Thursday, 30 June 2016

Cley Calling: not long to go!

Ellie Howell, Cley Marketing Intern

There are only a couple of days to go until our nine-day programme of events, which will commence this Saturday with our ‘Mammoth’ opening weekend. Preparations for each event are underway, and throughout the trust we are getting excited for what Cley Calling has in store. Not only are we celebrating our 90th anniversary, we are also celebrating the local wildlife and landscapes of North Norfolk. There will be writers, bird watching, Darwinian theatre, talented musicians, good food, wildlife & history trails and more.

Head of People and Wildlife, David North says: ‘I am very excited by the sheer diversity of events and quality of speakers during Cley Calling. I am looking forward to the local community – as well as those coming from further afield – experiencing nature on the reserve, and the Simon Aspinall Wildlife Education Centre.’ 

 David is also greatly anticipating having the life size model of West Runton steppe mammoth at the NWT Cley Visitor Centre, which he says ‘will be particularly thrilling’. David is also coming to Ben Garrod’s events on Sunday – a round the table look at bones at 1.30pm, and a talk at 3pm – who is going to be illuminating the ancient history of the Norfolk coast. David says that his only regret is that he cannot make all of the events. 

Indeed, with such an array of events, there is something for everyone to enjoy during Cley Calling. We have some wonderful family activities planned, with interactive theatre and workshops such as ‘How to Feed a Dinosaur’ and ‘A Mammoth Adventure’ on Saturday 2 July, with a barbecue from 12-4. Other family activities include ‘Flying the Nest’ and Marine Madness with Watch on Saturday 9 July and ‘Leaping Frog’ on Sunday 10 July. 

We have sold out talks from BBC presenters Simon King of Big Cat Diaries and ‘Life’, as well as Nicholas Crane of ‘Coast’, which will be preceded by a talk on NWT’s 90th anniversary by naturalist, Nick Acheson. For any enthusiastic birders or lovers of nature writing, Mike Dilger of ‘The One Show’ will be with us to discuss his new book ‘Nightingales of November’ on Friday 8 July at 2.30pm. 

We have the talented Chris Wood playing a gig at 7.30pm against the backdrop of the beautiful Cley Marshes on 8 July. It promises to be a memorable evening. If folk isn’t your thing, we also have performances from Big Sky Choir on Saturday 9 July, and to conclude Cley Calling, the North Norfolk Sinfonia will be playing classical favourites inspired by birdlife on Sunday 10 July at 7pm.


Full event details can be found at, and tickets are available online at, or over the phone on 01263 740008. We hope to see you there.

The Ovington Ramblers: Rush Meadows

by Joyce Woods

Our walk this week took us to one of NWT's newest sites at Rush Meadow on the outskirts of Dereham. The site was approached via Rush Meadow Road which had a lovely buttercup meadow on the right hand side. On one side of the path was a tributary of the River Wensum whist on the other side was a large area of wet grassland. This was aglow with yellow flags punctuated with reeds and the fluffy remains of bullrushes. It really looked stunning on such a sunny day!

We saw several other flowers in the area. By the water grew sweet rocket in shades of white/ lavender/ purple - quite often this is seen in gardens and not in the wild. Also by the water's edge we saw water forget-me-not and in a few places Himalayan balsam which could prove to be a thuggish problem in years to come. On drier parts of the path we came across patches of pineapple weed with its wonderful scent. The trees growing by the river were mostly willow and elder.

Insect interest was provided by fluttering black and turquoise coloured banded demoiselles. They looked very handsome. We also saw several less gaudy females. Again this week's prizewinning songster was a robin with his backing group of chiffchaffs and skylarks.

Soon we came to a boardwalk followed by a footpath through woodland leading back to Dereham. This was an unexpectedly lovely walk - a sunny day, acres of yellow flags and a song in the air. What could be better than that?

Thursday, 23 June 2016

Wild in the City

Barry Madden, NWT Volunteer

As part of Norfolk Wildlife Trust’s celebrations of its 90th anniversary it took over Norwich Forum for a fortnight during May and early June. Who could have foreseen how far the organisation would evolve over the nine decades it has existed; such a transformation and maturation from when in 1926, Dr Sydney Long decided to form a trust to purchase an area of land just east of Cley village to put aside for the protection of its natural bounty. Yet here we are reaping the benefits of an exceptionally successful nature conservation body, still working tirelessly for the benefit of Norfolk’s wild places and the wild creatures that inhabit them. But it is more than that because people are an integral part of the plan. Wildlife needs people and people need wildlife; mutual exclusivity is not an option: co-existence is vital. What a well-run event it was and congratulations are in order to all involved. From storytelling sessions to magnetic pond dipping, from badge making to live artists at work; there was something for everyone. And of course the underpinning message was to cherish the wildlife. Always cherish the wildlife.

