Sunday, 31 July 2016

31st of July: Wader flocks and Common Seal pups

The breeding bird season of 2016 is approaching its end. A walk along the ridge can be rewarded with sightings of Little Tern fledglings - 9 young have fledged from the colony near the Watch House. Boat trips from Morston will reveal this year’s Sandwich and Common Tern juveniles on Far Point. You can also see juvenile Oystercatchers foraging along the waterline off the landing ridge.

17 pairs of Avocets have fledged 15 young. Having now moved on, we have taken down the temporary fencing at the Cley end of the ridge where they nested. Please be aware that other fence-lines on the Point remain in place to protect breeding birds that have not yet fledged.
The Avocet fencing being removed from the ridge (Daniel Wynn)

Butterflies are present in good numbers around the reserve with regular sightings of Small White, Meadow Brown, Gatekeeper and Grayling. There have been several recent sightings of Dark Green Fritillaries feeding on Wild Pansy. July and August mark the peak months for moth trapping as individuals migrate northwards from the continent. We have had our Robinson moth trap out weekly and have been getting good hauls. On the 25th July we recorded 21 species and 128 individuals including first sightings of Ruby Tiger and Oak Eggar.
Oak Eggar (Wynona Legg)

We are still seeing large flocks of wader in the harbour, including Knot (pictured below). On the 30th July we recorded 110 Whimbrel and 140 Oystercatchers, with sightings of both Purple and Green Sandpiper. We sighted 55 Golden Plover heading west on the 29th. Grey Plovers are becoming a regular sight foraging along the tideline. The first stirrings of autumn are starting to be seen out at sea as juvenile Skuas and Shearwaters pass through; on the 30th an Arctic Skua was witnessed harassing the Black-Headed Gulls and Sandwich Terns. On the 30th, we recorded a rather weather-beaten juvenile Chiffchaff.

Knot (Tom Green)

Knot (Richard Porter)

In seal news, we have seen a few new Common Seal pups along the ridge. Today's low tide count revealed 439 Grey and 168 Common.

Lifeboat House sunset (Zoe Frank)

Sunday, 24 July 2016

24th of July: Lots of butterflies and fish

This week has been a good one for butterflies, with an increase in both number and species being seen daily. We have been seeing dozens of Grayling in the dunes and on the sun-warmed shingle. In flight, a flash of marbled orange will give them away but once settled, grayling tuck their fore wings beneath their camouflaged hind wings and appear to vanish against the ground. The Gatekeeper is another striking species we have been seeing on the reserve in recent weeks, with its brown bordered, bright orange wings and subtle eye spots.


If you’re out on the reserve this month, stop and have a little look on the leaves and flowers of the Ragwort plants and you may see the caterpillar of the Cinnabar moth feasting on this important foodplant. Easily recognisable with its handsome stripes of orange and black, the Cinnabar moth is a UK BAP priority species due to its marked decline - 83% over the last 35 years - and so conservation of this species and protection of its foodplant here on Blakeney Point is crucial.

Cinnabar moth caterpillar feeding on Ragwort

Our last round of seine netting has kept us busy with and given a closer look at all that dwells in the water. Now that the waters are starting to warm up, some species will start moving out to colder parts further from the shore. This meant that species like pipefish and sandeel were found in lower frequency in the harbour and creeks this month. The highlights included several species of baby flatfish, which is a good sign for health of the water systems and nursery habitat, and also thousands of Herring and spratt (tern food) in the sea.  It is important to sample the fish species here to understand more about our breeding birds, in particular the rare Little Tern; to see which prey species they are feeding on and how they might change their foraging strategies to adapt to their movements.

 Cuttlefish (Anne Casey)

Flat fish (Anne Casey) 

Garfish (Anne Casey) 

Squid (Anne Casey) 

Weaver (Anne Casey)

We have had regular sightings of a male Black Redstart around the Lifeboat House aswell as juvenile Wheatear and male Cuckoo moving through. There are still large flocks of Knot present on the Point and good numbers of Dunlin and Sanderling on the tideline.

Wynona (Seasonal Assistant Ranger)
with thanks to Anne Casey (Business Development Manager) for fish photography

Sunday, 17 July 2016

17th of July: Tern chicks on the tip

This week, on Blakeney Point, Beans Boat Trips captured this lovely shot of two fluffy Little Tern chicks, which have been entertaining visitors on the seal ferry trips.
Little Tern chicks (Beans Boat Trips)

Also on the end of Far Point, there are over a hundred Sandwich Tern chicks, aged between 0 and 10 days. Alongside them are around 15 older Common Tern chicks, which are now quite mobile.
Sandwich Tern chick (Ajay Tegala)

This weekend's lovely sunshine (at last!) brought out several Grayling, Small Copper, Gatekeeper and Meadow Brown butterflies.

