Salter’s Sanctuary Bird Count

The RSPB’s idea to extend their Big Garden Bird Watch into the Monday this year coincided with the Gaywood Valley Conservation Group being at one of our main work sites, Salter’s Sanctuary, in King’s Lynn, so it seemed like a good opportunity to see what birds were around there.

Armed with binoculars and notebook, Vicky and I had a wander round the 2.6 hectare site for about an hour while other members of the group reported what they saw from where they were working. It was a really enjoyable task, with several robins and possibly more than one song thrush singing. Quite a few birds were calling on this chilly but pleasant morning and I think I heard a chaffinch sing for the first time this year, too. We finished with a respectable 13 species, plus mallard and moorhen from near the Gaywood River, which passes very close to the site.

Our list featured:

Song Thrush, 1; Blackbird, 1; Blue Tits, 2; Great Tit, 1; Chaffinch, 2; Robin, 1; House Sparrows, 4; Collared Dove, 1; Dunnock, 1; Greenfinch, 1; Coal Tit, 1; Magpie, 1; Long Tail Tits, 2.

This seems to show that birds are generally happy with the site, which includes scrub, grassland, a patch of woodland and a marshy area containing some wetland plants. And quite a few insects were seen here last summer. We must be doing something right!

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The sound of robin song brightened our morning.

For the remainder of our session, I joined in a rather more active task to warm up – helping to clear some of the hawthorn trees to allow light to filter through in the hope that wild flowers will grow. Throughout the morning, the birds continued to sing and call.

The hawthorn had become very tangled, almost impenetrable in places, producing a very dark area with virtually nothing growing at ground level. A feature of this was a tunnel leading through the hawthorn and we have retained that but now more light is coming through than it did when we started work there two years ago.

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The hawthorn tunnel at the Sanctuary.
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The tunnel makes an interesting feature.
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We have created several glades.

Norfolk Wildlife Trust are still supporting us with our project at Salter’s Sanctuary and they were impressed with the bird list, which I shall also forward to Norfolk Biodiversity Information Service.

The Sanctuary is just a small corner of a large section of land owned by King’s Lynn and West Norfolk Borough Council that used to function as “green space” and playing fields for the nearby sports centre but which has now been allocated for housing development.

I’m concerned that in the rush to get these properties up the Council appear to have ridden roughshod over environmental laws. There have been accusations that water voles’ homes along nearby dykes have been destroyed. Water voles are in decline and are protected creatures. And certainly ponds have been removed – one was so badly drained it led to the deaths of many of the fish in it. Also, trees have been removed, regardless of whether they had served as markers for flight paths of bats (which are also protected by law) or indeed to help with soaking up rainfall. Indeed, there are queries as to how well this land will drain once the properties are built.  And then there is the question of loss of open space for the general public. I have to wonder what the ecologists are doing about these situations.

There are arguments about whether we really need thousands of new homes being erected everywhere year on year. We do probably need some, but social housing and certainly not housing put up at any price.

We must factor in homes for our beleaguered wildlife in our thinking.

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