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Sunday, 16 March 2014

Burnham Overy Dunes & Gun Hill!

 Skylark singing its heart out at Gun Hill.

After having my lunch, I left my house just after 2pm. It was a glorious day and it felt warm too! I cruised, ok maybe not....... whizzed along the A148, bopping to Kiss FM in my Skoda!!! I have not been to Burnham Overy Dunes since before the storm surge in December and I was interested to see how much erosion had taken place. This is one of my favourite places to go birding and I was also hoping for a hirundine or two maybe, a second wheatear or any spring migrants to set the heart racing!

On route I had a flock of 50+ Redwings overhead, just south of Burnham Market. I hate it when you trying to look at birds whilst driving, proves tricky at times, even for Penelope Pitstop!!! Parked up on the main road, just east of Burnham Overy at 3pm and made my way along the public footpath/sea wall to Gun Hill.

On the pools and marsh I saw Shelducks, Redshanks, Coot, Shoveler, Teal, Wigeon, Greylags, Magpies, Woodpigeons, Curlew, Little Egrets, flocks of Starlings going east and good numbers of Brent Geese. A Tortoiseshell fluttered past me, but no other butterflies were seen, a bit too windy really I suppose. Bumped into Mike Sidwell on route and had a 'birdy' chat. I was almost at the end of the path (just before the bushes) when I encountered a very amusing incident! There are notices up, clearly stating to 'Please keep you dog on lead' but as is usual, not many people take much notice of these. A couple were cycling along the path with their dog trailing way behind, when they suddenly realised their dog was up to something. When they stopped to look round, the mutt was rolling around, against a very decayed seal, in the vegetation below the path – the man dumped his bike and shouting at the dog, ran down to haul it back. I couldn't help but chuckle to myself, that dog would absolutely stink!!!! That will teach them for taking it off the lead! It was clearly evident, where the storm surge had reached, with tidal debris right up to the top of the path! Although a beautiful day, it was quite windy and this made for a chilly walk back later.
Male Stonchat at Gun Hill.

As I looked back towards the main road with my bins, I discovered that I had a Short-eared Owl in my view at 3.30pm! I watched for a while as it flew round the marsh and saw this again later on the way back. In the bushes at the end of the path, only a robin was seen. On the walk west to Gun Hill I had a fabulous male Stonechat (unringed) perched on the sueda bushes, but it was nigh on impossible to get a decent picture of. A few Meadow Pipits were around and 2 Linnets flew over, but best of all was a Skylark singing its heart out, way above me in the perfect blue sky (see photo). I love listening to skylarks, such a summery sound and takes me back to my childhood of hot summers at Holme. At Gun Hill itself, a Kestrel was on the deck briefly before taking off west. This short-turfed area is a favoured spot for wheatears, but none were found. I sat on the seat behind the 'Grey Goose' and had a coffee. It was so lovely to be here. There were three Ringed Plovers on the shingle spit along with a couple of Oystercatchers. I walked over the dunes to the seaward side of Gun Hill. I was pleased to see that most of the bushes and the small pine tree had survived the recent storm. The dunes however had been stripped back to a large area of short marram tufts. A Grey Partridge plummeted out of the bushes, which made me jump! There were three more Ringed Plovers and several Oystercatchers on the shoreline at 4.30pm. The tide was in and the sea was rocking – it looked spectacular! Nothing on the sea of note. I dragged up a large branch off the beach and made into a Roller perch for later this year – here's hoping!
The couple plus dog, attempting a short-cut across the marsh.

Large Gull roost at Burnham Overy.

On route back, I saw the Stonechat briefly again in the same sueda bushes. Walking along the sea wall, I noted a very large gull roost on the marsh. A couple with a dog off lead, decided to take a short cut (or so they thought) through the marsh itself, disturbing all the birds and when they reached the large creek, realised they had to turn back – that's why there is a public footpath!!! The setting sun was out of this world and the swathes of pinks and reds increased in intensity as the sun set. 5 Pied Wagtails flew west over the marsh. I watched the Short-eared Owl again, along with 4 Marsh Harriers and a Heron flew west. One Spoonbill was also seen on the east side of the path and a Sparrowhawk flew overhead, as did Cormorants and Brent Geese. Several Hares were running over the marsh. It was really nippy now and I had to put my gloves on. I spent a long time taking arty farty pictures of the sunset before setting off home. A spectacular afternoon indeed.

Gold Shimmers
Harbour, Burnham Overy.

Burnham Overy Dunes and Gun Hill.


  1. I'm slightly exhausted reading this post. What a successful afternoon. I'm glad you stopped to draw breath and take some arty farty pix of the sunset.

  2. Very evocative Penny; I was right there with you!