Following a dismal weekend of thick fog and heavy rain it was a pleasure to get out and enjoy a mornings birding with my good friend Richard Farrow in reasonably good conditions and light.
We met as arranged at Grimes Graves at about 0800 with the intention of watching the Great Grey Shrike which is wintering at the site.
Walking along the forest trail it was evident that the area had been used for a motorcycle event as the ground was churned up and difficult to walk on. With a purpose built track not too far away at Wretham I wondered why this locality had to be used.
We eventually made it to the road which accesses Grimes Graves and started our search for the Shrike, however, it was not to be, it would appear that the bird was keeping low or was temporarily visiting another location. Magpies were seen perched on tops of Hawthorns doing their best to fool us into thinking they were Shrikes.
Although cloud was passing over at intervals, the light was good as we overviewed the heath. A small party of Yellowhammers were in Hawthorns and a Tit flocked passed through comprising mostly Long-tailed Tits. The trees around us prodcued passing Goldcrests whilst 'piping' Bullfinches were heard. Some singleton Blackbirds passed back and forth.
It was while overviewing the heath that a single Redpoll overflew giving its distinctive "djit djit" call.
Richard and I decided to walk to the entrance gate to Grimes Graves and had some nice views of 3 Green Woodpeckers on the ground where they would search for ants. The area here is full of well-established Yellow Meadow Ants mounds, therefore providing a good feeding site for Green Woodpeckers. A single Pied Wagtail paid us a visit at the gate.
Back at our original viewpoint we resumed our search for the Shrike with no success. It was at this time however, that Ron Seymour, a Wymondham birder arrived. Ron is a lovely man and we have met on a few occasions, the first of our meetings was back in 1993 when we watched a Hoopoe at Saxlingham Nethergate. It was really good to catch up with Ron.
Time drew on and it was time to walk back to the car. Walking along the trail a lovely flock of about 6 Redpolls flew into the top of a Silver Birch almost directly above us, however, their stay was very short. I did manage to see a lovely male bird before they flew off.
Richard saw a Jay in front of us and we commented on the numbers of these beautiful Crows in the Breckland area at the moment. I saw some high flying Jays over Watton on September, perhaps our local Jay numbers have been augmented by continental birds.
Despite not seeing the Great Grey Shrike on this occasion it was still a very pleasant morning, especially so as I was in the company of Richard, and for meeting up with Ron.