A wonderfully ‘Dippy’ day out
- Credit: Bill Smith
In her latest column, Angela Glynn, Fakenham Town Council's vice-chairman and fundraising officer for the Hawk and Owl Trust, talks about visiting Dippy and Norwich Cathedral, and the wonderful wildlife of the north Norfolk coast.
My proper day job is usually office-bound. A typical day finds me at a desk in front of a computer writing applications to charitable trusts in the hope of raising funds for the work at Sculthorpe Moor Nature Reserve. So, when I was invited to spend a day at the Hawk and Owl Trust watchpoint at Norwich Cathedral, I accepted with great pleasure.
In case you have missed it the splendid cathedral is playing host to Dippy the Dinosaur, and he is a popular chap! So, far some 40,000 visitors have queued in sun and rain to visit.
On the day I visited hundreds of them stopped off at the watchpoint on the way in. Lots of very excited children were following the large green dinosaur footprints painted on the paths leading through the close. Seeing all the lovely images of owls and other birds of prey on our trailer tempted them to visit.
We have an outline of the wingspans of different birds of prey ranging from the biggest – the golden eagle to the smallest – the Merlin.
The children were fascinated! "I’m a golden eagle", said one small boy. We stood him in front of the outline, “Not even close,” said his Dad, “You’re not even a buzzard!” That little scene repeated itself for most of the day as the children collected cards with pictures of the bids and their vital statistics printed on them. I reminded the keen recipients to keep the cards safe so that when the teacher asks you what you did in the school holidays, you will have a good story to tell.
What was fascinating was the level of interest shown by our young visitors. They were full of questions about birds, wildlife in general and, of course, Dippy. It is encouraging to see that so many children are genuinely interested in the natural world around them. Perhaps their visit will encourage them to become conservationists of the future – let’s hope so.
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Of course, lots of people know that there is a pair of peregrine falcons who breed on a platform over 100m high on the spire. This year, they successfully raised three chicks. There were four, but one failed to thrive and sadly died in the spring when we had such awful cold and wet weather.
The peregrine parents have stopped feeding the chicks, but the youngsters still pursue their parents noisily for food. They will soon leave the spire to set up on their own, on a cliff or another high building.
Speaking of high buildings, the peregrines were not much in evidence last week on the day of my visit. The reason – two workmen, carrying out maintenance on the lower spires. They were, happily, wearing safety harnesses, but we're well over 90m off the ground. You would definitely need a good head for heights to do their job.
Meanwhile, out at Sculthorpe, work is progressing on the construction of a bird hide on our new 13-acre area of wetland. The hide will be open to the public early next year and will enable visitors to observe the waterbirds that have made their homes there.
This year we have had oystercatchers, little ringed plovers and egrets – even a great white egret, quite a rarity. We are also delighted to see hobbies on the reserve. Such beautiful, and quite rare birds for this area. Not many people know that we have several species of rare breeds on site, which we use for conservation grazing – more on this in next month’s article.
Finally, if, as a local person, you have not visited Sculthorpe, please take a morning or afternoon to come for a stroll. The reserve is accessible for buggy and wheelchair users, you can get a coffee and ice cream (always welcome) and see what you can spot. We’ll give you a map and there are always volunteer wardens on-site to answer questions. You will probably find me at my desk – unless I am wanted again in Norwich…two Dippy days out.