Rather than aim for the usual coastal location, I chose to stay in land a bit, in Fakenham. Only a dozen miles from the coast should the mood take us, but right next to the Hawk And Owl Trust's Sculthorpe Moor reserve, which is a spot I had visited before, but wanted to revisit, especially after helping the Trust out with some images recently.
After a remarkably easy run we arrived at the reserve, on my Birthday (I'd opened my cards before setting off), and we wandered down through the woods towards the hide, overlooking the extensive reedbeds. It was quite windy and the light wasn't great, but the view was promising and there were plenty of birds feeding from the stations either side of the hide.
Didn't take long to spot a flock of bramblings, which immediately became a target, and proved challenging, as they tended to fly straight on to the table, or down to the ground, littered with sunflower seed. Not particularly attractive.
Patience yielded results though, and eventually I managed to get shots of both a male and female perched in one of the trees.
The Sculthorpe Mill - gorgeous pub / hotel, on a river, beside open countryside. Beautiful garden too, serving a great pint of Abbott ale and the food was top drawer too. The only downside came when I received a message from Lin, that they were about to release an osprey on the reserve, and we couldn't go see it, as our food was on the way. Apparently it had got into difficulty when trying to fish at a local fish farm but was lucky to be rescued, checked over and released.
When Lin did arrive at the pub later, with a few friends, the hawk expert who had had the task of releasing the female osprey told us how remarkably strong it had been - and had pushed itself away from him as he tried to hold her, commenting on how heavy she was too. A successful release, so a very happy ending there.
After an entertaining evening, we headed back to the B&B in Fakenham for a much needed kip, to recharge for the next day. I have to recommend Erika's B&B. Super value, great location and the breakfasts were just the ticket!
I had planned to return to Sculthorpe the following afternoon, after taking a drive around the area, just to see what was around. Never know what you might find. And within a few miles of the drive, we had seen some brown hares and also a fair few grey partridges.
The light was terrible where we had chosen to watch from, and even when one flew right over us, the shots were rather disappointing. Wanting something better, I suggested to Dad that we look for a spot maybe closer to the action, but definitely with the sun in a more favourable direction, and, moments later we'd found just such a place. And within seconds of getting out the car, we saw a male harrier hover momentarily, in perfect light with a blue sky behind.
So where are the pictures you might ask? Erm, there aren't any, as hand-holding the bazooka isn't easy and I missed the focus - leaving it hunting for long enough to lose the harrier from view. I was furious and blamed the camera of course. Never me... But thankfully this spot we'd picked proved to be a gem, and the male powered away from the reedbed, over us and off into the fields beyond.
By early afternoon though, the action seemed to subside a touch, and we fancied a change of scenery. It was sunny, we were on holiday and there was a pub down the road called the Lifeboat Inn, with 2 pints of Wherry with our names on! Irresistible! We even managed to sit out the front in the sunshine.
A visit to Thornham harbour proved worthwhile with views of a black-tailed godwit glowing in one of the channels as it fed, and returning to the harriers later provided views of a pair of them chasing each other high above us.
Dad scuttled off to get to a spot giving him a bit of cover, while I scrambled to get my gear on the tripod.
What a fantastic day - ended as before at the Sculthorpe Mill, for fine beer and grub once again.
With it being only a short break, I had planned to head back early on the Saturday, but a cloudless morning soon changed my mind, and we headed back to the harriers once more. A female was busy chasing a common buzzard high over the marshes, while the pair of kestrels nesting up the road were whizzing around, hunting over the farmland nearby.