My minor role in all this was billed as a simple meet and greet volunteer for the day but turned into something a little more substantial courtesy of a young lady from BBC Radio Norfolk who sidled up and asked whether I would be prepared to say a few words about the event. Being a modest sort and prone to sudden panic I declined and instead pointed her in the direction of the day supervisor who luckily came into view in the nick of time. They toddled off for a chat and I stepped back into my comfort zone - but not for long. Only a few minutes passed before the said young lady complete with microphone, headset and tablet appeared by my side once again to ambush me. But it was fine, in fact I rather enjoyed it because the subject matter was wildlife gardening related to a set of leaflets I had helped produce when gainfully employed by NWT. With those leaflets in front of me as a prompt and no audience to worry about we giggled our way through 5 minutes or so and she seemed quite happy. If you're interested you can listen to my waffle here. I'm on at about 1:30.

Turtle dove, photo by Barry Madden
But of course there is still much more to do; an ongoing programme to acquire more land of conservation potential, connect more people with their natural heritage and develop what has already been gained. To illustrate how NWT is always aiming to enhance its reserves, I visited NWT Weeting Heath recently amidst the swelter of early June. This Breckland oasis  has always been a productive place to spend a little time, and until recently a little time is perhaps all most people would spend there, for once the stone curlews had (or had not) been seen it was time to pack away the scope and move on. Not any more. Now there is an excellent woodland trail that takes you on a loop along rides adjacent to the northern heath where butterflies dance over strips of unmown grass liberally scattered with wildflowers. The stone curlews on the main heath seem to have had a tough time of it this year and it is quite noticeable how the drastic reduction in the rabbit population has resulted in very tall grass covering much of the area. However another pair are well through their incubation of a clutch on the northern side and their piercing calls could be heard echoing across today's sun baked heathland as I progressed. Heartening too was the sighting of a turtle dove, the first I've personally seen in the UK for two years. A singing garden warbler was also nice to find. A whole new dimension to the visitor experience has been created enabling a much better appreciation of the flora and fauna inhabiting this part of Norfolk. The peace and quiet was also most welcome.

 NWT really have done a good job with promoting themselves and local wildlife conservation this year. It is well worth a peek at their website for details of the multitude of other events they are organising during the remainder of 2016. Get yourself along to one or two if you can, or maybe you should think about becoming a member or volunteering. If you care about Norfolk’s wildlife there is, in my opinion, no better way to invest.

Monday, 20 June 2016

Big Yellow bee orchids are back

Chris Durdin, NWT Volunteer

I know what you are thinking: bee orchids aren’t big and not much of them is yellow.

The Big Yellow here is the Self Storage company on Canary Way, opposite Norwich City FC. It’s been a reliable place to see bee orchids in the heart of Norwich for several years. That it’s reliable isn’t down to chance: the staff at Big Yellow have been persuaded to enjoy and protect their unlikely guests. The temptation to be tidy is resisted.

The meadow in the city had 30 bee orchid plants in flower when I visited on 19 June, which is double my tally from last year. It’s a great step forward from when I first saw a few spikes of flowers in 2009 and persuaded the man with the strimmer to leave them.

A friend of mine suggests that orchids are popular “because they look expensive.” They are certainly a work of beauty in miniature – perhaps ‘priceless’ rather than expensive.

At Big Yellow, the orchids’ glamour has helped a pocket-handkerchief wildlife community. Ox-eye daisies dominate the meadow, visually, but there is St John’s wort, mouse-ear hawkweed and more.

I found several bright common blue damselflies, too, and a scary-looking yellow-and-black ichneumon wasp that was just too quick to be photographed.

The bee orchids are at their best so now’s the ideal time to take a look: you can see them from the pavement. If you have a moment to pop in and say thanks to the Big Yellow team it can only help the show to go on.


