Thursday, 27 December 2012

Gramborough Hill stonechat spotted in the Broads

Back in late-September we wrote about broods of stonechats that were ringed at NT Gramborough Hill, Salthouse and Arnolds Marsh, Cley, and gave the colour-ring combinations (click on the link below to show the table) that allow the identification of individuals.

We have just received an update that the female of the pair that raised two broods earlier this year at Gramborough Hill has been spotted wintering at St. Olaves, about 14km south-east of Reedham. Her colour-ring combination is white over green; metal over green and she is currently residing alongside an un-ringed male which means this isn't her 2012 breeding partner.

 Smart male stonechat

It will be interesting to see if she returns to the North Norfolk Coast to breed in a few months time, and if so, who will be accompanying her?

If you spot a stonechat with colour-rings please let the BTO know the colour-combination and its location.

Thanks Noel for the update, it makes it so much more interesting when you can follow individuals!

Victoria, Countryside Manager

Tuesday, 25 December 2012

Merry Christmas to you all

From all of the Norfolk Coast National Trust team, we wish you all a very happy Christmas. Enjoy the festive period.

Monday, 24 December 2012

Herring soup for Christmas lunch, fit for a Prince?

Another day, another seal in need of a bit of tlc.

Yesterday I went out to assess a young 3 week old pup that had an infected eye but otherwise looked ok ie. it was fairly plump with no obvious signs of injury.

I spent some time near it looking out to sea for signs of its mother and talking to walkers about it and the colony in general as well as easy things people can do to not cause any disturbance e.g not walking through the colony as this can cause seals to enter the territories of others potentially leading to fights or pups being in danger of aggressive adults.

All things considered, I decided to monitor the pup over the next day. When we do this we put a bollard near it to let any walkers know that we are aware of it and also to give the pup some space.With an increasing population it is not unusual for a pup to turn up perfectly healthy in a location away from the main colony and rest on the beach whilst its mother is out feeding.

The pup is in the background in this pic

I went back to the check on the pup today and it was still in the same location without a mother and following the advice fo the RSPCA East Winch hospital staff I took it to them. As it is 3 weeks old it was in heavy moult (most of it in the landrover!) and I was amazed at how different the coat looked in just a few hours. Here it is in the bay ready to be checked by the vet.  

The pup has a companion, Queen Victoria (all pups are named with a royalty theme), that was brought into the hospital yesterday and was only a few days old as it still had its umbilical cord. Any guesses on what this one, that weighed 11.05kgs so about a third of the weight that is needed before release, will be called if it is a male?

Looks like it will be herring soup for Christmas lunch!
Countryside Manager

Friday, 21 December 2012

Seal of approval from a rescue

Back at the end of July we blogged about a young common seal that we rescued and took to the RSPCA East Winch hospital that was suffering from Lungworm.

The RSPCA have provided us with an update about the little seal who was named Chris Acabussi (can you guess the theme this summer?). When we took it in on 30th July it only weighed 10.6kgs. It has been fed up in a good way over the months and reached a weight of 35kgs on the 5th November when it was released back into the wild. Before releasing the RSPCA put an orange tag on the flipper to identify it. Chris's number is 62295 so keep a look out for him and let us know if you spot him.

Despite the name, this species of seal isn't actually that common and is protected under European nature conservation legislation and it really is that everyone counts!

Countryside Manager

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Rot-ten day for seals and lifeboat house!

Cast your mind back in the mists of time 8 days ago when we wrote a post about a visit from staff from the RSPCA wildlife hospital at East Winch. We mentioned that on occasions we call on their excellent facilities and expertises when we get a sick or injured seal. Until yesterday all was reasonably quiet in the seal colony but whilst doing our twice weekly count George came across this little pup.  

It had either approached the wrong mum for food or got in the way of a Bull seal defending an area of beach. Whichever, it definitely came off worst in the encounter! This picture was sent to East Winch and few minutes later came the response 'Please could you get it here ASAP?'. I called up Elaine one of our Volunteer Seal Rangers and we set off complete with our stretcher. We found the pup and carried it the half mile back to the nearest vehicle pick-up point. Then it was off to East Winch to deliver it. First thing on arrival is to get the pup weighed and give it a name. This one was 14.8Kgs and as it is Jubilee year the theme is Royalty so he got the name Lion King (must have run out of monarchs names as they are already nearly full). This little pup will stay with them now until he reaches the required release weight of 45Kgs. He will be living on a diet of fish soup, basically herring put through a blender, until he can eat whole fish. Females are released at 40Kgs. The actual count of new borns added another 32 to the running total making an incredible 1197. 

