Monday, 29 June 2015

Trinity Broads – Gastro venue?

Eilish Rothney, Trinity Broads Warden

Potamogeton freisii
Today I have before me a large bowl of Zannicellia, served on a bed of Chara with a light garnish of Crispus. Maria has opted for Freisii with Pusillus and Liz is just going for Green Jelly Algae. Adam however is looking forward to Najas marina (if they have caught any fresh today).

Some of you may have rumbled me – I am not talking about food at all but about some of the wonderful aquatic plants we have been discovering in the crystal clear waters of the Trinity Broads. And no, we don’t eat them, although the names make them sound fit for an Italian delicatessen. 

We have been carrying out the biannual survey, part of the monitoring on the broads to keep a check on their health and recovery. Getting the right balance of plants is important; they provide food and refuge to many underwater creatures, produce oxygen and even help keep the water clear. 

Hydrodictyon- Hairnet algae
We still suffer from some algal growth including “Enteromorpha” which looks like green tripe (not so attractive on the menu) and Hydrodictyon or “Hairnet algae” – which looks exactly like its description.  

These plants are on the menu for some of the numerous birds that can be seen on the Trinity Broads such as coot and swans and of course many others feed on the small fish amongst the plants including kingfisher and great crested grebe. If you want to see a few plants for yourselves come to the NWT stand at the Norfolk Show!
Kingfisher and great crested grebes

 Photos Eilish Rothney and Dickie Lay

Saturday, 20 June 2015

Breeding ups and downs at Hilgay

Nick Carter, Conservation Officer (Fens)

Pochard with young, photo by Nick Carter
Two new bird species have been confirmed as breeding at Hilgay; great crested grebe and pochard. The former was first noted on the lagoon during the 2014/5 winter with up to six birds being noted in the spring. In early June one well-grown young was observed with its parents and later that month an active nest was observed. Small numbers of pochard were noted through the winter too. Then in mid-June a female pochard was noted with five very small ducklings, also in the lagoon. Pochard is a scarce breeding resident so this is a great record for the site. Both species have benefitted from the filling of the lagoon over the 2014/5 winter which has provided them with the deeper water these two diving species need. Several other duck species are also present: shelduck, mallard, teal, shoveler, gadwall and tufted duck but only mallard has produced young so far.

A thriving black-headed gull colony has also established in one of the rushy compartments. At least 200 birds are in the colony but it is not certain if they are all breeding and in mid-June at least nine young were seen swimming around the deep pools.

Wader productivity has not been good this year with lapwing, redshank, oystercatcher, avocet and little ringed plover attempting to breed but with few resultant offspring. The hoped for return of the sand martin colony to the sandy ditch sides which had been tidied up failed to materialise although a few birds were seen in the spring.

A record 19 little egrets were seen together in June, with probably other birds spread around the site. There is a small heronry close to the site but there is no evidence of any little egrets breeding there yet.

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Presentation to longstanding warden

Charles Oxley, grazing right holder at New Buckenham Common

A presentation was made today to Darrell Stevens, NWT reserves manager for Breckland, on his leaving Norfolk Wildlife Trust to work in Scotland. An engraved timber plaque was presented to Darrell by Anthony Hamerton, on behalf of the grazing right holders of New Buckenham Common.  

Mr Hamerton said: "Through Darrell's efforts much work has been done in the last 10 years to improve safe grazing and managing scrub clearance.  An excellent working relationship had been formed between the Trust, the grazing right holders, the grazier and the people of New Buckenham."

Photo (left to right):  Charles Stimpson and Anthony Hamerton (grazing right holders); Darrell Stevens (NWT); Ruth Hamerton, Ken Gee and Charles Oxley (GRHs from New Buckenham); and David Tallentire (NWT grazing manager).

Monday, 15 June 2015

The Godwin chicks

Sophie Harrison, Summer Warden at Weeting Heath
The two stone curlews at Weeting Heath that have been the stars of the Wings over the Brecks project hatched two chicks on 16 May. Sock Cam revealed this footage as the female was seen removing egg shells from the nest. This assists hatching and draws predators away from the scrape. To be on the safe side she ate the second empty egg shell so she didn’t leave the first chick on its own. She then called to her mate to let him know the chicks had arrived.

Both chicks were successfully ringed on 10 June. The first chick weighed in at 195g with a bill length of 24.9mm, and the second at 224g with a bill length of 27.3mm. 


Three different colour rings and a metal BTO ring were gently wrapped and glued in place around their legs above and below their knees. A small piece of plastic bag was placed around the top of their leg to act as a ‘nappy’ so the glue didn’t touch their feathers.

Their heads are lightly covered to calm them and to minimise stress. While this was going on the parents didn’t take their eyes off us for a single second. Ringing enables conservationists to identify the individual birds and to monitor their progress throughout their life.  Now 26 days old, these chicks are growing fast but are still vulnerable to predation until they reach fledging age at six weeks old. These chicks have been christened ‘The Godwin Chicks’.

