Thursday, 27 December 2012

Gramborough Hill stonechat spotted in the Broads

Back in late-September we wrote about broods of stonechats that were ringed at NT Gramborough Hill, Salthouse and Arnolds Marsh, Cley, and gave the colour-ring combinations (click on the link below to show the table) that allow the identification of individuals.

We have just received an update that the female of the pair that raised two broods earlier this year at Gramborough Hill has been spotted wintering at St. Olaves, about 14km south-east of Reedham. Her colour-ring combination is white over green; metal over green and she is currently residing alongside an un-ringed male which means this isn't her 2012 breeding partner.

 Smart male stonechat

It will be interesting to see if she returns to the North Norfolk Coast to breed in a few months time, and if so, who will be accompanying her?

If you spot a stonechat with colour-rings please let the BTO know the colour-combination and its location.

Thanks Noel for the update, it makes it so much more interesting when you can follow individuals!

Victoria, Countryside Manager

Tuesday, 25 December 2012

Merry Christmas to you all

From all of the Norfolk Coast National Trust team, we wish you all a very happy Christmas. Enjoy the festive period.

Monday, 24 December 2012

Herring soup for Christmas lunch, fit for a Prince?

Another day, another seal in need of a bit of tlc.

Yesterday I went out to assess a young 3 week old pup that had an infected eye but otherwise looked ok ie. it was fairly plump with no obvious signs of injury.

I spent some time near it looking out to sea for signs of its mother and talking to walkers about it and the colony in general as well as easy things people can do to not cause any disturbance e.g not walking through the colony as this can cause seals to enter the territories of others potentially leading to fights or pups being in danger of aggressive adults.

All things considered, I decided to monitor the pup over the next day. When we do this we put a bollard near it to let any walkers know that we are aware of it and also to give the pup some space.With an increasing population it is not unusual for a pup to turn up perfectly healthy in a location away from the main colony and rest on the beach whilst its mother is out feeding.

The pup is in the background in this pic

I went back to the check on the pup today and it was still in the same location without a mother and following the advice fo the RSPCA East Winch hospital staff I took it to them. As it is 3 weeks old it was in heavy moult (most of it in the landrover!) and I was amazed at how different the coat looked in just a few hours. Here it is in the bay ready to be checked by the vet.  

The pup has a companion, Queen Victoria (all pups are named with a royalty theme), that was brought into the hospital yesterday and was only a few days old as it still had its umbilical cord. Any guesses on what this one, that weighed 11.05kgs so about a third of the weight that is needed before release, will be called if it is a male?

Looks like it will be herring soup for Christmas lunch!
Countryside Manager

Friday, 21 December 2012

Seal of approval from a rescue

Back at the end of July we blogged about a young common seal that we rescued and took to the RSPCA East Winch hospital that was suffering from Lungworm.

The RSPCA have provided us with an update about the little seal who was named Chris Acabussi (can you guess the theme this summer?). When we took it in on 30th July it only weighed 10.6kgs. It has been fed up in a good way over the months and reached a weight of 35kgs on the 5th November when it was released back into the wild. Before releasing the RSPCA put an orange tag on the flipper to identify it. Chris's number is 62295 so keep a look out for him and let us know if you spot him.

Despite the name, this species of seal isn't actually that common and is protected under European nature conservation legislation and it really is that everyone counts!

Countryside Manager

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Rot-ten day for seals and lifeboat house!

Cast your mind back in the mists of time 8 days ago when we wrote a post about a visit from staff from the RSPCA wildlife hospital at East Winch. We mentioned that on occasions we call on their excellent facilities and expertises when we get a sick or injured seal. Until yesterday all was reasonably quiet in the seal colony but whilst doing our twice weekly count George came across this little pup.  

