Tag Archives: Lakenheath

25th July 2014 – Hot in the Brecks!

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.

P1080152Red Underwing moth – not very camouflaged on a window!

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.

IMG_1405Common Crane – four birds were in the fields over the river today

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.

P1080182Great White Egret – very big, and the long yellow/orange bill gives it away

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.

P1080162Ruddy Darter – lots of these and smaller numbers of Commons todayP1080156Banded Demoiselle – this female posed for the camera

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.

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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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