Monday, 27 July 2015

The Hunt for Yellow Bird's Nest

For the past three weeks Thomas has been working alongside the Holkham National Nature Reserve wardens on work experience. We very much appreciate Tom's hard work and enthusiasm and he has written an entry into our online diary about his experiences of working on the reserve. Over to you Tom!

One of my biggest challenges during my volunteering at Holkham was the hunt for the Yellow Bird’s Nest. Funnily enough I don’t mean the nest of a yellow bird, or a bird’s nest that is yellow. Yellow Bird’s Nest is a plant. For some reason. The Bird’s nest is an odd looking, fleshy plant not unlike a yellow asparagus. It’s very rare and (rather than photosynthesis) feeds parasitically on the fungus which lives in the moss upon which the Bird’s Nest grows.

As one of the rarer plants on the estate it was mine and the warden’s job to find and record the Bird’s Nest. This...proved more difficult than expected. The first clump of bird’s nest was one that the warden’s had already found a good reference point for me to know what I was looking for. So we started with counting those, and I was pretty proud to have found the most pristine bunch a very photogenic collection of three. 

But after the first group (of 29) we encountered an unfortunate dearth of rare plants. Nothing. For hours. And this isn’t one of those “just after we’d given up we found loads” stories. We didn’t find anything all day. That’s nature for you really. You don’t always find what you want and in a way that’s part of its beauty. It’s also pretty annoying but silver linings and all. 

Funnily enough it was actually my parents who found more of the Bird’s Nest. They walk the dog at Holkham daily and my mum likes plants so I showed them a picture. And after three days of the wardens and I futilely searching, mum finds three clumps out of the blue. Which we then couldn’t find even despite her directions. 

Finally I managed to see some more of the Bird’s Nest. Not at volunteering, but while walking the dog. My parents showed me the patches that they’d found, which had apparently been conveniently marked with sticks but oh well. I saw them at last even if the wardens didn’t. And learned a valuable lesson about the fickleness of mother nature.

Jonathan Holt