Sunday, 18 May 2014

18th of May: 5,072 sandwiches don't quite make a picnic

It's that time of the year again...

This weekend we conducted part one of our annual Sandwich Tern nest count. This is the fourth year that Paul's ingenious idea of using pasta to count nests has come into play. As Sandwich Terns nest so closely together (see photograph below), marking each one is the quickest and easiest way to count them. Counts are done as briskly, but carefully, as possible, at low tide on warm days to ensure minimal disturbance to incubating birds.

This year, some 71 Sandwich Terns are nesting on the shingly tip of Middle Point, this is the first time they have nested in this location.
The tip of Middle Point

A total of 2,536 nests were counted

Sandwich Terns in flight

We will be undertaking a second count in early June, as there is often a later influx of birds at this time.

This year, for the first time ever, we used the pasta method to count Black-headed Gull nests too. Previously we estimated gull numbers visually, putting the number at around 2,000 pairs. The count revealed a total of 2,366 spread across five locations along the Point.
Black-headed Gull nest

The best way to see Blakeney Point's breeding tern and gull colonies is from the seal trips that go from Morston Quay.

Over the past few days, numbers of Little Terns have built up. There are currently at least 75 pairs present on the Point. They will be starting to settle down over the coming week. On Friday we found the first Ringed Plover nest. These delightful, small waders have declined in recent years, so we were saddened to notice that one of the eggs had disappeared overnight - probably taken by either a Common Gull or a nearby nesting Oystercatcher. To help Ringed Plovers, please stay away from our fenced enclosures and respect the dog restrictions.

In other breeding bird news, the six Pied Wagtail chicks in the nest box fledged today.

Migrant bird sightings have been very few this week. However, today there were reports of a Spotted Flycatcher and a Black Tern.

In insect news, the first Brown Argus butterfly was seen today. There are also several Cinnabar moths on the wing, these day-flying moths can be seen amongst the dunes.
 Cinnabar moth

Highlights from last night's moth trap include the classic Elephant Hawkmoth

the beautifully-marked Campion

and the aptly-marked Choclate-tip

This week we had the pleasure of meeting a delightful couple who were visiting Blakeney Point for the first time in 52 years, when they had met as students at the University College London on a botany field course. They were celebrating their golden wedding anniversary.
George and Susan Peterken

-Ajay and Paul,
Blakeney Point Rangers


  1. Stuart Warrington21 May 2014 at 18:33

    George Peterken volunteered on the NT's nature conservation panel (expert group) for many years. He also wrote THE classic book on woodland types and management. Lovely man. Very knowledgeable. Stuart W.

  2. Marvellous stuff and a strong whiff of deja vouz (apart from the odours from the tern colony). We did something similar here a while back :-D

    Hope you have a great season

    Best regards

    Andrew Clarke & David Wright
    North Wales Wildlife Trust
    Cemlyn Bay