| Foulney is a long, narrow, uninhabited island in Morecambe Bay, cut off from the mainland only by the highest tides. It is formed entirely of pebbles which were brought from the Lake District to the coast by glaciers during the last ice age. Each stone has since been smoothed by the action of the sea, and tides have heaped the shingle into the island we see today. |
Like neighbouring Roa Island, Foulney was once a true island, but both were joined to the mainland by causeways built in the second half of the19th century. Owned by Boughton Estates down to the low-water mark, Foulney has been leased and managed by the Cumbria Wildlife Trust since 1974.
During the summer, Foulney's main conservation feature is its breeding terns - arctic, common and little - which travel vast distances to nest on theisland's shingle banks. Every year, arctic terns make the journey here from Antarctica and back again, this being the only spot in north-west England where they regularly breed. Other birds that breed on the reserve include ringed plover, oystercatcher and eider. In April, May andJ une, the courtship display of the male eider can be seen and heard around the island. Several males will often serenade one female by throwing their headsback and making cooing calls. Skylark and meadowpipit nest amongst the coastal grassland, marking their territories with beautiful songs, performed in flight.
As the terns leave Foulney in late summer with theirnewly fledged young, thousands of wading birds,geese and ducks make their southward journeys here from Scotland, Scandinavia and the high Arctic.Curlew, dunlin, knot and oystercatcher may be seen in their thousands. A flock of Brent geese also spends the winter, and great-crested grebe, red-breasted merganser, cormorant and common scoter are all frequently present offshore. Mammals,reptiles,voles and shrews make their home in the long grassland at the island's far end, and keep active throughout the year, providing prey for short-earedowl and kestrel. Stoats and weasels are also present,and during the summer common lizards are occasionally found basking in the sun. Foxes, and even a badger, have been seen searching for eggs and chicks during the nesting season.
During the summer months, butterflies provide splashes of colour. Look out for the largewhite, small white, small copper, red admiral and meadow brown. The day-flying 6-spot burnet moth can also be seen, sometimes in their hundreds.
Throughout the breeding season, from mid-April to early August, a warden becomes the island's sole human inhabitant. Tern nests are protected from hungry gulls by placing a small pen around each.This allows the parent birds to land and incubate their eggs, whilst preventing the larger gulls from entering. Electric fencing is also used to protect clusters of nests from foxes and badgers. A saltmarsh has developed alongside the stone causeway. The landward side of the marsh is out of reach of all but the highest tides,allowing sea purslane and sea lavender to grow.Further out on the seaward edge of the marsh, only those plants which can survive being submerged by the twice-daily tides can be found: cord-grassdominates, interspersed with the tiny fleshyglasswort, or "samphire", as it is known by locals,who remember eating it pickled in days gone by.Many of the island's plants are especially adapted to survive along pebbly shore-lines, where one of the biggest problems is getting enough fresh water. Seakale, a relative of cabbage, has a thick, waxy skin,deep roots and juicy leaves and stems, which help the plant to take up and store valuable moisture. In the summer-time, look out also for sea campion, herbrobert and the majestic yellow-horned poppy.
Visiting the Reserve from the village of Rampside, follow the roadtowards Roa Island. Stop about a quarter of the way across the causeway and park in the small car park on the left hand side. From here a path takes you alongside the stone causeway onto Foulney. During the breeding season, please keep to this path to avoid crushing eggs and disturbing nesting birds on the beaches and grasslands. Please note that at the highest tides the island may be cut off for several hours.
Click here for a location map....