Birding and nature conservation organisations

Norfolk Ornithologists Association – (NOA)
The NOA aims to further the study of ornithology, especially migration, to conserve valuable wildlife habitats and to disseminate environmental and natural history knowledge through its reserves, newsletters and reports.

British Trust for Ornithology – (BTO)
The British Trust for Ornithology promotes bird conservation through volunteer-based surveys.

Norfolk Birdline (Birdline East Anglia)
The latest news on what’s about by phone, or monthly reports online.

Hawk and Owl Trust
Today, we are the only British charity working to conserve all wild birds of prey, including owls, in the face of mounting human pressures.

Natural England
– Natural England brings together English Nature, The Countryside Agency & Rural Development Service.

Norfolk Wildlife Trust – (NWT)
Our job is to protect and enhance Norfolk’s wildlife and wild places for you to enjoy.

Royal Society for the Protection of Birds – (RSPB)
The RSPB is a UK charity working to secure a healthy environment for birds and other wildlife, helping to create a better world for us all.

Pensthorpe, a multi award-winning attraction for all those who love nature, wildlife and the outdoors.  During the winter the birds show off their mating plumage making this is a great time for birdwatching and identification.  The bare trees open up beautiful new vistas and a brisk walk offers great opportunities to see migratory and resident species.

Save The Albatross
100,000 albatrosses die each year on fishing hooks. They are being killed in such vast numbers that they can’t breed fast enough to keep up. This is putting them in real danger of extinction…

Norfolk County bird recorder Neil Lawton can be contacted at


Guide to Ethical Bird Photography By The West Midland Bird Club

Photography is an ever more popular aspect of watching and engaging with Birds and Wildlife. Whether being a Bird Watcher who takes photographs or digiscope images of birds, or being a photographer, who along with other subjects, enjoys taking images of birds, we all have an ethical responsibility for the correct behaviour towards the birds & wildlife we are endeavouring to gain images of. The golden rule is that ‘the welfare of the subject, is far more important, than gaining the perfect photograph’. DO firstly take time to weigh up the situation, to see if a photo can be taken without undue disturbance to the bird.

DON’T chase, continually advance and ‘push’ the bird. DO recognise when the subject’s behaviour is affected negatively by your presence…withdraw immediately if the bird shows signs of being agitated. DO study your subject’s habits, surroundings and DO use good ‘field craft’ in every situation. E.g. Use local habitat features, to conceal yourself. DO wait patiently and inconspicuously from a reasonable distance, for the bird to come within camera range…natural behaviour of the subject, makes for a better image. DON’T use bird call recordings or make exaggerated physical movements or make loud noises, in order to attempt to manoeuvre birds into more ‘desirable’ photo positions or behavioural actions. DON’T food bait/continually bait rare birds to keep them returning to the same, close position. This results in them losing their natural inhibitions and makes them more vulnerable to predators and worse, human persecution in some cases. DO consider setting up a feeding station for commoner species and using a mobile hide or conceal yourself in a vehicle to gain nice, detailed images. DON’T use normal camera flash at all, especially on nocturnal species. There’s no evidence to suggest that it doesn’t lead to temporary blindness, making the subject more vulnerable, in its surroundings. DO only use, if you must, infrared flash or infrared flash filter to illuminate dimly lit areas.. better still, just increase the camera’s ISO setting. DON’T disturb nesting birds to gain close images. It’s an offence by law, to disturb breeding bird species on the Schedule 1 List of the Countryside & Wildlife Act. DO make yourself aware of the rare breeding bird species Schedule 1 List. DO be aware too, where fellow bird watchers & photographers are, in relation to yourself, in group situations and at rare bird twitches etc. An individual doesn’t have a right to gain an image, at the expense of somebody else’s enjoyment of the same bird(s). DO set an example and stay further back from a bird, in group situations. Greater numbers of people have the potential to create more disturbance to the bird. DON’T trample down & damage habitat vegetation, just to get a better camera angle. DO think of composing the subject, showing its surroundings, as you would if you were watching it through binoculars. This creates a more atmospheric image, taken further away from the subject. DO, once images have been obtained, withdraw from the bird/scene carefully. For example, when the subject’s attention turns elsewhere or feeding behaviour distraction, allows for an exit. DON’T continuously hog the most prominent position in crowded hides or restricted viewing areas, especially for rare birds…let other photographers & bird watchers take your place, once you have an image. DO be an ethical, patient photographer of birds and gain the respect of your fellow bird watchers & photographers alike. DO strive to improve your skills in the ‘field’ and you’ll be rewarded with great experiences & images!

