Join the great urban wildlife watch
We all know about the rare birds spotted along our wonderful coastline or on the Broads, but what about the natural wonders that live amongst us in the city? Norfolk Wildlife Trust is holding a groundbreaking survey encouraging us all to help record urban wildlife. RACHEL BULLER reports.
Urban wildlife seems to rather lose out in a county like Norfolk. Blessed with such a varied and ecologically vast landscape, those searching out wildlife generally need look no further than the coastline, or the Broads, or the rich forest habitat of the Brecks.
But the Big Urban Wildlife Watch, organised by the Norfolk Wildlife Trust, is hoping to change all that by enthusing us all about the importance of wildlife in our towns and city, and also helping to create a picture of what is happening along our streets, in our back yards and in our parks, from the tiniest insect to the largest birds.
Between 12pm tomorrow and 12pm on Sunday, the trust wants as many people as possible to record all the wild-life they see in the urban areas of Norfolk — in Norwich, Wymondham, Attleborough, Gorleston and Great Yarmouth. There are also a number of special events happening (see panel).
Urban wildlife is hugely under-recorded in Norfolk and it is hoped the survey will give a valuable snapshot of which species are thriving in 2011.
David North, NWT education manager, wants the survey to be fun to join in with and says whether it is a squirrel, hedgehog or even a kingfisher, they want to know about it.
'We are really excited. It is the first time we think there has been an urban wildlife survey in the urban centres of Norfolk and, with about 50% of the population in the county living in these urban areas, we believe it will give us a hugely valuable picture of what is happening.
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'Urban wildlife has been desperately unrecorded because all the experts tend to focus on the coast, the Broads or the Brecks, those traditional wildlife centres, or the reserves. Places like Yarmouth and Norwich are fantastic areas for wildlife but we know surprisingly little about them. We want this survey to raise awareness of this wonderful wildlife living among us and to improve our knowledge,' he said.
'It is a great reason for people to get outside. We don't mind if it is a starling or a dandylion or an urban fox crossing the road, if it is their gardens or in urban parks. If you are going to the swings with your children or walking the dog, make a note of everything you see and let us know about it.'
He said that as well as the more common wildlife, people should also be on the look out for anything a little bit out of the ordinary.
'We recently had the peregrine falcons in Norwich at the cathedral and otters close to the centre Thetford and the seafront at Great Yarmouth is one of the best places in Norfolk to see uncommon Mediterranean gulls.'
Among the things to look out for are birds, such as starlings and song thrushes, garden favourites such as common frogs and ladybirds, and the lovely red admiral butterflies. The team are also interested in some of the species highlighted as part of the UK Biodiversity Action Plan, such as dunnocks, common toads, slow worms and wall brown butterflies.
The information will all be sent to the Norfolk Biodiversity Information Service which works to create an accurate picture of the county's biological diversity and to help provide information and evidence regarding issues such as climate change.
t To take part in the Urban Wildlife Watch, download a simple recording form from the Norfolk Wildlife Trust website www.norfolkwildlifetrust.org.uk
t Alternatively you can simply email your records to email@example.com, giving a list of the wildlife they recorded, their name, the location (post-code or map reference) of the sightings, and the date. Records must be in the 24-hour period from 12pm on June 4 to 12pm on June 5.
n Wildlife at the Rosary Cemetery – Experts will be on hand to help with identification. Light refreshments available from the chapel. June 4, 2-4pm, guided walk 3pm.
n Wildlife Watch in Norwich Castle Gardens – Experts will be walking around the Castle Gardens looking at its plants and small creatures. Bring a lens, collecting pot and identification books if you have them. June 5, 10am-12pm.
n Moths of Mousehold – Join a Mousehold Heath warden and a local moth enthusiast in using a light trap to catch and identify the beautiful and diverse species of moth living in our parks and gardens. Please bring a torch and warm outdoor clothing. June 4, 10pm onwards. Pre-book on 01603 213999.
n Peregrine Watch – Meet Hawk and Owl Trust experts at the telescope viewing point. June 4, 3-6pm at Norwich Cathedral, Lower Close.
n Wildlife of Breydon Water – Search for wildlife on and around Breydon Water. June 5, 8-9.30am. Meet at the ASDA car park, Acle New Road, Great Yarmouth.
n In Search of Butterflies and Dragons – Join Pam Taylor from the British Dragonfly Society in Bure Park. June 5, 10.30am-12pm. Meet at Bure Park Car Park.
10 THINGS TO LOOK FOR
Here are 10 things to look out for during the Big Urban Wildlife Watch – but of course there are countless more species which you will hopefully encounter during your observations.
1. Song thrush
2. House sparrow
5. Slow worm
6. Muntjac Deer
7. Common poppy
8. Seven-spot ladybird
9. Grey squirrel