Who we are

The Norfolk Ornithologists' Association (NOA) is an independent Norfolk-based charity, dedicated to the scientific study of birds. It focuses primarily on bird migration and population dynamics through bird ringing and daily monitoring, and the information collected acts as an indicator of environmental health locally, nationally and internationally. All our work is funded by membership subscriptions, donations and permit sales. Members’ observations and sightings play an important role in ensuring that bird numbers are monitored accurately. The NOA aims to take a friendly and personal approach in sharing its knowledge and enthusiasm with people of all ages, and draws its membership from throughout the UK and also from abroad.

Holme Bird Observatory is the only accredited bird observatory in Norfolk, and is one of only 17 observatories in the British Isles, under the auspices of the Bird Observatories Council (BOC). In recent years the NOA has sought to build on its scientific objectives, for instance working with the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) to pilot a standardised sea-watching project at Holme which has now been running since 2005.

As well as birds, daily records of moths, butterflies and dragonflies are also kept at Holme Bird Observatory. Moths are trapped and released almost daily from March through to the end of October, and butterflies and dragonflies are also recorded daily.

Hummingbird Hawk Moth


In addition to the reserve at Holme Bird Observatory, the NOA now manages three other reserves that are open to members and to the general public; Redwell Marsh, Walsey Hills and Hempton Marsh. Each reserve is monitored through ringing and wildlife recording. There are a further three small sites belonging to NOA with no formal access; grazing land at Kelling Quags, an old orchard in Holme village (Whiddington Wood) and a small area of land at Salthouse Heath.

Benefits of NOA membership include dawn to dusk access to reserves with visitor access, quarterly newsletters and an annual report, the entitlement to purchase a key to access hides on NOA's reserves, opportunities for involvement in projects, and social events. Volunteers are encouraged to undertake a variety of tasks, and make a vital contribution to the Association’s work.

Bird ringing

Bird ringing (or banding) lies at the core of the Association’s work. The use of a special lightweight numbered ring to identify a bird as an individual is a vital monitoring tool in understanding bird population changes and enabling us to contribute effectively to bird conservation. It is also possible to learn a great deal of additional information from examining wild birds in the hand. The public are welcome to see the ringing process first hand and see how this is contributing to our knowledge of bird populations and movements.

Most of the Observatory ringing involves the use of mist nets. Birds caught in the nets are quickly and carefully removed on a regular basis and brought to our ringing lab for ringing, weighing and measuring, before being released.

The process of ringing can only be undertaken by people who have undergone rigorous training. Ringing is licensed under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, and is coordinated by the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO). Both the warden and assistant warden are trainers of bird ringing, and the Observatory both offers training and welcomes visiting ringers to be involved in our ringing activities.

Each ring bears a unique number and an address, so that if the bird is trapped or is found elsewhere, it can be reported. Birds ringed at Holme Bird Observatory have been recovered as far away as Nigeria, Syria, and Siberia, and birds ringed as far away as Finland, the Czech Republic, Finland and Israel have been recovered at Holme. Ringing at migration sites can identify many hundreds of individuals as they pass through on their migration routes. Ringing is a simple and “low-tech” method, but its value lies in the ability to build a large data base on a wide range of species, monitoring changes over time, whilst complementing more sophisticated and modern methods such as satellite tracking.

Bird ringing takes place through the year, but ringing activities are particularly intense during spring and autumn migration periods, and are generally most productive in the morning, often in the first few hours after dawn. In 2014, more than 10,000 birds were ringed by the NOA, with ringing taking place not only at Holme Bird Observatory, but also at a wide variety of other Norfolk sites.

The British and Irish Ringing Scheme is organised by the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO), with around 800,000 birds ringed in Britain and Ireland each year. Information gained from ringing is used to guide the policies of conservation bodies. The ringing data give vital information about bird movements, survival and population dynamics. Individual birds may be examined in the hand, and this provides important information about their health, such as the timing of their breeding, moult, and also the amount of fat that migrant birds are carrying as fuel for their journeys. Ringing enables us to monitor how successful a bird population is, and helps us to understand the causes of population declines. This understanding helps us to improve the protection we offer our birdlife.

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Norfolk Ornithologists Association, registered charity no. 267670, Broadwater Road, Holme Next The Sea, Hunstanton, Norfolk, PE36 6LQ