News from Jo Day for May 2014

  • Half Term Happenings

    09:02 24 May 2014
    By Jo Day

    Mini-beast safari 

    Thursday 29th May 2pm-4pm

    Take a journey in to the sand dunes to explore the hidden world of minibeasts.
    • Free activity, all equipment provided. 
    • All children to be supervised by an adult. 
    • Booking not required

    More Information: Jo Day - Sandscale Ranger, 01229 462855,
  • Coralroot Orchids are Back!

    15:50 13 May 2014
    By Jo Day

    • Coralroot Orchid grows in the dune slacks amongst Creeping Willow. It is
    generally found in the younger dune slacks within relatively open areas.
    Associated species include Variegated Horsetail, Glaucous Sedge, Early Marshorchid,
    Marsh Helleborine and Round-leaved Wintergreen.

    • Plants are typically less than 10cm tall and do not tend to stand out amongst
    the other vegetation.

    • The orchid derives much of its nutrients from a fungus that grows in
    association with Creeping Willow.

    • Over 1,700 plants were found in intensive surveys carried out here in 1989.
    Recent counts are much lower with the highest being 332 in 2009.

    • Coralroot Orchid appears to be declining at Sandscale Haws and on other
    sites in the UK. Reasons may include succession in dune slacks with few
    new areas being created as well as changes in both climate and hydrology.

    Please note: Coralroot Orchid is extremely difficult to find at Sandscale
    Haws. To avoid any accidental damage to populations we encourage you to
    contact the Rangers for advice before visiting. At times it may be possible to
    arrange a site visit with a Ranger to view the plants

    Call 01229 462855 for details or email
  • Toad Story

    12:02 03 May 2014
    By Jo Day

    Guests on our natterjack toad guided walk
    We are lucky to be part of the Duddon Estuary which is home to approximately 25% of the entire population of natterjack toads in the UK.  Here at Sandscale Haws we have about 1000 breeding adults and are one of the best places to see them up close.  As they are such a vulnerable species, it is illegal to not only handle them, but to also disturb them in any part of their life cycle.  For this reason Neil and myself hold a license, this allows us to monitor their population and give educational demonstrations out on site.
    By monitoring the size of the toad population over many years, we can ensure that we have the balance of our reserve management just right.  Our tall, rank vegetation is grazed by our livestock, this keeps the grasses and rushes low in order for other flora to thrive.  Trampling of the ground by cattle also exposes bare sandy patches which allow pioneer plant species to establish, as well as providing areas for the natterjacks to burrow into for shelter.  This rich floral community provides habitat for thousands of insects of which our toads will amble after for it's dinner.  Natterjacks being short-limbed need this flora to be kept short to journey over, this is done by  the grazing.  In summary, by keeping the numbers of grazing animals at the right levels, in the right place, we can ensure a happy, healthy population of natterjack toads.
    Fresh spawn. Photograph by Rod Mills
     Monitoring is done by walking around the margins of all our pools at least once a week during breeding season (mid-April and mid-June) and recording the number of spawn strings seen.  Fresh-laid spawn can be easily recognised as a double row of spawn, after a few days it becomes transformed in to a single row (see previous blog for photos).

    Natterjack toad on left, Common Toad on right
    The skin of toads appears warty with large glands behind their eyes.  The largest distinguishing feature to separate the natterjack from the common toad is the yellow line down the middle of it's back.  Every line is different and can be used to identify an individual, very occasionally, though, you will come across a natterjack with no line.  In this instance the colour of the iris gives the game away, with the common toad having a copper or amber colour and the natterjack having golden irises.
    Natterjacks are generally smaller reaching a length up to 7cm, with the common toad getting up to 8cm.  Between the sexes, the female is usually the largest, requiring more body weight for egg production.  The male can also be recognised by two darker inner edges of the first two toes on it's front legs.  These are called nuptial pads and help him provide a firm grip on his female whilst in amplexus (mating).  Along with darker toes, the males "wear the trousers" in the toad world and when on his back can be seen to have a line of darker pigment on his back legs that the female toad doesn't have.

    2014 monitoring so far...

    So this is what our more mature spawn looks like at the wait they are tadpoles!  It is not possible to distinguish between the species of tadpoles at this stage, however the common toad tadpoles are marginally bigger as they were laid earlier in the season.  Also side by side the natterjack tadpoles have a slightly more pointed nose and appear less active than the common toad tadpoles.  The common toad tadpoles like to move about as a shoal in the deeper areas of a pool, whereas the natterjacks are loners and prefer the warmer more shallow areas.  As they grow, natterjack tadpoles will develop a white chin, and as they grow legs they get their yellow stripe, starting in the centre of their backs.  Hopefully in the weeks to come I can show you more of their development...

    Summary of spawning history

    Number of pools used
    Spawn count total
    385 so far

News from Jo Day

Photo of Jo Day

Having looked across the Duddon Estuary to the lakeland fells for 3 years it was time to jump across and start working for the West Lakes team. It has been a big leap from a sand dune system but I'm getting stuck into the more practical side of "Rangering" and sharing my love of the ecological side of things with my new team. Hopefully I'll see you at our 50 things events here in Wasdale!?