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Saturday, 11 June 2016

Family Day, Holme Birding & History!

Mother and I went to visit father this morning at Summerville House Care Home – he looked very fatigued, but perked up a bit later. I helped him to eat his lunch and then took him outside in the garden and we sat on the seat with him. Blackbird, House Sparrows, Robin and Greenfinch were feeding and bathing in the garden. Then Vivien turned up, which we hadn't expected. Wheeled father over the lawn to smell the red roses and then he wanted to go back indoors.

Took Mother back home to Holme and we ate our late lunch – Vivien and her partner Ray also joined us. Late afternoon, Vivien, Ray and I went to Holme and parked by the 5-bar gate along the Firs Road. I gave Ray a guided tour and history of Holme NOA and Holme NWT, which is pretty difficult to explain and also how the day permits and membership works at these two reserves, when you can and can't visit and where you are allowed to walk – which is even more difficult to explain!!! I told him how father had discovered Holme as huge potential as a migration watchpoint and site of special scientific interest in the 1950's and started the Holme Bird Observatory in 1962. At the time I was born in 1965 we rented The Firs House – there is a picture of mother holding me as a new born baby at The Firs – my father's mother Hess also lived with us there. We were then booted out in the year of my birth, when the Norfolk Naturalists Trust (as it was called then, now NWT) purchased the house and some of the land.

Father persevered and refused to budge and we lived in a caravan on the NOA car park for over a year, which allowed Father to continue to with the observatory. We then moved to Sandyridge, which we rented – this is the last house before the big house by the pay hut and has just been purchased by someone famous and will soon be demolished, which is very sad to see). We then moved to a flat in Westgate, Hunstanton where my sister Lucy was born and then to our house at Holme (purchased by private mortgage from an amazing lady called Vivien Leather, who lived at Leiston in Suffolk) where Vivien (named after Vivian L) was born and remains our family home. My father worked seven days a week for over thirty three years as warden and I am extremely proud of the work he achieved. There are so many things he has achieved that no one really knows about – for instance, securing Titchwell and Snettisham reserves where he had wardens managing these habitats and carrying out migration studies in order to stop caravan sites being built on them – these were managed until the RSPB were able to purchase them and build them into the flagship reserves they are today. Both those reserves would have been massive caravan parks had he not secured and managed these habitats – what an awful thought!

Things have changed so much at Holme – we used to have coach loads of local school children visiting both reserves and I remember the children being fascinated by the ringing of birds, seeing a bird close up and how much they loved to see the puss moth caterpillars that father had on bunches of cut willow in bottles, the aquariums of bank voles, toads, newts, slow worms and lizards (these were always released at the end of the day) - also RSPB coach trips visited regularly – how much has changed since then! Vivien and I also fondly remembered the tortoiseshell stove in the observatory where father would cook jacket potatoes in foil and chestnuts in the winter time – such lovely memories of a very lucky childhood.

Anyway, back to our excursion! We walked along the coastal footpath and had fabulous close views of a Short-eared Owl and a Cuckoo over the Forestry and two Marsh Harriers were flying over Holme marsh – also saw a Painted Lady butterfly. We then walked through the pines, where several have been cut down to low stumps, because they were dead from the storm surge, so the notice explained. Pity they were not left as taller stumps for birds to perch on, but hey ho!

Followed the coastal footpath past the broadwater and walked along the Thornham bank to show Ray the fabulous view of Holme Reserves, beach and dunes. We then returned via Holme Bird Observatory, past The Firs House and along the Firs Road back to our cars – I photographed a Sedge Warbler on route. Natterjacks were also calling – a wonderful sound! We spent a long time chatting before we all departed. I parked in the village car park to watch for birds in the scrub – saw a Robin, Blackcap, Chaffinches and a Chiffchaff. A family with loads of dogs running around were having a barbecue, with fold-up picnic table and chairs and their cars were parked on the grass, where it says 'do not park on the grass' – obviously they all need to go to Specsavers, when the signs also clearly state 'no barbecues'!!! I got out of my car to get something out of the boot, but didn't have time as had to get back in the car quickly, when two of the dogs came running towards me, barking aggressively – the owners called them, but they didn't really take much notice. Time to go! Went back to mothers for a short time to make sure she was ok, then left for home.

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