Monday, February 24, 2014

Cley and the East

This was probably the area I visited with the greatest trepidation during my time in Norfolk. I knew about the tidal surge and the tragic helicopter crash which killed members of the USAF. The crash site had been cleared  very quickly by the Americans with only a slight smell of aviation fuel still remaining. The rest of Cley NWT reserve had suffered damaged hides and sea water spilling into the fresh water pools. Much of the salt water had been cleared fairly quickly but most of the hides still needed lots of repair work doing to them. When I was there only one of the hides was open but still had bits of seaweed stuck to the ceiling. I also visited Salthouse where the defences had been breached. The photograph below shows some debris on the barbed wire. The bottom of the fence is higher that the car I was standing by

Wildlife is very resilient but the low numbers of waders on the pools might suggest that numbers fresh water invertebrates had been affected by the invading sea. It was still worth the visit however. A pair of marsh harriers were practising the food pass and good numbers of lapwing and wigeon were roosting close to the hide. A single dunlin scurried around the edge of the water but soon departed on the re-arrival of the marsh harrier. A confiding  house sparrow refused to depart until I took his picture. Further away hundreds of Brent geese continued their feeding. One of the locals said the flock contained a Black Brant but at that distance it was difficult to tell.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

West of Wells - Holkham, Sculthorpe and Titchwell

It is easy to get to Holkham from Wells by foot. The tide was coming in so a check of the beach was a priority. There had not been any reports of either snow buntings nor shore larks so scanning the sea seemed to be the best option. It was quiet most of the time there but I did see a single diver fairly close in. The dark half collar and almost black head demonstrated it to be a Great Northern Diver. It only stayed for about five minutes so I headed back inland to view the fields immediately south of the trees. Hundreds of wigeon, lapwing, a few pinkfeet, more teal, a few Egyptian geese and in a nearby pool a pair of goldeneyes. I was also able to observe the long staying Rough-legged Buzzard.
A trip to Sculthorpe Moor Nature reserve has also become a must for me. Two years ago I was able to photograph a Golden Pheasant there. Sadly this bird is no longer present. There were several marsh tits, nuthatch, long tailed tits, a very obliging water rail, a red kite and I don't think I have seen so many bramblings. The woodland also contained siskins, lesser redpolls and a drumming great spotted woodpecker

Titchwell is not too far from here either. Throughout the week I was able to see the damage that the tidal surge had left from December. At Titchwell the damage to the dunes was very evident. A brisk walk to the shore for a short time of sea watching revealed great crested grebes, thousands of common scoters, more dunlin, sanderling, turnstone, oystercatchers, curlews and a spotted redshank on the way there. Returning to the hides a very close grey plover gave excellent views, while on the fresh water its cousins, the golden plover were less obliging. I had good sightings of avocets, pintail, snipe, little egret, more Brent geese, and an elusive Mediterranean Gull. There was a woodcock sitting close to the entrance path in the small area of woodland. It was a brilliant demonstration of this bird's camouflage application. Even though we knew the location, we still had problems seeing it.

The journey home was brightened by an appearance of a barn owl sitting quietly on a fence post.

North Norfolk - Wells to Strumpshaw

I last visited Norfolk to celebrate becoming 70. In December last year, when I saw an offer to stay at a YHA hostel at a reduced rate for members I took it. Wells is ideally situated in the centre of the north Norfolk coast and by travelling by train, then using a senior citizens bus pass, both my bank balance and carbon footprint are helped. Despite the rest of the country experiencing constant rain, the week I stayed here was comparatively dry. An initial walk from the harbour to the RNLI house is always a good start. The plaintive cries of redshanks compete with the slightly louder oystercatchers as I commenced the journey. Skylarks were singing overhead and on hearing the distinctive sound of Brent geese, I knew I was on the East coast. I repeated this walk a number of times during the week and managed to note ringed plover, bar tailed godwit, little egret, little grebe, curlew, dunlin, sanderling and the usual plethora of gulls. Using my telescope to scan the sea helped me to spot several seals and a pair of Red Breasted Mergansers. Most evenings, I heard a tawny owl in the car park, and several mornings a song thrush was my early alarm clock.

I did rent a car for one day to visit Strumpshaw Fen. I always enjoy visiting there but must try some time in summer to see the Swallowtail butterfly. Marsh Harriers were quite active and an otter made a brief appearance. Sadly too brief to obtain a photo. A distant smew also made a record shot impossible. The sunshine did enable me to see teal, shoveler, mute swans, marsh tits, nuthatch, great spotted woodpecker plus the more common woodland birds. There was even some white dead nettle in flower. The photos also confirm that rare occurrence.. sunshine.