A Common Buzzard was spiralling in the blue skies over Ringstead Downs NWT on the way to Holme this morning. It was a beautiful sunny day and it felt very Spring like. I know its
only February, but if felt so warm in the sun, that I half expected to
see a Swallow skimming over – a little too early yet I think, not too
far away though! The highlight of my day was my Mother coming out birding with me for a short while! I can't remember the last time my Mother went to the reserves and beach, its been far too long. Just before I walked into Mother's house, the magical sound of a Bumble Bee filled my ears - buzzing around the newly emerged honey suckle blossom, by the porch.
We made our way along the very bumpy Firs Road and stopped to park at the 5-bar gate. I could hear a Cetti's Warbler briefly in the reeds near the pay hut. We bumped into Wells birder Dave Foster, who kindly told us that the raft of Long-tailed Duck were towards the Firs house end, so we got back in the car and continued along the road to park at the NOA car park. We then walked north across to the dunes and viewed the sea from here. I set up the scope at a suitable height for Mother – she is shorter than me! She finds it very difficult to look through a telescope, as her eyes are not as they were and she is due to have a cataract removed soon, but she did eventually see everything I pointed out to her. We found a massive flock of Wigeon on the sea and then not too long after that, we saw a long stream of Long-tailed Ducks just under the west end of the wind turbines – but it wasn't until the whole raft got up and flew east for a short distance, that we realised how many were there! I found it very difficult to count them all, but there were at least 150. I also found two Red-necked Grebes sitting on the sea and a Cormorant flew past. A small flock of Sanderlings also flew west. It was beautiful here and felt like a Summer's day! I would have stayed watching the sea longer, but Mother found it difficult to stand for too long, so we continued east along the path towards the Firs entrance.
My Mother had not seen the pines west of the Firs, since before the storm surge in 2013 and she could see how different it looked now, but agreed with me that the habitat with lots of log piles looked good for migrants – I think it looks better than it did before to be honest. Mother didn't have the energy to walk as far as HBO, so we headed down to the NWT Firs house for lunch in the cafe. Mother was very impressed with the cafe, which is new to her since she last visited. Jeanette was working here, who normally works at Cley NWT Visitor Centre and introduced us to her son, also working in the cafe – she beamed when Mother said she didn't look old enough to have a son that age! Mother was thinking about sitting outside for lunch, but then realised it wasn't quite warm enough for that yet, so we sat inside and enjoyed our exceptionally nice jacket potatoes and cheese with salad. It was very relaxed sitting here and far more peaceful than Cley VC, which is packed out to the max most lunch times. Gary Hibbard (Warden) came and joined us to eat his lunch and had a good catch up with my Mother, who he had not seen for a long time.
Gary and Robert were inspecting Mother's Carl Zeiss 7x42 bins, which she has had for many years – yes they are a good set of optics, but her new Swarovski 8x42 bins (newer version of mine) are far superior, but she doesn't want to use them yet as they 'are a bit too heavy' – I did try to advise her on the far lighter 8x32's at the time, but she insisted she wanted the wider field of view! The weight of the bins is not going to change! We enjoyed watching the NWT videos on the screen whilst eating our lunch and also watched some Goldfinches in the alder tree through the window. Neither of us succumbed to any cakes! Mother had really enjoyed herself, but didn't have the energy to walk anywhere else, so I took her back home. Hopefully next time we will go to the observatory – I think the reason she didn't go there, was because it would bring back too many memories of Father and the fact that he is now in a care home would have made her sad – I can fully understand this. On the way home home we had lovely views of a Song Thrush feeding on the grass at the end of Peddars Way by the crossroads in Holme.
I really don't know what to think about the all the trees that have been removed along the path by the picnic area, it looks pretty bare! Personally I think it will encourage children to run around too much, which will impact on birds seen in this area, but I may be wrong. It was a nice enclosed spot before and many good birds have been seen here including Wood Warbler, Pallas's Warbler etc. Time will tell! I found a lovely fungi on a mossy log along here, which Mother instantly identified for me when I showed her the picture later, but I have now forgotten! I saw a Brambling by the feeders next to the cafe, along with the usual Great Tits, Blue Tits, Robins etc. I walked around the Fen Trail and then on to the East Trail. Took a photograph of an obliging Robin and then sat by the screen that overlooks Patsy's Pool. Birds seen here were: Tufted Ducks, Mallard, Gadwall, Pochard, Teal, Snipe, Coot, Little Grebe, Shelducks and a Cormorant sitting on one of the dead trees.
I continued back around the Fen Trail and headed north along the main path towards Island Hide. Had a nice catch up with Mike Sidwell and David Norgate, before joining Eddie, Joan & husband a little further along the path. Tons of beautiful Golden Plover were on the freshmarsh, big numbers of Avocets, gulls, Teal, Starlings etc. Highlights here, were a Peregrine that bombed through and our count of 10 Hen Harriers in the roost. It was bitterly cold now and the gloves had to go on!
We walked back to the car park and Eddie decided he was going to Eric's fish 'n' chips next to the farm shop at Thornham, so as I was also buying Mother and I a children's portion too (cheaper!), I invited Eddie to join us back at Holme. The three of us enjoyed what is definitely now the best fish 'n' chips in Norfolk by miles and chatted for a while about birds, life and all that jazz. Eddie then left to return home east and I stayed with Mother to watch one of our favourite programmes at the moment: 'Call The Midwife', which was a very dramatic and sad episode. Left Mother's at 9pm and made my way home. Not too bad a day's birding for February!
I see the Holme Bird Observatory Windows Appeal has now risen to £1,145.00!!! Fabulous!