Norfolk Wildlife Watch Facebook Origin
By Jerry Bart, Joint Administrator

When the government announced that the whole country would need to go into lockdown to combat the
spread of the coronavirus, we all wondered what we were all going to do for the coming months.
Living in Honingham our days were normally spent at home or travelling around our wonderful Norfolk
As an avid birdwatcher and amateur photographer I felt lost without Birdline and the ability to visit our
Norfolk wildlife reserves.
Given the lockdown restrictions, I thought how nice it would be, if I could share what wildlife I see in my
garden or on my local walks with others in the same position.
I thought immediately about perhaps a Facebook page and discussed my idea with Laura Steward who
knows far more about setting up these things than I.
Hence Norfolk Wildlife Watch was born on the 29th March 2020.
Below is our first post which outlines our objectives and house rules
As avid wildlife and birding enthusiasts we thought it would be a great idea with none of us currently
allowed to wander our beautiful countryside to start an FB page for Norfolk wildlife observations.
Initially we would like you to send in posts from your gardens and during local walks or biking.
What’s worth posting
• Any interesting animals, reptiles, butterflies, insects or birds. Photos or videos if you have them. Any
quality will do as we are not all professional photographers.
• Interesting happenings such as nest building, or unusual photos or video’s of common species.
• Reporting rarer birds, butterflies or animals in local gardens and in your area.
• Help in identifying birds etc. Don’t worry about making ID mistakes. We can all help each other on
We hope you will enjoy participating in our new site and hopefully we can carry on even after the
By then we may all get to know each other more and put names and faces to all those people we nod
and say hello to on our regular trips to North Norfolk coast, our nature reserves and forests.
Jerry Bart and Laura Steward
Site Rules
• No politics
• No making us more miserable with virus updates
• No bad language (Norfolk Dialect allowed)
• No chastising for wrong ID’s
Three months on we have over 110 members and growing every day.
We have tried to emphasise that this site is for everyone who likes nature and that we welcome
members of all experience levels. Anyone can send in a photo taken with a phone or with a £10,000
telephoto lens.
We have had some amazing contributions from night cams of foxes and hedgehogs to stunning close
ups of butterflies and other bugs.
There have also been some incredible nature moments on video including young birds feeding and a
deer bathing with children at Lyng Mill.
The most important thing for Laura and myself is that group members get great enjoyment from the site
either contributing or reading the various posts.
Whilst great photos are always welcome and rare birds and animals are a highlight, everyday nature
has proven, during this difficult period to be quite fascinating.
Hopefully some day not far away, our Norfolk lives will get back to normal. We hope that after lockdown
everyone will continue to support and contribute to this site and keep the posts coming.
We already have some WVBS members in our FB group and would welcome others.
You just need to visit Norfolk Wildlife Watch and ask to join.

Reviews    Review Alan Hughes March 2018

This is an internet-based birding newsletter (so apologies to those members that do not have access to a computer) which I receive every week or so, and contains a wide range of well written, and often superbly illustrated articles on a whole range of birding subjects, many of which are very topical. For example, the latest edition included pieces on the following subjects:-?

  • Rare bird sightings in the Isles of Scilly in Autumn 2017. ?
  • Significant reductions in the illegal killing of songbirds on a British military base on Cyprus. ?
  • Another Hen Harrier goes missing in Teesdale. ?
  • The RSPB asks its membership to increase its garden bird feeding during the recent bad weather. ?
  • Record winter flocks of farm birds recorded at RSPB Hope Farm in Cambridgeshire. ?
  • Book reviews and ideas for birding holidays abroad. ?
  • Adelie Penguin “supercolony” discovered in Antarctica.

I hope that this gives you a flavour of this useful and enjoyable resource. Obviously there are some advertisements to help fund this site, but these are not intrusive or too many in number. I think it is certainly worth signing up to this free resource.

Hugh’s Wild West Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall BBC2  Review Alan Hughes April 2018
In this television series, first broadcast earlier this year (and currently available on i-Player) HF-W clearly demonstrates his love for the West Country, where he lives, and for its wildlife. In each of the 12 episodes he teams up with a number of the region’s naturalists, and presents an engaging but informative account of several aspects of the wildlife. It is beautifully filmed and well written, and I personally really enjoy HF-W’s presentation style – he does not pretend to be an expert, just an intelligent and interested amateur, clearly eccentric and sometimes a bit fluffy, but he avoids the “Blue Peter” style that I find so irritating on Springwatch. Each episode has an interesting mixture of subjects: For example, in Episode 4, he visits the Dorset-Devon border and investigates efforts to reintroduce the beaver, he witnesses the biannual Mute Swan round-up at Abbotsbury Swannery, and meets a local bat enthusiast who has transformed a former mansion into a roost for Greater Horseshoe Bats.
I would thoroughly recommend this series, and hopefully it will remain available on some catch-up service or other. and Review Alan Hughes April 2018

Xeno-canto is a “citizen-science” project in which volunteers record, upload and annotate recordings of bird calls and bird songs. It is supported by a number of academic and birdwatching institutions, as well as crowdfunding, mainly in the Netherlands. It is a vast open-access online resource, with currently almost 400,000 recordings, from 9800 species, contributed by 4300 recordists (see – I wasn’t joking!). Their stated aim is to build a collection of all bird sounds representing all species, their complete repertoire, all geographic variability and at all stages of development, thereby creating the ultimate bird sound guide with 2 million recordings. This project started in 2005, and is likely to take at least another 10 years to complete. This website lives as an icon on my desktop pc but would work equally well on a laptop or tablet.
Aves vox is a free app – Android or iOS – (a “Pro version is also available for £2.99) based on the very comprehensive online resource of the website xeno-cante described above. It provides access to more than 30,000 bird vocalisations (at least one for over 80% of all bird species worldwide) and has the great advantage of being available offline – any recording that has already been played in the app is downloaded to the same device, allowing it to be listened to again even when there is no internet connection. On opening the app there is a simple “search species” box that allows the user to search by English or scientific name. Many of the birds have a large number of recordings, and once the individual species has been loaded, you can filter on the specific type of vocalisation required – song, flight call, alarm call etc. It is simple, functional and works well. I carry this app on my smartphone for use when out.
Alan Hughes


