Winter at Felbrigg
Autumn and winter appear a quiet time for wildlife, but looks can be deceptive. Early January 2013 we saw the elusive Hawfinches, high up in the top of the Oaks, or feeding below the Yew and around the lake were sightings of a solitary Smew, the secretive Water Rails and the Mandarin Ducks. Usual winter migrants such as Golden Plover, Redwing and Fieldfares fed on the parkland, overlooked by dozing Little Owls. Barn Owls quartered the pasture South of the lake or sat motionless on fence posts and a Little Egret dropped in briefly to the field by the Forge.
The Weasel was seen casually pottering about the car park or ducking and diving in the walled garden.
The estate is managed to encourage old fashioned farm birds - Firecrests, Bramlings, Skylarks and Linnets.<...
Resident at Felbrigg are Greater Spotted and Green Woodpeckers, and occasionally a lesser spotted is seen.<...
Barn, Little and Tawny owls live contentedly here, and very occasionally we glimpse a Long eared owl.
- Felbrigg has Triple SI Nature conservation sites - Great Wood and some of the parkland.
- There is an ancient Beech which is the furthest north on acid soil and some rare fungi and lichens.
- Much of the fallen timber is left for insects. 33 new species of insects not found before in Norfolk have been identified and 9 Red Book species.
- Resident in Felbrigg are currently four types of deer: Chinese water, Munjack, Roe and Red.
- A fungal midge has been found and the Slender or Lemon slug.
- A large part of the estate in High Level Stewardship (HLS) with currently 240 hectares in our direct management.
- As part of the HSL, tenant farmers are required to maintain seed and nectar strips and reduced stocking levels of grazing animals.
- We use no fertilizer, insecticide or pesticides although some herbicide is used to control thistle and ragwort.
A tramp through the woods can put up the beautifully camouflaged Woodcock, exploding suddenly from the leaf litter or give a glimpse of Roe Deer, flashing their white rumps. A check on the bat boxes revealed, apart from the usual Brown Long-eared and Pipistrelles, a single Natterer’s. Daubenton’s Bats were busy hibernating or even mating in the depths of the Icehouse. ‘Colonies’ of Garden Snails wedged themselves in the nooks and crannies of gnarled Sycamores and a Shrew peered nervously out of a hole at the base of a Beech.
The realigning of Scarrow Beck
Historically Scarrow Beck was straightened quite early and with the changes in agricultural management in its catchment area, there has been a significant build up of silt going into the lake. The straightened Beck has not been able to flood into the surrounding pasture and deposit its silt before reaching the lake. The realigning part of Scarrow Beck, was part of a Higher Level agricultural Scheme (HLS). The stream now no longer runs in a straight line but meanders across the pasture following some of the lower depressions, still visible in the ground, flowing into the small pond close to the footpath and then into the lake through the newly constructed weir which will allow the stream to behave in a much more natural manner. The weir allows control of the water levels in winter and spring and the field above the lake will now flood much further up in winter than previously. This should encourage wet loving species to spread, providing a greater diversity of plants and insects. It is hoped to see wading birds, such as Snipe and Lapwing, return to nest on the pasture. This will also mean that much less silt should reach the lake. Already we have seen greater numbers of duck and geese using the water and a Bittern, (normally they just come for a look round) this year stayed for several months. We have seen Oyster Catchers prospecting and our grass management should mean that they will stay with us next year.