It had either approached the wrong mum for food or got in the way of a Bull seal defending an area of beach. Whichever, it definitely came off worst in the encounter! This picture was sent to East Winch and few minutes later came the response 'Please could you get it here ASAP?'. I called up Elaine one of our Volunteer Seal Rangers and we set off complete with our stretcher. We found the pup and carried it the half mile back to the nearest vehicle pick-up point. Then it was off to East Winch to deliver it. First thing on arrival is to get the pup weighed and give it a name. This one was 14.8Kgs and as it is Jubilee year the theme is Royalty so he got the name Lion King (must have run out of monarchs names as they are already nearly full). This little pup will stay with them now until he reaches the required release weight of 45Kgs. He will be living on a diet of fish soup, basically herring put through a blender, until he can eat whole fish. Females are released at 40Kgs. The actual count of new borns added another 32 to the running total making an incredible 1197. 

The builders refurbishing the Lifeboat House had an extra helping hand as one of the pups decided to move under one of the vehicles. Not happy with the hundreds and hundreds of acres of space, this one put itself in the middle of the works.

Speaking of the Lifeboat house works, the more they undercover the more the problems mount including rusty steel girders, holes in the chimney breast and rotten windows. Looks like the works are timely!

Coastal Ranger

Update from Brancaster Millenium Activity Centre

Here at BMAC we are now deep into our Winter mode – decorating and maintenance, updating Risk Assessments, training and Winter tidying of the garden. We saw the last of our adult special interest birdwatching week-ends (no snow this time, thankfully, and thousands of pink-footed geese obliging at Holkham) and Alex now has the full 2013 programme drawn up.

We have a very few residential slots left next year – mostly in the early months – so I am working hard on marketing these late vacancies.  Our website is now all up to date with booking information and forms so if you are interested please find out more at or contact me at the office. We can take bookings for conferences, meetings etc throughout the year except January (you’d have to avoid the wet paintwork).  We have recently taken our first hen-weekend booking.

Next year sees a lot more of our taster sessions, kayaking, rafting and sailing, after their growing popularity, these can be booked via the central box office on 0844 249 1895.  We’ve put these through the box office to allow staff to be available to put on the greater number of sessions as the administration was becoming considerable.  It is still possible for groups to get enough people together to book their own day doing one or more of our taster activities – we had a group of choirboys on a camp last year, and a large extended family. If you are interested please contact the centre directly on 01485 210719.

We say goodbye to our Long Term Volunteer Lizzie before Christmas and welcome Annie in mid January to join Jo who is staying on, and a third volunteer yet to be recruited.  If you are interested in supporting our work please get in contact!

From all of the team at Brancaster we would like to wish you a merry Christmas and a happy New Year.

Nita Jackman
Learning officer

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

A Turkey, a Tiger and much more

On Thursday the 13th December we had our team christmas outing. We met Paul Eele the RSPB's reserve manager for Titchwell. Paul gave us an interesting introduction to the reserve and their management of it. We then spent the morning walking around the reserve with most of us reaching the hide complex and beach.

Countryside manager Victoria won the award for the best / strangest hat ever seen at Titchwell or anywhere come to think of it (see below).

Victoria with Keith, Marilyn and Millie, my dog who was too embarrassed to look

We then made our way to Briarfields hotel for lunch which all 31of us agreed was a wonderful meal. Even our resident Tiger was full at the end (see below). 

  Rob won a pint for wearing this, well deserved I think!

On Friday 14th December Eddie and George did the latest seal pup count which was 1165, already well over 200 more than the total count from last Winter. Now that the pups have started leaving the colony, we now only count new born pups and add to our previous total, which is fairly easy to do as they grow so fast. BBC Winterwatch have now finished filming the seals, watch out for it early in 2013, we have not got a specific date yet.

On Monday the 17th the monthly WeBS (Wetlands Bird Survey) count was done by splitting the reserve into sections and a member of staff or volunteer counting each section. Nothing remarkable was seen but all the usual suspects were present

In the past week a couple of the channel marker buoys have broken off their moorings and washed up in amongst the seal colony. Iain and myself decided the best way to get them back to the Harbour Boatmens Association was to pick them up by boat and return them to Morston quay for any repairs to be done. We did this on Monday on the early morning tide.

