It was a scorcher of a day for a tour to the Brecks today, looking for Bitterns, Cranes and Stone Curlews. We started at Weeting Heath, getting there early to avoid the heat haze. We were rewarded with a very good number of Stone Curlews – at least 11 adults or fully fledged young birds were on the Heath. Suddenly, the ‘stones’ next to one of them moved, and a couple of recently hatched young birds appeared, large balls of fluff with very long necks – cute! A Stoat ran across the grass at one point, causing a bit of a commotion, but was chased off by a Rabbit – surely the wrong way round?
From there, we moved on to Lakenheath Fen. At the visitor centre a Red Underwing moth had decided to ‘hide’ for the day on one of the windows, which was not great camouflage. On the walk out to the Washland viewpoint, we could hear lots of Reed Warblers calling and a single Cetti’s singing. Hockwold Washes was awash with Mute Swans, Great Crested & Little Grebes and Common Terns. However, there was no sign here of the Great White Egret seen in the last few days.
Heading out onto the reserve itself, we were treated to a fantastic display by the resident Kingfishers at New Fen. The male returned repeatedly, perching up around the reeds, hovering and catching fish. There were lots of Marsh Harriers over the reserve, including several dark chocolate juveniles, one still trying to beg for food from its parents without success. Other raptors we saw included Hobby, Sparrowhawk and a family of Kestrels. Lots of Bearded Tits were heard, but we had to content ourselves with quick flight views as they refused to perch up in the breeze.
We headed out onto the riverbank, and we quickly picked up a pair of Common Cranes on the other (Norfolk!) side of the river. Unfortunately, both breeding pairs failed this year, and since then they have been spending much of their time in the fields over the river. We thought there were only two, until we found a third standing with some Greylag Geese and then a fourth on its own. We got great scope views as they fed in the fields or stood around preening.
While we were standing on the bank, a glance further west along the river revealed a large white shape in the distance – the Great White Egret! We managed to get a quick look through the scope before it flew up and disappeared into the fields. Just as we were leaving, having spent some time admiring the Cranes, it suddenly appeared again and flew round past us, giving us great flight views before dropping into Joist Fen. The Bitterns were not as accommodating today, though we did get a couple of birds briefly in flight, unfortunately it was not long enough to get everyone on them.
As usual, there was a good selection of dragonflies and butterflies at Lakenheath. Lots of Brown Hawkers were on the wing, together with a couple of Southern & Migrant Hawkers. We also saw both Ruddy & Common Darters and a selection of damselflies including lots of Banded Demoiselles. A single Painted Lady was the highlight of the butterflies.
After a late lunch, we headed over to Lynford Arboretum, to seek some shelter from the sun amongst the trees. Despite the heat, we saw loads of birds – Nuthatches, Treecreepers, Goldcrests and a variety of tits. A family of Spotted Flycatchers was in one of the quieter corners, the adults returning repeatedly to feed a stub-tailed juvenile which sat begging in the trees. The highlight was a pair of Firecrests. A brief snippet of song alerted us to their presence, but they were reluctant to show themselves at first, only coming out with a bit of encouragement (some ‘squeaking’) but then hopping around with vivid orange & yellow crests spread. Such cracking birds and a great way to wrap up the day.