9 wildlife highlights from Norfolk in 2020

Foxley Wood, which is hosting a mini-beast hunt on May 30Photo: IAN BURT

Foxley Wood, which is hosting a mini-beast hunt on May 30Photo: IAN BURT - Credit: Ian Burt

From bird-watchers flocking to spot a rare creature to a record year for a seal colony, here are nine of Norfolk's wildlife highlights from 2020.

1. Rare eagle seen over Norfolk after UK extinction 240 years ago

Embargoed to 0001 Saturday November 22 Undated handout photo issued by the RSPB of a adult white-tai

White tailed sea eagles have been seen on a number of occasions in Norfolk during 2020 - Credit: RSPB

In May, the white-tailed eagle, also known as the sea eagle, was spotted flying in Norfolk skies in one of very few confirmed sightings in the last two centuries.

The bird of prey became extinct in the UK during the 18th century, but has been successfully reintroduced off the west coast of Scotland and also on the Isle of Wight last year.

They are protected in the UK under the Wildlife and Countryside Act of 1981 and, as of 2015, have been classified as red under the Birds of Conservation Concern list.

2. Another record-breaking year for Blakeney Point

Seals on Blakeney Point. Picture: Matthew Usher.

Seals on Blakeney Point. Picture: Matthew Usher. - Credit: Matthew Usher

Pup numbers at the National Trust’s Blakeney National Nature Reserve were predicted to reach record highs this season, with more than 4,000 new arrivals expected.


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This is up from just 25 pups in 2001, and 3,399 in 2019.

The success of the colony is due to low levels of disturbance and mortality during the first few key weeks of life and a lack of natural predators.

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3. Snow leopard and red panda cubs born at Thrigby Hall Wildlife Gardens

New snow leopard cubs at Thrigby Hall Wildlife Gardens. Picture: ELLA WILKINSON

New snow leopard cubs at Thrigby Hall Wildlife Gardens. Picture: ELLA WILKINSON - Credit: ELLA WILKINSON

Thrigby Hall Wildlife Gardens welcomed two snow leopard cubs and two rare red panda cubs in September.

New red panda cubs at Thrigby Hall Wildlife Gardens. Picture: ELLA WILKINSON

New red panda cubs at Thrigby Hall Wildlife Gardens. Picture: ELLA WILKINSON - Credit: ELLA WILKINSON

The popular zoo, near Great Yarmouth, unveiled the cute new additions, which were born during lockdown.

4. Record number of knots land in Norfolk

Thousands of knots form spectacular murmurations as they take off at Snettisham. Picture: Les Bunyan

Thousands of knots form spectacular murmurations as they take off at Snettisham. Picture: Les Bunyan - Credit: Les Bunyan

Some 140,000 knots landed on The Wash at Snettisham, near King’s Lynn, which beats the previous record of 120,000 set in the early 1990s.

The reason for the population increase is not known at a time when climate change and human activities threaten countless species around the world.

5. UK’s most endangered bat species discovered in south Norfolk village

Barbastelle bat

A barbastelle bat. - Credit: Charlotte Packman

It emerged that a Norfolk village has been leading the way in bat conservation. There are 18 bat species recorded in the UK and at least nine were discovered in New Buckenham.

Discoveries included the Barbastelle, a red listed species and the most endangered of all bats in the UK, and the Serotine, according to journalist Janet Trewin.

6. Rare bird draws crowds to north Norfolk

Jill and Steve McCann travelled from Sheffield just to see the rare rufous bush chat. Picture: Stuar

Jill and Steve McCann travelled from Sheffield just to see the rare rufous bush chat. Picture: Stuart Anderson - Credit: Archant

A Rufous Bush Chat bird spotted in Stiffkey, Norfolk Picture: Simon King/Twitter @UKTwitcher

A Rufous Bush Chat bird spotted in Stiffkey, Norfolk Picture: Simon King/Twitter @UKTwitcher - Credit: Archant

In October, scores of birdwatchers visited Stiffkey marshes to catch a glimpse of the rufous bush chat, in what was believed to be the first time the bird has been spotted in the UK for 40 years.

People drove for hours, and it even sparked a police warning to ensure people were social distancing.

7. Southern Migrant Hawker Dragonfly spotted near Watton

The southern migrant hawker dragonfly has been spreading from Europe through the southeast of the co

The southern migrant hawker dragonfly has been spreading from Europe through the southeast of the country, with several males seen recently at Norfolk Wildlife Trust's Thompson Common. Photo: Mark Rayment - Credit: Mark Rayment

The Southern Migrant Hawker Dragonfly was captured by a nature-lover at Norfolk Wildlife Trust’s Thompson Common, near Watton.

Thompson Common is one of the most important sites in the county for dragonflies and damselflies, where 19 species have been recorded as breeding or possibly breeding.

8. Rare species of carp released into Norfolk River

Peter Simmons, countryside ranger at Kelling Heath Holiday Park, and Neil Lincoln, fish farm technic

Peter Simmons, countryside ranger at Kelling Heath Holiday Park, and Neil Lincoln, fish farm technical officer at the Environment Agency, release 200 crucian carp into the park�s lower fishing pond.Picture: Supplied by Kelling Heath Holiday Park/Benjamin Leach - Credit: Archant

Two hundred crucian carp, supplied by the Environment Agency, were released into the Lower Pond at Kelling Heath Holiday Park in August as part of a reintroduction project.

The species was recently considered in danger of extinction, and its Norfolk population had been dramatically cut by the latter part of the last century due to overgrown ponds.

9. 'Incredible' donation pays for expansion of Norfolk's largest ancient wood

A blanket of bluebells in full flower at Foxley Wood, managed by Norfolk Wildlife Trust. Picture: Ia

A blanket of bluebells in full flower at Foxley Wood, managed by Norfolk Wildlife Trust. Picture: Ian Burt - Credit: Ian Burt

A five-hectare patch of farmland next to Foxley Wood will be restored to native woodland after it was secured by Norfolk Wildlife Trust (NWT) for a sum that has been kept confidential at the request of the donors.

The trust says this "crucial piece of land" has been a missing piece of the wood for at least a millennium, and being surrounded by ancient trees on three sides provides a unique opportunity to re-establish rare specialist species.

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