Monday, 24 April 2006

Two Places to Visit

Over the Easter weekend I was fortunate enough to get a few days with family down on the Norfolk coast, during which I made a trip to a reserve I'd often heard about but never visited.

NWT Hickling Broad
Home to vast ranges of reed, interspersed with small pools, bordered on one side by the expansive waters of the broad, Hickling offers a near unique habitat for birds and wildlife, with wooded areas and sedge too. Though the star attraction are the Bittern, I wasn't fortunate enough to see the secretative bird on this occasion, but any disappointment was dispelled by stellar views of breeding Marsh Harrier. Previously I'd only seen the raptor very distantly, and not really been able to appreciate the patchwork plumage of the male, of the cream-tipped chocolate of the females. This time it was all on view, the harriers far closer to the hide than could have been imagined, close enough to watch a spectacular food exchange. My days list wasn't huge, but the common warblers are present, as are species like Teal, Shelduck, Snipe, Lapwing, and I heard Bearded Tit too.

Potteric Carr Nature Reserve
Situated on the south side of Doncaster this is a reserve still partially under development, but already a cracking destination for birders. Prime among its number are breeding Black-necked Grebe (which I was lucky enough to see performing a courtship dance), though here again Bittern may well be sighted.

With reeds, glades, and open farmland, there's good walking and tidy hides - this place is modern and it's good. A dual carriageway lies nearby the reserve and the east coat mainline actually running through it, that said there is greater peace than you might imagine.
The opening hours are 9-to-5, and Potteric Carr really deserves a full day.
One cautionary note, the reserve isn't very well sign-posted, so make sure of your route beforehand. When we arrived the welcome was warm, with a very informative lady making sure we understood the map, where the birds might be and how to cross the railway. She was really rather sweet.

You could do a lot worse than set out for either reserve.