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Friday 31 March 2017

Spring Birding with Mother!

 Robin singing in the sunshine
Holme Marsh Reserve NWT

At last! I was able to persuade my mother to escape from the house this morning, in an attempt to cheer her up. She had had no sleep last night and was understandably in an irritable mood. Initially she wasn't coming out, but I put my foot down! So off we went to Holme Marsh Reserve.

It was raining when we first left, but the sun came out and everything look beautiful and Spring like. From hide one we had views of several Marsh Harriers over Holme marsh towards the NWT Firs House. A Cetti's Warbler burst into song, and a Little Grebe could be heard behind the reeds. A pair of Gadwall, some Mallards and 13 Teal were on the pool. 3 Mute Swans flew over west and a Little Egret flew over the hide. Two Crows were in the big willow and a Robin sat in a bramble. Several Chiffchaffs were also calling and a Sparrowhawk bombed through. From hide two, we had the joy of listening to a Robin serenading us (see picture above) and then it came and sat on the ledge of the hide window for a few moments! Maybe it was expecting some crumbs of cake – sadly we had none. A couple of Pied Wagtails were feeding on the mud. Good numbers of Lapwing were flying over the marsh distantly. When we walked back past hide one to leave, we heard our first Spring Blackcap in the willow!

Drove to Thornham to get fish 'n' chips from Eric's by the farm shop and forgot the bl**dy main road was closed just before the farm shop complex! So, I left mother in the car by the pull in/farm buildings and walked to the shop past the 'Road Closed' sign to get our lunch. When I returned to the car, Mother said lots of cars had turned around at the sign and looked frustrated and angry and some had done the same as me, leaving their car to walk and get their chips!

After lunch back at Holme, I took loads of stuff that Mother wanted cleared from one of the sheds to the dump at Heacham. As I was taking stuff out of the dustbin bags at the tip, I discovered father's old green 'shrimp' bag as it was called. This almost bought a tear to my eye, but there was no point in keeping it. Fond memories of us girls going shrimping with father after he finished work at the observatory – the green bag was used to carry the shrimps back. Also in the dustbin bag was his fawn coloured buckled bag that he used to put crabs in when crabbing at the wreck at Holme – this bag is made of really tough cotton and is heavy – the man helping me sort stuff at the tip, said he would put that in the 'bric-a-brac' section as they could sell that for a 'couple of quid' – I hesitated... then let it go!

In Hunstanton I did some more errands for mother and then returned to Holme. Sat with mother for a while, chatting with tea and biscuits and then left. Mother really enjoyed herself this morning, even though she was tired, I could tell it did her good and it lifted my spirits too. I'm hoping this will inspire her to get out of the house when I return to work next week.

Spent the evening taking Lucy to her concert rehearsal, buying a "Numatic Henry Dry HVR200-11 Hi-Flo Eco Bagged Vacuum Cleaner" and then picking up Lucy later on! Busy day, but stopped me thinking too much.


Great White Egret flew west past Gramborough Hill
Great White Egret at still on River Glaven, north of stone bridge at Glandford
Long-tailed Ducks x 70, Velvet Scoters x 3, Water Pipit at Titchwell RSPB
Great Grey Shrike east of north end of Lime Kiln Road, south of A1067, WSW of Sparham
Glaucous Gull, Hobby, Common Cranes x 18, Woodlarks x 2 flew south over Horsey
Great White Egret at Welney WWT
Short-eared Owl, Yellow Wagtail at Breydon Water
Garganey x 2, Jack Snipe at Buckenham Marshes RSPB
Black Redstart at Lady Anne's Drive, Holkham
Water Pipit at Burnham Norton
PALLID HARRIER juv. fem, in field from Blunt's Corner, west of B1105, ESE of New Holkham
Hen Harrier, Woodlark at North Dunes, Winterton
Black Redstart flew in off sea, Tree Pipit flew west at Sheringham
Black Redstart singing near Dell Hide at Holme NOA

Mainland at Sandwick, Shetland

Thursday 30 March 2017

Back to Normality?

I have been very withdrawn the last few days and not really done much at all. I thought the Red-flanked Bluetail had jogged me into normality, but this was only a temporary blip.

Today I went to Tescos and did a huge food shop. I have not been to the supermarket since way before my father died. I have been living off junk food and anything that I can find in the kitchen, anything to avoid going to the supermarket and doing anything 'normal'. Toast and jam, digestive biscuits with cheese, eggs and baked beans and toast! Alot of toast! No vegetables or anything remotely healthy whatsoever!

Its almost like I don't want to go back to normality and routine – I feel like I'm brushing my feelings and thoughts to one side and I don't actually want to brush them aside. I suppose this is all part of the grieving process. Life has to go on and all that jazz. My mother is still very low in mood and can bring herself to leave the house yet.

I am returning to work on Monday, so that will be a big fat return to normality and routine! My feelings and thoughts will have to be shelved whilst I'm working. Its going to be difficult, I have been off work for so long – we had to wait such a long time for the funeral.

There are still several things to do regarding my father's death – donations to collect/sort, acknowledgements obviously need to be written for the 'Eastern Daily Press' and 'Your Local Paper' and most importantly we have not decided where to scatter the ashes yet and what memorial we would like. Its so difficult, as father requested "no clergy, no priests, no flowers, no hymns...." and yet my parents got married in Holme Church! As my sister Vivien said.... his clear message of not wanting anything religious at the funeral, would I presume mean that he did not want to end up in the churchyard! Holme churchyard is so peaceful and overlooks the marshes and The Firs House and the observatory where he worked – this is where I would like him to be. Its where I want to end up, I married here, I went to the primary school next door to the church, its where my roots are. But, its about what he wants. I can see our family ending up in several different places! But, then I suppose it doesn't really matter, as the 'Clarke' family tree ends when we do, as none of us have children!

