Monday, 15 September 2014

Help us tidy up Blakeney Point for the Great British Beach Clean

The recent high tides have washed up a lot of litter on Blakeney Point. For the Great British Beach Clean, we are carrying out a litter pick on Saturday. Please come along and help.

 (Click above to enlarge)

Sunday, 14 September 2014

14th of September: A rustling in the bushes

Birdwatching on Blakeney Point at this time of year can be an absolute delight. Amongst the brambles and Suaeda bushes, migrant birds can often be found. This week has produced Redstarts, Whinchats, Wheatears, Song Thrushes, Willow and Garden Warblers, Whitethroats, Chiffchaffs, Goldcrests, Pied and Spotted Flycatchers. Also, the first Blackcap, Redwing and Brambling of the autumn have been seen this weekend.

Yesterday morning, I investigated a rustling in the brambles. Expecting a Song Thrush, I was slightly surprised to see a Sparrowhawk shoot out. A lucky Linnet also flew out. This morning, there was an even bigger surprise; a Hoopoe. These distinctive birds are a stunning sight and have only been recorded on the Point on little over a dozen occasions.

Two other notable rarities turned up at the Hood on Thursday: a Greenish Warbler and a Red-breasted Flycatcher. The latter was particularly showy...

Red-breasted Flycatcher at the Hood (Richard Porter)

Long-tailed Skua this morning (Richard Porter)

Monday saw the first Pink-footed Geese of the autumn, when 31 flew over. A low tide seal count on the same day recorded 729 Grey and 27 Common (of which 10 were pups). Numbers of ducks are also swelling, with the arrival of Teal and Wigeon. On Thursday 170 Pintail flew west over the Point. Thursday also produced a Jack Snipe and a movement of Brent Geese was noted. Amongst the dunes, three coveys of Grey Partridges can regularly be seen, the largest consisting of seven birds.

This Thursday also brought the biggest tides of the year. The water almost tickled the steps to the Lifeboat House...

It was a still morning. Had the wind been from the north, then it would have pushed the tide higher. In this photo, Graham can be seen walking the tideline left by the December surge, when onshore wind certainly did push the tide much higher...

Great Sandy Low is still holding a lot of water left behind by this week's tides

The Wood Pigeon nest, that appeared in the Tamarisk at the end of August, has sadly been abandoned. This wasn't surprising as it was in quite an exposed location. Wood Pigeons always seem to turn up late in the season on the Point and behave rather oddly - last year a bird sat on a nest for two months without laying an egg!
Abandoned eggs (Sarah Johnson)

The breeding bird season is therefore now officially over. So here is a summary of the birds that bred - or attempted to breed - on Blakeney Point in 2014:

    Shelduck - 68 pairs (up on last year)
    Gadwall - 5 pairs
    Shoveler - 1 pair
    Mallard - 4 pairs
    Red-legged Partridge - 1 pair
    Grey Partridge - 7 pairs
    Pheasant - 1 pair
    Oystercatcher - 85 pairs (down on last year)
    Avocet - 13 pairs (up on last year)
    Lapwing - 1 pair - breeding unconfirmed (bred once, 1961)
    Ringed Plover - 11 pairs
    Redshank - 16 pairs
    Black-headed Gull - 2,419 pairs
    Mediterranean Gull - 8 pairs
    Herring Gull - 3 pairs
    Lesser Black-backed Gull - 1 pair
    Little Tern - 110 pairs
    Sandwich Tern - 2,859 pairs (down on last year)
    Common Tern - 87 pairs (up on last year)
    Arctic Tern - 4 pairs
    Wood Pigeon - 1 pair
    Skylark - 39 pairs (up on last year)
    Swallow - 2 pairs (down on last year)
    Meadow Pipit - 102 pairs
    Pied Wagtail - 1 pair
    Wren - 4 pairs (down on last year)
    Dunnock - 11 pairs
    Wheatear - 2 territories held in spring - did not breed (last bred 1936)
    Sedge Warbler - 1 singing male - breeding unconfirmed
    Linnet - 45 pairs (up on last year)
    Reed Bunting - 27 pairs (up on last year)

We have had a pleasing number of sightings of juvenile Sandwich Terns ringed on the Point this summer:

"On the 25th of July, three birds were seen 46km WNW at Gibraltar Point, Lincolnshire. On the 31st, two were seen 517km NNW at the Ythan Estuary, Aberdeenshire, one of which was seen 99km S at Port Seton, East Lothian on the 14th of August and then 178 km N at Findhorn, Moray on the 31st. Another four birds were seen at Findhorn between the 8th and 31st of August. One bird was seen 402km SW at Dawlish Warren, Devon from the 29th of August to 1st of September. Another bird was seen 392km S at Le Harve, France on the 14th of August and one 230km SE at Westkapelle, Netherlands on the 29th."

'KZX' was seen at Le Harve (Ian Ward)

This map shows all ringing recovery locations to date:
We also found out this week that two of the 'Shelducklings' we rescued and sent to the RSPCA in July have been released at King's Lynn Point. Fingers crossed they will return to Blakeney and breed in the future.

In invertebrate news. A fair few Red Admirals are still around. Some have been feeding on Sea Aster...
Watch House (Richard Porter)

In other news, we are delighted to have now had over 100,000 page-views since Eddie and I launched the blog just over two years ago. A big thank you to all who follow our blog and support our nature conservation work.

- Ajay (Coastal Ranger)

Sunday, 7 September 2014

7th of September: Misty mornings and migrant birds

There’s been a real touch of autumn in the air this week with some beautiful, cool, misty mornings and shorter evenings, with almost summery days in between.

The change in weather has meant there’s been more activity in the Plantation and we’ve been seeing quite a few migratory birds on the Point in general, including some that we might usually expect later in the season - Robin and Goldcrest (both first seen today).  Birds seen this week include Whinchat, Wheatear, Wryneck, Song Thrush (first of autumn), Willow Warbler, Garden Warbler, Grasshopper Warbler, Lesser Whitethroat, Spotted Flycatcher, Pied Flycatcher and Common Redstart.  One of the highlights this week was an Ortolan Bunting, which was spotted near the Hood.  This is a nocturnal migrant that winters in Africa, and is quite shy so we were lucky to get a glimpse.
Ortolan Bunting – not the best photo but gives an idea of the bird and bright eye ring
Pied flycatcher on the toilet block

In terms of botany, there are still some beautiful flowers in bloom at the moment, including the Yellow Horned-poppy that appears to be recovering well on the shingle ridge post-tidal surge, and well-established clumps of Sea Rocket. The Suaeda is still changing colour and around Pinchen’s Creek the dominant hue is increasingly autumnal.

Sea Rocket

Yellow Horned-poppy

Around Pinchen's Creek

In invertebrate news, there have been some large numbers of Red Admirals in off the sea, with very bright, fresh looking wings. This week we also ran another moth trap (after which we admired the stunning moon with Saturn just beside it through the scopes).  We had a more successful night than the last time we ran a trap due to better conditions.  Some of the species in the trap were Flounced Rustic, Coast Dart, Square-spot Rustic, Pale Eggar, Flame Shoulder, White Point and Blood Vein (below).

As a final note, we are currently in the process of updating our web-site information about Blakeney Point and more detailed information is being added about plants, birds, seals etc. So please do take a look if you are trying to id something – you may find some helpful information there – and let us know what you think.