Field Trip: The Length of the Valley – (Part 3) 27 February 2011

Field Trip: 27th February, 2011: The Length of the Valley – Part 3   reporter David Knight

We arrived in bright sunshine at Shallowbrook Lakes carpark where Andrew was already directing traffic. We set off around the lake – all thirty-two of us – on the stroke of 0930 but saw only a few common species. As we followed the path up to higher ground and cut diagonally across a field we started to pick up the sound of Skylarks making the most of the sunshine. A great panoramic view of Norwich with the two cathedrals clearly visible seemed very close.

We emerged on to Red Bridge Lane picking up Goldfinch, Goldcrest and Mistle Thrush. Lots more Skylarks. At the end of the lane we stopped on the bridge over the River Tud for a few moments before dropping down onto the river bank and Gunton Lane Recreational area. Here we saw a number of woodland birds and our first Siskins high in the riverside alders. The footpath led us on to Marriotts Way which was busy with walkers and cyclists. We crossed over to negotiate the first of our many obstacles on route. They were no problem for members of the WVBS as we went under, over or through them with the agility of Royal Marines. We followed the Tud passing the fishing lakes where a brilliant Kingfisher stopped us in our tracks. Further down we reached Hellesdon Mill where the Tud flows into the River Wensum. We carried on in a circular loop back to Marriotts Way spending some time watching Reed Buntings and Stonechats. Our list was growing nicely.

Back over the obstacle we headed up Marriotts Way, where everyone saw an obliging Grey Wagtail, before cutting through towards the Wensum. We zig-zagged through field and meadow over stiles and fences working ever nearer to the Wensum. Several more species were added: Teal, Egyptian Geese, Sparrowhawk and another Kingfisher. As we passed a group of riverside alders someone with keen eyes spotted a Brambling amongst the Siskins high in the canopy.  As we all strained to get a better view a Lesser Redpoll flew in posing for a few moments in the bright sunshine. Great!  But, the best was yet to come. We followed Andrew through more dense undergrowth onto the Marsh, picking up Yellowhammer on the way, where he told us to look out for Snipe. As we walked, noisily, towards the Wensum with Hellesdon Low Road beyond, two Snipe suddenly went up followed quickly by four more and then more and more until we counted an amazing total of 25 birds we had flushed!  What a great and very unusual sight.  And a fitting end to a great day.

As we made our way back we had to cross a water-filled dyke via a narrow plank bridge with only a length of webbing handrail to hang onto. It turned out to be our last obstacle – thank goodness! On the way we spread out through a small copse to try and flush any lurking Woodcock but only succeeded in flushing some Redwing and Fieldfare. Our last tick was a Linnet was on the ploughed field. We came back to the cars after nearly 5½ hours walking and enjoyed every minute of it.  A great walk through countryside many of us had little knowledge of and so close to the centre of Norwich. A very respectable 50 species were recorded.

Many thanks to Andrew for sharing the secrets of his patch.

David Knight

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