Sunday, 27 July 2014

27th of July: Sun, sand and seals

We are now well into the second half of July, but a pair of Swallows have been busily building a second nest under the Old Lifeboat House roof on Blakeney Point. A fourth egg was laid today. Hopefully the chicks will hatch in around two weeks' time.
Paul and myself using a mirror on a stick to see how many eggs are in the nest.
This is part of our nest monitoring work.

A number of moths and butterflies can be seen amongst the dunes in the daytime. These include the occasional Forester, these beautiful iridescent moths have a wingspan of 25-30mm.

Sarah stumbled upon this Nutmeg moth on a piece of wood.

Silver Y moths are present in their dozens and can be seen on Sea-lavender and Sea Holly.

Bird sightings this week have included a Yellow Wagtail or two most days, a couple of Greenshanks on the 21st, a Green Sandpiper on the 23rd, regular Arctic Skuas and Whimbrel, 30 Sand Martins moving through yesterday and 24 Spoonbills in the harbour on the 22nd.

Dunlin on the shingle ridge

It has been lovely to see visitors enjoying Blakeney Point in the sunshine. We are always happy to talk about the wildlife and wondrous changing landscape of the Point, so do come and speak to us if you see us around. We would also like to remind people to please obey the dog restrictions and keep them on leads in areas where they are permitted, we still have a number of small chicks around and a few birds are still incubating eggs. It has been a challenging season for our Little Terns, so please keep away from fenced enclosures. Also, to prevent disturbance to birds please do not fly kites, and to prevent damage to the vegetation please do not light fires.

There are a number of Common and Sandwich Tern chicks on the tip of the Point. Several are capable of full flight, and a number of these have been fitted with blue colour-rings as part of a joint project with the British Trust for Ornithology to learn more about their movements and migration. Ian Ward recently came to one of our events and managed to photograph one of our ringed chicks on Far Point from a seal ferry:
If you see a colour-ringed bird, please report it to

Our latest low tide seal count (25th of July) recorded 801 Grey and 40 Common.
This summer, there have been a number of occasions when dogs off leads on the West Sands have chased all of the seals into the water. Seals need to rest to digest their food and heal wounds. Although the National Trust does not own the West Sands, we urge people to be respectful of wildlife.

For those that couldn't find the Little Tern chick pictured in last week's blog, it's circled below:

And finally, the answer to last week's guess the legs quiz...
They were the legs of a Gannet, which had sadly washed up dead on the shingle ridge. Our nearest breeding Gannets are at Bempton Cliff in Yorkshire, about 115 miles north along the coast. Many are seen flying out to sea from the Point.

- Ajay (Ranger)
A moody scene on the Point last night

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Morston bridges update

Morston Bridges

Friday 25 July will see the completion of Bridge 4 and the new viewpoint at Morston and we plan to open it as the new access at 3pm.

The remaining work that will take place this week will involve establishing the ramp leading to Bridge 4 and fitting the final handrails and anti-slip boards and the steps leading off the viewing platform. 

Next week will see a bench being installed on the viewing platform and chestnut paling being erected as part of our ecological mitigation work required by Natural England to allow the vegetation to re-establish on work sites and the area immediately north of the viewing platform. Temporary fence lines will be taken down, matting removed and the digger access track graded. There are also some minor works to go back to on Bridge 2 to relocate some of the bolts which are now sticking proud on the footpath to the ramps.

The temporary pontoon and works access and platform at Bridge 4 has been removed over the high tides last week and using local support. 

We will be present at the viewing platform alongside Dunella on the 12 August between 2-3pm so please do join us for a drink and bit of cake and maybe see some of you on Friday for the opening!

Footpath Repairs

With the bridge project being completed, we are starting to think about repairing the path between the bridges, and the specification and logistics of it. To help our thinking you may spot different types of footpath options being trialled over the summer to see how they fare with lots of foot pressure.

In order for Morston to be business as usual for the summer we are hoping that works can start in the Autumn once schools are back and the main visitor period is over. We will be maintaining access to visitors at all times.

We need to gain certain consents and agreements for the works and will look at the best approach to be undertaken but we have been looking at the logistics of moving large quantities of gravel and materials for footpath repairs.

