Thursday, 5 July 2018

June Wildlife Round-up

June has seen the first Common Seal pups of the year on Blakneney Point and lots of chicks appearing across the reserve. We will be continuing to carefully follow their progress throughout July.

Breeding birds
 We are delighted to report three Bittern sightings on Blakeney Freshes in the second half of June, seen in the vicinity of the reedbed on 15th, 25th and 28th June. Also in the reedbed, two juvenile Marsh Harriers were noted on 26th. We are very pleased to now have two broods of Little Ringed Plovers: the original pair with three well-grown juveniles plus a second pair with smaller chicks. Flying juvenile Lapwings were observed on the Freshes from 21st. Mallards appear to have had a very good season, with several broods of varying ages across the Freshes. The Black-headed Gull colony on Stiffkey Meals is doing well, with 23 chicks close to fledging. This colony has been slowly building up over the last three years, having previously been absent for some time, and is attracting Common Terns to also prospect there. The 14 pairs of Sand Martins at Gramborough Hill, Salthouse are doing well with five chicks observed poking out of nest holes on 19th. On Blakeney Point, there has been a late arrival of Sandwich Terns, with 165 pairs nesting on the tip of Far Point alongside 185 Black-headed Gull pairs. There are also dozens of Common Tern chicks, from 103 nests – more than twice as many as last year – and four pairs of Arctic Terns on the tip of the Point. Unfortunately, the Little Tern colony near the Watch House has suffered from Kestrel predation, which has been a problem at several colonies around the country this year. We are hoping the addition of diversionary feeding stations will encourage the Kestrels away from the colony. Our focus remains on looking after the remaining nests and chicks as we keep up our daily presence at this colony. Elsewhere on the Point, there are 45 Little Tern pairs breeding on the beach towards the western end.

Black-headed Gull chick, Blakeney Point (Ajay Tegala)

Shelducklings, Blakeney Freshes (Ajay Tegala)

Little Tern with chick, Blakeney Point (Barry Brooks)

Little Tern chick using shelter, Blakeney Point (Ryan Doggart)
 

Migrant birds
The start of June saw a rather sensational end to the spring migration with Moltoni’s Subalpine Warbler on 2nd and 3rd plus Paddyfield Warbler and Short-toed Lark on 5th. Passages of Swifts were observed throughout the month, peaking at 41 on 16th. Curlew arrivals have been noted, with eight recorded on 22nd.

Seals
The first Common Seal pup of the season was seen in the second half of June. As is usual, low tide seal counts show a definite increase in numbers from May:

Date
Grey Seal
Common Seal
16th May 2018
20
46
13th June 2018
50
20
27th June 2018
304
90
2nd July 2018
309
107

Invertebrates
Moths trapped on Friary Hills, for National Moth Weekend, included Small Elephant, Poplar and Pine Hawkmoths and Burnished Brass. A freshly emerged female Emperor dragonfly was observed on Blakeney Freshes on 13th June. On Blakeney Point, Dark Green Fritillary butterflies were recorded from 23rd with eight seen on 28th. The end of the month also saw dozens of day-flying Silver Y and Cinnabar moths.

Plants
In early June, nine Bee Orchid spikes were counted on Young's Land (a field owned by the National Trust located between Blakeney Garage and the coast path).
 
Bee Orchid, Blakeney (Ajay Tegala)


Reserve management
June saw the beginning of our annual Ragwort control. Uprooting this poisonous plant is a legal requirement on areas with grazing livestock, which includes Blakeney Freshes. We will be doing lots more of this throughout July as well as cutting thistles in order to avoid them going to seed, spreading and outcompeting other plants of higher conservation value.

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