24th November 2012
15th December 2012
19th January 2013
16th February 2013

Jobs could include scrub bashing, pond vegetation removal, repairing of boardwalks and fencing.

Meet: National Trust Car Park, Hawthwaite Lane, Roanhead (SD 200 756)

What to bring and what to wear: Bring a packed lunch and drink. Wear old clothes, stout boots or wellies and bring waterproofs if needed. We recommend that all conservation volunteers have an up to date tetanus inoculation.

Suitable for: Anyone with a reasonable level of fitness. Children are welcome if accompanied by an adult who will remain responsible for them at all times. Please note that in the event of severe weather or other safety issues events may have to be cancelled, shortened or changed on the day.

We Provide: Tools, gloves, hot drinks and biscuits. We also have a limited supply of wellies and basic waterproofs that we can lend to volunteers.

More Info: Contact the Rangers on 01229 462 855 /

Friday, 31 August 2012

A 50 Things Summer!

I’ve just been looking at the calendar trying to remember all the things that we have got up to over August and I can’t quite believe how much we fitted in!  There was hardly a day that went by where we didn’t have an event. 
We’ve had Scout groups and Youth groups volunteering with us, as well as guided walks and kids activities.  To end the month we also had BBC Countryfile filming our Sand Sculpture event with James Wong taking part (watch us Sunday 9th September).  Don’t worry we have taken lots of photos of everything…see if you can see yourself!

Exploring the underwater world of our stream

Seeing new things on our Beach Events Day

Giving James Wong a run for his money on our Sand sculpture event

Catching shrimps might be easier with a net during our estuary dip!

The Junior Wardens lending a hand beach cleaning
 On the 18th August a number of the Rangers from the South East Cumbria and Morecambe Bay Property gatecrashed the All England Stone Skimming Championships at Fell Foot.  We ran 24 things from the "50 things to do before you are 11 3/4" campaign.  This included things like snail racing, kite making and flying and a nature walk at night time.  The smiling faces from these photos show its success.  Well done team!

Nearing the finish on one of the many snail races that day.

Flying a kite you've made yourself is always more fun even if you have to run with it!

Fireman (Ranger) Sam proving you can light a fire with out matches.

Roasting marshmellows on their fires and the most popular activity...eating it afterwards!

Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Well summer holidays are here and so is the rain!  Hopefully it won’t put a dampner to our free kids events every Thursday 2-4pm.  It starts this Thursday with Beachcombing. 

Dates: 26 July 2012 2:00pm
Price: Free event (normal admission charges apply)
A gentle stroll along our lovely beach to look for shells and other marine life left behind by the tide. A great way to start a shell collection
Dates: 28 July 2012 10:00am
Price: Free event (normal admission charges apply)
Help us to clean up the beach so that everyone can enjoy this beautiful place.

Dates: 28 July 2012 2:00pm
Price: Free event (normal admission charges apply)
From birds to butterflies and a fantastic show of wild flowers. A chance to see some of the rare and special wildlife that thrives at Sandscale Haws.
Dates: 2 August 2012 2:00pm
Price: Free event (normal admission charges apply)
Explore the fascinating under water world of a stream using pond nets to catch all kinds of weird and wonderful mini beasts.

Dates: 6 August 2012 12:00pm
Price: Free event (normal admission charges apply)
A variety of fun family events including beachcombing, pond dipping and a sand sculptures competition. Come along at any time between 12 and 4pm
Dates: 9 August 2012 2:00pm
Price: Free event (normal admission charges apply)
Take a journey in to sand dunes to explore the hidden world of minibeasts. Use pooters & pitfall traps to help the rangers to record what you've found
Dates: 10 August 2012 8:00pm
Price: Free event (normal admission charges apply)
The first moth trapping night we've run for several years. Beginners and experts are welcome. Who knows what species we'll find?
Booking Essential  01229 462855

Dates: 16 August 2012 2:00pm
Price: Free event (normal admission charges apply)
Use pond nets to fish for a variety of weird and wonderful sea creatures in the Duddon Estuary at Low tide. Nets and trays are provided.

