Thursday 8 April 2021

Potter Heigham guided walk, 8 April 2021

No rain, no hail, no snow: after recent ‘spring’ weather, that was a result on today’s guided walk at Potter Heigham marshes in the Norfolk Broads. It was far from warm and the wind was pretty brisk, it has to be admitted. The gardens of the chalets by the River Thurne were under water, but compared with the recent flooding in the River Yare that was minor and no problem on our route. 

Once we reached the newly created reedbeds and lagoons there were plenty of birds to see. Greylag and Canada geese were expected but a single pink-footed goose was not. Perhaps it was a late stayer, one of the thousands that winter in the Broads. Maybe it was injured but, if so, there was no obvious sign of that.

Pink-footed goose, with greylags either side.

Lapwings displayed and oystercatchers called though they were overshadowed by the amazing number of avocets, far from their usual coastal lagoons. There were 60 in a tight flock and another 15 or 20 not far from the main group. A single black-tailed godwit flew through, but the water was too deep for other waders. 
Avocets at Potter Heigham marshes.

Shovelers were the most obvious ducks though perhaps teals were the commonest, plus a scattering of wigeons, tufted ducks, pochards, gadwalls and shelducks. 

Mostly shovelers, with a wigeon far left and a gadwall right of centre.

The loud and distinctive song of Cetti’s warblers was frequent, albeit expected. It was when we reached a group of willows that we heard the sweetest sound of the day, a single willow warbler, my first of the year. That apart, summer visitors were simply absent, which surprised me as I’d seen scores of hirundines in the Yare Valley during the past week. There were distant buzzards (one over the garden on my return home was much closer, though) and marsh harriers showed well. 

We watched hares in a field by the track that makes the return leg to the car park in Potter Heigham. Then a strange bird for April: a single whooper swan, keeping the company of a mute swan. I’d seen this bird here in late February, so it was less of a surprise for me; perhaps – like the pink-footed goose – it has an injury, but again that wasn’t apparent.

Whooper swan, right, photographed on 24 February when it was much closer to the path

Back at the car park, most of us went to buy some food, hot drinks or other items in Lathams, which at least is a way of saying thank you for the store’s splendid car park. 

Chris Durdin


  1. Interesting and informative mornng

  2. I was around at this time of the trip & also noted the pinkfoot & the whooper swan with the mute. I do an e_Bird list for this site roughly once a month.An underwatched site I believe where anything could turn up. I really enjoyed reading your report. I "found" you because today I spoke to your group birding at Titchwell.


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