Shore larks at Holkham Gap

After visiting Titchwell on New Year’s Eve we dropped into Holkham and visited ‘Holkham Gap’ in search of a flock of Shore Larks. Shore Larks are very rare visitors to Britain – they breed in mountains in Europe and in the far north on tundra on open ground but a few birds get to Britain and winter on the East coast – Holkham Gap is a favourite spot for them.

holkham-gap
Holkham Gap is an amazing and huge area of salt marsh and sand dunes. Here it is at low tide – when the tide comes in it reaches the place where the people are walking. This picture doesn’t give a good impression of the size of the place – when the tide is out it is thousands of acres in extent and the distance from low water to high water is approaching a mile!

saltmarsh-and-duneAcross the salt marsh – a favourite place for birds to feed on the salt marsh plant seeds

holkham-sunsetWhen we arrived the sun was beginning to set

shore-lark
We quickly (and perhaps unexpectedly) found the flock of shore larks on the edge of the dunes – there were around 30 birds and they were quite flighty – I managed to snap a few pictures but it was rather dark and as a result the quality of the pictures is rather poor. However you can see the yellow and black face.

eremophila_alpestris_flava_blyth_5Here is a much better picture of a shore lark photographed at Blyth Harbour, Northumberland – via Wikimedia Commons (not one of my photos)
By MPF  [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0

A very smart and distinctive bird – always a pleasure to see shore larks in Britain – a bird from a very remote part of the world visiting one of England’s few remaining huge, wild  and beautiful places

 

 

 

A visit to Titchwell in Norfolk

Despite a rather ominous forecast (more fog) we nevertheless headed off to North Norfolk yesterday. As it turned out there was no fog to be found on the two hour drive from Northamptonshire or on the Norfolk coast. Here are a few photos of the RSPB’s reserve at Titchwell along with some of its birds. If you have never been to Titchwell it is well worth a visit – a combination of reedbeds, marshes and wetland scrapes. The birds seem very used to people and as a result you get good views of lots of birds close up.

titchwell-1
Across the reedbeds

titchwell-2
These are the new Parrinder Hides which I haven’t seen before. They are built on a new sea wall which protects the freshwater habitats from the saline ones. The work was completed in 2010/11 as part of the RSPB’s work to protect the reserve from sea-level rise and climate change. I’m glad to say the hides and the sea wall appear to have survived the 2013 Norfolk coastal surge event.

teal
A teal

shoveler
A shoveler

shelduck
A pair of shelduck

redshank
A redshank

grey-plover
A grey plover

dunlin
A dunlin

black-tailed-godwit
A black-tailed godwit

titchwell-beachWe finally got down to the beach for a bit of sea watching – it was mighty cold and windy down on the beach – my experience of sea watching everywhere.  We didn’t go down to the shore as there were a lot of waders feeding there. However some did and frightened them away  – poor bird craft ….

long-tailed-ducksAs a result the birds were a long way away – we were however treated to views of a number of very smart long-tailed ducks (record short above), common and velvet scoters and some red-breasted mergansers.

brambling
When the cold became too much we retreated – back at the visitor centre where we were saw a pair of brambling on the feeders there – I haven’t seen a brambling for years! Bird of the day for me.

Titchwell is a top 10 UK nature reserve and is well managed – plan a visit you won’t be disappointed. We didn’t see any bitterns or bearded tits but we saw several marsh harriers and heard a Cetti’s warbler – magic place.

Blickling Hall – four different views

Earlier in the week we did a 30 mile circular bike ride out from Holt to Blickling and back – all on quiet back roads  – even the A roads were quiet!

Blickling6Stopped outside Blickling Hall for a rest and a photo – one of my favourite National Trust properties – reminds me of my time when I worked at Wicken Fen – part of Blickling Hall housed the Regional Office – many a happy trip up to ‘Blickers’

Blickling1 2Found this picture from 1966! Me with mum and gran outside Blickling Hall

Blickling5The Christmas trees looked good so we thought we would return another day when it was dark

Blickling14pm on Boxing Day – it’s coming to life – still too light – off to the fabulous Bucks Arms for a pint (or two)

Blickling3Got a seat and a pint

Blickling2A well stocked bar in a friendly traditional pub  (owned by the National Trust but not run by us)

Blickling4That’s better!

But still no sign of the snow……

Kelling Heath, Muckleburgh Hill and will it snow?

We’ve been out for a walk on Kelling Heath and over to Muckleburgh Hill.

Muckleburgh1A pretty heavy frost meant we cancelled today’s bike ride …….

Muckleburgh3This is  Winter heliotrope (Petasites fragrant) – it is a native of North America  and normally flowers in December

Muckleburgh2Kelling Heath is covered in European Gorse

Muckleburgh8Up on Muckleburgh Hill we came across this herd of Highland Cattle

Muckleburgh6They are pretty friendly

Muckleburgh4And tolerant!

Muckleburgh7It’s a great view from the top of the hill looking west – in the photo you can see the marshes at Salthouse and Cley and then the shingle bank out to Blakeney Point

The big question for the rest of the day is ….. will it snow here later?

Holkham National Nature Reserve

A walk after presents but before dinner at Holkham National Nature Reserve. A few photos and the full photo set here.

Holkham NNR 10The sun beginning to set over the marshes

Holkham NNR 2The grasslands harbour thousands of pink – footed geese

Holkham NNR 5The wet grasslands attract lots of wigeon

Holkham NNR 6There are some little pools and ponds – don’t often get this close to a little grebe.

Holkham NNR 21And then down onto the huge beach in front of the dunes

Holkham NNR 18Amazingly we found this queen red-tailed bumblebee – still alive but only just – a first for me on Christmas Day!

 

 

Holkham Parkland wildlife

A second post from Norfolk – this time based around the magnificent parkland at Holkham on the North Norfolk coast. Here are a few photos – full photo set here.

Holkham Park1Sunlight dappling through the trees in the parkland

Holkham Park7Down to the lake

Holkham Park10A fallow deer stag

Holkham Park14Two exotic Egyptian geese

Holkham Park15Holkham Hall

Holkham Park16Nice group of shoveller ducks in the lake

Holkham Park23Part of a large flock of pink footed geese travelling from the coast to ploughed fields

 

A Cley sunset

We are up in Norfolk for a few days over Christmas and yesterday we went for a walk around Cley Marsh – the Norfolk Wildlife Trust reserve and perhaps the most famous bird reserve in the country – either way it is certainly one of my favourite places.

There was a great sunset last night too – here are a few photos of it.

Cley5Half an hour before sunset – over the marshes and back to the village

Cley3Over the shingle at sunset

Cley4The setting sun catches the wind turbines out to sea

Cley2The sky is on fire as the geese come into roost

Cley1Over the reeds and windmill

Hard to believe it was the same sunset and 20 minutes between the first and last pictures.