Walney Island, on the western fringes of Cumbria,
lies just half a mile from the mainland town of Barrow-in-Furness and at first
glance doesn't seem like anything particularly special.
Island - birds, butterflies and blooming flowers|
island is just 11 miles long and a mile wide, but provides a range of great habitats
for wildlife, including 250 types of birds, 450 flowering plants and 400 species
of moths and butterflies.
It's also home to two nature reserves situated
on the north and south ends of the island.
The southerly reserve is managed
by the Cumbria Wildlife Trust whilst the one to the north is run by Natural England.
South Walney Nature Reserve, visitors can witness a bird watching spectacle so
spectacular that it has become known as "dive bomb alley".
are also advised to wear protective head gear - we're not talking hard hats but
a woolly cap will suffice!
It's the biggest gullery in Europe with 17,000
pairs of Lesser Black Back and Herring Gulls, two of Britain's largest species,
renowned for being scavengers.
'Dive bomb alley' refers to their behaviour
during the summer nesting season, when they're highly protective of their young
and swoop out of the sky to deter any potential threats.
Parent gulls have
a prominent red spot on the underside of their bill which becomes even redder
during breeding season as the chicks peck at it to show their parents they're
Glut of Gulls
out for the different types of gulls on Walney.
They are easy to tell apart
- Herring Gulls are a silvery-grey and are more often seen at the seaside.
Lesser Black Backs are smaller, darker and less frequently spotted.
one third of their British population lives on Walney Island.
The area also
attracts large numbers of Eider Ducks who come here to breed in nurseries of up
to 100 young.
That's a lot of feathers - enough to fill about a dozen eiderdown
young animals found on Walney Island are juvenile Natterjack Toads, with their
distinctive yellow stripe down their back which sets them apart from their Common
At the North Walney Nature Reserve, the landscape is dominated
by sand dunes, salt marsh and wet areas known as slacks, which provides the perfect
habitat for these rare creatures.
They're so rare you need a licence just
to hold them, but fortunately their numbers are stabilising and around a quarter
of the British population live on Walney Island and in the surrounding area.
look out for wading birds on the exposed sands to the north of the reserve.
North Walney area is home to many rare plants including Dune Helleborine, Seaside
Century, Yellow horned Poppies, Viper's Bugloss, Coralroot Orchid and Variegated
Horsetail, which all thrive due to the calcium rich sandy terrain.
even has its own special wildflower - the Walney Geranium.
But it can be
hard taking roots here - only plants which can withstand the constant battering
of surf on shingle and wind-blown sand can thrive in this environment.
out for quick colonising species like Sea Sandwort and Sea Campion, as well as
the various wading birds which take advantage of the coastal habitat.