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Norfolk Break: Monday

Today we visited the nearby Sculthorpe Moor Nature Reserve. This reserve was created by the Hawk and Owl Trust to protect and enhance the very special habitat in the Wensum Valley of Norfolk. It includes the valley’s only example of saw sedge wetland, a priority habitat for preservation in Europe. Its wildlife includes breeding marsh harriers, water rails and kingfishers as well as barn owls. Otters use its waterways and the fen is home to many species of dragonfly, butterfly and flowering plants.

The film of marsh harriers nesting that featured on this year’s Spring watch was filmed at this reserve.

We arrived quite early and made out way down to the first of three hides. This hide was set in the woodland, with a selection of feeders outside. You could also see over part of a reed bed, where we saw a buzzard preening itself on one of the fence posts. The usual collection of chaffinches, and tits were feeding from the feeders, so we moved onto a larger hide with fantastic views over the reeds, but sadly we saw no harriers.

There were two tables here though, full of seed and attracting large numbers of visitors. Especially beautiful were a small group of bullfinches; two males and several females and youngsters. I sat in this hide for over an hour with my camera, photographing the visitors alighting on the trees before coming down onto the feeders and tables. I can’t upload any here as I do not have a RAW converter.

Whilst we were watching them, there was a sudden ambush from a female sparrowhawk! In a flash, she streaked in below the table, scattering birds in every direction, alighted briefly and was gone…. all in a few seconds! I don’t think she caught anything, but came again about half an hour later!

Here’s me set up with my camera in the hide… and the sun came out!

Whilst watching and photographing the bullfinches, we also saw a great spotted woodpecker, a family of pheasants and a new species for me…. a willow or a marsh tit. Both are seen here and I don’t know which we saw!

In the afternoon, we drove to a small reserve by the river, but a bit disappointed and didn’t see anything interesting.

This evening, I decided to go up into the field opposite with my camera and see if I could see the barn owl. I went up about 7pm and within about 5 minutes, could hear two barn owls calling. Then I saw one fly across the lower part of the field, into a grass field where some horses are kept. It did a couple of circuits of this field, before alighting on a post on the far side.

I watched it for a while, then crept down the side of the field I was in, to get closer. I set myself up right on the edge of the horse field and I could see the barn owl sitting on the edge of the fence, next to the farm buildings. It sat there for quite a while, watching the ground and occasionally shifting position to another post. So beautiful to watch, even though it was quite a way away. I took a couple of photos, but it was so far away….. but proof I did see it!

The only problem I had was that the field I was sitting in was also home to a herd of Friesian cows. They spotted me and came to investigate! At one point, I had about 8 huge milking girls breathing down the back of my neck, trying to figure out why someone was sitting on the edge of their field! Martin took this photo from the cottage window….. see the cows???? I am sitting down to the left of them and this is the view from the upstairs bedroom… prime barn owl hunting ground!

I watched this owl for about 40 minutes…. a real treat and my first real view of a wild barn owl. Then, to my delight, a little owl landed on the fence about 50 m up from where I was sitting! The light was really fading by now, but I could see him bobbing his head and looking around. It was too dark for photographing but I used the live view and zoom facility on my camera to watch him…. you can get a better view this way than looking through the binoculars.

A great evening! Tomorrow night, I am going to go further down to the farm and see if I can hide in there somewhere, closer to where the barn owl was sitting tonight. Then, I may even manage a photo!

Planning on going to Pensthorpe tomorrow, so really looking forward to that.

31 Aug

Posted by wildlifekate. | Edit 

We were at Pensthorpe as it opened this morning. I think they were all breathing a sigh of relief that the bank holiday weekend and the medieval spectacular was over!! I bet they wished the weather had been like today, though…. absolutely beautiful after all the cloud, high winds and rain we had over the weekend.

Located in 500 acres of beautiful countryside with meadows, woodland and lakes, Pensthopre has been where SpringWatch has been based for the last couple of years.

It is beautiful place and for those who have never visited, I would highly recommend it. The whole place is very well kept and tended and the gardens were stunning, even though we are at the end of the summer now. There are some lovely avaiaries with a variety of both native and foreign bird species which are obviously well used to humans and which gave me an excellent chance to have a really good play with my 150-500mm lens!

In one aviary, they have a some pairs of bearded tits, one pair had three young, all hiding in the reeds there. They were really difficult ot photograph in here, let alone in the wild! I have never seen this species before though, so it was really good to be able to just sit and watch them. We plan to go back to Cley… I would love to see these beautiful birds in the wild. This photo is from their website…. not one of mine!

 I spent ages watching a beautiful curlew, in another aviary, who was bathing and  preening in a small artificial stream. Usually, these birds are quite far away and you are viewing them from a hide. To watch them at such close quarters was a real treat.

We walked around all the paths… through woodland, along the river, through a flower meadow, past pools. We watched huge dragonfly hawkers patrolling the banks. Apparantly 18 species are found here!

All in all, a great day, with lots of wildlfowl photographs to download when I get home!

Off to try and get some photographs of the barn owl tonight…. it’s a lovely evening so fingers crossed!


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