Take a walk on the wild side for the Broads Outdoor Festival

Photo shows a Bittern, the ilusive bird that is found in the Norfolk Broads.

Photo shows a Bittern, the ilusive bird that is found in the Norfolk Broads. - Credit: Archant

Have you ever been out for a country walk or a cruise, and enjoyed the fresh air, the views and imagining what it would be like to live in that house with the gorgeous garden? Wonderful, but did you hear that blackbird or bittern, see that wren or water vole, spot several species of duck and notice more than a dozen different types of tree?

Andrea Kelly, Broads Authority senior ecologist

Andrea Kelly, Broads Authority senior ecologist - Credit: Archant

Have you ever been out for a country walk or a cruise, and enjoyed the fresh air, the views and imagining what it would be like to live in that house with the gorgeous garden? Wonderful, but did you hear that blackbird or bittern, see that wren or water vole, spot several species of duck and notice more than a dozen different types of tree?

If you take time to look and listen, you'll realise what you've been missing.

Start with the basics, says Broads Authority senior ecologist Andrea Kelly, who is hoping the Outdoors Festival and its many activities will enthuse new spotters. Andrea points out that once people have learnt to identify a few species, with experience they build on this and start noticing more and more.

'Looking properly makes a walk more interesting,' she says.

Yellow Flag Iris growing next to the waters edge close to Ormesby Little Broad.Picture: James Bass

Yellow Flag Iris growing next to the waters edge close to Ormesby Little Broad.Picture: James Bass - Credit: Eastern Daily Press © 2013


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Fun introductions during the Festival to what's out there – from otter and deer to the elusive bittern – include several guided walks and are followed by a family-orientated bug hunt at Whitlingham.

Here sweep nets – rather like large butterfly nets – will be swished through the meadow to capture examples of what's there. A swish above the grass will capture flying insects, a swish through grass will find seeds, grasshoppers and other insects.

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The experts will have a go at identifying everything, and participants encouraged to spot similarities and differences and learn how to discern different grasses, flowers and trees too.

'It is about 'getting your eye in' and seeing what to look for, comparing the shape of an elder with a willow and so on,' says Andrea, adding that there will be moth traps to explore and a bat walk. The idea is to spot things at Whitlingham which can then be identified elsewhere.

Barn owl

Barn owl - Credit: Archant

'At Whitlingham we won't have swallowtail or bittern, but we will see what's on our doorstep and get familiar with that: butterflies, birds, plants and trees,' says Andrea. She adds that Whitlingham's clear water is ideal for plants and snails, so are very attractive to water birds.

A bug hunt or guided walk is a good place to begin watching and enjoying birds and plants.

'You build on your experience. Dip your foot into the world of wildlife and each time you go out that will build on what you have seen,' says Andrea.

'You listen, you become familiar, screen the noise and know what you are hearing,' she adds.

Spend a bit of time with a knowledgeable guide and they'll show where to look, how to spot, and identify what you're seeing.

On the Broads, Andrea advises looking at the edge of the river where birds and animals may be searching for food.

'Look carefully in the reeds and be a little bit quiet,' she says.

Pick up laminated identification charts, devised for outdoor use, by the Field Studies Council from the Broads Authority or Wildlife Trust visitor centres or at www.field-studies-council.org

The Whitlingham Bug Hunt is July 5.

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