Sunday, 27 September 2015

27th of September: Blakeney bird seed

This year has been the best ever in recent years for Yellow Horned-poppy on Blakeney Point. Parts of the shingle ridge were like a forest of them. Over the past week the seeds have proved popular for Linnets (peak count of 120) and a few Goldfinches...
Goldfinches feeding on Yellow horned-poppy (Richard Porter)

The early part of the week was dominated by winds from the north and west, producing a smattering of passerine arrivals on the Point. Highlights were the first Lapland Bunting of autumn and the first Rock Pipits - on the 22nd. The 23rd saw three Goldcrests at various places, while north-easterly winds on the 26th produced an impressive movement of 29 Common Buzzards soaring high and west over the harbour, accompanied by two Honey Buzzards. Also on the 26th, an obliging Leach's Storm Petrel was seen flying west, close inshore...
Leach's Storm Petrel (Richard Porter)

Winter raptors are now a daily sighting and both Peregrines and Merlins can pop up anywhere along the Point.

Autumnal fungi are beginning to reveal themselves amongst the dunes, the most noticeable being the Dune Stinkhorn and the bright red Waxcaps...
 Dune Waxcap

 Dune Stinkhorn

Tonight's supermoon and lunar eclipse are being seen by some as a sign that the end of the world is nigh. However, the ranger team here is highly dubious and we are sure we will be posting another blog next week!

UPDATE: we captured this footage of the 'supermoon'...

It has been a lovely, sunny weekend here in North Norfolk, but at the same time autumn is evident. We are now seeing skeins of Pink-footed Geese overhead. It is undoubtedly another wonderful time of the year.

- Paul and Ajay

Sunday, 20 September 2015

20th of September: Branded in Germany

Back in August, Beans Boat Trips noticed a branded Common Seal hauled out on Blakeney Point. With some help from the Sea Mammal Research Unit, it was finally traced. Named Yvonne, she was taken in by a German seal rescue centre at the age of three months in June 1995. She was released in September that year (20 years ago), having tripled in weight. Note that branding ceased in 1998, they are now fitted with tags on their back flippers instead.
Yvonne on Blakeney Point (Jason Bean)

The seal ferry trips run by Beans and Temples are the perfect way to enjoy watching seals in their natural environment.

We conducted our latest low tide seal count on Tuesday (15th), recording 766 Grey and 157 Common. It is normal to see a decrease in Common numbers and increase in Greys at this time of year.

This summer we recorded a peak count of 431 Common Seals (on the 17th of August), which is actually the highest count since August 2011 and the first time our low tide count of Commons has exceeded Greys in as many years. When the National Trust first began fortnightly counts in 2005, there were far less Greys - the graph below shows how the annual average number of seals has changed in 11 years of monitoring.
This graph was produced from data collected by E. Stubbings, A. Tegala and D. Wood
(c) National Trust

This week has been one of great transition in terms of migrant birds. We have seen an overlap of birds arriving and departing. It has been nice to see and hear several Sandwich Terns on passage, on their way to West Africa - in amongst them have been the occasional Common and Black Tern. Dozens of Swallows have also been seen on passage, along with a couple of House Martins. We have also seen an increase in wintering wildfowl, with Monday's monthly wetland bird count recording numerous Teal, Wigeon, Mallard and Brent Geese. On Thursday (17th) 38 Pintail were seen arriving and the first Goldcrest of the autumn was heard.

The migrant bird highlight of the week, however, was undoubtedly this juvenile Red-backed Shrike, that spent two days feeding on moths and bees in the garden.
Juvenile Red-backed Shrike eating bee (Richard Porter)

Yesterday we held our annual litterpick on the Point for the Marine Conservation Society's Great British Beach Clean. The weather held out and we were joined by 28 willing helpers, enabling three miles of beach to be cleaned, resulting in 42 bin bags full of rubbish. People came from Blakeney, Holt, Norwich, Sandringham and as far away as Bedford, Leicester and even Yorkshire. A big thank you to all who helped. Our next beach clean will be in late March ahead of next year's breeding bird season.