With the temporary vehicle crossings being in place for the bridge project we have an ideal opportunity for moving the materials, with the temporary pontoon crossing at Bridge 2 and the temporary culverts at Bridge 1 and 3.  We have decided to give ourselves some flexibility and are therefore leaving these in place ready for the Autumn.

We will be in contact again shortly to share our thoughts about the path design and we can talk about this more on the 12th. 

Victoria Egan
Countryside Manager

Sunday, 20 July 2014

20th of July: Sunny weather

The recent sunny weather has brought lots of butterflies - an increase in Graylings, first Gatekeepers and Essex as well as Small Skippers.

 Essex Skipper on Sea Holly

We also had a day when we had a number of migrant hawkers (16th July) - approximately 40 were recorded on the Point.

Sandwich, Common and Little Tern chicks are now on the wing.  Juvenile Sandwich Terns have been seen fishing.  There are also a number of chicks of all species that have yet to take their first flight, such as the Common Tern chick below:

These chicks are still very vulnerable to predation, so please continue to keep your distance from fenced nesting areas.  The dog restrictions (no dogs allowed on the Point except for around the Lifeboat House if on a lead) are still in place until mid-August for this reason. 

Little Tern chick hatched yesterday (photographed under licence)

Spot the chick (click to enlarge)

We're happy to see our breeding birds feeding well.  Terns are enjoying good fishing close to the colony, with feeding 'frenzies' most days.  Black Headed Gulls are feasting on a recent spate of  freshly hatching insects (often referred to simply as a 'hatch') giving both adults and juveniles an abundance of food. 

'Mini' hatch with gulls gathering to feed

In migrant bird news, Starlings have regularly been present in strong numbers over the past couple of weeks, with over 200 seen today in different groups.  We have been enjoying the company of a Black Redstart that appears to have taken a liking to the Lifeboat House and garden area, as it has been around for just under a fortnight with only a couple of days where it was not sighted.  Arctic Skuas are now regularly being seen harassing terns for their fish, as they survive by stealing fish from other birds (known as kleptoparasitism).  They are amazing birds to watch on the wing, very acrobatic, and apparently were the inspiration behind the British Fleet Air Arm’s first naval dive-bomber, the Blackburn Skua (see

Our latest low-tide seal count on 13th July gave 449 Grey Seals and 38 Common Seals hauled out on the sands.

And to finish with, our latest guess the legs:

Sarah (Seasonal Ranger)

Sunday, 6 July 2014

6th of July: Lucky ducky

This morning as we went out on patrol, we came across five abandoned Shelduck ducklings, huddled together and shivering in the wet grass not far from the Lifeboat house.

After a  brief debate a rescue was decided upon, Ajay was like a pied piper figure as he led the ducklings back to the Lifeboat house.

Once here we found a cardboard box which we lined with cotton wool and towels as well as a toastie warm hot water bottle.

An internet search revealed that we did not have what was required to brood these fluffy humbugs, so the RSPCA were called. We then put the ducklings on a Temple's seal ferry where they were taken away to Morston, to be collected and sent to East Winch animal hospital.

Five Fluffy Humbugs
Five shivering ducklings sat in the dune
Need to do something, need to do soon
Led them away to a nice cosy home
Warm and safe, where no dangers roam
Happy ducklings now whistle a content tune
Safety at East Winch awaits them all soon

On the 29th of June, a low tide count revealed 865 Grey and 26 Common seals hauled out around the Point and West Sands.

On the 5th of July, we saw the first fully fledged Sandwich Tern of the season flying over the Gap giving its distinctive call. A full chick count will take place soon.

Return migration has begun, with Whimbrels being seen and heard, for the last few days and a couple of young Yellow Wagtails, and two drake Eiders in eclipse plumage off the tip of Far Point. 

Moths and Butterflies
Tis national moth week this week, and to celebrate we ran a moth trap on the 4th of July, which caught a few impressive species, amongst them were the giant of our native moths, the Privet Hawkmoth, plus Garden Tiger, Ruby Tiger, Oak Egger, Drinker and my favourite the Buff-tip, a master of camouflage, looking exactly like a broken branch of a Silver birch tree. See our facebook page for moth photos.

Grayling butterflies  - a dune specialist - are now on the wing, and can be seen feeding on Sea Lavender and other flowers among the dunes. Their mottled plumage makes them hard to see at rest, but they soon become visible when taking flight.

There is much to be seen and heard, you just got to remember to look and listen.

- Paul