I used to struggle out in The Brecks; hard work, slogging it out for little reward. Those days are long gone, dear reader. Nowadays, I rock up, nail specialities and jam in on other stuff! Today goes down as one of my best days in the field, anywhere, let alone The Brecks.
Picked up Ricky early doors and headed to our first site. Goldcrest, Nuthatch and the expected Tits were all very vocal. After a short wait, we heard the hoped for strangled call of a male Golden Pheasant and eventually managed decent views in the gloom under the pines. The mad dash had paid off! Walking the long way back to the car, we happened upon 2 Tree Pipit, singing and parachuting in a clearing. Some Lesser Redpoll flew overhead and 2 Siskins called. As if initial views were not enough, 2 male Goldies were seen in the undergrowth on the way back! You can see a great picture of one below.
Buoyed by our start, we aimed to spot some Raptors while the sun shone. Our second site was just the ticket- 6 Buzzard catching some thermals, 2 Sparrowhawk and a distant male Goshawk being mobbed by a Crow. What a hulk of a bird! Lots more decent birds here, including Cuckoo, Bullfinch, Green Woodpecker, Yellowhammer and Crossbill.
Stopping off at East Wretham Heath, we picked up 2 Swallows and a displaying Curlew. The mere was worryingly bone dry. I'm sure a lot of hard work goes in here, but this has to be the worst reserve for birding I have been too, I never see anything decent despite the rumoured Brecks specialities.
By the time we got to Santon Downham drizzle was fast turning to showers, but we did pick up a Kingfisher on the river, Willow Warbler, Blackcap and ace views of Nuthatch on the church. Electing to drive rather than wait it out was a good move, as by the time we got to Lynford conditions were again excellent. Our timing somehow impeccable, we had 2 male Hawfinches feeding on the ground, the same spot as my female birds last week. Wow! Crossbill were also seen in the arboretum. Back at the car, we enjoyed excellent views of Wren and Treecreeper.
Leaving Lynford, I spied a perched Buzzard. Ricky was busy talking about Shed Seven with a mouthful of mini cheddars, so missed the beast. Luckily I was able to turn round for another look. I noticed on the second pass, hands on wheel, it was rather dark. Too dark. On the return leg, I realised this was no Buzzard- we were looking at a perched Harris Hawk! Bloody hell! Ricky saw the bird drop to the ground, the return to perch. We stopped and set out on foot. Brief flight views were had. Wonder how long this individual has been living wild? Final bird of the day was a male Brambling in summer plumage. Nice work!