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

Monday, 6 July 2015

Fires at Holkham

It’s the time of year when on warm sunny evenings we dust off our old camping gear, check the tent doesn’t have any holes, pack a rucksack full of things we deem essential and set out to find a little corner of the world you can call your own for an evening. However, Holkham NNR, as well as all nature reserves in North Norfolk, has a strict no camping, no bonfire, no gas stove, no barbecue policy. Many people see this as overzealous but these activities pose a very real threat to the nature reserve, wildlife and public, and are sadly a regular problem for the warden team.

Found just in time.

Dunes are a slow functioning ecosystem, they take a along time to recover from damage caused by fire. Whether started accidentally or deliberately fires can quickly become uncontrollable and unpredictable. They can destroy large areas of habitat and kill countless animals. Visitors often think they have put out their bonfire or disposed of their barbecue safely but people don’t realise how hot barbecues get and how the heat from a fire or barbecue can spread by travelling underground and popping up away from the original source, causing a wildfire. This is exactly what happened a week ago. There would have been severe irreversible damage to the pinewoods if a diligent member of the public hadn’t noticed a fire spreading and notified the fire brigade. It took the fire brigade almost 1000 litres of water to put it out.

Yellows Birds Nest is an orchid found only in a few sites in Norfolk.
Fire can have a devastating effect on this fragile and rare plant.

People come to Holkham National Nature Reserve for different reasons. Some people come to see wildlife, some come to enjoy a day on the beach while others walk through the reserve on the Norfolk Coast Path, everyone however wants to be inspired by the beauty of the reserve. Holkham is a source of endless enjoyment for everyone, so let’s work together to preserve this spectacular place.

The pinewood is at risk from wildfires

Please report any fires to the fire brigade immediately and if possible try to give your location and any landmarks. Do not try and put any fires out yourself under any circumstances.
Jonathan Holt