This March, April and May, Norfolk Wildlife Trust is asking people to look out for three species associated with spring: song thrush, common frog and hedgehog. If you spot any of these animals in Norfolk, whether it be a garden, park or wider countryside, please share your sighting with us.
How to spot a song thrush
It is common to mistake the appearance of the song thrush for the mistle thrush. However, this smaller bird is richer in colour, with deep brown wings and a cream breast which melts into a rich, rusty orange as the wings join the body, making them a bright addition to both urban and rural habitats. Yet, it is the characteristic long, musical and rhythmic tic tic tic tew call of the song thrush, along with the black upside-down hearts that decorate their undersides, which most often distinguish them from other birds.
How to spot a common frog
It may appear daunting for an amateur frog-spotter at the beginning to identify the common frog, as their colours can range from greens, browns, yellows and greys, and some red ones have also been found. But they have distinctive stripes, spots and patches that make them easier to identify: a single dark stripe covers each eye and each eardrum, multiple smaller stripes run horizontally across their legs, and their bodies are covered with dark spots. To identify them by sound, be sure to listen out for their repetitive, gentle and croaking calls. All these colours and characteristics make the common frog a beautiful addition to any pond.
How to spot a hedgehog
One of the most recognisable animals to walk through gardens, the hedgehog appears as a small, dark brown spiked ball with a long slim snout, which disappears into their rough underbelly when they curl up into an even tighter ball when they feel distressed. A shy, nocturnal creature, they can, however, be quite noisy and can be located through the snuffling sounds that they make. Also, they may push around light objects in a garden to find their food, making a fair amount of noise as they do so.
These small, brown birds have a slightly jerky flight and yellow plumage can be seen on the wing....
Despite its name, this species is declining in numbers. Its slender body, smooth skin and long hi...
This common and familiar mammal is easily recognisable with its many spines, long dark snout, sho...
Since the 1970s the population of song thrushes has declined very rapidly - more than 50% of these song birds have disappeared. Their decline is due to humans damaging their food and nesting sources or completely removing their habitats. Ditches and hedgerows are very important to the birds, as they are the main areas in which they feed and build their nests.
Common frogs are classed as both predatory and prey animals and thus are very important to the ecosystem of wetland areas. The two main factors that have caused the decline in this species of frog is the loss of their breeding habitats and disease. And as they are, usually, a common feature in gardens with ponds, it would be a great help to know how many still visit your gardens or local areas. Help us find out what areas are the most affected by the loss, or if your garden or local pond is thriving.
Hedgehogs appear in many places across the country - they are seen in cities, gardens, farms and the general countryside, so they may be thought of as a fairly common sight to some. But they have had a decline of around 30% to 50% (since the Millennium) depending on the area; the higher rate of decline is actually in rural areas. It is thought that there are a myriad of reasons for their decline, which include: a loss of habitat through an increase in urban development, dangerous roads with no hedgehog friendly crossings, injuries from human activities and a lack of connectivity to different habitats and environments. Hedgehog surveys are important so that we can know where the strongholds are and where they are missing.
- It has been argued that the scientific name for song thrush (Turdus philomelos) is said to be a reference to the Greek figure Philomela, who was transformed into a singing bird (though she can also be seen being referred to as a nightingale).
- Their diet of insects and fruit may seem quite typical for birds, however, they are often seen showing ingenuity by breaking the shells of snails against rocks to give themselves easier access to the tougher gastropods. This is known as an anvil.
- The eggs of a song thrush are a bright shiny blue and only take two weeks to hatch.
- Song thrushes are one of the few birds that eat snails.
- Their song is used by many famous poets, including Thomas Hardy in his ballad 'The Darkling Thrush' about the harsh winter and new beginnings:
"At once a voice arose among
The bleak twigs overhead
In a full-hearted evensong
Of joy illimited;
An aged thrush, frail, gaunt, and small,
In blast-beruffled plume,
Had chosen thus to fling his soul
Upon the growing gloom."
- They are able to breathe through both their lungs and their skin, making it easier for some males to hibernate in the mud that sits at the bottom of ponds, as well as on land in piles of leaves that have fallen from trees and have begun to rot.
- Their spawn can hold anywhere up to 2000 eggs.
- They are carnivorous, feeding on insects, using sticky tongues to capture them, as well as worms and slugs.
- Frogs have been on planet Earth for 2 million years!
- Frogs have excellent night vision.
- Despite their thickly armoured appearance and habit of curling up when feeling threatened, hedgehogs can also run, swim and climb very well.
- A female hedgehog is called a sow and the male hedgehog is called a boar.
- Their young are called hoglets. They will be hidden away in the nest, as they are born without sight or hearing and with weak and soft spines which are white in colour.
- Hedgehogs can live for up to 10 years, but more than half will die in their first year of life.
- Hedgehogs were also called hedge pigs.