Trip reports

Field Trip Report - Holkham

Field Trip Report - Holkham
Stuart Banks

Friday, 28 March 2014

Because of a mix-up our venue was changed from Titchwell to Holkham, about eight miles to the east, and somewhat different in character, without the undoubted advantage of a visitor centre.
Our visit coincided with a short spell of good weather in the recent solid rain and we enjoyed the sunshine as we headed north, but the chill during our comfort stop at the picnic site near Lakenheath reminded us that it was still winter.
Arriving at Holkham, and getting out of the coach in Lady Ann's Drive, the quicker members of our party soon spotted a distant hunting barn owl, that even I managed to see before it dipped out of sight.
As we moved towards the dunes a good sized flock of Brent geese occupied the field to our right, doubtless aware of the skeins of geese flying high above them in the pale blue sky. One skein became another flock of Brents as they descended towards their relatives, but after a few changes of direction they headed off without landing. Other skeins were composed of pink-footed geese and we enjoyed views of hundreds of these dusky headed birds flying, landing and feeding, mainly on the west side of the Drive, in company with large numbers of wigeon.
By the time we got onto the beach it was obvious that we would have quite a walk across acres of wet flat sand, in company with plenty of families and dog walkers, to get to the sea but we were soon in a position to scan both the sea and shoreline. About half an hour here produced a trio of bar-tailed godwits which were feeding, but they then flew past us plainly with not a trace of black and white in their wings. A number of sanderling which were busy as always at the edge of the waves offered good photo opportunities for those so inclined and a pair of red-breasted merganser flew low over the waves quite close in. Oystercatchers, great crested grebes, and a variety of gulls were pretty obvious but further out we located some birds which had to be ducks. As they rode the waves we could only see them intermittently as they reached each crest.Tthe usual problem! I think most managed to see them though a scope and with books checked we had identified them as common scoters and eiders.
After a lunch break sitting in the dunes our group headed back to the path through the pines and reaching the other side we were able to study a pair of grey partridge feeding only a few yards away. Heading west towards the hides a female goldeneye was a surprising find in a pond by the path and a little further on a goldcrest challenged us to get a good view as it flitted among the branches. From the first hide one could have spent an hour counting the ducks and geese in view but there was little else to see other than distant marsh harriers and a "possible" red kite.
The sun was still shining and there were thousands of birds to look at but with time slipping by, and our departure time approaching, some of us decided to visit the Rose Garden Café, just across the coast road. Here a good cup of coffee and lovely piece of Victoria sponge finished off a very nice day in Norfolk perfectly.