Rare endangered bird species spotted at north Norfolk caravan park

The birds were found by holidaymakers at a north Norfolk caravan park. Photo: Tiggy Moore

The birds were found by holidaymakers at a north Norfolk caravan park. Photo: Tiggy Moore - Credit: Archant

Campers at a north Norfolk caravan park were lucky enough to spot some unusual visitors.

There are thought to be only 500 pairs in Norfolk. Photo: Tiggy Moore

There are thought to be only 500 pairs in Norfolk. Photo: Tiggy Moore - Credit: Archant

Guests at the Old Brick Kilns Caravan and Camping Park identified a nesting pair of spotted flycatchers in a bird box on one of the site's oak trees.

There are now thought to be fewer than 500 pairs of the birds in Norfolk.

They reported their discovery of the birds, which are red-listed as a bird of conservation concern, to the site owners, who were advised to contact the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO).

The birds can be registered as part of the organisation's nest record and ringing scheme.

A spotted flycatcher. Photo: Tiggy Moore

A spotted flycatcher. Photo: Tiggy Moore - Credit: Archant

David Moore, owner of the site said: 'Chris and Barbara Powell from Bedfordshire saw the parent birds flying to and from the bird box and assumed correctly that some eggs were being incubated.

'We contacted the local BTO office and they sent along a local volunteer, Graham Walford, who visited a week later to ring the young ones when they were around 6 days old.

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'They fledge when they're between 12-14 days so the window of opportunity is short.'

Mr Moore added: 'We weren't aware that these lovely little birds were a declining species so we are delighted that they've chosen one of our nest boxes and that our guests spotted them.'

Graham Walford, who trained as a bird-ringer in 1971 was delighted to visit the site to ring the young birds.

Mr Walford said: 'It's not certain exactly where British spotted flycatchers winter but probably West Africa, however they are found all over sub-Saharan Africa in winter.

'The Old Brick Kilns is an ideal environment for the birds as it has water, wild flower areas and woodland.

'It's lovely to see them as there are now thought to be less than 500 pairs in Norfolk.'

Spotted flycatchers are a grey-brown bird, usually similar in size to a robin.

They can be spotted between April and August before they journey back to spend the winter months in Africa.

The spotted flycatcher used to be a common bird in Norfolk but has undergone a dramatic decline in its population, which has been declining in numbers since the 1960s.

Between 1968 and 1998 the population fell by 79pc, and the species is now listed on the Norfolk Biodiversity Action Plan.

Conservation efforts

A project to track spotted flycatchers in Norfolk was set up by a University of East Anglia (UEA) student in 2003.

Rachel Warren's conservation efforts tracked site occupancy and nesting rates, as well as building population data to support conservation efforts to reverse the birds' decline.

The Old Brick Kilns, which has a David Bellamy Gold Conservation Award, has many bird boxes around the site, and has seen bird species including tawny owls nesting near campers over the years.

Guests are encouraged to report their wildlife sightings and this year have spotted kingfishers and a tern in the wildlife pond.

Siskins are also nesting in the same tree as the spotted flycatchers, but these birds are growing in number with scattered pairs along Cromer Ridge and elsewhere in Norfolk, with a concentration in Thetford Forest.

The campsite encourages guests to learn about nature, with wildflower banks, a bird hide, and honey bee habitats.