15th June 2014 – Firecrest, Hawfinch, Cranes & more

Final day of 3 day tour and down to the Brecks. A slight change to the usual programme, as none of the participants particularly wanted to look for some of the normal target birds and there was a particular request to find a Firecrest.

We started at Lynford Arboretum. There was lots of morning activity, particularly Treecreepers, tits including Marsh Tit and Goldcrests. A short way round the arboretum and a Firecrest started singing. Distant at first, we worked our way round and found the tree it was in. It was flitting around quiet high up, but hard to see amongst the dense foliage of the fir, and not everyone could get on to it. Crests will sometimes respond to a bit of ‘squeaking’, and a short burst gave an immediate response – suddenly two Firecrests appeared lower down on the front of the tree, as they came to investigate. With great views obtained all round, we left them to it, the primary target in the bag.

Further round the arboretum, and we picked up the sound of a Hawfinch calling quietly from the top of a tree. Frustratingly, we couldn’t see it, and we ended up only getting a brief glimpse as it flew away. Not to be deterred, we walked on in the direction it had flown, towards one of the Hawfinches favourite feeding areas, and quickly picked up the call again. With so many leaves on the trees at this time of year, Hawfinches can be frustratingly difficult to see but fortuitously it flew out and landed in the top of a tree a short distance away, out in the open. Great views all round again, and a real bonus!

We decided to move on and headed to Lakenheath Fen. The weather was overcast and rather windy, not the best conditions for some of the reserve’s specialities, and it was also by now the middle of the day. In particular, the Bitterns were rather subdued but fortunately we had all had such great views the day before. Still, there were plenty of other birds to watch – lots of Marsh Harriers, Cuckoos and Reed Warblers, amongst others. And a variety of insects, with several species of butterfly, dragon- and damselfly (the best of the latter being really close-up views of Red-eyed Damselflies). A Hobby was hawking over Joist Fen and a pair of Common Cranes was the highlight of the afternoon (digiscoped photo below from a couple of days ago). It was also a real pleasure to watch a couple of families of Great Crested Grebes, the stripy-headed grey juveniles demanding free rides on the backs of their parents!

We finished off back at Lynford Arboretum. It was rather quieter than it had been in the morning, but still we enjoyed great views of several new birds for the day, including a Garden Warbler gathering food and a Nuthatch preening in the afternoon sun, as well as many of the species we had seen in the morning.

All in all, a very successful three days in the field. Engaging company, lots of good birds and great views of all of the key ones we had been after.

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