Monday, 23 January 2017

Gathering gadwall

St Andrew's Broad with tufted duck and gadwall Chris Durdin
Regular NWT blogger, local resident and wildlife enthusiast Chris Durdin puts the seemingly 'dull' and overlooked gadwall in the spotlight. Norfolk Wildlife Trust’s Thorpe Marshes reserve is in the Norfolk Broads, yet on the edge of Norwich in Thorpe St Andrew. Local resident Chris Durdin writes.

I’m in two minds. The mild winter means that there has been no big hard weather influx of wintering ducks at NWT Thorpe Marshes. That must be good for the birds’ survival.

On the other hand, the birdwatching on St Andrews Broad, the gravel pit, is therefore largely routine: tufted ducks, teals scattered around the edges, an occasional shoveler or wigeon alongside the many gulls, the regular great crested grebe and a cormorant or two.

A constant, though, is that the most obvious dabbling duck species on St Andrews Broad is the gadwall, with some 50 or so regularly present. They like to feed by waiting for coots to surface with waterweed and then snatching it. But coots are relatively scarce so this bullying tactic is the exception and mostly they feed for themselves.

A new birdwatcher’s first impression of gadwalls is often that they are dull-looking. Then a close view, perhaps through a telescope, causes a conversion to admiration when much of the grey plumage is revealed as rather dapper black and white mottling. 

Gadwall by Elizabeth Dack
Flashes of white when loafing or swimming expand when gadwalls flap or fly: the distinctive white speculum, part of the trailing edge of the wing. Not that identification at Thorpe Marshes is a challenge: mallards all but disappear here in winter.

Normally a wintering bird at Thorpe Marshes, last year gadwalls also bred with young seen in spring and summer. The highest count of gadwalls on the reserve in 2016 was 114. These are two of many nuggets of information in the NWT Thorpe Marshes Wildlife Report for 2016, which is now online at on along with details of monthly wildlife walks.

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Your voice matters

Why now is a good time to take positive action for the future of Norfolk's wildlife by David North, Head of People and Wildlife.  
Swallowtail by Tim Melling

If you are reading this then the chances are that you, like me, care about Norfolk’s wildlife.  Fortunately huge numbers of people in our county do value nature and now is an important time to make our voices heard.

Norfolk Wildlife Trust is making its voice heard by writing to our MPs asking them to sign a ‘Pledge for the Environment’.  The Wildlife Trusts, along with many other conservation organisations, including RSPB, WWF, and CPRE, are all asking MPs to support measures to ensure protection for the environment and wildlife. The full text of the pledge can be read here:

There are real concerns that the protection of our environment may suffer when we leave the EU and it’s not just environmentalists that are raising this concern.

You may have heard on the news that in a recent report,  The Future of the Environment after the EU Referendum (4 January 2017),cross-party MPs from  the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) have warned  the Government of the very real risk that vital protections for our environment, countryside and wildlife could be weakened  through the process of leaving the EU. This Committee of MPs is therefore calling on Government to introduce a new Environmental Protection Act before we leave the EU.

Currently around 80% of our environmental laws are tied in with the EU so ensuring these protections for our wildlife and countryside are not weakened during Brexit is absolutely vital if we want a positive future for our wildlife. Currently more than 170 MPs nationally have signed up to the ‘Pledge for the Environment’ but only three of our Norfolk MPs are on this list.

Water vole by Kevin Anderson
If you care about wildlife then now is the time to write to your MP raising your concern that protection for wildlife must not be lost when we leave the European Union.  Let’s show our leaders that protection of the environment is not a side-issue to be thought about only after other concerns, like the economy and immigration, have been addressed but is an issue that is fundamental.

We all know and understand that a healthy environment rich in wildlife is actually essential to human well-being and the bedrock on which a sustainable economy can be built.  Let’s make sure our MPs understand this too and that they know we want Britain to set a world standard in environmental protection ensuring that our wildlife recovers from current declines.

To see a list of MPs that have signed the Pledge for the Environment and to check if your MP is on the list visit: 

Please add your voice now by writing to your MP asking them to sign this pledge if they have not already done so.   For the Wildlife Trust’s top tips on how to contact your MP visit   Decisions made in the next two years are likely to determine the fate of our wildlife and countryside for decades to come.

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