A good morning's work

 Wigeon and Teal aren't the only ducks arriving on our shores!
- Ajay

Sunday, 13 September 2015

13th of September: Ortolan Bunting

This week has produced a nice selection of rare birds on Blakeney Point, thanks to easterly winds. The highlight was undoubtedly an Ortolan Bunting. Once one of the Point's "signature species", they are now barely annual.
Ortolan Bunting on Blakeney Point (Richard Porter)

We were also treated to an early Yellow-browed Warbler, which was filmed contentedly feeding in the Plantation.
Yellow-browed Warbler in the Plantation (Paul Nichols)

Other birds seen on the Point this week included Short-eared Owl, Black Tern, Siskin, Wryneck, several Whinchats, Wheatears, Redstarts, Pied and Spotted Flycatchers, Willow Warblers and a Tree Pipit. The first Song Thrush of the autumn appeared in the Plantation on Wednesday (9th). Friday (11th) produced two Firecrests - a rarity on the Point.

There is still a fair bit of saltwater left in Great Sandy Low, which has supported a Spotted Redshank for several days, with a Greenshank also seen there and even a young Fulmar, which sadly died.

The latest low tide seal count was conducted on Thursday (10th), recording 523 Grey and 245 Common on the West Sands. This included approximately 30 juvenile Common Seals, born this summer - a healthy number.
One of this year's young Common Seals

On Saturday (19th), we are hosting a beach clean for the Marine Conservation Society's Great British Beach Clean. Please come along and help us keep Blakeney Point beautiful. We are meeting at 10am - please bring sturdy gloves, we will supply litterpickers and bin bags.

- Ajay (Coastal Ranger)

Sunday, 6 September 2015

6th of September: High tide at the seaside

The start of the week saw some very high tides hitting the Point changing the character of the place considerably.  Erosion on Far Point was noticeable with the embryo dunes being undercut and washed away, while low-lying areas were filled with water creating a series of inland lakes.  The water came right up to the steps of the Lifeboat House which meant we were treated to waders feeding literally on our doorstep.  If you haven't already watched it, there is a great video by Ajay:

High tide near the steps to the Lifeboat House (Sarah Johnson)

Bird highlights for the week included two Barred Warblers and a Spotted Redshank on Monday 31st August, with the latter still present on Friday 4th September.  The first day of September saw the arrival of two juvenile Red-backed Shrikes - one at the Watch House and one at the Hood.  Once a common breeding species in Norfolk, these birds are now sadly only seen on migration.  On Wednesday 2nd September, a Honey Buzzard was seen being mobbed by a Common Buzzard, and another small hatch of flying ants produced three Hobbies - two adults and one juvenile - anting above the Plantation.  Watching them closely you could actually see the Hobbies snipping the wings off the ants before eating the body.  Saturday 5th September brought strong northerly winds, which created an ideal opportunity for some sea-watching, the highlights of which were four species of shearwater: Cory's, Manx, Balearic and Sooty; and three species of skua: Arctic, Great and Long-tailed.
 Long-tailed Skua (Richard Porter)

Saturday was also the date of the Blakeney National Nature Reserve Bioblitz, part of the Neptune Campaign.  This saw many experts from Norfolk and beyond descending on Salthouse, Blakeney Freshes, Friary Hills, Stiffkey, Morston and Blakeney Point to record as many species as they could find in one day.  Species recorded ranged from the tiniest insects to mature trees, taking in birds, mammals, lichens, fungi and much else besides.  The total number of species recorded so far is a whopping 655 individual species from 1537 individual records! There are still many more records to be verified by the experts before we can add them, so we expect this number to go up in the coming days   A big thank you to all the experts that came and gave their time and knowledge for free.
And to finish with, here is the week's most unexpected tide-line treasure: