Trip reports

Bexley RSPB Trip to Sculthorpe Moor and Holkham Sunday 20 November 16

Sunday, 20 November 2016

Bexley RSPB Trip to Sculthorpe Moor and Holkham Sunday 20 November 16

This trip marked the end of a relationship between our Group and L.S Travel who have carried us on approximately six trips per year since the end of 2004.
Len Mitchell has piloted his coach for many hundreds of miles along motorways carrying us in safety and comfort, and along narrow rutted reserve gravel tracks without a word of complaint where lesser mortals might have turned back and made us walk! Len and his lovely wife Sue (who even served us hot drinks in the early days) are retiring and we wish them all good luck as they travel far and wide in their new camper van.
On this day with the words of the forecasters "Amber Weather Warning" fresh in our minds we headed for Sculthorpe Moor near Fakenham in Norfolk with just intermittent light drizzle to keep the wipers busy. Arriving at the Hawk and Owl Trust Visitor Centre, a new venue for the Group, we alighted in a dry spell and after checking out the facilities headed out onto the nature trail stopping first at a viewing screen where a water rail took food dropped by finches on the feeders above. When the rail had wandered out of view we went on to the Frank Jarvis Hide where we found more feeders being visited by chaffinches, greenfinches, marsh, blue, great and coal tits, nuthatch, robin, dunnock, moorhen, blackbird, and a half a dozen pheasants. The paths through the obviously wet woodland here are all boardwalks and my last stop was at the Volunteer Hide which is elevated and reached by an Aerial Walkway. Going in I found some of our members sharing a couple of windows where birds including brambling had been watched as they fed just a few feet away on a shelf-like bird table outside. Bramblings, so similar to chaffinch but easily separated, are not common and after a few minutes wait I was able to appreciate the plumage differences once again.
Back at the Centre with hot chocolate in hand I was directed to a glass box wherein very active harvest mice proved just how wonderfully varied and surprising nature can be.

The drive from Sculthorpe to Holkham should be about 25 minutes, just enough time for most on the coach to eat a sandwich or two but I'm afraid I was a little too engaged with my cheese & pickle and, against his better judgment, managed to direct Len onto the wrong road! Undaunted Len took the first left and we regained our proper course via the villages of Little Snoring and Great Snoring - the "pretty route" Sorry Len.
With the coach temporarily parked in Lady Anne's Drive we donned waterproofs once more but with some extra layers plus woolly hats to keep out the colder coastal breeze. The fields each side of the Drive held a few hundred pink footed geese, large flocks of wigeon and a good selection of waders including lapwing, curlew, godwit, snipe, redshank and ruff. The little group with me spent some time here while we went through the ducks and waders sorting out the varied lengths of bill and leg. The birds on view were disturbed for a few minutes by a marsh harrier that flew over looking for a meal but they soon resumed their eating, preening and sleeping.
With time marching on we marched off towards the sea, negotiating the very shallow pools that snake across the sands at low tide. The sea is generally pretty rough here but the gales promised in the forecasts hadn't materialized. Birds were few and far between with just herring gulls on the beach and a mix of black headed and larger gulls further off. Only one dark looking gannet passed by before we went back to the dunes to look for brent geese reported earlier, and we eventually spotted about 30 of them feeding in the saltings some way away. These were just about the last birds of the day for me and I climbed back on the coach glad that the day had been so relatively mild for November.

Birds seen at the two venue's little grebe, gannet, little egret, great white egret, grey heron, pink footed geese, graylag goose, brent goose, Egyptian goose, wigeon, gadwall, teal, mallard, tufted duck, red kite, marsh harrier, sparrowhawk, buzzard, kestrel, peregrine, grey partridge, pheasant, water rail, moorhen, coot, oystercatcher, lapwing, sanderling, ruff, snipe, black tailed godwit, bar tailed godwit, whimbrel, curlew, redshank, turnstone, black headed gull, lesser black backed gull, herring gull, great black backed gull, woodpigeon, collared dove, great spotted woodpecker, skylark, meadow pipit, pied wagtail, wren, dunnock, robin, stonechat, blackbird, goldcrest, long tailed tit, marsh tit, coal tit, blue tit, great tit, nuthatch, jay, magpie, jackdaw, carrion crow, starling, house sparrow, chaffinch, brambling, goldfinch, greenfinch, siskin, linnet, bullfinch, reed bunting 72 species