Sunday, 31 August 2014

31st of August: The coming of Autumn

The warmth of summer days lingers on, but cooler dawns and dusks remind us that Autumn is just round the corner, other signs of this include the changing vista of the saltmarsh, gone are the bright and vibrant greens, and instead we have deep purples and crimsons of Suaeda and Glasswort.

Although Autumn is on its way, a Wood Pigeon is building a nest in the Tamarisk behind the Lab, a bit optimistic we feel.

The Yukka, or Spanish dagger (so-called due to its sharp blade-like leaves), is once again showing off its fine flower spikes...
 It was planted over a hundred years ago.
This painting was made of it in 1927:

Insects of the week 
Butterflies on the wing lately include Small Copper, Painted Lady, Red Admiral and Small Tortoiseshell. While moths on show include a few Silver Y, and today a superb Red Underwing, which was found nectaring on Sea Aster near the Long Hills. A few Dragonflies can still be seen or heard clattering from bushes as you walk by, like Migrant Hawkers and  Ruddy Darters.
Red Underwing on Sea Aster

Migrant birds of the week
Migrant passerines finding their way onto the Point this week were four Wrynecks on the 26th, the supporting cast included a smattering of Pied and Spotted Flycatchers, as well as Redstarts, Whinchats, Stonechats, Wheatears and Willow Warblers.

 An obliging Dunlin on the saltmarsh

Mammals of the week
Common Shrew feeding near the back steps of the Lifeboat House, Pipistrelle bat in the same area, and - rather unexpectedly - a dead Mink washed up on Far Point, as well as the usual seals and Brown Hares.

Mink - a first for the Point

Brown Hare in the dunes

- Paul (with photographs by Sarah and Ajay)

Sunday, 24 August 2014

24th of August: Into the water

This Wednesday, we were alerted by the ferrymen that a flare had been let off near the wreck marker. Attending the scene immediately, a man on a dory was spotted. The engine had flooded and the boat was on its side, the man clinging to the railings. The large, choppy waves luckily pushed the boat ashore and we were able to help anchor the boat and take the man, Jamie, to the Lifeboat House for a cup of tea. The coastguards were also involved, attending the scene promptly.

With choppy seas continuing for the rest of the week, it became clear that launching the boat at high tide was too risky. Instead, some rollers were borrowed to try and get the boat down to the water at low tide.

At first, it was a struggle to lift the boat onto the rollers. But eventually, with the aid of some blocks, we got the boat moving.
Using the quad to toe it, we slowly moved it towards the water, collecting the rollers from the back and moving them to the front to keep it moving towards the water.
Jamie and Mark (the owner) were then able to walk the boat around to the channel where they were then toed back to Morston.

At the start of the week, the last Common Tern chick of the season fledged. This was the only tern chick left on the Point and we were delighted to see it taking flight.
 Common Terns with chick earlier in the season

The Swallow chicks under the Old Lifeboat House roof were not so lucky. A week after hatching, the parents sadly abandoned, the urge to migrate taking over. The weather was very autumnal this week, perhaps causing the adults to leave. This was their second clutch, so at least they had fledged five chicks earlier on in the summer.

The only active nest currently on the Point is that of a Wood Pigeon, in the garden. Whilst rummaging amongst the brambles to inspect the nest, a number of Large White butterfly larvae were noted. One took a liking to our National Trust clothing and clung on.
This week's moth trap produced several Large Yellow Underwings, Straw Underwings and Archer's Darts.

In migrant bird news, the first Whinchat, Willow Warblers and Garden Warblers of the autumn were seen on the Point this week.

Our latest low tide seal count of the West Sands was conducted on the Friday. There were 24 Common Seals and this season's highest count of Greys so far, an impressive 1,058.

- Ajay and Paul
(photography by Sarah)

Sunday, 17 August 2014

17th of August: Fences down

The 2014 breeding bird season is coming to an end on Blakeney Point, with many of our terns already many miles away.
Terns at Blakeney (Ian Ward)

The seasonal dog ban has been lifted and dog walkers are now welcome all of the way up the Point. All dogs should still be kept on leads, this helps to prevent disturbance to Norfolk's best loved waders that roost on the shoreline - Curlews and Oystercatchers.

With all Little Terns now fledged, the fenced enclosures on the shingle ridge have been taken down. The very tip of the Point remains fenced throughout the year to protect seals.

Signs and stakes ready to be stored away for the winter

Over the next few days we will be taking down the remaining fence-lines on the headland and getting stuck into report writing. It isn't all over yet, however. We have a nest of day-old Swallow chicks in the Old Lifeboat House roof, being busily fed by their parents so that they can grow strong ready for their migration to Africa in just a few week's time. There is also still a clutch of Common Tern chicks on the very tip of the Point, which are yet to take their first flight.

Small numbers of Wheatears are being seen on their return migration, and on Monday a Common Whitethroat appeared in the garden. Other bird sightings this week included several Whimbrels, a couple of Hobbies and the occasional Yellow Wagtail.

In other news...
The terns aren't the only birds to have received rings this summer... This year's Seasonal Rangers, Paul and Sarah, who met on the Point, got engaged this week. We wish them all the very best.

- Ajay, Coastal Ranger

Sunday, 10 August 2014

10th of August: Ringing recoveries

This summer on Blakeney Point, the BTO colour-ringed 109 Sandwich Tern chicks. The purpose of ringing these chicks is to learn more about their migration routes. We are delighted to have had some recoveries already...

On the 25th of July, three were seen at Gibraltar Point in Lincolnshire - 46km WNW.

On the 31st of July, two were seen at the Ythan Estuary in northeast Scotland - 519km N.

Sandwich Terns over-winter in West Africa, therefore it is fascinating to learn that these birds have moved north before heading south. The reasons for this are unknown. A couple of ideas we have come up with are:
- they are following food source
- they are looking for potential alternative breeding sites for the future

The heron family comes in many shapes, sizes and colours. Little Egrets are present in the saltmarsh creeks most days. Its bigger relative, the Great White Egret, is an infrequent occurrence at Blakeney, but one did grace the nearby Cley Marshes on the 4th of August and flew west over the Point. Grey Herons, like Little Egrets, are seen fairly frequently. Their purple relatives are much more sporadic. One of these was reported flying west over the Point on the 1st of August. Spoonbills have also been sighted regularly of late, the most recent being two on the 7th.

Our latest low tide seal count recorded 879 Grey and 55 Common hauled out on the West Sands on the 1st of August. We ask walkers on the West Sands to respect their space.

Although our Sandwich Tern chicks have already reached faraway destinations, two Little Tern chicks have only just fledged and are still vulnerable on the beach. There is also a week-old Ringed Plover on the beach. Therefore, the dog restrictions are still in force until these birds are no longer so vulnerable.

 The last two Little Tern chicks, prior to fledging
(photographed under license)

The long spell of sunny weather was brought to an abrupt halt early yesterday morning when 111mm of rain fell in just an hour-and-a-half. Next week's forecast looks to be wet and windy, however it is still worth getting out in the wild to watch the nature around you. You may find you have a whole nature reserve to yourself.

Ajay, Paul and Sarah
Blakeney Point Rangers