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

The Ovington Ramblers: Honeypot Wood

Joyce Woods

Our walk today took us to Honeypot Wood, an ancient woodland, approximately 4 miles from Dereham. During World War II it was used as a bomb dump area as a result of which it had still visible concrete roads around and across the site. This made access easier than would otherwise have been after a day of heavy rain.

Throughout our walk we looked carefully for twayblade, greater butterfly orchid and broad leaved helleborine ,the three flowers mentioned in the handbook, but sadly we were unable to see any of the three. However we did see lots of speedwell, vetch, wood avens, both pink and white campion, bugle and, best of all, herb paris (never seen that before so proved to be an exciting find).

The saddest part of the day was seeing ash tree dieback throughout the wood. It seemed to involve trees of all sizes from very large to those which had cut down and had started to regrow not always with success. We noted many cut and tied bundles of long straight branches of small diameter and wondered if they were destined for garden spade/fork handles.

We heard many birds competing for top birdsong prize but felt it must go to a robin at the top of a dying ash tree. We saw rabbits but no deer although evidence was visible in the form of fern tip and wild rose pruning.

It was an interesting walk but we felt great sadness over the plight of the ash trees there.

Thursday, 16 June 2016

The Patron’s Lunch

On Sunday the Queen hosted a huge lunch party in central London to celebrate her 90th birthday, by inviting over 600 charities to which she is patron. Norfolk Wildlife Trust is proud to have the Queen as our patron and we were delighted to be given two tickets for the event. We thought it most fitting that these tickets should go to long serving volunteers of the Trust, so a draw was made and Adrian Winnington who volunteers at Holme Dunes, and Phil Davison who is volunteer leader of the Buxton Heath Wildlife Group were the lucky winners. Here they tell us about the day:


Wow! What a picnic! Ten thousand people gathered along The Mall for a picnic lunch to celebrate the Queen’s 90th birthday and her patronage of over 600 organisations. As volunteers for the Norfolk Wildlife Trust we were very fortunate to be picked out as the two representatives of the Trust to attend the event. After passing through two ID checks followed by an ‘airport’ security check we arrived at the picnic site which stretched along the whole length of The Mall. Unfortunately it was raining but everyone was provided with a white waterproof poncho and so the area took on a rather surreal appearance.

We found our table and seats and then collected our incredible (and extremely edible) hampers. These were provided by Marks and Spencer and together with Pimm’s, tea from Unilever and ice-cream from Walls we were definitely not short of things to eat and drink.

Unfortunately it was still raining when the first parade took place. However, it certainly didn’t dampen the carnival atmosphere as the parade took us through the decades of the Queen’s reign: 1950s - Sea, 1960s - Flower Power, 1970s - Nature, 1980s - Neon, 1990s - Gold Party, Millenium - Forces and Families, Now - Young and Old. All the 1,500 participants in the parade were volunteers from the Patron’s Organisations and they certainly put on a fantastic display. Of course it was the Nature section which we were most interested in.  It contained a large model of a bird of prey followed by people waving smaller models of other wildlife intermingled with other walkers holding signs with all the Animal and Agriculture related Patron’s Organisations, including, of course, Norfolk Wildlife Trust.

After the parade had passed through, the rain began to ease off and everyone sat down to enjoy their picnic. Let’s just say that the hampers contained food fit for a queen, focussing on ingredients from all around Britain. By the time the Royal Family made their way up The Mall from Buckingham Palace the rain had stopped and the sun had made an appearance.

Our table was quite near the stage at the Admiralty Arch end of The Mall and it was from there that the Queen, Prince William and others made their speeches. Sir Stuart Etherington, Chair of the Board of Trustees for The Patron’s Fund, named just six of the organisations during his speech and we were very pleased that he chose to mention Norfolk Wildlife Trust; perhaps because it is also the 90th anniversary of the Trust. Members of the Royal Party then made their way back down The Mall to take up their positions to watch the parade. This time the parade took place in warm sunshine, much better for those of us watching, but quite exhausting for the performers, especially those inside one of the large animal costumes.

We had both decided to wear our NWT polo shirts to the Lunch and as a result a number of people came up to us to ask us about the Trust and what we did. We both feel very privileged to have been able to represent the hundreds of dedicated Norfolk Wildlife Trust volunteers at such a unique and memorable event.

Phil Davison (volunteer at Buxton Heath) and Adrian Winnington (volunteer at Holme Dunes) To read more from and about our volunteers, please visit our website.

