By Sophie Harrison and Abi Nell
Welcome back to a new season at Weeting Heath! Our stone curlews made the perilous journey from North West Africa back to Weeting on 17 March. We currently have three active breeding pairs that are spending most of the time displaying, flapping their wings and marking their territories. Pair 2, Cynthia and Hue that were the stars of the Wings Over the Brecks last season, have safely returned to hopefully breed again this year.
As part of the Breaking New Ground project, we now have a new camera with a high quality zoom lens, which will enable us to get up close and personal to our famous heath chickens! The camera will be powered by a solar panel that is mounted on wheels looking like something off robot wars! To minimise stress for our birds we had our solar panel warrior wheeled out onto the heath prior to the birds’ arrival. When the birds start to nest, we will be able to run a camera from the power source to be within 10m of the nest. So watch this space for more Stonie updates!
To get Weeting up and running ready for the new season, our Breckland Reserves Manager Matt Blissett, our Breckland Reserves field officer Paul Waterhouse, and our visitor centre coordinator Abi Nell were assisted by our surperb team of volunteers to give the visitor centre a much needed lick of paint. Abi and I have have been busy updating signs and waymarkers through the forest. Visitors should now be able to navigate their way around the forest trail with ease.
The dense forest is great for green woodpeckers and Roe Deer. The more open areas that look out over the heath are good for spotting stonechat, wheatear, woodlark and if you are very lucky, goshawk. As the season progresses, more species will be visible in these areas such as hobby, tree pipit, grasshopper warbler and hopefully turtle doves.
Bird sighting highlights in addition to our stonies on the heath so far have been lapwing, wheatear, buzzard, kestrel, skylark, common curlew and mistle thrush. The pines have been buzzing with activity from yellowhammer and nuthatch to lesser redpoll and brambling. In the forest, crossbills, goshawk and peregrines have been seen flying over, whilst stone chat hide in the gorse and woodlarks pose on fence posts.
March has had a mixture of weather conditions, but we have seen several species of butterfly on the wing on the finer, drier days. This has included peacock; comma; speckled wood; small tortoiseshell; brimstone and red admirals! As the season progresses (and if the weather picks up), we will be monitoring the butterfly species in weekly transects across the reserve.
For the first time this season the weather conditions have been good enough to get our moth trap up and running! Species caught include Pine Beauty; Common Quaker; Dotted Chestnut; Clouded Drab; Hebrew Character; and Twin Spotted Quaker.
You will find all staff and volunteers at NWT Weeting Heath friendly and flexible. We are always looking to recruit new volunteers to join our friendly group. Our volunteers range in age, ability and interests. We have some that help us run the visitors centre, others that are happy to get involved with hard work on the reserve and some volunteers help us with their specialist knowledge of natural history to contribute to our regular wildlife monitoring. If you have a special interest, a love of working outdoors and as part of a team or even if you are just looking for some company, we would love to meet you. Pop in and see us at any time or email us at email@example.com.
· If you have been to visit and taken some pictures that you are particularly proud of and would like to share them with the team then please send then to firstname.lastname@example.org.
· The Brecks Local group is now up and running again for local wildlife enthusiasts. A full list of activities will be available soon but in the mean time you can contact John Davies at email@example.com to find out more.
On Monday 2 May we are holding the ‘Wild at Weeting’ Fun Day. The event is open to families, members and non-members alike. There will be kids activities, special membership offers, a guided walk, a second-hand book stall, a cake stall, a plant stall, a moth demonstration and interesting facts about Breckland wildlife. Read more here