BOOK REVIEWS (reviews by Alan Hughes)

A Bird Guide to the Fields of Experience – Volume 2. Author Frank Jarvis 1939-2002

This is the 2nd in a series of beautiful books written and illustrated by a much-loved and respected local birder, and published posthumously:-

MIRIAM DARLINGTON  So much more than a field guide, this book makes an art of paying attention to and recording the natural world. At a time when we need it the most, Jarvis’s work is a beacon of astute insights and observational expertise that carries the jizz of a committed fanatic; this is science with heartstopping illustrations, notebooks with all the revelation, luminosity and clarity of John James Audubon; and with its honest reflections and daily observations it matches Gilbert White’s letters and journals. A treasury that will quickly become a classic, Frank Jarvis’s book deserves pride of place in the canon of nature writing, a rich and nourishing resource to return to again and again. The wisdom in these pages will never grow old! Let it be a talisman against the decline of species, a wake-up call to what we need to preserve.” Miriam Darlington, Nature writer

PATRICK BARKHAM Reading this book is as vivid as the best day’s birdwatching, and I cannot imagine a better companion than Frank Jarvis – his vivid eye brings our birdlife alive through his wonderful illustrations and acute observations. A source of inspiration for wildlife lovers and aspiring artists of any level. Patrick Barkham, author and amateur naturalist

MARRIANNE TAYLOR The second volume of Frank Jarvis’s birding diaries, taking us from 1993 to 2002, is a wonderful treat for the eyes and mind. Through his eyes we explore East Anglia’s wild places, with immersive and beautifully written field notes alongside a stunning array of artworks, meticulously observed yet sparkling with life and spontaneity. Every page is sure to inspire birders old and young to rediscover the art of field notes, studies and sketches. Marianne Taylor nature writer

MOSS TAYLOR Frank Jarvis once again invites us to accompany him, this time on his travels in East Anglia between 1993 and 2001. As well as his delightful illustrations, his lively text clearly shows the importance he attached to careful observation in the field, as well as his deep love for his adopted county of Norfolk. Moss Taylor, author and ornithologist

MARTIN WOODCOCK The thing that comes across in looking through these journals is Frank Jarvis’s unbounded enthusiasm for recording; his writing and his lively sketchbooks capture the essence of dedicated birding. Even mentioning such inconsequential details as a shag flying past and landing in a ditch makes his accounts so immediate that one can easily imagine being beside him in the field, sharing the experience. Martin Woodcock Ornithological Artist


 The Most Perfect Thing (Inside and Outside a Bird’s Egg). By Tim Birkhead (Pub. Bloomsbury).

Perhaps, even to an enthusiastic birder, the bird’s egg does not seem a very inspiring subject for a whole book? But thanks to Prof. Tim Birkhead – an extremely knowledgable ornithologist, brilliant scientist and very engaging writer – this book enthrals and informs from the very first page to the last. Questions such as; why are certain eggs the shape and colour they are?, how are they formed and function to protect the developing embryo?, even which end is laid first? All are addressed and illustrated by his own meticulous observations and up to date scientific data. To lighten the text, he also has wonderful stories of some of the colourful characters which were active when egg collection was, for some “naturalists”, almost an obsession: Men such as George Lupton who was responsible for collecting many of the 50,000 Guillemot eggs taken each year from the cliffs at Bempton in the 1920’s. This is a really enjoyable read and adds another volume to the impressive collection of ornithology books written by this author, including Birdsense and The Wisdom of Birds.

 Cuckoo (Cheating by Nature). By Nick Davies (Pub. Bloomsbury).

This book has an association with Tim Birkhead’s, as it was recently combined to create a tv documentary film presented by David Attenborough. It is also written by an academic whose scientific credentials are first class, but who also has an engaging style and clearly a passion for birds. The book charts the discovery of the extraordinary life cycle of the Common Cuckoo by Edgar Chance, a wealthy Midlands industrialist, who was able to afford the time and the staff to observe, record and film cuckoos laying their eggs in a Worcestershire common in 1921. These historical tales are intermingled with Davies’s own careful observations and field experiments made largely at Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire – this is truly observational science at its best. Obviously, we are well aware of the serious decline in cuckoo numbers in the UK recently, and this book only serves to emphasise what a terrible loss its extinction from our country would be. A fascinating read!

The Butterfly Isles (A Summer in Search of our Emperors and Admirals). By Patrick Barkham (Pub. Granta)

Patrick spoke at a club meeting earlier this year on the subject of the islands around the UK (the theme of his latest book), and many of us were impressed at how eloquent but also thoroughly likeable he is. In this book he describes one year in which he aims to see every British butterfly species and thereby re-engage with a passion first sparked by his father whom he used to accompany on trips to see our butterflies when he was a young boy, including regular holidays in North Norfolk. Each chapter describes the story of the search for a single species, and in so doing, this gave me a great introduction to these fascinating and beautiful creatures. I have not met a birder yet who isn’t also interested in butterflies, and I found this book to be an engaging way to learn about each species, rather than trying to plough through a dry identification text – it does not replace a good id guide, but definitely enhances them, with his personal anecdotes, descriptions of the butterflies appearance and behaviour, and the sheer determination of his quest to tick off every one in a single year. I wonder if we could persuade Patrick to talk to the club on this subject in the future?


