Sunday, 12 April 2015

12th of April: Wardens from days gone by

Currently on Blakeney Point, the rain is lashing down and it's blowing a hoolie. In strong winds, birds often face the wind rather than get hit side-on and get their feathers ruffled. Here the Black-headed Gulls in the colony are facing the wind...

Amongst these harsh conditions, a small clump of delicate Wild Pansies Viola tricolor are in flower in the dunes:

Although introduced, there are a small number of daffodils on the Point:

Earlier in the week, when the weather was much more pleasant, the first moth and butterfly sightings of the year were made on the Point. With a Herald moth heralding spring on Monday (see image below, this was also the first moth species we found last year too), Small Tortoiseshell on Tuesday and Peacocks on Wednesday.

The first Swallows were seen flying west over the Point on Monday, with the odd Sand Martin too. Other migrant birds this week included a Short-eared Owl, female Goosander, Fieldfare and plenty of Chiffchaffs and Wheatears. The exaltation of Shorelarks is still frequenting Beach Way, albeit with numbers having sadly dropped from eight to seven.

Sandwich Terns are steadily arriving. Reaching a roost count of c.600 on Friday evening.

In mammal news, after two years, the lone rabbit is still living near the Lifeboat House. A couple of decades ago, rabbits were present on the Point in their hundreds but were completely wiped out by myxomatosis. As a consequence, the diversity of dune flora has increased allowing invertebrate life to also increase. This individual rabbit was first spotted in summer 2013 and managed to survive the tidal surge.

What do you do in the evenings?
Just as musicians often get asked "what do you do in the daytime?", Blakeney Point rangers get asked "what do you do in the evenings"... Well, I spent last night painting Little Tern decoys!

The plan is to use these decoys, combined with tape lures, to attract Little Terns to safe areas to breed. We are licenced by Natural England to do this. The reason we are trying this is because last year 60 nests were flooded by spring tides in June, due to birds laying in a low area of beach, which just filled with water (see below):

Rather than moving nests and causing disturbance. We are trying to be proactive and attracting them to suitable areas in the first place. "Why bother?" you may ask. Well, Little Terns are a rare and declining species, with limited available habitat. As partners in an RSPB-led EU Life project, we are committed to increasing their breeding success as well as trying to learn more about them. And, of course, we are legally obliged to protect them, as they are a Schedule 1 species. You can help by staying away from fencelines and obeying the seasonal dog restrictions. Your cooperation is much appreciated.

Seasonal assistants
Having spent more than two weeks alone on the Point. I am looking forward to the arrival of this year's seasonal assistants at the end of this week (I hope they are looking forward to starting despite the lack of running water!). Although, I have managed to get a lot of things ticked off the job list...

I am pleased to be joined once again by Paul Nichols. This will be Paul's ninth season on the Point, making him the second longest serving assistant, after Reginald Gaze who did numerous summers in the early days.
Reginald Gaze with Billy Eales in the 1930s 

We are delighted to be joined by Sarah Johnson, who is returning for a second season. This year we are also very pleased to welcome our newest recruit to the team, Josh Barber. No stranger, Josh filled in for two months (February and March 2013) between Eddie leaving and me starting. Josh also spent the winter filling in at Heigham Holmes and also works for the National Trust at nearby Sheringham and Felbrigg.
Josh helping Paul and Graham in 2013

Over the past couple of years, I put together this list of Blakeney Point Wardens from days gone by:
Summer Lead Assistants Assistant Assistant
1901-29 Bob Pinchen (none)
1930 Bob Pinchen Billy Eales
1931-38 Billy Eales Reginald Gaze Ted Eales
1946-c61 Ted Eales Reginald Gaze
c1967-69 Ted Eales ? ? John Bean (winter)
1970-73 Ted Eales Paul Cobb ( John Bean (winter)
1974Ted EalesMike Bennett(two did moonlight flit)John Bean (winter)
1977 Ted Eales Alec Osborne Mike Rawling John Bean (winter)
1978 Ted Eales Alan Davies Steven John Bean (winter)
1979 Ted Eales Chris Parker David Wilby John Bean (winter)
1980 John Green Chris Parker Marc Jones
1981 Ronald Pimm Andrew Stocker (succession of five)
1982 Joe Reed Andrew Stocker Christopher Pryor
1983 Joe Reed Glenn Webb Laurie Allan
1984 Joe Reed Glenn Webb Graham Lubbock
1985 Joe Reed Glenn Webb Graham Lubbock
1986 Joe Reed David Sharrod David Mills Helen Smith
1987 Joe Reed Richard Gilbert David Mills Victoria Johnson
1988 Joe Reed Richard Gilbert John Walton James Sellwood
1989 Joe Reed Richard Gilbert Mark Driscoll Juliet Grace
1990 Joe Reed Richard Gilbert Gareth Eggar Clare Robinson
1991 Joe Reed Richard Gilbert? Bradley Robson Victoria Stares
1992 Joe Reed Richard Gilbert Dougal McNeil Rachel Tuck
1993 Joe Reed Martin Williams Dougal McNeil Rachel Tuck
1994 Joe Reed Martin Williams James McCallum John Riley
1995 Joe Reed Richard Gilbert James McCallum Martin Williams
1996 Joe Reed Nick Hammond Andrew Hayman Mark Warren
1997 Joe Reed Saul Brown Andrew Hayman Stefan McElwee
1998 Joe Reed Paul Leatherland David Pile Robert Mortley
1999 Joe Reed Paul Leatherland James McCallum Hannah Leveridge
2000 Joe Reed Dave Wood Tracey Cooper Robert Mortley
2001 Joe Reed Dave Wood Henry Walker Mark Cornish
2002 Dave Wood Graham Collins Niall Mugan
2003 Dave Wood Aaron Boughtflower James McCallum
2004 Dave Wood Aaron Boughtflower James Squires
2005 Dave Wood Lucy Browne Chris Le-Clare
2006 Dave Wood Eddie Stubbings Andy Cristinacce James McCallum/Lucy Browne
2007 Eddie Stubbings Paul Nichols Andy Cristinacce Aaron/Lucy/Ollie Moore
2008 Eddie Stubbings Paul Nichols Jason Moss
2009 Eddie Stubbings Paul Nichols Richard Berridge Ajay Tegala
2010 Eddie Stubbings Paul Nichols Joe Cockram Ajay Tegala
2011 Eddie Stubbings Paul Nichols Becky Pitman
2012 Eddie Stubbings Paul Nichols Joe Cockram Ajay Tegala
2013 Ajay Tegala Paul Nichols Matt Twydell
2014 Ajay Tegala Paul Nichols Sarah Johnson Josh Herron
2015 Ajay Tegala Paul Nichols Sarah Johnson Josh Barber

Above: Left: Ted Eales; Right: Richard Gilbert, c. 1988 (now works at Dunwich for the Trust)
Below: Left: Joe Reed ringing a Black-headed Gull chick in the 1980s; Right: the 2011 team

If anyone can fill any of the gaps in the table, then please do get in touch. We are always interested to hear from past members of staff, their memories and any pictures they may like to share.
 Bob Pinchen with students in the 1920s (thanks to UCL)

- Ajay (Coastal Ranger)


  1. 1979 Dave Wilby i was the seasonal and work with Ted. He called us nimshe

  2. Replies
    1. Thanks for getting touch, David - what was it like working on the Point in 1979?

    2. Have just found out that I'm related to Bob Pinchen your first ever warden on !! no wonder i love the North Norfolk coast and the bird life so much

    3. That's amazing Dave! Thanks for letting us know. Nice to know some of Pinchen's descendants are still enjoying the Norfolk Coast and bird life.