Friday, 23 March 2012

A Single Swallow

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.

The Brecks

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.

Take care.


  1. Wonderful again, John. I will be looking forward to seeing the images from your future birding trips.

  2. Hi John; a nice scene with reflections at Fowlmere. I’ve never heard of the Wigeon and Gadwall before … Wow another very reflective scene at Fen Drayton; love the names, and the heather is lovely in abundance. A sweet sunset over the water; aren’t they great!

  3. A nice trip around a few sites that I know fairly well John. That`s a nice early sighting of a Swallow too, I haven`t even seen a Sand Martin yet!
    Follow me at HEDGELAND TALES

  4. How wonderful to have seen a swallow already, it will be a while before they reach us up here I think. I love the Brecklands, my younger son lives very close to that area so shall be suggesting a visit there next time I'm down.

  5. I never knew that about the sun set over the sea only being visible in one place! What a great selection of places to birdwatch. I was in the garden really early (for me!) this morning and was rewarded with a red legged partridge perched on a wall!

  6. Ahhh bird watching has got to be one of life's pleasures! Enjoyed reading about some of your favorite spots John and look forward to seeing some of your feathered friends soon.

  7. Love the Norfolk coast John - had a few days there last year and enjoyed every minute of it.

    First swallow - the earliest we have seen one here is April 9th - the farmer watches for it very carefully. They always return to nest in our barns.

  8. A swallow? That's SO early! I'm quite envious as I'm usually the first to spot one where I live! Jane x

  9. That does seem early for the swallow but the seasons are a bit out of kilter, I fear. Some of my best times have been birdwatching on the Norfolk coast. Happy days.

  10. Love the post and images John! As you know I saw my first Swallow of the year on Tuesday (20th), I am pleased that you have also seen one now! Enjoy your Easter Birdwatching!

  11. Thanks, everyone. I was amazed to see a swallow so early but then it was pretty amazing to be out walking in just t-shirt and jeans in March.

  12. The Paxton Pits used to be one of your favorite haunts. Sounds like they're not anymore. What happened?


Thanks for taking the time to comment. I'll try to answer any questions via a comment or e-mail within the next day or two (no hard questions, please!).