Saturday, 29 September 2012

29th of September: Gannets galore and potatoes aplenty

The past few days have been fantastic for watching Gannets from Blakeney Point. There have literally been hundreds. Several juveniles are diving for fish very close to the beach, enabling fantastic views. Gannets breed colonially on rocky coasts. The nearest breeding colony to Blakeney is at Bempton Cliffs on the Yorkshire coast. Gannets migrate to Western Africa and the Western Mediterranean and are numerous along the coast in autumn. Juveniles have grey plumage finely speckled white and take five years to reach full adult plumage; white with yellow head and black wing tips.
Juvenile Gannet diving (Joe Cockram)

The Barred Warbler is still in the garden, having been there for a week now. It certainly does feel like autumn out here in these cold winds. Yesterday a total of over 1,000 Pink-footed Geese flew over the Point, and two Barnacle Geese were spotted amongst them. There are still quite a few Sandwich Terns around, feeding out to sea and flying past on their migration to Africa.
Barred Warbler (Richard Porter)

Yesterday a large number of Sea Potatoes were found washed up on the beach, an estimated 50. Sea Potatoes are a type of urchin. They are common around the British Isles, but finding intact shells on the beach is quite rare. The heart-shaped Sea Potatoes bury themselves in sand and feed on organic waste, their lifespan is thought to be over ten years. We now have what could be heading towards Europe's largest intact Sea Potato collection...
 

Ajay and Paul

Thursday, 27 September 2012

27th of September: Autumnwatch

Today, Richard Taylor-Jones and the BBC Autumnwatch team spent the day on Blakeney Point. Their focus was the seals. Paul was interviewed about the increasing Grey Seal population on the Point and filmed conducting a seal count with Ajay. Numbers were 446 Grey and 349 Common Seals.

Richard and the team will be returning to the Point in December to film Grey Seal pups for BBC Winterwatch. It is anticipated that this year over 1,000 pups will be born on Blakeney Point.

Photo: Iain Wolfe

Following Monday's big fall of migrants, numbers were much smaller today with only one Redstart. Four Wheatears, four Willow Warblers, a Sparrowhawk and a Merlin were also seen. Pink-footed Geese are now being seen everyday, with 300+ recorded today and 20 Brent Geese.

Recently, we found this Common Shrew hiding in a bag containing mealworms, which it was feeding on with relish. Sightings of shrews are daily in the Lifeboat House at the moment, they have even scurried over our feet.
Common Shrew (Edward Stubbings)

- Ajay

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

25th of September: The past few days on the Point

Over the past few days the weather has been blustery and wet with winds from the north, east and south west. This brought in some rare birds and a classic fall of autumn migrants. On the Saturday a Barred Warbler, a Red-breasted Flycatcher and an Ortolan Bunting were present. The following day a Yellow-browed Warbler joined the Barred Warbler. Yesterday saw a big fall of Redstarts (90+), Robins (50+) and Song Thrushes (300+). Autumn has begun.
Ortolan Bunting
This bat was observed coming in off the sea on the Sunday. 
Yellow-browed Warbler


Male Red-breasted Flycatcher
(All above photos by Richard Porter)
In June 2012, several broods of Stonechat chicks were ringed at the NT's Gramborough Hill, Salthouse and Arnold's Marsh, Cley. Some of these colour-ringed young birds have been seen on Blakeney Point. As you can see from the photos they pass through a post juvenile moult fairly quickly which means that he was finding a good supply of food. Common Whitethroats often followed the Stonechats around whilst feeding. 
Juvenile Stonechat in July
The same bird in September
If you spot a stonehcat which has been adorned with colour rings, please do make a note of the combination and e-mail it to

By collating sightings we can learn more about the distribution, dispersal and survival of these striking birds.

- Eddie
Top
Left
Bottom
Left
Top
Right
Bottom
Right
Ring
Number
Age
Site
Date ringed
Brown
Dark Pink
Dark Green
Metal
L217140
2 c-y male
Arnold's Marsh
12/07/2012
Violet
Dark Blue
Dark Green
Metal
L217128
2 c-y male
Gramboro' Hill
18/06/2012
Yellow
Brown
Dark Green
Metal
L217133
Nestling 5/5
Arnold's Marsh
26/06/2012
Black
Dark Blue
Dark Green
Metal
L217132
Nestling 4/5
Arnold's Marsh
26/06/2012
Brown
Dark Blue
Dark Green
Metal
L217131
Nestling 3/5
Arnold's Marsh
26/06/2012
Dark Blue
Dark Blue
Dark Green
Metal
L217130
Nestling 2/5
Arnold's Marsh
26/06/2012
Dark Pink
Dark Blue
Dark Green
Metal
L217127
Nestling 5/5
Gramboro' Hill
01/06/2012
Dark Green
Dark Blue
Dark Green
Metal
L217126
Nestling 4/5
Gramboro' Hill
01/06/2012
Grey
Dark Blue
Dark Green
Metal
L217129
Nestling 1/5
Arnold's Marsh
26/06/2012
Lime
Dark Blue
Dark Green
Metal
L217125
Nestling 3/5
Gramboro' Hill
01/06/2012
Orange
Dark Blue
Dark Green
Metal
L217124
Nestling 2/5
Gramboro' Hill
01/06/2012
Pale Blue
Dark Blue
Dark Green
Metal
L217123
Nestling 1/5
Gramboro' Hill
01/06/2012
Dark Blue
Dark Pink
Dark Green
Metal
L217141
Nestling 1/2
Gramboro' Hill
22/07/2012
Dark Green
Dark Pink
Dark Green
Metal
L217142
Nestling 2/2
Gramboro' Hill
22/07/2012

Thursday, 20 September 2012

20th of September: A road sign, a model aeroplane and a large knob!

Over the summer we have welcomed staff from CITB-ConstructionSkills to help with the day-to-day management of one of the country’s most important nature reserves and a busy visitor destination. From surveying a footpath in need of repair to helping to hang bunting for our Jubilicious June celebrations to clearing ragwort from our grazing marshes, thanks to CITB-ConstructionSkills we’ve benefited from more than 90 hours of volunteer help.
Kermit helping to measure the footpath



Supporting the National Trust fits nicely with their organisation as “CITB-ConstructionSkills’ aim is to make positive contributions to the environment and communities, across the three nations that we work in. We were delighted at the opportunity to take part in the National Trust project in Norfolk and were both energetic and committed to make a difference in any small way we could.”

The most recent activity they supported was a Marine Conservation Society beach clean on the Point this Tuesday. We found many unusual items including a road sign, a model aeroplane, a large wooden doorknob and a cheese dunker no longer fit for consumption. The most common rubbish items found were small pieces of plastic and food packaging, these are a particular problem because, in addition to polluting the sea, they get ingested by marine mammals and birds.

Special thanks to Marie French (Trainee Analyst) and Gavin Stephenson (Change Consultant) from the Strategy and Change Team, for their help organising of the tasks.

If we can host a team building day for you, please do get in touch.

- Eddie

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

12th of September: Busman's Holiday

Yesterday we had a day away from The Point, doing pretty much what we usually do, but in slightly different surroundings.

Here we are, looking none too pleased to be leaving our home for the day.

The purpose of our 'end-of-season jolly', alongside our dedicated volunteer Little Tern warden Al Davies, was to take a look at the collection of stuffed birds down the road at our fellow National Trust property Blickling Hall. These birds were originally part of the information display in the Lifeboat House at Blakeney Point, and were suspected to have been obtained here 100 odd years ago. As they are currently mouldering in a dark store shed at Blickling we are considering returning them to The Point, where they can at least be viewed by the public. Stuffed birds aren't to everyone's taste for obvious reasons, birds are much better admired alive than dead, but they are a poignant reminder of how birding and conservation has progressed. The Point first rose to fame as a birding hotspot after rarity hunters procured specimens of rare birds here with the aid of their shotguns, but following advances in optical equipment, fieldcraft and morals, avian visitors are thankfully now recorded and allowed to continue their journeys un-harmed.

One of the stuffed birds, a drake Goldeneye, looking rather surpised.

A label on the bottom of one of the displays. We'll be using the information available to try and find the history of these stuffed birds.

After Blickling, we journeyed a short while inland to a well known Norfolk public house and brewery, partly for lunch, and partly to pay homage to an establishment whose wares have been sampled conclusively this season.

Eddie finds his Shangri-la.

After lunch we went for a walk around the nearby Bure Marshes, where the best bird seen was this Crane.
- Joe

Take part in the Great British Walk

Use your feet to show your love of the great British countryside this autumn – and take part in the Great British Walk. For a second year running, our walking festival will celebrate the wealth of ‘great’ walks on offer at beautiful outdoor places up and down the country.

Having kicked off on 1 September, there will be a whole host of events, activities and trails to discover at our places all the way through to the end of half term.

If you’re a family looking to enjoy all that autumn has to offer, why not join us for a fun autumnal event? Let us put an adventurous spin on your day out by ticking of some more of our 50 things to do before you’re 11 3/4 at family friendly walking events including wildlife tracking, den building, night-time bat walks and even conker contests.

If a guided ramble is more your cup of tea, there’ll be plenty of ranger-led walks on offer, from autumn colour strolls in wooded parkland to wildlife spotting along dramatic coastline, there is a theme and distance to suit you.

Find out more about the Trust's walking festival on the Gone for a Walk site.

Here at Blakeney, there will be a selection of guided walks. There are still 5 spaces left on our Autumn Migrants walk at Blakeney this Friday. Information and tickets available here.


As part of the Great British Walk, we are encouraging people to upload pictures of their feet walking at NT properties onto the East of England Flickr site. Above are some of the Norfolk Coast team's feet on the compass at Scolt Head Island, Brancaster (owned by the National Trust, managed by Natural England) on a recent site visit.


What is your favourite walk on the Norfolk Coast? Here is Victoria's:

Sunday, 9 September 2012

8th of September: Autumn is here

On Friday this Convolvulus Hawkmoth caterpillar was photographed by Alex Green (learning officer at the NT's Brancaster activity centre) on the coast path next to Brancaster Marshes. A rather rare occurance in Britain, this year has been a good one for them and we encourage you to keep an eye out for them.
Convolvulus Hawkmoth caterpillar (Alex Green)

Over the weekend, we have had the last organised visit of the year from the Norfolk and Norwich Naturalists Society to Blakeney Point. They were mostly moth specialists, but flies, beetles and aphids were also recorded. A new aphid species for Norfolk was discovered. Over 40 moth species were recorded including this imaculate Brown-spot Pinion, an autumnal species.
Brown-spot Pinion (Joe Cockram)

In bird news, we have seen only a small number of migrants on the Point due to unfavourable winds predominantly from the south and west. On Friday the first Pink-footed Geese of the autumn were seen over the point. Today two Pied Flycatchers were recorded in the brambles, also four Whinchats, 12 Wheatears and three Willow Warblers. Hirundines (Swallows, House and Sand Martins) were also prominent as they fed on insects near the Lifeboat House.

Wheatear (Joe Cockram)

Whinchat (Joe Cockram)

- Ajay