Thursday, 17 March 2016

March 17th East Wretham, Grimes Graves and Lynford Arboretum

It was a trip to the Brecks for me today, as I join my dad and my aunt Barbara with a visit to three locations in this part of west Norfolk. First, Dad took us to a nature reserve in East Wretham which captures the essence of what the Brecklands are really like. This region is a dry grassland dominated by rabbits, lots of rabbits! Everywhere you look is a rabbit hopping around.

There are also pine trees bordering this barren landscape and hundreds of rooks and jackdaws have formed a rookery (a colony) with many nests in each tree. As we walk beneath them, the sight and sound of these noisy birds flying around us is incredible! A cacophony of cawing rings in your ears as they communicate to one another atop of every spare branch that does not have a nest in it. It is one of the great signs of spring in the countryside.

As amazing as it sounds, there is water here in this miniature desert. Small shallow lakes are formed here naturally by rain. On my last visit here a few years ago, these lakes were dried up. Today, a few ducks were on it, while lapwings were displaying over it. It is like a little oasis in this dry, rabbit covered landscape. To add to the sounds of rooks and lapwings, skylarks sing high above us with fluid notes. The sound of the Brecks!

Coot on the lake
Lost in the forest!
Our next stop was at Grimes Graves. A great grey shrike has been overwintering here and I have yet to see one. There is one thing though, we don't know this area very well and the directions to its whereabouts were a bit vague. We ended up getting a little lost and I got quite frustrated. We did find a field with sheep in it bordered by a scrubby area of woodland where the shrike could possibly be found, but I only saw a couple of stonechats. No shrike in sight! Not only that, there were no twitchers around to help us out. It was a waste of time.

We gave up with the search for the shrike and went to Lynford Arboretum for lunch and a walk. At this time of year, this place is usually packed with birdwatchers hoping to glimpse a hawfinch. To my surprise, no one was crowding the gate overlooking a set of feeders where one often appears. Only a handful of birdwatchers were here today, we almost had the place to ourselves. Usually, the crowds see the hawfinches first and point them out for me, but today, I had the pleasure of finding one myself before sharing it with an approaching small group of birders. They were very thankful of me for finding it. Dispite it being distant at the top of a tall tree in a paddock, I could still see the finch's large size and bulky bill very clearly.

As well as hawfinches, this lovely site is also good for other birds. Nuthatches, siskins, marsh tits, chaffinches, blue tits, great tits and coal tits were attracted to the feeders and handouts from photographers. Goldcrests swarmed the fir trees, searching each branch for any invertebrates hiding within them. A buzzard circled high above us, while little grebes were displaying on the lake. A great selection that more than makes up for getting lost in the pine forest looking for a shrike that never showed up.

Coal Tit
Great Tit and Siskin
Blue Tit
Grey Squirrel
Mute Swan
Canada Goose
Song Thrush
Great Tit

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