On a positive note, I haggled to get my new car insurance down today, which I succeeded with and saved £38! Other positives: the weather is fabulous, Spring is here, birds are starting to arrive and that mega is only just round the corner!


Great White Egret at still on River Glaven, 40yds upstream from bridge at Glandford
Whitethroat singing at East Wretham Heath
Great Grey Shrike east of north end of Lime Kiln Road, south of A1067, WSW of Sparham
Black Redstarts x 4, Ring Ouzel at South Dunes, Winterton
Long-tailed Ducks x 20, Velvet Scoters x 3, Water Pipits x 2 at
Titchwell RSPB
Black Redstart at Hilltop briefly at Cley
Snow Bunting, Spoonbills x 4 at Burnham Overy Dunes
Ring Ouzel 300yds west of The Firs at Holme NWT
Crossbill at Dersingham Nature Reserve
White Stork circled over village of Feltwell
Crossbills x 4 flew over Hunstanton Cliffs
Rose-coloured Starling on post by shelter at Beach Cafe midday, but no sign this evening at West Runton
Glaucous Gull at Hemsby
Shorelarks x 2 in field between Beach Road and Gramborough Hill


Warden Paul Eele reports on the Red-flanked Bluetail at Titchwell RSPB!

Wedding Anniversary

Today would have been my parent's 53rd Wedding Anniversary

My parent's Peter & Margaret Clarke on their Wedding Day
at St. Mary's Church, Holme-next-Sea –
30th March 1964

Very sadly you didn't quite make it, but still together in spirit
Love Penny xxx

Wednesday 29 March 2017


Spoonbills x 2 flew west past Sheringham
Spoonbills x 2 at Cley NWT
Spoonbills x 2 flew west over Blakeney Point
Common Crane flew south over Hemsby
Great White Egrets x 5 at Welney WWT
Glaucous Gulls x 2, Common Cranes x 2, Garganey at Horsey
Great Grey Shrike north of Sparham Pool NR, NW of Lyng
Spoonbill on freshmarsh at Burnham Overy Staithe
Water Pipit at Titchwell RSPB
PALLID HARRIER juv. fem, in field from Blunt's Corner, west of B1105, ESE of New Holkham
Great White Egret, Spoonbills x 2 on freshmarsh at Holkham
Ring Ouzel in hedge on east side of carrot field, east of North Creake
Great White Egret at Natural Surroundings, Bayfield Lake
Black Redstart at Weybourne Camp
Garganey x 2 at Buckenham Marshes RSPB

Thanks to Birdguides for including my Red-flanked Bluetail photo in their Review of the Week.


RBA Weekly Round-Up 22nd to 28th March!

By Mark Golley

Tuesday 28 March 2017


RED-FLANKED BLUETAIL fem/1w/.male on Meadow Trail at (no sign after 4.20pm) Titchwell RSPB
Black Redstarts x 2, Ring Ouzel at Hemsby
Black Redstarts x 2 at South Dunes, Winterton
Black Redstarts x 2 at east end of promenade at Overstrand
Black Redstarts x 2 at Blakeney Point
Spoonbill at Blakeney Freshmarsh
Black Redstart at Weybourne Camp
Great Grey Shrike north of Sparham Pool NR, NW of Lyng
Great Grey Shrike at Cockley Cley Wood, south of Drymere, NW of Cockley Cley
Waxwings x 6 on St Walstan's Close, New Costessey
Little Gulls x 6 at Colney Gravel Pits
Little Gull at Whitlingham Country Park
Little Gulls x 31 from viewing platform at Barton Broad
Garganey x 2, Bittern at Buckenham Marshes RSPB
Glaucous Gulls x 2 on beach, Hooded Crows x 2 in ploughed field east of beach car park at Horsey
Garganey x 2 at end of Harper's Lane at Gapton Marshes
White Stork flew south over Thurlton
Spoonbill at Holkham Freshmarsh
Glaucous Gull at Harbour Mouth, Black Redstart singing in centre of Great Yarmouth
Gargeney on River Tiffey near Wymondham
Hawfinches x 12 at Lynford Aboretum
Short-eared Owl flew west over Eye Field, Cley NWT
Sedge Warbler singing in reeds by Bridge Road at Guist
Osprey at Scolt Head Island


Mainland, at Sandwick, Shetland

Monday 27 March 2017


RED-FLANKED BLUETAIL fem/1w/.male on Meadow Trail, Long-tailed Ducks x 5, Water Pipits x 2 at Titchwell RSPB
Great White Egret by stone bridge on River Glaven, Wiveton
Black Redstart at beach car park at Winterton
Great White Egret, Ravens x 2 flew north at Welney WWT
Waxwings x 6 at Martham
Little Gulls x 2 at Martham Broad
Waxwings x 6 on St Walstan's Close, New Costessey
PALLID HARRIER juv. fem, in field from Blunt's Corner, west of B1105, ESE of New Holkham
Great Grey Shrike north of Sparham Pool NR, NW of Lyng
Jack Snipe at Strumpshaw Fen RSPB
Garganey x 2, Hen Harrier at Buckenham Marshes RSPB
Bar-tailed Godwit flew over Cantley Marshes RSPB
Black Redstarts x 3 at Blakeney Point
Short-eared Owls x 2 at Breydon Water
Rough-legged Buzzard over Warham
Waxwings x 11 opposite The Veterinary Hospital, Gorleston-on-Sea
Garganey on Watling Water from Babcock Hide at Cley NWT
Sandwich Terns x 2 at Whitlingham Country Park
Great Grey Shrike at Cockley Cley Wood, south of Drymere, NW of Cockley Cley


Mainland, at Sandwick, Shetland

Sunday 26 March 2017

RFB & Mother's Day!

