Monday, 5 October 2015

Oct 5th Pensthorpe

If you are a fan of the BBC's Springwatch series, you may remember Pensthorpe. Several years ago, this was the TV show's base for three years. Presented at the time by Kate Humble and Bill Oddie, who was later replaced by Chris Packham and joined by Martin Hughes-Games, we were shown webcams revealing the lives of little ringed plovers, lapwings, otters and many of the other wildlife found on the site. What has happened to Pensthorpe since those days of fame? I'm here with Mum to find out.

BBC Springwatch at Pensthorpe (found this sign in the men's toilets!)
Bearded Tit
Pensthorpe is part wildfowl collection and part nature reserve. It is also an important captive breeding site for a few of Britain's rarest birds. Before leaving the visitor centre building and onto the site proper, there is an indoor walkthrough enclosure where you can get close to bearded tits, turtle doves and corncrakes as well as waders and ducks. It is quite entertaining to see a small flock of pinging bearded tits flying around us in the reedbeds in this enclosure. It may seem like cheating to see these captive birds like this, but for birds like turtle doves and corncrakes, this may be the only way to see them in the near future as the threat of habitat loss, migratory shooting, etc, may see these birds extinct in the UK if nothing is done about it. Thanks to Pensthorpe, we now have a population of corncrakes in Cambridgeshire after captive bred birds were released into the wild there and turtle doves have a project on the way to boost numbers and solve problems both here and on their migration.

Turtle Dove

To get to the nature reserve part of the site, you have to cross a bridge over a lake full of wildfowl from all over the world. Here are just some of them...

White Stork
Mandarin Duck
Goldeneye underwater
Northern Pintail
The scrapes at Pensthorpe
One area featured on Springwatch were the scrapes where little ringed plovers and other waders were filmed with their chicks, which were predated by a kestrel. Today, there was no need to worry about chick predation as it is now autumn. Instead, there were lots of teal around and a few gadwall, cormorants, mallards, mute swans, coots, black-headed gulls and lapwings. Since Springwatch, there is now two hides overlooking these scrapes instead of one.

Coot and Mallard
From a bridge over part of the River Wensum (the very one that flows through the city of Norwich), we could see a large trout and some minnows swimming against the steady current. Across a meadow, a charm of goldfinches flew from tree to tree, occasionally coming down to feed on the thistle heads and berries and in the woods we came across lots of strange and wonderful fungi.

Elder berries
Sulphur Tuft
A Slime Mould (I think)
Beef-steak Fungus?
More Beef-steak Fungi?
Golden Scalycap
No idea either
Some kind of bonnet fungi?
In front of the hide in the woodland, feeders full of bird food hung all around and attracted blue, great and coal tits, chaffinches, a pheasant and a nuthatch to them. Being so close to them, you would have thought I would get some good shots of them. It wasn't easy though. The birds only gave me a fraction of a second to get a shot and were constantly moving. I was also fighting against light and the camera's focus to add to my frustration. The nuthatch was the star here dispite my camera's performance, making several visits to one feeder and was climbing along the trunk of the tree that was holding it up.

Great Tit
Coal Tit
Blue Tit
Autumn colour
Egyptian Goose
Red Squirrel
Back onto the wildfowl zoo part of this site, we paid a quick visit to the flamingos (but not the cranes nearby) and the red squirrels before it started to rain. The red squirrels are another captive breeding project at Pensthorpe. A few years ago, some of captive bred squirrels were released in Anglesey as part of the project to reintroduce red squirrels to Wales. As long as they can keep the non-native grey squirrels away, the reds should thrive. It is the greys that have caused the decline of the reds, as they carry a deadly pox that kills our native and charasmatic red squirrel. Thanks to management, we now have red squirrels back in the north of England, but I think it will be some time yet until I see them back in Norfolk. For now, I am happy seeing the four tufty-eared captive reds run around the cages and the elevated runs that link them above our heads. Nothing beats seeing a red squirrel!

Greater Flamingos
Marbled Teal
White-headed Duck


  1. Hi Sean. Of your fungi, the first one could be Honey Fungus, but I think is probably Sulphur Tuft (Hypholoma fasciculare). I agree that the yellow specimen in the next photo is a slime mould. The next two definitely aren't Beefsteak fungus because that is a pored bracket fungus, whereas on the second of the two photos you can see gills and a stalk. I'm not sure what it is though! The next one is Golden Scalycap (Pholiota aurivella). I agree that the bottom two show Bonnets (Mycena spp), but I'm not sure which ones. Hope that is of some help. Regards, James.