Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Norfolk Weekend - Pensthorpe & Holkham

Lovely to see the horses splashing through the low tide.

Marina enjoying the sand dunes

The sand dune systems at Holkham are formed on old shingle ridges.
Much of the land behind Holkham Bay was reclaimed from the sea between the 17th and 19th centuries. In some parts of the reserve the dune barrier is all that stops the highest tides from sweeping in and covering the area once more. The dunes are actually held together only by the plants that grow on them - so trampling on them weakens these important sea defences.

The foreshore is an extreme place that is exposed to the elements. Plants struggle to gain a footholdand shellfish struggle to find food. Mud is a different matter, parts of the Eastern shore are muddy and hidden below are hordes of lugworms and cockles. Just perfect food for wading birds with long beaks like Curlews and Oystercatchers. Other birds such as Knots, Dunlins Redshank,Grey Plovers and Sanderling can also be seen.
For trivia fans - The actress Gwyneth Paltrow walked across Holkham sand at low tide during the closing scenes of the film 'Shakespeare in Love'. Not a lot of people know that!

From Pensthorpe it was off to Holkham.
Holkham is an amazing, diverse and dramatic national nature reserve. It is a mass of windswept tidelines, a maze of creeksand saltings, miles of sand dunes, shady pinewoods and marshland. A truly unique place.

A very illusive Bearded Tit amongst the reeds, one of my favourite birds. I have to confess this one was captive.

Pensthorpe is also famous as the location for hosting the BBC Springwatch series.
Specialist cameras and nest boxes provided great viewing opportunities for dramatic wildlife. Barn owls, kingfishers and otters are just some of the creatures that the team were able attract and film on the webcams.

The 'Springwatch Barn' with Cranes in the foreground

Originally flooded gravel pits until the early eighties, Pensthorpe has been carefully restored as a safe haven for wildlife including the creation of islands for safe nesting areas, shallow scrapes for waders and other species.
Pensthorpe has a mixture of captive and wild species. Wild species that can be seen at Pensthorpe include bitterns, European cranes, 12 species of raptor, 5 species of owl, a wide range of wading birds such as redshank, plovers, sandpipers, curlew, and many wetland and woodland birds. Otters breed here, and Roe deer can be seen. As well as many species of butterflies.

Pensthorpe is set in 500 acres of beautiful countryside with miles of nature trails to explore through ancient fen meadows, woodland and a superb series of lakes. Pensthorpe is home to a fine collection of waterfowl including endangered exotic waterfowl from around the world. Dozens of migratory bird species can be seen during the winter and summer months and our specially created hides help you get closer to nature.

A Black Tailled Godwit


Really looking forward to visiting Pensthorpe Wetland and Nature Reserve. However after a hearty farmhouse breakfast I had a job to do first.
High in a Horse Chestnut tree is an Owl box, home to a pair of Barn Owls close to the farm. As we approached one of the Owls flew out, as i climbed the ladder the other one flew out nearly taking me with it. I peered in and the first thing to notice was the smell! not pleasant. Barn Owls are not noted for their good housekeeping. The box was full of pellets and a smell of urine....However tucked away in the corner were three eggs ! Which was great to see and hopefully all will hatch succesfully.

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