Red-flanked Bluetail
Meadow Trail, Titchwell RSPB – in better light than yesterday!

The flamboyant Red-flanked Bluetail I saw yesterday, had worked its magic and lifted my spirits no end. My sisters and I were spending time with mother today, but we didn't get together until lunchtime, so I decided to go and see the Red-flanked Bluetail again in better light.

When I arrived in the car park at Titchwell – several people I spoke to then and throughout the morning said that they didn't think the RFB would be here this morning. I felt that it would still be here – why would it have moved on yet? It had arrived at Titchwell, presumably late afternoon and was feeding well, so why shouldn't it stay on another day to feed? I predicted that it would be depart on Monday!

No one had seen it when I arrived. I stood with others along the Meadow Trail and waited. Later, Chris Stone (as in Chris, Richard and Ian – so you Norfolk birders know who I mean) saw the bluetail fly from undergrowth on the right hand side of the boardwalk (heading towards Fen Hide, before the left turn) across the boardwalk and into scrub on the left, perching on a bramble briefly before disappearing. He was the only person to see it at this point. He then saw it again later with Richard, on the opposite side to where everyone else was, along the boardwalk just east of the main path – I had been standing with them a couple of minutes before this! Chris was obviously the man to stick with this morning!

Eventually I had a couple of brief views of this magical little bird, but with no pictures obtained whatsoever. I heard that it had landed on a close willow by the main path and the cameras had been clicking away, but I havn't seen any of those pictures on the net yet. Just before I was leaving to do the fish 'n' chip run from Eric's fish 'n' chips at Thornham, the bluetail appeared! I managed to get photos – it was distant and I was aiming the camera through branches and just hoped they would come out ok.
Red-flanked Bluetail – Meadow Trail, Titchwell RSPB

The queue in 'Eric's' was awful and I had to wait a long time. Headed to Mother's and we all enjoyed our lunch. Mother was understandably still in a low mood and we could not persuade her to come out anywhere with us. Lucy had bought her some lovely flowers and chocolates and Vivien had bought chocolates and wildflower seeds. My present had been the bird bath (see yesterday's post) and a butter dish. There are so many condolence cards, that we had a job to find space for our Mother's day cards.

Lucy, Vivien and I went to Holme Bird Observatory to dismantle the photographic display of father, gave Sophie a thank you card and some cash donations I had been given at the funeral and then went to see Gary at the the Firs House and gave him a thank you card etc. We sat outside the Firs on one of the picnic tables for a while, it was so nice here in the sun and reflected on the wake. We also dropped in a thank you card to Robin Jolliffe, who had so kindly read out the eulogy for us.

Driving back along the Firs Road – a red car was hurtling towards us, faster than a twitcher for a Siberian Rubythroat! It was the fastest I have ever seen anyone drive down here! I did something really stupid that I now regret, especially with both my sisters in the car – it was heading towards me at such a speed, I deliberately positioned my car in the middle of the road to make him slow down and stop – this worked, but they were not very happy!!! Vivien got very angry with me and on hindsight it was pretty stupid of me – never done anything like that before! I’d have been in such trouble in life if I had been born male! I tried to ring Gary at the Firs so he could tick them off when they arrived, but couldn't get hold of him.

A few yards further up the road we bumped into Alison who was as angry as I was, about the speeding red car. Whilst we were still chatting, the red car returned, driving at the same brake neck speed past us! They needed a big fat ticket whoever they were!

Returned to mother's house and we spent time chatting about father, life and all that jazz. Mother is very sad and disappointed to learn (from another neighbour who kindly tipped us off) that the neighbour opposite with the pond, has put in planning permission for a gigantic extension with roof terrace, which will mean their new driveway/parking will be where we currently park. We can't park further back than we do, because of a soakaway drain going into the pond. As someone else commented on the planning website, its more like a rebuild, which would not be allowed in this tiny little road, with its 2 up 2 down cottages. The extension is being proposed to build over a right of way too, have the owners no brains at all! Everything about this proposal is wrong. Obviously we will be strongly objecting! We don't really need this, along with other stuff going on right now!

Vivien left to head back to Ely. Lucy and I left later, as I knew the traffic would be heavy and I can't be doing with sitting in queues of traffic! I felt exhausted when I got home and was too tired to write the blog, hence typing up the following day.


RED-FLANKED BLUETAIL on Meadow Trail at Titchwell RSPB
Great Grey Shrike north of Sparham Pool NR, NW of Lyng
PALLID HARRIER juv. fem flew over B1105, 3 miles south of Wells, over Burnham Norton and Holkham
Waxwings x 10 on St Walstan's Close, New Costessey
Hawfinches x 9 at Lynford Aboretum
Jack Snipe on east side of Blakeney Bank
Garganey near North Wall Marshes, Breydon Water
White Stork flew SE along River Wensum at Great Ryburgh
Glaucous Gull, Short-eared Owl, Snow Bunting on beach at Winterton
Garganey x 2 at Buckenham Marshes RSPB
Golden Pheasant at Wolferton Triangle
Great Grey Shrike at Cockley Cley Wood, south of Drymere, NW of Cockley Cley
Glaucous Gull, Ring Ouzel at Hemsby


Galway Bar, County Galway, Ireland
In garden again at Stow-on-the-Wold, Gloucestershire
North Ronaldsay, Orkney

Saturday 25 March 2017

Red-flanked Bluetail at Titchwell RSPB!

Meadow Trail, Titchwell RSPB
Rubbish picture, but I was very lucky to get that even!

The last three days have been pretty rough. The realisation that my father is now finally gone and I won't ever be able to chat with him again is very difficult to come to terms with, more than I thought it would be. I really miss him, this is the longest I have not seen him – I know he's in a more peaceful place and that time heals, but that doesn't make me feel any better right now.

