Entertaining at New Year

“I want to see some Birds”

I knew exactly what Chris was thinking. He wanted to see the tens of thousands of Knot dancing on a spring tide at Snettisham, or the flocks of Geese arriving and departing at dusk and dawn. Neither was ever so likely when I checked the tide times and the phase of the moon. Decisions would be made when Chris and Liz arrived from Chester.

New Year’s Eve. Not up too early and the weather did not look that promising. But Birds it had to be. An article in the EDP about Pensthorpe seemed inspiring, and there would be the café! I had not known that the pool outside the observation window has hot air bubbling into it. Ducks and geese were definitely enjoying the un-iced water. Lots of water birds for Chris and plenty of identification information around.

We slowly wandered over the bridge and up a wooded path to a hide overlooking water. Plenty of feeders to watch and we were delighted with Coal Tit, Long-tailed Tit, Great and Blue Tit, Marsh Tit, many Greenfinch beautifully coloured, a Treecreeper, Robin Chaffinch. It was a truly good ½ hour, but the hide began to fill so we wandered on.

We had a lovely walk along those paths were open and found ourselves back hear the centre. Two Lady Amherst Pheasants, both males, with one seeming to be defending his territory, his silver collar puffed out large and proud – very handsome. We had hoped to go into the conservation area to see cranes but it was closed. So ‘honey roasted parsnip soup’ sounded very inviting.

We ended our visit watching the floodlit feeding, accompanied by an information talk by the warden as he fed the birds.

New Year’s Day. Arising rather late we did not get away until almost noon. Birds were still the agenda and, oh dear, Bittern was mentioned. That and it being so late RSPB Strumpshaw seemed to be the best destination. A lovely welcome by the volunteer on duty who gave Chris and Liz a brief talk about the reserve and what could be seen. (Why had a Bittern been seen that morning from Reception?)

A Reed Bunting and a Blue Tit were walking on ice by the reed bed. Mallard and Coot had taken over the un-iced areas in front of reception. It was a very quiet walk to Fen Hide, but we did spot a Barn Owl sitting outside its box on the edge of the wood across the marsh. Cameras and accessories had taken over Fen Hide but we managed to edge our way to a seat. A Peregrine had been seen feeding and a pair of Crows were busy with their lunch whilst perched on posts in front of us. Two Marsh Harriers flew around, firsts for Chris and Liz. I had only taken binoculars so was scanning the reed edges when, lo and behold, I spotted a Bittern at the end of the left hand water channel. Everyone managed to see him before he disappeared into the reeds, and how relieved was I. As more people piled into the hide we decided to move on.

A fairly wet and muddy walk brought us to Tower Hide. Eagerly we scanned Teal, Wigeon, well presented Shoveler and a lone Snipe when a cry of “Bittern flying left to right” was heard. Well, there he was, the sun shining on his beautiful markings as he flew in front of us. I don’t think Chris ad Liz really understand how fortunate they were that day. We took the long, and rather muddier, walk back, noticing Redwing and Fieldfare on the way.
The weather had been really good to us and there was a colourful sunset on the drive home. I have now been charged with finding tide times and moon phases for the autumn so that Chris and Liz can book for a return visit!

Liz Bridge

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