11th March 2023 – Back to Brecks


A single day tour down in The Brecks today. It was a very cold and frosty start, but the sun came out and it felt a lot warmer than of late, despite only registering max 7C today. A lovely day to be out birding.

We headed down towards the border first thing. The puddles in the car park were frozen into some smart patterns and there was a thick frost covering the ground as we walked down the ride. As we turned to walk under the railway, a Woodlark started to sing softly from the top of a pine tree ahead of us so we stopped to listen to its slightly melancholic song and got the scopes on it. A Yellowhammer flew up to the top of the nearby oak.

Woodlark – singing from the top of a pine

After a while, the Woodlark flew and as it circled round we could it was followed by two more. It landed on the top of another pine behind us and, side on now, we could see the black and white pattern on the edge of the wing and the very long hind claws. A fourth Woodlark was still perched in the trees much further down the edge of the clearing ahead of us. We could hear a Great Spotted Woodpecker drumming in the distance and spotted a pair of Stock Doves in one of the bare poplars beyond the meadows.

We made our way round to the bank of the river, where a couple of Mute Swans was on the water and a Moorhen was along the far bank. As we walked downstream, a pair of Mandarin flew past and landed on the river behind us. There was some thin high cloud first thing and with the low temperatures it was probably not surprising that little was singing at first this morning. A few Siskins flew back and forth overhead calling.

We positioned ourselves at a strategic point along the river bank and stopped to look and listen. As the sun burnt through the early clouds and things warmed up, there started to be more activity. After several days of cold, with sleet and snow, it felt like the perfect morning today for birds to get back into the spring spirit. We could hear two of three Great Spotted Woodpeckers drumming and a pair chased in and out through the poplars. A Green Woodpecker laughed from some way off on the Suffolk side.

What was probably the same pair of Mandarin flew past us the other way, and a little while later swam back along the far edge of the river towards us. They climbed out onto a branch which had fallen into the edge of the water directly opposite us, giving us some lovely views. Another lone Mandarin flew over heading downstream and a little later back the other way.

Mandarins – a pair on the river

There was lots to see down here along the river this morning. A Mistle Thrush started singing from the very top of one of the poplars. A couple of Common Buzzards circled up in the sunshine and a Kestrel flew in and out of the trees. One or two Stock Doves and Woodpigeons started to display flight. Cormorant, Grey Heron and Little Egret all flew over, following the line of the river. A Grey Wagtail started to sing from the tangle of branches snagged in midstream behind us, before flying on downstream.

Grey Wagtail – singing on the river

There were several Nuthatches piping in the trees and we eventually spotted one high in the branches. A Marsh Tit appeared briefly in the bushes by the river calling. We were hoping to find the Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers along here today and having been elusive in the recent cold weather we thought they might be a bit more active in the sunshine. One had been seen briefly very early this morning, but unfortunately there had been no further sign and it did not reappear while we were there. We had lots to fit in today and eventually we had to move on.

Making our way back along the river bank, there were lots of Siskins in the alders across the other side. A Little Grebe appeared midstream briefly. As we cut back under the railway, a small group of people were watching one of the Woodlarks which was feeding on the ground now, the frost having thawed out in the sunshine.

Back at the minibus, we headed off into the Forest to look for Goshawks. There were lots of birds feeding along the verges in the sunshine – a couple of flocks of Chaffinches flew up ahead of us and then a succession of Fieldfares, flashing their grey rumps.

There wasn’t much wind first thing, but at least there was a bit of warmth today and two Common Buzzards were circling up above the trees when we arrived, a good sign. We set up the scopes and scanned. A Goshawk appeared briefly just above the trees, flying across low, but disappeared again almost instantly. A Sparrowhawk circled up higher. Looking over towards a distant group of three Common Buzzards in a thermal, we picked up a Peregrine with them briefly. A queen Buff-tailed Bumblebee buzzed past and there were a couple of Brown Hares in the field in front.

A light breeze just picked up and almost instantly brought results. A big female Goshawk broke cover above the conifers, displaying with deep, exaggerated wingbeats. It disappeared behind the tree but then came up again and then we noticed a young male Goshawk stooping down from above. The two of them chased round, in and out of the tops of the trees, putting on a nice display for us.

Goshawk – displaying through the tree tops

Eventually, the young male disappeared but the female had been stirred into action and kept coming up, slow flap displaying on and off. Another Goshawk circled up more distantly now, this time a male and possibly a 3rd calendar year, a bit darker grey above. There were lots of Common Buzzards circling up in the sunshine now too, six circling together at one point. We were treated to a very good show by the Goshawks this morning, so when the female broke off from displaying and circled up high, we decided to head off for lunch.

We ate lunch in the sunshine on the picnic tables at Lynford and afterwards set off across the road to explore the arboretum. There was plenty of seed on the ground from the gate today and lots of Yellowhammers and Chaffinches were coming down to feed, along with a selection of tits. We didn’t linger too long here though now, as we wanted to get down to the paddocks.

