Saturday, 26 July 2014

Flora on NWT Weeting Heath

Matt Twydell, Weeting Heath Summer Warden

Spiked speedwell
NWT Weeting Heath is a prime example of a Breck Grass Heathland. Because of this we get a number of specialist Breckland plants that grow here. The main and rarest one is the Spiked Speedwell Veronica spicata (Eastern sup species). This plant flowers on the heath during July, some of the denser patches are fenced off at Weeting to protect the plants from grazing.

Spanish catchfly

A lot of the plants that grow at Weeting require ground disturbance for the successful establishment of new seedlings, this can be accomplished through turf stripping, rotivating or naturally through livestock or rabbits. One plant that benefits from disturbed ground is Spanish Catchfly Silene otites, these inconsequential flowers make this a hard to spot species in the long grass. 

One of the more vibrant flowers that grows here is the Maiden Pink Dianthus deltoides, which seems to have been spreading in recent years.

Maiden pink

Broad Leaved Hellborines, one of the few Orchids recorded at Weeting Heath are now in flower outside the Visitor Centre in small numbers.

Most of these plants grow in areas which are restricted to the public due to nesting stone curlews or woodlarks. You are only able to venture onto the heath when being accompanied by either the warden or a volunteer, but please do enquire at the visitor centre.

Stone Curlews
Over the last month we have had an increase in stone curlews at Weeting Heath, with a peak count of 17! Most of them are part of a post breeding flock which includes juvenile and adults. But we do have a couple of new pairs that have arrived. One of these went down on a nest a couple of weeks ago, so fingers crossed we shall have some more chicks by the end of the first week of August.

We also rang another chick several weeks ago, which has this type of flag on its leg, so keep an eye out for it.
Stone curlew chick


The upper right black (its ring combination) pair, who have fledged 1 chick already, hatched another 2 chicks last week as well. We will be hoping to go out and ring these as well in a few weeks.

Skipper on scabious plant
Other Wildlife News
Last week I found a juvenile redstart in the pines on the heath, which probably means that they bred on site or the surrounding woods, which is a first for a number of years here at Weeting.

Turtle doves, now a rare site in the countryside, continue to be seen on the woodland trail here at Weeting, with a total of three singing males being seen, young haven’t been seen so far but hopefully they have successfully fledged young this year.

Butterflies continue to be seen in good numbers. On my last butterfly transect I counted over 300 individual butterflies comprising 15 different species; the first painted lady of the year was also seen on the site last week.

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