Nature is a great healer and I knew that I needed to get outside today. So today I planned to birding, but frustratingly I didn't sleep a wink last night – I tossed and turned until the early hours. My plan of getting up early failed miserably.

I eventually left the house and stopped at the Co-op in Dersingham to send a parcel off, collected some more copies of DVD's from Jim Thomson at Heacham and then headed Hunstanton to get something important photocopied. After parking my car in the high street, I witnessed two people park their car in a really tight space and shunt the car in front – they didn't even check the car they had hit! They walked off up the high street. I took their car reg, model etc and put my name and telephone number as a witness underneath the window wipers of the car they hit. I decided to wait in the end, as this car had a dog in it, so presumed the driver wouldn't be too long. The driver came back and didn't even notice my big white piece of paper! I stopped him to explain what I had witnessed and surprisingly he didn't seem too fussed and muttered 'thanks'. Wished I hadn't bothered now!

Stopped at the Ringstead shop to buy some thank you cards for people that helped at the funeral and wake. Whilst in the shop I discovered they had a Gardman Verdegris Effect Plastic Bird Bath for £10 in the back of their antiques rooms!

Sat by 'Greenway' at the top of the Ringstead Hill to eat my lunch. The view of the coast from here is so beautiful, the sea, the fields, sheep grazing, Holme church spire. It was so hot, I had to open the car door and I could hear a Skylark singing – my mind was immediately transported back to The Lark Ascending at the funeral on Monday. It was so peaceful and beautiful, I didn't want to leave. Although it was a lovely sunny day, the east wind was chilly. East winds that bring birds, but maybe a little too early for anything too exciting to land on our shores yet?

Headed to Holme to visit my mother. She was dozing in the chair and was in a very low mood. Besides grieving for father, there are all kinds of other things going on right now, just to add to the stress. I cheered mother up a little with the bird bath I had just bought – it looked lovely just outside her dining room window. She has bird baths dotted round the garden, but not a raised one. I placed a large stone in the middle and a branch across for a perch and decided it was so nice I wanted one too. Mother didn't want to go birding with me, so I left the house and headed up the Ringstead hill to purchase another bird bath – I was then going on to Titchwell RSPB.

Red-flanked Bluetail – First for Titchwell RSPB!
I didn't get to the shop at Ringstead. I stopped to look at the pager (which I had left in the car whilst at mother's) and could not believe my eyes when I read on the pager 'RED-FLANKED BLUETAIL' on Meadow Trail at Titchwell RSPB! Scorched the green machine around and headed for Titchwell! I have seen RFB's before obviously, but never one this early in the Spring and this was a first for Titchwell! Bluetails are such stunning, delightful little birds and birders will travel miles to see one. I stopped at mother's again to see if she wanted to go, but she said she couldn't face 'all those people'. I felt the same, but a Red-flanked Bluetail would surely be enough to lift my spirits!

Bumped into Peter Allard here, Geoff and Pat, Eddie and more! There was not that many people when I first arrived, which was about 25 minutes after the pager went off, but it was the most elusive bluetail I had come across in a while. Trevor Girling was standing next to me and saw it drop down from a willow – I saw the same bird, but didn't see it anywhere near enough to count it – I needed to see it properly. Birders continued to arrive and the bird tantalised everyone until dusk. It took me simply ages to see it properly and it seemed as though most people had had several views, before I finally got to see this little gem to ID it myself and this was thanks to a nice man who got me on it quickly. I even managed to get a record shot, obscured by a branch and not sharp, but good enough for the blog! It was constantly feeding, constantly on the move and frustratingly elusive, but I saw it, photographed it and yes it did lift my spirits just a little! Thank goodness for birds!


RED-FLANKED BLUETAIL on Meadow Trail at 3.25pm, Water Pipits x 3 at Titchwell RSPB
White Stork esc. at Potter Heigham Marshes
Waxwings x 30 at Crab Lane, 13 at Church Lane, Gorleston-on-Sea
Great Grey Shrike east of Sparham Pool NR, NW of Lyng
PALLID HARRIER juv. fem seen over Wells, Great Massingham, Burnham Norton and then at Blunt's Corner near B1105, 2/3 miles ESE of New Holkham
Glaucous Gull on beach at Poplar Farm, Waxham
Waxwings x 6 on St Walstan's Close, New Costessey
Russian White-fronted Goose at Nunnery Lakes NR, Thetford
Short-eared Owl, Garganey at Watling Water at Cley NWT
White Stork flew east over Fakenham
White Stork flew west over Felmingham
White Stork flew north over Stalham
White Stork flew north over Alysham
Purple Sandpipers x 6 at Sheringham
Gargeney x 2 at Buckenham Marshes RSPB
Raven flew WSW over Great Cressingham
Hawfinches x 3 at Lynford Aboretum
Garganey at Breydon Water
Black Redstart near harbour sluice at Thornham
White Stork flew south over Guist
Great Grey Shrike at Cockley Cley Wood, south of Drymere, NW of Cockley Cley
Great White Egret at Hockwold Washes


Galway Bar, County Galway, Ireland

Friday 24 March 2017

Photo Exhibition at Holme Bird Observatory!

Peter Clarke with his father Bert and Grandmother

The photographs of my father from aged 1 to 90, which we displayed at Holme Bird Observatory for the funeral on Monday, will remain for viewing until late Sunday afternoon. There are some fascinating photos of years gone by, for any of you that were not able to attend the funeral or wake. The condolence book is also still available to sign at the observatory. Any donations that people would like to make in memory of my father for the Norfolk Ornithologists' Association, (to be shared jointly with the Norfolk Wildlife Trust) can still be sent to John Lincoln Funeral Directors, 40 Greevegate, Hunstanton, Norfolk PE36 6AG – thank you very much.


