Sunday, 24 April 2016

24th of April: Gulls on eggs

Greetings from a rather cold Blakeney Point! Despite the cold northerly winds, the first Black-headed Gull eggs were laid yesterday. This is three days later than last year (when first eggs were laid on the 20th of April).
First gull egg of 2016 (Dan Wynn)
Spring comes to the Plantation (Harry Mitchell)

Black-headed Gulls aren't the only birds nesting on the Point. We have found two duck nests this week and the first wader nest was found today. Two of our faithful Oystercatchers are back on their usual territories - we know they are the same birds returning because they have metal rings on their legs.

 Mallard nest (Ajay Tegala)

'Fatima' is in her 20s and nests in or around Great Sandy Low every year.
She is now on her usual breeding territory for 2016. 
Note the metal ring on her leg (Josh Barber, 2015) 

 This week's low tide seal count recorded 117 Grey and 14 Common hauled out on the West Sands. On Thursday, we noticed a female Common Seal with a very small pup. This is quite early and it is thought, sadly, that the pup was stillborn. The usual pupping time for Common Seals is June-July, but there are records of early stillbirths (8th of May 1991 on Far Point, for example).
Common Seal and pup (Wynona Legg)
Common Seal and pup (Dan Wynn)

It has been a very quiet week on the migration front. Literally the only bird of note was a Firecrest, by no means a common migrant on Blakeney Point, this delightful bird was found by our friend Pete Dolton.

Firecrest in the Plantation (Dan Wynn)

Last night's roost count recorded an estimated 2,000 Sandwich Terns on Far Point, a fantastic sight and sound.
We expect to see the first Common, Arctic and Little Terns any day now.

Roosting Sandwich Terns (Tom Green) 

We leave you with news that signs of pirates have been found on the Point...

Ajay, Blakeney Point Ranger

Sunday, 17 April 2016

17th of April: Minding the Gap

The weather has been very up and down over the last week. But roosting Sandwich Tern numbers keep going up. Numbers have more than doubled; last night's count recorded approximately 1,400 birds on the end of Blakeney Point.

If you are walking up the Point at low tide, you will meet one of the rangers by the 'Gap' in the dunes towards the western end of the beach. Access is limited here, so please speak to us for advice and we will be happy to point out wildlife of interest with our telescope. Today there were 179 Sanderlings on the shoreline, and a couple of dozen Swallows passed westwards.

This week's wildlife sightings have included a couple of Lesser-spotted Dogfish washed up near the Watch House, a Greater Pipefish washed up on the beach and also this beautiful Common Sunstar.

Migrant birds have included a Black Redstart, numerous Chiffchaffs and Wheatears, a couple of Willow Warblers, a male Blackcap, Goldfinch, Brambling plus a few Robins and Song Thrushes. Two Red Kites were seen together flying over the dunes this afternoon.

Bird of the week: Northern Wheatear
Numerous migrant Wheatears are present on the Norfolk Coast at the moment. Numbers reached double-figures on the Point this week. These birds will have migrated from Africa and Europe on their way to their breeding grounds. British-breeding Wheatears most commonly favour western and northern Britain. The nearest breeding birds are at Orford Ness in Suffolk. Pairs have held territories in the dunes on Blakeney Point in 1999, 2003, 2013 and 2014, last having bred 80 years ago in 1936 - one or three pairs used to breed on Yankee Ridge in the early 20th century.
Migrant Wheatear on the Point (Joe Cockram, 2012)

As well as rabbit holes, they will also breed in rock piles, so we have made a few rock piles on Yankee Ridge, including one on the Yankee itself, in a hope that they may choose to breed again after an 80-year absence.

Please note that the Yankee wreck has deteriorated considerably and is unsafe. It has been fenced off, please respect the fence-line as the boat has lots of jagged edges and is structurally unsound.

