A Private Tour today, for a family party from Australia. With a couple of more elderly participants, it was to be a relaxed day with just some gentle walking. The day dawned cloudy and a bit misty, but thankfully the cloud burnt off by midday and it was a lovely sunny afternoon.
We started at Holkham. When we got out of the car we could immediately see a Spoonbill in the trees, but it promptly settled down on a nest and went to sleep. We could still just make it out through the scope. Other Spoonbills were flying round in the bushes, occasionally perching up briefly.
Another large white bird flew in across the freshmarsh and dropped down into the rushes in front of us. Its large size, long black legs and leisurely flight action immediately identified it as a Great White Egret, very different from the small, flappy Little Egrets which were coming and going constantly from the trees. The Great White Egret didn’t linger long, but took off again and flew off.
There were several Marsh Harriers perched on the tops of bushes scattered around the freshmarsh. A Common Buzzard circled out of the trees behind us and overhead.
Common Buzzard – circled out of the trees and overhead
We headed into Holkham Park next. As we drove down towards the Hall, we could see lots of deer. A large herd of Fallow Deer were feeding out on the open grass and a larger animal with them was a single Red Deer. On the other side of the road, on the edge of the trees, was a stunning Red Deer stag, its antlers in velvet.
Red Deer – a stag in velvet
We had a short walk down to look at the Hall. A Jay flew across the road and landed briefly in a tree. Two Red Kites circled high overhead. There were lots of Swifts and hirundines, Swallows and House Martins, hawking for insects over the Hall. Jackdaws and Pied Wagtails were feeding on the short grass and an Oystercatcher seemed to be finding lots of worms here too.
There is a large group of feral Barnacle Geese which lives in the Park and many of them were out on the grass behind the cricket square today. A few Egyptian Geese were in with them too and when we looked more closely we could see a Mistle Thrush hopping about on the grass in amongst them. Out on the lake, we could see a long line of Greylag Geese, plus several Gadwall and a raft of Tufted Duck. As we walked back to the car, we could hear several Goldcrests singing in the trees. As we drove out of the park, another Red Kite circled over the houses by the main road.
Red Kite – we saw three at Holkham today
Our next stop was at the local gull colony. We could hear the cacophony of noise as we approached. There are lots of Black-headed Gulls nesting here but it didn’t take us long to find a few pairs of Mediterranean Gull in with them, their more extensive jet black hoods immediately setting them apart from the chocolate-brown hooded Black-headed Gulls. Some of the Mediterranean Gulls were coming and going, flying in and out of the colony overhead, showing off their pure white wingtips, translucent when viewed from below.
Mediterranean Gull – showing off its pure white wingtips
There are quite a few brown fluffy juvenile Black-headed Gulls in the colony now. A pair of Herring Gulls had been loafing around on the edge of the throng and when one of them took off it was immediately chased by lots of the smaller gulls. Undeterred, it flew straight into the middle of the colony, grabbed a fluffy juvenile, and flew back to where it had been resting. The poor gull chick was promptly gulped down whole. Nearby, a Common Gull perched on a post rounded out the selection of gulls.
A Common Tern was hunting up and down between the boats in front of us. When it caught a fish, it flew over and presented it to its mate, perched on one of the jetty’s nearby. We watched it doing this several times. Further out in the harbour, we could see a couple of Little Terns fishing.
Common Tern – waiting to be fed
The tide was just going out in the harbour. A couple of Great Crested Grebes were diving out in the channel. A large group of Oystercatchers were roosting on a sandbank across the other side.
The afternoon was spent at Cley. The sun was now out, with blue sky overhead, in stark contrast to the weather earlier this morning. On the walk out to the hides, a Common Whitethroat was singing from the bushes by the path. A male Reed Bunting was singing from the bushes in the reeds.
A little group of Lapwings was out on the scrape in front of the hide. A couple of Redshank were in with them. There were plenty of Avocets here as usual, but they were feeding out in the middle and there was no sign of any juveniles today. Predation of Avocet chicks is high and it would appear that most of the youngsters which were on here in the last week have fallen prey.
A Shelduck was having more luck in raising a family – a female with four shelducklings was swimming around at the front of the scrape. A pair of Shoveler were preening further over, and when they finished and started to swim off, the drake began to display, bobbing its head up and down. A drake Gadwall kept flying in to the channel right in front of the hide – perhaps the female is still on a nest somewhere close by.
Gadwall – kept returning to the channel below the hide
We walked slowly back to the visitor centre and then drove along to the car park at the base of the East Bank. In the afternoon sunshine, there were a few Blue-tailed Damselflies in the vegetation along the edges of the paths. A single Four-spotted Chaser was resting in the long grass.
Blue-tailed Damselfly – a few were around when the sun came out
We had a gentle walk up along the East Bank. The grazing marshes here are starting to dry out a bit now, but there is still lots of water in the Serpentine. This is where the waders were – Lapwings and Redshanks. There were also quite a few Avocets out here.
There are still some juvenile waders out here on the grazing marshes. Two pairs of Redshank were arguing, possible because one pair had a couple of young hidden in the grass nearby. A careful scan revealed a Little Ringed Plover on the drier ground behind the Serpentine. When a Greylag Goose started to walk past, the Little Ringed Plover got agitated, feigning injury as it tried to lead the goose away. We could then see why, as a second adult Little Ringed Plover ran out of a dip in the ground and led two little balls of fluff on legs back into cover while its mate was busy distracting the goose.
The surprise here was the number of Teal. They are predominantly non-breeding visitors here, and have been thin on the ground in recent weeks since they departed north to breed. Today there were 21 drake Teal in a group together, feeding in the Serpentine, plus a separate pair feeding closer to the bank. Presumably these are birds already returning from the breeding grounds to moult.
There were several Reed Warblers singing from the reeds. A Marsh Harrier circled up and drifted east over the bank ahead of us. Then it was time to call it a day and head for home.
Marsh Harrier – circled up from the reedbed