Long-tailed Ducks x 2 at Titchwell RSPB
Glaucous Gull, Snow Buntings x 2 on beach at Winterton
Garganey by Iron Road at Salthouse
Firecrest at Pilgrim Shelter, Trimingham
Great White Egrets x 2, Yellow Wagtail at Welney WWT
Cattle Egret in sheep field behind church at Felbrigg Hall NT
Great White Egret, Garganey x 2 from Washland Viewpoint at Hockwold Washes
Gargeney x 2 at Buckenham Marshes RSPB
Short-eared Owl at Holme NWT
Long-tailed Ducks x 2, Velvet Scoters x 4 on sea at Holme Dunes
Waxwings x 5 on St Walstan's Close, New Costessey
PALLID HARRIER juv. fem, at Blunt's Corner near B1105, 2/3 miles ESE of New Holkham
Woodlark flew north over Hemsby

Mainland at Sandwick, Shetland


Thursday 23rd March
Jack Snipe at Strumpshaw Fen RSPB
Cattle Egret in sheep field behind church at Felbrigg Hall NT
Great Grey Shrike NE of Sparham Pool NR, NW of Lyng
Garganey x 2 at Ken Hill Marsh, Snettisham
Ring Ouzel at Snettisham Coastal Park
Garganey by Iron Road at Salthouse
Ring Ouzel at Sheringham Golf Course
Short-eared Owl, Common Crane at Haddisoce Island
Common Cranes x 3 flew west over Cathedral, Norwich
Common Cranes x 2, Short-eared Owl at Breydon Water
Great Grey Shrike at Cockley Cley Wood, south of Drymere, NW of Cockley Cley
PALLID HARRIER juv. fem, flew SW over carrot field by road, just NE of North Creake
Long-tailed Ducks x 15 on sea off Holme Dunes
Rough-legged Buzzard reported in tree east of Lady Anne's Drive, Holkham
Great White Egrets x 3 at Welney WWT
Hawfinches x 3 at Lynford Aboretum
Scaup x 14 at Hickling Broad NWT
Woodlark x 3 at Coastal Watchpoint, Happisburgh


Wednesday 22 March 2017


Tree Pipit at north end of East Bank, Spoonbill, Spotted Redshank at Cley NWT
Sedge Warbler singing at Blakeney Freshmarsh
Common Cranes x 7 over Holme, Thornham, Titchwell RSPB, Blakeney Freshmarsh, Salthouse, North Walsham
Cattle Egret in sheep field behind church at Felbrigg Hall NT
Snow Buntings x 12 on beach at Winterton
PALLID HARRIER juv. fem, in field from Blunt's Corner along with Great Grey Shrike west of B1105, ESE of New Holkham
Garganey x 2 at Ken Hill Marsh, Snettisham
Jack Snipe x 2 at Srumpshaw Fen RSB

Balranald RSPB, North Uist, Western Isles

RBA Weekly Round-Up 15th to 21st March!

By Mark Golley

The Day After!

Tuesday 21st March
I felt terrible today. As a close friend said would probably happen – I've crashed and burned. I was crying from early morning and have burst in tears several times throughout the day. Dozed on the sofa, eaten cake, made coffee, eaten more cake – oh dear!


Tuesday 21st March
Water Pipits x 2 at Titchwell RSPB
Cattle Egret still at Weybourne Camp
PALLID HARRIER juv. fem, in field from Blunt's Corner along with Great Grey Shrike west of B1105, ESE of New Holkham
Snow Buntings x 12 on beach at Winterton
Black Redstart on roof of Ladybird Nursery, Sheringham
Great Grey Shrike at Cockley Cley Wood, south of Drymere, NW of Cockley Cley
Raven flew over, Hawfinch at Lynford Aboretum


Monday 20 March 2017

The Funeral – The End!

My Dearest Father, always with me, rest in peace

After a night of no sleep whatsoever, I headed over to pick my sister Lucy up and we drove to Mother's house in Holme. Vivien and her partner Ray had arrived minutes before us. It was very tense in the Clarke household, the nerves were awful. It was surreal – the final day. This was it.

I was so proud of my mother and sister's – they all looked beautiful, it was so nice to see us all dressed up – rare indeed! Ray didn't look too bad either! The usual panic to get out of the door – checking on the cat, loo visits, handbags, tissues, locking up, keys etc. Out of the door and then quiet composure enveloped us, as the hearse arrived at just before 10am.

Father's hat was already placed on the coffin as we had requested and we added my decoration I made last night, with the approval of my mother, Lucy and Vivien.
Father's hat (top picture) along with my decoration of marram and grasses from Holme beach and tied with green ribbon, were placed on the coffin. Father requested no flowers at his funeral, but the hat would have looked rather lonely by itself. I think I got away with the 'no flowers' request – Vivien thought it was because he didn't like wasting money – well, if you're listening father – it only cost me time and the price of a ribbon!

I was struggling not to cry, as I didn't want to get myself in a state before I read my poem. I had decided to do one of the most challenging and brave things that I have ever done – my mother wanted a poem read out. I'm one of the most emotional, sentimentalists and cry about so many things! Plus I hate having to speak in front of a lot of people – even the thought of it makes my stomach churn – I can chat away like there is no tomorrow to a handful of people, but I clam up completely when it comes to presentations and large crowds. As the day's went by over the last couple of weeks, I decided that I needed to take control of my emotions and attempt to read this poem out at the funeral, for both my mother and father. I was petrified about doing this and recited that poem so many times, so that it hopefully sounded right on the day.

