|Posted on March 28, 2012 at 4:45 PM|
On what promised to be a very warm and sunny day Mike Cottrell, John Tilbrook and I headed into the Brecks on the Norfolk/Suffolk border to look for some very enigmatic birds. We were not to be disappointed!
We started near Elveden at a now very well known Goshawk site, arriving just after 09.00 we walked the mile or so through pine plantations on a forestry track. It was sunny and warming up nicely and we walked along to the sound of Chiffchaff with Siskin and Redpoll often flying over. Once at the clearing we waited for just under an hour to the sound of Yellowhammers and the occasional Woodlark and Crossbill before a male Goshawk appeared, circled up and then stooped away from us before performing some display; alternating stoops and glides. Soon after a female was picked up sitting on a very prominent branch at the top of a tall pine. Though it was distant through the scope you could just discern a supercilium - pity about the hear haze. After a few minutes it left it's lookout perch and began to circle upwards -initial scope views were excellent and you could really appreciate the power and size of this big, broad heavy accipiter. After a while it circled away but appeared again lower over the distant trees and was then joined by the male when for a while they circled together before she disappeared. After another brief showing by the male we'd been on site over 2 hours and decided that the views were unlikely to be improved upon and strolled back to the car. It was now very warm and along the sides of the track we had a good numbers of Comma, Brimstone and a few Peacock.
Just short of the car was a clearing with a farm building and a small copse of beech trees. As we approached we could hear Crossbill and it transpired that they were coming down to water in a stone trough at the back of the building. I stood quietly for half an hour and got some nice photos as they moved around in the beech trees and dropped down to drink and bathe. It was a neat little group with a range of plumages; bright red males, grey-green females and streaky juveniles - they can nest very early in the year and I imagine the good weather has helped. A few Siskin came in to drink too.
Happy with our mornings haul and having scored the main target we set off for Cavenham Heath to see if any Stone Curlew were around. It was already 20C. At Cavenham we strolled down the main track and were eventually rewarded with sightings of 3 Stone Curlew. Apart from a pair of Common Curlew and a Buzzard we had very little else and after a lunch stop we drove over to Lackford Wildfowl Reserve.
At Lackford there were plenty of Chiffchaff but no other spring migrants. The little gulls seen earlier in the day had gone and after a look at the scrapes' which held a Green Sand and a scattering of wintering duck, we moved on again.
Our last stop was back in the heart of the Brecks at Santon Downham near Brandon. We parked up and walked through the picnic sight and beyond the church to the cleared area where a smart Great-grey Shrike was hunting in familiar fashion from prominent points. We got some great scope views and watched it return to a "larder" where it selected a lizzard and flew off into a large tree to eat it in peace. With 5 o'clock looming we headed back to Kent with plenty to talk about.