A world of nature around Great Yarmouth

BIRDS wheel across the sky while in the lush woodland below, sumptuous berries are nibbled by deer, whose deep barks echo far across the landscape.

Closer to the mossy ground, and an abundance of killer mushrooms are intersected by tiny highways alive with the traffic of thousands of insects going about their daily work.

But those who think this might be the topic of a David Attenborough documentary in some far off land may be surprised – they are all scenes from a year in the wildlife around Great Yarmouth as seen by Mercury nature columnist Tony Brown.

From April onwards in 2010 those living in the area were given an early glimpse of summer, until rain clouds gathered just in time for the school holidays.

But as well as resulting in a number of disgruntled children and parents, the local naturalist said the weather had led to an abundance of field mushrooms as well as its more lethal cousins.

“This year has been a bumper one for fungus, due to the damp period prior to autumn.

“There’s been a lot of death cap mushrooms around here.

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“And, if you eat the slightest portion of one, you could die.”

However, Tony explained, not all vegetation to benefit from the year’s weird weather is quite so hazardous.

“If you go to places like Blocka Lane in Fritton you might have noticed that fruits like blackberries and sloeberries have had quite a good year” the 68-year-old added.

With spots like Waveney Forest, Lound Lakes and many parts of Broadland, people in the area have no shortage of places to enjoy nature’s variety.

Muntjac deer have been on the rise in recent years, with Tony recalling one that ventured into Great Yarmouth market place. Chinese Waterdeer have also been on the increase.

And though not for the faint of heart, Belton Common provides a place to spot an abundance of adders, the UK’s only poisonous snake.

While Breydon Water provides a spectacular backdrop to the hundreds of thousands of birds who make their homes around its deceptively calm-looking waters.

Reflecting on an overall growth of local interest in wildlife that had continued in 2010, Tony said he had received more and more calls from those seeking out his expertise.

“I’ve had calls asking various things, like where have the sparrows gone this year?

“Sometimes it’s harder to answer, but in this case the sparrows might just be moving around.”

The Gorleston Nature Club chairman also recalled some of his more surprising nature-related moments.

“One lady came to my house with a matchbox and said she thought she had found a little snake so I went to open it very carefully.

“It turned out to be a elephant hawk moth caterpillar, which can be more than 3.5 inches long.”

Even those who don’t venture beyond their gardens may have taken note, as an abundance of Red Admiral butterflies this year means they spread far and wide into backyards across the borough.

A breed introduced from Africa, they have learnt to endure our chilliest months.

However, the naturalist ended on a note of caution.

With the coldest December being registered nationally since records began, he said that animals which have grown complacent in their winter slumbers may soon start to suffer.

“The problem is that creatures have been used to warmer winters so they may not take such great care to find such a good hibernating place.

“This could affect not just creatures like butterflies, but hedgehogs may be in danger too. I think we will see the main effect of this cold weather next year”