Sunshine with a cool northerly breeze greeted this week’s Honeyguide group, with Rob Lucking, around the grazing marshes of Burnham Norton at the western end of Holkham National Nature Reserve (NNR).
|Grazing marshes at Burnham Norton.|
Paul Eele, warden of the NNR and a former RSPB colleague for Rob and me, came past and paused for a chat. He confirmed that the water channels on the grazing marsh had been enhanced by a rotary digger, here in the natural-looking shapes of creeks of the saltmarsh that it once was, centuries ago. In what is becoming a very dry April, Paul also told us that this old grazing marsh was retaining its water much better than marshes that are more recent reversions from arable to grass.
It was a good morning for mammals. At the back of the group, Helen and others saw a weasel cross the path. There was hare to our right and a Chinese water deer scampered across the marshes to our left before disappearing into reeds. Later, Ann saw an otter on the gravel by a gate in the marshes; two others managed to see it before it went out of sight into a ditch.
We heard a sedge warbler but we failed to find the yellow wagtail that Rob saw briefly. Later we found a singing sedge warbler that stayed where it was to allow good views through telescopes. Marsh harriers were constantly on the move. Then two more very good birds: the first was a bittern that boomed, albeit not often. The second was an immature little gull that was flying over a flooded area among a much larger group of black-headed gulls. We found it again on the return leg of our walk, including settled on the water. The dark lines on the upper wing means it was a first-winter bird, and it lacked the smoky underwing of the long-staying adult little gull at my local patch of NWT Thorpe Marshes (photos from Thorpe here).
At the farthest point of this fairly gentle circuit we overlooked saltmarsh out towards Scolt Head and inland towards Brancaster Overy Staithe. Avocets were feeding in creeks and a flock of brent geese flew towards us and settled.
sea walls were dominated by alexanders coming into flower, on which were many
ladybirds. There were mason bees in the dry path and one I photographed on
alexanders I think was grey-patched mining bee Andrena nitida.
View over saltmarsh towards Scolt Head.
the lagoons on this part of the walk we added shovelers, teals and tufted ducks
to the gadwalls and shelducks seen already. Little egrets go almost without
comment nowadays and the great white egret returned.
Grey-patched mining bee (provisional ID).
We said farewell to Honeyguiders not staying on for the afternoon; those out for the day had their picnic lunches in the sunshine by the cars, under the willows with the singing chiffchaff. Swallows came over us here.
A short drive took us to Lady Anne’s Drive at Holkham which was busy with people, as were the machines issuing tickets for parking. The popularity of Holkham beach means birds are acclimatised to people and the sculpted channels and scrapes in the marshes either side of the road had plenty of birds, offering close views. These include more displaying redshanks and lapwings, a snipe, close curlews, some late wigeons and more brent geese. After visiting loos at The Lookout café, we walked along the back of the pines and immediately lost the crowds who were obviously here for the beach.
It was sheltered and warm and that brought out butterflies, three that were first-of-the-year for most of us. A male orange tip flew past, then a green-veined white settled on a flowering currant. The third was a speckled wood, dancing around a stump. Peacock butterflies dashed past as well and a willow warbler sang. A marsh harrier called; the male was high above us, over the Corsican pines, in courtside display.
|Holm oak leaves: the bumps are Aceria ilicis mite galls, the brown patches are leaf miners.|
|Antlion larval pit.|
We then drove a little
farther west for a brief visit to North Point wetlands at Wells-next-the-Sea (previously
visited by Honeyguide on a much chillier 1
April). There were many hares on the fields and waders on the lagoons, including
black-tailed godwits and ruffs, but we couldn’t find the reported grey
phalarope. A spoonbill and a red kite flew over.
Wells North Point wetlands, one of the lagoons.