News from Hawk & Owl Trust, Sculthorpe Moor Nature Reserve

by Alwyn Jackson

The first phase of the Sculthorpe Moor Project was completed with the legal completion and acquisition of 150 acres of land surrounding the current Sculthorpe Reserve. Having expanded the reserve to over 200 acres work on the three-year second phase to improve and maximise the habitats for wildlife and creating the infrastructure needed to open the area to visitors began officially on Monday 9th September. Initially work will start by the installation of some of the necessary infrastructures including new paths, a new hide and new wetland area in the first year with more to follow in successive years. It is hoped to have the first phase of this work open to the public in early 2020. There is still an amount of money to raise towards the complete project and the appeal is still very much receiving donations. The Trust is on schedule for this to be successfully completed prior to the end of the project in 2022. Congratulations is extended to all those involved in this achievement – Nigel Middleton, Andrew Blumfield, the trustees, staff, volunteers, the local Francis Berkham Trust and the other grant making bodies.
Nigel Middleton says “Initially things may look raw, but our methods are proven to work and we all look forward to seeing wildlife respond positively as the habitats improve”.
On the Reserve things have been going well. The work done on the banks of the Wensum has proved worth doing during the spring downpours. The damp spring helped to produce a wonderful display of wild flowers. There were increased numbers of three species of orchids flowering – Common Spotted, Southern Marsh and the first ever Early Marsh on the open fen areas. In parts of the Oak Fen, which have been cleared of invading scrub, there a wonderful display of Marsh Fern, Ragged Robin, Marsh Valerian, Bog Pimpernel and Marsh Cinquefoil. A recent fungus foray identified a further six new species for the site, taking the total on the reserve to 344 species so far.
On the trail cameras there was a number of “contacts” with a Polecat, a mammal that has only just returned to North Norfolk after slowly spreading back from its strongholds in the north and west of Britain.
The birds of prey have had a mixed season. Two broods of Tawny Owl chicks, with a combined total of three chicks fledged around the reserve. A pair of Barn Owls, created through two released rehabilitated wild birds, have raised three young this year. The pair of Red Kite that tried, unsuccessfully, to breed last year returned to the same nest this spring. At least one chick hatched but a few days later it started raining and the wet conditions continued for several days. Sadly the exposed young chick did not survive, however the Buzzards were more successful..
The drains and ditches around have been full of fish fry but the Kingfishers have been mysteriously thin on the ground. This is a pattern repeated across at least much of East Anglia and there is no apparent reason for this, as yet.

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