Breckland Birder

Breckland Birder
Water Rail at Thompson Water, Norfolk Photo by Paul Newport

Friday, 17 January 2014

Croxton Heath, Norfolk (with Dave Capps)

Highlights

Merlin high over Croxton Heath
15+ Crossbills

At 0650, I met my friend Dave Capps at Tesco's car park in my home town of Watton in Norfolk, we had decided the night before to visit Croxton Heath and duly made our way there arriving at about 0710.
Having arrived at the car park at East Wretham Heath, we made our way on foot over the heath to meet the Harling Drove path for Croxton Heath.  Our arrival at the heath (forest clearing and commercial pine crop) was just prior to sunrise, and the first first birds of note was overflying  Bramblings which gave their distinctive nasally "zweeeu" call.
The hope was to see Red Deer within the clearing, none were seen, however, Dave picked out movement within the clearing, then, 3 Roe Deer were seen running around the clearing, these animals seemed oblivious to our presence and during their chases, so much so that they almost ran us over.  Two of the deer ran off together whilst the third headed off over the clearing....rivals for a female perhaps.
Continuing our walk around the forest trails it became evident that Crossbills were on the move with several overhead birds giving their distinctive, hard, "chip" calls.
As we approached the next clearing, thoughts were on Crossbills which favour a lone tree where they congregate in order to drink at puddles on a nearby track.  Once the tree was in sight I could see several Crossbills in the tree so we made our way to the locality and watched these delightful Finches for a good 30 minutes or so. 
Crossbill (female) at Croxton Heath, Norfolk 17/01/14
Typically, these Crossbills were quite active as they nimbly climbed along the upper branches of the tree to nip at buds but they also dropped down through the branches when they decided it was time to drink from the puddles.
Occasionally the Crossbills were disturbed and flew off, however, they soon returned to the tree, the 'chipping' calls were brilliant.

I thought I was quite good at detecting movement, however, whilst watching the Crossbills Dave called "Raptor", looking up I saw a fairly high Merlin circling then flying off north.  This small Falcon is a very scarce winter visitor to the Brecks, and this bird was one that I almost missed had it not been for Dave's very keen ability to detect movement.....thank you Dave...and what a superb call. 
From our position by the tree Dave also picked up Common Buzzards just over the distant tree line, later as we walked along the periphery of the heath 3 Common Buzzards were seen and calling.
The walk back along Harling Drove Dave picked up tracks off Red Deer which had possibly gone through whilst we were on Croxton Heath.
The return walk along Harling Drove and East Wretham Heath brought a single Redwing on the ground within feet of us, these birds are generally very flighty and I thought the bird may have been injured, however, it eventually flew off strongly.
Approaching our starting point at the car park a single Green Woodpecker was seen in Hawthorns.

I will end this entry by thanking Dave Capps for joining me this morning.  Dave is a true countryman who has superb skills at 'reading' the land, also, his ability for detecting wildlife through sight, sound, and smell is second to none, after all he picked up on a high, passing Merlin...which I may have missed initially.

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