Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Recent Sightings - April 2015

Birding this year at Holkham National Nature Reserve is amazing!

Spring is always an exciting time of year with winter visitors departing and summer migrants arriving and everyday is different.

Winter birds are defiantly taking their time departing, a late flock of up to 150 Pink-footed and a Bean Goose can still be found grazing in front of Jordan Hide most evenings. Up to 10 Ring Ouzels can be viewed in the sand dunes at Overy but they will soon be departing for their breeding grounds in Scotland. The distinctive ‘cue-cue-cue’ call of the Curlew can still be heard ringing around the reserve, but in a few weeks they will leave the reserve for their breeding grounds. However some birds are already departing, a flock of up to 40 Black-tailed Godwits have just left for their long journey to Iceland.

A lonely Bean Goose (centre right) surrounded by Pinkies.

More and more summer migrants continue to arrive day after day. Although showing only occasionally, I was lucky enough to see a Bittern from George Washington Hide - if you listen carefully you can hear its distinctive booming call most days. I also saw a Great White Egret haunting the dykes at Burnham Norton. It never ceases to amaze me how such a large, bright white bird can all but disappear in the reed beds!  Other summer migrants pouring in include Avocet, Lesser and Common Whitethroats, Grasshopper Warblers and Whinchat and there are still more migrant species yet to arrive, however none will travel as far as the single rare Green Winged Teal that has crossed the Atlantic from North America.

A brief glimpse of the Great White Egret as it flies 
between dykes in search of food.

Not to be outdone our spectacular birds of prey have also put on a good showing this month with 12 species being seen. At Holkham NNR you can usually enjoy great views of Barn Owls, SparrowhawksBuzzards, Marsh Harriers, and Red Kites but it was the amazing displays of a male Kestrel, Peregrine and Rough Legged Buzzard at the beginning of the month that really made it special. During our surveying at Holkham NNR we were treated to a circling Hen Harrier and later the same day a Hobby hunting for large insects over the marshes. This shows why Holkham NNR is one of the best reserves in Britain for seeing these magnificent birds.

A rare sight of a Red Kite (above) locking talons with the
 Rough Legged (below) for air supremacy over Overy Dunes.

The warm spring sunshine has meant that the Orange Tip Butterfly and the Large Red Damselfly have made their fist appearances on site. You might think that in a reserve as large as Holkham NNR, small fauna might go un-noticed but this is not the case, only a few days ago Andy found a rare Steatoda albomaculata spider hidden amongst the sand dunes. Only found in a few places in the UK this was a real discovery! Most exciting of all however was the sighting of an Otter at Norton. We hope to get more sightings and therefore more information about these elusive creatures and maybe even a photo - watch this space!

Steatoda albomaculata is a False Widow. While not as
 venomous as their Black Widow counterparts they can still give a nasty bite!

And finally, this weekend we were lucky enough to see the rare White-tailed Sea Eagle riding the thermals right over Lady Ann’s Drive, giving visitors a fantastic view before flying north towards Gibraltar Point in Lincolnshire. This was soon followed by a Black Kite, which was hunting over the George Washington Hide before flying west. With typical ‘warden luck’ I wasn't there to see either of them!

Unfortunately this photo of a White Tailed Eagle is not
 from Holkham NNR but it does provide a great view of these 
huge (over 8 feet wing span!) rare and majestic birds.

Thanks to Andy Bloomfield for these wonderful photos.

Happy birding!

Jonathan Holt