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.

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