The Book of Hopes

Bizarre, I know you are thinking, but why would a collection of “words and pictures to comfort, inspire and entertain children in lockdown” be of interest to us? And you are probably right – being a bunch of hardened birders? Except that I know that you are all big softies, really, and that many of us have children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews, or even just young neighbours who would definitely love this wonderful collection. And it’s free to download! The book is dedicated to “the doctors, nurses, carers, porters, cleaners, and everyone currently working in hospitals: You are the stuff that wild heroic tales are made of”’ and was the brainchild of popular children’s author, Katherine Rundell. One example “A Song of Gladness” by Michael Morpurgo (a great children’s writer, in the opinion of my family) describes a Blackbird’s song that spreads across all the animals on Earth, a song of forgiveness. And the man asks if he can join in: “Why do you think we are doing this, you silly man? We want you and yours to be happy again. Only then will you treat us and the World right again, as you know you should. Our song is your song…..” Inspiring stuff!

For the Love of Trees

Most birders enjoy all other aspects of the natural world, but only if you were only interested in birds I am sure you would appreciate that our birdlife in the UK would be quite different, and seriously diminished, were it not for trees and woodland (although the willingness of the government to destroy acres of ancient woodland in the construction of the HS2 vanity project illustrates that not everyone values trees as much as we do). The extra time that “lockdown” has given me meant that I can read more than usual, and in the last month I have read 3 books on the subject of trees – all quite different, but all with wood at their heart:-

The Secret Life of Trees by Colin Tudge (published by Penguin in 2006)

This is the closest I came to a textbook on trees, albeit for laymen and written in a very enjoyable and engaging style. The book is divided into 4: Part 1 explains what trees are, how they came to be, and how we have studied and monitored them. Part 2 is a fairly comprehensive list of all the significant tree families, and their constituent individual species – I found this section a bit of a slog, but the author peppers it with enough quirky detail to keep this reader interested. Part 3 is about the way trees live, including some fascinating material about their defence mechanisms, and their ability to communicate with each other (eat your heart out, Prince Charles!) – yes, they do have a social life! The final part covers their future and our influence on them, inevitably often highlighting negative issues, although not without hope. I would thoroughly recommend this as a great introduction to trees, and combined with an identification guide, would give most birders and other amateur naturalists lots of useful information.


The Wood by John Lewis-Stempel (published by Black Swan in 2018)

Much of the previous author’s hope for the long term future of trees is based on the adoption of agroforestry into the economy of our farming systems. Only touched upon in Tudge’s book, this book (subtitles A Year in the Life of Cockshutt Wood) describes the management of a few acres of woodland in Herefordshire near the Welsh border over the course of one year. The author is a farmer with a family history of farming in this area for 800 years, and uses the woodland to graze and provide forage for his sheep cattle and pigs, as well as exploiting it for his own interest and deep knowledge of wildlife. He clearly loves what he does, and where he lived, although in the rather pragmatic unsentimental way that farmers often have; he is not averse to shooting things, but only for the pot (rabbits, pheasants and pigeons) or for wildlife protection (grey squirrels) and not for pleasure. Being only 4 acres, and spending time in it every day for work and pleasure, the Lewis-Stempel clearly knows this wood intimately and shares that knowledge with us in the form of a diary, but also including some poetry and some recipes for meals using natural ingredients. There are several examples of nature writing in this diary form (e.g. Mark Cocker’s Claxton) and although it sometimes reads as a disjointed piece, it is full of fascinating detail and very easy to read.

Red Sixty Seven Recommended by David Knight

Curated by Kit Jewitt 2020 160pp ISBN: 978-1-912642-13-7 RRP: £19.99

This book should not exist! In an ideal world this book, and the official Red List of the most vulnerable birds in the UK it is based on, would not be needed. But the world is far from ideal and our bird populations are declining at an alarming rate. In the past few years alone the once widespread Wryneck has ceased breeding in the UK altogether and has dropped off the list completely. Which species will be next? Red Sixty Seven is a collaboration between 67 authors and 67 artists with a single goal: to raise funds to support conservation work aiming to reverse the declines of our most at-risk birds. Contributors include Chris Packham, Ann Cleeves, Samuel West, Natalie Bennett, David Lindo, Gill Lewis, Darren Woodhead, Carry Akroyd, Jane Smith and Patrick Barkham. All of the profits from the sale of this book will be donated to BTO and RSPB to further their work on Red-listed birds. Red Sixty Seven is 67 love letters to our most vulnerable species, each beautifully illustrated by some of the best wildlife artists around, showcasing a range of styles as varied as the birds in these pages. Our hope is that the book will bring the Red List to a wider audience whilst raising funds for the charities working to help the birds most at need.

Peregrine Newsletter By Zoe Smith




BIRD LISTS: PC Record Keeping


Two free systems. Very different in structure and complexity.

BUBO Keith Walker May 2018

BUBO Listing is a new approach to an old activity; maintaining and comparing birding lists, it can be found at . It is one that we use extensively

There have been a number of attempts to enable comparison of lists on the internet, some local and others at the national level or wider. Whilst all have positive sides, they all have disadvantages too. BUBO Listing is an attempt to provide a free, flexible and widely used site for the comparison of birding lists. The more people that use BUBO Listing, the better it will become for all users. Anyone can view all lists without logging in but if you wish to enter your own lists you need to register an account.