Friday, 29 June 2012

Our volunteers counting the enormous amount of orchids
June saw the launch of the Barrow Spring Watch in association with Cumbria Wildlife Trust, Natural England and the National Trust.  The launch was held at Barrow Dock Museum on a very dull drizzly morning.  We ran games and crafts and there was lots of wildlife to learn about, both the kids and adults that attended seemed to enjoy themselves.
During the half term break we ran a stream dipping event which seemed to coincide with the worst week of weather in June.  However three families braved the rain and had a whale of a time and met up with lots of creepy crawlies from the creek!
For the bigger kids we put on an Introduction to plants of the sand dunes and coast walk and talk and ran a number of guided walks for all sorts of groups.

We participated in Barrow's Big Clean run by the Evening Mail and Barrow Borough Council which involved a mass litter pick along the beach.  It was well attended particularly by the dignitaries from the Council, the police and our usual hardy volunteers.

Wildlife Sightings
The dragons came out in force with the emperor dragonfly stealing the show from the four spotted chaser and the common darter.
The fritillary butterflies are coming out and numerous dark green fritillaries have been recorded
Emperor Dragonfly eating a Common Darter
 We have stunning displays of orchids including common spotted, heath spotted, early marsh, northern marsh and the very beautiful bee orchid.
Bee orchid
 Natterjack toadlets have now started to emerge and can be found running for their lives on the boardwalks.
Toadlet still with its tail

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

The months are just flying by and our feet haven't had time to touch the ground.  The volunteers have completed repairing the viewing platform overlooking the wet meadow and have helped the Rangers replace the salt marsh fence at the Southern end of the reserve.  We've also been involved with some buddying up on other sites such as Fell Foot and working with the South Lakes Team, getting a glimpse of how other very different properties function.
It's been interpretation overload with looking into information panels, events posters, display boards and preparation for our summer events.  A giant hand made paper mache sand dune system is on show in The Mall shopping centre in Barrow in Furness along with some stunning poster of our wildlife.  A big thank you goes out to Lisa our interpretation officer who has taken all our requests in her stride and has done a wonderful job of making it look beautiful!

We've had a number of students on site over the past few months carrying out projects that will hopefully help is out in terms of management in the future.  One particular study is concentrating on the spread and control of invasive flora species.  Having been to visit North Walney and seeing first hand their efforts to control Rosa ragosa we are waiting in anticipation how this will conclude.

Common Blue
Wildlife sightings
The big draw for people this month was the Coral Root orchid with people coming from all over the UK to get a glimpse.

The butterflies are also coming into their own with records of orange tips, green veined white, common blue, small heath and dingy skipper being sighted. 

Our first record this year of a common darter was noted on the 21st May which seemed pretty early to us...could be a taste of things to come maybe????

Coral Root Orchid

Monday, 30 April 2012

The Isle of Man visable on one of our Natterjack evenings

Well April has been an incredibly busy month for us.  We've had regular patrols with the Police, with really positive results. A new interpretation panel has been erected in the car park with new safety and event signs. The NVC survey has also started and will hopefully be concluded the end of July so that we will have a map of the plant communities found on the reserve.  With the lack of rainfall on the reserve, we thought it might be a good idea to map the amount of water (or lack of it) in the slacks throughout the season.  This information can also be collated year on year to hopefully provided us with an overall picture of the hydrology of the site allowing us better management for the natterjack toads.

Talking of which, we now have thousands of tiny tadpoles still in their comma stage.  The first hatching happened on the 20th April however they didn't become free swimming until the 25th.  Most of the tadpoles even now are mostly inactive and this is due to the cold weather.  The overall count of spawn strings to date is 241, but there is still time!

