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Thoughts on The Brecks and a moment of magic

With the onset of an early Spring, naturally The Brecks have been receiving plenty of attention from visiting birders, and I was fortunate enough to spend some time at well known sites and some off the beaten track with mum, last week. We enjoyed wonderful views of Hawfinch feeding on the ground at Lynford, frustrating glimpses of an agile Firecrest in the carpark and singing Woodlark amongst tens of Brambling and Siskin. This was all in a couple of hours, a delayed start due to mum parking at Lynford Hall. Both of us sat in our cars half a mile apart wondering where the other was. Cue missed calls from mum and dad (the big gun rolled out) when I retreated to Mundford to gather reception and find the missing parent. Whilst waiting, I even managed to squeeze in listening to Jupiter from the Planet Suite, which provided a great backdrop in Lynford carpark as I watched Lee Evans and co return to their cars victorious.

That sighting allows a neat segue-way into my key point. The Brecks is becoming a circus, and I am guilty of adding to this. I live far enough away that when I do get to visit, I will naturally take in well-known sites for a better chance of seeing the specialists, since the opportunity to visit again may be somewhere down the line. I am sure others are in the same position. I do try to put some time in myself, and having located Golden Pheasant and Goshawk sites a few years ago (both are known to a minority) I at least feel like I am 'allowed' the odd trip to Lynford, Santon etc. However, whatever way I package it, the number of birders (including me) visiting these sites and others is adding immense pressure to an often fragile area and there appears to be no long term plan of sustainability from the birding community nor the forestry commission. Perhaps most worrying, is the status of our smallest Woodpecker in The Brecks.

I have avoided the Lesser-pecker nest site ever since news of it was published, somewhere downriver of the 'old' site by the bridge at Santon Downham. I have seen Lesser-pecker, and there is no need in my mind to add another body to the trail, and further noise to the site. As I understand it every man and his dog have already been to see the pair/s, and this concerns me in terms of the likelihood of disturbance and the fact that this species is clinging on in Norfolk. If you are reading this and have never seen a Lesser spotted Woodpecker, I sympathise and I can understand why you would want to visit. I would counter that by saying that nobody 'needs' to see any bird, and nobody has a right to see anything. In the age of social media, it can seem like everyone is seeing rare birds but you. This is of course not the case. Others will also be quietly abstaining, or seeking out larger breeding populations in the south of England. Surely, the best thing for The Brecks peckers would be careful monitoring by ecologists, BTO, and the area made out of bounds to birders? Not feasible as the birds often favour an area next to a public right of way, but with the population on a knife edge, a procession of birders cannot be a positive influence.

Anyway, I've dismantled the soap box, a couple of stories from home. Rose has noticed the Moth Trap has returned to the corner of the garden, and this morning in an attempt to convince her to get out of bed, I offered a chance to check the trap together. She carried a box of pots outside, and I encouraged her to search the conifer next to the trap for resting Moths. I found a a lovely Oak Beauty which got a 'wow', and then a cry of "Daddy daddy I've found one!" Expecting it to be a dead leaf or some kind of fly, I was thrilled when she was pointing at (and not man-handling) a Dotted Border. I praised her, and realised this was her first official piece of Moth recording. We returned to breakfast, ID guide out, and note made in book.

As I type, a male Brimstone charges through the garden, the gorgeous Daffodil-yellow colour hopefully not an omen of a Welsh victory later today. A Rose coloured Red Admiral would be perfect right about now.


  1. Probably best just to make Santon Downham into a zoo. As you know I positively avoid, crowds, toggers the lot,Brecks is pretty big and 90% is barely watched, loads of new areas to explore, road between Bury St Edmunds and Brandon looks great, even if you reported stuff from here people still wouldn't go because IMO most birders have turned into automatons/lemmings, very few have any sense of adventure - long may that continue ✊

    1. Glad to get your feedback Josh. I know exactly the road you mean, I can confirm it is good! Lot of habo round Elvedon doesn't get touched. If I had more time that's where id go and explore.

  2. To be fair, the riverside walk all the way to Brandon is very popular with Nordic walkers, dog-owners, and other recreational groups. I've visited once or twice (looking for GG Shrike) and casual walkers outnumbered birders both times...


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