Winterton Dunes have featured in my life for the last ten years at least. I arrived in Norfolk in 2006, and may have visited them that summer. It was not until the BTO surveys for the Bird Atlas (2007-2011) that I went there in earnest.
My Breeding Bird Survey
After the Bird Atlas survey, I started covering part of the area for the Breeding Bird Survey. I mentioned that earlier this month, along with some pictures of Winterton Dunes. But I did my last one of the season on Sunday morning, so I thought I’d give you an update.
It was a bright, sunny, gorgeous morning. The light wind wafted through; I’d normally class that as ‘calm for Winterton’ although it would be ‘light wind’ for inland areas. In fact, it was almost a zephyr.
There was not a great deal of bird activity about. Lots of mosquitoes near the low scrub area, I realised as I virtually ran away from them on the first bit of the survey, swatting at my bare legs to keep them off. I got several bites on the backs of my calves, even so. I don’t often wear shorts for bird surveys, and I’d forgotten the first leg of this one was in a dangerous area! The rest was fine, as you can tell from my paddling pictures!
birds of note
After that it was a nice walk, seeing and hearing skylarks, yellowhammers, stonechats, a pair of wheatear, and the occasional meadow pipit. A green woodpecker kept objecting to my presence as I neared the halfway point. Once on the coast track to come home, it was a case of ‘count the terns’. There is a breeding colony there, and I’m being non-specific about the breed of tern on purpose. I find it hard to count the squeaks from nesting birds in the marram grass, balanced against the flying birds calling above. My count is usually lower than the official colony count by the Ternwatch group, but they are the professionals, and I just count what I detect.
The only other birds of note turned up when a buzzard flew across: a dozen, then another dozen, then more rooks took flight, accompanied by another couple of dozen starlings! They’d all been hiding out of sight among the dunes. It’s possible there are many more birds I don’t count on this survey, simply because they are on the ground, out of sight, and making no noises. But at least the survey counts the presence of those that are there, and gives the professionals an indication of the abundance of the various species, and how well they are doing over the years.
Winterton Dunes in my stories
I first used Winterton beach in the Princelings and the Pirates. A lot of events happen around the marshland in that story; Fred is shipwrecked, thinks the beach looks familiar, walks up to the top of the dune, and looks across the marsh to see his home castle. Victor is washed up a little further along and has an encounter with a grey seal. George escapes from a place based on Breydon Water, quite a way to the south of Winterton, but it’s all around my marsh area.
Once the Princelings started flying, the beach became a good place for landings, before they got to landing on the water itself. Landing on the beach is still common in the Outer Hebrides and their small islands there; you have to check the tide tables if you’re flying. My inspiration, though, came from my father’s comments about his first arrival at Lindi when he was working for Imperial Airways, to set up the flying boat base. The pilot of the light aircraft overflew the beach to check it was suitable before landing.
By the way, the Princelings and the Pirates is available for just $1 from Smashwords throughout July as part of the Summer/Winter Sale. Many of my other books are on offer, too, including the Princelings Box set.
Winterton’s storm changes
I wasn’t sure when I first visited this year whether the beach would still be there. The storms of the winter had a devastating effect on Hemsby, a couple of miles south. Seven houses were washed into the sea.
On my spring visit I could see massive changes: all the ‘new’; vegetation that had grown up on the sand since I started visiting had disappeared under more sand, and to me it seemed like the beach on the point was more extensive than ever. It’s usually the case that if one part of the coast is being eroded, it is being deposited somewhere else along the same coastline, but Hemsby and Winterton are pretty close together.
I haven’t got an exact point for comparative photos, but you can contrast these ones taken this year with the slideshow on this post I did on my old website in 2011. I can see the difference, and I expect you can too.
It’s amazing to think I did that post in 2011. I talk about ‘you’ reading my Princelings stories, but that was before I published them: I had only posted the first three on that blog for people to read. Maybe I’d already written number four as well. George had only just died. It seems so long ago.
Winterton Dunes don’t change much though. Long may they remain like that.
This was my penultimate post for #30DaysWild. I hope you’ve enjoyed them.