Sunday 16 February 2020

Nine Days Not On The Ranch 1-9 February 2020: Day 6

6th February:

After a fiery dawn, It looked like it was going to another fine, still day so it was off to the Brecks after breakfast on an interesting route that started cross country towards Dereham (via Bernard Matthews pad!) before dropping down to Swaffham.

I veered into Cockley Cley in the hope of some Goshawk action and encountered a line of cars and a few familiar faces.  It was a little too calm but after a while I found up a fine male powering along the treeline which was my cue to leave and head down the road to Lynford Arboretum.

A short walk later and I was watching four each of Brambling and Yellowhammer feeding on the ally alongside the house along with the usual assortment of tits, Nuthatches and other finches.


Down at the paddock there were already Hawfinches feeding and they would periodically fly up into the lone Hornbeam and sit unobtrusively for a while before dropping back down to feed.  This was the best time to count them and I reckoned on a minimum of 26 but there could have been a few more.  The sun was out and they shone and sparkled.

The Hawfinch Hornbeam


Siskins wheezed in the Alders but like everywhere there were no Redpolls at all to be found.  Marsh Tits and Nuthatches joined the other usual tits at the bridge feeders and gave me a chance to play with the camera while a Great Spot drummed and Goldcrests sang from the pines.

Marsh Tit

Marsh Tit

Marsh Tit & Nuthatch



Great Tit

Great Tit

Little Grebes were trilling on the lake and it actually felt springlike and for the first time all week I had shed a coat and was without hat and gloves.  The Snowdrop display was superb.

Back at the car for the lunch with the sound of a distant singing Woodlark off towards the gravel pits.  I ambled that way and found two males up in the blue singing mournfully in ever decreasing circles until they both chose to plummet to the ground and invisibility.

Great Crested Grebes engaged in some pre-nuptials and the Tufted Duck flotilla was dazzling in the sunshine and were also making squeezy toy noises.  It took a while to find the Goosanders but two male and a female were found on the westerly pit where Bullfinches called from the Birchy margins.

Tufted Ducks

Santon Downham next for a riverside walk. I was after Lesser Spotted Woodpecker and although I may well have heard them tapping, I could not find the little buggers.  There was ample recompense with six pair of Marsh Tits and two calling Willow Tits on the Suffolk side of the river back in the alders.  I have previously heard no reports from there this year.  

Four Little Grebes were along the margins and I was really hoping for Otter and the light in my eyes precluded my spotting one up on the bank but not hearing the plop and following the bubble stream. It emerged in some grasses and looked to my right where the only person I had seen all walk was approaching with a dog.  I waved at him and pointed and was delighted at his considered response. He stopped and put the lead on his dog and only approached when I waved again.  The Otter watched the hound the whole way before silently slipping under and out of view. We stood quietly and waited but it did not reappear in view but a wondrous encounter none the less.


A Reed Bunting called from the damp plot towards the railway and a big bushy Fox bounced through the field with the Highland Cattle in.

Reed Bunting

The day was waning but I still fancied another walk and so wiggled through to RSPB Lakenheath for dusk.  In retrospect this was not the greatest of ideas as I completely underestimated how long the walk is down to the Joist Fen viewpoint and by the time I got there the sun only had about thirty minutes left in the tank.  It was however, a most enjoyable time on a calm and increasingly cold evening. Water Rails called all around and Reed Buntings fed quietly in small groups in the top of the Phragmites.  Bearded Tits pinged and Cetti’s Warblers called and I could hear groaning Great Crested Grebes, whirring Shoveler wings and the plop of diving Coots.

Reed Bunting

Marsh Harriers incessantly quartered and a Barn Owl drifted along the river wall where three single Great White Egrets and a single Little were seen all heading east towards Hockwold but of a Bittern and the Cranes there was no sign.  

Hundreds of Greylag Geese were flighting from hidden pools out onto the surrounding farmland and a flock of 33 Fieldfare circled before dropping into some bushes to roost.  Just after Sol set I could hear the Cranes but they were not flying and there were definitely several birds involved somewhere way off beyond the railway. I pictured them in a field dancing and prancing to their own inner music.   

It brought a smile to my face as I headed back in the company of friendly Suffolk birder.  We exchanged tales and shared birding acquaintances from the last thirty-odd years with the sound of conversationalist corvids in the last of the remaining poplars and a late Kingfisher dashing home for the night. It was almost fully dark and the moon was glowing for the journey back to the Pod.

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