The builders refurbishing the Lifeboat House had an extra helping hand as one of the pups decided to move under one of the vehicles. Not happy with the hundreds and hundreds of acres of space, this one put itself in the middle of the works.

Speaking of the Lifeboat house works, the more they undercover the more the problems mount including rusty steel girders, holes in the chimney breast and rotten windows. Looks like the works are timely!

Coastal Ranger

Update from Brancaster Millenium Activity Centre

Here at BMAC we are now deep into our Winter mode – decorating and maintenance, updating Risk Assessments, training and Winter tidying of the garden. We saw the last of our adult special interest birdwatching week-ends (no snow this time, thankfully, and thousands of pink-footed geese obliging at Holkham) and Alex now has the full 2013 programme drawn up.

We have a very few residential slots left next year – mostly in the early months – so I am working hard on marketing these late vacancies.  Our website is now all up to date with booking information and forms so if you are interested please find out more at or contact me at the office. We can take bookings for conferences, meetings etc throughout the year except January (you’d have to avoid the wet paintwork).  We have recently taken our first hen-weekend booking.

Next year sees a lot more of our taster sessions, kayaking, rafting and sailing, after their growing popularity, these can be booked via the central box office on 0844 249 1895.  We’ve put these through the box office to allow staff to be available to put on the greater number of sessions as the administration was becoming considerable.  It is still possible for groups to get enough people together to book their own day doing one or more of our taster activities – we had a group of choirboys on a camp last year, and a large extended family. If you are interested please contact the centre directly on 01485 210719.

We say goodbye to our Long Term Volunteer Lizzie before Christmas and welcome Annie in mid January to join Jo who is staying on, and a third volunteer yet to be recruited.  If you are interested in supporting our work please get in contact!

From all of the team at Brancaster we would like to wish you a merry Christmas and a happy New Year.

Nita Jackman
Learning officer

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

A Turkey, a Tiger and much more

On Thursday the 13th December we had our team christmas outing. We met Paul Eele the RSPB's reserve manager for Titchwell. Paul gave us an interesting introduction to the reserve and their management of it. We then spent the morning walking around the reserve with most of us reaching the hide complex and beach.

Countryside manager Victoria won the award for the best / strangest hat ever seen at Titchwell or anywhere come to think of it (see below).

Victoria with Keith, Marilyn and Millie, my dog who was too embarrassed to look

We then made our way to Briarfields hotel for lunch which all 31of us agreed was a wonderful meal. Even our resident Tiger was full at the end (see below). 

  Rob won a pint for wearing this, well deserved I think!

On Friday 14th December Eddie and George did the latest seal pup count which was 1165, already well over 200 more than the total count from last Winter. Now that the pups have started leaving the colony, we now only count new born pups and add to our previous total, which is fairly easy to do as they grow so fast. BBC Winterwatch have now finished filming the seals, watch out for it early in 2013, we have not got a specific date yet.

On Monday the 17th the monthly WeBS (Wetlands Bird Survey) count was done by splitting the reserve into sections and a member of staff or volunteer counting each section. Nothing remarkable was seen but all the usual suspects were present

In the past week a couple of the channel marker buoys have broken off their moorings and washed up in amongst the seal colony. Iain and myself decided the best way to get them back to the Harbour Boatmens Association was to pick them up by boat and return them to Morston quay for any repairs to be done. We did this on Monday on the early morning tide.

After finishing this I went to empty Blakeney Parish Councils car park machine on the Carnser only to find the whole machine had been stolen. About an hour after it was reported, I received a call from the Police to say it had been found,  lying in many pieces on the side of the road . This means for the sake of a few pounds several thousand pounds damage has been done. We are liaising with the Parish clerk about a replacement machine but this will take several weeks so you may not see the regular site of the hut on the quay for a while.

Finally for now George, Paul and I accompanied Langham School on a visit to Blakeney Point to see the Seals. I hope they had as much fun as we did taking them.

Graham Lubbock Coastal Ranger
Ps this is my first blog post, let me know what you think!

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Seals, filming, RSPCA visit, rot, unpeeling and a leak

The last three days for the NT team at Blakeney have been incredibly busy with lots going on.

