The Early Bird Sound Map is a collection of bird song and dawn chorus recordings from around the Waveney and Blyth river valleys, and surrounding towns and villages, along the Norfolk and Suffolk border. The recordings were made by members, friends and supporters of W&BA in May 2020, including some from people residing outside of our patch.
Using the Map
To use the Map, click on the bird icon to open up a recording. This will produce an image with text about the location, date and who made the recording. Click this image to open up videos and/or images submitted by an individual. When you have finished listening, click on the white arrow in the top corner, and then find another recording to listen to.
Some of the recordings are clustered together in a similar geographical area. Use the + and – buttons in the left-hand corner to zoom in and out. To move the location, click and drag the map.
To view in full screen, click the box button in the top right-hand corner.
The teal birds mean that the recordings were made in the W&BA patch, and the orange birds are recordings from friends based outside of the W&BA patch.
Our W&BA artist Mike Challis specialises in sound art – you may remember his SoundHide at the 2019 Waveney Valley Sculpture Trail. Whilst our Early Bird Sound Map above shows sound and video from dawn chorus, this recording was made by Mike of a May sunset over Westleton Heath, Suffolk, UK.
Why the Early Bird Sound Map?
Sunday 3rd May 2020 was International Dawn Chorus Day. It would have also been the first event of our ‘Celebrate’ 2020 programme – a Dawn Chorus walk at the gorgeously tranquil Kaliwoods, near Halesworth. Due to the COVID-19 situation, we were unable to host this event. As we couldn’t be together for International Dawn Chorus Day, we asked our W&BA members and those living in/around our patch to record their own home-based dawn chorus experience to send to us for the Early Bird Sound Map.
At W&BA, our aim is to create opportunities for people to experience the environment, habitats and species in our patch through the arts. We are driven to do what we can to protect and preserve habitats, and believe the time to act on climate crisis is now.
The purpose of the Early Bird Sound Map is not only to produce a record of this time, but to encourage people to feel connected to the natural world and therefore feel compelled to live in a way which respects and protects the environment now and in the future. Whilst the COVID-19 situation has been distressing and worrying for us all, animal, bird and plant species have been thriving in the quiet days and nights.
During the COVID-19 lockdown, bird song has seemed louder due to the reduction in ambient noise from traffic and industry. Spring this year felt like a gift in the midst of troubling times, so we set up the Early Bird Sound Map to capture those moments of joy and build positive memories of our experiences with nature.
If you’re wanting to brush up on your bird song, take a look at guides from Woodland Trust, National Trust and RSPB to find out more. For more information on bird species and where to find them around East Anglia, Bird Watching Magazine’s website has a great article which focuses on the Suffolk Coast area.
Climate crisis, local habitats and birds
Birds are not only a beautiful sight to witness, they also have an important role in the interconnected ecosystem. UEA research discovered that when vertebrates, such as birds and bats, are prevented from feeding from flowers in their environment, this can decrease the seeds and fruits produced by the plant by around 63%.
In 2019, the RSPB, Suffolk Wildlife Trust, Buglife and the Suffolk Biodiversity Information Service (Suffolk BIS) published a major study warning that wildlife and habitats are declining at an “unprecedented” rate worldwide. They outlined a number of reasons for this rapid decline, in particular the effects seen in East Anglia. The study found that pesticides and fungicides reduced the essential microscopic life in the soil and toxified water systems, and also highlighted the plight of specific bird species once common in our region, including:
Turtle doves have suffered a 91% UK population decline since 1995. The drastic reduction in the species is down to loss of habitat, food shortages and disease, as well as over-hunting on their long migratory route from West Africa.
- Little terns are one of the UK’s rarest seabirds that rely heavily on the east Norfolk coast, which is home to around 20% of the national population. However, busier beaches means less space for ground-nesting and climate crisis has negatively impacted the availablity of sand eels, the mainstay of the little tern’s diet.
Suffolk BIS produced the ‘Suffolk Bird Atlas’ a huge study from 2007-2011 cataloguing bird numbers across the county. The study compares the sightings to the prior study made in the 1980s to track the increase and decrease of specific species.