Advantages of BUBO Listing

1. BUBO Listing is free.

2. BUBO Listing is immediate. As soon as you update your list, it is there for the world to see.

3. BUBO Listing has no elitist threshold – you can enter a list of a single bird upwards and do not need to be a top twitcher to benefit.

4. BUBO Listing is entirely transparent – you can view anything submitted by anyone else.

5. BUBO Listing is very flexible in the types of lists submissible (e.g. life, year, county/state, self-found), whilst also retaining sufficient structure to enable meaningful comparison of lists.

6. BUBO Listing’s data entry is fast and easy so it is little effort for you to input and update lists.

7. BUBO Listing uses the most appropriate checklists for each location, so you can use Clements for World lists, ABA for USA, BOU for Britain etc.

8. You can create a list for any location worldwide*, even down to your own garden or back yard!

9. BUBO Listing puts you in charge of your lists. No-one will be making decisions about what you can and can’t count.

10. You can ask the system to show you what other birders have seen in the country/patch you are visiting and it will rank species in the order of how likely it is that you will see it. Therefore you can see what you are missing and it can help with identification.

In short, the idea is that you can log in and input a full bird list on the system – not just the total, but the complete composition of the list, ideally along with a date and location for each species. The list might represent a Life List covering Great Britain, or a Year List covering an English county such as Norfolk, or a US state such as New Jersey. The location can be anywhere from the entire World down to your own garden or yard – and you can set up new sites or patches yourself. The birder can also record lists representing only self-found or photographed birds, as well as ‘bigby’ lists. Of course, one of the perennial questions in listing is deciding which species are acceptable to count; to allow flexibility here BUBO Listing is not prescriptive but allows lists based on a number of ‘authorities’, such as Clements, IOC, AOU, ABA, BOU.

Having entered a list (or lists), you can then obviously view those lists, and update them as you discover new species. However, the added advantage of the system is that you can compare your lists with those of other birders using BUBO Listing. This is not just restricted to a basic comparison of totals; you can look at the detail of anyone else’s lists. If you’re interested in Fred Blogg’s 2007 Northamptonshire Year List, you can go in and look at which species were involved, and where and when they were recorded. It is important to note that BUBO Listing does not vet individual records, comments or claims made: any claim a lister makes is freely available for all other listers to see. They may however contact the lister if an unusual record (or a potentially libellous comment!) is brought to their attention and they believe that an error may have been made.

But BUBO Listing is even more powerful than that. You can also query lists by species. For example, if you wished to find out how many BUBO Listers had seen Siberian Rubythroat in Britain, this would be a few clicks of the mouse away. You could then even see when and where those lucky few had added it to their lists. Similarly, whilst keeping your year list, you might want to keep an eye on your key remaining target species. BUBO Listing makes it possible to see which species you still need to see, but that most of your fellow listers have already got.

Issues with BUBO

There are some issues that frustrate. The key ones are the lack of standardisation of bird names in different books and lists and the various taxonomic changes that occur, which means that you need good manual records, and it is sensible to annotate a note on your species record which you believe may change. On occasions you may need to spend some time researching before being able to make an entry. You can enter the English Name or Latin Name on your listing which helps.

It will be a very long process for a life long birder to enter data originally but the end results and the ease, structure and accuracy of future updates can be very attractive.

I also regularly print a hard copy of key lists. I have no reason to think that this free service will disappear but this gives me comfort.

Overall I believe this is a system which is a great boon to Birders.


Scythebill : Paul Riley Oct 2018

Scythebill is aimed at birders who like to keep track of all their sightings and be able to filter and produce reports of them.
The main features are:
• It’s free. • It can globally record all the worlds birds using Clements or IOC checklists (you can even toggle between them). • Other plugins have been developed which enable recording of mammals of the world, UK butterflies, dragonflies and damselflies. • The software is open source code and is continually being redeveloped. • Your data is held by you in an easily readable XML text file. • Sightings can be uploaded to ebird (e.g. to help provide information on bird movements, populations and conservation decisions).
The program can be downloaded from Once installed you will be asked to select either the Clements or IOC checklist and where to backup your sightings.
Data Entry is a matter of entering the date, location and all the birds you’ve seen using dropdown menus. Setting locations will bring up a google map complete with co-ordinates and offers a pinpoint which can be repositioned. Your birding location can be added into another (e.g. Wensum Valley) before selecting the pre-loaded county menu dropdown. Entering the bird names is fast, a couple of letters will often bring up the right bird, gcg for great crested grebe, lo for little owl etc. For each bird, you can enter the subspecies, add comments, add photos, male/female/immature, heard only, and breeding code.
Reports can be made by drilling down to a species, a date, a location or a mixture of these. Other reports will find all your first records (lifers), your total ticks, it will identify a big day, month or year count and show a world map giving the number of lifers for you in each country.
Performance is swift, but with several years sightings to enter I eventually got a little blasé. I found when using the Clements taxonomy to record sand martin, it was defaulting to pale sand martin (I should’ve been more attentive and entered it as bank swallow!) I then realised I had several sightings to change because of this and found Scythebill a little unforgiving. There may be a quicker way of doing this which I have yet to discover (I’ve since changed over to the IOC checklist where I find the bird names more recognisable). Putting in a wrong date caused similar troubles. Again, there is likely a quicker way of amending this. Of course, there is always help at hand with an online manual and email address for further support. There is an option to verify your sightings against the country checklist and this will highlight any oddities, e.g. pale sand martin!
It’s still early days for me using Scythebill but so far it has met all the needs I require to record and analyse my sightings and I would recommend it. Only another thirty years of entries left to record, excuse me while I diligently plod on.



