Breckland Birder

Breckland Birder
Crossbill in Breckland, Norfolk Photo by Paul Newport

Monday, 2 March 2015

Grimes Graves, Norfolk

Clear overnight conditions was followed at dawn by a slight frost and a sunny sky, however, cloud soon built to bring a period of low light before moving away again to give a day of sunny weather with an occasional wintry shower.  The wind was a fresh westerly.
I parked on the roadside which leads to the entrance to Grimes Graves and walked the forest trails which eventually brought me to the single track road which leads down to the entrance gate for Grimes Graves.  These Neolithic flint mines are well worth a visit, I think flints were mined and made into tools and weapons for hunting.  Seeing aerial photographs of Grimes Graves gives this site a very lunar appearance.
Great Grey Shrike at Grimes Graves 02/03/15. A typical view.
Once on the road, I did a sweep of the heathland and scrub habitat and before too long I located a Great Grey Shrike on a small Hawthorn bush some distance away on the heath.  This was quite an easy find due to the bright white underparts of the bird which strongly contrasts with the darker background of the habitat it site in.
From this point on the Shrike offered good views of between 100 and 300 meters distant.
One of my favourite birding habitats is heathland/woodland scrub and this habitat here is very typical of that chosen by Great Grey Shrike, it is wild, bleak looking, with the lone Shrike observing its surroundings from a high perch and waiting for prey to come into view.  The latin name for this species "Excubitor" is I understand latin meaning Sentinel or guard, this is very apt for this bird as it does appear to stand bold as a guard over its environment.
Great Grey Shrike at Grimes Graves 02/03/15.
For most of my stay this morning the Great Grey Shrike stood proud in the top of a number of bushes, its head was constantly turning from side to side and skyward in search for prey.  I also witnessed on a couple of occasions, the Shrike descending into the heart of a small bush/Hawthorn where it remained hidden for a short while before re-appearing to sit low in the relative open of the bush.  I questioned the reason for this behaviour, either it was seeking some shelter from the cold wind, or, was it adopting a more inconspicuous attitude to hunting.

Also heard above the heath was 2 Woodlarks, a wonderful bird to both see and hear, however, at this time, a species which needs to be alert as I am sure it would be considered a prey item for the Shrike.
A Mistle Thrush was in song and a small clump of tall pines held singing Goldcrest.
Of interest was a distant Curlew performing its song-flight, this is my first returning Curlew on its Breckland territory this year.

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