Monday, 29 June 2015

29th of June: In-seine on the Point

What's gone insane on the Point?  Luckily not the rangers.  Instead it's fish - round two of our investigation into fish availability around the Point in partnership with ECON Ecological Consultancy (including our friend and former Blakeney Point seasonal warden, Joe Cockram).  As before, we used a 50-metre long Seine net to create a loop that was hauled in from the shore where the fish caught were transferred to a large aerated tub whilst crabs were put in another container.  Fish species caught were both Greater and Lesser Sand Eel, Three-spined Stickleback, Sea bass, Flounder, Plaice, Sand Goby and Sand Smelt, along with both Crangon (brown shrimp) and Palaemon shrimps and plenty of shore crabs.  This research is being done to assess the food supply available to Little Terns in particular - something particularly relevant at the moment as food supply appears to be a big problem in parts of Norfolk this year for them.
Hauling in the Seine net in the harbour

Dr. Martin Perrow and Joe Cockram

Hauling in the net in Pinchen's Creek




With a warm night and good cloud cover on 27th June we decided to run another moth trap.  We were rewarded with our best catch so far this season.  Here are the stars of the show:
 Archer's Dart

 Bright-line Brown-eye

 Dark Arches

 Elephant Hawkmoth


 Smoky Wainscot

Tawny Shears

In other news, we have seen the first fledged Common Tern on the West Sands and the first Little Tern chick on Far Point.  Migration, as usual at this time of year, has been quiet with only a Spotted Flycatcher seen in the Plantation and a slow trickle of hirundines and swifts flying west.
First Little Tern chick of 2015 (photographed under license)

- Paul and Sarah

Sunday, 21 June 2015

21st of June: Longest Day

It's the longest day of the year, but by no means the warmest. However, the Point is looking very colourful with many of its characteristic plants in flower.
The iconic Yellow Horned-poppy
(this has been invigorated following shingle submergence as a result of the tidal surge)
The rare and delicate Sea-heath

The distinctive Sea Holly

Over the past two weeks, we have seen an influx of late-arriving Sandwich Terns. Today, a total of 314 new nests were counted on the tip of Far Point alongside Common and Little Terns.
 Sandwich Tern chicks in the main colony are growing well
(note how camouflaged they are)

This year, we are continuing our research into the factors affecting Little Tern breeding success, which involves the use of trail cameras on nests. This week, we captured an Oystercatcher tucking into a poor Little Tern's eggs...

We also observed a Mediterranean Gull trying to raid a Common Tern nest of it's eggs. It's a bird-eat-bird world!
 Common Tern eggs...
enjoyed by Mediterranean Gulls

After last weekend's rarities, migration has slowed down. But we were treated to a female Nightjar in the Garden on Thursday morning, and a smart male Wheatear this afternoon.

Wednesday's low tide seal count totalled 434 Grey and 153 Common. This is the highest Common Seal count for some time. Over the next few weeks, we expect to see the first of this year's Common Seal pups.

- Photography by Josh Barber

Sunday, 14 June 2015

14th June: Tails of the unexpected

After another quiet start to a week, things really picked up with the discovery of another rare warbler on Blakeney Point - a Paddyfield Warbler found near the Long Hills by James McCallum and Kevin Shepherd, on Thursday afternoon. This is a first for Blakeney Point (fourth record for Norfolk) and has lingered for a fourth day, making it a major draw for many birders.
 Paddyfield Warbler and Ajay (Dave Curtis)

The discovery of this migrant was swiftly followed by another - a Greenish Warbler on Yankee Ridge on the same afternoon, and then a Blyth's Reed Warber near the Watch House on Saturday evening. Then this afternoon a summer plumage Laughing Gull flew past the Point. A smattering of less rare migrants were also spotted towards the end of the week, including a Spotted Flycatcher, Common Whitethroat and a few Chiffchaffs.

