Saturday, 13 May 2017

The Shorts are On

After the past few weeks of freezing-cold North-Easterly winds, the rangers on the Point where beginning to wonder if spring would ever come.. How quickly things can change! Over the last few days, South-Easterly winds have brought very pleasant (and much appreciated!) warmer air to replace the Arctic chill - which no doubt our nesting birds will have been waiting for.

After a decidedly slow start to the nesting season, things are beginning to "heat up" with lots of waders and passerines such as meadow pipits and skylarks becoming much more territorial. This is fantastic news, as visitors to the point are being treated to a dazzling array of wonderful breeding displays and beautiful bird song - this really is a awesome time to get out and get exploring on the point!

One of the highlights of the week was that our lonely single pair of avocet, nesting on the shingle by Cley, finally have some company with the rangers seeing nearly twenty avocet within their newly extended fenced-off area; such amazing birds! The ever-charismatic little terns are also beginning to return in larger numbers from their winter home in Africa, with a group of around sixty seen feeding on Wednesday evening at sunset over the flooded saltmarsh behind the bird hide. This coming week sees the beginning of another year for our lovely volunteer Little Tern Warden team who will be based out of the bird hide on the shingle. So if you're walking up the beach, why not stop in for a chat and learn more about these stunning little birds and the work we are doing to protect them.

The change in wind direction has also meant some interesting migrant birds have been spotted on the Point this week, including whinchat, sand marten, yellow wagtail, a very handsome male ring ouzel and two spotted flycatchers. The cuckoo has also been seen around the point most days this week, with it's calls making summer seem closer than ever.

Ryan Doggart
Seasonal Assistant Ranger

Sunday, 7 May 2017

7th of May: Lapwing chicks and May migrants

Despite the grey, chilly, windy weather this week, it has been a delight to discover several Lapwing chicks amongst the grass on Blakeney Marsh.
Lapwing chick in grass (A. Tegala)

We manage the freshwater grazing marsh specifically to benefit the Lapwing. So it is very rewarding to see lots of chicks happily learning to walk amongst the lush grass.

As well as young birds in the fields, there are countless tadpoles in the dykes, ditches, pools and ponds.

Over on Blakeney Point, we have been treated to several spring migrants this weekend. These include Blackcaps, Lesser Whitethroats, Willow Warblers, Redstarts, Wheatears, a Whinchat, Garden Warbler, Osprey, Pied Flycatcher, Grey Wagtail and this splendid male Cuckoo.
Cuckoo in the garden (A. Tegala)

It perched obligingly in the brambles near the Lifeboat House where it feasted on caterpillars in between dive-bomb attacks from nearby nesting Linnets.

Other sightings this week included an adult Great Skua sat on the beach on Friday.
Great Skua off Blakeney Point (R. Porter)

Grey Plover and Knot head northeast (R. Porter)

Another discovery on the Point this weekend was the first Oystercatcher egg. Nesting appears to have been delayed by the cold weather. But it won't be long before several will be incubating their camouflaged eggs in shallows scrapes amongst the shingle. When visiting, please be mindful of birds nesting on the ground and amongst the grass.

- Ajay, Ranger

Thursday, 4 May 2017

Cold winds

It's been a bitterly cold start to May on the Point, with even the ever-so-hardy Ranger team resorting to wrapping in thermals, donning multiple woolly hats and leaping thankfully into warm showers, while we're getting through mountains of holm oak in the wood burner. It seems the cold weather has slowed down the progress of spring too, with fewer migrants coming through than expected, and little nesting activity to report. No oystercatcher, plover, sandwich tern or little tern nests have yet been observed, but the pair of avocet hang on, sat braving the artic chill, on their territory close to Cley Beach car park. With this in mind, please remember everyone should keep dogs on leads near Cley Beach, and always respect dog exclusion zones on the reserve.

Despite the chill, this being Blakeney there are plenty of super sightings to report. Migrant activity include willow warblers, a wood warbler, common redstart and lesser whitethroat. Very many swallows have passed us by; often appearing suddenly and silently from the enveloping mist, ghostly messengers from warmer climes. Invertebrates too are struggling into activity. Carder bee species and small copper butterflies have been apparent. Moth trapping this week has revealed the presence of yellow belles, tawny shears, flame shoulder and common quakers.

Our two standout sightings for the week though have to be a nightjar, spotted lurking among the sueda bushes, and a superlative spoonbill. This came flapping and flailing over the Lifeboat Station, to plunge into dank saltmarsh towards Yankee Ridge. What an otherworldly sight... trailing its vibrant white cloak of feathers, a huge yellow wedge of bill protruding proudly before it. It seemed to bring an immediate feel of warmer African air to Blakeney. It was spotted later, feeding and resting in a salty creek; perhaps a confused theatrical extra, due on stage in Antony and Cleopatra, but mistakenly gate crashing a production of Great Expectations. It's not been seen since, but it was definitely my highlight of the season so far.

Howard Jones