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…

The Norfolk County bird recorder Neil Lawton can be contacted at


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?


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.


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



 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.

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