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Migration watch

 Hundreds of Brent geese fly over fields near Blakeney north Norfolk
Brent geese rise over the marshes in Blakeney

You don’t have to walk far if you want to watch birds in Blakeney. Just a hundred yards or so from Kiln Cottage and you are on Youngs Land, a large field of wild grasses and brush with wild orchids. This is a resting place to pheasant, partridge and geese, and a hunting ground for owl and marsh harrier.

The field is flanked on the seaward side by the coastal path and then the salt marshes dissected by gullies of seawater creating a rich habitat for geese and waders.

Walk along the coast path in either direction and you can see a multitude of birds.

February and March - Springtime – is when there is a marked seasonal change in Blakeney’s bird population. Migrating birds leave and others arrive, some such as smew blown in on the strong easterly gales that happen at this time of the year. Rare birds are among the visitors but there are many common species to see all year round.

Winter is a great time for bird spotting because there is less vegetation growth and foliage to provide cover. But February is when bird life takes on the next cycle of finding a mate, nesting and breeding. It is also when the birds emerge in more colourful dress.

Blakeney is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Its channel running out to Blakeney Point exposes mudflats which are a fertile feeding ground for numerous waders and provide a safe haven for geese and duck. Oyster catcher, redshank, snow buntings, curlew, turnstones, and lapwing are common. There is even a resident cormorant by the quay.  

Large numbers of brent and pink-footed geese fly in huge skeins to feed and rest each evening on the salt marshes. North Norfolk is also home to the largest colony of Egyptian geese in the UK, a colourful bird which is easy to spot.

The salt marshes provide cover for the little egret and many duck including teal, wigeon, tufted duck and pintail. Blakeney Freshes, the pasture on the inland side of the coast path is a hunting ground for owls and other birds of prey. You do not have to wait long to see a marsh harrier or, in the evening, a barn owl hunting this territory along with kestrel or a hobby.

The marsh pools attract avocet and teal as well as other duck. The reed beds surrounding them give cover to bittern, bearded tit and reed bunting. And nearby at Cley, the nature reserve is home to ringed plover and perhaps the sight of a spoonbill with its distinctive large flat beak.

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