The beginning of spring.


Whilst midsummer brings the longest day, the summer solstice and winter the shortest day, both the spring and autumn equinoxes provide portals between the seasons. They are a time for change when birds are travelling, plants are awakening or entering dormancy. When animals are either waking from hibernation of fattening themselves up in preparation. The spring equinox in particular is one of the busiest days of the year. It is at this time that the remnants of birds that spend winter in these islands linger. Whilst the first summer visitors arrive. It is therefore a wonderful time for birdwatchers and season watchers alike. It was with this in mind that we headed to the North Norfolk coast on Sunday. The weather was wet further south in Suffolk and though it was both cloudy and cold it remained dry for us. Driving through Nottinghamshire we were surprised to see what we first took to be a skein of about 70 geese flying in v formation across the landscape. As they approached we realised that they were swans. Either Whoopers or Bewicks making their way north. We watched them pass overhead wing beats almost perfectly synchronised. her is a photo of one I took earlier.

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I slept most of the way to Norfolk the drive being particularly long and awoke just outside Kings Lynn We stopped for a leg stretch on the cliff tops at Hunstanton where we saw several fulmars having a wash in the sea just off the coast. Scoters were flying along the coast and the Alexanders was in flower.

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we drove up to Choseley Barns and found a flock of eight yellowhammers gathered together and both red legged and grey partridge in a field. the grey partridge were crouched among the furrows like fluffy clumps of earth. Here is the view from Choseley barns to remind you.

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Heading further round the coast we stopped briefly at Holkham where we saw seven white fronted geese grazing in a meadow we remained in the car so we would not alert them. The skies cleared as we drove towards Cley and visited the café. We were both so hungry getting up at dawn can do that. Suitably refreshed we took stock of what was about and headed to Weybourne. This area of coast is just beside the Muckeborough museum where we saw the military vehicles one memorable holiday. We hadn’t visited the coastal part before so this was a new site for us. As we approached a group of birdwatchers were studying a small pond over a hedge adjacent to the car park. We hurried to join them and were treated to the sight on a pair of garganey ducks. they really are one of the cutest duck species and very easily identified with that white blaze on the head and neck. The female was also very well marked. we saw them for a few minutes before they went behind an island and out of view when we turned our attention to the dunes and were rewarded with two male wheatears on the field of rough grassland. we watched them for rather longer enjoying the site of one of the earliest migrants. The Lapland buntings and snow buntings that had been reported on the site had been flushed when a dog walker walked across their field. thankfully a Lapland bunting was showing well at salthouses. we made our way back along the coast road and parked near a small bridge. The car park on the shingle has disappeared leaving only a turning circle where it used to stand. I miss it turnstones, shore larks and snow buntings used to be there people used to leave seed out for the snow buntings on the bank. Anyway we watched the Lapland bunting which gave excellent views. It is not the most attractive species looking rather like a reed bunting female and sparrow coloured. When it got tired of the attention it flew across the road and into the long grass on the other side much to the chagrin of the birdwatchers.  we met some friends of your father’s and had quite a catch up dragonfly society members.

I Found this rather amusing road sign and took a picture to amuse you

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There were a number of large clumps of primroses in flower on the banks beside the lane.

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One of the birdwatchers was talking about a black redstart at Felbrigg Hall. The car park area was where we saw the firecrest some years ago and the trees adjacent to the car park we saw redpolls and crossbills on a separate occasion. We decided to drive to the hall. When we got there we learned that there was a grey wagtail also on the hall building. We pottered down to the hall stopping to chat to an elderly gentleman eating an orange who told us about the birds he had seen.

Being a birder is a bit like walking a dog, people who would normally never speak to you, come and ask you what you have seen, or tell you tales of their encounters with wildlife, or offer suggestions. Some attempt to play a form of birding top trumps, twitchers are especially prone to this game. Others will seek to rubbish anything you see to assert their own superiority in much the same way as some insecure people criticise others in order to make themselves look better. You know how I abhor this last move as I have been rather vocal about it on a number of occasions when someone has rained on my parade.

In the same way dog walkers  will spontaneously talk to each other. Some have a society of their own where they stand on the park chatting whilst their dogs frolic about, the only criterion for membership is walking a dog.

The black redstart put on a remarkable display hopping along the guttering, turning to flaunt its rufus tail, flying up to catch an insect then returning to hop along a bit further. When it had become fed up it fluttered around the side of the house out of view. I photographed the house good luck trying to see the bird.

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The gorse was in flower so kissing is in season. It was covered in a number of diptera species.

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We were told that there were two mandarins on the lake so we went in search of them. The lake is joined by a muddy stream with patches of rough sedge and reeds. Among these islands of vegetation snipe were lurking, teal were dabbling and moorhens were chugging along.

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The lake was full of gadwell, tufted duck, coots, mallards and generally the usual suspects, no sign however of mandarin. To get some exercise after such a long drive we walked around the lake and I photographed some of the vegetation. At the back of the lake we found a wooden screen and staring through that we spotted two make mandarins and a female among the trees. If you enlarge the photo you can just spot them. However here is a second photo illustrating male mandarins I took this somewhere else with tamer birds.

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We finished the day at Titchwell where we spectacularly failed to see a little gull, Mediterranean gull and greenshank. we did however manage to see a lovely sunset. On the way home a barn owl, knowing no doubt that we were birders, tried to fly into our car. Thankfully it passed over the car but frightened us both as injuring or killing a barn owl would have spoiled our month let alone our day. We look forward to seeing you at Easter. So ended a lovely day. We saw 84 species of bird and nine that were new for the year.

Your loving mother

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