Breckland Birder

Breckland Birder
Crossbill in Breckland, Norfolk Photo by Paul Newport

Saturday, 24 January 2015

Hockham, Norfolk

Following a night of persistent and sometimes heavy rain, the morning dawned bright and cold with a slight frost.  Visibility was very good.
I arrived on the single track road which leads to Galleyhill (where Highwaymen were hanged to serve as a warning), and walked forest trails to the fen.
Most of my efforts this morning were given to the scrub/woodland/fen habitat where mostly common species were either seen or heard.  No sign of any Harrier species on this visit.
Great Spotted Woodpecker - A number 'drumming' today 
Several Teal were present on the fen, however, none were seen in flight on this visit, their beautiful "kleep' call giving away their presence.
A small flock of 12+ Meadow Pipits circled low over the fen and 3+ Fieldfares were seen.  2 Cormorants passed over at height in a south-easterly heading.
Somewhere hidden within tangled, rank habitat, a Water Rail gave its piercing 'pig-like' squealing call.  This large site undoubtedly supports a few Water Rails.
I heard at least 3 male Great Spotted Woodpeckers 'drumming' this morning, however, the prize on this visit goes to a distant 'drumming' Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, although not seen, its drumming is clearly different from that of its larger cousin.
Walking through damp Birch woodland a single Woodcock was disturbed from a small patch of thick Bramble scrub.
The walk back along the forest trails produced a number of calling Goldcrests and Tit species.

Differences between 'drumming' Great Spotted and Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers. 
This morning I heard at least 3 'drumming' Great Spotted Woodpeckers, these provided a good comparison with the 'drumming' of a distant Lesser Spotted Woodpecker.
Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers appear to be a nationally scarce species, however, the site visited today is generally reliable for this diminutive species.
Great Spotted Woodpeckers 'drumming' is a familiar sound in winter woodland with male birds declaring their presence within territory. The drumming sound is strong but of a short duration and tails of with weaker, quicker beats.  The 'drumming' produced by Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers sounds weaker, is faster, lasts longer, and remains at a constant number of beats without tailing off.
This could be written in simple terms as follows:

Great Spotted Woodpecker     "R R R R R R R R r r r r r r r"
Lesser Spotted Woodpecker    "rrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr"


  1. Hi Paul,
    an excellent blog and one which I have enjoyed reading for some time now; about time I commented! I live and blog about the Surlingham area of Norfolk but love The Brecks and am looking forward to getting out there again soon. Thompson is a favourite site of mine but I must give Hockham Fen and Forest a look.

  2. Hi Jim
    Many thanks for your kind comments. I work as a carer and during a break last week I went to Surlingham Church Marsh, a wonderful, beautiful place. I met a lovely man who visits every few weeks, I believe he lives in Hampshire or Dorset, he loves Surlingham, and I can see why.
    Jim, I would be only too pleased to show you around the Hockham area if you wish. Look forward to hearing from you and thanks once again for you kind comments regarding the blog.

    1. That would be great Paul, thanks for your offer. I will get in touch with you when I have some free time- I teach, so February half term likely or a weekend around there. I'm best contacted at (replace the AT with @ of course!) Do message me and look forward to hearing from you.