Thursday, 22 December 2011

Holkham National Nature Reserve

Having strolled around King's Lynn for an hour I caught the Coasthopper bus to Holkham NNR.

The Wild Geese of Winter

A cold wind whipped across the grazing marsh. A familiar honking sound was carried on the breeze. Small dark flecks appeared over the tree tops and gradually assumed a recognisable shape. Dozens of wild geese approached and whiffled down onto the grasslands.

Around 70,000 Pink-Footed Geese visit North Norfolk every winter (that's around a quarter of the world population). In the evening long skeins of geese stretch across the winter skies as the birds go to roost.

If you want to sort them out from other geese then it's not usually very practical to look for the pink feet; chocolate-headed geese would be a more helpful description. The other geese to be seen at Holkham were White-Fronted Geese, Brent Geese, Egyptian Geese and Greylags.

Down Along The Shore

An Oystercatcher strutted along in search of a meal.

Right by the sea I encountered a flock of my favourite little waders - Sanderlings. Not for them the hours of standing on one leg with head tucked under the wing like so many other waders. Sanderlings are tiny energetic clockwork toys, scurrying up and down the beach with the incoming waves. Sometimes, like today, they seem almost oblivious to people strolling along the strand.

An Earnest Intervention

"Did you see a bird of prey fly over just now? Could have been a Rough-Legged Buzzard. One been seen here recently. Been reported on BirdGuides. There's Firecrests too. Check the flocks of Tits. Any Snow Buntings on the saltmarsh? "
How could I tell him I'd spent the last fifteen minutes photographing some dead bracken?

View From The Jordan Hide

Also known as the Tower Hide, it gives splendid views across the grassland and pools. Marsh Harriers quartered the area. Lots of Wigeon too.

Salt's Hole

I've always loved this spot and now there's an information board telling me that this small pond was once the mouth of an estuary until it was cut off from the sea by the shifting dune system. It keeps its level by sea water seeping through the sand. The water is salty and it still supports several marine species.

Take care.


  1. What a beautiful post! Such a lovely sight to have so many massed geese and those busy little beavers of sanderlings as well. I am sure no one could begrudge you your 15 minute Zen moment. Honouring a dyeing leaf is more important than shedding crocodile tears for a dead dictator.

  2. Lovely post and photographs. I am particularly fond of hearing the swans fly overhead and seeing the 'Vs' of geese flying over our house in the Autumn. Jane x

  3. Enjoyed learning about your wetlands and comparing waterfowl--sanderlings chase waves here, too--the geese are a bit different--a bit of fresh air and a break from Christmas "doings"

  4. What a great place to spend the day, I would love to see geese in those numbers, we rarely see them here as we aren't on a flight path. I love that first photo of Salt's Hole, it's really beautiful.

  5. A great post with lovely atmospheric images John. You have brought back a memory for me of my first visit to Holkham to see the Pinkfeet! They flew in en masse to roost with a beautiful sunset behind them, the sight and sounds were magical. A memory I will always cherish.

    Merry Christmas to you John, have fun!

  6. That must be the most amazing sight John when the flocks of wild geese come in for a landing, I would love to see it. We do get huge flocks of Corellas and parrots flying around making a heck of a racket, but not quite as impressive I don't think. I hope you and your family have a wonderful Christmas, stay safe!

  7. Very nice, John. I would have missed the raptor, too, because I would have been searching for the shot of the fern that you were doing, as well. Jim

  8. Not surprised to learn that you led guided tours. I've left a visit to the British Isles rather too late; if I could go, the places you feature in your photo essays are the ones I would enjoy.
    Our native geese are the Canada geese. Of the ones you mention, the Greylags are the only others whose names I've heard.

  9. Thanks for your comments. Hey, Jim, I had enough trouble pushing through the brambles to photograph that bracken. Two of us in there would have been just too much!


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