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The end of the beginning

Early this morning, myself and 3 companions said goodbye to an old friend, the Breckland Golden Pheasant. Having not conducted a thorough search for this elusive exotic for just over 3 years, it was time to see if they did indeed still exist amongst the understory of some old woodland haunts. At our first site in Norfolk, where Ricky and I have seen 2 males and a female (at least 3 males heard calling 4 years ago) we drew a complete blank. A Woodlark tried to cheer us up, and the call of the Nuthatch began here and accompanied us for most of the day. At our second site, now in Suffolk, again we turned up nothing. I know of a couple of private sites where they (may) cling on, but the game was up for us and it would seem old Goldie. As the day progressed we spoke to a knowledgeable gentleman who used to feed them at one site in Norfolk; used to being the key part of that sentence. Inevitable maybe, but still a shame. With the Breckland population disappearing/disappeared, I would argue that this is it for the East Anglian population. I hope I am mistaken, and that there are some sites unbeknownst to me that hold stable populations. I doubt it, since only a handful of people ever knew of the Norfolk site I referred to previously. What would be regretful, is to see the last mainland Goldie go the way of the Lady A in Bedfordshire right now. Caged, fed, and jizzed on by NGBs. And no- the Wolferton birds are not real.

It was still early after our dip, so we tried Santon Downham for Lesser Pecker. Now, this is a species we really should care about losing. Having had them at a site in Suffolk this Spring, I was hopeful but the local pair were not playing ball. I finally connected with Brambling for the year, and 2 pairs of Mandarin Duck gave us a fly past before one set landed in trees. Redpoll flew overhead, Siskin and Nuthatch called constantly. Ben's keen vision picked out a Goshawk, our first 'decent' bird of the day.

We then headed to another Goshawk site, the weather prompting us to do so. Again local Goshawk finder Ben picked out a displaying male, with possibly another smaller bird in the air too. Buzzard carrying nesting material, Kestrel and Sparrowhawk completed the Raptor fest. Yellowhammer, Siskin and Curlew added to the variety here.

A brief stop at the lovely East Wretham heath produced the warden who we enjoyed chatting with, but no birds bar Buzzards kettling overhead. Ricky headed to do some Cleverley Cleaning, leaving the 3 of us to press onto Lynford. Brambling, Siskin, Chaffinch and common Tits came down to feed but unfortunately the resident (?) Hawfinch did not. We explored more of the arboretum, Ben spotting a brief Firecrest before I located one in a conifer. Eventually the bird left the tree to feed on the ground, allowing super views of an always stunning species. Very odd to see it on the ground foraging like a finch, but hopefully James and Ben got some good shots.

Leaving here for Great Cressingham, a wrong turn took us into the path of 3 tussling Red Kites, which came over the car in what was a dramatic scene. 3 Stone Curlew were in a field in the Cressingham area, the first I have seen for some years (can't be doing with Weeting Heath heat haze, this was more like it!). Our final stop was to search for Willow Tit, and despite an excellent artist's impression courtesy of Whitlingham's finest, we drew a blank here. Much discussion about suitable habo ensued.

So, an excellent day in the field but also a landmark one. Not only do we say farewell to a fine bird on the British list, but we also discovered Ricky has been spending a lot of time in chip shops with questionable men. I think he has learnt his lesson.

A quick note about the patch- Willow Warbler in yesterday at Rockland, and 2 Blackcap singing in Surlingham. The Wildfowl and Waders survey was decent: 4 Snipe, 2 Shoveler, 4 Coot, 2 Gadwall and 23 Teal the best of Church Marsh.


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