4 comments on “Patching Week Strikes Gold

  1. Hi Joseph

    I was really interested in your blog about Costessey Estate, having picked it up on Norfolk Bird Forum (which I have not registered for), as I live in Station Road Drayton and often go down Marriott’s Line towards Norwich. I have four kids (who sadly are not interested in birding) but occasionally get out and catch up with some of the birds in Norfolk (the most recent being the glossy ibises at Cantley Marshes last month).

    With regards to your sighting of an otter, I think that is fantastic – though otters are allegedly now widespread in Norfolk, it is indeed rare to see them, and in 10 years in Norfolk I have only ever seen them twice, both times at Strumpshaw Fen (where I think they have bred). I know they have been seen on the Wensum downstream at Hellesdon Bridge and a dead pup has been picked up in Norwich, but to see one locally is still wonderful. Sightings in Norfolk are far from commonplace, and always noteworthy.

    As for the birds, I think you’ve done really well. I occasionally pick up a barn owl in in the field by Drayton Woods in winter, and a litte egret sometimes fishes the river throughout the year, but I’ve not seen/heard a reed bunting (presumably as I do not have access to the estate). I have heard Cetti’s from the railway bridge, and grasshopper warblers pass through the ‘fisherman’s trail’ in late April – the best I ever had was a male that sang every night for three or four weeks one year (I heard it from my garden, though I never saw it!)

    As for the other birds you might come across, I’ve only ever once seen treecreepers along the railwayline, and never nuthatches (they seem v scarce in norfolk). Once from the railwaybridge I saw a white heron, that I put down as an albino (not having my bins with me) though this year I’ve seen a great White Egret not too far away on the Yare at Marlingford Mill, so I wish I’d scrutinised the ‘albino heron’ a bit better! I’ve also once (in ten years!) seen a red kite drift across our garden, and rumour has it they may breed in the Marlingford area, so you might be lucky and catch up with one of those!

    My favourite ‘Drayton bird’ though are the few common terns that hunt the Wensum every year, special birds indeed.

    I’m also interested that you’ve seen a fox on the estate – I’ve once seen a fox by your ‘fishermans rail’, and in my experience (having moved up from South London where urban foxes are commonplace) foxes are rare in Norfolk – my 9 year old has never seen a fox (!!) and I’ve seen more bitterns in Norfolk than foxes – this years score is bitterns 2 (Strumpshaw & Titchwell) foxes 0. Crazy!

    Thanks for the excellent postings, and good luck with the birding, I’d be most interested in any other sightings you have.

    Best wishes
    John Eady

    PS Good luck with the Greater Yellowlegs if it’s still there when you get back!

    • Hi John,

      Thank you so much for your comment, it is great to hear from a birder that lives very locally and the information you have shared with me on the birds you’ve seen in this area is invaluable. I will continue to post regularly about the birds I see on Costessey House Private Estate when I’m down here; unfortunately I’m leaving in a couple of days time but I’ll be down for a weekend in early May and I am looking forward to immensely.

      Regarding the birds I do see and could see in the area, I am particularly excited to hear that Common Terns hunt the Wensum around here and that Grasshopper Warblers are about at the end of April. It would be lovely to bump into both species when I am next down – here’s hoping. Its also nice to hear that Little Egrets are here every now and then although its not particularly surprising, its certainly good habitat for them and I have played with the idea of a Great White or Cattle passing through. Would have been great if that heron you had was a GWE, seems a realistic bet! I’ve been semi looking out for the Marlingford bird actually, tantalizing to think that it could be roaming about nearby…

      I am hoping the Cetti’s currently here is joined by a second, thanks again for explaining that these birds spend the spring here every year. Also thanks for the tip off on Red Kites nearby, have been keeping an eye out for a flyover since I’ve been here. One thing that lacks here are a range of duck and wader species – I’ve only had Mallard and Snipe respectively. A couple of the fields flood round here though and that would surely attract more ducks and waders; looking forward to when that happens whilst I’m down.

      I feel very priviliged to have seen Otter here and at such an early stage. Due to their status and elusive nature I doubt I’ll see one here for a long time to come. Thanks for the information on where they’ve been seen nearby, certainly reinforces the fact they are around in the area. As for the Fox, it is the first I’ve seen in the region. Perhaps they are just very elusive like Otters, it may well be that they are widespread but would be interesting to find out the Norfolk population of this species.

      Thanks very much for your comments once again and I am touched that my postings on my ramblings here are of interest to you.

      All the Best,

      Joseph Nichols (aged 17)

  2. Hi Joseph

    Guess what? This evening at 8pm a fox skipped out in front of the car and crossed Costessey Lane to disappear in the reeds opposite your fisherman’s trail! Tomorrow no doubt there’ll be an otter 🙂

    I’ve always found the area surprisingly poor for ducks and waders – only mallards and the occasional shelduck (no wigeon unfortunately), and just a handful of snipe and a few winter flocks of lapwing. Maybe I haven’t been trying hard enough!

    Anyway the main reason I was posting was to let you know of a fantastic blog by Graham Etherington which is well worth checking out, especially his excellent East Norfolk Birding Map. He is one of the top British birders and regularly finds and reports many birds to RBA, the latest being yesterday’s hoopoe and serin at Waxham Sands holiday camp. I was fortunate to see the hoopoe and two red kites first thing this morning, and really recommend east Norfolk during migration time – less crowds than the North coast reserves, and always the chance of finding your own birds (seals and cranes often about also). Google search ‘Graham’s birding blog’ or http://birds-britishbirder.blogspot.co.uk/

    Thanks for your reply, and good luck with your birding; apologies if you’re already an east Norfolk expert!

    Best wishes

    John Eady (aged 50 – that is too old!!)

    • Hi John

      Well done with the Fox, I had what would probably have been the same Fox sitting in the reeds just before the beginning of Drayton Meadows yesterday morning which when I last saw it was wending its way towards Fishermen’s Trail. That was my last check of the patch before heading back to Aberdeen. I also had a Kingfisher along the Fishermen’s Trail that morning. I’ll be back and will manage a couple of days patching on a brief weekend visit in the first week of May, looking forward to it and will of course blog it.

      Thanks for the info on the ducks and waders you’ve had in the area. It would be nice to see a few more waders and ducks there, but I am not too surprised what with the lack of water and therefore muddy edges in the area for attracting waders. Fishermen’s Field and Mill Field do apparently flood though so hopefully that would bring in a few commoner ducks; wader wise I guess a few Lapwing, Curlew and perhaps a Ruff at the right time of year would be possible when the fields are flooding. I’m looking forward to what the future brings on the patch.

      Thanks for the link to Graham’s blog; 2 top quality birds he’s found there and I’ll keep up with it. I pondered twitching the Hoopoe but decided to do Blakeney Point with a friend instead! I was at Winterton and Horsey a couple of days before the Hoopoe turned up at Waxham, if it had turned up that day I would have gone for it. East Norfolk is fantastic for birding; I haven’t birded it that much but have had Great Grey Shrike at Waxham before and watched the cranes come in to roost at Stubb’s Mill earlier this year. It’s nice and close to Norwich and I hope to do birding in the area a lot more in the future.

      Best wishes,


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