Bird Alert Systems : Alan Hughes June 2018

A couple of weeks ago, I sent out an email request to club members, asking for their opinions and advice on which bird alert systems they use to inform and guide their birding trips. I appreciate that everyone’s needs are different: My situation is that, having recently retired, I am fortunate enough to have some more time to pursue my birding interests. It is very unlikely that I would ever travel outside East Anglia on any specific Twitch, but I am keen to know what birds are around in our local area – I am now in a better position to go looking for them, and even if I don’t, it is always good to know what is around, especially if it is before the bird has moved on (I still have not recovered from visiting Titchwell a couple of years ago 24 hours after 48 Short-eared Owls were counted flying in from the sea in one day!).
I would like to thank all those members that responded with some really helpful advice. I am particularly grateful to Paul Riley who, as well as sending me a really helpful email, took some time and trouble to demonstrate the Birdguides and RBA apps in the field on the Lakenheath trip.
There seem to be 4 services used by club members at the moment, although these were sometimes accessed in different ways: –
1. Rare Bird Alert. This is a Norwich-based service and is probably the best known amongst birders. It is mainly a pager-based service – a great advantage in mobile phone blackspots, such as those experienced along the North Norfolk Coast. The pagers give an instant audible and flashing light alert and can be read “hands-free” if mounted on a car dashboard, although the screen is relatively small. Power is from readily available batteries, and these last approximately 2 weeks if in continuous use. Detailed directions are given to find each sighting, along with a postcode and 6-figure grid reference. Unfortunately, in April Vodafone ceased supporting pager services (which now have few other applications apart from the emergency services), and RBA is struggling to get a new provider up and running. Alternatively, RBA can now be accessed on a website through the internet, or through a mobile phone app. One member has only used the web-based service for some years, and finds it up to date, informative and easily searchable by county, region or species. Extra charges are made for additional services (e.g. audible alerts for the phone app) and the pager service is relatively expensive as it includes the monthly rental pager fee in addition to the annual subscription. Pager services from £134 pa Online service £49.99 pa Phone apps from £49.99 pa A free trial is available for the online, app and text services.

2. Birdguides. This now seems to be the more popular service and happens to be the one that I have chosen to use. Phone apps are available (for Android and i-phones) but clearly the service is dependant on mobile phone signal coverage which can be patchy in Norfolk. News reports can be filtered by area, and I have chosen to receive “mega” rarity reports from the whole of the UK, but scarce birds only from East Anglia. If the report of a sighting is tapped, a map is displayed to allow you to locate the bird. Audible alerts are also available, although I haven’t found out how to access them yet. Text alerts are also available at an extra cost, so one member suggested that these should only be switched on when you were planning to go out birding, rather than waste them. There is also an internet-based service, although one member found its design to be poor, and found that there was a considerable amount of advertising displayed there. 2 packages are available:- Bird News Pro £49.99 pa Bird News Ultimate £69.99 pa – this includes 100 free text alerts, free subscription to Birdwatch magazine, and unlimited storage of lists online. A month’s free trial is available.

3. Twitter. This is also a popular service. It is free, often gives news reports earlier than the others (it seems likely that RBA and Birdguides use Twitter as one source of their info), and can feature other wildlife of interest, as well as photos. Simply download the app onto your phone, select one birding friend to “follow” then add all their birding “followers” to your profile to build up a base of local or national birders. Many of us use Twitter in conjunction with RBA or Birdguides, and there is, of course, a dedicated WVBS Twitter feed that all our members can access and contribute to.

4. Whatsapp. Again, this is a free app that can easily be downloaded onto your mobile phone and can be used to share realtime bird sightings (and other wildlife) with other members of the group. One club member said that one such group had transformed local birding for him, and he also felt that it was a more secure way to share sensitive breeding information.



BTO Birdtrack
Steve Chapman is a BTO Birdtrack user for his birding records, and I asked if he could supply some information on the system for our newsletter. He says that the programme is undergoing an update at the moment (and I believe this includes an improved system for recording your recording sites – the old method is very unsatisfactory, in my opinion) and, predictably, there are a few glitches that need to be ironed out. Despite these hiccoughs, the Birdtrack Organiser, Scott Mayson, kindly sent us an article that he has written for bird clubs, so I have decided to include it this month, and we will update members once the new system is up and running smoothly.

BirdTrack and me – why I use it….and why it could be for you.

