Saturday 25 March 2023

The Brecks - 21st March 2023

A day out: 

An early start saw us convene at Santon Downham just before 8am for our riverside walk.  Leaving all my optics behind was not the most professional thing to do for a tour guide but thankfully there is always a spare pair of bins in the car! Redwings drifted over and Marsh Tit was quickly on the list.  It was another breezy, grey looking day but we persevered and walked down to the Lesser Spotted Woodpecker area but had no joy.  There was still plenty to see with some wonderful Siskin and Lesser Redpoll encounters and better views of Marsh Tits as they foraged in the bankside Alders and Willows.

The river was quiet but we picked up Little Grebe and Grey Wagtail and had plenty of Mandarin sightings which was odd as I have never actually seen any here before despite knowing that there was a population here. Every few minutes a croaking pair would do a circuit.

Mandarins - Jane Ellis (I think!)

There was absolutely no flowering ground flora to be found and the only new plants were the vigorous leaves of Comfrey pushing through. Starlings were investigating the many holes in the old Poplars and Green and Great Spotted Woodpeckers were also seen while Kestrel was the only raptor at this stage. I also found some exit holes of what I presume is Hornet Clearwing in the base of one of the Poplars.

Hornet Clearwing exit holes

White-lipped Hedge Snail

Back near the cars I opted to check the area opposite for Woodlarks and said that with 12 pairs of eyes we might pick them up on the deck as there were none in song. Two minutes later Gill found a pair grovelling about quite close by and they afforded excellent scope views for everybody.

Woodlarks - Pat Hart

On now to Lynford Arboretum to condense the passengers into just three cars for the trip up to Cockley Cley where the parking can be tricky.  Even this got delayed as two Firecrests were singing loudly in the tall firs next to where we parked up!  Seeing them was as usual very tricky.

Red Kite and Buzzard were seen on the run up towards Swaffham and se settled in for a wait for the Goshawks to appear.  Buzzards, Kestrels and Sparrowhawks were quickly found and Wood and Skylarks sang behind us.  A squally pulse of drizzle pushed through and the brightness that followed felt like the right time for our targets to appear and before too long an adult male came cruising through the tree tops before putting on a fine scopeable display for all present.  He even stooped after a Woodpigeon when his bulk was even more apparent.

Ten minutes later I picked up a female over the same area and we were treated to another prime performance with circling and active flight particularly when she found and saw off a young brown male.  It was the perfect Goshawk experience and many of the party had never seen one before.

Lazy Goshawk watching with hatchback wind and drizzle shelters

Brown Hares were in both fields around us with some sparring taking place with a group of presumably two males and of course the female orchestrating the performance.  Lapwings tumbled over the stony field beyond and several Shelduck were in with the pigs and a host of Jackdaws and Rooks.  The brief sunshine even tempted out a speedy female Brimstone.

Lunch took us back to Lynford before the lake circuit was undertaken.  Two Great Crested Grebes were seen along with a few pair up Common Toads.  Rather disturbingly there were dead Toads and bits of Toad floating around in the clear water too!

The harrowed area was teeming with Bees in the slight sunny spell that we found and all appeared to be Colletes cunicularius.  The ground was moving with little hovering shapes.  A single Andrena praecox was also seen along with a few Buff-tailed Bumblebees.  One was lying on the path and did not look quite dead. ‘If only we had something for it I said’  Sue immediately gets out her official Bee Rescue Kit and we managed to get the bee to have a few minutes of drinking before popping her in the heavily coconut scented Gorse flowers.

Colletes cunicularius - Sue Godfrey

Colletes cunicularius Sue Godfrey

Bee Rescue - Alan Ellis

Andrena praecox

An unknown micro Clover with vivid carmine leaves

Gorse - so wondrously scented

Cladonia rangiformis - the Lichen known as Reindeer Moss - Enid Barrie

The very funky Juniper Haircap Moss -  Polytrichum juniperinum

Buzzards cruised around but there were no Woodlarks singing as we walked back up towards Tree Tops cottage.  A few spots of rain greeted us so we sheltered by the café while Enid studied the humble Dandelions and with around 250 micro-species in the UK they will take a bit of investigating!

Taraxacum sp - Enid Barrie

Firecrests were immediately heard singing in the main arboretum but at least we all got a look at one of them this time as it came down to the Hollies for a short while.  Such zippy little sprites. A male Yellowhammer was coming down to the pool in the ally but there were no special finches so we ambled on through the Daffodils down to the lake and paddocks.  Marsh Tits and Nuthatches were feeding off the stone pillar and Little Grebes were trilling from the overgrown lake.

Ashley and the Oriole crew had seen a single Hawfinch come in so we stuck it out for a while and scanned the tree tops. Siskins displayed overhead and a Mistle Thrush hopped amongst the Mole hills.  Treecreepers and Firecrests were singing from the Firs down this end too but once again there proved impossible to find.  We were about to give up and I had started to walk back towards the cars when a last glance at the tall Pines revealed a shape and a few seconds later a fine male Hawfinch was in the bag. It stayed long enough for everyone to have a good look before moving further into the trees and sent us on our way with big smiles.  Bathing Treecreepers at the drinking pool finished things off very nicely! The clouds had once again rolled in and as we had somehow contrived to not get wet we all decided to call it a day and head for our respective homes.

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