After finishing this I went to empty Blakeney Parish Councils car park machine on the Carnser only to find the whole machine had been stolen. About an hour after it was reported, I received a call from the Police to say it had been found,  lying in many pieces on the side of the road . This means for the sake of a few pounds several thousand pounds damage has been done. We are liaising with the Parish clerk about a replacement machine but this will take several weeks so you may not see the regular site of the hut on the quay for a while.

Finally for now George, Paul and I accompanied Langham School on a visit to Blakeney Point to see the Seals. I hope they had as much fun as we did taking them.

Graham Lubbock Coastal Ranger
Ps this is my first blog post, let me know what you think!

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Seals, filming, RSPCA visit, rot, unpeeling and a leak

The last three days for the NT team at Blakeney have been incredibly busy with lots going on.

Let's start with the seals! Eddie & George undertook another count of new-born pups on Monday and the total now stands at 1130 (it was 1055 last Wednesday). Despite a higher count, the actual number of pups on the beach was less as the early ones have already weaned and are now dispersing from the main rookery. This means that they are more and more likely to be encountered in the Morston-Cley-Salthouse area. If you see a pup that looks healthy and plump, please give it a wide berth and keep dogs away. We do go and check on the pups and you may see a sign we have placed near it to let walkers know that we are aware of it and monitoring its condition. Some that are in distress do have to be taken  to the RSPCA but more about that later!

Currently wildlife cameraman Richard Taylor-Jones is helping us to gain an insight into the lives and challenges of the seals of Blakeney Point and  it sounds fascinating as well as heart-wrenching at times. In this photo Volunteer Seal Rangers Sally & Liz catch up with the film crew as part of an introductory tour to their volunteering. As the lifeboat house is being refurbished, University College London kindly allowed the crew to use their building for the time they are with us. Having seen Richard-Taylor Jones on BBC Autumnwatch expect some great footage that tells a great story and maybe something poetic too! We'll keep you updated.

Also seal-related, when we come across a sick or injured seal we will take it to RSPCA East Winch wildlife hospital who care for it so it can hopefully be released back in the wild. Earlier this year some of us went to the wildlife hospital and saw lots of seals at different stages of health including a couple of the Blakeney ones. I found it a fascinating visit to see how, with specialist knowledge, the seals can be nursed back to health, not to mention a room full of swans that had swallowed fishing lines. I'll try to find some photos in due course. Today however was the turn of RSPCA staff to visit us and the seal colony, and they even had a sneek preview of some of the behaviour the film crew have captured.

Ranger George on the left & Graham on the right with RSPCA staff

The lifeboat house conservation refurbishment is on track and now the entire building is surrounded by scaffold.

When three of the NT project team looked at the condition of the lookout they found this. John, our Property Manager, sums it up nicely by 'the harsh environment takes it toll and a new lookout is required #rot'.

Today was an exciting day in the project as the first bit of tin cladding was removed. Over the next few weeks all of the old cladding will be replaced helping to ensure the building will be once again water-tight and weatherproof.

On the wider National Nature Reserve at Blakeney Freshes, Graham and volunteer ranger Malcolm went to check the water levels as we are trying to lower them to be able to get on with reed cutting. The weather however is not playing ball as it keeps raining! On checking one of the water control points, they came across a rather large hole behind the sluice which needed fixing.

By the afternoon the hole was plugged with sandbags as an emergency fix. Hopefully it will hold & not let water through otherwise a digger will be needed. We will be keeping an eye on the repair as the water levels change.

Lastly, the Blakeney seals and Ranger Eddie will feature on BBC Countryfile on Sunday, specifically talking about our conservation and monitoring work with Julia Bradbury. The show is all about North Norfolk so hopefully there will be some familiar scenes.

Victoria, Countryside Manager


Wednesday, 5 December 2012

The seals have done it - more than 1000 pups!

The grey seals have done it! More than 1000 pups born and 100 more than the total for last winter... and the season's not over yet!

This one was number 1055!

 Graham (Coastal ranger) captured this moment in time as part of our monitoring work. It's not 100% sharp as he didn't want to interrupt the seal and cause it stress!

