Tuesday, 31 July 2018

World Ranger Day

Today is #WorldRangerDay, a day to recognise the varied work that rangers are carrying out around the world. Ranger roles can be vastly different; in some places rangers are risking their lives to protect habitats or species, or are braving rain-soaked mountains to maintain footpaths enabling access and preventing erosion, or they could be inspiring the next generation of wildlife conservationists by taking a family rock-pooling or on a nature walk.

Working as a ranger for the National Trust on the Northumberland Coast is hugely varied in itself; with three different teams working on an incredibly wildlife-rich coastline it means no two days are the same.

The Long Nanny rangers 2018

Every year a 1km stretch of beach south of Beadnell is fenced off and a diversionary route around the back of the dune put in for walkers and beach-goers. It is all in aid of breeding arctic terns, ringed plovers and most notably the schedule 1 listed little tern. This year six rangers; Cal, Dom, Jake, James, Rob and Verity were the team on the Long Nanny shorebird site and for three months they lived and worked amongst the dunes protecting these beautiful birds. The role is challenging and the rangers have to protect the birds around the clock against predators, extreme tides and weather events as well as monitor feeding, disturbance, nest failures and successes. “It has been great to see and be part of the entire process, and although it has been hard work it is all worthwhile” says ranger Rob.

The rangers putting the little tern nests on boxes to protect them from the high tide
These six rangers have worked phenomenally hard and thanks to them the Long Nanny sees new, young arctic terns undertaking their first extraordinary migration flights and young ringed plovers that have fledged thanks to them providing a safe haven free from disturbance. Unfortunately the odds were stacked against the little terns this year and despite best efforts none fledged. These six rangers have protected an important breeding ground for another season and in the process have inspired people, witnessed amazing wildlife spectacles and made a huge scientific contribution to the conservation of the UKs breeding terns.

“Cracking wildlife, top people and an amazing experience. It’s been grand.” Cal, Long Nanny ranger 2018
The Farne Island rangers 2018

The Farne Islands lie just off the Northumberland Coast in the North Sea and they are the place to be if you’re a puffin, photographer, guillemot, twitcher, razorbill….the list goes on. The islands are busy in the summer; the cliffs are crammed with breeding birds giving the islands a distinctive smell, and people arrive by the boat-load to experience this incredible spectacle of nature. The team making sure all of this runs smoothly are the fourteen Farne Island rangers. They’re a dedicated bunch, living on the islands where there is no running water and where leaving the house means invariably being pooed on by a bird at some point.

Each year they undertake an incredible amount of monitoring, meaning the wildlife on the Farnes is some of the most closely watched in the UK. This year they carried out the five yearly puffin census which unfortunately has showed a decline in numbers, it is essential that we pick up on these trends so that mitigation measures can be put in place wherever possible. Through their rigorous monitoring the Farne islands rangers enable the best possible protection measures to be undertaken for the islands.

As well as all the data collection the rangers roll up their sleeves and hand scrub the jetty so that it is free of algae and safe for visitors, deliver talks on the history of the islands, maintain the walkways, keep the toilets clean and are always happy to share their wealth of knowledge with you.

It’s a unique way of life but the rangers love being immersed in nature, watching the islands develop through the season, experiencing epic sunsets and have a new found appreciation of tap water and showers. In their words they feel like a family, albeit a smelly one!

These rangers are out on the frontline of UK wildlife conservation protecting one of our most famous wildlife hotspots.

The Coast rangers

Jane, Kate and Kevin are the three coastal rangers who work all year round and support the Farnes and Long Nanny rangers. They also carry out all of the management work along the coast, whether it is tackling invasive species, woodland management, putting in new signage or conducting wildlife surveys to ensure that the work they do is achieving the best results. They are helped out by an eager army of volunteers who join them every Wednesday for a practical task; what they have achieved together builds up to be quite impressive.

In 20 years of working on the coast, ranger Kevin has witnessed the creation of hay meadows and hedgerows; has led on management of dune habitat and has seen countless birds fledge from the Long Nanny tern site. He is still filled with a sense of wonder and curiosity for the landscape that he works in.

If we’re talking passion for the coast, its wildlife and its people you would be hard pressed to find someone more passionate than ranger Jane. She has inspired many a volunteer to give what they can to the conservation of coastal habitats and is happiest when digging around in a rock pool and showing her finds to enraptured families.

Kate is new to the team and is getting stuck into a lot of wildlife monitoring work along the coast, from birds to butterflies and bats to grasses. The Northumberland coast has so much wildlife to offer and Kate has enjoyed witnessing sand martins fledge from the dune cliffs, a tawny owl hunting over sunlit meadow at dawn and the heady scent of dune flowers in summer.

The three of them work together to deliver a whole programme of varied work and spend each day championing this incredibly special stretch of the UK coastline.
Ranger Jane tackling reed mace in Newton pool

Rangers Kate and Kevin proud of their sign installation

All of the Northumberland Coast ranger team stand proudly with the world’s rangers today in protecting wildlife and wild places on #WorldRangerDay

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