Last year, with the help of the EDP, Norfolk Wildlife Trust invited the public to record wildlife on its nature reserves during a 24-hour burst of frenetic activity. Some 1,200 different species were recorded by just over 500 people, an amazing achievement.
Another 24-hour ‘bioblitz’ will happen in a week’s time, beginning at 12 noon on 4th June. This time the focus will not be on nature reserves but on urban areas, specifically Norwich, Thetford, King’s Lynn and Great Yarmouth. As such, it has something of a more competitive edge, especially for those of us that happen to live in one of these four urban centres. Surely Thetford can pull more species out of the bag than King’s Lynn or Great Yarmouth but can it compete with the much larger Norwich?
At first glance, the choice of these urban habitats may seem a strange one; urban areas are not renowned for their wildlife value but, with many more of us living within urbanised landscapes than non-urbanised ones, they are where most of us interact with nature. If urban dwellers become more aware of the wildlife that lives alongside them then perhaps they will take greater ownership of it and make sure that it has space in which to live.
Of course, our urban centres do support some important species. Norwich has its breeding peregrines, Great Yarmouth its Mediterranean gulls, Thetford its otters and King’s Lynn its eels, the latter a species in serious decline. Then there are the more familiar but equally important species: things like song thrush, house sparrow and spotted flycatcher – all of which are flagged as being species of conservation concern. What will be of particular interest, however, are the overlooked species, the invertebrates and plants in particular. Work elsewhere in the UK has highlighted the importance of urban brownfield sites for rare bees, beetles and moths, and we have plenty of these sites in East Anglia.
Much of our urban biodiversity will be found in our gardens – in fact gardens are the biggest contributor to biodiversity in urban areas – so there is plenty of opportunity to spend an afternoon in your garden, searching for insects and other invertebrates. Alternatively, if you want to get out further afield, go along to one of the Norfolk Wildlife Trust events that are being held and discover more about the urban wildlife with which you share your town (details are on the Norfolk Wildlife Trust website).
The chances are that, if you look hard enough, you will turn up something that nobody else does. Don your sun hat, grab a cold drink and take a closer look at your garden – that’s what I’ll be doing!