Friday, 15 May 2015

Lapwing chick conundrums and Biking Birder

Sophie Harrison, Weeting Summer Warden

In the early hours on the 25 April, the first newly hatched lapwing chicks were seen from the West Hide padding across the heathland. Currently we have a total of 12 chicks scuttling about with their proud parents keeping a close eye on them. In these first few days the chicks are especially vulnerable to predation and the cold. 

Lapwing chick, photo by Margaret Holland
Over the bank holiday, the wind picked up and the rain lashed down, the chicks retreated under the wings of their parents. Over the next few weeks they will independently feed on a variety of beetles, caterpillars and worms in the soil, and rely heavily on their camouflage and their parents’ protection to avoid being predated.

Unfortunately, I witnessed one that wasn’t so lucky, as it became a carrion crow's lunchtime snack. Only 25% of lapwing chicks make it to fledging stage. Over the next few weeks I will be keeping you updated on their progress. With a bit of luck and the right weather, they may just make it! Four out of our six lapwing pairs have successfully hatched chicks, so hopefully when the weather clears the other two pairs will hatch their chicks any day now.

Our tree creepers, Terry and Teresa, are currently sitting on eggs so if you’re lucky, you can glimpse them going in and out of the nest. The bandit thief has been seen on a daily basis outside the West Hide and from its calling and behaviour it is clearly nesting somewhere…

There has been a lot of action from the Woodland hide. Now with a newly felted roof and coat of paint, this lovely little hide looks out onto three feeders and two ponds, where a family of yellowhammers have taken residents. It is also a favourite feeding spot for our nesting great spotted woodpecker and nuthatch!

Grass snake, photo by Julian Thomas
This season we have set up a series of reptile tins to monitor and record the abundance of different reptile species in different habitats. Six corrugated tins have been placed around the reserve to encourage a variety of reptiles to shelter under them.

Six lucky visitors witnessed a huge grass snake taking advantage of the woodland hide reptile tin. It slinked in and out of cover with a hope of grabbing an unsuspecting bird coming down to the pond to drink! Common lizards have been taking advantage of the pine belt reptile tin and have also been seen sunning themselves in front of the visitor centre.

As well as our wildlife stars, we had a visit from the famous Biking Birder, Gary Prescott. Birmingham born and bred, Gary is out to break the European record (307) of the most birds seen in a year, travelling only by bike. To accomplish this, he is visiting every RSPB reserve in the country and Weeting Heath to see our famous stone curlews! Later this year he is appearing on BBC Springwatch and you can follow his blog on Our stone curlews helped boost his numbers to 207. To show his support he even signed up as a Norfolk Wildlife Trust member!

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