Friday, 22 June 2012

Norfolk - final odds and ends

Last Norfolk post. This one covers several places, in chronological order (sort of).

On the way from home up to our cottage, we visited Hickling Broad, a Norfolk Wildlife Trust reserve. I have fond memories of seeing my first Swallowtails here in 1995, but today it was grey, cold and very windy, and we saw very little, except this slightly dazed-looking Wood Mouse. Walking round the reserve rang no bells whatsoever so I think there've been a few changes since 1995. Still, I imagine it's lovely on a sunny day.

A bit of wildlife from around the cottage. The moth is a Buff Ermine, found on the wall the morning after I'd left a light on all night. The Red-legged Partridge was one of a pair that frequented the farm next door to the cottage, and the Swallow was one of a pair (or maybe two pairs) nesting in the farm buildings. Best wildlife in the garden though, was the Barn Owl that Rob saw flying right past the conservatory one evening.

On our first full day we went to RSPB Strumpshaw Fen in the morning. I've already posted the dragonfly photos from there, but here's a few more. Black-headed Gull, against an ominous sky (it actually didn't rain though). A lovely male Brimstone seen just outside the loos. And look at this - a mammal lifer! My first Chinese Water Deer, running away. It was in the field on the far side of the dragon ditch. I had the Bigmac macro lens at the time which is why my photos of the distant deer are so exceptionally bad.

On the Sunday afternoon we went for a walk along the sandy beach at Overstrand, which was very pleasant although rather lacking in wildlife. I include this sequence of a Herring Gull moving another Herring Gull from its intended perch because it made me laugh.

Monday was Titchwell, Tuesday was Blakeney and Cley, and Wednesday was Catfield Fen. Then on Thursday we went into Norwich. This was partly because Rob's nearly-new portable hard drive had failed and he wanted to go to PC World to get a replacement, but we also fancied visiting Norwich Cathedral, to take in its general magnificence and to see if we could get a look at the Peregrines nesting there.

Here's the cathedral. It is indeed magnificent (considerably more so than PC World). The Peregrine nestbox is halfway up the spire - good photos were never going to be on the cards.

Still, I could get recognisable photos with my birding lens (Rob was kicking himself for not having brought the Sigmonster). The bird coming in with prey is the male (according to the folk at the pointing-out-the-Peregrines stand).

Just before we had to rush back to the car (before our two hours of free parking at Morrisons expired), the male Peregrine treated us to a lovely close fly-by.

Thursday night was Cley once again. And then on Friday we had rain, lots of it. By the time it finally stopped and things brightened up, it was mid-afternoon, and we dithered over what, if anything, to do with the rest of the day. We finally decided to go to Sculthorpe Moor, the Hawk and Owl Trust reserve near Fakenham, and got there at about 5pm.

This is a small but wildlife-packed reserve of woodland and reedbed, with three hides and lots of feeding stations. The first hide overlooked woodland, and while the feeding station had attracted Pheasants and Red-legged Partridges there was not enough light for worthwhile photos. We went on to the Fen hide, and were soon photographing two lovely Bullfinches (plus swarms of Chaffinches and a couple of Greenfinches) on the bird table there.

Beyond the bird table is an expanse of reedbed, containing a Marsh Harrier nest. We saw both adults coming and going, but they were a long way off.

With one more hide to visit but only an hour before the reserve closed, I left Rob in the Fen hide and went off to the Scrape hide to check it out. On the way I had much closer views of Mother Marsh Harrier, and also saw (distantly) her mate carrying prey and fending off a curious Common Buzzard.

There was little to see from the Scrape hide (in fact hides, there are two side by side) but on the way back I enjoyed views of a distant Barn Owl.

We went home on Saturday, but called in to RSPB Lakenheath Fen on the way. Weather today was very windy indeed, which meant fast-moving clouds overhead and things changing rapidly and frequently from sunny to overcast and back again.

I last visited this place sometime in the early 1990s, to see the Golden Orioles that breed here. Back then there was no reserve, and the Golden Oriole spot (a Poplar wood alongside a river) was surrounded by fields. The RSPB have bought a load of land and turned it into reedbed, marsh and meadow. It's very impressive. On a fine day it must be glorious here, but on our visit the strong winds kept things rather quiet.

We'd not gone far down the trail before we were stopped by this juvenile Jackdaw, whose fearless approach suggests it's a handreared bird that someone released here. After establishing that we had no food on us it went off to investigate the next group of people.

 The first of several Hobbies went over when we'd just passed the first viewpoint.

The next viewpoint overlooked a small lake, in which I noticed a floating stick that seemed to be slowly moving against the wind-stirred ripples. Closer inspection revealed it to be a swimming Grass Snake, quite a sizeable one too. From the same viewpoint I photographed this male Marsh Harrier.

The reserve trail joined up with a public footpath along the Little Ouse. This riverside path is wonderful, the wide banks thick with meadowy vegetation. Here and there were small pools by the river, one of which contained three Mute Swans and this Whooper, surely of dubious origin. It looked to have a damaged wing, so may be a wild bird that was unable to migrate north in the spring. It seemed to be having a whale of a time nonetheless.

Hirundines and Swifts worked the grassland, while Common Terns fished the river. This clumsy individual lost its lunch, or maybe dropped it on purpose - it's not exactly a feast after all.

The walk took a couple of hours and was most enjoyable. No orioles today (too windy?) but they are seen regularly, as are Common Cranes. Definitely a reserve to visit again someday.


Rohrerbot said...

Incredible photos!!! Seriously! Peregrines, snake, Barn Owl?, Jackdaw, and my favorite is that of the swallow. Nice nice nice!! You certainly saw lots on this day. Thanks for sharing your work!!!

Mike Attwood said...

What an excellent collection of pictures. I've just come back from a week in Wales and you have bettered me by far.

Phil said...

Fantastic Marianne. I just don't know where to start. What a great week you had, I can't wait to get there myself.