Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Morston Bridge Update: 29 April

Since my last update we have installed signage to explain the project to visitors and we have moved the geotextile matting over the muddy area close to Bridge 3. The geotextile has worked well as the impact on the marsh has been minimal.

By the end of this week the temporary bridge crossing at Bridge 2 will be complete. This approach has been taken to provide a safe working platform not affected by tides and that will enable access and egress from Bridge 4. This also means that works can continue regardless of the state of the tide.

The pontoons for Bridge 4 were due to be moved at the end of April but has been deferred due to predicted strong winds. This is planned to be completed by 16 May.

Piling at Bridge 2 will commence next week with the bridge being completed and subsequently the scaffold bridge being removed in early June.

Later this week we will be improving the path between Bridge 1 and where the geotextile starts that leads to the scaffold bridge. We are planning on placing shingle between a wooden edge to keep it out of the mud. 

Sunday, 27 April 2014

27th of April: Return of the terns

We are delighted to announce that all four of our breeding tern species are now present on Blakeney Point, with the first Little, Arctic and Common all arriving this week. Tonight there were eight pairs of Arctic Terns on Far Point.
 Arctic Terns over Far Point this evening

Little Tern fencing has once again been put up in the two usual places, either side of the Watch House, on the shingle ridge. In addition to this, two extra areas of fencing have been provided to help Little Terns and Ringed Plovers, the latter having declined dramatically in recent years.
 Ringed Plover pair inside a newly fenced area

This weekend, the Meadow Pipit eggs behind our shed hatched...
Migration has been evident. On Thursday a Wryneck appeared near the Watch House and was photographed by Richard Porter:

Other arrivals include an impressive spring count of 50 Wheatears on Saturday along with the odd Whinchat, a few Redstarts, Blackcaps and Whitethroats. As well as birds arriving, other birds have been departing: Song Thrushes, Robins and Fieldfares. Flocks of Curlews are heading north while, as are their smaller cousins, the Whimbrel.

Fish of the week: the Dogfish. These small sharks are regularly found washed up on the Point, but this one was in particularly fresh condition. They are sometimes sold in fish n' chip shops under the name of Rock Salmon - you may even have eaten one!

Invertebrate news: New species of caterpillar continue to emerge. Amongst them are these Brown-tail moths. Large numbers can be found in webs on bushes. They are in fact considered a health hazard as their fine hairs are an irritant.

A number of Blakeney Point's plant species are in bloom. These include the bright, white Sea Campion...

the delicate, blue Heath Dog-violet....

and the pink pom-pom-like flowers of Thrift...

- Ajay, Paul and Sarah,
the Blakeney Point Rangers

Sunday, 20 April 2014

20th of April: Eggs for Easter

This weekend on Blakeney Point, the Black-headed Gulls have started laying their eggs. The eggs are olive green with black specks and are laid in very lazy attempts at nests; a few strands of vegetation arranged in a circular shape.
 Black-headed Gulls sat on the water at high tide

Amongst the Black-headed Gulls are a pair of Lesser Black-backed Gulls, which we presume will go on to breed here.

Too many large gulls can spell bad news for our Sandwich Terns, as they are notorious egg and chick thieves. They like to perch on our signs where they can survey the colony in search of supper.

To help the terns, anti-perching devices have been installed. These sound very high tech, but in fact consist of nothing more than a plastic bottle. We have been busy Blue Peter style, modifying a range of drinks bottles.

Sandwich Terns continue to build in numbers, with around 5,000 now roosting on Far Point.
Sandwich Terns roosting undisturbed

It's not all good news. The Mallard's nest we found in March has since been abandoned. However, had the chicks hatched, they would have faced the gauntlet of getting to safety without being eaten by the numerous gulls nesting around them. Hopefully they have laid a second clutch in a wiser location.

The Pied Wagtail nest on the side of the shed now has five eggs in it. They have not been put off by the change of colour: Lifeboat House blue.

This evening another Meadow Pipit nest was found, this one beside the boardwalk. We urge visitors not to stray from the main paths in order to protect the nests of Meadow Pipits and other passerines breeding in the dunes.

To read a nice piece about Blakeney Point's breeding birds, check out the East of England National Trust blog.
Visitors on the seal ferries continue to enjoy excellent views, this is by far the best way to see the seals. For walkers heading up the Point from Cley, make sure you visit at low tide to avoid disappointment and please obey all on-site signage.

 Sarah and Paul digging in signs

In invertebrate news: today we saw a freshly emerged Ruby Tiger moth. There have also been a few fresh Small Copper butterflies on the wing. Today has proved to be the best day for bird migration so far, producing a male Blackcap, four Willow Warblers, a Chiffchaff, two Tree Pipits, a Song Thrush, a female Blackbird and a Starling.

