Saturday, 17 May 2014

The Brecks: curlews and pingos

Isabelle Mudge, Seasonal Education Officer
The Education team has recently been on a visit to the Brecks to learn about the sensitive and rare habitats in the area, and about those species which thrive on them.

Stone curlew, photo by Jessica Riederer
The heathland at NWT Weeting Heath is very different from that at NWT Roydon Common, where a sea of purple in late summer is clear evidence of the heather. Lacking heather, Weeting Heath is perhaps less impressive, but this is only at first glance - if you look more closely at the ground you see an incredible patchwork of different colours and textures thanks to the great variety of mosses and lichens which cover the surface of the soil. It is these, and the numerous other plants exclusive to heathland habitats, which amaze the botanists who come here. It is also this environment that attracts birders from near and far to see lapwing, nightjar and stone curlew. Having heard so much about the elusive and rare stone curlew, we were all thrilled when, after scanning the area for some time, we were lucky enough to see first two, then four stone curlews! 

Pingo at NWT Thompson Common
Following our visit to Weeting, we went on to see the pingos, which are ancient glacial formations, at nearby NWT Thompson Common. The pingo trail gives the impression of going back in time, by initially taking you through what looks a bit like a prehistoric jungle swamp where the several pools of water are often concealed by dense vegetation. Then out in the open, however, the clear water of the pingos is exposed and brimming with life, with an abundance of freshwater invertebrates, and several plants such as water violets and lilies, making the pools beautiful and unearthly.

We had a fantastic day, and came away feeling that these two contrasting sites provide the visitor with a unique experience not to be missed.

June's Wildlife Watch event for children takes place at NWT Weeting Heath. Come and discover our Magical Moths!

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