I was out walking yesterday when suddenly the day changed in an instant. The whole landscape, which was endless arable fields and scattered farms was transformed and took on a whole new meaning. The season flipped from early spring to full summer. What caused this unexpected miracle? A swallow flew over.
The Norfolk coast
I remembered a spring day when an endless parade of swallows passed along the Norfolk coast, all migrating north with grace and urgency. Considered as an element of the landscape birds have a presence and power which is completely at odds with their tiny size. Think of the cry of a single Curlew over a desolate moorland or the flash of a Kingfisher along a green, shady river. My thoughts drifted off to some of the places where I have wandered in hopes of making connection with birdlife.
Fowlmere in mid-summer
Some birdwatchers religiously patrol a small local patch while others will travel anywhere to spot a rare visitor. Me? I'll go anywhere that I can reach on foot, by bike or on public transport. Living where I do that gives me enormous scope. The picture above is my nearest bird reserve at Fowlmere, a strange little area where numerous little streams form shallow meres which were in former times used to grow watercress.
At Paxton Pits
A little further afield and there are numerous old flooded gravel pits which attract birds in good numbers. One of my favourite haunts used to be Paxton Pits where I took the picture above. Wigeon and Gadwall were paddling round and round in a tight, crowded circle. A Swan and a Black-Headed Gull also joined in the fun. I guess that they were stirring up food of some kind.
Fen Drayton Lakes
The gravel pits at Fen Drayton have been taken over by the RSPB and now bear the rather grand name of "Fen Drayton Lakes".
The RSPB have also been busy making scrape areas at Fen Drayton.
Or you might prefer to wander down the forest rides in the Breckland. The forest and the few scraps of heathland that remain holds some very special birds - Woodlark, Stone Curlew, Goshawk, Crossbill to name a few.
Heather-clad slopes near Sandy
We've got a little bit of heathland on the greensand ridge near Sandy which is being converted back to its original state.
Titchwell, North Norfolk
But lets pop back up to Norfolk where there's some of the best birdwatching in Britain. I'm hoping to get to some of these places over the Easter holidays.
At Hunstanton is the only place on the east coast of Britain where you can watch the sun set over the sea as it goes down in the west. Look at a map if you don't believe me.