Saturday, 22 June 2013

Wildlife Family Passport

Annabel Hill,  Education Officer

New for this year! We have a fun way to learn about and explore Norfolk’s wildlife with the Wildlife Family Passport. Pick up your passport from any Norfolk Wildlife Trust Visitor Centre and start your journey to discover Norfolk’s wildlife.

The passport lists events that explore Living Landscapes, Living Seas and Saving Species.
Collect a sticker at each event: if you collect four of the six available for each category, you will receive a certificate and be entered into a draw to win a private family day with one of our experts at a Norfolk Wildlife Trust nature reserve.

There are plenty of events to choose from, and you can come to as many as you like. There may be a charge at certain events. All events are listed on our website.

Once you have completed your passport, send it to Annabel Hill, Norfolk Wildlife Trust, Bewick House, 22 Thorpe Road, Norwich, Norfolk, NR1 1RY, before 30 April 2014.

Friday, 21 June 2013

Natural inspiration at Hickling Broad

Jessica Riederer, Seasonal Education Officer
When I drove out of NWT Hickling Broad National Nature Reserve last Friday, I found myself thinking, ‘That was one fabulous day!’ 

As one of Norfolk Wildlife Trust’s Seasonal Education Officers, I am well aware of the challenges and delights that each new day teaching on our reserves can bring. Student ages, personalities, teacher objectives, coach arrival times and weather all contribute to this. For example, I always know I am in for an interesting day when 60 four year olds get off a bus at one of our reserves at 9:30 in the morning and start getting their lunches out.   Similarly, it can be slightly disheartening (but amusing at the same time) when you are pointing out a gorgeous damselfly and you think a student is going to ask a damselfly inspired question when instead he asks, ‘When is playtime?’ (And of course, no matter how great a day you think students are having, you can always count on a visiting five year old to ask, ‘When is it home time?’ when it is only 11 o’clock in the morning!)    

Large red damselfly, photo by Jessica Riederer
As an Education Officer, my objective for all students visiting NWT reserves – no matter how old they are – is to enhance their awe and appreciation of nature and to hopefully encourage them to do something positive for wildlife. Passion is contagious. We have heard this phrase thousands of times, and as I move through my 15th year as an educator, I know this to be true. Sometimes however, when things are not quite going to plan, such as when coaches are late and we are pushed for time, or when sheets of rain are falling, showing and feeling that all important passion and enthusiasm can be a challenge. The weather is warming up though, and our reserves are springing into life, and the passion and joy I need to feel to inspire children and adults is now always present. On 14 June, in the blissful spring sun, Hickling really revealed itself to me for the first time. Experiencing the reserve in all its glory with two fantastic volunteers, Kirsty Bailey and David Fieldhouse, and a visiting class of incredibly enthusiastic eight year olds, proved to be one of my favourite days representing NWT so far.  

Once introductions had taken place, and I had confirmed to thirty excited nine year olds that Hickling was indeed a great place for animals to live because ‘no one will come and shoot them,’ we were off to a good start. The students’ day was to be divided into dyke dipping, a habitat walk and their own explorations of Hickling. As usual, dyke dipping delivered its full array of splendours, from great diving beetle larvae with their massive jaws and camouflaged stalking dragonfly nymphs to tiny transparent water fleas and everything in between.  

During our habitat walks, NWT education officers and volunteers show students and accompanying adults a small section of the reserve, highlighting the various habitats and species found within them. Students also have the opportunity to examine skulls and bones and other items found on our reserves as they explore the trails. I like to begin my habitat walks challenging children to become nature detectives and keep their eyes and ears open for animals buzzing, singing, fluttering, slithering and crawling. There was so much life at Hickling on Friday that I could hardly get the students off the grass by the centre. Within minutes they were gathered around the gorse, oohing and awing over the coconut scented blossoms and pointing to bumblebee laden Red campion flowers and scuttling beetles and spiders. Large red and common blue damselflies flitted around the gorse, tolerating exclamations of ‘Oh my goodness, how beautiful is he!’ or ‘Miss, Miss – look how bright his colours are!’  These, of course, are exactly the kinds of words I love to hear.  

Common lizard, photo by Jessica Riederer
Like most educators, I am always evaluating my sessions. As one of a team of NWT’s Seasonal educators, we are always asking ourselves – what more can we do to inspire children about, and connect them to, these incredible landscapes? I continually push to instill in children a sense of awe and wonder – and hopefully a love for what they are experiencing. As we explored Hickling on Friday, all of the students experienced many firsts; swallowtail butterflies hurriedly fluttering by, brightly coloured lizards basking on the walkways, dragonflies dueling over the dyke dipping platforms, damselflies challenging the dragonflies and the list goes on.  

