Saturday, 20 July 2019

Beach Life

Sitting on the edge of The Wash at Snettisham as the sun starts to drop down the western horizon and offshore children enjoy a summer sail in the Sailing Clubs Toppers, I am reminded what a wonderful place this is for people to come and relax. Parents are scattered along the beach chilling as their kids are taught to sail. In the distance I can see a large family group walking along the tide line occasionally skimming stones and throwing a stick for the family dog. A older couple walk past hand in hand with cameras round their necks in search of a sunset shot to share on social media. Everyone seems happy and contented in using this special place for quiet recreation and sharing it with others. 

Adult Ringed Plover on guard duty, Snettisham

Yet I am on tenterhooks, I have noticed on the shingle ridge to my left a young Ringed Plover, almost fully grown but not yet able to fly. It has wandered out of the section of beach that the Warden has roped off to protect ground nesting birds like Ringed Plovers and Oystercatchers. Out here on the open beach, it can do under the watchful eyes of its parents what Ringed Plovers have always done, search for its food of small invertebrates amongst the seaweed and shells on the tide line. I'm worried because whilst it can run it can't fly and as I watch it and its two siblings I see a dog coming towards, us its presence even outside the fenced area enough to send two anxious adult Oystercatchers into the air noisily trying to distract the potential predator from their nest. 

Nearly fledged Ringed Plover chick, Snettisham

And this is the challenge that birds like these face, perfectly adapted for nesting on exposed beaches where the land edges into the sea, they are struggling to cope with increased human use of our coastline. Add in the effects of climate change meaning increased flooding in the breeding season and coastal erosion of their nest sites and the population of Ringed Plovers in Norfolk has nosedived by about 80% in recent decades. Suddenly this small trio of baby "Ringo's" are of much more importance. 

Adult Ringed plover and two well grown chicks, Snettisham

I stop and chat with the dogs owner who has got it on a lead and knows all about the Ringed Plovers and shares my concern for them. We have a pleasant conversation and then they continue on their way and I go back to dividing my attention between the Ringed Plovers and my son sailing lesson. 

Children learning to sail [and fall in], Snettisham

Sunday, 7 July 2019

Pyradmids in the Dunes

The undulating dunes at Holme are covered in a mix of of brambles and Marram Grass, in between these are desire paths carved out by generations of families heading to the long flat sandy beach and where these gaps appear wild flowers take their chance to grow and bloom. Today as we made our own beeline for the sea we passed hundreds of flowering spikes of Pyramidal Orchids. The Purple flower spikes colour accentuated by a backdrop of grey green Marram Grass fronds.

Pyramidal Orchids, Holme Dunes
This show of colour is just one of many that we get here in the sand dunes and on the saltmarshes on the north Norfolk coast. Hardy specialist plants like these orchids add their own signature to these tough environments where land and sea, saltwater and freshwater meet.

Once through the dunes we found a picnic site overlooking the sea and framed our view with a base layer of sand and Marram Grass and then the blue of the Wash with the occasional Sandwich Tern flying back towards the colony on Scolt Head Island to our east. Seal heads occasionally appearing glinting in the summer sun. In front of us the meditative sound of the waves rolling on and off the beach and behind us  the songs of Meadow Pipits and Linnets.

From land to sea, Holme dunes