Upton Marshes, 14 December 2020 – Honeyguide local guided walk.

Sunshine, after a rainy night, was a welcome sight as six of us gathered at Upton Staithe car park and set off alongside Upton Dyke. Looking west, over Norfolk Wildlife Trust’s Upton Marshes, there were three distant cranes all too briefly in the air. Next to show was a marsh harrier and, while we watched that, a peregrine falcon came into the same field of view. The peregrine settled on a gate on the field, and we saw it there or nearby off and on through the morning.

Oby Mill, across the River Bure.

After we turned left along the distinctly muddy path on the river wall, most of the activity was across on the other side of the River Bure and its reedy ronds over on Clippesby and Oby Marshes. There were a few groups of pink-footed geese flying around, though nothing that compared with the flock that Howard and Sue saw by the A47 Acle Straight on their way here today. There were at least two marsh harriers and large numbers of jackdaws, rooks and starlings, though most of our effort went into trying to get a clear view of some cranes in some long vegetation near the rather distant cattle. Eventually they did show: a family party of three, then a second group of three, with the best view when all six were in flight.

It was a bit easier scanning Upton Marshes where again we found a marsh harrier and the peregrine and Daphne picked up on a distant barn owl, though that soon went from view. There were also herons, greylag and Egyptian geese and Chinese water deer.

Tall Mill, Upton.

Flocks of lapwings were often on the move, with the biggest flock in the air soon after we’d taken our next left turn by Tall Mill. This track – also often rather muddy – was between tall hedges, on which there was a flock of fieldfares. There were plenty of open areas to allow scanning towards South Walsham Marshes, and early on a superb male marsh harrier flew close by us. A kingfisher dashed through and there was a buzzard perching on a post. Ann pointed out a different raptor near yet another marsh harrier; a sparrowhawk that dropped into the trees by Upton Fen.

The best was yet to come, on the last leg overlooking the marshes. A flock of cranes came into view and flew slowly westwards. As they spread out it became easier to count them: 35 cranes, which eventually dropped out of sight onto distant marshes.

We then walked into Upton village for a drink and a snack from the community shop, over which Ann saw a butterfly flying in the winter sunshine, though too distant to identify for sure. We then walked back to the car park past bathing house sparrows, weathervanes, Christmas penguins, a sign warning us not to feed the bears and a patch of winter heliotropes. Ann and I saw a red kite on the drive home to Norwich, making it quite a day for raptors.

Can we add these to today's bird list?

House sparrows bathing in a puddle.

Half of the money brought in from this walk is earmarked for Norfolk Wildlife Trust, match funded by the Honeyguide Charitable Trust, leading to a donation of £120 for NWT.

Chris Durdin

Comments

  1. Excellent account of what sounds like a great day - so many raptors. Also heartening to see you use the word 'ronds'. Nobody else I know has the faintest clue what it means and you'll be hard pressed to find it in any dictionary. Top stuff!

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