Norfolk Wildlife: January 2023

At the end of January, Sue and I spent a week in North Norfolk exploring the wildlife of the area. Our first stop, on the way up from London, was at Lackford lakes, a Suffolk Wildlife Trust reserve, which has a number of lakes and is often good for wintering duck. Although only common species were seen, we did get some excellent views of a Muntjac deer as it fed under the bird feeders.

The next day we went to Sheringham to look for Turnstones and Purple Sandpiper along the beach. There were plenty of Turnstones, but we didn’t find any sandpipers.

Our first stop on day 3 was at Glandford to see a Long-eared Owl, which was roosting in the back garden of a shop. Normally these birds roost in thick bushes and you have to look closely just to see an orange eye looking back at you, but not this one which was sitting out in the sun.

From here we went onto Cley Marshes, a Norfolk Wildlife Trust reserve, and one of our favourite places.

Here the highlight was a Long-billed Dowitcher, a rare visitor from America, which has been wintering with a flock of Black-tailed Godwit. It was unfortunately asleep all the time I was there but although it has similar plumage to the Godwits, the size difference and different leg colour were clearly visible.

Also managed to photograph a Marsh Harrier in flight

On our way back to our cottage, we stopped briefly to observe a large flock of Pink-footed Geese in a field (c2000) and were lucky to also see one of the Taiga Bean Geese which has been wintering with the flock. These geese are becoming rarer winter visitors to the UK and it has been a number of years since I last saw one.

Taiga Bean Goose (Photo by Dave Curtis [])

Day 4 saw us travelling to the National nature reserve at Holkham. On the beach, there was a small party of Shore Lark, but the disturbance from walkers and people using the beach was keeping them on the move and it was difficult to get a good view. Afterwards, I walked along the side of Holkham Marsh through the pine forest adding a number of woodland species plus wintering ducks and Geese on the marsh.

Shore Lark (Kent 2021)

On day 5 we visited the Hawk and Owl Trust reserve at Sculthorpe near Fakenham. This reserve is undergoing a large expansion with the addition of a new wetland and eventually a wildflower meadow for invertebrates, so it was good to see how the work is going. The wetland and the new hide overlooking it are now open and from here we saw both Little and Great White Egret. Other highlights were good views of Bullfinch, Great Spotted Woodpecker and more Muntjac.

Day 6 and a visit to Pensthorpe Nature Park, a private reserve just outside Fakenham. Highlights seen included Goldeneye, Barnacle Geese, Pink-Footed Geese and Great White Egret.

Day 7 saw us heading home but not before a stop at the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust reserve at Welney. We were fortunate to see both Whooper and Bewicks Swans feeding on the fields before we arrived at the reserve as there were not many Swans actually on the reserve itself. There was a good selection of wintering ducks though and lovely to see both Goldeneye and Pintail, two of our most attractive duck species here. The other highlight was the Tree Sparrows, which come to the feeder here. This is another species that whilst never very common have declined in number in the past 40 years and it has disappeared from many of its previous sites. Welney though remains a reliable place to see them.

A great week away and apart from the days travelling to and from London, we never drove more than 30 minutes from our cottage, showing what a fantastic place North Norfolk is for Wildlife. In all, I saw 81 species but the absolute highlight was that fantastic view of a Long-Eared Owl


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