Sunday, 22 January 2017

2. Lower Wood, Ashwellthorpe

The Sun’s rays scattered by ice covered glass and grass turned into cake 
frosting; white, hard and crunchy under foot, it was a frosty winter’s morning in Norfolk. Parking at the medieval church in the village, birds could be heard calling from the suburban trees, surrounding fields and woodland. The short walk to the reserve was pleasant, a small distance along the road, then a public footpath along the perimeter of a field. The mixture of open landscape and woodland was a contrast that seemed popular with local birds of prey. A pair of buzzards took flight, greeting us upon entering the woodland over a small bridge. No sooner had we entered the woodland, and we were surrounded by smaller woodland birds calling and scattering, as well as a few chattering grey squirrels and a roe deer, before it caught sight of us. The tiny goldcrest imperceptibly moving from twig to twig and a treecreeper, somewhat more confiding, winding its way up the bark of trees nearby. 

Following the NWT arrows took us around the edge of this small reserve, with robins, blue- and great tits traversing the walkways ahead of us. Great spotted woodpeckers could be heard calling, but did not make themselves known by sight. A kestrel silently glided, carving the skyscape with long tail and arrow like wings, landing gracefully in the bare canopy. The coppiced trees provide ample cover for small birds with their almost impenetrable vertical swords of thin branches, closely packed. Larger trees twisted their gnarled trunks skyward, their asymmetry pleasing to the eye. Every tree, it seemed, filled with the calls and songs of woodland birds. As we completed the trail, a treecreeper was again at the entrance to bid us farewell.

Saturday, 14 January 2017

1. Whitlingham Country Park

On the coldest weekend of the winter so far, when tidal surges had caused parts Great Yarmouth and other coastal areas to be evacuated and many reserves were partially underwater, we tried our first new area of 2017: Whitlingham Country Park.

The forecast had been for snow and sleet most of the day, but, thankfully, the sun shone brightly in a crisp, blue sky all afternoon. We arrived at the park for the final hour of daylight, hoping the cold snap had brought out foraging birds, including winter visitors. Walking briskly to fend off the cold, we took the circular walk around Great Broad. A pair of Egyptian geese plucked at the grass and called softly to each other as we passed. Great rafts of tufted ducks, accompanied by gadwall, pochard, coot and the odd great crested grebe drifted with purpose, diving below the water. Canada and greylag geese, patrolled the margins of the broad, accompanied by several pairs of mute swans.

As the Sun sank further, there was something delicious about the way the light illuminated the water’s surface, putting a spotlight on the wildfowl that danced both below and above the pool of watery winter sunlight; the reeds the fairy lights to guide visitors along the water’s edge. Silhouettes of long tailed tits flitted restlessly in the leafless tall trees, calling to other members of the gang as they flew. Blue tits, as high as they could be, their yellow breasts highlighted by the last rays of Sun. A grey heron glided along the bank, broad wings outstretched. A flock of green finches performed over the broad, settling into a naked tree, decorating its branches. Cormorants adorned yet other trees, settling far apart. A wonderful end to a wintry day.

A Challenge for 2017

Late last year, I ran out of time to update my blog often, but that doesn't mean we weren't out and enjoying the sights and sounds of wild Norfolk.

This year, I've decided to set myself a challenge. I love the reserves we visit regularly, but I haven't discovered anywhere new for a while. This year, I would like to visit as many different reserves in and around Norfolk as I can, hopefully with the added bonus of increasing my life list of species and my identification skills.

I have a few places on my list to start with, but I would appreciate any local knowledge in finding more, so if you have any ideas, please do leave a comment below!