Yellowhammer – on the ground from the gate

Someone had put lots of food out down at the bridge too today, and there were lots of tits coming and going. The resident Mallards were monopolising the pillars until we walked up, giving a chance for the other birds to get a look in. We had some nice close views of Marsh Tits darting in and out, and the Blue Tits in particular looked stunningly blue in the sunshine, though there was no sign of the Nuthatches here now.

Blue Tit – in the sunshine

Continuing on, the paddocks were rather quiet at first, there were no birds in the trees and nothing feeding on the ground either. We kept scanning as we walked down towards the corner, and after a while the Redwings started to fly in, from the trees behind us and the firs over the far side. Three Greenfinches appeared in one of the hornbeams too. A couple of Long-tailed Tits flitted around in the oak above our heads and a Marsh Tit worked its way down the hedgerow.

There was no sign of the Hawfinches in the paddocks, so we continued down to the corner to scan the tops of the firs beyond. We stopped to watch a pair of Nuthatches excavating a nest hole, one coming out repeatedly with bill-fulls of material and throwing it out to the ground. A bit of spring cleaning!

Nuthatch – spring cleaning

Surprise of the afternoon was a bat which was flying around over the paddocks in the sunshine in the middle of the afternoon! It looked like a Pipistrelle sp.

Pipistrelle sp – flying round in the sunshine!

While we were watching the Nuthatches and the Pipistrelle, we kept one eye on the top of the firs. We didn’t have to wait too long before we noticed two Hawfinches in the top of one of the trees. We got the scopes on them and realised there were another three lower down. We watched them for a while, flitting around in the branches.

Hawfinch – two of five in the firs

When the Hawfinches eventually took off, it looked like they were dropping deeper into the firs but we followed one which flew out over the paddocks and landed in the ash trees in the middle. It appeared to drop down towards the ground, so we walked back down the side of the paddocks to see if we could find it. There was no sign of any on the ground from here, but then we noticed two Hawfinches together in the branches. We just had time to get a look at them through the scopes before they took off and flew back to the firs behind, joined by a third which appeared from somewhere in the trees.

They were back in the top of one of the tallest firs, so we decided to walk round to the far side and see if we could get closer views of the Hawfinches up in the trees. By the time we got round there, they had already started dropping down through the trees but we did get one briefly in the scope before it flew further in. We decided to carry on round and have a look at the lake.

There were a few Mallard on the water, but no sign of any Gadwall today. A pair of Canada Geese were dozing on the grass over on the far side. A Little Grebe laughed maniacally from somewhere in the reeds. We had one last scan back along the firs from here, just in time to see two more Hawfinches fly in and land in the tops briefly – possibly taking us to at least seven for the afternoon. A Common Buzzard was perched in the hornbeams in the middle now.

The Siskins were in the alders on the other side of the lake beyond the reeds today, but as we stopped to look several of them flew further down and landed in the alders beside the bridge. We walked on and had some nice views of them feeding on the cones above our heads.

Siskin – feeding on alder cones

We walked back up towards the car park and stopped again to scan from the gate. With not so many Woodpigeons to disturb them now, the number of Yellowhammers on the ground had increased significantly – we counted a minimum of 20 all on the ground at once at one point. There were lots of Chaffinches, but no sign of any Bramblings today. They have been thin on the ground here this winter. We did have a Lesser Redpoll which dropped down to the small pond for a drink briefly.

Then it was time to call it a day – and what a lovely day it had been, it almost felt like spring had sprung at last.

{{ reviewsTotal }}{{ options.labels.singularReviewCountLabel }}
{{ reviewsTotal }}{{ options.labels.pluralReviewCountLabel }}
{{ options.labels.newReviewButton }}
{{ userData.canReview.message }}

Stay up to date with the Latest News!

Upcoming Tours

We have a very varied programme of scheduled Group Tours in Norfolk and beyond planned for the year ahead.

We also offer Customised Private Tours. You can read more here or please contact us with your requirements

White Pelican
Romania – The Danube Delta & Dobrogea Plain
28th May -
4th Jun
Dartford Warbler
Late Spring / Early Summer Tour
9th Jun
Early Summer Tour & Nightjar Evening
14th Jun -
16th Jun
Stone Curlews
Summer Tour & Nightjar Evening
12th Jul -
14th Jul
Summer Tour
20th Jul
Knot flock
Wader Spectacular
25th Aug
Pied Flycatcher
Autumn Migration
15th Sep
Knot flock
Autumn Migration & Wader Spectacular
20th Sep -
22nd Sep
Pallas's Warbler
Autumn Migration
17th Oct -
20th Oct
Grey Phalarope
Late Autumn Tour
1st Nov -
3rd Nov
Hen Harrier
Late Autumn Tour
9th Nov
Pied Kingfisher
The Gambia – Birding the Smiling Coast
15th Nov -
22nd Nov

Gift Vouchers

If you would like to give a gift to someone who is interested in birds then a gift voucher from The Bird ID Company is an ideal present.

The vouchers can be flexible, and used against any tour or tours over the following 12 months, or can be bought for a specific tour.