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WVBS in lockdown

11 Feb 2021

The latest WVBS bird monitoring at Pensthorpe Natural Park

Our friends from the Wensum Valley Birdwatching Society (WVBS) have put together a second short blog for us about their bird monitoring which they have been able to continue with during lockdown. 

One of the main aims of the WVBS is to monitor wild bird populations within the Wensum Valley, as well as assisting in the conservation and wildlife management of our reserve. Members of the WVBS spend a half day every 2 weeks and (literally!) count all the birds they see. Similar to that of the RSPB Big Garden BirdWatch that took place a couple of weeks ago, the bird monitoring and counts undertaken by the WVBS are fundamentally helpful in displaying useful statistics and trends in numbers within the seasons, with the chance of them spotting a scarce or rare bird.

Alan Hughes, editor of the club newsletter has put together a diary of their monitoring activity at Pensthorpe Natural Park and the bird species recorded:

19th December

“3 Red Kites were recorded in the park along with 2 Marsh Harriers and 2 Common Buzzards, with raptors showing well. Typical for winter, waterfowl were the most numerous groups of birds, with 232 Teal, 180 Wigeon, 263 Greylag Geese, 108 Mallard, as well as 4 beautiful Pintail, 7 Goldeneye and 1 Mandarin Duck. Grey Herons and Little Egrets were also seen in the water, and, at this time of the year, smaller Passerines (perching birds) gather together to feed on seeds and these included 10 Lesser Redpoll, 28 Chaffinch, and 5 different tit species. A lovely Kingfisher brought some colour to the winter scene, and our ever-vigilant monitors also recorded 4 Grey Squirrel, 1 Muntjac, 2 Roe Deer and a Stoat.


A Kingfisher photographed by members of the Wensum Valley Birdwatching Society


21st December

Heavy rain forced the monitors into the hides for most of their morning, but still managed to record some interesting birds including a Black-tailed Godwit (a wader) and a very bedraggled juvenile Marsh Harrier who did not appreciate the wet weather. Perhaps not surprising, ducks were very much in evidence and 68 Gadwall, 185 Wigeon, 110 Teal, 90 Tufted, 13 Shoveller, 5 Pintail and 4 Goldeneye were on the list with some of the drakes seen to be displaying some courtship behaviour. The woodland at Pensthorpe is always rich in birds, and a Nuthatch, 2 Treecreepers and 3 Marsh Tits were recorded there, along with more common birds.

A Song Thrush photographed by members of the Wensum Valley Birdwatching Society


26th December

“On Boxing Day we were back in lockdown again, and the park was forced to close its gates to all visitors. So, what does a birder do in lockdown? Clearly, it is frustrating not to be able to travel to our favourite birding sites in the county (such as the coast and the Brecks and Broads), or even further afield in this country or abroad. Our club has still managed to keep our members’ interest in birding very much alive. Although not all of us are fortunate enough to live in the countryside with easy access to lovely local bird walks, most of us are still able to enjoy local parks, our garden and cemeteries for our daily exercise, and these often yield good numbers of birds. Birders describe birdwatching close to their home as working their “Local Patch”, and the restrictions of Tier 4 have encouraged all of us to pay more attention to the wildlife on our proverbial doorsteps. On 26th December, the club started a ‘Lockdown Bird List’ compiled from records submitted from members local patches and, to date, the list stands at an amazing 102 different species!

A normal programme of our monthly indoor meetings has been cancelled, of course, but many of our wonderful speakers have agreed to take to the internet to deliver some fascinating talks via the ubiquitous Zoom platform. These have proved to be very popular with our members, many of whom have enjoyed presentations on a range of bird-related subjects including Saving the Spoon-billed Sandpiper, birding in Argentina, management of the RSPB reserves at Titchwell and Snettisham, and the acoustic recording of nocturnal migration in birds. More of these are planned until we can all meet together again at our club HQ in Lenwade.
And if that isn’t enough to keep our birding brains entertained and stimulated, you can always follow me and lose yourself in a good book: With so much wonderful nature writing now in print, where do you start?”