One thing more than any other makes north Norfolk stand out as a great place to visit, for birding, walking, painting, writing, sitting around…whatever.
It’s quiet. Really quiet. Or rather, there are few of the manmade sounds that we hear non-stop throughout the day. I live in a fairly built-up area, but walk half a mile and you’re in totally open country. Even there, though, and even at night, there’s a constant tinnitus, of traffic on the M1, of quarries and factories at work, of the airport ten miles away, and of the general buzz of a town.
In north Norfolk, though, roads are relatively few, and only one of them, the A149 along the coast, could be described as remotely busy. Even it is slow and winding, so it’s easy to get away from traffic noise.
That’s when you are able to appreciate just what a clamour the natural world is making. Yesterday, as part of filming a DVD at work, we were at Thornham Harbour and Titchwell. No sooner were we out of the car at Thornham than the air was full of the “tew-hoo-hoo” alarm call of Redshanks, the mournful “plee-oo-wee” of Grey Plovers, and the hugely evocative bubbling trill of Curlews, my favourite bird sound of all.
Then there was the bickering, twittering flock of 30 or so Twite flitting around the car-park, and the real star of the day, a Lesser Yellowlegs. This rare American wader is like a more petite, elegant Redshank (except with yellow legs, of course), but he didn’t seem very popular with the resident ‘shanks, who ushered him off their patch once or twice.
He’s a lively, hungry chap, and spent the whole time dashing around pulling huge worms out of the muddy creeks. He’s also, as birdwatchers would have it, a confiding little fellow, although sadly that just means he’ll let you get very close (within three or four yards), rather than that he’ll call you over and spill his secrets. Anyway, there’s some good pics of him here.
The year list shot up to 89, with very showy Water Rail, Ruff, both types of godwit and plenty of Spotted Redshanks the other highlights.
All that ruminating about sound all the way home was ideal preparation for finishing reading Michael Mackmin’s excellent chapbook Twenty-Three Poems last night. He uses sound wonderfully, in some occasionally risky but nearly always successful ways. I’m reviewing it for Sphinx, so won’t go into detail just yet, but suffice to say that a précis of my review is
"It’s brilliant. Buy it here."