When it comes to keeping bird records, I have tended to be what you might call a “highlights recorder”, you know the type – the ones that record species like Black Tern, Wood Sandpiper or Wryneck but rarely Woodpigeon, Coot or Redshank. Looking back through the collection of notebooks that I still enjoy flicking through this is very much the case; in fact I know that I have never entered Coot in any of my note books. The pleasure I get, and I suspect this is not just me, from looking through old notebooks is hard to describe: It’s a journey that evokes not only memories of the birds you saw that day, but also the trip to twitch them, or the people you were with, and for me, the laughs we had on the way. Each entry is a mark in time that provides context to the type of birding you were doing, be it twitching a windblown waif on the North Norfolk coast or sea watching from a Cornish headland during a howling south-westerly or a walk around the local patch recording the first Willow Warbler of the year. As nice as these reminders can be, what value do these records have beyond your bookshelf? Will anybody else really be interested in the observations of a 40 something Suffolk birder? Probably not, but what if they could contribute to our understanding of bird distributions and migration timings and still provide you with that experience of re-living seeing those species that still gets the pulse racing. As my birding has evolved I have dipped in and out of using various systems to record the species I have seen, from simple excel spreadsheets to dedicated online systems such as BirdTrack. The benefits of using a spreadsheet are they enable you to quickly search for a species, location or data to find a particular record without the need to thumb through several notebooks. They also have the added benefit, for those with a more analytical mind, of being able to produce graphs and stats for a whole range of variables such as graphs showing the number of species recorded each year or month, total number of records for a certain species and number of species recorded at each of the sites you have visited. These can make for fascinating study and reveal some interesting patterns within the records you collect, as long as you remember to back them up and not lose them all when your computer dies!. This is all well and good if you have a sound knowledge of Excel and how to produce graphs and/or extract these data you want to analyse. BirdTrack has the advantage of having analytics built in and only requires the press of a mouse button to display the information you want. As BirdTrack has evolved it has grown from covering just Britain and Ireland to being able to handle records from locations anywhere in the world. What this means is no matter where you visit globally you can enter your records, either via the website on your return or by using the app which works anywhere in the world and doesn’t require a Wi-Fi connection. Before I joined the BTO as BirdTrack organiser in August 2017 BirdTrack, of all the recording systems, appealed to me the most: First off it was free, secondly it had an app which allowed me to record my sightings whilst in the field negating the need to enter data when I got home, and it had the ability to upload my historical data. Rather than being a laborious task tackled on the rainy days of winter, uploading my historical records was more a case of walking down a very long road of happy memories of birds seen and those special days in the field we wish we could revisit time and time again. As I entered my rather potted history of my birding life it also highlighted the changing fortunes of many species, from my very first Little Egret in Suffolk which seemed so rare at the time to the decline in Spotted Flycatcher which is on the verge of becoming a less than annual species in the areas I bird. And all this in a birding timescale of some 25 years, historic records for those that have been birding longer will undoubtedly further highlight these changes and it’s this type of data that adds that something extra to BirdTrack that some other systems I used lacked.

My records within BirdTrack

I now have all my historical records uploaded in to BirdTrack and use the app all the time when birding in the UK and abroad. With all this data it is now possible for me to delve deeper in to the records I have and look at in a variety of ways.

The graph below is taken from BirdTrack and shows the number of species I recorded each year. In the early years my note taking was very sporadic, resulting in few species being recorded annually, whilst in the mid to late noughties I started twitching a lot more that in turn not only meaning my life list grew as I added new birds but so did my yearly lists as I saw species that I didn’t record in Suffolk like Red Grouse and Raven. After 2013 I began to twitch less and as a result my year lists tended to drop as my birding was concentrated in Suffolk with only the occasional trip away. It also shows the 2 years that I have lost my notebooks from 2006 and 2014….gutting.

Figure 1 Number of species seen each year.

A species accumulation graph from BirdTrack shows those twitching year of 2007-2013 with 15+ species added most years. In the last 5 years the majority of my birding has been local or patch based and as a result I only add a few species each year, I think it will be a while before I see 500 in the UK! Interestingly the species accumulation graph for my Suffolk records shows a similar pattern; again it will still be a few years before I reach over 360. Its was interesting comparing this graph with other BirdTrack users I know to see how they varied, each person had their own story behind the jumps and flat periods on the graph, perhaps we all have our own BirdTrack fingerprint?

Figure 2 Species accumulation in UK

Figure 3 Species accumulation in Suffolk. Having used BirdTrack in various countries a feature I really like using is displaying all the places you have been on a global map. Even for a little travelled birder like myself the sites soon add up and make for interesting viewing, again bringing back memories of those special birds the records for each country, region or site can be downloaded or viewed on the website allowing you to quickly see what species you have seen where and when.

Figure 4 Map showing all the places I have entered records for in BirdTrack.
The mapping facility can also be used for a particular species and having used it on several occasions it’s surprising how many ‘forgotten’ birds you are reminded of, first getting that ‘hmmm I don’t remember that bird’ followed by the ‘oh yeah I remember, I saw that with…’

Figure 5 Map showing the locations of all 86 Yellow-browed Warblers I have seen in the UK. Beyond your own records.
Data collected via BirdTrack is used to look at migration movements and distributions of birds, showing the arrival and departure timings for summer and winter visitors. It is also used to provide information on the movements of passage migrants, such as inland wader movements. An interesting article in BTO news May-June 2011 shows how BirdTrack data can be used to measure the effects of climate change on the timings of migration Data from BirdTrack has also helped understand the changing fortunes of many species and often acts as an early warning system for many species, these can be longer term declines like that of Turtle Dove or short term influxes such as Fieldfare into many gardens during the ‘Beast from the East’ in late February/early March this year.

Figure 6 Reporting rate graph from BirdTrack for Fieldfare, the spike in Fieldfare records during the ‘Beast from the East’ is evident. It also shows that they went as quickly as they came.

For many bird clubs BirdTrack is a major source of data essential for compiling their annual bird reports and as the county recorder for south east Suffolk it is becoming an increasingly important tool for record collection especially for commoner species such as Blue Tit, Blackbird and Woodpigeon. Records sent to the recorders tend to focus on species that are either rare, scarce or of noteworthy counts or out of season records and as a result data for common species is often in short supply and can lead to a report being biased toward rarer and scarcer species. Using the reporting rate graphs generated within BirdTrack it is possible to show how the timings of spring arrival of certain species varies from year to year, 2017 for example saw many species arriving early whilst 2018 arrival times were up to 2 weeks later than the historical average. These graphs can also show variations in arrival between species for the same year.

