Monday, 25 July 2016

No place like home...

The inhabitants of the Long Nanny tern site are an eclectic bunch. From May to the end of July the site becomes home to over a thousand pairs of breeding shorebirds. For Arctic terns their arrival is the end of a long migration from Antarctica and little terns travel from the warmer climes of West Africa to join ringed plover, a year round resident of our coast. Arriving with slightly more luggage than their avian co-habitants, five National Trust rangers also call the site home for three months of the year.

The Long Nanny tern site © Rachelle Regan
Although the main focus of the site is the breeding birds, it harbours hundreds of other species that flourish inside the protected boundary.  The dune flora has enjoyed a spectacular year. Bloody cranesbill swathes the dunes in a blanket of brilliant pink, interspersed with the yellow of crosswort and the brilliant blue of speedwell. Three species of orchid can be found hidden among the marram grass and clumps of harebell brighten the pathways. This variety creates amazing habitat for the many species of butterfly and moth found in the surrounding dunes of Newton Links.

Bloody cranesbill and bird's-foot-trefoil © Kevin Redgrave
Wildlife can be found in strange places. As the summer progressed the stock fencing became adorned with hundreds of creamy cocoons containing the pupa of burnet moths. A bag of fence posts left on site made a perfect hiding place for common lizards, with as many as eight individuals in one bag. A common shrew has even taken up residence in the rangers hut.

Common Lizard © Will Whittington

With the excitement of the summer migrants it is easy to overlook the sites permanent residents. Foxes, badger, and deer can be seen all year round. Many species of wader, including curlew and oystercatcher, spend the winter months in Beadnell Bay. Toads and hedgehogs hibernate throughout the winter and drinker moth caterpillars can be seen sunning themselves in the dunes. Although the end of the summer will bring a brief reprieve for these locals it won’t be long until new migrants start to arrive, ready to over-winter on the Northumberland coast.
Drinker moth caterpillar © Kevin Redgrave

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