The Ranger Team

You may have spotted that we are referring to some of the team as rangers instead of wardens. This is part of our work to help people get outdoors and closer to nature at a time when we have been caring for special places like Blakeney Point for 100 years. This protection, that was one of the reasons why the Trust was set up, is still continuing today through the ranger team and others.  

The ranger team on the Norfolk coast comprises:

Steve who looks after the Horsey windpump & Heigham Holmes grazing marshes in the Broads.

Graham, who has worked for the Trust for 22 years & looks after Blakeney National Nature Reserve NNR.

Eddie who spends 6 months living on Blakeney Point & the other half working on the wider NNR.

Keith who looks after the Brancaster Estate & Burnham area.

George who is in year 2 of an Academy Ranger programme, spending time between the Norfolk Coast & college blocks to learn theory & practical skills.

We are also supported by 3 seasonal rangers in the Spring/Summer.

All the East of England ranger team got together on Friday & lots of experience, thoughts and best practice were shared within the amazing structure of 13thC Coggeshall Grange Barn. This ideas tree captured some of them.

We are also supported by Volunteer rangers, for example Malcolm helps with the full breadth of the ranger role whilst Al is a Little Tern Ranger helping the rare terns that nest along Blakeney Point in the Spring/Summer.

We have also recently recruited Seal rangers & here they are being trained in the use of a seal stretcher.

Welcome to new rangers Jane, David, Marek, Elaine, Liz & Sally.

Victoria Francis
Countryside Manager

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Countryfile & the Lifeboat house refurb project

As promised, here is another photo from the Countryfile filming last week. In this photo Eddie and Julia are looking over the rookery talking about our conservation and monitoring work and a new photo id project that we are starting to understand better site faithfulness of the female seals.

The Lifeboat house refurb project is going well. Progress so far includes the site being set-up, breaking up the old concrete steps, driving in timber piles for the new ramps and erecting the scaffold.

 Inside the visitor centre, an old window is being revealed - just the outside cladding to go next

Other work happening inside is the removal of a 2nd kitchen to make way for a new office for the Ranger team

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

The last week

Hello everyone,

I am aware that it's been nearly a week since we last updated the blog so here is a flavour of what we have been up to.

The week began with good discussions about opportunities to volunteer with us and we are likely to be advertising specific roles to help our work in 2013. We also developed a proposal for a group of corporate volunteers, which reflects the breadth of work across the Horsey & Heigham Holmes, Blakeney and Brancaster areas we look after. They follow our work on the blog and we are really pleased they got in contact with us to identify ways to be involved.

I spent most of Tuesday around the Burnham/Brancaster area with Ranger Keith planning some of the winter works we will be undertaking e.g. hedge & tree maintenance. Meanwhile the grey seal pup colony or rookery was being counted and had grown to 475.

The middle of the week saw Graham and volunteer ranger Malcolm prepare Blakeney freshes for the winter. Now the cattle have been taken off, we shut down the water supply to the troughs and emptied them and did work to the many field gates that allow us to have control over where the cattle are grazing. Eddie did another seal count, with a dramatic rise to 593!

Thursday was an interesting day for us with BBC Countryfile coming back to film our conservation and monitoring work to look after the grey seal colony. We hope to do another post about this and the how the lifeboat house refurb work is going in the next day or so, but here is a sneek preview.

Eddie with Julia Bradbury

On Friday we hosted a guided birdwatching walk with the ranger team and saw marsh harriers, Bewicks swans, godwits, lapwings, pink-footed and Brent geese amongst others.

The week concluded with Eddie being on call for any sick or injured seal pups. 

Victoria, Countryside Manager

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

News from Brancaster Activity Centre

It’s the time of year for the pink-footed-geese to return to Scolt Head every evening – we usually hear them honking as they fly over the office - and it’s time for those lovely autumn sunsets over the marsh too. 

This last week our two long-term volunteers have been doing their sailing training with Rob and Alex our resident instructors, whilst Nita and Nige have been getting in some power boat experience -  practicing towing the sailing boat off the mud and admiring the passing wildlife - marsh Harriers, a grey seal and a guillemot surfacing right by the boat were the highlights.

We have the first of our Special Interest weekends coming up - ‘Autumn Migrants’ followed by ‘Winter Walking Break’ then a Dickensian themed cookery day and ‘Wildlife Walks for Photographers’.  Alex has been busy putting together the Special Interest programme for 2013 and it contains our usual selection of art, wildlife and our now regular yoga week-end.  We’re also planning our school holiday programme of taster sessions – we used to call these ‘drop-in’ sessions, but they now book up in advance particularly for watersports – once again we’ll be doing Kayaking, Sailing and Raft Building along with Coastal Safari and other exploration days. 

It’s exciting times as we put together the plans for our new Young Ranger Award – all our visiting school pupils will benefit from getting this new award this year; and as we do every winter the staff work hard to ensure all our activities remain relevant and up-to-date. This winter we should see the completion of the long-awaited Roman Activity and a re-vamp of our field studies programme.

As always the centre is open for hire over the winter when there are no residential school bookings, - so if you fancy a winter break by the coast or have a meeting to host in the area why not contact us to see what we could offer.

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

14th of November: Events and pups

With winter fast approaching the Point and surrounding marshes are starting to assume a distinctly wintery feel. The seals have taken over the Point and are squashing down the dune grasses on Far Point with the weight of the bulls and cows (and their associated pups) as they go about their ‘all or nothing’ breeding cycle. Draper and Nichols have taken control of the Lifeboat House and work is progressing as planned.

Piling posts for the verandah to be reinstated on the Lifeboat House (Graham Lubbock)  

Seal pup counts have been interesting and it seems that almost 40 are being born each evening (probably all under the cover of darkness). Yesterdays (13th of November) pup count was 252 and today 293 were counted which is double the number counted at this time last year. Counting the pups is made incredibly difficult by the lie of the land and by the fact that the entire breeding population is on one long beach, but by using a counter and making sure that you have seen into all of the dips, bays and on all sides of every dune a fairly accurate count can be made. We are also looking into photo recognition of individual cows and marking any pups relocated back to the rookery with sheep dye. Far Point should be avoided by walkers at this time of year to avoid disturbance to the seals and dogs should kept on leads. However, the rookery can be watched from the seal ferries which leave from Morston Quay at around high tide and a few outlying seals can be observed at a distance on land before you reach the no further signs.

A cow (F1) photographed for individual identification (Edward Stubbings)

We still have a few places available on our guided ‘Wintering wildfowl and Waders’ (birdwatching) walk on Friday 23rd November starting at 10:00 from Morston Quay and our  ‘Blakeney Point Seal Pup Tour’ on Friday 7th December starting at 10:15 (also from Morston Quay). It is a great opportunity to see the arrival of the seal pups and the posturing and fighting of the adult bull seals. If you are interested advanced booking is essential so please contact the booking office on 08442491895.  And dont forget James' exhibition at Blickling Hall, starts this Friday.

Mother and pup in creek just before the start of Far Point (Graham Lubbock)

- Eddie

Thursday, 8 November 2012

8th of November: The Long Wild Shore

Between the 17th of November and the 2nd of December Blickling Hall will be hosting an exhibition and book launch of the extremely talented, former Point warden, James McCallum. The Long Wild Shore - Bird and Seal Seasons on Blakeney Point, his new book, covers most of the wildlife found on the Point, some in great detail, including the terns and seals. The exhibition runs from the 17th of November until the 2nd of December and will be open from Wednesday through to Sunday between 11am and 4pm. There will be additional openings during the Blickling Christmas Weekends - 8th-9th and 15-16th of December, which are a treat in their own right. The launch of this long awaited book is expertly timed to coincide with our centenary. The Point was brought for the trust in 1912. One hundred years on and James has become a part of that long and illustrious history. More information about James and his work can be found on his website A recent article in British Birds entitled The Birds of Blakeney Point: 100 Years of National Trust Ownership features some of James' paintings and, along with his new book, celebrates our centenary and the amazing wildlife to be found on the reserve. James was Assistant Warden on Blakeney Point and Blakeney Freshes in 1994, 1995, 1996, 1999, 2003 and 2006 and added greatly to our understanding of the breeding birds of the Point and the Freshes as well as helping in the species protection which makes Blakeney NNR such a great place for birds. James is always friendly and accommodating and would love to see you at the exhibition.

