Trip reports

Pink feet and shore malarkey.

Pink feet and shore malarkey.
Graeme Hutchinson

Saturday, 14 January 2017

Despite dire warnings of thundersnow, snowmageddon, and other biblical scale floods and tempests preceding our trip to Holkham, the day passed without incident bathed in nothing more than sparkling sunshine and clear blue skies. For sure it was cold and there was a stiff breeze on the dunes but Holkham was unaffected by the previous day's gales and tidal surges. (Sadly, Cley Marshes, just along the coast, did not fare so well and has been inundated again).

Birding began early as flocks of redwing and fieldfare flew around Birchanger Services on the M11during our loo stop and a barn owl was spotted from the coach near Fakenham. Holkham is rightly renowned for the geese that winter there. Pink-footed and brent geese were around in huge numbers, every now and again being spooked noisily into the air by passing marsh harriers. Bean, white-fronted, greylag and Egyptian geese were added to the list by the end of the day.

First order though for those with wellies or foolhardy enough to risk a boot-full of freezing cold water was to squelch out onto the soggy saltmarsh between the pines and the dunes in search of shore larks. The search, not without its comic aspects, was ultimately unsuccessful despite there having been sightings of flocks of thirty or more in preceding days. We did however see sky larks, linnets and meadow pipits. We paddled onward to the dunes and were able to see a raft of scoters among the breakers out to sea.

Back behind the pines we saw a barn owl quartering the fields beside Lady Anne's Drive. A goldeneye was showing well on the pond beside the path to the hides as we headed for a late lunch. The view from the George Washington Hide was sublime, the reedbeds back-lit and sparkling in late afternoon sunshine. Long, wavy lines of pink-footed geese straggled untidily in from their inland feeding grounds, before tilting, jinking and dropping in to roost in front of us.

On the way back up the path we saw treecreepers and a personal highlight for me, a really close view of a firecrest. Back at Lady Anne's walk the barn owl was still patrolling the fence lines, the pink-footed geese yapping noisily and the low sun highlighting the brick and terracotta roof tiles of the estate cottages as yet more geese straggled in. Thanks to all who came on a special day.

posted by Graeme Hutchinson