Field trip: Blakeney Point – 24 July 2011

Field Trip to Blakeney Point.  Sunday 24th July, 2011  report by Mary Walker

Another new venue for some of the 17 WVBS members gathered on Morston Quayside. Disguised by thick woolly hats, scarves and gloves, but recognisable by the scopes on our backs and bins round our necks, we all wondered if we could “cock a leg” high enough to board the Beans Seal Trip craft awaiting us.  A sharp north easterly wind ensured those at the front of the boat had a regular soaking, but that was a minor discomfort to be rewarded with such close views of the 500-600, mainly Common but also Grey Seals at low water.  Our jovial skipper kept us well informed of their habits. It had been the best breeding season since 1999, with the Common having pups in July, and the Grey in Nov/Dec.  Last winter numbers swelled to over 700, before the Greys moved on from their East Coast breeding grounds.  They mainly feed on Mullet/Sea Bass/Whiting and Tuna, with Mackerel the favourite at the moment.  An adult can eat up to 10lb of fish a day, only moving to feed twice a day with the tide.  The rest of the time is spent lying on the beach, or “bottling” (fast asleep, nose up, standing on the sea bed). Vibrations in the seal’s whiskers are used to find food.

Having enjoyed the antics of the seals we turned our attentions to the birds.  Fourteen thousand Terns were present this summer at Blakeney Point and are already starting to leave for Africa, a little early according to our skipper. We had soon ticked Common, Little and Arctic, along with Sandwich with their funny punky hairstyle.  A lone Guillemot was in the sea, and an Arctic Skua overhead.  A single Mediterranean Gull, one half of 10 pairs who had raised 30 young, scrutinized our boat.

Time to dock and “shake a leg again” to clamber ashore for a quick march along the Point.  We only had an hour to explore because Time and Tide wait for no man, not even keen WVBS members.  A short list was compiled including Gannet, Ringed Plover, Meadow Pipit, Bar Tailed Godwit, Greater Black Backed Gull and Turnstone.

The wind dropped, sea calmed and the sun shone for our return journey, and once back on land, outer layers of clothing were swiftly removed.  The sea air had given us all an appetite, and once energy levels were replenished most of the group descended on Cley NWT for a couple of hours.  Pats Pool was being drained, so we assembled at North Scrape and proceeded to play “Spot The Curlew Sandpiper”.  We knew he was there somewhere and eventually all of the group managed to pick him out with the aid of a scope and enjoyed good views despite the fact he was a busy little chap, continually on the move.  Eleven Spoonbills were present along with dozens of Dunlin, Avocet, Grey Wagtails, a few Knot and a couple of Spotted Redshanks.

An excellent day out and many thanks to Ray for organising, leading and helping with the identification of the 60 species, which was our final total.

Kestrel, Pheasant, Blackbird, Goldfinch, B.H.Gull, Greenfinch, Collared Dove, Wood Pigeon, Swallow,
Stock Dove, Magpie, Dunnock, Jackdaw, Chaffinch, Reed Bunting, Sky Lark, Wren,Little Egret, Arctic,
Little, Common, and Sandwich Tern, Redshank, Curlew, Med Gull, ArcticSkua, Guillemot, Gannet,Great Black-backed Gull, Turnstone, Bar-tailed & Black-tailed Godwit, Shelduck, Sanderling, Grey Wagtail, Greenshank, Teal, Herring Gull, Linnet, Lapwing, Ruff, Greylag, Avocet, Shoveler, Knot, Spotted Redshank, Curlew Sandpiper, Golden Plover, House Martin, Starling, Spoonbill, Dunlin, Oystercatcher, Common Sandpiper, Cormorant, Yellow Wagtail, Pied Wagtail, Marsh Harrier, Ringed Plover and Whimbrel seen flying over.

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