across the reserve to the north
The reserve shows a typical range of duneland habitats:
The foredune just above the tideline,
colonised by sea couch-grass, sea rocket and oraches. These can
tolerate the constantly moving sand and regrow each summer after being
covered by sand during winter storms.
The main dune ridge of unstable sand rising
steeply from the beach and dominated by marram grass and the broader
leaved lyme grass.
A hummocky hinterland of more stable grassland
covering most of the reserve, with a wealth of flowers throughout the
Hollows ('slacks') with short, rabbit-grazed turf
and moss, which become flooded in winter to form fresh-water 'winter
lochs' as the underground water-table rises.
The grassland is rich in
lime because of the fragments of seashells in the sand. This enables
the growth of many plants that need these special conditions. Cowslips
(and locally primroses) are abundant in spring, followed in summer by
purple milk-vetch, meadow crane's-bill, common and greater knapweed,
viper's bugloss and many more. Along with more widespread species,
about 200 different flowering plants, including about 30 grasses, grow
on the reserve.
Skylarks and meadow pipits nest, while buzzards and kestrels are
frequently seen as they hunt for rabbits and voles. The adjacent shore
(not part of the reserve) has a mosaic of rock, sand, mud and pools,
with a rich diversity of seaweeds and animal life. This provides good
feeding for waders such as curlew, redshank, turnstone and
oystercatcher. Offshore, terns and gannets can be watched in summer and
a good variety of northern wildfowl in winter, including long-tailed
duck, red-throated diver and all three species of scoter. Eiders are
present all year and used to nest on the links.
including common blue, small copper and meadow brown, and a great
variety of land snails represent just a tiny fraction of the vast
diversity of insects and other invertebrate animals characteristic of
dune grasslands. So far about 1100 kinds of insects and 230 other
invertebrates have been recorded.
Dumbarnie Waxcap (C)
In the past these links would probably have been lightly grazed by
cattle or sheep, and the rabbits would have been an important source of
fur; and meat.
The railway line,
which forms the northern boundary, operated from 1857 to 1965.
A line of re-aligned
anti-tank blocks, dating from the Second World War, now separates the
reserve from the grazed land to the east. Another legacy of the war is
the pair of concrete pill-boxes.
Dumbarnie main slack
(C) Albert Lawrie
The variety of plants depends upon grazing,
but at present the rabbits are sufficiently numerous that additional
grazing by domestic stock is not necessary.
(C) Niall Corbet
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