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New Ayres nature reserve is 'a mosaic of habitats'

It is hoped the reserve can be established as 'a centre of excellence' for conservation

Nature reclaiming disused quarry

The charity behind plans to develop a wildlife reserve at the Ayres, has announced work is now underway to let nature 'run the show'.

Manx BirdLife says after 20 years of negotiations, an agreement has been struck with Island Aggregates to rewild an area which includes a disused landfill.

A decline in commercial activity in the area, including the company's quarry, is leading to 'a mosaic of habitats' according to the group's director Neil Morris, which could eventually span across 450 acres.

The new nature reserve for the area has been granted with a special protection for birds, the only site to receive such a status on the Island.

However, it is currently not open to the public with the charity hoping to allow access within five years, once it removes the hazards left behind by the industrial operation. 

"We're in that post-breeding part of the year," Mr Morris told Manx Radio. "Where a lot of birds are bringing their families to use this area as a bit of a nursery because they know it's protected, they know it's sheltered and they know there's less disturbance here than elsewhere.

"The area has to be managed in a way that is sympathetic to the best fortunes of the birds and the other wildlife here, so it will stop us doing anything untoward that destroys the ecology."

On the timescale for opening the reserve he says "I have to be very careful in setting expectation because there is a lot of work to, a lot of people to consult.

The MBL Point of Ayre Reserve contains a fresh water lagoon, a habitat unique to the Island that is currently home to a colony of cormorants.

The hope is to begin a draft of volunteers to speed up the process, develop a team 'to adopt this place as their back garden' and help with the public accessibility.

In a presentation to Tynwald members on Tuesday, Mr Morris pitched his vision for the area and championed the prospective benefits for tourism, education, the health and well-being it could bring.

Once it establishes itself as a reserve, he believes it can become a centre of excellence for nature conservation, environmental education and in particular, citizen science which can provide data on how well the reserve is developing.

"There are people with very passionate interests in aspects of botany and zoology and they'll each bring their interest and skills to this.

"So for example, they can be doing monitoring studies to see how things evolve and change over time and it's that citizen science, which will tell if we're doing a good job or not."

"It's particularly important that the schools have access to bring classes here to see this nature so they can do studies and projects on the organisms here.

Earlier in the year, the charity reported 'worrying declines' in the number of seabirds after the results of its census project were published. In light of the fall in populations, Mr Morris believes areas like the Ayres reserve 'are steps on the way to recovery.'

"There is no doubt, the number of species and their populations are on a downturn, that's the big picture. And it's going to be a fight, a huge change in the way society behaves before we get anywhere to restoring that bigger picture to where it should be.

"But projects like this are really important milestones in trying to bring that change about, but also bring people into realising that change needs to happen.

"Yes, the big picture is diversity and the abundance of birds is diminishing, but this is one small thing that is worthwhile and enduring."

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