Our route today took us from the car park and over the heath to Harling Drove. Walking west along Harling Drove we then diverted off to the left to visit Fenmere and Ringmere. After this diversion we then walked further west along Harling Drove, eventually making our way for the large forest clearings at Croxton Heath. After a pleasant hour or so overlooking a deep pit (for Crossbills) we then continued along forest trails back to Harling Drove and then slowly walked through fantastic mature Scots Pine woodland before finally spending some time overlooking Langmere from the hide. We then made our way back to our starting point at the reserve car park.
Weather conditions: The day remained dry although it was cloudy until 0900 when bright sunshine replaced the earlier somewhat low light conditions. The wind was cool, especially in exposed areas, although the rising sun did bring warmth to more sheltered areas.
From the outset birds were apparent with the first bird of the day being Blue Tit in the car park area. Walking along Harling Drove, we checked Langmere, a large Breckland mere, here, waterfowl was well represented by 2 Mute Swans, 2+ Shelduck, 30+ Shoveler, several Teal, and Mallard, whilst around the fringes of the water, a pair of Oystercatchers and Lapwing were present. The latter species will breed at this locality.
From Langmere, we crossed harling Drove to visit Fenmere and Ringmere. Fenmere was quiet with a single Coot and Moorhen seen but it was encouraging to hear Chiffchaff singing. Ringmere was more productive with several Teal and calling (whinnying) Little Grebes, also a number of Coot and Moorhens were ever-present.
Continuing along Harling Drove common species seen and heard in pine woodland included singing Goldcrests, Long-tailed Tits, Great and Coal Tits, and Chaffinches.
Eventually, our walk brought us to the large clearings on Croxton Heath, one of my target species for the day was both seen and heard almost straight away, a singing male Woodlark. This typical Breckland species passed over us giving its sweet "lululululu" song. The commoner, and larger Skylark was also present.
Crossbills: We then made our way to the site which has been reliable throughout the winter months for Crossbills, however, it was noticed upon our arrival that the puddles where this beautiful species drinks were dried up, however, all was not lost, a nearby pit was also a relaible site for drinking Crossbills. It was evident overhead that Crossbills were in the area, therefore Richard and I decided to sit and wait, our patience was rewarded with Crossbills coming and going virtually all the time with a maxima of 5 birds at any one time. These striking birds, mostly the beautiful brick-red males, occasionally dropped down to drink. As well as Crossbills, single Siskins dropped in to drink as well as a small group of visiting Goldfinches. Richard and I also commented on the number of Yellowhammers seen...very encouraging indeed. Both Dunnock and Wrens also inhabited this area. As well as these wintering and resident species, both male and female Chiffchaffs were both seen and heard.
|Adder on Croxton Heath, Norfolk 21/03/14 (One of at least 8 seen today)|
It was of particular interest that whilst watching Adders we saw a female Chiffchaff almost at ground level in Bracken, here she remained for a while perhaps prospecting for a nest site. Clearly, it is worth remembering that this ground nesting species will have to contend with several dangers whilst incubating and raising young, especially given the species is sharing habitat with predators such as Adders.
Continuing east along Harling Drove, we eventually made our way to the gate which was to take us through the fantastic Scots Pine woodland and eventually the hide overlooking Langmere. No more Adders were seen, perhaps due to the fact that despite the sun, a cool wind did cut through the trees.
Our final destination was the hide. Very strong light saw many species silhouetted against the water, however, a good range of species was seen including the earlier noted Shoveler, Teal, Oystercatcher, and Lapwings. Notable species seen from the hide, both picked up by Richard, was a single male Sparrowhawk circling overhead, his presence caused some Teal on the bank to fly to the safety of water, also, Richard picked up an easterly movement of about 15-20 Golden Plovers, clearly migrants making their way back to their upland breeding grounds.
At about 1300 we finally reached the end of our visit to East Wretham Heath. This was the end of a very pleasant day and it was a great pleasure to have been joined by my good friend Richard Farrow.....thank you Richard and look forward to seeing you very soon.