Trip reports

Are those geese flying backwards?

Are those geese flying backwards?
'Geese over gold' by Jon Perry

Thursday, 15 January 2015

After a week of dodgy weather and doom-laden forecasts, Doreen, co-leader of our Holkham trip on Saturday, made a bold prediction as we left London. "We will drive through a weather front on the way, but the weather will have cleared up by the time we get there".

Well she was bang on with that. The heavens opened as we pulled in to Walkers Snack Bar at Barton Mills for our comfort stop, but we parked in Holkham village car park under clearing skies. It was, however, blowing a hoolie. Pink-footed geese attempting to fly into the wind were repeatedly blown backwards - two flaps forward, one flap back.

Countless other pink-feet were sensibly staying on the ground. A seething mass of geese stretched away to our left as we walked into Lady Anne's Drive. There were other geese mixed in with them but the strength of the wind at this point made close examination of the flocks problematic, with our eyes streaming and telescopes prone to tumbling over. We did spot some brent, greylag and Egyptian geese, but no sign of the reported vagrant snow goose.

We found respite in the shelter of the pines and watched stonechats flitting from ground to fence and back again. As we walked through towards the sea those retaining better hearing than me detected calling goldcrests and someone spotted a tree creeper.

Venturing back into the wind, we squelched onto the saltings looking for shore larks. A squall arrived out of nowhere, lashed us briefly with hail, then blew away as quickly as it came. We spent the rest of the day in sunshine. No luck with shore larks, but a flock of skylarks played hide and seek with us.

The wind was whipping streamers of sand off the top of the dunes. The sea was too rough to spot much in the water, but was dramatic. It was a great place to be. Bracing just doesn't describe it. Hyperactive sanderlings ran along the water's edge, racing the waves. Oddly for waders, they seemed averse to getting their feet wet.

We retreated towards the hides in the pines for lunch. Those sharp eared types were hearing firecrests in the trees along the way, but I think only the most dedicated got a glimpse. Much easier to see was a goosander in one of the pools.

The pink-feet would periodically rise en masse, spooked perhaps by a rampaging peregrine. There were more lapwings than I've seen in one place for some time. As the light fell we returned to Lady Anne's Drive where we would usually hope to see barn owls. No luck this time, although some had been seen elsewhere on the reserve. As I headed back to the coach hundreds of geese lifted noisily as if to say goodbye - one of nature's great spectacles.

p.s. From the coach on the way there we saw two red kites near Fakenham. I don't know if it is unusual to see red kites in North Norfolk. Can anyone enlighten me?

Thanks to Jon Perry for the photo. If you want to get a feel for the atmosphere on the day, take a look at more of his photos on his flickr site: