Monday, February 27, 2012

West of Wells Feb 17 - 24

The day starts with the short trip from Wells-next-the-Sea to Holkham. The fields near the entrance to Holkham gap are unusually bereft of geese so a brisk walk took us to the beach. A walk Eastwards towards the sand dunes initiated our search for shore larks. They have been in short supply this year but after about a twenty minute careful search we saw the four birds not too far from the dunes. There had also been some Lapland Buntings reported the previous day, but no success for anyone this day for these birds. On returning to the woodland we heard firecrest in an oak, which turned out to be Holm Oak and another to add to my list. We then saw some goldeneyes, some Canada geese, a few little grebes and a muntjack deer

Our next port of call was the Hawk & Owl Trust reserve at Sculthorpe Moor. This is a small reserve but I would encourage anyone who visits North Norfolk to pay a visit. As we arrived someone had just seen Golden Pheasant but that was not our privilege. On our way to the woodland hide we did see and hear both willow and marsh tits as well as the more common species. Consuming lunch in the hide ensured we had good views of red legged partridge and a great spotted woodpecker. They have another hide overlooking a scrape where a very obliging water rail comes to feed every 25 minutes. He shot back into cover when a grey Heron flew too close. We returned towards the visitor centre and as we got closer someone waved to us to hurry to where they were standing. They had spotted the Golden Pheasant. It does not look real, and how such a brightly coloured bird can be so hard to spot is one of life's mysteries. I managed one shot
From a small reserve to a large one. Welney WWT reserve is some distance, but within reach. The day continued to be dry and sunny helping us to see lots of hares and avian game. I continued to decline the pheasants' invitation to run them over. At the reserve wildfowl were in abundance with Whooper swans, pintail, wigeon, tufted duck, gadwall and of course mallards. I asked one of the folk there was there anything about but his reply "Nothing" made me feel disappointed for him. There were all the birds I had just mentioned as well as a couple of hares and four roe deer. The day I don't get excited about blue tits or house sparrows, is the day I cease to be a naturalist. A walk northwards to the furthest hide enabled us to see a few Bewick swans just flying in. The other thing I noticed here as at Cley, was the shortage of water. I think all of us need to mange our water use better, think of more ways to save water and those of us who believe in prayer, pray that more rain will come to the South and East.  Tichwell RSPB reserve was the next destination. We were trying to catch the high tide. Part of our journey took us through Brancaster Staithe and we were delighted to see a rough legged buzzard. There had been several reported in the area. After parking up at Tichwell, we glimpsed another Arctic Redpoll and another obliging water rail

They have built a new hide since I was last here and I was impressed by it. The volunteers were very good as well, even though one of them upstaged me by saying he had his 30 year volunteering badge, as opposed to my only 20 years. Brent geese, lots of gulls, which included two Mediterraneans, pintail, gadwall, redshanks, avocets and the ubiquitous coot were good to see. Continuing to the shore we passed a spotted redshank feeding in the brackish lagoon.

Once on the beach, the telescope came into play. Scores of gulls flying past were just the preliminary act to the stars of the show. There was a small raft of common scoter and suddenly, right by them a red-throated diver. It was stunning, and so close to shore. Another group of birds approached but with the ocean swell, identification was a problem. Fortunately they too came very close and we enjoyed seeing five long-tailed ducks - fantastic !! Dusk was making viewing difficult so we headed back to the hostel. We were not surprised to see another barn owl right by the edge of the road. This meant I have seen more barn owls this year than I have house sparrows. The last three blogs have been a condensed version of my week's visit that brought my Challenge total to 205  

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