Saturday, 24 October 2015

25th of October: Sandwich in South Africa

News has just reached us that one of our Sandwich Terns, ringed on Blakeney Point as a chick last summer, has been seen in South Africa. It was seen on the coast of Storms River on Sunday the 18th of October amongst a group of several other Sandwich Terns. The bird was colour-ringed on the Point on the 18th of June 2014 (with the unique code 'KD3') and was seen 51 days later at Findhorn in Scotland on the 8th of August 2014. Fourteen months on and it is a live and well far away in South Africa.
Sandwich Terns on Blakeney Point

Last autumn, a Sandwich Tern ringed on the Point was seen in The Gambia, where it is widely accepted that many of Norfolk's breeding terns spend the winter. It came as a surprise to learn that Norfolk birds have made it so far south.

October is a good time to catch the arrival of migrant thrushes on Blakeney Point. In the second week of the month, dozens of Song Thrushes and Redwings appeared, with he occasional Ring Ouzel amongst them.

Highlights this month so far have included a Great Grey Shrike, Red-breasted Flycatcher (both Thursday 15th) and Long-eared Owl (Friday 16th).
Great Grey Shrike (Richard Porter)

Also in October, we have exceeded 150,000 blog views. We exceeded 100,000 last autumn, meaning there has been an average of almost 4,000 views per month in the last year. Many thanks to all who look at the blog and help us to look after the coast.

Our last seal count was conducted back on the 8th of October, when 102 Common and 572 Greys were counted. Numbers have since dropped to just 5 Common and around 30 Grey, which is a sign that the Grey Seal pupping season is about to begin. They are currently out to sea feeding up prior to coming ashore. Our friends a little further around the Norfolk Coast at Horsey have just had their first pup. Our first pup is expected this coming week. We will announce its arrival on the blog.
Soon there will be hundreds of pups on the Point

From 25 in 2001 to 1,566 in 2013/14 to an incredible 2,426 last winter, the number of pups born at Blakeney is increasing rapidly. Last year we became the largest breeding colony in England.

By mid-November, the western-most mile of Blakeney Point will be occupied by hundreds of pups, their mothers and several territorial bull seals. It is a dangerous place for people and dogs, their own safety at risk as well as the seals'. We thank responsible visitors for respecting access restrictions. We advise that the best way to see the pups is undoubtedly by the seal boat trips that go regularly from Morston Quay. You can book onto our guided boat trips here - but be quick as tickets are selling fast.

- Ajay (Coastal Ranger)

Sunday, 4 October 2015

4th of October: What a load of rubbish

Following our Blakeney Point beach clean in September, local artist Hugh Pilkington has been busily sorting through all 42 bags of rubbish. Here is the three miles worth of litter laid out...
 Thank you to all who helped us clear this rubbish off the beach

We eagerly wait for the final art project to emerge from this impressive collection of litter. It is an interesting representation of how much rubbish has built up over a six-month period. On a related note, volunteer Richard Porter has been collecting discarded fishing tackle on the Point - this is how much he has picked up in the last two years...

Fishing tackle is bad news for seabirds and marine wildlife, from swallowing hooks to getting caught in netting. Every year we see seals caught in netting, and occasionally we are able to successfully free them. In seal news, our latest low tide count recorded a total of 108 Common and 306 Grey on Tuesday (the 29th of September). In other mammalian news, a Harvest Mouse was spotted near the Long Hills on the same day.

This week has certainly not been without its migrant bird sightings. As ducks and geese continue to increase in the harbour, thrushes and warblers are also on the move. Highlights have included three Hen Harriers, a male Stonechat and the first Redwing and Ring Ouzel of the autumn on Monday (28th), a Red-breasted Flycatcher on Tuesday (29th), an Osprey and the first Robins of the autumn on Wednesday (30th), a Jack Snipe on Thursday (1st of October), a male Eider on Friday (2nd), a Little Bunting on Saturday (3rd) plus numerous Yellow-browed Warblers throughout the week.
 Red-breasted Flycatcher (Richard Porter)

 Yellow-browed Warbler in the Plantation (Richard Porter)

The end of September saw the end of the season for Seasonal Assistant Rangers Josh, Sarah and Paul. A big thank you to them for their hard work throughout the season. Their last week was pleasant and sunny, with some big spring tides, as captured in this short film...

I am on leave for much of October, but will be blogging again at the end of the month. By then, we could well be celebrating the first Grey Seal pup of winter 2015/16 (historically, the first pup has been born on the Point between the 26th of October and 1st of November). Always about a month ahead, due to their position further north, our friends the Farnes Islands had their first pup last week.