Local Patch

Ken Hill Marsh Winter

Ken Hill Marsh Summer Note Spoonbill feeding in channel!

Since August 2002, my local patch has been based at Snettisham Norfolk, stretching from the southern end of the RSPB reserve, towards the fenceline at Heacham south beach, seperating the challets from the open clearing with the green tin shed, surrounded by dense Elder and Sea Buckthorn scrub. My patch list currently stands at 223 (as of 1st August 2011) with 92% of the total being self found, including some good local birds such as Dartford Warbler, Hawfinch, Willow Tit, Richards Pipit, Rough legged Buzzard, Dotteral, Hooded Crow, Nightjar, and Roseate Tern. Rarer species are hard to come by, but include White Stork, Snow Goose, Red-breasted Goose, Ferruginous Duck and Surf Scoter (both found), Black-eared Kite, Greater Sand Plover, White-rumped and Pectoral Sandpipers (both found), Buff-breasted Sandpiper, Serin, and Little Bunting (found).

In comparison with the north facing coast, its position at the south east corner of The Wash, means that scarce passerines, such as Barred and Yellow-browed Warblers are a notably rare occurance, whilst falls of Autumn migrants, involving the likes of Redstarts and Pied Flycatchers are equally sparse, seldon occuring in any numbers. Given the noticeable lack of observer coverage during the autumn, it is perhaps not surprising that few scarcities are ever found. The same can be applied to the RSPB reserve, which is virtually neglected by birders, apart from in periods of high spring tides (and even then, most of the peple who are there probably wouldnt know how to tell a White-rumped Sandpiper from a juvenile Dunlin...)

Knot gathering together on the incoming tide. For the largest tides (anything above 7 meters) it is best to arrive in the car park about 2 and a half hours before high tide. On the highest tides of the year (July or August) people will often arrive at the beach to find that most of the mud is allready covered, hence they miss out on the flying formations of Knot (above) as they are gradually pushed off of the mud. The higher the tide the more time you need to allow!       

Seasonal Highlights 

Spring: Probably one of the best sites in Norfolk for Grasshopper Warbler, with six or seven singing males present in the Coastal Park each spring. Passage Ring Ouzel and Wheatear, plus the odd Redstart and Whinchat, along with good numbers of common warblers. Nesting Turtle Dove, often present on wires crossing over scrub at southern end of park, also favoured by Cuckoo. Groups of Whimbrel feeding on grazing fields beside inner bank, plus hunting Barn owls and good numbers of Grey Partridge. Overhead passage of corvids, finches, pipits, wagtails and hirundines. Woodlark present in fields aound Ken Hill Wood.

Summer: Nesting Common Terns, Mediterranean and Black-headed Gulls on the pits of the RSPB reserve. Large numbers of Curlew and Shelduck. First returning Spotted Redshank and Greenshank. Built up of juvenile Pied and Yellow Wagtails along beach (mostly aound Sailing Club spit) Vibrant floral display of Vipers Bugloss, Biting Stonecrop, Birds foot Trefoil, Hoary Mullein, English StonecropSea Campion, and Yellow-horned Poppy.     

Autumn: Excellent for visible migration with large numbers of Starlings, finches and Thrushes passing overhead. Passage waders and seabirds (strong NW winds best)  

Winter: Roosting Pink footed Geese. Small numbers of White fronted, and occasional Barnacle Geese present around Ken Hill marsh or arable fields behind pits. Hen Harrier and Short eared Owl hunting over saltmarsh and rough grassland at southern end of RSPB reserve, plus Merlin and Peregrine chasing waders over mud. Small groups of Scaup often present offshore, plus smaller numbers on pits. Teal and Pintail present in high numbers on mudflats plus good numbers of Goldeneye and Red-breasted Merganser present offshore. Wintering Snow Bunting on beach plus occasional Shorelark, often on RSPB reserve.

Knot, Dunlin and Black headed Gulls resting on the mid after an evening high tide

Sandwich Terns together at the southern end of the reserve, where the saltmarsh joins with the mud.

Ken Hill Wood