Sunday, 3 April 2011

Brecks and and Washes

Following a really crappy week with some sort of flu thing, it was great to get out in the Spring air this weekend and I am starting to feel much better.
On Saturday we decided to do a fairly short run around the Brecks and finish up in Cambridgeshire hopefully with migrant ducks and terns.
8am saw us getting a bit cold at Foxholes Heath where we soon heard Stone Curlews and a couple of singing Woodlarks. Finding either proved rather tricky as we assumed the Curlews were beyond the ridge. However, after about twenty minutes, six flew up out of a hollow and dropped down in plain sight and shortly after, I located a further four birds.

We never did find the Woodlarks, and in fact just about the only other birds on the heath were a few Linnets.
Next stop was Santon Downham. We parked in the main forestry car park and walked up to the river. A small cherry bush in a garden held a number of Siskin and Redpoll, with more higher up in the big trees along the river. Also present were a large flock of Crossbills.

Along the river, we encountered a pair of Nuthatch, and also one or two Kingfishers.

Green Woodpecker was heard, and a distant Great Spotted Woodpecker caused a bit of confusion as our main target and hence mindset was on Lesser Spotted Woodpecker. I eventually located a pair flying above the trees and calling, but never got satisfactory views. Another confusion bird was a tit we found gathering nesting material. The call as it flew over the river and landed by us sounded rather Marsh like but it looked much like a Willow. I found it again soon after, and the identification was confirmed when I heard the distinctive Willow calls.
 Grimes Graves just to the north is a good raptor viewpoint, being high and open. It also held a Great Grey Shrike. The dull windy conditions were not conducive to raptors, though three low soaring Buzzards were seen, as well as Sparrowhawk and Kestrel. Despite a long search by several birders, the Shrike could not be located.
 We went next to Lyndford Arboretum in the hope of picking up one of the Hawfinches-apparently heard singing, but no-one was able to find one. I did get my first Swallow of the year and we did encounter several elusive Firecrests managing to get good views of one. Also and seemingly abundant were more Nuthatch. We were shown the location of a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker nest site, but the birds were not obliging, though they had been seen earlier in the day. We did find a singing Marsh Tit in the area. There seemed to be plenty of Brimstone flying in the area, and I also got to see my first Orange Tip of the year.
 RSPB Ouse Washes was the last site of the day as both Colin and I were feeling a bit tired-we had hoped to get to Graffham in the evening. As it was it was a pretty good couple of hours. The Tree Sparrows were showing quite well on the feeders and as we went down to Welches Dam hide one or two Sand Martins went through.
The large expanse of mud and shallow marsh held an enormous number of Black Tailed Godwits, many in full breeding plumage, several Ruff and surprisingly four Knot. Vast numbers of Wigeon and Teal are still present, but despite a long search we failed to find any Garganey- nor did we see the drake Blue Winged Teal that had been reported the previous evening.

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