The Norfolk Bird Atlas

The end of March saw the publication of the latest Norfolk Bird Atlas. It took joint authors, Moss Taylor and John Marchant and a host of volunteers over 8 years to complete and for the first time it has been produced by the BTO.

In summary: –

On the Decline

Red-backed Shrike,Wood Warbler and Whinchat have been lost as breeding birds in Norfolk since the 1980’s and several other species have been reduced to a handful of pairs. The Lesser Spotted Woodpecker has lost more than three-quarters of its occupied squares and fewer than 50 pairs are now thought to be left in the county.

Also in strong retreat is the Spotted Flycatcher, for which large gaps in distribution are becoming evident across Norfolk.  Two or three decades ago, this was a common bird across all of Britain but,according to the British Trust for Ornithology website – www.bto.org/birdtrends – numbers have generally fallen by 80 pc since 1983.  The Spotted Flycatcher used to be well known in Norfolk gardens, favouring sheltered sites with creepers for nesting in. The remaining 500 or so pairs in the county show a strong association with secluded churchyards. Problems encountered on migration or in the species’ winter quarters in West Africa are thought to be the main cause of its demise.

On the Increase

The good news is that a dozen specie have been gained. These do not include many, however, that are not native to the country, such as Barnacle Goose and Ruddy Shelduck.  Cormorants and Little Egrets have arrived to breed in the biggest numbers.

Winter species that have expanded their range include the Pink-footed Goose, a species of which more than halk the world population currently winters in Norfolk.  These occur in greatest numbers near safe night-time roost sites on the county’s north-west coast and in parts of the Broads.

The Green Woodpecker, well known in Norfolk for eating ants from the garden lawns, is one of the birds that has gained the most in range. In the 1980’s, there were few outside the best-wooded areas of the county,such as Thetford Forest and Sandringham Estate. More than twice as many squares, however, are now occupied across Norfolk, including some in quite open farming landscapes, but range gain has been most extensive in the south of the county.  Breckland still stands out as the area of highest density. The Great Spotted Woodpecker has shown a similar strong increase and spread further afield.

For more information on the Norfolk Bird Atlas or to obtain a copy, priced £45 plus post and packaging, telephone the British Trust for Ornithology
on 01842 750050. For more details about bird population visit the BTO website at www.bto.org/birdtrends.

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