In fish news: this Thornback Ray washed up on the beach earlier in the week:
These rays are common in UK coastal waters, but are seldom seen on Blakeney Point itself.

And finally, the answer to last week's "guess the legs" quiz....
 the limbs in question used to belong to a Black-tailed Godwit.

- Ajay and Paul, with photos by Sarah
(the Blakeney Point Rangers)  

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Easter Update

Blakeney Freshmarsh

Last week saw the re-opening of the National Trail route between Blakeney and Cley at Blakeney Freshes following post-tidal surge repairs. This work was undertaken in a Partnership between the Environment Agency, Natural England and Norfolk County Council (National Trail). We are really pleased that a route is open for the Easter weekend.

The Environment Agency Halcrow report appraising options for Blakeney Fresh marsh and Brancaster West Marsh is out imminently. Once we have received the information and have any updates, we will post them on here.

We continue to work with the Environment Agency to help manage freshwater water flow onto and off the site to aid flushing of salt and we are monitoring wildlife and salt levels. We have also hosted the University of East Anglia and CEFAS who are helping us to understand impacts to wildlife, plants and soils.

Blakeney Point

The rangers have moved out to Blakeney Point and are based in the Lifeboat House. This year Ajay, Paul and Sarah will be joined by volunteers and University College London researchers to look after the wildlife and share information with the visitors. A count last showed that between 4000-5000 sandwich terns have arrived back in the UK.

Morston Bridges

The temporary bridge is in place and we have laid geotextile associated with fencing to help protect the marsh. The project to replace two long wooden bridges has started and test piles for Bridge 2 which was swept away in the tidal surge has taken place and the piles ordered. Pontoons which will act as the working platform and emergency access have been brought into the creek. The temporary bridge will be in place until Bridge 2 has been completed.

 The geotextile to protect the marsh

Brancaster Beach

Work is currently being undertaken to the sea wall adjacent to the Brancaster beach road to provide a safe foot route to and from the beach, largely outside the reach of the tide ( the road impassable on a 8.1m tide or above). The work is being undertaken as a Partnership between the Environment Agency, Natural England and Norfolk County Council (National Trail).

Following repair works after the tidal surge, the beach toilets are open.

50 things fun

This Easter we are running free fun family events under our ‘50 things to do before you are 11 ¾’ offer. So far this week families have been kite flying, stone skimming, bird watching, bug hunting, crabbing & making wild art at Brancaster Beach and Blakeney. More activities are taking place next week. Please book on 0844 249 1895.

Have fun & stay safe at Easter

We wish everyone visiting the coast a happy Easter and please do remember that whilst beautiful areas, tides can be dangerous. Please do read signage at entrances to beaches and near Pay and Display machines and follow the advice of the RNLI & beach safety. http://rnli.org/safetyandeducation/stayingsafe/beach-safety/Pages/Beach-safety-advice.aspx

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Climate change leaving seabirds with nowhere to tern

One of the UK’s rarest seabirds could become a victim of climate change as rising seas and increased coastal flooding squeezes the UK’s coastline.

Little terns, the UK’s smallest tern species, return each April to breed on beaches at fewer than sixty sites around the UK. Traditional colonies at South Gare on the Tees and Donna Nook in Lincolnshire have already been lost due to changes in our coastline and just one nesting site remains in Wales.

Predictions of increased coastal flooding and sea level rise caused by climate change could spell disaster for these elegant seabirds. This warning comes as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issue their latest reports on climate change [note 2].

Susan Rendell-Read is the RSPB’s little tern project manager “Little terns are very vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. They need undisturbed sand and shingle beaches to nest with a plentiful supply of small fish just offshore. These beaches can be quickly altered by rising seas and floods, making them unsuitable for terns to nest.”

“In the past, the areas lost to flooding or storms would be offset by new areas of sand or shingle thrown up by the sea. This is now being prevented by hard sea defences and other man made developments. The result, known as coastal squeeze, means beaches are getting narrower and the little terns are quickly running out of space.”

“As rising sea levels and storms change our coastline, little terns are forced into fewer and fewer colonies and have to share space with people on some of our most popular beaches, leading to significant problems with disturbance.”

A major new five-year partnership including the RSPB, Natural England and the National Trust [note 3] has been established to help little terns adapt to climate change and secure their future in the UK. This partnership, supported by the EU LIFE + programme will lay the foundations for the long-term recovery of the little tern in the UK by protecting and creating nest sites and increasing public awareness and support.

An important part of the recovery plan is ensuring that the few sites where little terns continue to breed are protected from disturbance [note 4]. The RSPB and its partners are keen to raise awareness amongst local communities and beachgoers to give little terns space to breed safely and in peace.
Victoria Egan manages little tern colonies for the National Trust at Blakeney National Nature Reserve in Norfolk said “local communities and beachgoers have a vital role to play in helping little terns cope with the increasing threat of climate change. These tiny seabirds need space to breed undisturbed so we are urging visitors to these beaches to follow any directions and advice given on local signs on the beach and avoid entering certain areas while the little terns are breeding”.

