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Introducing the WVBS

22 Dec 2020

Wensum Valley Birdwatching Society

Our friends at the Wensum Valley Birdwatching Society (WVBS) have put together a short blog about who they are and how they started up. The WVBS regularly visit Pensthorpe to survey and monitor the birds spotted on our reserve and park. 

Like many good ideas (think of Watson & Crick and the DNA Double Helix!) our bird club was the resultant of two friends chatting over a couple of pints in a local pub. Lifelong birders and good friends, Alwyn Jackson and Ray Gribble recognised the need for a local club for birdwatchers to fill the gap between the RSPB Norwich branch, and NarVOS in Swaffham, and so Wensum Valley Birdwatching Society (WVBS) was conceived. The inaugural meeting was held in a very dilapidated Lenwade village hall (leaking roof, rudimentary heating) in 2003, and was attended by 80 people to hear a presentation by Allan Hale – and to this day he still entertains us regularly with a combination of birding stories, adventures abroad, and a great sense of humour.


Common Snipe: Photography by WVBS

A committee was formed and a programme of indoor meetings with guest speakers and outdoor field trips was drawn up. The club has largely stuck to that successful formula ever since. Our membership (including some loyal members from that first meeting) now number around 140, and we now meet regularly (COVID allowing) in the very plush and comfortable Great Witchingham Hall. Our programme of monthly speakers attracts presentations from some nationally renowned naturalists, such as Mark Cocker and Mark Avery, as well as those from East Anglia, such as Patrick Barkham, BTO scientists, NWT and RSPB wardens. The focus is mainly on ornithological subjects but also bats, dragonflies and other wildlife topics. Our field trips begin each year, soon after the 1st January, with the Annual Bird Count held in our recording area – basically the area around the length of the River Wensum from Norwich to Fakenham and beyond (in the words of Buzz Lightyear!). Then each month a trip is organised to a site usually in East Anglia, and these are a great chance to explore the birding in a new area, and for the less experienced members to benefit from the expertise of more seasoned club members. Our members submit monthly sightings records to the Club Recorder – our annual report states that 10,000 records were submitted from the Valley in 2019! The club also installs and monitors nest boxes (mainly Barn, Tawny and Little Owl and Kestrel) and our qualified ringers are on hand to ring any nestlings: In these activities we like to feel we make a positive contribution to local conservation.


Juvenile Hobby: Photography by WVBS

In recent years, our monitoring has been supplemented by a collaboration with Pensthorpe Natural Park. This close association began when Jordans Cereals awarded the club a grant to purchase and service tern nesting raft on a private lake near Sparham. The liaison between the club and Pensthorpe continued and the club was asked to provide Guides in the Hides for their Wild About The Wensum events and the Pensthorpe Bird & Wildlife Fair. When a previous warden left Pensthorpe, the club was asked to take on his bird recording duties, and Ray Gribble organised a rota of members to perform a count of all wild birds seen in the park every two weeks and, apart from COVID restrictions, this continues to give some of our members some enjoyable days birding and Pensthorpe useful data which also adds to club records.

Our regular sessions at Pensthorpe will form the basis of this occasional blog when I hope to share our more interesting sightings; in the meantime please see some of our sightings at Pensthorpe within this blog. 

Nuthatch: Photography by WVBS

Despite the pandemic, our club continues to thrive with a stable membership, which is noted for the friendly welcome it gives new members, whether they are experienced birders or novices. Our only meetings at the moment are on the Zoom online platform, and we have shared these with other local bird clubs. We have a website ( soon to be radically updated, a club What’s App site, a Twitter channel, and a monthly newsletter. Any queries about membership would be most welcome and should be sent to