Sculthorpe May 2018


13 of us met in the car park at Sculthorpe Moor, Hawk and Owl Trust Nature Reserve. This reserve is close to Fakenham and consists mainly of wood boarded walkways through wet woodland with hides overlooking freshwater scrapes. The weather, although sunny, was also windy with a cold edge to it. Hopefully we would be warmer amongst the trees.

Having paid our entrance fees (only £5 a head) we set off towards the first hide. Immediately behind the visitor centre was a bird feeder and underneath it was a colourful Male Bullfinch. On the way to the first hide we heard Willow Warbler, Blackcap and Chiffchaff. A raptor flew past with a prey item in its talons. It was either a Sparrowhawk or a Kestrel. A Dunnock, only feet above our heads gave us a delightful song and the chance for a good photograph.

We visited about 4 hides but there were few birds to see on the water other than Little Grebe, Mallard and Tufted Duck. We heard a Cuckoo in the far distance and finally spotted one on a power line. It was an unusual red or rufous colour which would indicate that either it was a rufous morph female or a juvenile. Rufous juveniles would only be around in July so it was probably a female. This was strange as it appeared to be the bird calling ‘Cuckoo’ andtherefore male. Perhaps the male was nearby but out of our sight? Whatever it was it was quite a rarity.

As we turned a corner on the walkway we found ourselves next to the River Wensum and could look across meadows to a wooded area. Suddenly the sky above the trees was alive with numerous large raptors. Our estimate was that there were up to 3 Red Kites and 3 Buzzards in the air at the same time. They did not appear to be in conflict at all but just wheeled around the area for several minutes. Another raptor flew low across the path in front of us and we could see that it was in fact a Male Marsh Harrier.

On our return to the visitor centre we went past an old tree with very loose bark and saw that a Treecreeper was nesting behind the bark. It took very little notice of us and continued running up and down the trees nearby like a little mouse.

During our walk we saw several species of butterfly including Comma, Speckled Wood, Orange Tip and Green Veined White. Dragonflies and Damselflies were in abundance and several good photographs were taken, especially of a Large Red Damselfly.

After the walk we moved to the nearby Sculthorpe Mill restaurant which is set astride the beautifully clear waters of the upper River Wensum. Before we went in we paused by the mill pool and spent a few minutes watching the resident Grey Wagtail parents catching flies from the water surface and feeding them to at least 3 youngsters. We all enjoyed a good meal and after a walk around the delightful Mill gardens we said our goodbyes and set off for home.

This turned out to be a very enjoyable trip to a compact but productive reserve. We saw a total of 36 separate bird species and heard 4 others which is very good for an inland site.

Birds seen:
Bullfinch, Goldfinch, Mallard, Willow Warbler, Carrion Crow, Robin, Wood Pigeon, Dunnock, Wren, Blackbird, Greenfinch, Blue Tit, Coal Tit, Blackcap, Pheasant, Red Kite, Reed Bunting, Common Buzzard, Kingfisher, Grey Heron, Lapwing, Marsh Harrier, Little Grebe, Mute swan, Canada Goose, Jackdaw, Chiffchaff, Long Tailed Tit, Cuckoo, Tree Creeper, Great Tit, Collared Dove, Tufted Duck, Kestrel or Sparrowhawk, Grey Wagtail and Chaffinch.

Birds heard :
Great Spotted Woodpecker, Jay, Reed or Sedge Warbler andCetti’s Warbler.