We left in convoy for the crematorium at 10.05am. I drove my mother and sisters in my car and Ray followed behind. Poor Lucy got upset straight away. I thought that driving behind the hearse would be difficult and take forever to go to the crematorium, but I don't seem to have that much recollection of it now, so it must have been quick. There was no sunshine to keep our spirits up, it was a dull day with menacing rain clouds and it had started to rain.

We arrived with five minutes to spare. John Lincoln stepped out of the hearse and walked in front of the hearse to lead us to the entrance to the chapel. Ray had gone in ahead, leaving us to walk behind the coffin. We could hear the music. Vivien walked behind the coffin with mother and Lucy and I behind. I squeezed Lucy's hand and tried to look after her as we walked into the chapel – my stomach was churning and I felt like I couldn't breathe properly.

Double Concerto in D Minor for 2 Violins and Orchestra – 2nd Movement 
J. S. Bach

As we walked in, I was aware there was a large number of people, but I couldn't look, I had a poem to read, I couldn't allow myself to cry until afterwards. As the coffin was lowered and placed, we walked to stand in place in the front pew. We must have missed most of the music, which was seven minutes long, for as soon as we were all asked to sit down by John Lincoln, the music finished. John then announced the reading of the Eulogy and Robin Jolliffe walked up to the lectern to read this out for us.

Robin, who had so kindly said he "would be honoured to read this out" for us, did a fantastic job, a gentleman, an excellent speaker and a lovely man, whom our family has known for many, many years and who was once on the NOA committee – thank you so much.

It took my mother and I so long to write this eulogy, with extracts taken from father's unpublished autobiography. We spent a good while trying to get things in order and it was very hard to condense it. We could have written so much more and added so many more names of friends over the years – a quick mention of just a few from way back in the 'good old days' when I was a lass: Chris Knights, Peter and wife Ruby Jackson and girls Debbie and Ruth from Hertfordshire, Geoff Want from Norwich, John and Mary Dixon, Beryl and Jim Jolly from Snettisham, Malcolm and Eileen White from Heacham, John Sheldrake, Fred and Pat Britton, Ron Clark and Ken Davies, Ron and Mary Longstaff, Kevin Shepherd, Jack Reynolds, Peter Allard, Paul Kirby (who kindly rang my mother last night), Barry Spence and Bill Rollins to name but a few. We didn't want to end the eulogy on a sad note – mother decided that the only appropriate end, would be to say that the Holme Bird Observatory and NOA would "inevitably.... evolve" which of course it will!

 Kindly and beautifully read out by Robin Jolliffe
Written by Margaret Clarke with assistance and editing from Penny
Extracts taken from father's unpublished autobiography

"Peter Clarke was born in Rochester, Kent in 1926, but from an early age he had strong connections with his paternal grandmother in Feltwell and his maternal grandmother in North Walsham in Norfolk. At the outbreak of the 2nd World War, he moved with his parents to Walcott and then in 1946 to Sheringham where they remained for 16 years.

A brief unsettled period, due to his father’s ill health led them from Walcott to Shipley in Yorkshire, which he hated at first, but then learned to love the Yorkshire Dales. His photographic skills were continually to the fore and a rare picture of a Great Crested Grebe’s nest at the watery edge of Malham Tarn, appeared in a national magazine! His mother took him to Variety Theatres in Leeds and Bradford and also to Pontefract races where they enjoyed “a flutter on the horses”. A fridge freezer at Peter’s home in Holme is testament to his early love of racing, as it was purchased with a 50p accumulator win!

The Yorkshire odyssey came to an abrupt end after two to three years, when his father found a small house cum fishing tackle shop in Sheringham. Their subsequent poor income was supplemented by Peter lugworm digging for many years, which entailed cycling daily, through summer and winter alike. Peter disliked Sheringham, but was able to reach “all the good birding spots” by cycle. Peter joined the Cromer Camera Club, which was on the verge of closure with only a handful of members. He was persuaded to take control and the club soon flourished.

On 23rd July 1949, a local wildlife journalist called “Sea-Pie” invited Peter to his home in Cley for tea, where he introduced him to a mystery guest, the Cockney born bird artist, Richard Richardson and from that moment on his fate was sealed! Richard gave him a crash course in bird ringing and recommended him to the BTO’s Elsie Leach. Not such a simple process nowadays! On Christmas day of that year Richard joined him for dinner at their new home in Sheringham. He also met for the first time one of his oldest and most loyal friends Peter Jackson, who had helped to construct Cley’s first Heligoland trap. His other contemporaries included NWT Warden Billy Bishop and fellow photographer, teacher and naturalist Dick Bagnall-Oakley.

Peter spent “every minute of his time at Cley and further along the coast”. Some amazing statistics from the archives, included the fact that from 1950 to 1958, Peter ringed 91 fledgling Nightingales, 88 young Red-backed Shrikes and 108 juvenile Yellow Wagtails – all in the Cley and Salthouse area! Unbelievable in today’s depleted environment and a cause for very sad reflection.

In 1962 and with no more than a £200 overdraft from Barclays Bank, he set up Holme Bird Observatory with the initial help of his parents and business partner Graham Byford. The observatory’s HQ was “The Firs” house. Peter met Margaret in 1962 on the East Bank at Cley. Margaret had moved from her home near the Hardley Flood area of South Norfolk, to work in the area – they married in 1964. Their first season in 1962 could not have been more challenging: the most severe winter of the century. Huge icebergs littered the shore at Holme for weeks on end and then later in 1965, the sale of “The Firs” seemed to be the last straw. Graham saw only failure, but Peter enlisted the support of surrounding landowners, who genuinely empathized with his predicament and enabled him to gain almost half the area’s land, to set up an observatory in an old half buried air-raid shelter, east of “The Firs”. Peter, Margaret and Penny who was born in January ‘65, lived in a caravan for a while, until they were able to find more suitable housing. Various, but well meaning friends told him to “give up” and that his “head was in the clouds”, but he ploughed on regardless. His father died of lung cancer during this critical period and his mother moved to the more civilized climes of Hunstanton. Peter and Margaret’s daughter’s, Lucy and Vivien were born in 1968 and 1969.

