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.