Recording wildlife is an easy way to get involved in wildlife conservation. It is a way of helping us to monitor wildlife across the county to gain an understanding of an animal’s and plant’s distribution. Your sightings can help us identify areas which are especially important for wildlife and identify species in decline or under threat.
This spring NWT is launching a phenology survey, the study of the timing of natural seasonal events. Norfolk is actually the birthplace of phenology: it was the birthplace of Robert Marsham (1708-1797), a Norfolk man who is seen as the Father of Phenology. Between 1736 until his death in 1798 he recorded certain wildlife events (27 indicators of spring) and then his family carried it on – giving us approximately 200 years of valuable information about British wildlife. Phenology was once seen as a relatively unimportant pastime of amateur naturalist, but as a result of climate change it is now seen as an exceptionally important way of considering how our seasons are changing.
Frogs usually emerge from their hibernation sites in February and March, where they then set off to their breeding grounds. The mean date for clumps of frogspawn to be seen in Norfolk is 10 March. The appearance of mounds of frogspawn can be a welcome sight, an indicator that spring has truly sprung. Frogs are frequent visitors to garden and do seem to favour small ponds – although records of frogspawn being seen in puddles have occurred. The female will lay between 1,000 and 2,000 eggs at a time and by April, once breeding is complete, adult frogs disperse from ponds to live on land, where they feed on slugs, worms and other invertebrates.
Although still classed as common throughout the UK, it is recognised that the common frog has declined since the 1970s. It is thought that loss of breeding habitat is a major cause for this, but also disease is believed to be a contributing factor.
Swallows are migratory birds and in the UK they are the typical harbinger of spring; their arrival is eagerly anticipated by everybody with an interest in the natural world. First arrivals to the UK usually occur around the 20 March, with spring migration taking place from mid-March through to mid-May. The UK swallow population is estimated as something in the region of 705,000 territories, and although they are still widely distributed their numbers saw a decline from the 1800s to 1995. The main reason for this is believed to be deterioration in the quality of feeding habitat in both their breeding and wintering grounds. Another factor is diminishing availability of suitable nesting sites as farms are modernized and other ramshackle buildings are renovated or demolished.
According to the RSPB swallow numbers in the UK have fluctuated over the last 30 years with pronounced regional variation in trends. The swallow is classified in the UK as Green under the Birds of Conservation Concern 4: the Red List for Birds (2015). They are protected by The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.
The orange tip is widely distributed throughout the UK, although, it is absent from large areas of Scotland. In Norfolk it can be commonly encountered along roadside verges, in woodland glades and in damp meadows where it actively seeks its favoured food plants Lady’s smock (cuckooflower) and garlic mustard (Jack-by-the-hedge). This butterfly also visits established gardens and here it will use a variety of plants for feeding, most notably honesty.
The orange tip is an early spring butterfly with first emerging insects on the wing from mid-April. Adults can be encountered until mid-July. Egg-laying is normally completed by the end of June and caterpillars can be found throughout June and July. The butterfly hibernates over-winter as a chrysalis above ground, attached low down in dense vegetation.
Scientists from the Natural History Museum compared information on historical temperature records to find that 92% of the 51 species of butterfly studied emerged earlier in years with higher spring temperatures. The orange tip butterfly was found to emerge nine days earlier for every 1o
C increase in temperature between March and May (Butterflies emerging earlier due to rising temperatures | Natural History Museum (nhm.ac.uk)