Holkham habitats

Brenda and I did separate wildlife spotting today: I managed a walk from Holkham village back to Wells, via the beach, whilst Brenda was able to find some flowers nestling within Holkham churchyard when she was there clearing some of the Christmas decorations from the church.

Brenda’s flower bit! “Three more hardy flowers today, interestingly, in Holkham churchyard protected by stone walls. Red deadnettle’s main flowering period is later in the spring but there were some clusters by the track up to the church, also one solitary white deadnettle. The deadnettles have leaves with serrated edges a bit like stinging nettles but they don’t sting!  Then nestling at the base of the church wall was some shepherd’s purse, fancifully named because the heart-shaped seed pod is supposed to look like a traditional shepherd’s bag.”

Overall the Holkham Estate is a superb wildlife area, with parkland, mature woodland, saltmarsh, pinewoods, agricultural areas, flooded fields and beach! My main areas of interest in the shortish time I had available before dusk were the driveway down from the coast road to the beach, with semi-flooded fields on either side, and the beach area.

The wet fields are the domain of hundreds of pink-footed geese in winter, plus large numbers of teal, wigeon and lapwing. There were a couple of red kites around, and a buzzard – so every few minutes there’d be a mass take-off of birds at the sight of a predator. The sheer number of birds in these fields in winter is amazing!

pink-footed geese at Holkham

My aim in visiting the beach was to find two specialist species that winter there: Snow buntings and shorelarks. Both can be difficult to see, the shorelarks in particular managing to be very elusive at times. But today they were all being rather obliging, and numbers were relatively high – I saw 9 shorelarks and a flock of about 25 snow buntings. Both species are lovely birds – the buntings with rich browns and lots of white, and the shorelarks with wonderful yellow markings. It’s always exciting to see these little birds!

snow buntings on Holkham beach
shorelarks on Holkham beach

Today I tried a little bit of video on my iPhone via an adaptor to my telescope: It’s not a perfect way to shoot video, but does allow me to record things that would otherwise be too far away! Here’s a little snippet of the snow bunting flock:

snow buntings on Holkham beach

And by the way, in case it ever comes up in casual conversation or a pub quiz, there are currently 206 beach huts on the beach at Wells – I just couldn’t stop myself counting them on my way back from Holkham!

New species for January 5th:
pink-footed goose, little grebe, oystercatcher, cormorant, red kite, shorelark, snow bunting
red deadnettle, white deadnettle, shepherd’s purse

Birds = 55
Moths = 0
Wildflowers = 7