Tuesday, 17 December 2013

The Great Storm of 2013

Thursday 5th December was no ordinary day here at Sandscale.  We had high tides of 9.81meters and the gusts of 63mph winds were pushing the tide even higher.  Although we had to cancel the volunteer work party, Neil and Myself were lucky enough to capture the events on camera...
This is the view from the boardwalk, usually the tide will be a good meter away from our frontal dunes on a really high tide.  Here our frontal dunes are just being engulfed by the storm surge.
This view of our blowout is only impressive when you learn that the bush at ground level used to be at the top of the dune.  Later this shrub was found just below our boardwalk, half a mile away
 This footage was captured whilst being stood inside the blow out, an hour before high tide.  Needless to say we couldn't hang around for long.

So what sort of damage was done?  Here are our before and after shots...
 Using the tree in the background as a marker, you can see the front ridge has all but disappeared

 The fence from the blowout that was catching sand and starting to build up as a ridge has completely gone, along with our fence.

Although dramatic, this is really good news for us.  Sandscale is a dynamic system with constantly shifting sands.  More bare sands create a good habitat for early pioneer plants.  It's also great news for our Natterjack Toads who bury into the sand dunes and hunt along the shore where vegetation is sparse.

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

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Monday, 30 September 2013

Fun Guys at Sandscale

Following on from August blog the remaining events were very successful including our Sand sculpture competition which involved four categories:
Tallest castle, 

Anything goes, 
Sea Creatures (Was destroyed before a photo)

Castle I would most like to live in.

Now the weather has turned and it is now autumn the scrub bashing shall begin with help from our wonderful volunteers. Wildlife particularly birds tend to live on the leading edges of densely scrubbed areas. By breaking up scrub we’re forming a mosaic of habitats and allowing for a more diverse ground flora. 

Three of our volunteers working hard

But lunch is always the best part of the day with a great deserving cup of tea.

It’s the time of year again for fungi; this year has been a really good year for it. The wet spring and the dry summer have really brought out the fruiting bodies.
There have been some real beauts turned up at Sandscale including:

The Blackening Wax cap 

The Splendid Wax cap
Keep an eye out on the estuary as our winter waders are starting to come in:

The Redshank (Identifiable because of its orange legs and beak) 

The Ringed Plover (Identifiable because of its white bib and black collar)
August saw a new member to our team introducing Vicky Cooney our new long term volunteer ranger we hope she has many happy months with us.
Just an average day.
Hi I have been volunteering at Sandscale for four years during college and university where I studied Environmental Management, when I finished Jo and Neil took me on as there full time volunteer. I am very grateful for this opportunity and couldn’t be happier to work with such a great pair. Every day brings new challenges and there is never a dull moment whether it be building a fence or working with children at our events. Time definitely fly’s when you’re having fun and I look forward to the new adventures ahead!

Monday, 12 August 2013

Summer so far

It all kicked off with our annual Wildside Bonanza in Barrow Park, where we played games and #17. Set up some snail races

Kids flocked to our stream to #35 Discover what's in a pond

Nothing like a quick dip to cool yourself down even if it decreases your chances of #30. Holding a scary beast

Moving down to the beach to #37. Check out the crazy creatures in a rock pool/water channel

Getting right in there to #42. Go swimming in the sea complete with nets means the shrimps don't have a chance to escape

#8.Catch a fish with a net whilst #24. Walking barefoot

#40. Go on a nature walk at night and discover what might be hiding out there in the dark

I'm not sure that a sleeve is really #36. Making a home for a wild animal but nice try, that drinker moth sure looks happy there!

Whilst we were busy trapping moths we forgot to #27. Go star gazing, but there's always next time...

Monday, 17 June 2013

It's that time of year again

Finally the weather has changed to long days of sun.  This does however bring with it some challenges for us here at Sandscale.
Although we have been carrying on with our patrols with the police we have still had some people using off road motorbikes and quad bikes to access the dunes.  Not only does this have implications for the habitats that are churned up by the bikes but the noise cuts through people’s enjoyment of the reserve.  They also speed through families picnicking or building sandcastles without a care for children or dogs running free range.
We hope with the school holidays just around the corner the extra patrols will help to put a stop to these few people that want to spoil it for the rest of us.
Litter also keeps us busy.  We’ll be testing to see if adhoc bins on busy weekends are able to concentrate litter in a few places rather than dotted about the place.
We always welcome suggestions and comments from yourselves, so please let us know how we are getting on by taking our visitor survey.
Luisa drilling holes for the screws
The change in the weather tends to have a negative impact on the boards of our boardwalk with shrinkage and bending as they dry out.  Our volunteers have therefore been deployed on hands and knees to work their way along fixing any that might become a trip hazard.  As we lever some up we realise just how rotten the runner boards are underneath so the little job becomes a little larger than first expected.  At least it will keep us out of trouble for a while.

