Breckland Birder

Breckland Birder
Crossbill in Breckland, Norfolk Photo by Paul Newport

Saturday, 12 April 2014

Hockham Fen (A Breckland gem)

Within the extensive forest of pine and mixed woodland habitats at Hockham is Hockham Fen, a truly fantastic ancient grassland comprising juncus grasses, phragmite reedbeds, and peripheral Sallow and Birch scrub.  This is a very damp site with some standing water.  I positioned myself for about an hour at the base of a tall tree where I could overview most of the fen.
Thick cloud dominated with poor light, however, brighter conditions slowly moved in from the north.
Several Swallows (including 6 together) were seen low over the fen, clearly these birds would have been attracted to the abundance of insect food over the fen.
Marsh Harrier (female) Hockham Fen 12/04/14 
As with much of my birding I like to go out with a target species and today the expected bird was seen, a Marsh Harrier (female).  This raptor was seen very briefly initially then went out of site for an hour so, it later returned to hunt over the grassland and reedbeds. It always remianed quite distant.
This was a typically marked Marsh Harrier appearing all dark-brown with the exception of the creamy head and nape with the distinctive ete-stripe. The legs were a conspicuous yellow.

Whilst sitting at the base of the tree, I heard an approaching flock of Crossbills. soon after, a flock of 20+ Crossbills alighted in the top of the tree directly above me.  Interestingly, at least one of these Crossbills was a heavily streaked juvenile bird, quite probably this was a locally raised bird.
Expected species included a number of Grey Herons, Mallard, a few Teal, and 3 Buzzards overhead.
The wind direction was not helpful when trying to listen to birdsong and later during this visit I could hear the song of another species I was expecting, however, the wind was carrying the song away from me. I was eventually able to hear the song well, it was that of a Sedge Warbler.  Although not seen, this Sedge Warbler was singing within a stand of phragmite reeds and constitutes my first record of this species this year.

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