Saturday, 7 March 2015

March 7th Mayday Farm and Lynford Arboredum

Mayday Farm
I was in search for a real phantom in Thetford Forest this morning. Mayday Farm is one of the best places to see goshawks in East Anglia. Goshawks are secretive birds and are rarely seen most of the time. However, there is a short window from late February and early March in which you have a good chance in seeing them. During this short period, goshawks are courtship displaying and defending territories and will fly out in the open above the trees where you can see them. These birds are stealthy predators that can fly through the narrowest of gaps in branches and I would love to see one for the first time.

We (Dad and I) waited at a blind overlooking an open area in the pine forest, scanning the sky for goshawks. As we waited, the beautiful songs of woodlarks poured delightfully into my ears and then one flew over our heads, pausing to hover and sing in the air. Just wonderful! Later that morning, I watched three woodlarks on the ground of this open area together, feeding and singing.

By 10am, two large birds appeared above the tree line. Were these goshawks? No. They were buzzards busy circling together in an aerial courtship display similar to marsh harriers but really high up. Two buzzards became four and then... GOSHAWK!!! I had two brief sightings of goshawks flying low above the pine trees. They were distant and they didn't hang around into view that long, but I could clearly see a buzzard-sized, elongated sqaure-tailed goshawk, it was definitely not a buzzard this time. After the second sighting, lots of people started arriving looking for them. It seems, because we were here early, no-one else saw a goshawk but us. But I don't mind, I'm very happy indeed to see my first ever wild goshawk no matter how brief the encounter was. They are phantoms after all.

After spending the morning goshawk watching, we went for lunch at Lynford Arboretum. Before we had our picnic, I joined a crowd aiming their scopes and cameras at a bird feeding area. Every spring, birdwatchers arrive here to see hawfinches. These large finches with a nutcracker of a bill are becoming rarer and rarer in Norfolk and Lynford is the best place to find them. This feeding area seems to be popular for both hawfinches and for the people admiring them. It is almost silly that so many people are crowding around to one spot along a fence for one British bird. I only managed to see and photograph one of these birds, but it was a handsome male.
Hawfinch Watching!

The feeders and bird bath were attracting other birds including siskins and bramblings. I am happy to see that bramblings today as there hasn't been many visiting Norfolk from Scandinavia this winter. They look similar to chaffinches but with bright orange to their plumage and yellow bills.

We had our picnic under some trees with so many siskins feeding on the cones. I reckon there must be around 50-100 siskins above us! The sound of constant twittering and wheezing from all these noisy little finches was incredible! After lunch, we had a walk around the site and found brimstone butterflies (my first butterfly of the year), queen bumblebees pollinating crocuses. We walked past daffodils, snowdrops and also saw marsh tits, nuthatches and a muntjac deer. It was a very nice and productive day.

Coal Tit


  1. A goshawk and hawfinches - that's fantastic, well done! I saw my first brimstone of the year yesterday as well!

  2. Hi Sean
    Nice to see you at Strumpshaw and good April fool joke the Eagle.