Normally the annual trip east to Norfolk coincides with my Dad’s and my own Birthday, but Easter gatecrashed the party, so we had to delay the trip by a week. I had secretly hoped that this might break the cycle of us being there a week too soon for anything interesting to show up in terms of rare birds, but what actually happened was quite different.
Winter made an unwelcome return during some of the week, and put an end to any ideas of rarities showing up as the winds were yet again from the wrong direction, mostly from the north, and bitingly cold.
Brown hares were thankfully still plentiful, and my dawn drives around the lanes proved fruitful. Despite it being late April, there were numerous boxing bouts going on, along with adrenaline-fuelled chases across the crop fields.
So do they? I can’t answer that, as just as that point in proceedings was about to happen, the female hare decided she’d had enough, and booted him up in the air! I burst out laughing - nature can be highly amusing at times.
Also even more revealing was the sound made by the male hare. Every so often he would make a strange mewing call - hard to describe, a bit like a duck whistle. I wasn’t sure it was him making it at first, but with nothing else around, and watching him closely through my binoculars, I could clearly see the sound was coming from him.
The skies behind darkened. My wish was to be granted. A short shower would be perfect. Lesson learnt… be careful what you wish for! Over the next hour, I saw rain, then sleet with flakes of snow, followed by a horrendous hail storm, thunder and lightning and a drop in temperature of about 10 degrees! The track I was on became a river of slush and hailstones. And yet the hares sat still, ignoring the grim conditions.
When the weather finally moved over, the hares moved, and I was treated to them grooming, shaking off excess rainwater, and stretching.
I often go to these locations (Norfolk, not the pub) with a preconceived idea of what images I will return with, and of what subjects, but more often than not, I come back with something else entirely. And true to form, this was the case once more.
On one warm afternoon during the week, I decided to go for a stroll around the marshes at Burnham Norton. I popped the camera on the monopod, to travel light, and set off on the circular walk. I was about a third of the way around it when I spotted a different-looking bird feeding in one of the creeks. A spoonbill!
To get closer, I had to retrace my steps back and continue along the coast. Was worth it to try to photo one of these birds, especially as it was in full breeding plumage.
At one point, I was only a few yards from it, as it fished in a shallow creek, and I crept along, hiding in gorse bushes. Funny looking birds, and ungainly when seen next to the elegance of a little egret.
Of course visiting North Norfolk isn’t just about the wildlife. We both love the scenery, and that was made more dramatic with high tides and stormy skies.
As we left Norfolk, we diverted to Cambridgeshire to catch up with old friends who have recently relocated there. They’re renting a gorgeous, secluded cottage which may yield some wonderful encounters with wildlife, and if there are any owls there, I might have to find a reason to call round again.
Back home, and I had to pack my bags once more, as I was heading north… to the Highlands again, but that’s for another blog post.