Thursday 9 February 2023

Hickling guided walk, 9 February 2023

Though cold in the wind at times, mostly it was as sunny and bright as you could ever wish for on a winter’s day. A chaffinch was singing in the car park before eight of us checked in at NWT’s visitor centre; we were soon off on an anti-clockwise circuit of the nature reserve.

With Ann and so many reeds inevitably we soon found her speciality: cigar galls. Ann has trained us well and several of us were finding them; there must have been dozens. There was nothing to see from the first hide bar a distant harrier – there were plenty more later - so we walked on. Parts of the reedbed had been cut, cleared and burnt very recently, the usual round of winter management and habitat maintenance. The next stretch of the reserve yielded several birch polypores and the clear, metallic ‘ping’ of a calling bearded tit, though it stayed out of sight.

Cigar galls on reed.
Overlooking Hickling Broad the expected mute swan flock was well spread out. There were cormorants, great crested grebes and about a dozen very distant goldeneyes.

Having walked through the birch trees we reached where we could scan the reedbed. As well as the inevitable marsh harriers, there was a higher-flying raptor in the distance under a contrail which came nearer and became a red kite.

On a perch above the reeds towards the broad was a crow which had a greyish body, not as grey as a hooded crow but enough to catch the eye. Later, talking to Rachel and the team back at the visitor centre, they told us that what they regard as a hybrid hooded-carrion crow has been around, off and on, for five or six years.

Ducks on Brendan's Marsh: shelduck, shovelers, gadwalls, teals.

Brendan’s Marsh had an impressive collection of wildfowl, with shovelers, shelducks, gadwalls and teals packed together. We found a goldcrest in the wood on the other side of the path next to the marsh. 

Greylag geese seen through the hedge by Brendan's marsh.
There were plenty of greylag geese in several areas and we saw these best as we walked along the other side of Brendan’s Marsh: they were just the other side of the hedge, feeding in an arable field. That hedge had a lovely edge of flowering gorse, with its distinct coconut scent and yellow blooms attracting several honey bees.

Honey bee on flowering gorse.

From the Stubbs Mill raptor viewpoint it was warm in the midday sunshine. There were three flying great white egrets, albeit distant, and four soaring buzzards. A small oak tree had lots of marble galls.

Marble galls on an oak by the raptor viewpoint.

Back at the visitor centre it was warm enough to sit outside to eat picnics, where we could watch dancing winter gnats and be entertained by robins, long-tailed tits and house sparrows around the bird feeders.

Through this guided walk, and the following week's walk at in the Brecks, Honeyguide donated £175 to Norfolk Wildlife Trust.

Chris Durdin

No comments:

Post a Comment

Valencia: bird ringing sheds light on wetland warbler survival

For many Honeyguiders, one of the highlights of our March Valencia trip is to attend a bird ringing session at Pego Marshes Natural Park. Ou...