Breckland Birder

Breckland Birder
Crossbill in Breckland, Norfolk Photo by Paul Newport

Monday, 5 August 2013

Hockham Fen, Norfolk

The day dawned damp with thickish cloud and some light rain, although as the morning progressed some brighter spells was welcomed.
I decided to take Toby for his morning walk to Hockham Forest with a view to making for Hockham Fen for the Marsh Harrier I found there yesterday.  Despite the rain, it was pleasantly comfortable for walking, although the mosquito's had their fill from my bare legs.
After a lengthy wait at one of the gates to Hockham Fen, I caught a glimpse of a Harrier rising up from willow scrub, after a further wait, a Marsh Harrier (male) came into view and hunted low over the reedbeds and rushy grassland, it then continued to be seen on and off during my visit. Quite unlike the female of the species, this male Marsh Harrier is identifiable by its tri-coloured wings of white, brown, and black, a creamy crown and nape, brown mantle and diagnostic silvery white tail.  During my observations of the Marsh Harrier, it was mobbed by both Common Buzzard and Hobby
Whilst overviewing Hockham Fen from this gate, 2 Crossbills flew over and Treecreeper was heard. A small number of about 6 Teal occasionally sprung from the ground, possibly disturbed by the Marsh Harrier.
I then decided to relocate from my current position to another gate at Poor's Allotment, in order to overview another large area of Hockham Fen, this proved to be a good move.
Whilst overviewing the fen, I noticed a bird alighting in a dead, lone, Silver Birch, the bird appeared rather long-tailed, which raised suspicions.  Rather than view the bird through binoculars, I located it in the camera lens and to my amazement it was a juvenile Cuckoo.
Cuckoo (juvenile) on Hockham Fen, Norfolk 05/08/13
I have not seen too many juvenile Cuckoos, therefore, seeing this delightful bird was a real treat and my star bird of the month so far.  It will never to cease to amaze me that the parent birds will already be back in Africa at this time, this, and all other young Cuckoos have been raised by another parasitised species and it is now up to this bird to make its own way to Africa unaided....miraculous.
Cuckoo (juvenile) Hockham Fen 05/08/13
The Cuckoo left its original perch and relocated to another along the edge of the fen, despite being distant, this photograph clearly shows the differences between this young bird and an adult Cuckoo.
The juvenile Cuckoo is a brown bird with white fringes to its feathers giving it a scaly-like appearance.  The long brown and white tail can just be seen in the picture.  Another juvenile feature seen on this Cuckoo was the presence of white patches on the nape area.
A further check of the Cuckoo showed it had moved continue its long southbound journey to Africa.


  1. Great shot of the Cuckoo Paul. You seem to have been very busy of late and Hockem Fen sounds a wonderful site. However, every time I have visited your site recently I have been in awe of the great photo of the juvenile Kestrels; a wonderful picture. Over in Spain still too hot for birding plus having to undertake swimming pool repairs. Still a marked shortage of raptors everywhere but, at last, we are beginning to see a few returning waders.

    Great blog


    1. Bob
      Many thanks for your comments. Hockham Fen is a wonderful site - it has recently been restored as ancient grassland with a lot of scrub clearance and I think the potential could mirror Lakenheath Fen (although the site is smaller)...and it is just 5 miles from home.
      I was told to submit the Kestrel photo to the BBC Countryfile photo competition...I did this just to see how it does.
      Yes, I have heard you have had some very high the pool will be very welcome when you have fixed it.
      Hope all our well

      Love to Jenny

      Paul and Pam