Ok so its a bigger job than we thought, but at least they're still smiling

All repairs to our electric fence have been carried out as we witnessed the herd of our cows jumping over to get at the lush grass the other side.  And since we were all kitted out for fencing we just carried on and fixed the fence at the blow out too (we were on fire!)

We had some amazing visits from youth groups and schools who did some stream dipping and estuary dips, finding over 40 elvers (baby eels) and thousands of shrimps.

As far as other wildlife goes, although we had to cancel the moth trapping public evening, we’ve since done some trapping and caught some awesome hawkmoths as well as 7 other early species.
Eyed Hawkmoth

Poplar Hawkmoth

Our natterjack toad spawn count is up to 307.  We’ve found it particularly hard this year to monitor the natterjacks because the site was still quite flooded at the beginning of the season and therefore the monitoring area was a lot larger than it had ever been before.  Also we were finding the odd spawn string every time we were monitoring rather than all at once.  We have since found tadpoles in pools that we haven’t had any spawn counted in.  For these reasons we believe our final count may be far smaller than the actual numbers

Our orchids aren’t quite out yet which means the orchid survey day has been put back to the 4th July.  We still don’t have any records for our coral root orchids yet which came as a great disappointment for all those who travelled to us at the beginning of may for our Coral Root guided walk.

The butterflies are gradually showing themselves with Green veined whites, orange tips, walls and common blues the most regularly seen.

We had some great results for our nesting birds.  As we’ve been walking around the reserve we’ve occasionally come across some corkers including eggs from lapwing, snipe, oystercatcher, grey partridge, meadow pipits, tufted duck and coot.  We’ve also seen numerous birds carrying food into bushes such as a willow warbler right next to a busy area in the car park.  Amazing!
Can you guess the following nests/scrapes?

Unfortunately our owl cam didn’t catch the moment our owl chick fledged and due to technical problems (ie the user) I’ve yet to post the high lights.  Which will hopefully come in the next blog so stay tuned...

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Moth Trapping event cancelled

Due to the horrible weather conditions forecast, we are having to cancel our moth trapping event on the 29th May.  We will be having another one later in the year on the 7th Aug

Sunday, 5 May 2013

Owl Cam

Owl Cam Star photo by James Axe
We’ve had an owl box sited for a few years now and have evicted numerous grey squirrels from it in the past, but it came as an enormous surprise to us when Ross our academy ranger noted a birds tail occupying it.  After climbing a nearby tree to get a better look we discovered our new tenant was non other than a tawny owl.  It wasn’t until Tuesday night when I was down on the site natterjacking that I could get a peek inside the box without the female about.  There intermingled at the bottom were 3 fluffy grey babies!  The female would have been there for 30 days incubating the eggs and the chicks will be there a further 35-39 days.  They looked only a few days old, therefore I jumped to it and have installed a camera on the tree opposite to hopefully get some footage of our new family growing up.  It seems though that since my initial viewing of our little ones there only appears to be 2 surviving.
Over the next few weeks I will post some of our highlights, starting with this great scene of a not so cunning fox…

Thursday, 18 April 2013

Natterjack Toad Walk 19th April

Due to the bad weather and the late Spring our natterjacks appear to be late for their own event!  We will still be holding the guided walk as planned, however there would be a better chance of the full natterjack experience on the walk on the 26th April.

Natterjacks like the weather to be a little warmer and the wind to have died down somewhat.  They don't however mind the rain, in fact it makes them feel a little amorous!

Both walks start in the car park at 7.30pm.  We will have an introduction at the artificial scrapes, then make our way to the main breeding pool on site.  The walk is about 1.5 miles over uneven ground and beach passing by water courses on the way.  Bring a torch and warm clothing.

For more info contact the Rangers on 01229 462855

One of last years star attraction photo by Ken Jones
  Please note that it is illegal to disturb natterjack toads in any stage of their lifecycle with out a licence, a guided walk by our licenced rangers ensures the best view of these amazing creatures.

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

All doom and gloom...

I would have loved to bring you photos of the fells covered in snow whilst the sun shone on the beach, or the volunteers erecting a fence whilst Barrow off shore wind farm towered above them.  Instead our camera has become clogged up with sand and the lens now refuses to move, so I can’t.  This is a regular hardship we have to endure working on a beach!