Aside from the amazing wildlife I get to encounter every day on NWT reserves, my favourite moments are listening to children’s conversations amongst themselves. On Friday, at Hickling, as students walked along the boardwalks, one student said to me, ‘This place is so amazing. I wish I didn’t ever have to leave.’ Another student told me, ‘I wish I could live here.’ But my favourite words to hear from students visiting our reserves on any day will always be, ‘I can’t believe how much fun this is.’ 

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Sign's of summer at Hickling

Caroline de Carle, Hickling Visitor Centre Coordinator

Swallowtail on yellow flag iris, photo by Rachel Greef
At Hickling, at last, our stars of the summer are on the wing. Nearly every visitor asks the question “are the butterflies about?” and on warm sunny days, when we get them, they certainly are in all their butter yellow, blue and red finery. The largest and one of the most localised butterflies in the UK, the swallowtail is certainly a beauty and well worth waiting for. Their small dark chrysalids overwinter in the reedbeds and when the temperature is right, the adults emerge and dry their wings in the safety of the vegetation before taking flight. The adult butterflies feed on all species of flowers but prefer yellow and purple ones so can often be found on red campion and yellow iris. When mated, the females lay their eggs singly on the leaves of milk parsley and a few weeks later, the small, blackish caterpillars emerge to feed on the host plant. The large, fully formed caterpillars are impressive green beasties with bulging horns to frighten predators.

Well, enough about our superstars… there are plenty of other delights at Hickling, including the rare Norfolk hawker dragonflies, young marsh harriers in the nest squawking to be fed and  bitterns in territory. There are young birds everywhere too. The blue tits have just fledged from the nest box next to the toilet at the visitor centre and young wrens and chiff chaffs noisily forage around the car park.

Our boat trips, which run three times every day are definitely the best way to experience all that this amazing reserve has to offer in the way of wildlife so if you are heading this way over the next few weeks, do book a trip and come and fill your senses with all Hickling has to offer. Call the visitor centre on 01692 598276 for details and to book.

Sunday, 16 June 2013

Notification for Holme Dunes Track improvements

Work will begin on Monday 17 June to remove some of the speed bumps, and to re-surface the track. The work is expected to last for five days. We would ask all visitors (if possible) to use the golf course car park and walk on to the site via the public footpath. By doing this you will greatly assist the operation. If you do need to use the track please be patient with us as we may be in the process of levelling material.

Visitor Centre phone number for any questions: 01485 525240

Saturday, 8 June 2013

Bird life at Ranworth

Simon Thomas, Broads Wildlife Centre, Ranworth

Swallow cam is providing much entertainment at present and not just for the centre staff. The position of the camera is so discrete that we cannot quite see inside the nest and therefore can’t conclusively say if there are eggs, chicks or indeed anything. It would appear in my opinion that we shall shortly be witnessing the emergence of a new brood if the constant feeding, returning and switching position on the nest by the parents is anything to go by.

Unfortunately the great crested grebes seem to have abandoned their nests after a period of particularly high water flooded them out. We have high hopes that they will rebuild in new sites, however at present there is not much sign of any activity in this regard. On a more positive note, there have been some young grebes sighted on Malthouse Broad with their black and white striped heads poking out from under the wings of the parents.

Sandwich Tern, photo by Graham Brownlow
So far a total of 57 common tern nests have been counted across the four rafts on the broad with the majority occurring on just one of them. Again no chicks can be seen as of yet but there are a number of eggs.

There have been several sightings of otter on both Ranworth and Malthouse Broad recently with multiple sightings on 1 June. One unveiled itself right beside the wildlife centre, a visit to the wildlife centre may well result in a glimpse of these elusive creatures.

Friday, 7 June 2013

Memories from the Mill

Hazel Nudd, Stubb Mill Guide 

NWT Stubb Mill
I first visited Stubb Mill in 1974 with my future husband Harry, who was born in the cottage next to the mill and was still living there with his parents. Having grown up in a house with all the modern conveniences the 1960s could provide, I was amazed to discover that some people still lived without running water and a flush toilet, and cooked on a coal-fired rayburn. Harry’s family had looked after the mill since it was built in about 1800, at first living in the mill itself and later in the cottage alongside. My father-in-law, Billy was the last man to work the mill, which had been built to drain the surrounding marshes and was in use until 1940. 

After Billy died in 1993 the cottage remained empty and all the buildings were falling into disrepair; Harry was resigned to seeing them left to ruin as had happened to so many of the old marsh mills. It was wonderful news for us when Norfolk Wildlife Trust and the Broads Authority chose Stubb Mill as the final year project for its millwright bursary training scheme in 2009. Although the mill will probably never carry sails again, most of the works are still inside as well as the infrastructure of the living accommodation, and parts of the other buildings still contain signs of a way of life that died out almost before living memory. 

