Sunday, 15 March 2015

15th of March: Fiery Hills

March is a month of avian anticipation at Blakeney. With some sunny days early in the month, there is a strong feeling that the breeding season and spring migration are about to begin. But patience is needed as things don't just happen overnight. We have been keeping busy as there is lots to prepare before April. An extra thing keeping us busy this week has been clearing up Friary Hills after a fire, which happened last Saturday.

It is believed that somebody deliberately set fire to two areas of gorse. The fire service had to be called to put out the blaze. Two blackened areas were left, which we have now cut and removed. Luckily, part of our management of Friary Hills involves removing gorse anyway, and fortunately no birds had begun nesting in the areas that were burned. A number of birds will be nesting here very soon, including Linnets and Long-tailed Tits.

These photographs were taken the day after the fire:
 Above and below: The eastern end

The western end

This week over on the Point, signs of spring have brought smiles to our faces. On Tuesday, a few hundred Black-headed Gulls returned to their breeding grounds amongst the Suaeda on the tip of Far Point. The return of these chocolate-headed birds signifies the beginning of the breeding seabird season at Blakeney.
Far Point, access is restricted to prevent disturbance

With the Black-headed Gulls back, we eagerly await the first Sandwich Tern, which shouldn't be too long. The first sighting last year was on the 23rd of March. Yesterday, two Mediterranean Gulls were heard amongst the 'Black-heads'. These splendid birds are a pleasure to see, but also have a taste for Sandwich Tern eggs, highlighting that nature is full of conflicts no matter how beautiful the species!

Four pairs of Ringed Plovers have been observed on the shingle ridge.
Male displaying (Richard Porter)

The over-wintering flock of Shorelarks continues to delight those lucky enough to stumble upon them in the Beach Way area...
One of the flock of eight seen regularly (Richard Porter)

Beach Way also hosted the first Wheatears of the spring; two on Friday. Saturday produced a delightfully chirpy Chiffchaff in the Plantation. A quick low tide count of Far Point and the West Sands recorded 32 Grey Seals (approximately 8 bulls and 24 cows).

It won't be too long until myself and the Seasonal Rangers move into the Lifeboat House. But first, we need to fix a leak in the water pipe that runs under the harbour from Morston to the Point. Not only does it supply our drinking water, but also the public toilets. It is not an overstatement to say that repairing a water pipe in Blakeney Harbour is a challenge!
Locating the pipe at Morston

George and I were out on Blakeney Freshes at 5:30am on Thursday to listen for booming Bitterns. Unfortunately none were present, but we were able to watch the Marsh Harriers leaving their roost at Cley/Salthouse and a pair of hunting Barn Owls that seemed to be showing an interest in the owl box where nesting occurs most years.
Looking east at dawn

We will keep you up to date with more wildlife news as the season unfolds.
- Ajay (Coastal Ranger)

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