David Wright joined the Ecosystem Policy Team in December as the Biodiversity Warden.
David’s main responsibility is the Ayres National Nature Reserve (NNR), but he will also be working on Wildlife Act enforcement and ecological surveys and assessments across the Isle of Man.
It’s a real privilege to have the opportunity to work on the Ayres NNR. The Ayres is a unique site of international importance due to the special habitats and species that occur there. There is an extensive area on internationally rare lichen heath and other habitats such as shingle beach, sand dunes and dune grassland only cover a very restricted area on the Isle of Man.
These habitats are home to some of the rarest invertebrates in the UK, such as the Scarce Crimson and Gold Moth, which is now extinct on mainland Britain and only occurs at the Ayres, a few locations in Northern Ireland and the Burren in the Republic of Ireland.
More than 30 nationally scarce invertebrates have been recorded at the Ayres and I’m looking forward to finding out more about these and hopefully adding some new species to the list.
The Ayres is also a strong hold for the Isle of Man Cabbage (the only plant to be named after the Isle of Man) and I will be undertaking some practical management to help protect and secure the survival of this plant.
For the past 15 years or so, I have been working in wardening roles on nature reserves and bird observatories throughout the UK. I have spent the last 8 years wardening tern colonies in Wales and in East Anglia, and I hope my experience will help to protect the colony of Little Terns which spend the summer around the Ayres.
The Little Tern is one of the rarest and most threatened seabirds, with only 1,400 pairs breeding in the UK. Recent conservation efforts, particularly the EU LIFE project, have seen the population stabilise and slightly expand. It is also one of the most highly protected species, nearly all of its breeding colonies are wardened and protected to some degree.
As a species which nests mainly on open, exposed shingle beaches it has a really tough time to breed successfully. It faces many threats from human disturbance, predation, bad weather and high tides (and sometimes all of these at once). As well as the terns, there are also good numbers of breeding waders at The Ayres including Curlew, Ringed Plover and Oystercatcher and I will be monitoring and protecting these species.
The Curlew nests on the open heathland, and its numbers have remained relatively stable, in contrast to other parts of the Island which have seen big declines in numbers. Watching the Curlew’s display flights over The Ayres on an early spring morning has to be one of my favourite wildlife memories of recent years.
As well as being one of the most beautiful and interesting parts of the Island, in my opinion, it is also one of the most visited in the north of the Island.
People visit the reserve daily to exercise, walk their dogs, ride horses, and explore the beaches. This human pressure can cause problems with wildlife disturbance, erosion and anti-social behaviour. One of the biggest challenges of my role is managing the recreational pressures and the fragile habitats and wildlife.
I’m looking forward to talking to people about the reserve, organising guided walks, speaking to schools and generally publicising the special nature and uniqueness of the reserve.
I’m hoping to get more local people involved in volunteering, and hopefully, giving the regular visitors a sense of ‘ownership’ of The Ayres.
If you would like to know more about guided walks, volunteering on the NNR, or other information relating to the NNR, contact David via David.Wright@gov.im or 07624 246594.
Photo of Little Terns: Kevin Simmonds