Weekly wild news from our reserves, 22nd May

Konik ponies grazing - Craig Hollis 

Grasshopper warblers, cuckoos and glossy ibis are some highlights and sightings from the Reserves Team this week.

Heard... and not seen

This week, grasshopper warblers were heard calling at Hen Reedbeds reserve competing with the traffic from the A12 showing what a difference a week makes as lockdown eases.

The grasshopper warbler is a small, summer migrant arriving from Africa to breed in the reedbeds of the UK. This elusive bird is often heard and not seen due to the way it moves its head whilst singing, throwing its insect-like trill making it hard to pinpoint the singer’s location.

Grasshopper warbler at Hen Reedbeds  - Daniel Doughty 

A national rarity

An indicator of ancient woodland, the wild service tree is beautiful at this time of year, with its white blossom and maple-like leaves. Six of these rare trees can be found at Arger Fen and Spouse’s Vale - an ancient coppice woodland with a fascinating mix of large alder and hazel stools, oak, ash, holly, field maple and wild cherry. 

The wild service tree was once widespread in the forests of England, but, as these were cleared, it became rarer and is now confined to ancient woodlands and hedges. Once pollinated, the flowers turn into small apple-like fruits called chequers, which were once sold as a fruit and also used to flavour beer. 

Glossy ibis graces Peto’s Marsh with a visit

The new habitat creation of Peto’s Marsh continues to pay dividends for nature this week as another visitor, a glossy ibis, arrived on Sunday 17th May gracing us with its presence for a few days. Feeding mostly on small invertebrates and occasionally on small vertebrates with their long curved bills, adults are dark with beautiful iridescent green and red colouration.

The work starts again at Carlton Marshes

Work on the new Carlton Marshes Visitor Centre got off to a cracking start last week. This week the builders had smashing weather to crane in the new café gallery windows into position. With an investment from the National Lottery Heritage Fund of over £4 million in our vision for 1000 acres of wildness, the transformation of Carlton Marshes into the southern gateway to the Broads National Park is well underway and the new visitor centre will provide stunning views across the reserve. As water flows back onto the land, nature will take over once again.

Matt Gooch our Carlton Marshes warden captured this lovely footage of lapwing and redshank calling at dusk this week, too.

The sounds of Carlton Marshes at dusk 

Four legged conservationists

With their distinctive snow white fur and black noses and inner ear markings, the British White cattle stand out in a landscape. This week, our herd arrived at Hen Reedbeds reserve to graze our marshes, stepping up to the important role of being our four–legged wardens of conservation. It’s not all work and no play, however, as they were seen to be enjoying a cooling dip in the water.

The use of different livestock on our sites across the county is important in conservation management with animals being carefully selected to suit the required conditions for each nature reserve. Different animals have different grazing or browsing techniques helping to produce very different sward structures.   

British white cattle unloaded for summer grazing - Hen Reedbeds - Jamie Smith 

Cuckoos are calling countywide

You may have already been regaled by the unmistakable sound of the cuckoo during May, its call seems to penetrate across all other noise in a landscape to remind us it’s spring once again. 

South East Sites Manager, Andrew Excell has noticed the return of this classic spring species at Levington Lagoon, Trimley Marshes, Newbourne Springs and Bromeswell Green nature reserves since April when this migratory bird returned after its monumental journey across Africa and Europe. Once successfully mated, a female cuckoo will set about finding the nests of unsuspecting reed bunting, reed warbler or sedge warbler. When these host birds leave their nest to feed, the ever-watchful cuckoo nips in and lays a single egg to be incubated, hatched and the chick reared by the returning nest-maker. Cuckoo’s have developed some amazing survival strategies to ensure they succeed at the expense of the host bird's brood, such as accelerated development during incubation to ensure they increase the likelihood of being the first egg in the nest to hatch.

You can follow our tagged cuckoo, Carlton II, on the BTO website here and Carlton Marshes Facebook pages here

Mice on the menu for Trimley's kestrels

The kestrels are nesting again at Trimley, and this one was caught on camera with its lunch. We all know that feeling when something hasn't done down that well...

Kestrels use a variety of different nests and don't build their own, often using the same nest for several years. They use disused stick based nests of other species such as crows and are also found nesting on ledges on cliffs and buildings. They are also hole nesters meaning they can be found nesting in nest boxes too. 

Nesting Kestrels - Andrew Excell 

Swifts lay their first egg at Lackford

Great news at Lackford Lakes, the swifts have laid their first egg in the swift boxes on our visitor centre. 

Swifts form pair bonds in their first year and they will stay in these pair bonds for life, breeding once they mature at four years. Swifts are nest faithful and return to the UK, from Africa, to breed and lay eggs in the same nest year after year. 

Swift lays first egg at Lackford -2020