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Go on a WildWalk to help make Norfolk nature count

PUBLISHED: 10:17 22 January 2018

Barn owl: look out for them on their hunt for voles and other prey.

Barn owl: look out for them on their hunt for voles and other prey.

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Wild Walks, Wild Events and Wild Days volunteering: Head of people and Wildlife at NWT, David North reveals new ways to help wildlife in the Broads National Park.

January can be our coldest month. For wildlife late winter is a time of scarcity and for both insect and seed eating birds food is hard to come by and ground may be frozen too hard for beaks to probe. On a grey day, with blustery showers and dark clouds threatening worse, I was not expecting wildlife to be easy to spot as I walked along the bank of the River Bure here at Upton Marshes.

Mid-afternoon and the late winter sun dips below the clouds lighting the marshes just for a few moments with extraordinary golden light – there’s a quality that only low winter sun seems to have to transform a landscape giving it an almost ethereal ‘super-real’ quality. Right on cue a marsh harrier drifts over the grazing marsh which suddenly explodes into life.

Teal, wigeon, lapwings, golden plovers and a small flock of starlings all hurtle skywards from hidden, watery scrape pools. Within minutes the harrier has vanished into the distance, birds resettle in hollows out of my sight, the sky darkens once more and all seems quiet and lifeless again.

This moment has made the walk memorable and is a rich reward for the effort of heading out in winter. And though the birds were hard to see today there are clear signs of change and hints of spring to come in the lengthening daylight, the song of a lone skylark overhead and the golden yellows of the first marsh marigold flowers along a dyke edge. I know that my WildWalk has done me good and though my list of birds and plants is short today, I know my records have a value when they are added to those of other visitors to give a fuller picture of this reserve.

Later in the evening from the comfort of home it is a simple matter to upload my sightings online to the Norfolk Biodiversity Information Service website. Perhaps like me you value time spent walking in nature and find that more than most things it makes you feel good. If so, then read on for your invitation to help with our new WildWalks project, part of a wider Broads Landscape Partnership project, funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and run by the Broads Authority. We would love you to take part and it is a great excuse to get out and take a walk at two of NWT’s Broads nature reserves.

Upton Broad and Marshes in the Bure Valley close to the village of Upton is an important site for Norfolk hawker dragonflies and birds including marsh harriers, barn owls and common crane. Thorpe Marshes, on the edge of Norwich at Thorpe St Andrew is home to water voles, otters and orange-tip butterflies. But we are just as interested in your sightings of common wildlife, including plants.

It’s simple to help. Just visit www.nbis.org.uk/wildwalks and download a free recording card before your visit, then log your sightings on the website when you get back home. Whether it’s a single sighting or a longer species list every record counts. They help us build a picture of the wildlife that lives on the reserves and whether species are increasing or decreasing in numbers. All we need to know are the four W’s – What you saw (the name of species but please only submit records when you are certain of the identification), where you saw it, when (the date you did your WildWalk) and Who saw it (your email contact details so that if the record is unusual further details can be taken).

Wildlife of course changes with the seasons, which is why it is valuable for us to find some volunteers willing to take the same WildWalk route at least four times a year. But even if you only visit once we would love to you to log your records and help wildlife conservation in Norfolk.

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