Friday, 22 February 2013

Marine Conservation Zones

The government, having previously indicated an ambition for the establishment of 127 Marine Conservation Zones (MCZ) is now consulting on a much more modest list of 31 MCZs.  This consultation closes on 31 March 2013.

These 127 MCZs are entirely separate from the additional 65 ‘Reference Areas’ (rRA) recommended to government by the various regional stakeholder projects (in our case NetGain).  The National Trust has previously raised particular concerns in relation to a cluster of inter-tidal ‘Reference Areas’ (rRA), particularly Blakeney Marsh (rRA4).  We have welcomed therefore the advice by the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) and Natural England (NE) to government that ‘the process to identify reference areas was flawed and failed to deliver recommendations that satisfy JNCC and Natural England’.  We are therefore pleased that Reference Areas are not part of the current consultation and are not going to be taken forward in their current form and we wait with interest further information on how the review for Reference Areas will be taken forward.

However, we are concerned that the government lacks ambition to protect the marine environment and we wish to see the establishment of a coherent network of MCZs and this should start with the designation of the proposed 127 MCZs (which excludes Reference Areas).

Our position is that the government:

·      Should be more ambitious and commit to establishing a much larger suite of MCZs than the current consultation proposes.
·      Needs to be more realistic about the evidence requirements to support the establishment of MCZs, having now set the bar unnecessarily high.
·      Involve Stakeholders in reconsidering how to best establish a scientific baseline against which the conservation management of the wider MCZ network can be evaluated
·      Should support high quality stakeholder involvement in the setting up and management of MCZs.

Please do have a look at our latest regional blog: 

John Sizer, Property Manager

Tree safety works

We are in the middle of undertaking tree safety works at the moment. Earlier in the month we undertook some pro-active work to the evergreen oaks outside the church at Bale and a couple of days we felled two small trees at the nearby Bullfer Grove. The trees were felled as they had been identified on a tree health survey as needing work.

This one in particular was very rotten!

It was such a Spring-like morning with woodpeckers drumming, nutchatches calling and these hazels catkins out.

I will post some more good rot photos soon from the beech trees that had to be felled near our base.

I'm off now to go up Blakeney Point to see how the lifeboat house works are progressing. There are lots of changes happening in a short time and I will update you very soon.

Victoria, Countryside Manager

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Seasonal positions at Brancaster Activity Centre

We are now recruiting seasonal posts to support our work at Brancaster Activity Centre. Please get in contact on 01485 210719 if you fancy joining the team between April & November.

Monday, 11 February 2013

Goodbye from Eddie

Eddie, Coastal Ranger for Blakeney Point has taken up a Head Warden role with his fiancee Bee, looking after the widlife of Skomer Island. After a farewell meal and drinks to send him on his way, here are a few thoughts he would like to share. Thank you Eddie for all you have done for the wildlife of Blakeney and your work to help visitors of all ages experience it.

"Writing my last blog has proved to be much more difficult than I thought it would be. Basically there is too much to say in a small space. I have tried to say how much I love the place, how important it is, put down a few of the amazing experiences that I have had there over the years and to thank as many people for their help and support as possible in a few paragraphs. I found it impossible so please excuse this lame attempt at trying to do so.

I began working for the National Trust at Blakeney Point as a Seasonal Assistant Warden in 2006 and became permanent Coastal Warden at the end of the same year. Although I did already know Blakeney Point, working and living there was a whole new thing. Blakeney Point is quite simply the nearest thing to perfection in nature’s form and power. The Point and its wildlife are always changing and this gives you a feeling of constant anticipation. I never got bored. I was also privileged to be working there during its centenary year in 2012. The history of Blakeney Point is unsurpassed and I found it a great honour to be in charge during its centenary year. At the very end of 2012 my fiancĂ© (Birgitta) and I were offered the unmissable opportunity to work together on Skomer island off the Pembrokeshire coast. Therefore February 2013 saw the end of my (our) time at Blakeney. I will miss the Point a great deal but take consolation from the fact that I will be working on such an exciting island and can always come back to Blakeney. Blakeney will never really leave me.

During my time at Blakeney I have witnessed so many amazing things – too many to mention here – and worked with so many great people that I find it almost impossible to believe and I will never forget these experiences. To name a few: I have worked with Britain’s largest and most important Sandwich Tern colony; swum with seals and quite possibly lay claim to being the only person in the world to have swum alongside a Sowerby’s Beaked Whale (albeit a dying one); attempted to help struggling porpoises and collected mutilated seal carcases off the beach; had Merlins fly within inches of my head in pursuit of prey (once within the Lifeboat House); ran naked along the beach in the pouring rain; had a Common Seal pup attach itself to my leg, probably because it thought I might feed it and seen countless amazing birds including birds new to Blakeney and Norfolk.

I would like to say thanks to so many people and can’t name them all here but here is a rather incomplete list:

All NT staff I have worked with
Millie the dog
All volunteers
Local ferrymen and women
Norfolk etc
Local fishermen, reedcutters, baitdiggers etc etc
Local police
Local people in general
Regular birdwatchers and naturalists
Friendly visitors and tourists
Researchers, county recorders and students
Lecturers from the UCL
Aylemerton Field Studies Centre
Wardens etc from neighbouring reserves
Blakeney, Langham and Hindringham Primary Schools
The families that own the small huts near the Lifeboat House
The Watch House Trust and visitors to the Watch House
The terns
The seals

In 2012 we started this blog in order to pass on some of these intimate experiences, get across some conservation messages, let people know what they can expect from Blakeney Point and what Blakeney Point expects of them and let people know what we get up to out on the Point. As this is my last blog I thought I ought to do what I normally do and say what is happening on the Point at the moment: The seals have mostly all dispersed into the North Sea – where two months ago nearly four thousand cows, bulls and pups filled the beach and dunes around Far Point (more than 1,222 seal pups were born this season), there are now only a few hundred remaining. In fact things are relatively quiet at this time of year. However, there is still loads of great wildlife around – flocks of Snow Buntings flurry along the Points beaches and shingle ridges, wintering raptors such as Peregrines and Hen Harriers hunt its lonely shores and Grey Partridges and Hares survive the harsh winter weather as best they can. Now we wait for warmer weather and the return of our summer migrants. As early as March the Sandwich Terns will be back and the rest will follow in April. The first Wheatears and Swallows are always welcome signs of the coming of spring.

Just to round things off, on my last day I saw a Marsh Harrier with green wing tags which had been tagged at Sculthorpe Moor, near Fakenham, in 2011, roosting in the reedbed on Blakeney Freshes. Maybe, once more information comes to light; there will be another update about this fascinating bird.

I wish the Point, its wildlife and people all the best for the future."

- Eddie Stubbings

Here are a few pictures Eddie selected as highlights:

Embroidery by Julia Porter

Eddie with former Head Warden Dave Wood (left) in 2006


Eddie working with friend and assistant Paul Nichols