Tuesday, 7 May 2013

A varied week at Cley and Salthouse Marshes

Carl Brooker, Summer Warden

What a varied week it’s been for me at Cley. Luke - our volunteer warden - and I have been installing some new fencing panels alongside the three main hides (Avocet, Dawkes and Teal). The old fencing, which was of a wood and reed construction, had finally given in to the relentless onshore winds that have plagued us for the past few months. Head Warden, Bernard Bishop, managed to procure some really nice wattle fence panels to ensure that you are well screened off from the wildlife as you enter the hides. We have still got a panel or two to go though as a mallard has decided to nest right beside the next set of posts!

The winds have also been bringing in several dead birds over the past three weeks, mostly razorbills and guillemots with a few puffins among them. It has been happening all along the east coast of the UK and according to news reports the cause is the bad winter. Along with the birds the sea is also dumping quite a lot of plastic and helium balloons on our beach, a lot of which blows onto the nature reserve. These pose a major threat to our marine life and birds which may ingest them thinking they are food. I read a report not so long ago that it is estimated that 95% of our fulmars have plastic of some type in their stomachs. Last year we collected 239 balloons from the nature reserve between the east and west banks. We have around two miles of beach here at Cley and Salthouse Marshes and it makes me wonder how many thousands of balloons there must be landing on the UK shores each year!

But it’s not all doom and gloom: spring migrants continue to arrive daily. On Wednesday morning I counted six separate sedge warblers singing from the start of the boardwalk to the main hides, a lovely pair of whinchats making good use of the stock fencing adjacent to Teal hide, and spoonbill have been present around Billy’s Wash for a couple of days.

A red kite has graced us with its presence three times this week and while I was in the Visitor Centre talking to our colleagues on reception, we had a hen harrier fly past us. The fall of yellow wagtails is still occurring on the eye field and on Friday when I had just got my scope out and was scanning the Eye pool with two of our regular birders, we simultaneously spotted a blue headed one amongst the flock.

A cuckoo was reported over the back of the nature reserve by the shingle on Friday in the morning and I was fortunate enough to catch it as it flew over the Blakeney Fresh Marsh (West bank).

Aside from the birds we have seen quite a number of ruby tiger moths emerging this week along the edges of the reed beds and our dykes and drains are now teeming with three-spined sticklebacks. The bright red belly of the male can be clearly seen in the clear water of the spring fed catch water drain that runs alongside the A149 coast road as they voraciously defend their nests and display to attract a mate. (Tip for viewing: I have a pair of fishing glasses that are polarising.)

If you are coming to visit us in the Cley Marshes Visitor Centre over the next couple of weeks don’t miss the Rural and Wild photography exhibition by local photographer, Sarah Weston in the old visitor centre. Admission is free!

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