Tuesday 13 February 2024

The Brecks - 11th February 2024

www.blueeyedbirder.com adventure:

Up even earlier for a drive west to out meeting point at Mayday Farm in the Brecks.  I have not been here for many years despite it being the place to go when I was first starting out.  It was the 'hushed up but not really' spot to go and look for Goshawk.

It was misty but as still as very still thing not moving very much and every single sound could be heard through the trees. Pine plantations have come and gone during the last 35 years that I have been visiting here and only the land marks of the radio tower and substation told me where I was although the tell tale Snowberry and Mahonia understorey brought back vivid memories of Golden Pheasants squawking from with the impenetrable depths with occasional glimpses of yellow or red or if you were here very early a gaudy male dropping down from his roost tree and scuttling across the track.  Those days are long gone along with the guaranteed six Tit species within just a few minutes.  Willow Tit is now also a bird of my past but thankfully Marsh Tit seems to be still holding its own and we encountered quite a few on our two hour circuit.

The woods were surprisingly alive with small birds and not the normally quiet avian desert that I expect in plantation country.  Tits, Goldcrests, Treecreepers, Nuthatches, Crossbills, Bramblings, Bullfinch, Greenfinches and Chaffinches were all found.  The Crossbills were very flighty but we got some good views of the tree top Bramblings.

The watery winter sun kept trying to push through but it was so hazy that you could easily see a big cluster of spots on the Sun while Woodlarks circled above us and their mellifluous song carried far across the clearings.  It will always be one of my favourites. Song and Mistle Thrushes were equally vocal although more difficult to see.

Antony Wren

Antony Wren

Antony Wren

Woodlark - Antony Wren

We had the whole place to ourselves until the peace was shattered by the vociferous chattering of gaudily Lycra clad men on bikes snaking their way at speed through the trees.  Quite how you can cycle forest tracks and chat about what you watched on the telly was beyond me. As one group approached, they flushed a Woodcock from the path side affording us excellent views but I suspect that me saying ‘Woodcock!’ as they came past may have been taken as some sort of comment on what I thought of their forest perambulations.

Phyllonorycter maestingella - Antony Wren

Antony Wren

Stigmella tityrella - Antony Wren

Yellow Brain

female Hazel flower


Still berries on the Wild Privet

We looped back to the cars and moved on up the road to look for Goshawks.  The magic 11am was approaching and although the temperature was dropping we still got lucky and had a couple of wonderful views of a huge brown and tawny immature female as she harried Wood Pigeons.  There were plenty of Buzzards including the one seen last year that feels like it has some Red-tailed Hawk genes along with three Red Kites and surprisingly three female-type Marsh Harriers that circled high and east.

Wood and Skylarks sang in the now very grey sky but there were no Brown Hares on the field in front this time as it was full of very happy, contented Pigs.  

Back down to Lynford Arboretum which was heaving with people out for a Sunday stroll with the hounds and sproglets.  Despite the crowds and background noise around the café the birds were completely non-plussed down the alley we all enjoyed superb views of a goodly number of Bramblings of which the males were starting to blacken up, Yellowhammers, regular Tits, Nuthatches, Jays, Stock Doves and up to five beady eyed Hawfinches.  They were incredibly vocal and I was able to pick them up in the trees above, long before they decided to come down and poke around in the leaf litter for seeds.

Bramblings and friends


A circular walk took us on a loop not visited before and hidden corner of the Arboretum was discovered.  Marsh Tits were in fine song with both variations to be heard and Song and Mistle Thrushes were still proclaiming territories.  It looked spot on for Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers but alas we had to be content with Great Spots and Green.  It was starting to get very black and so we opted to call it a day while we were still dry and ambled back through the Snowdrops and Cherry Plums.

Cherry Plum


We bid our farewells and Antony and I wended our way back across country on the A1066 (passing a pair of Ravens just north of Thetford) before popping into three random roadside churches at South Lopham, Bressingham and Roydon to have a look for early moth signs and put some dots on the Norfolk map.  Luffia lapidella was found in each along with wonderful drifts of Winter Aconites and Snowdrops. 

St Andrews - South Lopham

Gammia sp

Mitopus morio - I think.  There were lots of globular Springtails on the gravestones too

St John the Baptist, Bressingham

St Remigius, Roydon

Luffia lapidella 

Cedar cones

Butcher's Broom

                                  Laffia lappidella going for a stroll - Antony Wren

The road over the Little Ouse at Knettishall was under water since my visit on Monday with the water flowing through the woods and across the road while the closer we got to Bungay the more flooded the Waveney Valley became with water from one side to the other for mile after mile.  Swan and Mallards paddled over fences, through trees and across fields but at least this valley has sides and seemingly no major developments.

Our last stop was Ellingham church in the valley and the area was incredibly wet.  If the light had not been fading it would have been great to explore the area a bit more although the sight of dozens of mostly albino Wallabies in some roadside paddocks was not quite how we expected to round up the day.

St Mary's Ellingham

Ectoedemia heringella on Holm Oak


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