Monday, 8 May 2017

May 8th Potter Heigham Marshes

Black-winged Stilt at Potter Heigham Marshes today
Back in 2004, I met a celebrity. His long, spindly red legs made his body bob up and down whenever he walked amongst the lapwings, avocets and other wading birds. His name was Sammy, but he was no human celebrity. Sammy was a bird, a black-winged stilt and he made a lot of adoring fans during his twelve year stay at Titchwell between 1993-2005. When I saw him in 2004, a year before he disappeared for good, I was amused by the way he moved, especially how he would constantly bow down a long way to probe the mud with his short bill each time he had to feed. It was a pleasure to had met him.

Sammy is gone now, but black-winged stilts are still making appearances here and there in recent years and in increasing numbers. These birds are more common in the Mediterranean, but here in the UK, they are still considered a scarce migrant. This week in Norfolk, 4 of these long-legged birds have been spotted at two location. Two were at Welney, while the other two were at Potter Heigham Marshes, a reserve I had never even heard of until now. So today, Mum and I went to see them. It was a bit more of a walk from the Broadland town than we expected as we followed the seamlessly endless row of riverside houses to the reserve, but it was a relief when passers by with binoculars around their necks told us that we were in the right direction.

When we finally got to the marshes, we met someone with a scope who helped us find the birds we were after. It was rather windy and quite chilly, making it hard to keep my camera still and my eyes were watering from the cold. The pair of stilts were, like pretty much everything here, pretty far away on the far side of the reserve, but by using Mum as a makeshift tripod, I was able to get a few distant shots of them. They were a bit flighty at times, often moved off by some territorial bird or another, but they were great to watch and their movements made me reminisce of Sammy all those years ago.

Potter Heigham Marshes
Other than the stilts, there were also a few other goodies to see here. Three spoonbills huddled together with their heads sheltering under their wings, while a curlew sandpiper was busy feeding at the back of the marshes with some dunlin, grey plovers and a ringed plover. I also saw avocets, lapwings, redshanks, shovelers, gadwall, little egrets, swallows, house martins and a welcoming sight of my first swift of the year. Apparently, there were some wood sandpipers out there too, but you really need a good scope to spot them and a lot of the birds here to really appreciate them.

Reed Bunting

Greylags with goslings
 On the way back to the town of Potter Heigham, we came across some baby birds. A family of greylags and a mother Egyptian goose were together with their sets of goslings. Mum and I took a short break from the walk back to admire them from a bench. A little further on and we saw this peacock displaying in someone's garden.

Egyptian Goose with goslings

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