Horsey Mere and Hickling Broad June 2017

Horsey Mere and Hickling Broad June 2017

The week before this trip was spent studying the weather forecast for the 8th of June and the signs were not good! Torrential rain and high winds were forecast but we agreed to make a decision at 7pm the night before we were due to go. There would only be 8 of us in total. At the last minute the rain was shown missing us but the wind was due to be fairly gusty. We decided to cancel the planned picnic but decided that the trip was on!

We needed to meet at Horsey Wind Pump by 1015am in time to board the 'Lady Ann' boat that was to take us on a cruise of Horsey Mere, Meadow Dyke and a small part of Hickling Broad. There was time to enjoy a coffee or hot chocolate in the National Trust tearoom by the wind pump but the staff were a little flustered to provide 8 drinks in fast order so that we were not late for the boat. We were greeted at the boat by Ross the owner and several adorable dogs. Only one travelled with us and her name was Riley. She did the rounds of all of us on the boat, cuddling up to us in turn. We set off with Ross providing a non stop commentary on the wildlife of the area. At the same time he was pointing out birds in the air, on the bushes and on the water. He gave us many small identification pointers to help us recognise the different birds and other wildlife. Sadly, the temperature was just too low for the Dragon flies and Butterflies to be on the wing. It was 15 degrees and it needs to be at least 18 degrees. The boat trip lasted for one hour and the notable sightings were numerous Marsh Harriers on the wing and a Great Crested Grebe's nest which had surprisingly survived an earlier storm.

After the cruise we made our way to the cars by way of a beautifully planted flower garden next to the toilets! The flowers looked to have been selected specifically to attract Butterflies and other insects and although there were only a couple of Painted Ladies to be seen the flowers were wonderful in their own right.

Next stop was the village of Hickling and lunch in the Greyhound Pub. This was only arranged the night before so it was pot luck as far as the quality of the food went. As it turned out it was a delightful Pub with a good menu (especially the seafood medley which was Scampi, King Prawns and Whitebait with chips and salad).

Time was getting on so we drove a couple of miles to Hickling Broad Reserve run by Norfolk Wildlife Trust. On arrival we entered via the new visitor centre and we were briefed by one of the staff about possible routes. A roughly circular route would be about a mile and a half but I would say that it was nearer 2 miles in total. The track was very well maintained all of the way round and we did not need boots. The reserve had the feel of a small Strumpshaw fen about it with extensive reed and sedge beds, lagoons and several hides. The first hide (Cadbury) did not have much on show. Just a Mallard or two, a Lapwing and Coots. We could see Marsh Harriers in the distance when suddenly a big Brown speckled bird with long legs erupted from a close in reed bed. Yes! it was a Bittern and it flew leisurely from right to left so that we all got a fantastic view, with or without binoculars. On we went to the next hide (Seckers) which looked from the other side of the lagoon in front of Cadbury hide. Not much to see on the water but the Marsh Harriers were everywhere taking advantage of the wind to glide over the reed beds hunting for food. The males showed their spectacular colours in the sunshine. Next we saw a small falcon in the distance above a wood and it almost went in to a hover so we thought at first that it was a Kestrel. But no! It started performing incredible aerobatics and when it came closer it was easy to see that it was, in fact, a Hobby. It was joined by a second Hobby and for 15 minutes or more we were treated to a truly spectacular flying display. In addition we saw the birds feeding on the wing ie catching food in their talons and bending down to eat on the wing. We guess that they were catching and eating Dragon flies. The only behaviour that we did not witness that Hobbies (and Marsh Harriers )show was passing food from one bird to another but hopefully we will see that another time.

Along the track we spotted numerous 'Wooly Bear Caterpillars' which were feeding on Dock and Thistle. A quick look in an insect book on our return to the visitor centre revealed that they are the larvae of the Garden Tiger Moth.

The bluish flower that was growing in the flower garden at Horsey. It seemed to be attracting bees. Colin Hawes, who we met on the Wildlife Walk today identified it as Phacelia tanacetifolia, a native of SW USA and Northern Mexico. It is well known to attract Bees and Hoverflies and so is beneficial to agriculture and wildlife. It is commonly planted in conservation strips in this country. It's common names include Lacy Phacelia or Blue Tansy or Purple Tansy.

This turned out to be a very long day but a very fruitful trip and somewhere we might return to, perhaps in the Winter when they have a raptor roost to see. My thanks to everyone for their excellent timekeeping.

Bird species seen at Horsey and Hickling: 32 Species

  • Greylag Goose
  • Wren
  • Coot
  • Jay
  • Gadwall
  • Great Crested Grebe
  • Avocet
  • Little Egret
  • Mallard
  • Buzzard
  • Marsh Harrier
  • Pied Wagtail
  • Swallow
  • Swift
  • Wood Pigeon
  • Herring Gull
  • Lesser Black backed Gull
  • Black Headed Gull
  • Magpie
  • Mute Swan
  • Cormorant
  • Carrion Crow
  • Grey Heron
  • Common Tern
  • Reed Bunting
  • Goldfinch
  • Lapwing
  • Kestrel
  • Bittern
  • Sedge Warbler
  • Hobby
  • Canada Goose

Bird species heard only: 11 Species

  • Reed Warbler
  • Willow Warbler
  • Pheasant
  • Cuckoo
  • Curlew
  • Water Rail
  • Cetti's Warbler
  • Skylark
  • Chiffchaff
  • Chaffinch
  • Blackbird

Other wildlife:

  • Painted Lady Butterfly
  • Garden Tiger Moth caterpillar
  • Brown Hare