Frank Godwin began volunteering in 1991, making him our longest standing volunteer warden at Weeting Heath NNR. For many people the first question they ask upon arrival to Weeting Heath is ‘Is the Colonel here?’ Frank has been a very important part of Weeting Heath reserve, and knows a great deal about the history of the reserve and the stone curlews. Franks’ commitment to stone curlew conservation has been second to none and he has played a significant role in helping train the summer warden each season. He kept everyone entertained with his stories from his life in Africa, and tales of previous Weeting Summer wardens and always enjoyed taking people to the hides to show them the stone curlews. He officially retired on 11 May this year and will be thoroughly missed by staff and visitors.

Unfortunately the other chicks from our other breeding pairs didn’t quite make it to ringing.

Our first breeding pair hatched one chick on the 12 May, which was swiftly predated by a carrion crow at 11 days old. The third breeding pair managed to hatch two chicks on 10 May. Their fortunes’ weren’t much better.

A rogue male was seen trying his luck with the mother of the two chicks from our third breeding pair. In retaliation to his rejection, he unexpectedly picked up a chick and killed it! Needless to say a massive scrap ensued and four adults chased him away. This is very odd behaviour as it is frequently one adult that sees off an intruder, and cannibalisation doesn’t typically occur within the same species. However records do suggest that this peculiar behaviour happens in oystercatchers.

The second chick made it to 12 days old where it too was predated, by a stoat. The lack of hot weather has also made it difficult for the chicks to grow fast and get enough food. So fingers crossed our surviving chicks will make it to fledging!

Sunday, 7 June 2015

The meadow in the city

Chris Durdin, NWT Thorpe Marshes

Bee orchid at Big Yellow Storage, photo by Chris Durdin
Helder de Sousa is, perhaps, an unlikely conservation hero. He works at the Big Yellow Self Storage company on Canary Way in Norwich, opposite Norwich City Football Club. By chance he has become the custodian of a remarkable urban meadow, complete with bee orchids.

I must declare an interest. I first noticed bee orchids here in 2009, just before a man with a strimmer reached them. That year they were left uncut, marked with a stick but the grass cut round them.

From that small step forward, I’ve been encouraging the Big Yellow team to leave more and more grass uncut. This year it’s all been left and it’s created a wonderful meadow in the heart of Norwich.

Ox-eye daisies, photo by Chris Durdin
I counted 15 bee orchids here (on 5 June) and perhaps missed some, but the supporting cast is also strong. Sheets of ox-eye daisies dominate, there is ragged robin in the corner facing Morrison’s supermarket and today a Common Blue butterfly caught my eye. There are meadow ants, bees and often birds forage in the long grass.

Do pop along, perhaps when you’re shopping in Norwich. And please call in and say “well done” to Helder and his colleagues – it deserves encouragement.


Chris Durdin leads monthly wildlife walks at NWT Thorpe Marshes. Details of monthly walks on

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

An afternoon with Ranworth visitor centre volunteers

Angela Collins, Volunteer coordinator
Today I visited our Ranworth reserve to meet some of our fabulous visitor centre volunteers. The volunteers were invited to take a boat trip by one of our experienced boat guides, so they could learn more about the broad, its wildlife and can tell visitors what they can expect when they book a boat trip. Plus, because of the way that the visitor centre works, the majority of volunteers have their set days of working and so don’t often get to see each other: this was an ideal opportunity to meet and get to know others in their team and share experiences.

Ranworth Volunteers: Stuart and Sue
The boat trip from the floating Broads Wildlife Centre was great. The highlight was definitely watching an otter swim by, a rare treat for us all. There were plenty of baby birds around, including great crested grebe, mallards, Egyptian geese & black headed gulls. Unfortunately we didn’t see the osprey which has been spotted again several times this year - some lucky people having a boat trip only last week had the osprey fly directly overhead. The views from the boat as it circled around the broad were so peaceful and beautiful, the quietness of the electric engine meant that we were able to get close to several birds without them being disturbed and flying away. Maurice our boat guide, talked of the history of the broad, how it was formed by peat digging, and how the different edges of the broad age and change its shape. The tree lined edges are very prone to erosion and there were several trees stranded within the broad where it would have once been water’s edge, whereas the reed bed edges slowly encroach on the broad.   

We talked about the bio-manipulation experiment; a floating cage with water plants and a curtain to the floor of the broad, keeps fish out and inside water fleas were able to thrive and eat the algal bloom keeping the water clear. The volunteers were clearly all enthusiastic and passionate and already knew a great deal about Ranworth, but the trip showed there is always something new to learn.

Ranworth Volunteers: Jean, Lorna and Linda
We then returned to the floating visitor centre, where the comments book showed that visitors arrive from all over the world; Australia, Canada, Sweden, Germany, Switzerland, New Zealand, Italy, and Cyprus were all found in a quick flick through the book.  The volunteers all felt that meeting and talking to a vast variety of people was what made their role so interesting and enjoyable, and being at a stunning location helps. On the webcam in the centre we were able to watch 2 baby terns on the nesting platforms on the broad. These can also be seen on our website if you can’t get to Ranworth.  

It was a pleasure to meet some of our volunteers, and hear about their experiences, and why they volunteer. Our visitor centres could not open as often as they do, and provide such a warm and informative welcome to our thousands of visitors without the week-on-week support of our wonderful volunteers. A big thank you, on behalf of the Trust, to them all.  

Ranworth Volunteer: Joan
If you are interested in volunteering with Norfolk Wildlife Trust, please have a look on our website at opportunities currently available, or contact me