In migrant bird news, a juvenile Wheatear was recorded on Monday (11th), a Chiffchaff was present from 12th-14th, several Whimbrel have been heard over the Point, with 25 recorded in flight yesterday (16th) as well as a westward movement of 31 Sand Martins and 25 Swallows. A flock of around 50 juvenile Starlings has been resident on the Point for a few weeks now, often landing on the hut roofs.

In seal news, the fourth Common Seal pup of the season was seen on the beach yesterday.
Common Seal (Ajay Tegala)

Today's low tide count totalled 218 Common and 289 Grey.
 Grey and Common Seals (Ajay Tegala)

We leave you with a short film showing Blakeney Point's wildlife in July. Filmed three years ago, this is the first time it has been shared.

- Ajay, Coastal Ranger

Sunday, 10 July 2016

10th of July: Marvellous moths and a partridge chick

We’ve had mixed weather on the Point this week, seemingly bright and sunny days quickly turn to thunderstorms and heavy rain in the evenings. One particular storm was so vicious lighting was hitting the ridgeline and the buildings were shaking form the thunder peeling overhead. As you can imagine, these conditions are not conducive to migrant birds or pleasant for our ground nesting species.

Terns on the tip
Our resident terns out on Far Point and on the shingle ridge are doing very well and we have seen our first Little Tern chicks over the last few days. Our total Little Terns nest count stands at 60. This is eight higher than last year, which is truly fantastic news! We also have 17 Avocet pairs nesting on the ridge, this too is slightly up on last year's total. It’s not just the terns hatching at the moment either, we had our first sighting of a Grey Partridge chick taking its first steps from the nest. They closely follow mum and dad hiding in the grass at the first sign of danger.  
Grey Partridge chick hiding in the grass near the Lifeboat House (Daniel Wynn)

Creatures of the night
Moth trapping is an important part of the work we do on the reserve. We routinely put out our Robinson trap whenever the weather permits, and we had a truly mega-haul on Friday night catching over 24 species and 77 individuals! Featuring in the all-star line-up were some truly beautiful moths, and if you weren’t already interested in Lepidoptera, then these will surely peak your interest.
A male Drinker, native to the UK (Daniel Wynn)

Garden Tiger Moth, native to UK (Daniel Wynn)

Elephant Hawkmoth, native to UK (Daniel Wynn)

In butterfly news, we have seen our first Grayling on the reserve. Numbers are slightly down on previous years owing to the unpredictable spring weather, but we are still seeing the same diversity of species.
Grayling (Tom Whiley)

Migrant birds
Migrants have been very slow with few notables this week, but this is to be expected as the spring migration has more or less finished. We are now starting to see the first juveniles of the year moving past the Point, like this juvenile Stonechat. As we move more into late-July we will start seeing more and more Knot, Godwits and other returning waders like Grey Plover.
Juvenile Stonechat pictured in the garden (Daniel Wynn)

The seal colony is still going strong with large numbers in the hundreds recorded daily. No new pup births to report for this week but we will let you know as soon as we see anymore.

Dan Wynn,
Seasonal Assistant Ranger

Sunday, 3 July 2016

3rd of July: Bloomin' Orchids

With a bout of warm sunshine through June, we are happy to be reacquainted with two old friends this summer on Blakeney Point; Pyramidal Orchid Anacamptis pyramidalis and Southern Marsh Orchid Dactylorhiza praetermissa. Both of which grow in the dune slacks, nestled down in sheltered spots away from the wild winds that blow off the sea. Although both locally common, orchids grow on Blakeney Point in very small numbers and are fragile and slow growing. Extra care must be taken not to damage plants and they should never be picked from the wild. Help us protect these special plants by keeping to the boardwalks and paths to prevent excess trampling and to stop dune erosion.
 Above left: Southern Marsh Orchid; Above right: Pyramidal Orchid

A new face in the shingle
This month we have discovered a single plant of Wild Clary Salvia verbenaca growing in the shingle just outside the Lifeboat House - right on our doorstep! Although locally common in Norfolk, this plant doesn’t appear in plant records for the Point in recent history and is thought to be a new one for the list. It has most likely been brought here by birds as a seed and has taken hold in the shingle to flower this year.  Wild Clary belongs to the family Lamiaceae which makes it a relative of many of our garden herbs, basil, sage and thyme.
Wild Clary

New threads
Whilst some of our chicks are still very newly emerged (including the first Little Tern chicks of the year, on Far Point), many have long since ventured from the safety of the nest and have been out exploring the point under the watchful eye of their parents (and us rangers!) Some of our Oystercatcher youngsters are well on their way to adulthood and can be seen around the Lifeboat House looking very mature in their new threads!

Going Cuckoo
We have had some spectacular views of a visiting Cuckoo. Some days we were treated to sights of up to four birds displaying in the Plantation and their call could be heard all of the way from Gap! The Knot have been great to watch over the harbour too, giving us some spectacular flight displays, forming all sorts of shapes and twisting and turning in unison to reveal a wall of silver like a shoal of Sandeels!
Cuckoo in flight

Seasonal Assistant Ranger