Saturday 18 February 2023

The Brecks - 17th February 2023

A day out.

A grey and windy drive up to the Brecks suggested that the blustery conditions may hamper the day but it was not cold as I arrived at Santon Downham just before 7.30am.  The trees were thrashing around a bit at that stage but there was plenty of bird song and the arrival of the rest of my party was timed perfectly with calling Marsh Tits and five calling Woodlarks in two groups.

I was just explaining to them that Goshawks like a breeze but it may just be too strong when I looked up and an immature female cruised effortlessly overhead using its tail to bank and turn.  Once again it appeared that I had radio controlled the key species!

We ambled off down the road towards the bridge getting some excellent views of the Marsh Tits as they foraged in the roadside shrubbery and picked up a bonus Dom Mitchell out for a day in the field.

Down by the river we quickly picked up Little Grebe and a flying Grey Wagtail before a slow walk along the Suffolk bank.  Lesser Spotted Woodpecker was the main quarry but I think it was just too windy and I suspect they were lower down in the scrub further back.  There was plenty to see and by the time we returned I reckon we had encountered at least nine pair of Marsh Tits along with the other usual species.  Nuthatches and Treecreepers were singing and there were some good Siskin flocks in the Alders but no Redpolls.  One of the meadows was damp enough to attract a feeding flock of Redwings that kept dreading back to safety.  There were about 40 with the same of Goldfinch and Chaffinch and a solitary male BramblingMistle and Song Thrushes sang and a couple of Great Spotted Woodpeckers bounded through the aged Poplars.

F-15s powered in to land at Mildenhall but we could still hear the fluty song of a distant Woodlark off towards the railway.  We stood by the best LSW spot for a while adding Water Rail that plopped off the bank and swan out of view but the two Otters further downstream kept too far off in front and we never did catch them up.

Mute Swan


Retracing our steps at last gave us a good Treecreeper view and I pointed out the cigar galls of the fly Lipara similis on Phragmites.  No other birders had seen anything different and I think we had actually seen more than most.

Lipara similis

Boring Beetle artwork

Twenty minutes north took us to Cockley Cley for a chance of some more Goshawk action. We were the only people there and it was very exposed with the wind whipping across the fields but around 11am raptors started to appear and the next hour was full of Buzzards and Sparrowhawks enjoying the conditions.  Two male Goshawk briefly came up and sparred – one a grey adult. An immature male was seen a little later and could well have been a different bird but at least this one circled long enough to get the scopes on it and see all the salient features.

Woodlarks flipped over the road and Skylarks were in fine song while Linnets, Goldfinches, Chaffinches and a couple of Yellowhammers were in the game crop.  Four Brown Hares sat immobile in the winter crop field looking like two pairs of strategically placed clods.

Brown Hares 

Lunch beckoned so we made our way back to Lynford Arboretum which, being a half term week, was bogging but our first walk down to the paddocks was pleasant enough and there was even some sunshine as the wind abated. Unsurprisingly at 15c there were two lemony Brimstones and a Small Tortoiseshell as well as a couple of big Bombus terrestris Queens and lots of tiny flies. Marsh Tits were vocal and showy and the Nuthatches were especially appreciated down at the bridge.  I had heard a singing Firecrest as we drove down the entrance road but frustratingly could not find one on the actual walk. Two Egyptian Geese were in the marshy cleared cattle field and a few Siskins bimbled over.



Yellowhammer - Marion Bertuzzo




Time for some grub via the magical display of Snowdrops drifting amongst the Pines and Firs. 

There were a few spots in the air but it was clearing once again by the time we walked out the back and down to the lake where a few Tufted Ducks, Black-headed Gulls and a pair of Great Crested Grebes were seen.  There were no Woodlarks or Stonechats but it was good to show people around somewhere totally new. I even showed them Tree Tops cottage where I stayed last May which I think may now get some future bookings!

Tree Tops cottage

Buzzards played overhead and a Kestrel interacted with one of them as we completed our circuit and set off for round two down at the paddocks.  

Buzzard & Kestrel - Paul Townsend

A Hawfinch had been seen 20 minutes earlier as we took up our patient positions in the hope of another sighting.  It was now flat calm and still warm.  Redwings started to drift into the central bushes and at least 60 were perched up waiting for the decision to head off to roost.  A few Chaffinches, Greenfinches and Goldfinches joined them but no cherry stone cracker.  A couple of Mistle Thrushes joined the party and as the evening drew on Blackbirds started to drop in from all directions.  I can only presume that they were continental wintering birds that gad been out solo foraging in the forest.  I have never seen this species in winter thrush flocks before but unlike the Redwings that sat up on top, the Blackbirds  headed straight for cover and by the end of the day I had counted 33 coming in. Buzzards drifted over and a Red Kite circled.

Siskins sang overhead and wheezed nasally and three bull headed Lesser Redpolls headed over too.  You could now hear every bird sound from sneezing Marsh Tits and squeaky Coal Tits to dusk welcoming Song and Mistle Thrushes, ticking Robins and scolding Wrens and then at the last minute Richard picked up the tell tale shape of a Hawfinch perched on top of one of the tallest pines. She stayed just long enough to get everyone onto a scope for a good look.


We slowly walked back in the fast fading light with big smiles.  A Firecrest was angrily ‘peeping’ as it headed off to roost and the Blackbirds were doing their usual end of day angry bird display at invisible predators.  We joked about Tawny Owls and then heard one but my hoped for overhead Woodcock turned out to be a Noctule Bat.

Back at the cars we chilled for a few minutes listening to the mobile but increasingly vocal Tawny Owls around us. There were at least two males and a female while two Pipistrelle Bats circled the gaps in the canopy.  It was a fine way to end what had turned out to be a most successful venture.

1 comment:

  1. It looks like this was the walk I needed to do. You got all of my target species and then some!