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Drama behind scenes at Mannington Hall Norfolk Bird and Wildlife Fair

PUBLISHED: 20:01 22 May 2016 | UPDATED: 20:01 22 May 2016

Steve Smith and Jamie Nickerson of Burnt Fen Alpacas walk a trio of alpacas along the path outside Mannington Hall.  

Picture: MARK BULLIMORE

Steve Smith and Jamie Nickerson of Burnt Fen Alpacas walk a trio of alpacas along the path outside Mannington Hall. Picture: MARK BULLIMORE

Archant Norfolk 2016

A tricky birth and a burglary added drama to the many attractions at the Norfolk Bird and Wildlife Fair.

Scourge of wildlife crime

Illegal trapping of birds is one of the many crimes investigated by Norfolk Police wildlife crime officers Gavin Tamplin and Mac Cornaby.

One Norwich man had used a legal Fenn trap to catch crows but set it, illegally, on a pole where it caught and painfully killed a tawny owl, according to PCSO Tamplin.

And a Thetford man was prosecuted after using glue on birdfeeders to trap wild finches which he then kept in captivity.

The two officers manned a stall at the fair explaining their work to the public.

It can also include visiting Chinese medicine shops - to check that items do not include such things as rhino horn, and leopard bone - and advising people on how to get rid legally and safely of the highly-invasive Japanese knotweed to stop it spreading further.

Exhibitor AnnNickerson had to rush home to Burnt Fen, near Horning, and act as midwife to one of her alpacas which had gone into labour a month early.

Mrs Nickerson had been showing her alpacas at this weekend event in the grounds of Mannington Hall, north Norfolk.

But she had to hand over that role to her husband Jamie while she stayed at home to bottle-feed the newborn female at three-hourly intervals.

And chainsaw sculptor Sally May, who was demonstrating her technique and showing her wooden wildlife creations, was still raw after burglars broke into the yard at Great Witchingham where she stores her work in a unit.

They stole £700-worth of sculptures, including two tawny owls - one intended as a 40th birthday gift, and the other made especially as part of an auction at the fair in aid of the Norfolk Wildlife Trust.

“I was devastated. It made it worse that they were for someone,” said Ms May, 33, who made time to sculpt a replacement owl for the auction.

Hundreds of wildlife lovers browsed dozens of stalls and attractions at the third fair, and a programme of short lectures on birds and mammals was also popular.

The North-East Norfolk Bird Club kept a weekend tally of birds spotted or heard at the event and, by midday today there were more than 60, including a cuckoo, hobby, reed warbler, tree creeper and little grebe.

Jill Wilson, who organised the event with her husband and fellow professional wildlife photographer, Rob, said they were in discussions with a wildlife charity and hoped to expand the fair next year and run it on the charity’s behalf.

Mrs Wilson said the annual Wild About Norfolk event, at Easton, Norwich, was aimed at children and there had been a gap in the market for an adults’ wildlife fair.

She and her husband had collected names and addresses for a competition one year at Rutland Bird Fair, which they regularly attended.

“Seventy per cent of the addresses were in Norfolk - but there was nothing here for them to go to,” she said.

“A lot of bird watchers retire to Norfolk - it’s packed full of people who are mad about wildlife.”

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