Saturday 26 January 2013

January at Thorpe Marshes

 Chris Durdin, NWT Thorpe Marshes

NWT Thorpe Marshes in the spring, photo by Richard Osb
I'm lucky to have Thorpe St Andrew Marshes – often called Thorpe Marshes for short – a short walk from home. The Norfolk Wildlife Trust’s newest nature reserve, established in 2011, is a charming mix of grazing marshes, ditches, ungrazed fen and a gravel pit, now known as St Andrews Broad. There's year-round interest, though spring and summer are my favourite times, with flowers on the marshes and dragonflies over the ditches, including that local speciality, the Norfolk hawker. Cetti's and grasshopper warblers, a hunting barn owl and Chinese water deer can be heard or seen on my local patch on the edge of Norwich.

In winter, the Broad comes into its own, with good numbers of gadwalls, tufted ducks, pochards and teals, these ducks moving between Thorpe and Whitlingham Country Park, which is just across the tidal River Yare.

Snipe feeding, photo by Elizabeth Dack
I'd like to share news of a recent sighting. I often wonder how many snipe are hidden on Thorpe Marshes. On 9th January, having walked around the reserve, I'd managed to find nine. Then, at 10:45, there were suddenly flocks of birds over the marshes, so dense that at first they looked like starlings. In fact, they were snipe. I estimated 200, including one in the claws of a peregrine. The peregrine, clasping its prey, the snipe's long beak clearly visible, headed west along the river, presumably towards central Norwich and the cathedral, where peregrines nest and remain during winter. A second peregrine also showed, very briefly, perhaps the other one of the pair based at the cathedral. The falcons certainly explained the disturbance that had made the snipe take to the air.

I lead monthly wildlife walks at NWT Thorpe Marshes. If you'd like to join me, you can see details of these and keep up to date with recent sightings on the reserve on my website

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