Monday, 30 September 2013

30th of September: Young Rangers

Over the past few weeks, Academy Ranger George has been busy putting together a Young Ranger scheme for Blakeney NNR. Throughout this academic year, children from Blakeney and Langham Primary Schools will be doing a variety of conservation activities across the reserve and learning about its wildlife. They will then get a Young Ranger award at the end of the year.

The first activity was a litter pick on the Point and walk across the harbour. Thanks to both schools, the beach is looking much tidier.
 Children from Langham picking litter on Blakeney Point

Our friend and volunteer, Richard Porter, is currently in Iraq where he is involved in conservation work. Recently, he was also involved in a litter pick with primary school children. Along the edge of the Euphrates, there was a competition between schools as part of celebrations for the re-flooding of Iraq's Southern Marshes.
Children litter picking in Iraq (Richard Porter)

On Blakeney Point over the last few days a couple of rarities have turned up. As our followers on Twitter will know, yesterday a Bluethroat was found amongst the Suaeda on Far Point. This beautiful bird is the classic Blakeney Point rarity. Over the past two days, the bushes have been full of thrushes. It was quite magical seeing so many Song Thrushes in a small area. There were about 60 in the garden and 80 in the Plantation along with a few Redwings. Brent Geese have also been on the move, with several hundred flying over, and many feeding on the mudflats, their soft calls travelling across the harbour.

From Thursday to Friday, a Little Bunting was present on the Point. This attractive, small bird breeds in northeastern Europe and is a rare vagrant in Britain. This Gem moth is a rarity in Norfolk. It is an immigrant and there have only been a few records of it in the county.

Our latest seal count was conducted on Friday and recorded 886 Grey and 231 Common.

Suddenly September has disappeared and tomorrow it will be October. The nights are drawing in and a wonderful autumn feeling is present along the Norfolk Coast. Blackberries are abundant and sunrises and sunsets truly special...

- Ajay

Sunday, 22 September 2013

22nd of September: Return of the pink feet

Pink-footed Geese have arrived back in Norfolk to spend the winter with us after breeding in Iceland. As numbers build, soon the skies will resonate to their [wink-wink] calls and their v-shaped flying formations. Other winter visitors returning to the Point in the last few days include Peregrine Falcon, Merlin and also Snow and Lapland Buntings.

On Wednesday, Blakeney Point hosted the Little Tern Working Group end-of-season meeting. Where conservation bodies meet and collaborate on ways to protect this under-threat species as well as giving feedback on how the season fared at each site along the coast.

Today, Richard Porter photographed this colour-ringed Stonechat on Blakeney Point. It was ringed as a first summer male while breeding at Arnold's Marsh (a couple of miles east, near Salthouse) on the 12th of July last year. He was seen near the Cley beach car park several times over the winter and has now become our first Stonechat sighting of the autumn.

In this evening's warm weather there has been a hatch of small insects. This has resulted in hundreds of gulls coming to the main dunes to feed.

This weekend we said goodbye to Matt. We are very grateful for the work he has done this summer helping to protect and monitor the wildlife, and also for his photographs. He is returning to Essex where he is involved in a range of conservation work including volunteering for the RSPB. We wish him all the best for the future.

In other Norfolk Coast news, work is underway putting in gutters at Heigham Holmes to create feeding areas for wading birds.

Paul and Ajay
Photos: Victoria Egan, Richard Porter

Sunday, 15 September 2013

15th of September: Plants of the Point

This week saw the addition of the Blakeney Point Plant Atlas to our web-site. This wonderful piece of work is the result of many hours of plant studies carried out by Richard Porter between 1999 and 2012. He has catalogued all of the Point's plants, mapping their distribution and abundance. Richard has also spent much time travelling in the Middle East. He will be giving a talk at Cley Village Hall next week:

Travels in the Middle East
 Wildlife, history and culture
(Covering Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Socotra and Turkey)
Cley Village Hall, Wednesday 18th of September 7.30pm
Tickets £5 at door in aid of Cley Village Hall

On Saturday, 22 Little Egrets were seen in Blakeney Harbour. Small numbers are seen most days, but it is rare to see so many together in the harbour. The first time a Little Egret was seen on Blakeney Point was 24 years ago in 1989.
Little Egret in the harbour (Graham Lubbock)

On Wednesday the first Snow Buntings of the autumn were seen, these beautiful little birds can often be seen at Granborough Hill car park, Salthouse later in the year. On Thursday a juvenile Great Spotted Woodpecker was spotted in the Plantation. These are rare on the Point with less than 15 sightings. They are essentially a sedentary species and so ones on the Point are more than likely continental immigrants. It was a pleasure to see -and hear- as it hammered away on the Sycamore. Another unexpected find was a dead Storm Petrel on the beach.

Snow Bunting

Yet another unexpected sighting was made this morning. We flushed a Buzzard from the Suaeda on Far Point, where it had been feasting on a Redshank.

As I type, the wind outside is howling and the rain is hammering on the Lifeboat House windows. Before the weather closed in, we undertook a low tide seal count: 903 Grey and 205 Common. Grey Seal numbers are building and in the second half of October they will start to pup. During the pupping season there will be reduced access on the Point to reduce disturbance to pupping seals and danger to visitors.

In other news, I have just been appointed as the new permanent Coastal Ranger. I am delighted to be a permanent member of the Norfolk Coast National Trust family and look forward to working at Blakeney through the changing seasons.

- Ajay Tegala (Coastal Ranger)

Sunday, 8 September 2013

8th of September: Autumn in the air

Suddenly we're a week into September. There is a definite feeling of the beginnings of autumn on Blakeney Point. On Friday the first Robins of the autumn were seen. At the same time, summer doesn't seem to be completely over and the sun keeps on shining. The second brood of Swallows in the Tern Hide have just fledged and there are five chicks on the side of the Old Lifeboat House which are almost ready to leave the nest. Over the past few weeks Hobby sightings have been frequent.
Hobby (Joe Cockram)

Numbers of widlfowl are increasing in the harbour and lots of waders can be seen...
Sanderling (Joe Cockram)

There are still plenty of butterflies around, with Small Tortoiseshells being particularly numerous, along with Small Whites, Graylings and even the occasional Clouded Yellow.
Small Tortoiseshell (Joe Cockram)

There have been a few autumn migrants since we last blogged, mostly Whinchats, Wheatears and Willow Warblers (the three Ws) with a few Common and Lesser Whitethroats, Pied and Spotted Flycatchers, Common Redstarts and the occasional Sedge Warbler.
Wheatear (Joe Cockram)

The most notable bird sighting was the Western Bonelli's Warbler on Friday evening, as our Twitter followers will already know. This was seen and heard in a bramble bush east of Great Sandy Low and looked like it was going to spend the night there. Alas, the next morning there was no sign of it.

It is always worth looking out to sea. Occasionally Harbour Porpoises can be seen. Two were spotted from the Point on Friday.

- Ajay with thanks to Joe Cockram (Seasonal Ranger in 2010 and 2012) for his photographs