Monday, 28 June 2010

Sitting by the river

I met a friend this morning and we sat on one of the benches overlooking the river and talked for a while. The river was just at high tide as we sat there - the wind was causing ripples on the water, but there were also still areas, giving the impression of currents in the water. We talked about how we had both occasionally seen times where it looked as if the tide was moving up stream in the centre of the river, and downstream at the far bank - neither of us are really sure if this was real or an optical illusion, but nothing about this river would surprise me!

We both became aware at the same time of a black shape over near the other bank - and neither of us said anything because it was not clear if it really was what we thought it might be. Then suddenly it dived, and so yes, it was a seal! I'm told they are not uncommon in this part of the river, but this was the first one I'd seen.

We continued to sit as people went by on their way to their offices, and I felt very fortunate to be able to just sit and watch the water go by, and see the ferry shuttle back and forward, carrying workers and shoppers over to this side of the river.

Just then my friend said he'd seen a fish jump, which is not a normal occurrence here. Then I saw one jump too a bit further downstream, and then there was another and another. Really unusual - was the seal hunting them and they were jumping to get out of harms way? Who can say, but it made for an interesting few minutes.

Sometimes the Quay can be a cold and windy place, and you rush along it to get out away from the weather. But on a sunny and warm summer morning, it is a place to stop and relax, and just enjoy the peace.

Friday, 11 June 2010

Sculthorpe Moor June 2010

After a really warm and sunny period, it had suddenly turned wet over the last few days, but I decided to head out anyway and visit the Sculthorp Moor nature reserve.

The journey was uneventful, but as I neared Fakenham the mist came down, and I ended up driving with my lights on. Arriving at the parking lot, I walked through the Visitor Centre and had a quick talk with one of the volunteers, who told be all the hides were open, and pointed out the web cam pictures of the Marsh Harrier nest complete with chicks.

I walk out towards the Scrape hide first which talks me through the woodland, and I stop to look at the flowers growing there - it is lush green, and these pinpoints of colour really stand out. In particular the wild foxgloves are really amazing with their intricate hanging trumpet-like flowers.

Further along, the land opens out and I'm among tall reeds, and then the path takes me out to the river Wensom, and along that for a way until I reach the hide. Walking in here I see there is one other person already there, and I'm just about to say hello, when I somehow let the door slam behind me! not a good thing for a bird watcher!!

This hide overlooks a stretch of wetland, and my new companion tells me that the water level is a lot higher than it had been, following the thunder storms of the last couple of days, and I also hear that the kingfishers did not survive the hard winter. Over in the distance I get a view of a kestrel on the wing, and then a group of Mallard chicks appear on the water in front of us. Another person joins us - a real birder by the look of the equipment he is carrying. He tells us he's on vacation in the area and lives up in Scarborough.

I spend about 45 minutes there, just watching the birds and occasionally talking with my companions, and then head out to the next hide, with views over the marsh land where the Harriers are nesting.

This hide is more populated with men with big lenses, and it also has a webcam link showing the Marsh Harriers nest.

This is excellent, as we can see and hear the chicks on the screen, and then as the adult leaves the nest to hunt, look outside and see it swoop away. I watch it for a long time with my binoculars, and manage to get a couple of pictures too. Nearer to the hide is a feeder, with smaller birds feeding - tit's which are common in my garden too, and also what appears to be a pair of bullfinches. As we watch, one of the volunteers goes out to put more seed onto the seed table - and nearly slips on the wet tree trunks.

In the distance I suddenly see a pheasant break cover and fly for a few feet before disappearing into the long grass again. Soon a couple of pheasants are under one of the feeders eating the spilled grain.

People come and go from the hide, and eventually I am getting to feel cold sitting there, so I collect up all my things and head out. There is another hide along this path overlooking woodland, but I decide that I've had enough for one day, and take the longer path back to the visitor centre. It's only when I get inside again that I realise just how chilled I'm become outside, and I'm pleased that they have nice bathrooms:)

I talk once more with the volunteer, and decide to become a "friend" of the reserve - I get to come in free, and they have a quarterly newsletter - plus I get a sticker for my car!!!

So I'll be back soon to check on the progress of the birds and wild flowers - and hopefully in warmer weather.