Sunday, 17 May 2015

Busy Spring wildlife and busy volunteers!

With May half term around the corner the reserve is a joy to visit with a feel of summer in the air! Gorse and broom bushes are in full flower adding splashes of colour along the green and blue trail. The final oak trees have joined the other tree species in unfurling their leaves, and caterpillars are beginning to appear hanging down from their canopies, often feeding the nesting birds who are busy all round the reserve.
Broom in flower 17/05/2015

The woodlands in full sunshine

 For spring and summer our volunteer work party jobs turn to site maintenance and surveying the wildlife; our latest tasks have included finishing off the bird viewing screen in the wild play space in the main car park. The screen looks out at the bird feeder and bug hotels, and the hazel was supplied by our very Bradfield woods.
Young Wardens helping over Easter to finish the bug hotels

Volunteers building the bird viewing screen
The finished screen with viewing windows and seats 

Other recent volunteer tasks have involved setting up the reptile transect for the year ahead by laying out refuges that warm up in the sun around the reserve. Reptiles, particularly grass snakes, slow worms and common lizards use these to warm up in the cooler mornings and evenings over spring, summer and autumn. We have started the regular tasks of checking these sheets and so far have found several grass snakes and common lizards.
Volunteers checking the reptile refuges and recording the slow worms found here

Adult grass snake using the refuge for warmth

Slow worms

What will be next?!!!!

Saturday, 14 February 2015

A flurry of new year activity

January has been a very busy month on the reserve as we have been undertaking different conservation management projects to restore areas of breck heathland, and reconnect the various habitats.

Contractors have been focusing on a 7 acre block of commercial conifer plantation that borders the biodiversity rich heathland at the side of Peddars Way. This block has been clear felled; the timber harvested and the remaining brash and organic litter mulched and removed from the area by scraping the ground.

This has exposed the underling sandy soils which should retain a seed bank of breckland plant communities. This area should also retain the periglacial feature of 'Brecks stripes' and it is hoped the chalk and acid soils that have now been exposed, will in time, become as rich in plant and insect communities as the Peddars way heath it is now connected to.

Contractors scraping off the organic litter to expose the breck soils underneath
Some of the scraped material has been formed into a south facing bund, or windrow, which will be ideal habitat for basking reptiles and insects.

It is hoped that this area will be as successful as the smaller trial plots of turf stripping and rotervation on the reserve. These were created last year and the year before to try and mimic the vital role of ground disturbance that rabbits would normally do, and are now developing interesting communities of plants and lichens. The plots, along with the grazing of the Exmoor ponies, are creating and maintaining habitat for breckland species that might otherwise have been lost with the decline in rabbit numbers in recent years. Research is currently being undertaken in the brecks in an attempt to get to the bottom of this decline.

Pioneering plant, lichen and moss species thriving

Volunteers and woodland contractors have also been working hard to reconnect the areas of heathland that remain on the reserve. Throughout the winter they have been working on relatively small blocks of young woodland on the heathland edges, mainly removing young pine and birch that are out competing the heath.

Young pines are being removed from around these mature trees to allow light to reach the heathland flora below

By removing these young trees where they have grown up relatively recently, we are able to both expand the heath blocks and create corridors and networks to link their species up. The project focuses on working on lots of small areas to create a mosaic of habitats and maintain the mature woodland habitat on site as well.

Volunteer teams clearing young trees; leaving space for the mature Scots Pines to thrive
 Volunteer teams run every Thursday all year round and are vital in carrying out the reserve management on a weekly basis. They are great fun and a good chance to meet new people, learn skills and get some fresh air. We meet in the main car park at 9.30am - why not come along!

To find out more contact the ranger at:

Volunteers clearing dense young trees off from the heathland edge. Patches of gorse and mature trees are left to create a mosaic of different habitats.

Friday, 5 December 2014

Working hard on the run up to Christmas means lots of free woodchip around!

The reserves fantastic team of volunteers have been working hard alongside some woodland contractors to improve the woodland and heathland areas on site. Both teams are carrying out tree thinning on various part of the reserve that have been chosen due to their proximity to heathland areas.

Much of this is young woodland that has grown over what was once important Breckland heath, and now we are returning these areas to heath and wood pasture by removing the younger saplings and trees. By doing this on lots of small areas adjacent to the heath it allows the heathland to gradually expand whilst maintaining the vital woodland habitats as well. The team are leaving the older trees which creates 'wood pasture'. Wood pasture is a vital edge habitat that naturally occurs in-between woodland and heathland, and will soon be a very important part of the reserve.

Lots of the wood is left as deadwood habitat, but a lot of the larger timber is sold as firewood at our neighbouring reserve, Redgrave and Lopham Fen. The smaller 'brash' and branches are put through the chipper and as we have a lot of this surplus wood chip it is being left at the roadside for anyone to help themselves to - so take a spade and a car boot and get filling!

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Fabulous Fungi!

Well the warm and wet start that we had at the beginning of Autumn this year (not so warm now!) lead to a fantastic fungi season on Trust reserves. The two expert lead fungi forays at Knettishall Heath have resulted in over 60 different species on those walk routes alone!

