Chris Durdin joined long-time Honeyguiders Sue & Peter Burge and Helen & Malcolm Crowder for two days out in north Norfolk. They were staying at The Pheasant Hotel in Kelling.
17 August – Blakeney Harbour and Holt Country Park
Where was the late August heatwave that was once forecast? On a wet morning, with a boat trip booked for noon, we started by driving to the beach at Salthouse, then a brief stop to overlook Cley Marshes from NWT’s visitor centre. Here, from a fairly sheltered spot, a volunteer guide had his telescope on a pink-footed goose, a very early arrival for the winter. There was also a good number of black-tailed godwits, an avocet and a marsh harrier.
|Mostly harbour seals; the blotchy one is a grey seal.|
After a short detour to see Blakeney Quay we arrived at Morston in good time for the Blakeney Harbour seal trip. A surprise was seeing spoonbills flying around, firstly a group of four then singles in various directions. Once in the harbour there were curlews, little egrets and oystercatchers and an interesting range of boats described by the Beans Boats guides.
Out on the edge of Blakeney Point there were summering eider ducks, two of them, just before we reached the main group of seals, today mostly common (harbour) seals, mixed with some Atlantic grey seals. Banter from the guides include seal names: Ron (Ronseal) and a daft one called Imba seal (think about it).
We had lunch at Holt Country Park. The rain had stopped but it was still grey, so no butterflies on the buddleias. Once on the heath we stopped where there were bee wolf holes and, to our surprise, one showed and did some excavating. (More about this impressive solitary wasp here.)
|Round-leaved sundew, Holt Lowes (photographed on a sunnier day).|
We then moved onto Plumstead for a tour of John Durdin’s garden.
18 August – Wells, Warham Camp and Kelling Water Meadows
We parked near the Co-op and walked to East Quay, pausing for a lively flock of house sparrows in shrubby sea-blite bushes. The tide was out and the saltmarsh was colourful with sea lavender. Twice spoonbills flew past then disappeared from view into deep creeks.
The main lagoon at North Point pools at the eastern end had lots of water; next to it the seasonal flood had gone, the usual routine here with winter wetlands drying out for summer grazing. It was Helen who saw the crane in the large flock of greylags. For such a big bird it had a knack of disappearing from view, either behind tall rushes or in hollows.
|Crane at Wells, with greylags (digiscoped).|
The lagoon had a nice selection of waders: black-tailed godwits, avocet, ruffs, redshanks, lapwing and ringed plovers. A group of golden plovers flew around before settling and, in its usual way, we heard the ‘choo, choo, choo’ of a greenshank before it flew past. One of the spoonbills was in view on the way back to Wells.
We ate by the roadside at Warham before walking to the iron age fort. The chalk grassland here was a sea of wild flowers: small scabious, burnet saxifrage, stemless and carline thistles, squinancywort and thyme. We quickly saw our first chalkhill blue butterfly and, as the afternoon warmed, scores were on the move. Small skippers and painted ladies were among the other butterflies.
|Chalkhill blue butterfly, male.|
Autumn gentians were nice to find as we carried on our walk around the fort. A red-breasted carrion beetle earns a mention; Sue found a banded demoiselle not so far from the river at the bottom end of the circuit. Patches of yellow flowers here were wild parsnip; on the way in they’d been ragwort, surprisingly lacking in cinnabar moth caterpillars. A wall brown butterfly was a nice find.
|Red-breasted carrion beetle Oiceoptoma thoracicum.|