Sunday, 4 February 2018
14. UEA Broads & River Yare
I often think that we don’t explore this area enough. Within walking distance of our house, we really should take advantage of this wildlife rich area more often. Awake early on a Sunday morning, we took advantage of the (seemingly) bright and brisk weather, and went for a muddy stomp around the UEA broad, a body of water created by quarrying for university building material in the 1970s, working our way back into Eaton along the River Yare.
We started in the woodland ‘behind’ the broad, past the ‘rabbit enclosure’ (a small conservation area used for ecological research) and over the bridge to meet the oncoming onslaught of cold rain and hail. The three great crested grebes, gulls and cormorants seemed a lot less bothered by this sudden downpour than we were. As the sunshine broke back through, we met the boardwalk that borders the River Yare. As we turned, we watched a wren bathe in a shallow pool to the tune of a singing robin. Two kingfishers whistled past us, flashes of orange and blue, one giving chase to the other. Stopping and waiting to see if they would return, we could hear blue and great tits in the trees, watching them nibble at pinky-purple catkins overhanging the mirror of water. My knowledge of tree species is shamefully poor, but I think these may have been alder…
Continuing until the boardwalk became the very muddy path to continue following the river, we were suddenly aware of two bright yellow birds watching us; a pair of siskin, the first I have seen in this area, chatting to each other and quickly flitting out of view. We slipped and slid our way along the river bank, encountering a mute swan using the current to its advantage and putting our slow progress to shame. Eventually, we caught up with her whilst she spruced up her already pristine coat of snowy feathers.
There is an area of land, where, last year, a number of trees were felled, chopped and left as dead wood. Here, a wren played hide and seek with us, searching its way into every nook and cranny in the tangled mess of wood. Here, we also found an excellent ‘bird tree’, with a host of woodland bird species. Watching blue tits and listening to the ‘teacher teacher’ of a great tit, I was suddenly aware of a small brown bird working its way up the bark, a tree creeper. Just when I thought I had spotted another, I realised from the high pitched call and (through the bins) a fiery head, that a goldcrest had joined the fray. This was quickly followed by a pair of nuthatch and a small team of long tailed tits all foraging in the branches.
For whatever reason, that particular tree seemed a great place for all of these woodland birds and I have marked it on my mental map to return to throughout the year.