Pensthorpe March 2018

Blackbourne U3A Watching Birds group visit to Pensthorpe 8th March2018

Only 5 of us travelled to Pensthorpe Natural Park near Fakenham in Norfolk. It was a cold windy day with the promise of heavy rain from time to time. Luckily there is a large indoor viewing area and an enclosure with a pond and vegetation which is quite sheltered. We started with our customary coffee or hot chocolate and proceeded to the pond enclosure. This area is home to numerous birds, some of which are waders like Avocets and Ruff but the real stars are breeding populations of Bearded Tits and Turtle Doves. It is marvellous to be so close to such rare birds but if you think it is easy to get good pictures of them – think again! They are very restless, especially the Bearded Tits and just as you get one in the view finder they are gone.

We moved on to the glass fronted lake viewing area which is home to some exoticGeese and Ducks such as Ross’s Goose and Puna Teal. Also there are Smew which arehard to see in the wild in the UK. Mixed in with the exotics were some wild birds such as Mallard and Coot. The centre no longer have a public feeding time as it attracts wildbirds and this increases the risk of bird ‘flu coming in to the centre. While we were inthe viewing area the heavens opened but thankfully it did not last for long.

We proceeded over the bridge on the lake and followed the path to the Red Squirrel enclosure. On the way we saw two Cranes which were displaying by dancing around each other. Only two Red Squirrels were seen but we got very close and saw them busily searching for nuts and fruit and running at great speed along enclosed overhead walkways.

Next we headed for the hide with a big shallow scrape. Gulls, Cormorants and Lesser Black Backed Gulls were seen. On the way back to the centre Gill H and Dave were treated to views of several Bullfinches flying in and out of a hedge and also a SongThrush. The others could not hear Dave and Gill’s calls to come and look. Back at thecentre we enjoyed a well cooked meal but unfortunately Dave and Gill S were served well before the rest of the group and had almost finished before the others started. Never mind, we had all had an enjoyable day and saw plenty of colourful and interesting birds.

I have tried to only list the wild birds – we saw 36 in total.

Birds seen:
Moorhen, Coot, Wood Pigeon, Rook, House Sparrow, Blue Tit, Chaffinch, Great Tit, Dunnock, Robin, Blackbird, Long Tailed Tit, Mallard, Jackdaw, Collared Dove, Black Headed Gull, Cormorant, Buzzard, Oyster Catcher, Mute Swan, Grey Lag Goose, Great crested Grebe, Little Egret, Lapwing, Tufted Duck, Egyptian Goose, Shoveler, Shelduck, Teal, Wigeon, Kestrel, Grey Heron, Lesser Black Backed Gull, Bullfinch, Song Thrush, Barnacle Goose. See below for interesting facts about Barnacle Geese.

Barnacle geese: 
Barnacle geese and Brent Geese were formerly regarded as the same species. It was thought that Barnacle geese hatched from Goose Barnacles which are found attached to washed up lumps of wood and look a bit like small geese heads.

As a result the geese were regarded as fish and until recently were eaten as such by Catholics on a Friday in Kerry, Eire.

In winter, the Isle of Islay holds 70 per cent of the world's Greenland barnacle geese and 40 per cent of the Greenland white-fronted goose population - 37,000 and 13,000 respectively. These numbers can cause significant damage to farmers’ fields and crops with compensation paid to farms badly affected.