Tiny commas, hatched on the 20th April
Natterjack toads are sometimes called the "running toad" and the reason being is that they have short back legs compared with the common toad.  This enables them to chase after their food such as this amazing Dor beetle.  These beetles are great little fellas for clearing up after our grazing livestock by munching on their dung!
Dor beetle
 Bugs are also a great source of food for the common lizard which also reside here on the reserve.  We have been seeing them dashing about since early April and this one managed to stay still long enough to take its picture...beautiful!
Common lizard
 As well as our usual birds on site we also had a visit from this Bar headed goose which was far from it home in the Himalayas, but is thought to be an escapee from somewhere a little more local!

Bar headed goose

So to our collection of summer migrants of willow warblers, wheatears and blackcaps we can add the whitethroat on the 24th April.  We also had an enormous flock of 180 Sandwich terns take refuge on Hodbarrow Rerserve across the estuary from us on the same day.

Monday, 16 April 2012

Well the sun has been shining here at Sandscale (well in between the rain showers) and things have been hotting up for the amphibians. The common toads started laying in early march and as you can see from the photo below are developing quite well. With the weather conditions being what they are, they might even hatch after just 5 days of being laid. Toad spawn is unlike frog spawn and instead of being laid in clumps it is laid in double strings. The common toad spawn will stay as a double string, however the natterjack will spread out into a single string.

The big star of the show are our Natterjacks, the reason for this is because they require such spoecific habitat that their numbers have been declining and we are one of the 60 sites it is found at. They are protected by British and European Law which means that both our rangers have to be licensed to manage them. The males started their chorus on the 24th which is the earliest it has ever been recorded and since then we have surveyed the scrapes to find about 170 strings of spawn.
To experience the best of our Natterjacks, come to one of our guided walks starting from the car park at 7.30pm Fri 20th and 27th April 2012.

Thursday, 29 March 2012

Summer Was Ere!

Well the weather is hotting up and so are our preparations for the new season. We have attended our biannual ranger's day, where all the rangers from the Lake District and South East Cumbria and Morecambe Bay get together to find out what has been going on in the area with the other teams. We spent the day at Grizedale Forest which is owned and managed by the Forestry Commission and had the opportunity of wandering through the woodlands looking at what they have to offer.

Our regular ranger meeting took place at Acorn Bank where we worked together to transform an area of felled poplar trees into a wild play area....I don't know who will have more fun, the children of the rangers!

As well as other rangers, we have been meeting up with our Interpretation Officer to put together some information boards to explain the ecology of our Natterjack Toads and the way we look after them.

Back on the reserve, you might have seen us out with a big white globe above our heads and walking in strange patterns. Well against popular belief we haven't gone dune crazy we have in fact been mapping scub and water courses on site. We also nipped down to Plumpton Marsh to start mapping the erosion there too. All this information was collated using a real time GPS contained with in a rucksack with a handheld palmtop. The data will then be transferred onto the computer using Mapinfo and will be a great resource in the future to look at changes on site.

We've had the Mind group in again this month and our regular volunteers have been helping them out burning up the remaining bracken scrub we cut down last month. The regulars have also taken up the boardwalk nearest the car park and replaced it with brand new timber. We've had a number of comments from our visitors about how good it looks, so a BIG THANK YOU goes out to our Vols!

The Police have been visiting us as part of a new initiative to educate people the correct way to enjoy a protected site like Sandscale and also to crack down on the use of motorised vehicles on the beach and in the dunes.

Wildlife Sightings

As well as the usual practical conservation work the volunteers have been participating in Shoresearch to survey the rocky outcrops further out in the estuary. Our finds have included Common starfish, Shore crabs, a plethora of different sorts of shell fish and one of the biggest sea slugs our Marine biologist has ever seen!

Our first Natterjack Toad calls were heard on the 23rd March when the sun was out, it has unfortunately turned pretty cold and might mean they won't be out again for a few days.

As for our birds, the "firsts" are coming in already. The chiffchaff was heard on the 21st March, with a sighting of our first wheatear on the 27th March.

Our WeBS count totalled 2007 birds from 33 different species, with an amazing display from a pair of Peregrine Falcons taking advantage after we had flushed some ducks up.