Tuesday, 30 December 2014

30th of December: Seals from the sky

Thanks to Ian Ward, we can share with you a photograph of seals on Blakeney Point viewed from the sky!
(click image to enlarge)
He also took these splendid shots of the Point

Our latest pup count takes the total up to 2,417, with 20 born in the last week

Around the coast at Horsey, they have had 752 pups and nearby Donna Nook, in Lincolnshire, reached a total of 1,798.

In recent Blakeney Point bird news: Snow Buntings are seen most days, with a flock of around 40 seen today. Shore Larks are a lot more illusive, but a flock of eight were seen breifly yesterday.

 - Ajay (with thanks to Ian Ward and Alex Green for photographs)

Sunday, 21 December 2014

21st of December: 3,000 miles away

At this time of year, the wildlife stars of Blakeney Point are undoubtedly the seals...

... but we haven't forgotten about the Sandwich Terns that breed here in the summer. One of the juveniles that was colour-ringed here by the BTO this summer, has been seen at Tanji on the coast of The Gambia, West Africa - around 3,000 miles from Norfolk.

Newly-ringed chick

This colour-ringing project, started in 2013, has given of us an insight into the post-breeding movements of the Sandwich Terns that breed on Blakeney Point. With birds seen in Scotland, Ireland, France, Holland, Germany and Denmark soon after leaving Norfolk.

While Blakeney Point is experiencing cold British winter weather and hosting thousands of breeding seals, the Sandwich Terns that bred here in the summer are far away in West Africa amongst Caspian Terns, Royal Terns and Grey-headed Gulls...

Tanji beach, The Gambia

It's not just Sandwich Terns that are being tracked. This Grey Seal cow is sporting a telemetry tag, fitted in The Netherlands this spring. She is one of four tagged seals from The Netherlands that have turned up at Blakeney since October. This shows just how far seals travel throughout the year. Most of the Grey Seals that breed on Blakeney Point only spend a small part of the year here.

The pupping has peaked and there are now numerous weaned pups spreading out along the Point. This one has made it onto the boardwalk.

We ask walkers on Blakeney Point to be aware that weaned pups will be scattered about the reserve. They have shed their white fur and been left by their mothers. This is natural. Please  do not approach weaned pups as going too close will cause distress. And ensure dogs are kept on leads at all times for the safety of both seals and dogs.

Pup moulting its white fur

With many pups weaned or almost weaned, lots of mating is going on in the rookery

With so many seals present, there is many a fight between bulls - some of them have clearly had a rough time

Many cows are noticeably thin having spent three weeks feeding their pups

While the pups have become very round

and have an easy life resting and living off fat reserves

There are a few black pups amongst the rookery

The beach, notably less crowded than last week

The total pup count now stands at 2,382. This puts us significantly ahead of Donna Nook, Lincolnshire (1,798) and The Farne Islands, Northumberland (1,651).

- Ajay (with photographs by Sarah and Paul)

Sunday, 14 December 2014

14th of December: Pup progress

Today's seal pup count stands at an amazing 2,303 pups so far this year - still an increase on the last count although the pupping rate is beginning to slow now as we'd expect.  At the moment there are approximately 20 pups per night being born and this will decrease further as the season progresses.

Pups of all ages, colours and sizes can now be seen on the reserve.


Although we've roped off the main breeding areas (as explained in previous blogs), some seals just don't obey the rules and pup outside the fenceline.  As this family who've taken up residence next to the boardwalk demonstrate, even when you're walking outside the fencelines you need to keep an eye out for seals.

In bird news wintering flocks of fifty plus snow buntings  and groups of up to thirteen shore larks have been a real joy to see though you need to be lucky as they're highly mobile along the shingle ridge.  Marsh and hen harriers continue to grace the dunes and salt marsh daily whilst merlins are also regular visitors - sometimes their presence is betrayed by a pile of plucked feathers.

 Snow buntings

Sarah and Paul

Sunday, 7 December 2014

7th of December: Egyptian on the Point and record breaking pups

It's been a busy week on the Point with pup numbers breaking through the 2000 barrier, reaching a total of 2126 pups born on Blakeney Point so far this season.  This makes the Point the biggest seal colony in  England, overtaking Donna Nook in Lincolnshire who's count yesterday was 1760.  

This weekend Winterwatch were out to gather more footage for their new season starting in January.  Read more about the techniques they were using at  http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-norfolk-30310463 .

Winterwatch filming the seals

Many of the cows have now left the rookery leaving behind many fat weaners (weaned pups).

3 fat weaners

These will stay in the rookery until they get so hungry that they must head to the deep blue sea to fend for themselves.  The mothers/cows will play no part in teaching the pups to feed - instinct must guide the pups.

Meanwhile the bulls are attempting to mate with cows but not all the females are receptive to their brand of romance, especially when they still have pups to suckle.  This bull below had no luck on Saturday when he was seen off by the cow.

Cow fending off bull's advances

Other bulls contentedly snooze away and bide their time.

Dreaming bull

We also had an Egyptian visitor to the Point this week in the form of a goose.  This introduced species is rare on the Point despite being resident nearby.

Egyptian Goose on beach

With the cold clear weather on Saturday we had a beautiful sunset

Blakeney Harbour at sunset

followed by what may look like the setting sun, but is in fact the rising moon.

Full moon rising

Paul and Sarah