Sunday 25 March 2012

A Breckland selection…

Another fantastic day’s weather, and some more excellent birding up in the Brecks. (Norway and Finland’s temperatures are going to come as one hell of a shock in a few days’ time!). I seem to have spent much of the day in places that I either wasn’t strictly supposed to be, or probably shouldn’t name, so this might be a bit of a weird post…

After narrowly avoiding a potentially bad accident involving 8 large and apparently suicidal Red Deer stags with poor road-crossing skills on the A11 near Elveden, I arrived at site A just after dawn, still in very cold and misty conditions. Just 2 above zero! Great-spots were already drumming, and Song Thrush and Blackbird were belting out full song. After a bit of a wander, these typical sounds of the woodland were met with something about as pleasing on the ear as yesterday’s Egyptian Geese were on the eye… “Eh-kaaaAARK… KAARK”. Much like >this<. But hey, that was just what I wanted – a Golden Pheasant. In fact, there were at least three ‘singing’ from favoured thickets, but as usual, very hard to see – after some stealthy creeping about, I only managed a couple of brief views.

Moving on to site B (which I can safely name as Santon Downham), I arrived to find an alarming number of people milling around near the bridge looking unsuccessfully for little woodpeckers. I rather anti-socially cleared off along the river towards Brandon – and promptly picked up a drumming Lesser-spot. It almost immediately flew off towards the expectant throng (likely causing numerous groans of the “No, I STILL can’t see it” variety, I suspect), while I continued to head in the opposite direction! Further down the river, there was plenty of Nuthatch, Great-spot and Marsh Tit action, a Kingfisher zipped past, a Brambling or two gave their wheezy calls, and a couple of Mandarin dropped in on the water. These seem to be colonising the area slowly – I don’t remember seeing them here more than a few years ago?


I heard another Lesser-spot calling and had a quick look at the ultra-distant Great Grey Shrike the other side of the bridge, before the sun started to emerge and I decided that accipiter o’clock was rapidly approaching. On, then, to site C. This is one of East Anglian birding’s worst kept secrets, and consequently a crowd of around 30 people were already lined up scanning over a clearing in the pine forest. Two or three Woodlark were yodelling away from the heavens, and after about half an hour a pleasingly large raptor appeared to our left, and then circled higher and higher over the clearing. Great scope views of Goshawk… and another top quality addition to the well-known ‘hazy raptors in less than 100 pixels’ collection.


Awesome. Consider yourself privileged to have witnessed such a photo (but unfortunate not to have seen the Gos – it was pretty good, honest!)

Just on the point of leaving, I bumped into Harry and Barry, from just down the road from me in the Lee Valley. During the ensuing conversation as we wandered back, they happened to remind me of a very fine culinary establishment nearby – the mighty Walkers snack bar at the Barton Mills roundabout. I was starving, and a mega alert probably could not have got me moving quicker…

One sausage, egg and bacon bap and a coffee later, I moved on to site D, suitably replenished. This spot is another semi-open secret, along a public road, but it would birders are being actively discouraged from visiting now, so I won’t name that either. Suffice to say, there were three Stone Curlews, and yet more Woodlarks in the sunshine. The warmth was drawing out butterflies again, too – here’s my first Peacock of the year:


Site E was a return to the Little Ouse, this time at Brandon. Here the notebook was supplemented with another Kingfisher, two handsome pairs of Grey Wagtails, another pair of Mandarin, several Yellowhammer, Redpoll and Marsh Tit.


Oh, and I nearly forgot: there was yet another Lesser-spot, drumming almost non stop and showing well again. I must be getting a bit blasé about them: that’s six birds in almost as many days…

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