As membership increased, the NOA was established as a registered charity in 1970 to act as the parent body to the observatory and to further the study of ornithology in Norfolk. Peter and his committee oversaw the purchase of other reserves, including Walsey Hills, and Redwell Marsh.

Peter published books including “Bird Watching – Nesting Birds Along the Coast” in 1963, “Bird Watching” in 1965 and then later on “Where to Watch Birds in East Anglia” with his wife Margaret in 1987. He wrote “Nature Notes” illustrated with his own photos monthly, for the Lynn News between 1979 and 2012.

Peter was also responsible for setting up part-time wardening of the marshes at Snettisham and Titchwell, which led to firm and permanent establishment of reserves by the RSPB.

Peter retired from his post in January 1994 after 33 years service as Warden at Holme Bird Observatory. His passion for wildlife continued with photography and insect studies in his garden at Holme. Peter also assisted with moth identification at the moth events at Titchwell RSPB for a few years, until a series of strokes and sight loss led to other severe health issues and ultimately his death at aged 90 on the 23rd of February.

After various political upheavals, it is now in the more than capable hands of Warden Sophie Barker, who has known the area since childhood visits with her family. One could say that the “ship has been steadied” once more, and inevitably the picture will continue to evolve."

The Eulogy was followed by a piece that I choose (kindly suggested from a selection from John Furse, thank you) – "The Lark Ascending", which is the most beautiful and uplifting music and brought me to tears before I read my poem! I realised that I had about a couple of minutes left to compose myself and I had to fight with every bit of mental strength I had, to regain calmness and control. How stupid was I, choosing this particular piece of music before reading my poem!

The Lark Ascending
(Romance for Violin and Orchestra)
Ralph Vaughan Williams
(13.34 minutes long, but we faded it out at 5.30 minutes)

I had informed the funeral directors that I would be reading the poem out, even though I had not written this on the order of service. I didn't write it on there, as I didn't want to commit myself in case I was a real wreck – after all, you don't know how you will be on the day do you! Maybe John Lincoln thought I wasn't able to – he had started to read the poem out as I stood up to walk to the lectern. He obviously stopped when I said that "I am reading the poem" – this situation didn't deter me. I paused, took a breath and started to read. I didn't look up, if I had looked at anyone I would have crumbled. I managed ok, but I paused just before the last two lines, I was close to losing it at this point. I regained control thank goodness and managed to finish the poem. I must have floated back to my seat, as I can't remember this moment at all! I recorded myself reading this in a more controlled manner – please listen to my YouTube video below.

Do Not Stand At My Grave and Weep
Written in 1932 by Mary Elizabeth Frye 
Read By Penny

Do not stand at my grave and weep
I am not there; I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow,
I am the diamond glints on snow,
I am the sun on ripened grain,
I am the gentle autumn rain.

When you awaken in the morning's hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry,
I am not there; I did not die.

Piano Concerto in No. 5 in E flat major ‘Emperor’,
2nd Movement (Adagio un poco mosso)

Ludwig van Beethoven

Chosen by dear Lucy who remembered that father loved this music

Curtains closed around coffin part way through music

“I Did It My Way”
Frank Sinatra
Mother chose this to walk out to – quite apt, as father did do things "My Way"!

We met everyone outside to thank them for coming – lots of hugs, surprises, tears etc. My biggest surprise was seeing my lovely work colleague Hilary who as an Occupational Therapist, had treated my father in one of his hospital admissions – she said "I had to come, I knew how much your father mean't to you" – lots of tears with Hilary! At work she has me in stitches with laughter! I also met two distant relatives whom I don't recall ever meeting: Marion Cogger and Angela Collison who had both travelled a long way to be here with us, lovely to meet you and thank you for coming! Nigel and Biben from father's care home also kindly attended. I'm not going to name everyone that went – it will take too long, but thank you all so much for joining us today, it mean't alot to all of us xxx.

Several people turned up whom I hadn't expected and that I thank you for, from the bottom of my heart. There were a few people who would have been there, but couldn't through either being too poorly themselves or for other reasons. We reckon through the number of Order Of Service booklets left over, that there were approximately around sixty people there – not too bad at all really! Maybe there had been more than that, if anyone left their order of services behind, which I doubt to be honest, most people like to take them with them. Holme NWT Warden Gary Hibberd and his partner Alison were not able to attend as they had offered to take on the very kind task of doing all the catering for the wake!!! Some people had kindly taken time to attend the funeral, but were not able to come to the wake and vice versa.

One of the coffin bearers had returned father's hat and I placed it inside my car – maybe it should have gone down with him on hindsight. We left and headed for The Firs House NWT at Holme for the wake. If anyone thought the road was uneven, trust me it was as smooth as a baby's bottom compared to what it was a week ago – well done to the NWT team!

The Firs NWT Visitor Centre at Holme
Hosted By Gary Hibberd with partner Alison
With very kind assistance from Robert, Tom and Janine

The weather had deteriorated badly – the rain was heavier and a short while later, it was torrential! Father died in Storm Doris and was going out in a storm! We parked as close as we could to the Firs House, as we were all in silly and inappropriate girly shoes!