Harry and I wrote down everything we could remember of what he had told us about the mill and the family, and we were pleased to pass this on to Norfolk Wildlife Trust along with some old photographs that are on display in the mill. Passing on this knowledge on our open days is something that I enjoy immensely and some visitors bring along information that is new to me. Last month one visitor had newspaper reports of an accident at the mill in 1851 in which a child died and another gave me details of Billy’s involvement with Norfolk Fruit Growers. Why not join me for a guided tour of Stubb Mill? 

Sunday 16 June, 11.30am and 2pm
Sunday 21 July, 11.30am and 2pm
Sunday 18 August, 11.30am and 2pm
Sunday 15 September, 11am-4pm – Heritage Open Day

Join Hazel Nudd at the newly restored Stubb Mill in NWT Hickling for a guided tour of this wonderful building; look at historical photographs and climb right up into the cap to see the inner workings.  As well as getting a wonderful insight into a piece of Norfolk history, there are fabulous views across our nature reserve.

Venue: Park at NWT Hickling Broad Visitor Centre and meet at NWT Stubb Mill
Cost: £2.50 adults, £1 children (free with full reserve admission and to members)
Booking essential: call 01692 598276

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Have you thought about volunteering?

Angela Collins, Volunteer Coordinator
You have probably already heard that this week is Volunteers' Week, which is a great opportunity to celebrate the invaluable contribution of volunteers throughout the UK. I am delighted to say that Norfolk Wildlife Trust has the support of an amazing and wonderful team of volunteers. Throughout 2012 over 800 volunteers contributed an incredible 28,500 hours to help us in our work. Supporting us on our nature reserves, at our head office, at our visitor centres, and at various family and school events. In fact volunteers support us, in some way, in almost everything we do, we could not achieve as much as we do without their help. 

We are of course always on the lookout for more and if you are interested in volunteering please have a look at the volunteer vacancies on our website. For some roles a couple of hours a week is all you need to give, and volunteering can be a great way of gaining new experiences, meeting new people, learning about our wildlife and generally helping to make a difference. 

The Broads Wildlife Centre at NWT Ranworth Broad, by Tom Mackie
At the moment we are urgently looking for volunteers to join our existing professional and friendly teams at our Ranworth Broad and HicklingBroad visitor centres. 

I recently spoke to Teresa Stevens a valuable volunteer at our Ranworth Visitor Centre. I asked Teresa what she got from volunteering with us at Ranworth: “Working in a really busy office during the week, Ranworth always provides the ideal location to unwind and enjoy the Broad and all it has to offer. Once in the centre you are greeted by the beautiful Broad filled with all kinds of wildfowl – it is magnificent!

“A day spent at Ranworth means that I can not only watch the wildlife but meet lots of interesting people who otherwise I would never have seen. Nearly every visitor will have something to say to you – a joke here and there, a comment on weather, interesting wildlife facts, stories about places they have visited locally (which in turn has given me a few ideas for future summer days out) and fascinating sights they have seen, home and abroad. You also get to meet fellow volunteers, hear their views and often new friendships are forged.  

"This is my third season here and I have learnt so much about the Broads and its wildlife it is great to share what I have learned with our visitors - l hope that they too will develop a passion for Norfolk and its diverse countryside.”

On behalf of all of us here at Norfolk Wildlife Trust I would like to say a massive thank you to all of our volunteers who do so much for us. We appreciate all of you.

If you are interested in volunteering at one of our visitor centres please do get in touch. or phone 01603 625540.

Saturday, 1 June 2013

First water trail to Cockshoot Broad

Daniel J. Maidstone, Boat operator at Ranworth Broad

Great Crested Grebe with Young, photo by Paul Littlechild

The Damselfly boat was once again enjoying  the sunshine over the bank holiday weekend, with plenty of trips. The first water trail from Broads Wildlife Centre to Cockshoot Broad proved to be a success! Everyone took advantage of the nice weather that was forecast to enjoy a trip down river. With the sun shining, both people and wildlife enjoyed the warm weather. Young ducklings and goslings were seen along with some young great crested grebes hitching a ride on the parents back. A male marsh harrier with its distinctive black wing tips, was seen soaring high in the sky over the reed beds. The songs of the various warblers and tits could be heard as we travelled down river past the old water works and old willow patterned gardens.

The walk along the boardwalk from Cockshoot dam to the broad provided people with close up sights of the management that has been carried out by the Bure and Ant reserve team. The reed cutting that took place over winter is now full of new reed shoots and other plants such as willow herb, milk parsley, yellow flag iris and various species of fern. The small stretch of dyke that can be seen is once again full of life with small red and common blue damselflies flying amongst the reed just above the water, a brimstone and peacock butterfly floating around the reed bed and trees. The plants emerging out of the water and spiders with their webs catching the small insects and flies. The carr woodland provided shade and cover for the woodland birds, such wrens, great tits, blue tits and finches where they will be searching for food to feed their young. 

Hopefully the warm weather stays and continues to encourage the next generation of wildlife.