Susan added “These dainty little seabirds, no heavier than a tennis ball, have just started returning to our shores after travelling thousands of miles from their wintering sites off the south and west coasts of Africa. We need to make sure that they have the best chance of finding a suitable home when they arrive.”
For further information and to arrange an interview, please contact:
Richard James, RSPB media officer: 01767 680551 Out of hours: 07834 534970
Broadcast-quality radio interviews:
To arrange an ISDN broadcast-quality radio interview please contact Richard James at the RSPB press office.
Images are available on request from Richard James at the RSPB press office.
Editor’s notes:
1. The RSPB is the UK’s largest nature conservation charity, inspiring everyone to give nature a home. Together with our partners, we protect threatened birds and wildlife so our towns, coast and countryside will teem with life once again. We play a leading role in BirdLife International, a worldwide partnership of nature conservation organisations.
2. The IPCC 5th Assessment Report Working Group II – Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability was published on March 31st and Working group III – Mitigation on 14th April http://www.ipcc.ch/index.htm.

3. The EU LIFE + Project partners are
·         Cumbria Wildlife Trust 
·         Denbighshire County Council 
·         Durham County Council 
·         Industry Nature Conservation Association 
·         Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust 
·         Northumberland  Coast AONB partnership 
·         Northumberland County Council 
·         Natural England 
·         National Trust 
·         RSPB
·         Spurn Bird Observatory Trust
4. Little terns are listed on Schedule1 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, which makes it illegal to intentionally or recklessly disturb them while nesting.
5. There are approximate 1500 pairs of little terns in the UK. Their population has declined by 9% between 1986 and 2012.
6. The RSPB is part of the Climate Coalition - formerly known as Stop Climate Chaos. The Climate Coalition is the largest group of people dedicated to action on climate change and limiting its impact on the environment and the world’s poorest communities. Our combined supporter base embraces more than 11 million people spanning over 100 organisations across the UK, from environment and development charities to unions, faith, community and women's groups.

Sunday, 13 April 2014

13th of April: Guess the legs

This week on Blakeney Point, some of our song birds have been busily making their nests. As viewers of our Facebook page will know, a Pied Wagtail has been nesting on the side of our shed:

Whilst checking on the wagtail nest, a Meadow Pipit flushed from amongst the Marram on the dune opposite. A brief search revealed a nest containing five eggs. No doubt there will be several other Meadow Pipit nests hidden in the grass, so we ask visitors to be careful where they walk and stick to the boardwalk and well-worn paths.
Meadow Pipit (M. Perrow)

After finding a Herald moth on Tuesday, we decided to run a Robinson moth trap overnight to see what other moths were about. Amongst the five species were...
 a Purple Thorn, which rests with its wings open and half-raised

... and a Shoulder Stripe.

On the wing in the daytime, have been a few male Emperor moths. In addition to the moths, Paul stumbled upon a cacoon:

Today over a hundred Swallows flew west over the Point, along with five Sand Martins. Winter raptors are still gracing the dunes; Merlin, Peregrine and Hen Harrier have all been seen in the last few days.

Our fortnightly low tide seal count recorded 779 Grey and 62 Common.

And our most recent Sandwich Tern roost count totaled around 3,000 birds.

And just for fun, it's time for "guess the legs"! These were found on the beach. Do you know what species of bird they belong to?
The answer will be revealed in our next blog post.

-Ajay, Paul and Sarah
(Blakeney Point Rangers)

Friday, 11 April 2014

Shifting Shores

Today the National Trust released a report entitled Shifting Shores
The report examines the need for the UK to have a clear adaptation strategy for the future of the UK coastline to help us live with the changes due to extreme weather & climate change.

The tidal surge on the East Coast of England on December 5th 2013  resulted in water levels higher than the 1953 tidal surge. Thankfully no lives were lost but our coastal communities have suffered significant impact.

To plan for the future, we need to consider how we can adapt to extreme weather and rising sea levels to increase our resilience.

We strongly support collaborative working, with communities living on the coast, landowners, Government agencies and local and central Government. We all need to work together to find solutions.

 Blakeney Freshmarsh after the sea walls were compromised

In Blakeney we worked closely with the Environment Agency after the surge hit to help look for ways to evacuate saltwater off the freshes and to mitigate damage to grazing land owned by us and other landowners and the wildlife that lives there.

We are now engaged with the Environment Agency in looking at possible solutions to continue to deliver functioning habitat, amenity benefits and future landuse of Blakeney freshes.

The Shifting Shores publication (link at top of page) contains a short case-study and link to a video about Blakeney Freshes. 

Victoria Egan
Countryside Manager