A reserves round-up for spring

Blog post by Reserves Officer Robert Morgan on 30 Apr, 2024
There is a wonderful moment in mid-May when the foliage of the trees is at its fullest, fecund and fresh green. May is also the month of colour with uncompromisingly beautiful wildflower meadows coming into full bloom. In both town and country, the air is full of blackbird song, especially towards the evening: a lazy-sounding song of a few rich fluting notes, followed by tired whispers. Late April through May is a busy time on NWT reserves, visitor numbers are increasing, vegetation is visibly growing before our eyes and every bird appears to have no time to lose!

Many of the reserve staff are involved with monitoring nesting birds, in the Brecks a close eye is kept on the stone curlew, including the very popular ‘stonie webcam’ that is set up each year by the Weeting Heath warden and our IT dept. A strategically placed camera records the trials and tribulations of a nesting pair of stone curlew. A job few members of an IT team can boast that they do as part of their working week and a nice break from telling people to ‘turn it off and on again’. James Symonds, the warden at Weeting, was also joined in mid-April by his regular botanising volunteers who help out with the annual fingered speedwell count on the NWT Arable Plant Reserve.  
Water-crowfoot in a newly resurrected pingo

Water-crowfoot in a newly resurrected pingo

Also in the Brecks, our recently resurrected ghost ‘pingo’ ponds have exceeded all expectation. At Mere Farm, one of our lost pingos (that was still covered over by decades of soil last year) is full of flowering water-crowfoot, which is among several other re-emerged aquatic plants, including stonewort. Some of the plants are likely to have grown from germinated seeds that have laid dormant for years. 

Meanwhile, NWT Holme Dunes has suffered further erosion from the frequent winter storms, and ever increasing high tides. Fortunately a spell of fine April weather has allowed the staff and volunteers at Holme an opportunity to install the beach nesting bird cordons, in preparing for the busy season ahead. This, along with a team of volunteers, will hopefully help protect vulnerable species such as ringed plover and little tern from too much human and canine disturbance.     

And finally, at New Buckenham Common the impressive green-winged orchids are already in bloom, with this May likely to be the highest count ever. A great deal of hard work has gone into improving the scrub around the many ponds on the common and a new grazing regime seems to be benefitting many of the common’s flora, including the orchids. This reserve is a real treasure for warblers, with lesser whitethroat and garden warbler present. It is also one of the few places in Norfolk that nightingale can still be heard, though its continuing decline across the country is proving a sad reminder that there’s a lot of work left to do.
Water-crowfoot in a newly resurrected pingo

Green-winged orchid

Top tip for May
Take your pick! May brims with opportunities to see wildlife. On Sunday the 5 May is National Dawn Chorus Day, so set your alarm and take a walk in any green space an hour before dawn, you’re sure to be in for a treat.
A visit to New Buckenham Common for the green-winged orchid is a must, and our reedbed reserves – such as Hickling Broad and Marshes – will still be resounding to the booming voice of bittern.    

Image credits: Green-winged orchid by Lianne de Mello
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