As I will soon be down in Norfolk I thought I’d do my first post on Costessey House Private Estate, my newly adopted occasional patch for when I’m down there. I have several different pages in the sidebar dedicated to Costessey House Private Estate, and in this post I will be referencing the different parts of the site, so if you wish to know which part I’m referencing please click on the page entitled ‘Costessey House Private Estate’. For information on the birds seen there, see both ‘Birds of Costessey House Private Estate’ and ‘Costessey House Private Estate list’. If you wish to find more about the patch, it is useful to read these.
Costessey House Private Estate is basically an area of woodland and meadows surrounding the cottage which my mother stays in just outside Norwich between the suburbs of Costessey and Drayton. It is privately owned area but residents and anyone visiting them have access to the estate whilst they’re staying, thus meaning I have access when I stay with my mother and that there is very minimal disturbance as no-one else is around. The habitat is varied and has already proved to hold a diverse range of species, hence why this winter I deemed it as an occasional local patch. I plan to visit at least 5 times a year for around a week or more a time; the next time being in a couple of weeks. I have recorded 39 species so far in 6 visits. This post chronicles my three winter ramblings around the site when I was down over the New Year. To give you a taster of what it looks like here is Mill Meadow.
29th December 2011: This was the day I officialy deemed the area as my occasional local patch, and it proved to be quite productive. I devised a route round the patch which would take roughly 45 minutes, which is as follows (see Costessey House Private Estate to view glossary of different areas of the patch):
- Walk up Mill Lane from the cottage, checking Mill Field and Mill Meadow in the process.
- As Mill Lane veers right continue straight over the stile and proceed round Fishermen’s Trail until you reach a style near a bridge at the top.
- Take this and walk across Fishermen’s Field back to the stile used to cross onto Fisherman’s Trail
- Walk up Mill Lane, taking you through Drayton Woods before emerging into Drayton Meadows.
- Walk alongside the river at Drayton Meadows until gate stops you from going any further.
On first impressions, not much was in Mill Meadow or Mill Field. 15 Redwings flew east over Fishermen’s Field, shortly followed by 3 Fieldfares. The former appear to be quite regular winter visitors, seen on each occasion I went out that visit. A 2cy Common Gull was also sat here, a species that can be seen in small numbers each visit. As I walked along Mill Lane through Drayton Woods, a flurry of activity took place. Two Roe Deers bounded their way along the path before disappearing, two pairs of Pheasants gave me a bolt from the blue as they exploded out of the undergrowth, as did a number of the regular Jays. A stunning male Bullfinch showed well in a bush here, my first at the site. As I continued onto Drayton Meadows I was surprised and delighted to come across the two Egpytian Geese I thought were flyovers during my visit last October. They showed well by the River Wensum with the regular flock of Black-headed Gulls and were watched for some time. To discover that these Egyptian Geese were resident to the area was fantastic and undoubted highlight of the check; it will be interesting to see if they breed in the future. As I progressed up the meadows I caught up with one of the Grey Herons, the Mute Swan family (2 adults and 5 reasonably well developed cygnets) and 3 Moorhens on the Wensum. On the way back to the cottage I had a male Kestrel over Drayton Woods and a fine flock of 4 female Bullfinches in the tree tops at the start of Mill Lane by the cottage. This was an ideal first day and provided the inspiriation for me to make this my patch.
1st January 2012: I kick started my year by doing the same route round the patch. The Egyptian Geese pair were on Mill Field alongside the Mute Swan family, all roosting together. As I progressed on to Fishermen’s Trail a party of 6 Long-tailed Tits were scuttling around in the silver birches by the Wensum, a pleasant surprise and my first for the site. Once again a couple of juvvy Common Gulls were on Fishermen’s Field, and a 3 Redwings flew west over. One of the Grey Herons was flushed from Mill Meadow, rising high in lumbering flight above Drayton Woods before dipping out of view. 4 Moorhens were spread out across the Wensum along Drayton Meadows. The highlight of the day was a Cormorant in flight high above Drayton Meadows. It certainly contemplated landing, but decided the terrain wasn’t good enough and headed back in the southerly direction it had come from. This was an unusual sighting as there aren’t many areas of freshwater in the area; however with Costessey Pits and other areas of water being close by it was probably a bird from one of these areas. It will be interesting to see if I see Cormorant again here or if they will become a patch rare. I ended the session having seen 27 species, with 2 patch ticks.
3rd January 2012: The 3rd January probably hosted my best bird at Costessey House Private Estate so far. Much the same lot of birds were around from previous visits. The Egyptian Geese were alone on Mill Field, the Mute Swan family and 2 Moorhens were along the Wensum at Drayton Meadows, an adult Common Gull was with Black-headed Gulls on Fisherman’s Field, a couple of Redwings were in the bushes along Mill Lane. A female Bullfinch was also along Mill Lane. The first bird of real interest was a female Sparrowhawk being mobbed by Rooks above Drayton Woods, my second at the site. This was shortly followed by a Snipe flushed from an area of boggy vegetation at Drayton Meadows, which proceeded to rocket into the sky and fly rapidly away from the area. This Snipe represents my first wader species at the site; whilst the habitat at Drayton Meadows looks good it is likely that this will be a scarce species at the site, as with all waders.
Overall, these few checks have given me great faith in the site and I am very much looking forward to patching it again in the next couple of weeks. As spring approaches the chances of my first warblers on the patch are high and hopefully a number of other species. High on my want list is a Barn Owl that my mum tells me is frequent and very obliging. When I am down there, expect regular updates from my ramblings around this new and promising patch of mine.
Thanks for reading,