Hare amongst Suaeda

- Ajay

Sunday, 10 April 2016

10th of April: Moving In

It's been a busy week on Blakeney Point. Before we could move in, 2.4 tonnes of batteries had to be replaced to power the Lifeboat House. The old batteries had stopped holding charge following a downward spiral since the December 2013 tidal surge. Replacements had to be shipped from abroad and arrived in the country this week. Just in time for the start of the season.
 Unloading the new batteries

On Friday, myself and Seasonal Assistant Rangers Dan Wynn and Wynona Legg moved in for the start of the 2016 breeding bird season. A Sandwich Tern roost count that evening recorded 600+ birds on Far Point - another 750-800 were counted further west on the North Norfolk Coast at the same time.

Today, the first Small Copper butterfly of the year was seen in the dunes. The week's migrant birds have included Wheatear, numerous Chiffchaffs, a Goldcrest and small numbers of Swallows flying west. This weekend, six raptor species were seen on the Point: Kestrel, Peregrine, Merlin, Red Kite, male Hen Harrier and Marsh Harriers.
Male Marsh Harrier

 Small Copper

Dozens of both Shelduck and Brent Geese are present almost side-by-side in the harbour; a cross-over of summer-breeding and over-wintering wildfowl. Shelduck will soon be laying their eggs down burrows in the dunes, while Brent Geese will be migrating to the Arctic Circle to breed.
Shelduck and Brent in the harbour

Our latest low tide seal count recorded 177 Grey and 16 Common.

It's been a weekend of spring tides, but thankfully none of our breeding bird enclosures have been washed away. We look forward to finding the first nests over the coming few days.

- Ajay Tegala, Coastal Ranger

Sunday, 3 April 2016

3rd of April: Tern cries high in the sky

This weekend has seen an increase in arriving Sandwich Terns returning from their wintering grounds in west and southern Africa. A minimum of 130 were present above and around Far Point today; their distinctive "keerick" calls audible high in the sky. It is a true joy to see and hear these most elegant of seabirds. They have been visible from the seal trips...
Sandwich Terns on the shoreline (Sabrina Fenn)

Please help protect the terns and other breeding birds by giving them plenty of space and obeying all signs; keeping away from fenced nesting areas. The best way to see the seals and terns is from the seal ferries that go daily from Morston Quay: Bean's Boat Trips and Temple's Seal Trips.

From the 1st of April to 15th of August there are the usual seasonal dog restrictions on Blakeney Point. Dogs, on leads, are welcome around the Lifeboat House and along the first kilometre of the shingle ridge from Cley, but all other areas are sanctuary areas for ground-nesting birds.

Please also note that there is no landing on the tip of Far Point at any time of the year (to protect the terns and gull colony as well as the seals).
Far Point this weekend (H. Mitchell)

We appreciate your cooperation and respect, helping us to look after the wonderful but fragile breeding bird populations on Blakeney National Nature Reserve.

This week's migrant bird sightings have included Short-eared Owl, the first Wheatears (four) and Swallow of the spring on Thursday 30th March and five Chiffchaffs on Saturday 2nd April. We will be keeping you up to date with migrant and breeding bird news across the reserve throughout the spring and summer.

- Ajay, Coastal Ranger

Friday, 1 April 2016

Blakeney Freshes - Eggs, Otters and returning migrants

This week has seen the first signs that the breeding season has started on Blakeney Freshes, with the first Lapwing nest found with a full clutch of 4 eggs. Reshank and Mute Swans have also been spotted nest building.
Lapwing nest - G. Baldock
A good number of Avocet have also returned onto the Freshes and are pairing up. A pair of Little Ringed Plover have returned to the exact same spot as last year and have been seen displaying. Last year, they successfully raised and fledged all 4 chicks, so let's hope they have another good year.

Once again, we have some trail cameras on site. Currently we have 'Otter Cam' and 'Post Cam' up and running. Otter Cam has been regularly picking up passing Otters, including one having a good munch on an Eel.

The same camera also picked up a Lesser Whitethroat, a Weasel and a Water Rail.

Other recent sightings include an Osprey, which flew west along the coast, a Spoonbill, feeding on the Freshes and the return of Swallows and House Martins. There are still 2 Lapland Buntings, which have been on sight since Christmas and are still very popular with birders and photographers. They can be seen from the sea wall, near the kissing gate.

George Baldock - Ranger