Bluethroat in May 2012 (James McCallum)

Terns courting and preening with a Grey plover to their left (James McCallum)

After our last blog post from the Point The Bamboozled Ouzel  about the huge 'fall' of Scandinavian migrants which hit our coast on the 22nd of October we received some pictures from Point regular Richard Porter that really show how big the spectacle was. It is now believed that it was the biggest 'fall' of migrants for twenty years and has been dubbed the 'Thrush Rush'.

This impressive picture shows the full scale of the thrush rush on the 22nd of October this year. If you look really carefully (squint your eyes) you can just make out the Lifeboat House on the right
(Richard Porter)

On to mammalian news: the first Grey Seal pup of the season was born on the 26th/27th of October and numbers increased rapidly to 91 on the 7th of November. The colony, or Rookery, as they are correctly called, has been doing extremely well in recent years and the number of pups born has increased significantly year on year. Access to Far Point is now restricted during the winter months to avoid disturbance to the seals and it should be remembered that seals can be dangerous to humans and dogs. The best way to see the pups is from one of the seal ferries which leave from Morston around high tide.

One of the first Grey Seal pups of the winter (Richard Porter)

- Eddie

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Spooky Halloween-themed wildlife

We challenged our twitter followers & colleagues to come up with spooky, Halloween-themed wildlife names. Here is the list so far:

Plants - Ghost Orchid  Devil's-bit Scabious, Fang-toothed Hawkweed, Creeping bent, Witch hazel, Skull-cap, Bloody cranes-bill

Fungi - Ghost Bolete,  Ghost Shield,  Devil's Bolete,  Devil's Fingers, Devil's Tooth, Witches' Butter, Witches' Whiskers Lichen, Witches' Broom, Death cap,

Inverts - Phantom Midge, Devil's Coach-horse  (a rove beetle), Ghost Moth, Deathwatch beetle, Grey dagger moth, Deaths head hawk-moth, Killer shrimp, Gadd fly, Ghost swift moth

Mammal - Vampire bat, Noctule bat 

Amphibians - Common toad, Natterjack toad

Monday, 29 October 2012

Burnham overy windmill weekend: Super nature but nothing supernatural

It's not everyday you wake up in a windmill overlooking two National Nature Reserves & next to a National Trail.

Last weekend I had this very opportunity as I was one of a group of 19 who hired the Tower Windmill in Burnham Overy for 3 nights. 
Being one of the organisers and the closest, I picked up the enormous key and chose one of the two bedrooms in the cottage annex, which is also where the kitchen, pantry, two shower rooms & two toilets are to be found. The ground floor of the windmill is the main living area with two dormitories each with four bunk beds and a fourth library floor. With each rise in storey you got a real sense of the walls leaning in and of course being round.

The kitchen equipment & crockery was put to a real test on the first night as three main courses and side dishes for 19 were cooked, but there was plenty of implements, huge pots & trays helped by two ovens and an army of 10 dishwashers. The second night was simpler by a torchlit stroll to the local pub which served good food at reasonable prices. At no point were we short of anything, least not tea towels and there was space and tables for everyone to be seated together.

We added bunting & flowers to the main room 

The quirky accomodation was only part of our reason for hiring the windmill, another key bit being the opportunity to get outdoors & close to nature on the North Norfolk coast. Our days were filled exploring the area & nature reserves via the numerous paths, bridleways and lanes, on foot, cycle or hopping along the coast on the Coasthopper bus (nearest stop only being half a mile away). We racked up hundreds of miles between us!

