Breckland Birder

Breckland Birder
Crossbill in Breckland, Norfolk Photo by Paul Newport

Friday, 30 August 2013

Thompson Water, Lynford Arboretum, and Houghton-on-the-Hill (with David and Susan McCarthy, and Daniel Watson)

Today was a very special day for me as I met new friends from Melbourne, Australia, David and   Susan McCarthy. David and Susan were researching a trip to the UK and in doing so found this blog, they contacted me in order to arrange a birding trip and today we had a thoroughly rewarding and enjoyable day.  I was also accompanied by my very good friend Daniel Watson.
David and Susan McCarthy (from Melbourne, Australia) and Daniel Watson (right)
Thompson Water
At 0830, I met David and Susan and we proceeded to our first birding venue for the day at Thompson Water.  Arriving at the water we saw Mute Swan (adults and young), Gadwall, and Moorhen, whilst Kingfisher was seen frequently darting close to the water between cover.
A highlight on this visit was a single Hobby (adult) which was initially seen perched in a dead tree, this delightfully fast, and agile Falcon was also seen hunting insects close to the water. The ageing of the Hobby presented no problems with the red ventral area showing this as an adult bird.
Grey Heron, Carrion Crows, House Martins, and Wood Pigeons were frequently seen.  The woodland around the water held Bullfinch, Chiffchaff, Nuthatch, Great Spotted Woodpecker and Common Buzzard was often heard.

Lynford Arboretum
At about 1100, we picked up Daniel Watson and proceeded to Lynford Arboretum.  This beautiful location has been hosting Two-barred Crossbill, therefore, we chose this venue for the possibility of finding this bird as well as enjoying other species attracted to this reliably rich birding area.
Shortly following our arrival at this locality, Common Crossbills were evident with small numbers flying above the treetops, however, making our way to an area of mature Larch trees soon provided an arrival of a decent sized flock of 30+ Common Crossbills, their presence intiailly being given away by their highly distinctive "chip chip chip" flight call.
Also seen in the same area was  a number of Siskins feeding high in conifers along with a few Coal TitsNuthatch and Goldcrest were also present.
Although it was likely the Two-barred Crossbill was associating with Common Crossbills, we were unable to locate it.  We therefore decided to check Lynford Water, hopefully for passage wader species.  Common Crossbills continued to be seen flying overhead and the intial overview of the area did not seem promising for waders, however, I just managed to briefly glimpse 2 Common Sandpipers flying away behind trees.
Hoping also for Hobby, the only raptors seen was a single female Sparrowhawk flying low over the water and distant soaring Buzzard.
On the larger lake, the only offering was a single Great Crested Grebe.

Early afternoon, we then moved off for lunch at 'The olde windmill' at Great Cressingham.  It is at this point that I offer my sincere thanks for David and Susan providing a very welcome lunch.
After lunch we visited the beautiful isolated church of St Mary the Virgin at Houghton-on-the-Hill where we were treated to a superb tour of this wonderful church.

Great Cressingham and Ashill
Following the visit to the church at Houghton-on-the Hill, we made a couple of stops along the Peddars Way where excellent birds were seen.
Firstly, a single Red Kite was picked up by Daniel soaring at distance, however, a while later, I saw another Red Kite drifting out of sight behind woodland.
I picked up a small flock of Golden Plover flying into a large field where further investigation provided an excellent count of 12 Stone Curlews.  Several Lapwings also seen in association with the Golden Plover.  2 Mistle Thrushes and a small number of Stock Doves were seen.

Thompson Water
This second visit to Thompson Water was our last stop of the day and with the sun behind us on this occasion, any birds over on or the water should be seen in good light.
As expected, Hobby was seen but on this visit this was a juvenile bird, despite its young age, the Falcon demonstrated superb agility as it hunted dragonflies over the water.  After several sweeps over the water for food the Hobby then drifted off North.
Around the water, a single Grey Heron stood motionless in reeds whilst close by in a Sallow, noisy juvenile Reed Warblers could just be glimpsed in the darkness of cover.

Day List (Highlights)

Mute Swan
1 Great Crested Grebe
Common Buzzard
2 Hobby (adult and juvenile)
3 Sparrowhawk (males and 2 females)
2 Common Sandpipers
30+ Golden Plover
Red-legged Partridge
Wood Pigeon
Collared Dove
12+ Stock Dove
1 Grey Wagtail
Great Spotted Woodpecker
Green Woodpecker
2+ Nuthatch
House Martin
2 Mistle Thrush
Reed Warbler
Coal Tit

Today will always be in my memory for obvious meeting with David and Susan McCarthy.  Not only was this an excellent days birding, it was also a great day for learning about the history of the beautiful church of St Marys at Houghton-on-the-Hill.
I will end this entry for today to offer my sincerest thanks to David and Susan for initially making contact with me and accompanying me and my dear friend Daniel Watson, for treating us to a great lunch, and finally to David who presented me with his wonderful book, the 'Field Guide to the Birds of Australia', this book will be treasured...thank you so much David and look I forward to maintaining contact with you..

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