Figure 7Graph showing the early arrival of Chiffchaff in Suffolk during 2017 compared with a delay of around a week in 2018 compared to the historical average
Figure 8 Graph showing that historically Lesser Whitethroat arrive in Suffolk about 2 weeks later than Whitethroat but in 2018 actually arrived en masse at around the same time as Whitethroat.

By using BirdTrack you not only have all your records in one place but they also have added value in that they can be used for both science and conservation as well as reminding you of past birding trips. If you haven’t tried BirdTrack head to and sign up, you can either record your sightings in a notebook whilst you are out birding and enter them in to BirdTrack at a later date or download the app on to your smartphone and add them as you go. I will warn you it becomes addictive and whilst I was a casual birder before, only noting the highlights from a day birding I am now regularly recording everything I see and even adding breeding evidence and counts of common birds.


Young Birders

Jim Colbert’s children have found the following links which encourage and teach youngsters. Whilst they are from across the pond the content is first class

A Kid’s Guide to Bird-Watching in the Playground

Beginner’s Guide to Bird Watching Around Your Home


Test you bird ID skills.  is a website that gives you access to training materials for bird identification.
On the website it says:-
“ ‘Bird Identification’ is a website for anyone who wants to learn more about birds and wants to gain formal evidence of their developing skills. Here you can choose to take an exam on the birds in your own country or for the whole Western Palearctic, and receive a valid certificate at higher education level. You can also choose to join our field study trips in the Western Palearctic or study the birds yourself by using our training quiz. Exam: You can choose to take the exam on bird identification for your own country or for the Western Palearctic. This will give you 30 (own country) or 60 (Western Palearctic) study credits. The exam is web-based and you can register at the link on the left-hand side of the screen. The exam is free of charge, and if you pass you will get a certificate and a free tshirt with the BirdID logo. Training quiz: You will find a link to the training quiz to the left. Choose your own country or the whole Western Palearctic, enjoy and learn. Study: We offer well-organized bird study trips to three different destinations in the Western Palearctic. You will be guided to the best birding locations at very low cost. You can find more information at the link on the left. Being able to recognize birds will improve your quality of life. Complete the exam and you can increase your chances of interesting job opportunities. Birds are indicators of sustainable development in several countries in Europe, and many skilled people are needed to undertake bird census work. Let this website inspire you to be out more in the countryside.”

Notes. You have to register to use the website. The exam is not compulsory as the website has a training quiz which you can adjust according to your ability and it allows you to adjust it so you can proceed onto more challenging ID You can choose 4 levels of difficulty, the country or area, have 10/30/60 questions and there are picture/sound/several singing birds/picture and sound exercises.

Have fun and learn at the same time.

Alwyn Jackson



Ideas in creating a Wildlife Habitat – a great link provided by one of our readers  from Overseas – Jan Baker.

Creating a Wildlife Habitat in Your Backyard

Moths and help with ID – contact Barry Pummell

Macro Moths of North Tuddenham by Barry Pummell
Start date: 2nd January 1990.
Trap: Self-made Mercury Vapour Bulb 125 w.
Garden: Remote. 150 sq. meters, rural, surrounded by agriculture.
Total species recorded: 401.
Total moths trapped: 75000+
Record one-night trap 1996: 325 moths.
Still catching new moths: 4-6 per year
Latest new moth: 29th May 2020 Reed Leopard (Red Data Book species.) This is
a local and scarce species in Britain, being confined to parts of East Anglia, and a single locality in
Dorset. (UK Moths). The Norfolk sites for this species are in the Hickling area. No explanation for it
turning up in North Tuddenham yet.

Recent reports suggest there are members who would like to do some trapping. Give me a call
if you need any ID help


 Injured Birds – Useful contacts

The RSPCA accepts sick and injured birds at their East Winch Wildlife Centre. They can be found at Station Road, East
Winch PE32 1NR. Tel 0300 123 0709. Email: The Manager is Alison Charles.


An Entomology Resource

Earlier this month I received this email from Courtney McNally ( :-

I’ve recently put together a beginners’ guide to entomology which includes lots of useful advice and
information for anyone who wants to learn more about insects!
If you want to check it out, you can find it here:


Tips on Bird Identification
by David Laurie

Is that a Reed or a Sedge Warbler singing?
Are all those waders Ruff?
Was that a Linnet or a Twite?
Goldcrest or Firecrest?
Want to indulge in nostalgia and remind yourself what a Corn Bunting sounds like? Once a
common farmland bird, it doesn’t make our last Annual Report at all.
With the nights drawing in and the fireside beckoning, why not take a little time to answer
these and other questions with the useful and entertaining bird identification videos from the
British Trust for Ornithology.
You don’t have to be a member, just go to their web site ( and click on Develop
your skills, then Bird Identification then Identification videos.
As of late September, there were 74 to choose from and they come with commentary on key
points to look for and samples of calls and songs. Great for all levels of experience.
You can go straight to the videos at
but taking the longer route lets you browse all the other offerings BTO have, and they have a
lot. Why not give it a try?


Messages by Month


Injured Bird ?

0300 1234 999