My highlights:

  • Standing on the balcony drinking ginger wine (thanks Graham) under an orange sky listening to pink-footed geese flying overhead to their roosts
  • Amazing views of marshes, dunes, creeks & saltmarsh of Holkham & Scolt Head Island National Nature Reserves
  • Fly-by's by barn owls & marsh harriers & the starlings gathering on the sails at dusk
  • The hare that ran through the grounds and across the road missing the zooming car
  • Being in good company

Top tips:

  • Don't read the visitor book on the first night, some groups talk of haunted mirrors & other spooky happenings
  • If you're sleeping in a dorm pack eye mask & ear plugs
  • Book early via 01263 740241 for an extremely good value break for you, your friends & family

Friday, 26 October 2012

Being a Volunteer Energy Manager on the Norfolk Coast

Guest post written by Peter Justice, Volunteer Energy Manager, about how he came to volunteer with us, his role & projects he's worked on.

I was seconded to National Trust from my employer BT in early 2010 and joined the team at Blakeney.

My initial task was to capture all the 50 plus Health & Safety compliances required along the Norfolk Coast and incorporate these into a spreadsheet. These H&S compliances included Fire Risk Assessments, Work Place inspections, Portable Appliance Testing, Boiler Servicing, Chimney Sweeping etc. Once this spreadsheet was completed, at a glance it would tell you inspection due dates, person responsible and confirmed whether compliant. In addition to this task I assisted the wardens at Horsey, Heigham Holmes, Blakeney, Morston, Burnham and Brancaster. Some memorable projects include moving the Horsey Windpump sails to Heigham Holmes for storage, erecting new signage at Brancaster, Morston and Blakeney & counting the grey seal pups on Blakeney Point.

My background in Communications, electrical and plumbing proved very useful during my secondment when I was able to install a movement detection system in the toilets on Blakeney Point, repair frozen pipes in the lifeboat house, provide heating timers in the Blakeney office and install additional LAN ports to enable additional computer connections for seasonal staff.

Another task I owned while seconded to the Trust was capturing all energy use and updating the Monitoring and Management database on a monthly basis. When my secondment ended in 2011, I continued with this Energy Manager role as a volunteer.

Peter about to read the meters

Today I continue to provide monthly meter reading and deliver data, monitoring energy use along the Norfolk Coast. Energy is a priority in the regional business plan and the Trust has legal obligations under the Governments CRC Energy Efficiency Scheme.

As Energy Manager I am responsible for providing monthly readings for Electricity, Water, Renewable Energy, LPG and Fuel use. This data is then input onto the MMS database where I am able to monitor cumulative energy consumption and update on the NT KPI energy targets. 

Should I find areas where energy could be saved or identify energy that is being wasted, I  inform my Property Manager John Sizer. Recent examples are recommendations around replacing old uneconomical style storage heaters at Burnham Cottages and the Windmill and water leaks at Morston.

The Tower Windmill at Overy has been fitted out with new heaters  

My employers BT are very supportive of my volunteering and award up to three days special leave per year to carry out this role. My day job is working in BT Property where I manage a team of building auditors. My role has certain synergies with my NT secondment in areas around Health & Safety, Compliance and Energy Use. I am proud of BT’s corporate responsibility and sustainability. This year to date BT has donated over 49,000 days to allow BT employees to volunteer in the community.

Peter Justice
Energy Manager

Thanks Peter for all the hard work & excellent problem-solving and it's great that you can transfer your expertise & skills from your day job with BT to helping us on the Norfolk Coast, although being a Spurs and not Norwich City fan, there's still work to do!

John Sizer, Property Manager

Monday, 22 October 2012

22nd of October: The bamboozled Ouzel

It wont be many days before the Libeboat house will be given over to contractors, who will be refurbishing the building over the winter months and the last two wardens left on the Point will be forced to move back to the mainland. In todays foggy conditions we were able to witness and record a huge fall of grounded migrants. Having crossed the North Sea they hit fog over our coast and made the first landfall they could. Most were thrushes (up to 35,000) with hundreds of Robins and Bramblings. The main highlights were: Peregrine and Merlin (which were clearly enjoying the tired food source as we found at least four freshly plucked Robins and two Blackbirds), 1 Long-eared Owl, 1 Short-eared Owl, 3 Grey Wagtail, up to 4,000 Fieldfare, 3,000 Blackbird, 30 Ring Ouzel, 1,500 Song Thrush, c. 25,000 Redwing, 280 Robin, 5 Black Restart, 2 Common Redstart, 80 Goldcrests, 25 Chiffchaff, 1 Blackcap, 400 Brambling, 15 Chaffinch, 2 Siskin, 1 redpoll, 2 Yellowhammer and 2 Snow Bunting. At one point two women from a seal ferry pointed out a bird that had trapped itself in the visitors centre. Surprisingly the bird allowed itself to be picked up first time without a fuss. It was a handsome Ring Ouzel (probably a first year bird) and the two women were delighted to to see such a fascinating bird on migration so close up.

