SUNDAY 20th AUGUST
Eventually I hauled myself out of the house and headed east to go birding at one of my favourite places – Burnham Overy Dunes. Parked up along the main road in the usual spot and headed along the track. Suddenly there was a terrific noise of low aircraft – I looked up to see the Red Arrows heading in the direction of 'The Wash' – heading home from a display I presume.
A pretty stupid day to walk out to B.O.D, with a westerly wind, but hey ho! Winds turn South East tomorrow, which may drop in some Autumn migrants. I hadn't even reached the 5-bar gate and stile before being stopped in my tracks – a couple informed me that a bull had swam across the dyke and was now loose on the public footpath!!! They had just walked past it (silly people!) and yes, there it was larging it up, only a few yards away on the other side of the stile! BOTHER! I sighed, as my planned walk obviously wasn't going to happen now. Another couple walked past it and with an muzzled Alsatian!!! I commented "you're brave........and with a dog"!!! The man shrugged coolly! I didn't have enough signal to ring anyone, but just about managed a text to Holkham Estate Warden Andrew Bloomfield. The couple with dog had more signal than me and found me the number of Holkham Estate, which was a waste of time as a recorded voice mentioned ticket sales and opening times only, so I phoned Holkham pub and spoke to a very helpful lady, who said she would get her Manager to contact someone. Then I got a text back from Andrew B. who said the cowmen were on their way.
I could see another couple with a tiny dog who had stopped in their tracks, the other side of the bull. I could see they were frustrated as they wanted to get to their car on the main road, but they decided not to risk it when the bull turned and started to walk towards them and they promptly climbed over a gate into a field to escape – sensible decision! There was no way, I was going to walk past it! Not too long after this, the cowmen from Holkham Estate turned up in two vehicles and assured me that it would only take 10 minutes to round him up in the pen by the gate. I didn't quite believe them and asked how they would achieve this and one of them replied 'he's used to us and I feed him' and grinned! They were correct – in under 10 minutes he was penned up. They told me that this is the second time the bull had escaped and that he would now be taken back to the farm. They had to go and get a cattle trailer – I got clarification that the bull would be taken this evening and then continued with my evening walk. I didn't want to get a surprise on my return later!
I had a decent list of birds for an evening walk: Grey Partridge in the fields on route along with 2 Mute Swans. Heron, Coots and Little Grebe along with Mallards and Greylag Geese on the pool west of the path by the sluice, 9 Little Egrets on the marshes, a big gull roost by the harbour, several flocks of Starlings, a Wren in the sueda bushes and a Kestrel hovering. The sloped banks either side of the footpath have been mown short (scalped) all the way along, so no flowers for insects to feed on – sadly, this seems to happen yearly. No birds in the bushes at the end of the path or in the famous apple tree, but just east of here I had a female Wheatear sitting on the fence wire. Best of all were big numbers of Swallows and Sand Martins and also at least 6 Swifts over my head and flying low west along the dune ridge – lots of gulls were in the air too and I'm guessing they were all feeding on flying ants. I sat and had a coffee on the dune ridge overlooking the dunes towards Holkham and then returned the same way. In the same place I had seen the Wheatear, a female Stonechat appeared! 2 Barn Owls were hunting over the marsh on the east side of the sluice/pool, which was a treat – can't remember the last time I saw two together! Then a Spoonbill headed east at dusk! High above the pool I watched huge numbers of hirundines swirling around in the dark clouds – they seemed to fill the skies – a magnificent sight!
Headed back to my car. The rebel bull had been taken back to the farm and all was calm! Back to work tomorrow. A busy bank holiday weekend coming up – if Lucy's violin is ready, we are both going to Cambridge to collect it on Saturday, Sunday off and then working on the B.H. Monday. I note the winds are SE on that Sunday and Monday!