Sunday, 17 April 2016

April 16th Sculthorpe Moor

After the disappointment at Carrow Road (Norwich lost 3-0 to Sunderland, which edge Norwich closer to relegation from the Premier League), I needed something to lift my spirit up again. Thankfully, Dad and I had booked a place on a woodcock walk at Sculthorpe Moor. This was a group walk led by one of the members of staff here and there was also soup being served before we waited for dusk and the woodcocks to arrive.

Sunset over Sculthorpe
It had been a wet, miserable day today and I did fear this event was going to be cancelled. But though we did drive through a couple of showers on the way to Sculthorpe, the sun was out this evening and it turned out to be a good evening for woodcock watching. A rainbow appeared as we were led off the boardwalk and onto normally out of bound areas of the reserve. We found a hare along the way to the hide where the soup was going to be served. It ran off before I could get a photo of it though. If only it was at Strumpshaw!

Bank Vole
At the hide, the staff were serving the soup to everyone. The sun was starting to set and the light was fading gradually, but there was still enough of it to watch a vole, a reed bunting, a robin and some chaffinches feeding. A mother duck was guiding her ducklings towards us to the ground below one of the bird tables. A male marsh harrier was circling over the reserve, but at that time the light was getting dimmer than when we entered the hide and so my camera could not work as well in such poor light conditions.
Sunset reflections
Canada Goose
Reed Bunting
Mallard with ducklings

Woodcock Watching
With the light fading fast and everyone full of soup, it was time to see if the woodcocks would come out and display for us. Woodcocks are like large snipe-like birds that live in dense wooded areas. They have cryptic camouflage and they are difficult to see during the day. But come nightfall, they become more active as they make display flights over the canopy and over woodland clearings. These night flights are known as 'roding'. This is a common sight during spring and summer months and is what we all have come to witness.

We were led to the edge of a woodland clearing to wait for the action to begin. We ended up waiting for only 5 minutes since arriving at the spot at 8pm when we saw our first woodcocks of the night. The sound of their calls alert us to their presence before we spot them whizz over us at speed. They sound like frogs with hiccups, a croak followed by a squeak. A pair of these birds were roding together over our heads, flying low and fast in the growing darkness. The combination of their quick flight movements and the lack of light made it difficult to photograph them, so I tried to film them instead (not that I am a great cameraman or anything).

A short April shower dampened the excitment briefly, but it was during it that we had three woodcocks fly over us. Rain covered my lense and ruined a great photo opportunity. Then shortly after the rain cleared, another woodcock flew past, but this time landing in the centre of this clearing. I was quick to find it standing on a log near a gorse bush, but it was really dark and far away to see clearly. It was too dark to photograph it with my camera, so I had to make do with just a view of it with my binoculars. As we made our way back, we could hear tawny owls hooting from somewhere deep in the woods. Despite the lack of any good photos, it has been a very entertaining evening. The memory of Norwich losing had been erased from my mind temporarily.

The Moon and Venus?

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