14th August 2014 – Passerines in the Brecks


The first of two private tours today, with visitors from India. Having talked about possibilities at this time of year beforehand, the request was to look for passerines (lots of our other birds are also seen regularly there!), with a particular focus on trying to get some photographs of some of the commoner species.

Lynford Arboretum is always a great place to visit and is a fantastic site to catch up with a lot of our regular native woodland species, so it seemed like a good place to start. It was rather quiet initially, as we walked round, apart from several Marsh Tits and the ever-present Goldcrests. Suddenly, the calls of Long-tailed Tits alerted us to the presence of a tit flock; we walked over to where they were feeding and suddenly we were surrounded by birds. As well as all the commoner tits, there were lots of Goldcrests, Treecreepers, Nuthatches and the odd Chiffchaff in amongst them. Whilst scanning through the flock, we also picked up one or two Firecrests – one in particular was feeding low down and allowed us great views. This species is one of the real specialties of the Arboretum.

A male Chaffinch caused particular excitement – such a common bird here, but a really smart one which we probably take for granted. There were also lots of Siskin flying around, but it took us a long time to finally see one perched. It seems to have been a very good year from them this year in the Forest. However, there was a real treat amongst the finches. Hawfinch are more regular here in winter but we were very lucky to be able to find two at this time of year, which flew up from the ground and perched briefly in the top of a fir tree.

P1080516Hawfinch – always hardest to see here in Summer

There are normally good numbers of Song Thrush here, but they seemed strangely elusive this morning. That is until, in one corner of the arboretum, we chanced upon a yew tree covered in berries and at least 20 flew out in all directions! A walk round the lake added Blackcap and Whitethroat, and a pair of Little Grebes with two stripey young. The Mute Swans proved a particular attraction – a pair with 3 cygnets were almost too close for photogaphy!

P1080543Mute Swan – almost too close!

From Lynford, we travelled on into the forest and took a walk down one of the rides. On first glance, this also initially seemed quiet, with none of the birdsong which gave away their presence earlier in the year. However, given the knowledge that birds are here, we walked around the clearing and suddenly flushed a group of at least a dozen Woodlark. They flew up calling and landed a short distance away in the grass, where we were able to watch them feeding. A moulting juvenile Stonechat may have been one of the birds raised here earlier in the summer. And a pair of Yellowhammers flew in and landed on the rowed up stumps.

After lunch we headed to Lakenheath Fen. A walk out to the Washland produced both Reed and Sedge Warbler. A single Yellow Wagtail flew over calling. From the viewpoint, as well as the usual Great Crested Grebes and Common Terns, we relocated the Great White Egret, feeding in a flooded area on the other side of the river. While this may be the rarity here, the real prize were the family of Bearded Tits which appeared by the bank. We saw one of the juveniles first, before the pair appeared. The female flew over the bank leaving the male on the other side, and they were calling to each other constantly. Positioning ourselves between them, we were perfectly placed to see the male edge up into the tops of the reeds. Stunning!

P1080545Bearded Tit – male in the reeds

As we walked out across the reserve, the forecast clouds started to gather and a thunderstorm drifted over. We took shelter in one of the viewpoints until it passed. As it cleared the birds appeared, with a pair of rather damp Kingfishers perching up on the edge of the reeds. A male Marsh Harrier also perched up in a dead tree to try to dry itself out. With more rain threatening, we decided to head back to the visitor centre and spend some time photographing the birds coming to the feeders, where a Reed Bunting was the biggest draw.

P1080539Red Admiral – a very smart one

Overall during the day, there were still good numbers of butterflies to be seen. The highlight was a single Clouded Yellow, which flew over the clearing in the Forest and away, without stopping. We also saw a single Painted Lady, plus many of the more numerous species. Plenty of dragonflies were also still on the wing, including lots of Brown Hawker, Migrant Hawker, Ruddy & Common Darter.

Looking down the list of passerines which had been predicted as possibilities for this time of year, we have already delivered most of them and more besides. Day two later in the week will require some hard work to add some more goodies to the list!

P1080525Little Grebe – stripey juvs and doting parent

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