I chose Holt County Park as the second location for Honeyguide’s local guided walks as it had proved popular with those on our ‘Norfolk breaks’ in September, and to come here today as the weather forecast looked good and there was a good chance for autumn colours and late flowers.
|Holt Lowes SSSI in the sunshine.|
And so it proved, despite the uncertainties of a long-range weather forecast. Moving on from the attractions of the car park, loos and coffee as a meeting point, we walked steadily through the plantation woodland and onto the heath of Holt Lowes, taking an anti-clockwise circuit with the boggy bits by the Glaven River to our right. Heather and bell heather were still in flower plus the paler pink blooms of cross-leaved heath in wetter areas. Other lingering flowers included marsh lousewort, ragged robin and lesser spearwort. Leaves on sundews proved harder to find than in September: there were a few, but mostly the plants were limited to tiny stalks.
Western gorse was a mass of yellow, with its lower growing form and late flowering season its most obvious features. Being virtually without scent is another clue, and that was highlighted by finding a few coconut-scented blooms of common gorse when going through the tunnels of this taller species over parts of the path.
There were plenty of birds, though many of these were in flight. Winter thrushes came over but didn’t show well, meadow pipits and skylark calls were fleeting. Robins and wrens sang; jays, woodpigeons and woodpeckers (green and great spotted) called or flew past. Much of the time there were finches calling: flight calls of redpolls and siskins were regular and a couple of times there was the subtle whistle of a bullfinch, though it didn’t show.
Then six chunky finches perched on a treetop: a party of crossbills, three of which were red males. It’s a good year for these in north Norfolk, with hundreds arriving across the North Sea during the summer, but you still need a bit of luck to see them. They were new birds for two of our necessarily small group under the ‘rule of six’.
|Silk button galls.|
Honeyguider Mervin Nethercoat has inspired several of us to enjoy looking at galls, and we found four that live on oak, namely oak apple, knopper galls (in large numbers on the ground at one point), spangle galls and silk button galls.
Much of the time was taken up with looking at and photographing fungi. We are all low on the learning curve when it comes to identifications, though noting fly agarics, birch polypores, tar-spot on sycamore leaves and sulphur tuft at least covers some of the more numerous and obvious species. I expect some photos will go unlabelled for some time, but here are two more IDs: purple jellydisc and amethyst deceiver. I’m very happy to be corrected – or have these confirmed – if any reader knows better.
|Purple jellydisc on a birch stump.|
A recently cleared area of heath had climbing corydalis and heath groundsel in flower, though no sign of the adders that a passing dog walker mentioned. Back in the woodland we admired a chainsaw sculpture of a buzzard and grey squirrel before returning for a coffee from Hetty’s café which we shared, along with a packed lunch for some, on one of the park’s picnic benches.