Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Paw show and fledgling success

 Hi, Steve Downes here again, guest blogging on day two of a five-day 'writer-in-residence' stay at Blakeney Point. Another day when the black clouds brooded, but promised more than they delivered. Early highlights included the first of many sightings of two marsh harriers, which ducked, dipped and circled the dunes with minimum effort and maximum majesty. A lowlight is pictured above. Eddie and I were doing Gap watch duty when he saw these tracks. They are either those of a rat (bad, but not unexpected and impossible to eradicate) or a hedgehog (double bad, because hedgehogs would be a new predator on the Point, with a penchant for egg stealing).
 The photos above and below show one of the landmark moments of the season - the sandwich tern chick count. How Eddie did it, I will never know. I couldn't tell a sandwich tern from a black-headed gull, let alone a fledgling from an adult. It was like a giant game of Where's Wally, except with everything in the picture wearing white. Ultimately, the news was great, with 2,200 chicks fledged from 3,735 pairs - a 59pc success rate. The vigilance and dedication of the wardens is clearly paying off.
 To work up an appetite before dinner, I volunteered to clear away a lupin that was growing over the boardwalk near the boathouse. Armed with loppers, a saw and determination to earn my spurs as a (temporary) warden, I joined battle. "Gentle lupin", says the poem, which is wrong. It's a tenacious terrier, and took much sweat and backache to conquer. I'm hoping for a plaque on the spot, saying: "Here stood a lupin, which was cleared by the heroic, single-minded determination of Steve Downes - motivated by the desire to make your boardwalk experience special".
To hear more about my Point Break, follow @stevedownes1973 on Twitter and visit www.edp24.co.uk.

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