Thursday, 26 April 2012

24th of April: The Season So Far

Coastal Wardens Eddie Stubbings and Paul Nichols moved into the Lifeboat House on the 30th of March. Eddie is based on the mainland in the winter and the point in the summer. Paul is returning for his sixth consecutive season. The following day the annual spring beach clean took place. There was a good turnout and over 60 bags of rubbish were collected. Big thanks to all who helped.

On the 9th of April Seasonal Wardens Joe Cockram and Ajay Tegala also moved into the Lifeboat House. Joe worked on the Point for the 2010 season and also on the Farnes in 2009. Ajay worked at Blakeney and Morston from 2009 to 2010 and worked at Wicken Fen last year.

There were large numbers of seals present on the West Sands at the start of the season. We estimated around 1000 at the start of April and on our first count there were 115 Common and 716 Grey.

The first Sandwich Tern of the season was seen on the 16th of March at Cley and within a month numbers had increased to over 3,000. The first Common Tern was seen on the 11th of April and the first Arctic Terns on the 18th. The first two Little Terns of the year have just flown past the Lifeboat House.

Other first sightings include Swallow on the 3rd of April and Willow Warbler on the 11th, otherwise the arrival of summer migrants has been rather slow due to the cold weather.

The cold weather has meant that most of our migrants so far have been northern species (birds that do not cross the Sahara in winter). The weather has often been rainy, windy and as mentioned before, cold. Winds were northerly and also southeast and southwest, bringing in a number of migrant birds. Chiffchaffs, Willow Warblers, Wheatears and Robins have been seen on most days throughout April. There have also been a number of Blackcaps and Song Thrushes, occasional Ring Ouzels, Redwings, Black Redstarts, Redpolls, Siskin and Brambling. There were Lapland Buntings on the 6th, 8th and 20th. Seven Whimbrel flew over on the 12th. Raptor sightings include Hen Harriers seen several times throughout the month, Red Kites on the 3rd and 6th and a Rough-legged Buzzard flying through on the 18th. Short-eared Owls, Merlins and Peregrines have been regular. On the 22nd an Osprey flew over. This evening a Glaucous Gull was seen briefly on Near Point.

Two particularly exciting wildlife moments have been witnessed so far this season. On the 30th of March, six Red Deer were seen swimming across the harbour between the Watch House and Morston at high tide. On the 6th of April a Merlin chased a Skylark into the kitchen. The Merlin flew into the kitchen window and fell behind the bin. A few minutes later it flew out of an open window on the opposite side of the room and landed in the garden to recover. When moving an armchair to watch the Merlin through the window, the Skylark flew out from behind it.

Breeding behaviour has been slow. The first nest found was a Mallard’s with 15 eggs. Linnets started to nest-build at the start of the month but stopped due to the cold weather and have only just continued to build again. In spite of the weather, several hundred Black-headed Gulls are now sitting on eggs.

Black Redstart (Joe Cockram) 

Stock Dove in the Lifeboat House, 10th of April (Joe Cockram)

- Eddie (Coastal Warden) and Ajay (Assistant)

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