River Wissey Lovell Fuller


February 2020

There can be few places in the world richer in bird life than Norfolk is in the winter. Although summer visitors have long departed vast numbers of other species decide Norfolk is the place to be when there is hard weather. Ducks, geese and waders in their thousands arrive from breeding grounds in many parts of the northern hemisphere. In North Norfolk farmers leave sugar beet tops on their fields for the hungry Pink-footed geese that have made long journeys from Greenland, Iceland or Spitsbergen. What a magnificent sight, and sound, they are when they ‘whiffle’ from side to side as they drop in to land with feet outstretched or flight in V formations to and from their coastal roosting places at sunrise and sunset. Gaggles of less common Brent geese can be found flying over Cley marshes or in Wells harbour. They have winged their way from Arctic Russia or Siberia. On the fields between the road and the sea at Holkham flocks of White-fronted geese from the Arctic can sometimes be spotted, distinguished from other species by their barred breast and white patch around the base of their bills. Often accompanying them are flocks of Wigeon, a colourful mallard-sized duck, probably from Russia or Siberia. Unlike other species of duck they feed on grass like the geese. At high tide great quantities of waders gather on the mud flats at Snettisham and huge groups of Knot, that have nested on the Arctic tundra, can be seen swirling around like flocks of starlings. Welney Wetland Centre is always worth a visit in winter at this time of the year. The flooded washes and surrounding farmlands become home to thousands of waterfowl including Pochard drakes. I wonder where the females go. The swans too are a spectacular sight with a mix of our own familiar Mute swans and families of yellow billed Whoopers who have flown in from Russia or other parts of Northern Europe. The similar, but smaller, Bewicks can also often be spotted amongst the others. They are fed every afternoon at 3.30pm, and it’s quite a spectacle to witness the frenzied free for all and ‘bottoms up’. There is an incredible abundance of birds that winter in our county and there are two things that never fail to amaze me. The fact that those who spend their summers in remote wilderness areas seem so little fazed by the attention they attract and being in such close proximity to people. The other thing is the sheer abundance of invertebrates there must be available to support all those thousands of waders. Don’t forget to take your binoculars if you visit the coast. As yet another year draws to a close we owe a big thank to all those who work so hard to make our villages nice places to live. Within our communities they are the unsung heroes and it is very easy to take them all for granted. Season’s Greetings to one and all. Jill

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