Some of the species that were found and identified:

Latin Name Common Name
Agaricus arvensis Horse Mushroom
Agaricus silvicola Wood Mushroom
Amanita citrina var. citrina False Deathcap
Amanita muscaria var. muscaria Fly Agaric
Amanita phalloides Death Cap
Amanita rubescens Blusher
Auricularia auricula-judae Jelly Ear
Auriscalpum vulgare Ear Pick Fungus
Baeospora myosura Conifer Conecap
Boletus badius Bay Boletus
Clavulinopsis fusiformis Golden Spindles
Clitocybe candicans Funnel Cap
Clitocybe nebularis Clouded Agaric
Clitocybe odora Aniseed Funnel Cap
Collybia dryophila Russet Toughshank
Collybia maculata Spotted Toughshank
Collybia peronata Wood Woolly Foot
Cyathus striatus Fluted Bird's Nest
Daedaleopsis confragosa Blushing Bracket
Ganoderma applanatum Artists Fungus
Geastrum triplex Collared Earthstar
Hebeloma crustulinifome Poison Pie
Hygrophoropsis aurantiaca False Chanterelle
Hypholoma fasciculare Sulphur Tuft
Inocybe eutheles Fibrecap
Laccaria amethystina Amethyst Deceiver
Lactarius quietus Oakbug Milkcap
Lactarius turpis Ugly Milkcap
Lepista inversa Tawny Funnel Cap
Leucoagaricus leucothites White Dapperling
Leucocoprinus brebissonii Skullcap Dapperling
Lycoperdon nigrescens Dusky Puffball
Lycoperdon perlatum Common Puffball
Macrolepiota procera Parasol Mushroom
Marasmius oreades Fairy Ring Mushroom
Meripilus giganteus Giant Polypore
Mycena pura Radish Bonnet
Phallus impudicus Stinkhorn
Piptoporus betulinus Birch Polypore / Razorstrop Fungus
Pluteus cervinus Deer Shield
Rhytisma acerinum Sycamore Tarspot
Russula fragilis Brittlegill
Russula ochroleuca Yellow Brittlegill
Russula xerampelina Crab Russula
Scleroderma aerolatum Leopard Earthball
Scleroderma citrinum Common Earthball
Stereum hirsutum Hairy Curtain Crust
Suillus granulatus Dotted Stalk Bolete
Taphrinia betularum Witches Broom
Tricholoma sulphureum Gas Works Toadstool
Xerocomus chrysenteron Red Cracking Boletus

Collared Earthstar    (Geastrum triplex)

Also three new species that haven't previously been recorded on the site before:

Pholiota squarrosa                                 Shaggy Scalycap

Entoloma serrulatum

Tricholoma imbricatum

Keep your eyes peeled when walking around the reserve - and feel free to post your fabulous fungi photos on our facebook page! -

Monday, 25 August 2014

Recent wildlife sights and sounds

The recent activity of various events, surveying and guided walks on the heath, including the new sightings board for visitors to add their records to, has all allowed us to start gathering greater numbers of wildlife records for Knettishall.

The summer, particularly July, was very good for some of our rarer species including the White Admiral butterfly and Bee Orchids, but some of the more recent highlights include:

- July and August - regular Barn Owl sightings
- August - Weasel and Stoat
- July/August - Good numbers of dragonflies including Banded Demoiselles and Hawkers
- 6th/16th/18th August - Kingfisher
- August - Hobby, Buzzard and Kestrel sightings
- 17th August - Goldcrest, Nuthatch, Treecreeper, Osprey passing through
- 17th and 23rd August - Spotted Flycatcher
- August - Brown Argus butterfly
- August - Adder
- Three possible Nightjar sightings between 11th and 22nd August

The heather is also in flower now around the site

Summer visitors

Throughout the summer Knettishall Heath has had a fantastic array of visitors, whether it be from community groups exploring the site, or families joining in with our holiday events!

Both the 1st Ixworth and 1st Redgrave and Botesdale Brownie groups have visited, with more visits booked in for the Autumn term. Both groups of girls enjoyed evening sessions following trails learning about the wildlife of the reserve, as well as making wild art sculptures or mini animal homes.

1st Redgrave and Botesdale Brownies making natural art sculptures

Our summer holiday family afternoons have almost all been fully booked, with the rain drowning a few soggy geo cachers on August 10th. The River Dipping and Brilliant Butterflies family afternoons were popular as ever, with the new moth trap causing excitement!(Angle Shades moth pictured)

River Dipping
Water Scorpion

Day visitors have been generally enjoying the site all summer, whether it be for a walk, a swim, or a picnic out the camper van!

Sunday, 27 July 2014


Fencing has been completed for now and the larger grazing enclosure (see details on April post) is now in place. June saw the Exmoor ponies returned to this area which now encompasses the main heath, the Peddars Way heath and the linking woodland in between. It's safe to say they were happy to be released onto here, and have settled into a good grazing routine offering good structure to the heathland areas and exploring the woodlands on hotter days.

The Hounds of the Heath group have begun exploring the new trail for dog walkers outside of the grazing enclosure at the South end of the site. This is due to be way marked in the next few months when the site maps will also be updated.

Reserve Management
We have had two fantastic Green Teams from UK Power Networks helping us with summer jobs such as litter picking, creating habitat piles to encourage rabbits onto the heath to graze, and controlling Ragwort in areas with livestock.
UK Power Networks Green Team

Discovering Breckland Flora
At the end of the month we also hosted a brilliant wild learning course on Breckland flora, thank you to the expert Ann Sherwood. It was well attended and we spent a very hot day discovering and identifying plants in the grassland and heathland areas. Species included; mossy stonecrop, sheep's sorrel, heath bedstraw, purple milk vetch, birdsfoot, heath speedwell and dropwort.
Dropwort   Filipendula vulgaris

Participants identifying birds-foot trefoil   Lotus corniculatus