A visit to the Hawk and Owl Trust Sculthorpe Moor Nature Reserve in Norfolk never fails to impress. Living about half an hours drive from the reserve and a member of the Friends of Sculthorpe Moor we try to visit each month. Each changing season bringing a different look to the Moor and a new cast of wild characters.
Late Spring/Early Summer in the Reserve
Earlier this year in late spring / early summer the woodland areas were in full leaf and very green. There was lots of bird song and small birds moving high in the canopy as we walked from the Visitors’ Centre through the woodland. The temperature was already into the mid 20’s and the dragon and damsel fly population all seemed to be on the wing along the ditch.
Paul Johnson Hide
As the scrape hide has often produced sightings of the kingfishers we made that our first stop. Since our last visit the reed beds had put on a remarkable amount of growth. Despite the long period without any substantial rain the pool in front of Paul Johnson hide was still full and alive with small fish. Shortly after settling down a shoal of small fish were panicked by a rat swimming across the pond to the reeds. He climbed into the reeds disturbing a nesting Reed Warbler.
After it investigated it then swam off across the water. Only a few minutes later it to seemed to reappear. However it looked to be a darker colour. Thinking it was a trick of the light it wasn’t until it began to climb the reeds that we could see that it was in fact a stoat. He had come across to investigate what we think was a warblers nest. We watched the stoat for some twenty minutes trying unsuccessfully to reach the nest. It then decided to leave the reed bed in search of something a little less taxing.
Whitney and Tower Hides
We moved on to the Whitney hide where you can often get good views of the Harriers hunting over the marsh. The reeds close to the hide had began to encroach on the water way. The area seemed to have been taken over by the mallard population with a small number of Chaffinches and Tits at the feeders. Although there was a Marsh Harrier’s nest with chicks on the reserve there was no sign of the parents today. The new Tower hide was much the same with a number of chaffinches and blue tits feeding from the table, but no sign of the Nuthatches that can often be seen there.
It was time now for a visit back to the centre for a drink and something to eat. Afterwards we set off again down to the scrape hides. This part of the boardwalk leads down to the river and runs along a ditch. We heard the tell-tale ‘plop’ sound. that water voles make when they jump into water. So on the look out for these voles we were surprised to find another one feeding on the fresh shoots further down the path close to the scrape. It was close enough to both watch and photograph from the comfort of one of the many benches that you can find around the reserve. After spending some time fascinated by the way these creatures cut the reed stems and handle them whilst feeding we moved down to scrape hide.
Paul Johnson Hide
Here we were joined by a gentlemen making a film about a year in the life of the reserve for the hawk and owl trust. It was now late afternoon and there were a number of swallows feeding over the water. Some of them then rested on the branches that had been placed in front of the hide. This gave us the rare opportunity to capture some images of these birds resting.
Not long after the swallows left the perch, their place was taken by a Kingfisher. They are often seen here and a favourite amongst the visitors to the reserve. We were treated to at least half an hour of watching what we think is a juvenile female. She was trying unsuccessfully to catch the small fish that abound in the pool below the branches. A treat for both us and the film maker. Although he was equally interested in filming us watching and photographing the kingfisher for the film. Finally as the reserve was due to close we left the bird feeding.This in itself is unusual but proving that this part of the Hawk and Owls trust never fails to impress.
Latest update January 2019 :-
Despite the very mild weather this winter keeping the numbers of Bramblings, Siskins and Redpolls visiting the reserve down. On a number of visits over the last few weeks we have been treated to regular views of a Common Buzzard in the pale form feeding at the scrape hides. Plus very recently to not one but three otters out in broad daylight playing and fishing.