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