Tuesday, 9 October 2012

9th of October: End of season for Ajay

It was exactly six months ago that my seasonal contract as a ranger on Blakeney Point began. Today is my last day. This October weather brings back memories of what it was like when we first moved into the Lifeboat House back in April.
Paul and I feeling a bit cold in April

The season began with us eagerly awaiting the birds to start laying their eggs. The unfavourable weather conditions delayed this somewhat. But by the start of May we had found the first passerine (Linnet, Meadow Pipit, Reed Bunting), wader (Oystercatcher, Ringed Plover, Redshank) and duck (Mallard, Gadwall) nests of the season. Although the weather was mostly far-from-warm well into June.

One of the definite highlights for me was the Sandwich Tern nest count. I described the experience in our 26th of May blog entry.
A quick snap-shot taken during the nest count

Between early May and mid June, we took it in turns to get up at dawn to patrol the reserve. This was done because eggs are potentially vulnerable to theft by egg collectors. Thankfully, egg theft has decreased and Blakeney has not been targeted for a number of years, but it still happens therefore we patrol the reserve between dawn and dusk when the birds are on eggs. The responsibility to protect the breeding birds provides the motivation to get up at dawn and also the opportunity to watch the sun rise from the beach.
Sunrise photographed around 4am on a morning patrol

There were several surprises throughout the season. The amount, and variety, of media attention that the Point received in its centenary year certainly exceeded expectations, with numerous journalists and film crews visiting the reserve. Another visitor was this racing pigeon that decided to roost on my window ledge overnight for several weeks.

Throughout the season, we got some great views of a variety of rare migrant birds. These included two Barred Warblers, a Greenish Warbler, a Yellow-browed Warbler, an Icterine Warbler, a Dotterel and two Red-breasted Flycatchers (I was on a day off when they saw the Pallid Harrier). A bird that sticks in my memory is my first Bluethroat, which showed very well on the 6th of May. Joe got some great photos that can be seen here.

As well as a large amount of work to protect and monitor the breeding birds, we had a number of close encounters with seals, as documented in previous posts. During one Saturday in August, we found two ill Common Seal pups on the beach close to several visitors. An off-duty RSPCA officer happened to be sunbathing nearby and arranged for one of his colleagues to collect them at Cley beach and take them to the animal hospital at East Winch. Here is a photo of the two pups on their journey to Cley.

As the Grey Seal pups are born on the Point this winter, Eddie will keep the blog updated with their progress. Since the establishment of the Grey Seal rookery on the Point in 2001, numbers have increased each year with 933 born last winter (205 more than the previous year). Therefore we are confident that over 1,000 will be born here this winter.

It has been a pleasure to work on Blakeney Point during this landmark year: to have contributed to a successful breeding season for the Sandwich Terns (2,200 fledged chicks), to have helped set up this blog and it be so well-received, and to have had such a wonderful time working within a great team of people. As a recent countryside management graduate looking to develop my career in nature conservation, this seasonal contract has been a valuable stepping stone. I am now starting a six-month contract on Lindisfarne NNR with Natural England.

-Ajay Tegala

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