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Wild at Weeting

By Abi Nell and Sophie Harrison

At Weeting Heath despite the wind and rain, pair 1 persisted and hatched two fluffy chicks on Sunday 8 May. Earlier that day the female was captured on Sock Cam taking egg shell pieces away from the nest. This important behaviour removes any smells and traces of hatching and lures predators away from the nest site. At 3.15pm the first chick was born, and while one parent brooded the chick, the other went in search for worms and insects to feed it with. The second chick then hatched at 4:23pm and soon both were tumbling about the nest.

When the adult returns with the food parcel, the brooding bird lets one chick out at a time so they get their fair share of the food. This maximises survival of both chicks when food is abundant. This behaviour is different from other birds, as it is usually a scramble for food and survival of the fittest when the adult returns to the nest with food. However, if the weather turns and food availability is limited, the parents will focus on and feed the larger chick. As brutal as this may sound, it is better to rear one healthy chick than lose two chicks to lack of food.

After the excitement of watching the chicks hatch, they were closely monitored every day until day seven, when they were predated by crows. The adult stone curlews are still on the Heath and have been seen displaying but we have had no confirmed sightings of them making a new scrape or laying a second clutch of eggs.

As we finish writing this blog, the weather got worse and we have been treated to torrential rain and strong winds. Not good news for ground or tree nesting birds! Fingers crossed that June will bring kinder more consistent weather to save the breeding season for the stone curlews of Weeting Heath.

In celebration of Norfolk Wildlife Trust's 90th anniversary, we held a family fun day on the May bank holiday called ‘Wild at Weeting’. There was a lot going on from kids activities and a cake stall, to a guided walk and a moth demonstration. With a huge team effort from both staff and volunteers, the event was a great success and raised more than £550 for the Norfolk Wildlife Trust. 

From left to right John Davies, Maddie Moate, and two children enjoying the fayre all taken by Abi Nell

Our next upcoming event is ‘Fantastic Nightfall Flyers’ on Saturday 10 September. We go in search for nightjars, bats and moths across the reserve. The event runs from 8 until 10 pm and includes a walk around the reserve, inspection of the moth traps and hot chocolate in the Visitor Centre afterwards. Open to adults, children and families. To book your place please phone 01603 625540.

May has brought a few more migrants back to the Brecks. The first cuckoo heard was heard calling on 4 May, and the first hobbys were seen on 5 May. Our spotted flycatchers returned on 6 May are have been busy feeding up and establishing territories. We hope June will see them nesting and fledging some spotty chicks.

The weather warmed up enough to bring out the first holly blue of the season on 1 May! In the first butterfly transect of the season we recorded 42 individuals and 11 different species including speckled wood and small skipper.

Moth trapping has also been more slightly more successful this month. Highlights so far include a chocolate tip and a frosted green. While we have been out on butterfly transects we have spotted some rather striking day-flying moths. The cinnabars are now out in force, hunting out ragwort for their caterpillars to devour. We also came across this beautiful Mother Shipton moth, named after a 16th century witch from Yorkshire!

Green veined white, speckled wood and mother Shipton moth all taken by Abi Nell
Sophie, Abi and the volunteers have been out surveying the rare Breckland plants on an arable weed reserve. Breckland speedwell, (Veronica praecox) fingered speedwell (Veronica triphyllos) and spring speedwell (Veronica verna) are all rare Breckland specialist plants. They are monitored annually for population size and distribution for reserve records. We spent several rainy days on our hands and knees counting these rare specimens. They are easily confused with other similar common species, germander speedwell (Veronica chamaedrys) and wall speedwell (Veronica arvensis) which is why we had to get so up close and personal with the plants. The three species are very alike in basic structure but there are a few tell tail signs to help identify them.

Spring speedwell stands upright and is renowned for having the tiniest of dark blue flowers. Another telling feature is that its lower leaves have five distinctive lobes. Breckland speedwell has a flattened heart shaped seed pod, and its lower leaves have a deep red colouration underneath. Fingered speedwell is the rarest of the three species, has small blue flowers and leaves that look like three fat fingers. We used coloured sticks to indicate the presence of a species, blue for Breckland speedwell and pink for spring speedwell. Fingered speedwell was so uncommon that we didn’t need many sticks for that! Safe to say we all dreamt of counting speedwells in our sleep.