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Read by David

On Tuesday Phil and Cristina introduced you to Alderney’s biggest habitat creation project: Alderney Community Woodland. Today they, along with Lindsay Pyne (Honourary Secretary), will look at the island’s largest nature reserve, Longis, which contains a mixture of terrestrial, aquatic, and marine habitats.

Habitats on the reserve include: gorse (foreground), reedbed (middle right) around a pond, grass fields, sand dunes and beach with intertidal area and tree planting area to become part of the woodland (hillside in distance)

Habitats on the reserve include: gorse (foreground), reedbed (middle right) around a pond, grass fields, sand dunes and beach with intertidal area and tree planting area to become part of the woodland (hillside in distance)

Many factors, such as topography (the shape of the land), environment (temperature, amount and type of available water), and man’s management over time have contributed to this landscape diversity, which in turn provides opportunities for many species to thrive.

Longis does have a number of specialist habitats though, which are created by particular conditions which plants and animals need to be adapted to live in.  Longis reed bed is a good example of this.

Longis pond is located in a bowl at the base of the reserve, surrounded by higher ground with scrub and gorse habitat

Longis pond and its surrounding reedbed is located in a bowl at the base of the reserve, surrounded by higher ground with scrub and gorse habitat

Reed-beds commonly form in wet areas, and are characterized by dense stands of common reed.  At Longis the reed-bed is positioned on low-lying ground at the bottom of a basin, which means that water is always close to the surface.

Reeds are well adapted to living in standing water, growing tall to protect the plant from “drowning”, and to help it out-compete other species for light.

Reedbed at Longis

Reedbed at Longis

Reeds surround Longis pond

Reeds surround Longis pond

Reeds grow from a special stem called a rhizome, which is usually found under-ground.  This means that if the reed is damaged, it can still regenerate from the rootstock held protected in the rhizome; starches, proteins, and other nutrients are also stored here.

Birds that live in reed beds have special features that allow them to cope in dense undergrowth and variable water-levels.  Coots and moorhens have very large feet, which helps them to walk over precarious ground.  These birds also use reed as a material with which to build their nests.

Coots have large feet to cope with the terrain

Coots have large feet to cope with the terrain

The southern and eastern borders of the Longis Reserve are made up of coastal and intertidal habitat.  Here you will find plants which have adapted to survive in these specialized conditions including: salt spray, dry very sandy soil - or even just sand - and shifting sand-dunes.  Certain plants, such as marram grass, couch grass and sand sedge, play an important role as their roots help to bind and stabilize the dunes.

Many of these coastal plants have a very deep taproot which can penetrate beneath the dry salty surface to where there is less salty moisture below.  Another advantage of a deep root is that even if the plant is covered by sand during storms and high seas, it can still eventually force its way up to the surface.

Sea holly

Sea holly

Sea holly is one of these plants with a deep tap root.  It also has a waxy covering to its leaves which helps to reduce water loss, and the blue-green colour of the leaves reflects the heat of the sun better than plain green leaves.

As well as having a deep tap root, both sea kale and yellow-horned poppy have wavy or crinkly leaves which means that some part of the leaf is always in shade.

Sea kale

Sea kale

The yellow-horned poppy has four beautiful silky yellow petals which quickly drop, but the plant produces a new flower each day from the long curved seed pods which develop.  Its leaves are covered by fine short hairs which help to protect the leaf surface from the salty conditions in which it lives.

Yellow-horned poppy

Yellow-horned poppy

ECOLOGIST'S UPDATE

During a survey of the shag nests on Burhou last week Vicky found some strange eggs. These were in a nest next to a shags nest but are most certainly not shag eggs. In fact they do not belong to any type of seabird and after some research we don't think they belong to a wader species like oystercatcher or curlew either. Our current thought is actually a peregrine nest!

Is this a peregrine nest? Hopefully we will get the answer soon!

Is this a peregrine nest? Hopefully we will get the answer soon!

We will try and confirm our theory and let you all know. Has anyone seen peregrine eggs before? Do you agree with our theory?