Encounter of the Cetacean Kind

10 August 2015:

Mr Cheng looking through binocularsHutchinson’s Ports UK CEO and Europe Division Manager Mr Clemence Cheng excepted my invitation for a short tour of the Nature Reserve. He was accompanied by Mr Alan Tinline the Ports Environment and Energy Manager. I was very pleased that they had managed to take time from busy work schedules to make the visit. The purpose of the invitation was to introduce Mr Cheng to part of the Landguard Partnership that funding, (that comes through the section 106 agreements with the local authority) from the Port has benefitted from and hopefully generate some genuine empathy for the Nature Reserve. I was very pleased that Mr Cheng managed to spot a Ringed Plover on its’ nest with my binoculars, it can be quite difficult to pick them out with the birds camouflage working so well.

Mr Cheng and JianhuaMr Cheng made a comment on the great view across to the Port and reeled off the classification of one huge ship that was at berth. As we passed the Bungalow my wife Jianhua came out to say hello with my son Ray, after a quick exchange in Mandarin and a photo we made our way to the Point. Mr Tinline outlined some steps that the Port has undertaken to lessen its environmental impact, he also invited me to take a closer look at the Port, which I have since taken up.

It was great to have a close look at the Port and feel the enormity of it all. I met Mr Tinline at the reception in Tomline House where there is an impressive full scale model of the Port. A lady at the Reception desk commented on how she enjoyed lunch breaks on the Nature Reserve and how good it was to have such an environment close by. Providing an area for people to get away from the hurly burley of busy lives is an important function of Nature Reserves around the country. In the Ports endeavours to reduce costs and be more energy efficient it is also reducing emissions directly and indirectly. I was surprised to see a water course with a surprising amount of habitat on its banks running through the Port. When trains come to the end of the line in the port, a nifty locomotive Traverser which reduces the need for hundreds of metres of train track and junctions. Solar panels seen on one building produce enough energy to be exported elsewhere.

Train traverserSolar panels





JohnJohn is a regular face on the Landguard Peninsula whether it’s on the Nature Reserve or along Viewpoint Road. He is there most mornings after arriving from Ipswich. I often stop for a convivial chat with him, but not for long as he is on a mission to rid the Peninsula of rubbish, most of which has been carelessly discarded by mindless twits. I tried to pin him down one day on his activities so that I might record his time as volunteer hours. He didn’t want to be part of any recording, preferring the freedom to come and go without any red tape, which I can quite understand. As a retired man he exclaimed "this gets me out of bed and keeps me fit". Without doubt the Peninsula is benefiting hugely from his activities and he deserves a medal… no I mean that, he really deserves some appropriate recognition for his outstanding time and efforts. 

Harbour PorpoiseOne evening while doing my evening check around the beach enclosures, I noticed a large black object moving on the edge of the lapping waves. Perhaps a seal was my first thought but on looking through my binoculars I could see that it had a Dolphin like tail. Even looking at its movements from a distance it looked quite weak. My thoughts went to all the times I have seen reports on stranded cetaceans on the news; many seem to end with unfortunate deaths. As I got up to it I could see that it was in fact a Harbour Porpoise. I wonder if it beached itself while chasing fish into the shallows? As I stood over it with hands on each side I was surprised by how it felt to the touch, rather like a cold car inner tube but obviously alive. After pointing it out to sea and wading into deeper water, thankfully it swam away, snorting out of its blow hole as it went. Note to myself, always carry a small camera!

Thomas HellerThomas Heller from Kew arranged to make some wildflower seed collections from Landguard Nature Reserve for the Kew Seed Bank. I spent some time with him orientating him on the Reserve and pointing him to likely locations habitat wise. One of the plants that he was wanting to collect from was Erodium lebelii. It is sometimes known as sticky Storksbill due to its sticky to the touch leaves. Eventually some good examples were tracked down and seeds collected. I was impressed with the book that he had with him showing the sometimes minute differences in some species. Thomas is surely dedicated to his work as he only took up my offer of a cuppa shortly before he went at 3.30pm. Lucky he had his sun cream, otherwise he would have been toasted after five hours in the Landguard sun.

Common StorksbillOne interesting thing to note about the Common Storksbill is that when the Stork bill lookalike seed drops off the plant it spirals as it dries out and then on soaking up moisture it spirals the other way and manages to drill itself into the ground so planting itself.

Stinking GoosefootThe sharp eyed Nigel Odin from the Bird Observatory is Stinking Goosefoot Finder General this year, finding three plants in a Rabbit/dog scrape. The plants clearly demonstrating their need for soil disturbance but then surely a period without any disturbance in order to let it grow!

Sea GooseberryOn a walk along the beach with my daughter she picked up an odd looking object which at first I thought was glass but on closer inspection it was certainly organic, I thought it might be some sort of Jelly Fish. After a quick google search I found out that it was a Sea Gooseberry a member of the Jelly Combs a close relation to Jelly Fish.

SanderlingsAlong the beach on the afternoon of the 20 July I spotted nine Sanderlings feeding along the water’s edge. They are a passage migrant not breeding in the UK and would be on their way back from the high Arctic breeding grounds. This demonstrates the importance of stop off feeding locations such as Landguard Nature Reserve and the reason for the year round dogs on leads rule that applies on half the Reserve.

The other day at the Point I came across Nigel and Eric from the Bird Observatory, they had with them a tea bag. Perhaps they were going to impose themselves on some hapless angler to boil them a brew? "It’s soaked in pheromones" they explained and just as my mind began to conjure up images of them dabbing it behind their ears, they went onto explain that it was for attracting the Six-belted Clearwing Moth. Eric placed the teabag on some Birds Foot Trefoil plant, the Moths food plant. Just as I was thinking I will be off, because they are bound to be in for wait, as if from nowhere along came the nationally scarce Moth. The photo of the Moth is by Tim Bagworth.

Nigel and EricSix-belted Clearwing Moth









Visitor Centre displayTake a look in the Visitor Centre at the revamped nature display. I have tried to recreate the nest of a Ringed Plover after Landguard Project Officer Paul Grant bought some replica eggs. With a suitable photo blown up to act as the background, I think it looks quite good if I do say so myself.

Five pairs of Ringed Plovers, two more pairs than last year, managed four successfully fledged chicks. Six chicks were predated by a very active Kestrel, one infertile egg and four nest failures with sixteen eggs which were most likely due to egg predation by Gulls and Crows. I have noticed that where anglers are or have been attracts Gulls. Lunch and bait scraps being responsible and some have the habit of burying their unused bait.

Ringed Plover eggsThis coupled with anglers sometimes unwittingly placing themselves just a few feet from a nest when tucked up close to the enclosure boundaries has led me to believe that prohibiting fishing on the northern eastern shore of the Reserve from April to the end of July would a positive step to take. You never know perhaps such a step could even entice the Little Terns to breed here again?

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