Leader: Steve Chapman
Reporter: Stephanie Plaster
This wonderful reserve contains a wide range of different habitats including, alder carr, woodland, hay meadows, reedbeds, ponds and scrapes, plus numerous ditches and drains criss-cross the site. The River Wensum winds along the perimeter. There are seven large hides, plus paths are well defined and signposted and the boardwalks are well maintained for easy access. There is also an extensive enclosure to the west of the site, containing two adults Beavers, as can be seen on the site map below.
Everyone met in the carpark at 9.00 am and it was decided that we should split into two groups as there was a large number of members attending. Steve Chapman led one group and David Laurie the other. Even in the carpark there were birds to be seen with a Red Kite flying over and a Pied wagtail and two Goldfinches recorded, there were also several Greenfinches calling from the trees around the visitor centre. Despite the blustery, chilly wind and grey skies there were plenty of birds about with House sparrows, Robins, Dunnocks, and Blackbirds aplenty around the pond-dipping area, close the centre’s reception.
The group led by Steve, stopped close to the dragonfly hide to admire a Song thrush, whilst a Mistle thrush could also be heard singing close by. From the hide we could see several birds on the feeders including a lovely male Bullfinch, Nuthatch and there were also Blue tits, Great tits, plus a distant Little Egret could be seen beyond the fence (within the Beaver enclosure) and a Jay and pheasant were also spotted in the woods. From the hide we made our way past several calling Chiffchaffs and Wrens towards the Woodland hide. A couple of Brown Hares were seen in the cornfield adjacent to the path, but not much else. A sharp-eyed member of
the group also spotted a tiny Goldcrest flitting in the Hawthorns and Ivy, it was viewed by several others too. Striking Dragonfly sculpture adorns the first hide.
Moving on, a Marsh tit could be heard in the distance, then we were lucky enough to see one at a feeding station within the woodland area, we could also see and hear Nuthatches, their distinctive calls echoing around the trees. Long-tailed Tits could also be seen flitting about. At the Whitely hide now, we saw Red Kites, Buzzards and a Marsh harrier flew around the distant poplar trees. One of the Buzzards (a very pale one) was double ‘wing-tagged’ with distinctive yellow tags – but it was too far away to read any numbers on it though! This hide overlooks reedbeds and has distant views towards Fakenham, flocks of Jackdaws and other Corvids could be seen and a couple of Herring gulls flew in. Magpies were spotted mobbing a Carrion crow. At the feeding station here below the hide, were Collared doves, Chaffinches, a Coal Tit, good views of a male Reed Bunting, a Stock Dove was flying around too and a Swallow also flew past, this was also spotted later by the other group.
From the Whitely hide we made our way to the Tower hide, four Redwings were located in the trees and at the Tower hide we were lucky enough to see a splendid Lesser Redpoll feeding on an Alder right in front of the viewing windows, a larger flock was also seen and heard when we left this hide. We also viewed the Tawny Owl in its box from the path on our
way to the Wetland hide. A Grey Heron also flew over.
The Wetland hide was massive and had stunning views of the large scrape, so scanning the pools and shingle we were able to spot two Little Ringed Plovers, two Redshank, eight Snipe, several Greylag geese, Mallards, lots of Teal, two Little Grebes kept popping up and down and most people managed to see them. There were also several Lapwing, one appeared to be on a nest, a couple of Coots were fighting in the reeds and a Lesser Black-backed Gull drifted over along with a few Black-headed Gulls, some in summer plumage with their distinct brown head! A Cormorant was also seen, but veered away before most people could get on it. There were also a couple of Buzzards at the far end of the pool on a post – doing things that Buzzards do in springtime......
The weather was not playing ball now and a sharp squall blew in whilst we were here and so we decided, after this had passed, to wend our way back to the centre. I think everyone was pretty satisfied with the day’s birding and around 58 species were seen or heard which is pretty good considering the chilly wind and sporadic rain showers, a lovely site well worth the
The second half of our party made straight for the Whitley Hide, noting Nuthatch and singing Chiffchaffs on the way. At the hide there were several Reed Buntings, Marsh Tit, Chaffinches and a Redpoll. Moving on, we saw a Tawny Owl roosting in its box (as advertised) and a Barn Owl in a Kestrel box in a tree within the Beaver enclosure. At the new Wetland Hide where
there were three Little Ringed Plovers, half a dozen Snipe hunkered down in tussocky grass out of the brisk and chilly westerly wind, a pair of Little Grebes, Teal, two Oystercatchers and some Lapwings. Also present was a Buzzard and a Red Kite. Most surprising was a brief view of a Swallow.
A visit to the Tower Hide produced various Tits and a stroll down to the Scrape Hides passed three more Redpolls and a Cetti's Warbler singing close to the path but, as usual, invisibly.
The Scrape Hides were very quiet so we headed back to the Visitor Centre via the Woodland Hide. By this time the weather had worsened and there were a couple of sharp showers. At the Dragonfly Hide we added Bullfinch to our list and then it was time for lunch.
After, I went with Paul Adams for another look from at the Wetland Hide but this produced no additional sightings. He decided to head for Swanton Novers to look for a reported Long- eared Owl while I took another look at the Scrape Hides. A sunny spell was warm enough to bring out a butterfly (a Peacock) and though nothing had appeared on the pools apart from a
Mallard and a Greylag Goose there was a passing Sparrowhawk. Heading back there was a Great Spotted Woodpecker on the feeder at the Visitor Centre, and that for me was the end of an excellent day out.
List for the day was:- Barn Owl, Blackbird, Black-headed Gull, Blue Tit, Brambling, Bullfinch, Carrion Crow Cetti's Warbler, Chaffinch, Chiffchaff, Coal tit, Collared Dove, Common Buzzard, Coot, Cormorant, Dunnock Goldcrest, Goldfinch, Great Tit, Greenfinch, Grey Heron, Greylag Goose, Gt. Spotted Woodpecker, Herring Gull, House Sparrow, Jackdaw, Jay, Lapwing, Less. Black-backed Gull, Lesser Redpoll, Little Egret, Little Grebe Little Ringed Plover, Long-tailed Tit, Magpie, Mallard, Marsh Harrier, Marsh Tit, Mistle Thrush, Nuthatch Oystercatcher, Pied Wagtail, Red Kite, Redshank, Redwing, Reed Bunting, Robin, Rook, Snipe, Song Thrush Stock Dove, Swallow, Tawny Owl, Teal, Treecreeper, Wigeon, Woodpigeon, Wren
Please feel free to read through our reports from our monthly outdoor meetings.