Friday, 20 June 2014

If you like stone curlews then you should put a ring on it...

Matt Twydell, Weeting Heath Summer Warden

So like the line from that song (I really shouldn’t admit to knowing it!) we decided to ring the chick outside the hide last week. Fortunately the weather was favourable, as the chick - as you can see from the photo - is quite big now. This chick is one of the two from the video I took on the last blog. The chicks are rung in conjunction with the RSPB, for monitoring purposes.

The plan was  simple, several of us were to position ourselves in the hides directing Tim from the RSPB as to where the chick was. Usually stone curlew chicks, like other ground nesting birds, will “hit the ground” and keep completely still, relying on camouflage to hide from predators.

This one, however, decided to be a “runner”, and as soon as Tim got close, it went off like the road runner (meep meep), and this made for quite comical few minutes watching Tim chase the bird from the hide!

It  was back in May that we found the scrape and the mottled camouflaged eggs.

It was quite amazing to get up close to a stone curlew, from my normal view point through a scope. Seeing their huge eyes up close, was particularity interesting.

 The whole process of recording weight - which was 336g for this chick - and other data as well as fixing the rings only takes around 10 minutes. So disturbance to the bird is minimal, and the parents who watch from a distance returned within 10 minutes of us leaving the chick in the undergrowth.

So keep your eyes out for this chick and this ring combination from the hides!

This chick has now fledged and been kicked out by its parents. This pair will hopefully decide to re-lay over the next week, and fingers crossed we shall have another set of chicks in July.

The pair of stone curlews who lost both of their chicks early on in May, have successfully brooded two more, and they have been viewable from the West hide the past few days.

Stone curlews have a varied diet of invertebrates. I have witnessed them eating big worms and running around trying to snap butterflies from the air. But the other day I saw a peculiar sight, when one parent tried to eat and then feed a chick a young mole, needless to say the chick had trouble finishing its meal!

Other Wildlife news at Weeting Heath


A pair of spotted flycatchers have nested in one of the pine trees not far from the Visitor Centre. They have been more active snapping moths and flies out of the air this last week so probably have hungry chicks to feed.

We also had  two common cranes fly over the centre last week, which was quite exciting as these are the first I have seen in this country, heading in the direction of Lakenheath.

Living on site, I often see bats at night flying around the visitor centre. I was curious as to what species we had here. So I decided to take part in the Norfolk Bat Survey. Anyone can take part, you can find more details on

I picked up the equipment and set it up over three days, the memory card was then sent to be analysed. The results showed that I recorded an amazing 10 species of bat at Weeting Heath, these were common pipistrelle, soprano pipistrelle, noctule, barbastelle, brown long-eared, Daubentons, serotine, leislers, and low confidence of whiskered and nathusius pipistrelle.

The bats will be mostly feeding on moths, here at Weeting Heath over 300 species of moth have been recorded, including these from the latest moth trap.

It’s amazing what species are around us that we don’t know about.

Butterflies and damselflies have also been abundant in the last few weeks, with 15 species being recorded including the first meadow browns, large skippers and ringlets being seen.

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