Thursday, 16 July 2015

Faith's Blakeney Point Diary

Hello, my name is Faith and I’ve been asked by Ajay to write a blog about my experiences here on the Point.  I am a National Trust Academy Ranger based at Attingham Park in Shropshire.  The Academy Ranger scheme is a two and-a-half year traineeship which gives you a qualification in countryside management as well as the practical tickets to set you on your way to begin a career as a ranger.  Recently the Academy Rangers have been learning about habitat management and as part of our assignment we need to gain an understanding about terrestrial, freshwater and coastal management objectives and techniques for conservation.  So, having grown up on the North Norfolk coast, I thought it was a great opportunity to get a coastal experience here on Blakeney Point.

My week has been varied and I have learned lots.  Each day the Rangers will ensure the visitor facilities are cleaned and the previous day’s bird count is written up in the visitor centre for all to see.

Blakeney Point’s primary focus is to protect its bird colonies.  One way in which we do this is to fence off areas where birds are known to have nested.  Each day at low tide a ranger will be at the gap to talk to visitors and explain where people can walk, to get a closer look at the seals.  As well as this a member of the team will also be in the tower of the boat house monitoring boats at high tide to ensure the safety of the seals and terns.

Another key part of a coastal ranger’s role is to inform the public about conservation and I was lucky enough to go on a guided walk led by Ajay to an enthusiastic A-level group that had walked over from the mainland.  Here detailed information was given about the three rare types of habitat that are present at Blakeney Point: saltmarsh, vegetated shingle and sand dunes.  Further discussion then led on to the flora and types of birds that are likely to be present within each habitat.
Left to right: Sand dunes, shingle, saltmarsh

I have personally found the flora of the Point fascinating having seen many new species of plant.  The Point hosts four different species of Sea-lavender: Common, Rock, Matted and Lax-flowered.
 Common Sea-lavender

Rock Sea-lavender

Matted Sea-lavender

Lax-flowered Sea-lavender

Another species, that is usually a hated figure by many, is ragwort.  As a regular ragwort puller it was nice to see ragwort in a place where it needn’t be removed, and I was fortunate enough to capture the caterpillars of the Cinnabar moth feeding on it.

What has been the most interesting experience at the Point for me was the surveying.  A ranger is always watching at Blakeney.  From the beginning of the day to night fall, the rangers are constantly keeping count of the birds they have seen, to the butterflies, hares and any interesting behaviour they may be showing.  As Blakeney Point has a history of keeping great records, it is important that this continues today. 

I took part in a butterfly survey, which included seeing Small Tortoiseshells and Gatekeepers as well as going over to Far Point to see how many remaining Common Tern nests there were with eggs that were yet to hatch.  I have seen many species of bird which I haven’t seen before including the Marsh Harrier, Whimbrel and Little Egret.
Common Tern eggs

As my final day is fast approaching I am looking forward to moth trapping and a wader and wildfowl survey.  I would like to thank the Blakeney Point ranger team for giving me the opportunity to experience what the role of a ranger is like on the coast as well as giving me a memorable experience here at Blakeney Point.

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