Let's start with the seals! Eddie & George undertook another count of new-born pups on Monday and the total now stands at 1130 (it was 1055 last Wednesday). Despite a higher count, the actual number of pups on the beach was less as the early ones have already weaned and are now dispersing from the main rookery. This means that they are more and more likely to be encountered in the Morston-Cley-Salthouse area. If you see a pup that looks healthy and plump, please give it a wide berth and keep dogs away. We do go and check on the pups and you may see a sign we have placed near it to let walkers know that we are aware of it and monitoring its condition. Some that are in distress do have to be taken  to the RSPCA but more about that later!

Currently wildlife cameraman Richard Taylor-Jones is helping us to gain an insight into the lives and challenges of the seals of Blakeney Point and  it sounds fascinating as well as heart-wrenching at times. In this photo Volunteer Seal Rangers Sally & Liz catch up with the film crew as part of an introductory tour to their volunteering. As the lifeboat house is being refurbished, University College London kindly allowed the crew to use their building for the time they are with us. Having seen Richard-Taylor Jones on BBC Autumnwatch expect some great footage that tells a great story and maybe something poetic too! We'll keep you updated.

Also seal-related, when we come across a sick or injured seal we will take it to RSPCA East Winch wildlife hospital who care for it so it can hopefully be released back in the wild. Earlier this year some of us went to the wildlife hospital and saw lots of seals at different stages of health including a couple of the Blakeney ones. I found it a fascinating visit to see how, with specialist knowledge, the seals can be nursed back to health, not to mention a room full of swans that had swallowed fishing lines. I'll try to find some photos in due course. Today however was the turn of RSPCA staff to visit us and the seal colony, and they even had a sneek preview of some of the behaviour the film crew have captured.

Ranger George on the left & Graham on the right with RSPCA staff

The lifeboat house conservation refurbishment is on track and now the entire building is surrounded by scaffold.

When three of the NT project team looked at the condition of the lookout they found this. John, our Property Manager, sums it up nicely by 'the harsh environment takes it toll and a new lookout is required #rot'.

Today was an exciting day in the project as the first bit of tin cladding was removed. Over the next few weeks all of the old cladding will be replaced helping to ensure the building will be once again water-tight and weatherproof.

On the wider National Nature Reserve at Blakeney Freshes, Graham and volunteer ranger Malcolm went to check the water levels as we are trying to lower them to be able to get on with reed cutting. The weather however is not playing ball as it keeps raining! On checking one of the water control points, they came across a rather large hole behind the sluice which needed fixing.

By the afternoon the hole was plugged with sandbags as an emergency fix. Hopefully it will hold & not let water through otherwise a digger will be needed. We will be keeping an eye on the repair as the water levels change.

Lastly, the Blakeney seals and Ranger Eddie will feature on BBC Countryfile on Sunday, specifically talking about our conservation and monitoring work with Julia Bradbury. The show is all about North Norfolk so hopefully there will be some familiar scenes.

Victoria, Countryside Manager


Wednesday, 5 December 2012

The seals have done it - more than 1000 pups!

The grey seals have done it! More than 1000 pups born and 100 more than the total for last winter... and the season's not over yet!

This one was number 1055!

 Graham (Coastal ranger) captured this moment in time as part of our monitoring work. It's not 100% sharp as he didn't want to interrupt the seal and cause it stress!

The Ranger Team

You may have spotted that we are referring to some of the team as rangers instead of wardens. This is part of our work to help people get outdoors and closer to nature at a time when we have been caring for special places like Blakeney Point for 100 years. This protection, that was one of the reasons why the Trust was set up, is still continuing today through the ranger team and others.  

The ranger team on the Norfolk coast comprises:

Steve who looks after the Horsey windpump & Heigham Holmes grazing marshes in the Broads.

Graham, who has worked for the Trust for 22 years & looks after Blakeney National Nature Reserve NNR.

Eddie who spends 6 months living on Blakeney Point & the other half working on the wider NNR.

Keith who looks after the Brancaster Estate & Burnham area.

George who is in year 2 of an Academy Ranger programme, spending time between the Norfolk Coast & college blocks to learn theory & practical skills.

We are also supported by 3 seasonal rangers in the Spring/Summer.

All the East of England ranger team got together on Friday & lots of experience, thoughts and best practice were shared within the amazing structure of 13thC Coggeshall Grange Barn. This ideas tree captured some of them.

We are also supported by Volunteer rangers, for example Malcolm helps with the full breadth of the ranger role whilst Al is a Little Tern Ranger helping the rare terns that nest along Blakeney Point in the Spring/Summer.

We have also recently recruited Seal rangers & here they are being trained in the use of a seal stretcher.

Welcome to new rangers Jane, David, Marek, Elaine, Liz & Sally.

Victoria Francis
Countryside Manager