This time last year I would have been writing exciting news about our emerging natterjack toads, however this year there is no sign of them.  We have just put in our dams to raise the water levels in the artificial toad scrapes but they have been frozen ever since.  We have a natterjack guided walk on the 19th April and I’m starting to get a little nervous that there will be nothing to see.
Birds are a strange one too.  Many of our winter waders have disappeared but with the exception of an early Chiffchaff on the 19th March, we can’t bring you news of the arrival of any of our summer migrants.
Flowers remain dormant.  Only in the sheltered dips with full sunlight will you get a glimpse of our dune pansies and even then in small numbers.

Easter remained fairly busy for us though, as a constant stream of people visited for a quick, bracing walk along the beach taking in spectacular views across the estuary.  We put on a display along the boardwalks about some of the creatures you might find washed up on the beach.  The high tides usually bring in some gems but unless they were keeping quiet, no body found anything note worthy.

Friday, 8 February 2013

Dreading half term??

Bring your kids along to our free
Wildlife Explorer Day
Thursday 14th February 2pm-4pm

Find some frogspawn, seek natural treasures on the beach and spot some birds

Come along to Sandscale Haws for a fun day exploring with the rangers!  No need to book, just turn up at the Sandscale Haws car park, Hawthwaite Lane, Roanhead, near Barrow in Furness.
Remember to wear warm waterproof clothes and boots or wellies.  All children must be accompanied by an adult.

Call 01229 462855 for details or email joanne.day@nationaltrust.org.uk

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Sand Dune formation in action

The view of our dunes from the estuary

Every time we step out onto the beach we are never quite sure how the frontal dunes are going to look.  Our dunes are constantly changing as they are susceptible to the wind and the waves.  A wind as low as 5 meters per second can lift a grain of sand and move it along the beach.  Marine debris, litter or vegetation can intercept these grains trapping them, forming little hummocks of sand, these are called embryo dunes. 
Embryo dunes forming near our car park
The main dune system at Sandscale consists of three dune ridges separated by areas at ground water level, these are called dune slacks. The fore dunes (yellow dunes or white dunes) rise to about 10m along the northern edge of the dune system and about 15-20m on the more exposed westerly point.
Two of our dune ridges
The steepening of the beach at the northern edge, the high tides, heavy winds and human pressure are all leading to increased erosion at the northern end of the site.  With the changes in the Duddon river channel sculpting the frontal ridges into shallow bays and points
Heavy erosion near our blow out
Storm waves are destructive in nature as they break steeply with a powerful backwash however they also provide accumulation of larger stones and shingle up the beach. Much of this material, and the rocks which compose the shingle, originates from the western and central fells of the Lake District and further north from western Scotland

Erosion from the waves in progress


Monday, 21 January 2013

Recent conditions on site

Work on site has been pretty impossible at the moment.  The reserve is under more water than has ever been seen in Neil's (Ranger supervisor) time here at Sandscale.  The only way to get about is on foot and with wellies on and it's tough going, having to break the ice.
We have however put in a new stile and dog gate at the southern end of the reserve. 
New stile and dog gate

We were having to fix the fence on a regular basis where people were cutting it to get through.  New signs have been erected at that end too welcoming people and giving some information about illegal use of our track there.  We experienced a slight incident last week where we had three motorcyclist using the track to access the dunes for some off road practise.  Fortunately we caught up with them and were able to advise them that  the area is a Site of Special Scientific Interest and a National Nature reserve and the law behind those designations. They left the area even phoning the police afterwards to apologise...a good result.

We spent an afternoon with our student volunteer Vicky, just before Christmas surveying the erosion on the frontal dune ridge where it is exposed to the wind and the sea. 
It was during this surveying that we caught sight of a single Snow bunting.  These are large-ish buntings which breed in around the Arctic areas like Scandinavia and Greenland, although they make their way to our coastal areas during winter months.  It was great to see and a brilliant record for the reserve.
Also that day we saw a couple of Stonechat which are becoming far and few between for our records. 
During our volunteer work party on the 19th December we were lucky enough to experience 19 Whooper swans flying low right over us, a beautiful sight and a reward for all the hard work the Volunteers were putting in.  The Short-eared owl is always a welcome visitor and we see the signs of them more than we see them but the 21st Dec was one such sighting....great stuff!

We love hearing from you and what you have seen on the reserve.  If you have any records or photos please email them to me at joanne.day@nationaltrust.org.uk or leave a comment below.