As we walked inside, most people had already arrived. I couldn't believe what Gary and Alison had created. Their attention to detail was beyond anything I could have possibly done myself and it brought a tear to my eye. I had printed out quite a number of large pictures of father yesterday and they had arranged these beautifully on the window sills and tables, surrounded by tulips and daffodils in vases. 
Getting ready for our arrival at The Firs, Holme NWT
© Gary Hibberd

Vintage tablecloths covered the tables with beautiful crockery and tiered cake plates. Such a beautiful display of food and far more than we had requested. There were selections of sandwiches, crisps, breadsticks, salad choices, dips, pork pies, sausage rolls, pineapple and cheese on sticks, scones with real cream and jam, biscuits: savoury and sweet, After Eights, Terry's Orange segments, Carrot Cake, Coffee Cake and I'm sure much more, but memory now fails. I didn't spot until much later that Gary and Alison had placed lots of Polos in little white bowls – they had remembered that they were a favourite of fathers, such a nice touch and this made me smile. Tea's, Coffee's and cold drinks were of course on offer too. Eddie was beaming when he realised his favourite Carrot Cake was on the table! So funny! Lucy made me laugh, she is a chocolate and cake connoisseur like me, but the first thing she picked up to eat was the sliced raw cauliflower, which she loves apparently – didn't know that!
 Getting ready for our arrival at The Firs, Holme NWT
© Gary Hibberd

Gary also showed father's film on repeat, that I got made into a DVD for him: "Struggle for Survival" – a silent film which was taken on cine film between 1962/63, converted to VHS and now recently onto DVD. It was perfect for the wake, as there was no sound and several people enjoyed watching this unique footage of the ice floes on the beach, birds and scenery around the Firs House. My idea about holding the wake here had paid off – it was the perfect setting and was hosted perfectly. So nice to chat and meet up with so many lovely people again, including neighbours from the village Jackie, Pauline and Clifford, whose children we went to school with. Nice to see ex warden Bill Boyd here too! Chris Knights, John Sheldrake, Vernon Eve, Richard Brooks, Sophie, Pat & Geoff, Robin Jolliffe and his wife, Moss Taylor and so on to name but a few. When the rain was at its most torrential, I heard Alison shout "all outside now" – made me chuckle, its ages since I spent time with Alison, she doesn't mince her words (like me), but she does make me laugh! So nice to chat to Marion, one of my two distant relatives today, although I didn't really get the chance to chat to Angela.

We were all waiting for the downpour to stop, so that we could walk the short distance to the bird observatory for people to view the display of photos that Vivien, Ray, Sophie and I had put up yesterday. The rain continued with no let up. Mother had got her 'I want to go and check on the cat' expression on her face. When I highlighted that the cat would be curled up asleep on the same chair we had left her on, it didn't make much difference! But, with kind encouragement from Gary and a loan of his coat and brolly, mother trudged in the puddles and rain along with the rest of us to the observatory to look at the photos and memorabilia.

We were like sardines in a tin can in the observatory – one of the reasons it would have been impossible to hold the wake in there! People enjoyed looking at all the photos I had printed out and there were lots of discussions about who was who, in the old group photos. It was fascinating looking through the old visitor signing books and other records that Sophie had kindly put on display. David Bratt had stepped in to man the observatory today, whilst Sophie had attended the funeral along with her mother Jenny. I never imagined that after the torrents of rain, that the sun would come out, but it did! Blazing out! We had such a lovely walk back to the Firs House in the sunshine.

Mother nearly departed with Gary's coat, I had to remind her she still had his coat on! Mother, Lucy, Vivien and Ray went back home to Holme and I stayed a short while longer to thank everyone and then was offered food to take back – how could I refuse!!! Coffee and Carrot Cake and more! Lovely!

Huge thanks to Gary and Alison along with Tom, Robert and Janine (for helping Gary with the cakes and scones), for so kindly hosting the perfect afternoon. I can't thank you all enough. Also thank you to NWT HQ for allowing us to hold the wake here, much appreciated and made a difficult day much easier. It also created a unique and chilled place to spend time with friends and family, old and new.

I was handed a few donations in cash inside cards for NOA/NWT and will pass these to Sophie in the next couple of days to add to the total of donations, which is then being divided. A huge thank you to anyone that donated today for both the NOA and NWT. I know that John Lincoln have received several cheques. I will of course let you all know how much the total raised was, as soon as I know.

I spent the evening with my family and ate more scones with cream and jam – lovely! We all felt shattered and drained. A very difficult morning, but a beautiful service. Lucy summed it up when she said, "we did really well and the music was all beautiful" – how right she was! She had me in tears when she said how well I did, to read the poem out. The afternoon however, was not difficult, just simply beautiful and joyous. We placed father's hat on the windowsill next to his bed where he used to sleep – tears filled my eyes. Tears filled dear Lucy's eyes when she read Ruby Jackson's card (Peter Jackson's wife) which ended with 'until we meet again'. Vivien Lucy and I have had so many sister hugs today – its been lovely!

Vivien and Ray returned to Ely and I took Lucy home to King's Lynn. I didn't want to leave mother for several reasons – she looked so lovely in her outfit today and I simply wanted to stay with her, but sadly life has to go on.

Lastly I would like to say thank you so much, to all of you that took time out and travelled so far, to be with us and share your memories of Peter – this made the day so memorable in so many ways. Thank to you everyone who has sent cards of condolence with such beautiful words, the many emails I have received, messages and support from both people we do know and some we don't, via my blog – it is much appreciated, more than you know.

Peter Clarke
Rest in Peace
2-11-1926 — 23-2-2017
To My Dearest Father

My love and memories will never fade
I will never forget your beautiful smile,
your humour, kindness, love and support.
You have always been there for me as I for you.
"Until We Meet Again"

"The Order of Service"

The order of service booklet was designed by myself on Applemac 'Pages' word processor. This was then given to John Lincoln Funeral Directors, who had different software on their non-Mac computer and the final version was almost identical to this.