The bamboozled Ring Ouzel, caught in visitors centre (Jamie Boulter)

Thrushes flocking in the fog (try repeating that in quick succession) (Jamie Boulter)

Finches flying in (Jamie Boulter)

The first Grey Seal pups will be born in the next week or so and we are now looking forward to a successful winter season.

And well done Amanda.

- Ed

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Amanda's home cooking recognised by BBC Radio 4 Food & Farming Awards

Amanda Newton, head cook at Brancaster Millenium Activity centre made it into the top 10 shortlist of the 2012 BBC Radio 4 Food & Farming awards in the category Best Public Caterer (Best dinner lady/man).

We all are thrilled that Amanda's mantra of good home-cooking using local seasonal produce was recognised by the judges.

Speaking to Amanda earlier this week she said she was 'Very pleased to be nominated and to make it into the top 10. Being able to provide a good hearty healthy food sets the children up for a day full of fun activities!'.

Amanda has worked for the Trust as Head Cook for 12 years and always has a beaming smile whenever I see her.

Amanda ready to please hungry schoolchildren

Saturday, 13 October 2012

Boy, there's a lot of bees!

Today's post has been kindly written for us by Richard Rolfe of Morston

Beyond the three bridges that run alongside Morston creek, there is a stretch of higher ground known locally as the Pilot’s Path. Composed of impacted sand, shells and small shingle, it is above the range of even the highest tides.

This year, for the first time, the National Trust put up a sign - ‘Buzz on the marsh’ - to provide information about the mining bees and this seems to have attracted a lot of attention from visitors - just as the bee orchids outside Blakeney did.

There are several species of mining bee in the UK, but those at Morston are Colletes halophilus. It is a nationally scarce bee, found in fewer than 25 sites around the south and east coasts of England from the Solent around to the Humber. It flies from late August through to October, and is associated with high quality saltmarsh habitats, as it provisions its nest cells with the pollen it collects from Sea Aster. The female bees will drink nectar from a range of flowering plants to keep them fueled on their search for sea aster.

I was made aware of these mining bees in the summer of 2011, in an unusual way. I’d taken my then-5-year old grandson Monty to Stiffkey on the Coasthopper bus and was walking back to Morston with him. As we neared Morston, Monty said, “Granpa, can we go and see the mining bees?”

“Mining bees, what are they, Monty? I’ve never heard of them.”

“They’re on the marsh, I’ll show you.” So we went out over the bridges and found the bees where he’d said. Despite living in Morston for over 20 years, I never knew they were there - probably through being too focused on the bird life.

During the summer of 2012, I looked continually for the mining bees. In July, I emailed Victoria at the Trust, partly to compliment her on the signage for the bee orchids, but also to see if she knew where the mining bees might be.
Victoria provided a crucial piece of information - the mining bees are associated with flowering sea aster. This meant I’d started looking several weeks too soon.

But eventually, I walked out onto the Pilot’s Path, and there they were. I arranged to meet Victoria and we took photos for ID purposes, as there are several mining bee species in the UK. 

Victoria photographing the bees nests

They seem to be most prolific on calm, sunny evenings, when thousands can be seen at three main colonies. They are harmless to people and appear to be resilient to walkers and their dogs - their burrows, or ‘mines’ are all along the path - and the sites they’ve chosen are above the September high tides.

Monty (below) was delighted to be reconnected with ‘his’ mining bees and will be looking out for them again next year.

Monty pleased with the buzz on the marsh