SUPER SHELDUCKS @ HOLME DUNES (NWT)
On day one of my trip to Norfolk I visited Holme Dunes which is a National Nature Reserve owned and managed by the Norfolk Wildlife Trust since 1965. The reserve's habitats consist of sand dunes, salt marsh, pasture, grazing marsh and freshwater pools. The reserve has a visitor centre, cafe, three bird hides facing south and a path through a small woodland to the beach.
It was a partly cloudy day with the sun breaking through when I arrived and close to the car park I saw a group of Linnets at the top of some bushes. I started off by heading past the car park for Norfolk Ornithologists Association reserve at Holme Dunes to the start of the path which leads to the three hides. The path goes through an area of bushes in a south west direction before turning south and after about two hundred feet you arrive at the first hide.
From here I could see several small lagoons with Avocets, Shelducks, Black Headed Gulls and Canada Geese on the lagoon over to the left. In a narrow water channel just the other side of some reeds in front of the hide there was a Little Grebe regularly diving under the surface of the water for food. On the water over to my right I saw pairs of Shelducks, Gadwalls & Shovelers whilst in the far distance I could see a pair of Marsh Harriers flying low over the reeds.
In a lagoon about one hundred yards from the hide I could see Avocets, Black Tailed Godwits, Lapwings, Wigeons and Greylag Geese. I left the hide and followed the path to the left until I reached the much smaller second hide which overlooks a long and narrow lagoon and another lagoon further out. On the further lagoon I could still see the Avocets and Black Tailed Godwits whilst on the far side of the water just in front of the hide I could see a pair of Shovelers and a single Coot.
A pair of Shelducks were on the far left hand side of the water and they started to move closer and closer to the hide. They were constantly dipping their heads under the water searching for food and as they came nearer the hide the pair of Shovelers moved across in front of them as a pair of Gadwalls swam along the near side of the lagoon. The Shelducks were still moving closer, chasing off the Gadwalls and Shovelers if they got too close.
The Shelducks were almost in front of the hide when they started moving back in the opposite direction and off to the left hand side of the lagoon. I left the hide and walked the short distance to the last hide where, as I neared the hide, a Red Legged Partridge took off from the field to the right of the path. In front of this hide is another smallish lagoon with several Black Headed Gulls massing on an island at the left hand end. There was also a single Coot on the island which was trying to chase off the Gulls without success and in the water just to the left there was a single Spotted Redshank.
Beyond the island, on the far side of the water, there were two Teals asleep at the water's edge. Over to the right were a pair of Shelducks and Avocets and flying low over the reeds were a group of Linnets. I left the hide and headed back along the path towards the visitor centre and as I passed the first hide I could see a few Linnets landing in the fields before taking off and flying over the bushes and out of sight. I stopped off at the visitor centre for a quick drink and in the trees next to the visitor centre there were several Goldfinches and a couple of Chaffinches.
On the grass next to me there were a pair of Pied Wagtails scurrying across the ground as a Wren appeared briefly at the top of a bush before flying off. I now walked along the path through the woods to the beach where the sea was a long way out and the wind was very cold. I returned to the edge of the woods but instead of going back through I turned to the left and walked along the path until it rose up and onto a large bank which overlooks sand dunes to the left and Holme Dunes to the right.
I stopped a couple of hundred yards beyond the woods as on the grass banking between me and the water was a Wheatear. Over to the left a Meadow Pipit landed and started to make its way over towards the Wheatear as a Stonechat landed on a wooden post at the bottom of the grass bank. A group of Linnets flew overhead and landed in a bush close to the Stonechat as a Pink Footed Goose flew over the water. In the water itself I could see more Avocets and Shelducks as the Stonechat moved onto the grass banking.
I left and walked back along the path and through the woods to my car and as I drove along the track I saw a pair of Red Legged Partridges on a small grass bank. I continued on back to my hotel which was The Golden Lion Hotel in the coastal town of Hunstanton. After a bite to eat at the hotel I went for a walk along the sea front at Hunstanton to see what was on the beach as the tide came in. On the grass as I walked down to the beach I could see Starlings, Black Headed Gulls, Lesser Black Backed Gulls and Herring Gulls.
On the beach, at the water's edge, there were Turnstones and Black Headed Gulls whilst perched on the buildings were several Feral Pigeons. There was a Pied Wagtail moving along the sea walls and more and more Turnstones with some of them moving close to the path along the edge of the beach. A little further along I could see a group of Oystercatchers as well and as I began my return journey along the sea front large groups of Oystercatchers began to fly from right to left around a hundred yards out. There was also a lone Curlew walking along the water's edge.
The Turnstones now flew up and landed on the path in front of me picking up scraps of food that had been dropped on the ground. The number of Oystercatchers that had flown past was now more than one hundred and as I turned to go up the hill back to the hotel I spotted a pair of Jackdaws sat on a lichen covered roof as the Feral Pigeons began to roost on the hotel roof.
I have attached a few photos and a full sightings list from my visit to Holme Dunes Nature Reserve (NWT) and the beach at Hunstanton.