You don’t have to be an expert to make a valuable contribution to local knowledge of Norfolk’s wildlife. The Trust runs seasonal ‘citizen science’ surveys on its website, providing an easy opportunity for local people of all levels of knowledge and experience to get involved in wildlife conservation.
These online recordings allow the Norfolk Wildlife Trust to understand in greater depth a species’ distribution across the county and identify areas that are particularly important for their protection and conservation. It’s also a great reason to get outdoors and enjoy your local wildlife this autumn.
Jays can be found in woodlands with a lot of cover.
They are most obvious in autumn when they have to move about in the open more often, looking for food. Despite being in the same family as the crow, they are very different. Jays are brightly coloured and shy, dwelling in woodlands with lots of cover.
They are a key species for the lifecycle of woodlands by burying acorns that, when forgotten, later sprout new trees. However, they are shy and difficult to spot in their sheltered habitats, so submitting your recordings can be a big help in understanding their distribution.
Starlings are commonly found in most areas of Norfolk and can be seen in gardens foraging for food, on grass lawns, eating from feeders, and bathing in water baths. Other habitats are grass-rich pasture, grass-covered playing fields and refuse tips. Winter roosts can be found at NWT Hickling Broad and RSPB Strumpshaw Fen. Starlings are famous for their murmurations (great clouds of flying starlings) that can involve thousands of birds.
Their numbers have declined by 66% since the 1980s, possibly due to a lack of food – they like invertebrates that live in the soil, such as worms and leatherjackets. NWT is hoping to understand if it is possible that these species may have declined due to drier summers that could impact starling populations.
Starlings are great mimics and regularly include the calls of other birds in their repertoire; they have also been recorded mimicking the sounds of mobile phones, wolf whistles and even domestic cats.
Greenfinches can be spotted in gardens, visiting bird tables and garden feeders, as well as parks, woodland and farmland.
In winter, they form flocks with other finches and can be seen roaming the countryside and parklands for food, nesting in small colonies in trees and bushes. Putting rings on British breeding greenfinches has shown that they seldom move more than 20 km from their birthplace.
At this time of year, they will begin to flock together, making them easier to spot in larger numbers. It is especially important for NWT to find out how many of these birds remain in Norfolk due to their decline of around 63% since the 1970s.
“Many of our bird species in the UK are facing dramatic declines,” explains Helen Baczkowska, NWT Acting Conservation Manager. “The more people that get involved and let us know what’s happening on their local patch, the greater the picture we can pull together of the lives of these birds. Helping us record jays, starlings and greenfinches this autumn allows us to better understand their distribution in Norfolk and can inform our conservation activities in the future.”
Norfolk Wildlife Trust was established in 1926 and now manages over 50 nature reserves and other protected sites around the county, including ten kilometres of coastline, nine Norfolk broads, nine National Nature Reserves and five ancient woodlands. They promote a sustainable environment for people and wildlife, where the future of wildlife is protected and enhanced through sympathetic management, and people are connected with and inspired by Norfolk’s wildlife and wild spaces.
Sightings can be submitted online or by phone to NWT’s Wildlife Information Service. You can view a distribution map of all the sightings submitted so far on Norfolk Wildlife Trust’s website. Reports from previous surveys are available online.