Moorhens get the five star treatment with new floating bird hotel
PUBLISHED: 12:31 27 March 2019 | UPDATED: 13:05 27 March 2019
Moorhen chicks at risk of being eaten by predators have a new, five star safe haven, in the shape of a floating bird ‘hotel’ installed on a pond in the centre of a north Norfolk conservation area.
When Sheringham town councillor Neil Espin heard that three of the four-strong brood of moorhen chicks hatched last spring on the banks of the pond on Beeston Common had either been eaten by crows or drowned, he decided to take action.
After asking honorary warden Francis Farrow for advice, Mr Espin got together a group of fellow councillors and launched a project aimed at giving this year’s hatchlings a better chance of survival.
Using materials donated by councillors and local businesses, Mr Farrow, 68. built a moorhen ‘hotel’ featuring a wooden floor and frame, a drawbridge and an oil drum base.
“The idea is to protect the chicks from herons, stoats, rats, crows and foxes,” he explained.
“The problem was that the moorhens had nowhere else to go except around the reeds at the sides of the pond, so this should hopefully give them a refuge in the middle.”
Mr Farrow, who has been involved in conservation work on the commons since 1969, is a founder member of Beeston Common Management Group, which looks after the 61 acres of grassland, heath, marsh, fen and woodland making up the commons of Sheringham and Beeston Regis.
Designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) by Natural England, the commons boast flora and fauna ranging from adders, bats and deer, to 26 species of butterfly and more than 400 varieties of flowering plant.
Mr Farrow said the pond, which has been a permanent fixture on the commons since 1984, was visited by 19 species of dragonfly, as well as kingfishers, herons, frogs and toads.
He is hoping birds will eventually build their nests in the hotel, which was based on a design dreamed up by Fairhaven Woodland and Water Garden volunteer Trevor Tabernam.
“We have planted vegetation which will grow and screen the sides, so we could potentially even get mallards using it,” he said.
Sheringham mayor Madeleine Ashcroft, who has also been involved in the project, said: “It has been lovely for the town council to be able to do something like this for the community and support what is an important and unique environment.”