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Point Break: Minding the Gap and counting the Point’s tern chicks on Day Three

09:07 05 July 2012

100th anniversary of the National Trust buying Blakeney Point and turning it into Norfolk

100th anniversary of the National Trust buying Blakeney Point and turning it into Norfolk's first nature reserve. The seals resting on the beach. PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY

© ARCHANT NORFOLK 2012

Reporter STEVE DOWNES gives his latest update as he spends a week living with the wardens on Blakeney Point.

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Places are at their most vulnerable when people’s attention is elsewhere.

Fortunately, while all of your eyes were on the Olympic torch, one of Norfolk’s most beautiful natural treasures was in safe(ish) hands.

Yesterday, I was minding the Gap – training my eyes on the coastline to guard Blakeney Point tern and seal colonies from interlopers.

My first ever two-hour solo stint passed uneventfully, and featured one lovely couple from Hertfordshire, a couple of meadow pipits and millions of flies. Levity aside, the work is hugely important, as human disturbance can unsettle the terns enough for them to flee their nests.

This year, the long hours of watching and gently educating walkers has paid off. For on Tuesday night I joined the wardens for their crucial sandwich tern chick count.

They recorded 2,200 chicks – up 200 from the previous year, and helping to safeguard the future of these beautiful and endangered birds.

It’s great news.

But the news is not so good for unlucky caterpillars that stumble into the path of one of the insects that I saw earlier yesterday.

The ichneumon paralyses and buries caterpillars, then lays its eggs in their bodies. The eggs hatch and the littluns eat their way out of the still live caterpillars.

To demonstrate that a warden’s life is not all gory or glory, earlier I cleared scrub from around the Point solar panels, which provide most of the power for the boathouse and accommodation. And later I saw a moth trap being set up. Nothing too technical, just a light bulb on top of a plastic container.

For the results of the moth survey and the latest Point Break updates, see tomorrow’s paper and follow @stevedownes1973 on Twitter.

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