Buckenham Marshes with Geoff Crane, 14 November 2021

Geoff Crane is the man behind Crane's Cape Tours & Travel, both our local leader and ground agent for Honeyguide in South Africa. Flights recently restarted between South Africa and the UK, and Geoff was here visiting family. He also took time to come to Norwich, staying at Oaklands Hotel (which Honeyguide uses for Norfolk breaks, in and near the Norfolk Broads).

Geoff's visit coincided with Malcolm Crowder's birthday, so that gave two good reasons to organise a gathering of Honeyguiders for a celebratory meal.

A grey and damp Saturday afternoon at NWT Thorpe Marshes wasn't the best way to showcase November wildlife, so on the Sunday morning seven of us went to Buckenham Marshes, part of the RSPB's Mid Yare nature reserves. 

The Buckenham Marshes area is known for its huge roost of rooks and jackdaws, and during the day it remains a good place for rooks. Seeing them with an overseas visitor was a reminder of how we all have to learn the difference between rooks and crows. A flock of redwings moved west, though there were more starlings: Geoff said how there are European starlings in South Africa and they still go into winter plumage, but only for about a fortnight.

There were several Chinese water deer feeding on the grazing marshes. Geoff said their shape reminded him of waterbuck (though an antelope, not a deer). 

Birds of prey this morning were buzzard, kestrel and marsh harrier; there was no sign of the local peregrines. 

Wigeons, Buckenham Marshes.

Wintering wildfowl are always the main attraction here. With it being so mild, wigeons numbered in hundreds rather than thousands, but were still flying in impressive flocks and settling very close to the track. There were good numbers of shovelers and teals plus a few shelducks and gadwalls. Lapwings were scattered among the ducks and two golden plovers flew over.

It would have been surprising if we saw no pink-footed geese, especially as skeins had come over my house on the edge of Norwich at breakfast time. As well as plenty of 'pinks' in flight, on the marshes there were good numbers of Canada geese, greylags and handful of a local feral population of barnacle geese.

It was time for Geoff to think about heading back to Hampshire, though first we were treated to coffee courtesy of local Honeyguiders Tim and Cheryl.

Before last night's dinner I did a count of Honeyguide holidays with Geoff in South Africa: 124 of us in 15 parties since 2005. That's a lot of happy memories, myself included on four of these trips. Realistically we'll have to concentrate on closer holidays in 2022, though if there are any intrepid Honeyguiders who'd like to travel to South Africa, do get in touch and probably Geoff could be your guide.

Honeyguiders with Geoff Crane (middle, back).

Chris Durdin

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