Sunday, 28 August 2016

28th of August: Grey Hair turning straw-coloured

This week has seen a mixture of beautiful sunshine and heavy rain showers across the Norfolk Coast. The sunnier moments have been good for insect life. Across the Blakeney National Nature Reserve, numerous fresh-looking Small Tortoiseshell, Red Admiral and Painted Lady butterflies have been seen recently.
Fresh Painted Lady (Mary Goddard)

At Gramborough Hill, Salthouse, a Wasp Spider was seen earlier in the month. First recorded in Britain in 1922, in southern England, the Wasp Spider has seen a substantial increase since 1990, spinning its orb web preferentially in coastal chalk and rough grasslands. At Salthouse, it was seen preying on Gatekeeper butterflies.
Wasp Spider at Salthouse (Mary Goddard)

On Blakeney Point this evening, a hatch of flying ants drew in every Black-headed Gull in the area to come and feed. This short video from exactly a year ago shows gulls flocking to the dunes during a 'hatch'...
 "Aerial picnic" (Ajay Tegala)

The Grey Hair-grass on the Point has now turned straw-coloured. This nationally scarce grass is native only to Norfolk, Suffolk and the Channel Islands. It is abundant on Blakeney Point and is one of the features that earns the Point special conservation designations.
Grey Hair-grass blowing in the breeze (Ajay Tegala)

The week has not been without its migrant birds. Willow Warblers peaked at 19 on Monday 22nd, on the same day six Spotted Flycatchers were recorded. Wednesday 24th produced six Wheatears, a Short-eared Owl and a Black Redstart that has stayed near the Lifeboat House ever since. Other migrants this week included Pied Flycatchers, Whinchats and this afternoon an Ortolan Bunting was reported near the boardwalk.

Black Redstart on solar panel (Tom Whiley)

Finally, we would like to remind you that, although most of the Point is currently accessible at this time of year, there are three sanctuary areas to protect migrant birds and resting seals. Please help by not entering these fenced areas and keeping dogs under close control. We appreciate your cooperation in helping to protect this special wildlife haven.


Sunday, 21 August 2016

21st of August: First Autumn arrivals

This week on Blakeney Point, we have taken down the breeding bird fencing on the western end of the Point. Access is now permissible along much of Far Point. There is no access to the very end of the Point to protect the seals and new-born pups that haul out there. If you walk along the beach at low tide, you may meet either one of the rangers or our lovely volunteers located near the gap in the dunes to provide information on the seals and help you to have a closer look through our telescope.

The gap in the dunes towards the end of Blakeney Point (Daniel Wynn)

We are still seeing tern species on the reserve. On the 20th of August we recorded 50 Sandwich Terns feeding near the Watch House, 13 Common and 3 Arctic in the roost on the beach at low tide. A few juvenile Oystercatchers can still be seen on the marshes near the Lifeboat House aswell.  

Our moth trap this week held some new finds...
 Chinese character moth, 17th August (Wynona Legg)

The Chinese character moth combines its wing pattern and resting posture to resemble a bird dropping, thus avoiding predation from birds. August is the start of their second breeding season and can be more readily observed in moth traps when adults are attracted to the light.

A Goldspot moth, 17th August (Wynona Legg)

Goldspots are fairly common across all the counties although they can more often be seen in damp places such as woodland, fens and bogs. They are fairly unmistakable with a distinctive metallic shine and bright golden spots on the forewing.

This week has brought some of the first Autumn migrants to arrive, coinciding with a warm spell of weather and mild easterly winds. A Wryneck was spotted on the 17th of August in the Plantation. We have seen high numbers of Pied Flycatchers, with a record 44 on the on the 19th. Other regular migrants include Willow Warblers, Garden Warbler, Reed Warbler, Common Whitethroat, Wheatears and Whinchats.

The most notable migrants so far were two Greenish Warblers on the 18th of August. An individual was recorded in the Plantation in the morning, with a second observed later in the Shrubby Sea-blite on Far Point. 
 Greenish Warbler in the Plantation (Daniel Wynn)

Sunday, 14 August 2016

14th of August: Skuas, Sea Pea and Sea-lavender

It is that time of year again. The birds have raised their broods and many have already begun the long journey to find somewhere a little warmer than the Norfolk Coast for a well-deserved winter rest. They will be back next year, but now that they no longer need that extra protection, the rangers have begun work to wind up all those miles of twine and gather all those fence posts to be tucked away until next spring. Good news for beach goers who will have just a little more room for a sit down after that arduous ridge walk!

With the fences down, there is a chance to get a closer look at the Sea Pea, which is still in flower on the ridge. Sea Pea is low growing, forming dense mats of green blue foliage The flowers are a varying shades of purple, pink and blue and then come the bright green seed pods which hang like umbrellas. This plant is nationally rare. It was planted on Blakeney Point by the renowned Norfolk Naturalist Ted Ellis. Please tread carefully if you do stop to have a look, this plant is fragile.
 Above: Sea Pea flower; Below: Sea Pea seed pod

There have been a number of Arctic Skua sightings this week, with the winds whipping up the sea. You will see them flying fast and low over the sea, hassling terns and gulls to drop their catch. A stocky, dark bird with long, pointed wings bent back like an arrowhead in flight, skuas have a characteristic “banking” flight, appearing to jerk left and right with rapid twists and turns.
Arctic Skua (Tom Whiley)

We have heard a migrant Willow Warbler calling in the Plantation this week and were payed a visit by a lovely Wren picking around in the brambles for insects as well as. Wheatear movements continue to drop us the odd individual with those unmistakable flashes of bright white rump and speedy, dipping flight over the marsh edges. Sightings of Hobby hunting on the saltmarsh have been pretty good too, with the flash of their rust-red trousers as they swoop low overhead.

The sea-lavender is still looking incredible on the marshes so if you’re thinking of paying us a visit, what better reason is there than this…….?
Common Sea-lavender in bloom

Sunday, 7 August 2016

7th of August: Young Sandwiches on the wing

This week, 175 juvenile Sandwich Terns, that had hatched on the Point, were observed to be capable of flight...

Terns and seals side by side on the end of the Point...
 Photographs by Ian Ward

This year, on the Point, 17 Avocet pairs have fledged an impressive 15 young. Unlike in previous years, many stayed on the Point, although some chicks were led across Beach Road to Cley Marshes by their parents, like this one...
Photograph by Richard Porter

This week's bird sightings have included a male Peregrine, Common and Green Sandpipers, a juvenile Stonechat, a passage of Sand Martins, a passage of Common Terns, and this Arctic Skua...
Photograph by Tom Whiley

There has also been a good show of Dark Green Fritillaries in the dunes, like this one resting obligingly on a thistle...
Photographs by Ian Ward