We would really like to thank all those who have come to see these birds for respecting the fenced off areas during a vulnerable time in the season for breeding birds.
 Paddyfield Warbler birdwatchers: Day 4 (Ajay)

There have also been migrants of a different nature, with a number of Humming-bird Hawk-moths found, many sheltering from the weather. These day-flying moths migrate to the UK from the Mediterranean and North Africa, and create a humming sound through the rapid beating of their wings. Apparently, the Humming-bird Hawk-moth is considered a good omen in Italy and Malta. A swarm was observed crossing the English Channel towards England on the day of the D-Day landings in 1944 (BBC Radio 4 website).
Humming-bird Hawk-moth (Sarah)

We have also been monitoring the emergence of Hornet clearwing moths on the Point, after confirming they had bred on site last year. So far we have only found one pupal case.
Hornet moth pupal case before and after emergence (Sarah)

 Hornet moth (Warden's Photograph Archive)

Many plants are either coming to the end of their flowering period or just starting to bloom, and there are some stunning colours to be seen out here.  An abundance of the Yellow-horned Poppy can be seen along most of the Point. Slightly less expected (and rarer out here!) is the Common Poppy - this one was found on Far Point.
Common Poppy on Far Point (Ajay) 

Yellow-horned Poppy (Warden's Photograph Archive)

And on a final note, we have yet more chicks!...
Oystercatcher chicks in the nest (top, Ajay) and on the beach (below, Sarah)
Newly-hatched chicks near the Lifeboat House
First Common Tern chicks of the year (Ajay)

We have 130 pairs of breeding Common Terns on the Point this year, this is the highest number for ten years.

- Sarah and Paul (Seasonal Rangers)

Sunday, 7 June 2015

7th June: Leaving the shell

The week kicked off with high winds on Monday and Tuesday with gusts reaching 45mph, rocking the Lifeboat House like a boat on the sea. The resulting sand storms on the beach made life difficult for us rangers and even more so for the terns, Ringed Plovers and Oystercatchers, which were incubating eggs. Sadly a few nests were lost because of the weather and blown sand.

On a more positive note, the tip of Far Point is looking good for terns at the moment with many (100+) Sandwich Tern chicks scattered among the suaeda, and up to 90 pairs of Common Terns sat on eggs.
Sandwich Tern chicks (Josh Barber)

Little Terns are a bit later to arrive this year, but we are expecting a lot to start nesting throughout the coming week.
Little Terns on migration (Richard Porter)

Elsewhere on the Point the first Redshank, Ringed Plover and Oystercatcher chicks have been seen.
Redshank on nest (Tim Lubbock)

Avocet chicks hatched on the Point have been seen crossing the Beach Road on to Cley Marshes. The traffic had to be stopped to let them cross.
 Caution! Avocets crossing (Richard Porter)

We have plenty of fledged young Meadow Pipit and Linnet chicks still being fed by their parents and looking a bit stumpy-tailed.
Meadow Pipit fledgeling being fed (Richard Porter)

These beautiful pictures of a Shelduck doing a broken-wing display show that we also have Shelducklings too.
Shelduck doing broken wing display (Richard Porter)

Other birds
Spoonbills have been spotted most days this week, often in Pinchen's Creek.  Migration has been slow with 2 Wheatears on 3rd June, 4 Buzzards on 4th, then with south-east winds overnight a smattering of migrants greeted us on the 5th. These included a Hobby, 3 Reed Warblers, 3 Chiffchaffs, 1 Willow Warbler, 1 Song Thrush and 1 Chaffinch.

In the sunnier parts of the week we've enjoyed seeing more butterflies, our first Hummingbird Hawkmoth of the season and even members of the Odonata family - including 1 Red-eyed Damselfly (first record for the Point), 10 Azure Damselflies, 2 Hairy Dragonflies and a Common Darter.

The product of a less visible invertebrate was also found washed up on the beach - squid eggs!...
Squid eggs on the beach (Josh Barber)

A low tide seal count was carried out on 1st June, revealing 510 Grey and 26 Common seals hauled out on the intertidal sand bar known as West Sands.

 - by the Blakeney Point Ranger Team, working sunrise to sunset!
Sunrise (Josh Barber)

Sunset (Sarah Johnson)