Breckland Birder

Breckland Birder
Crossbill in Breckland, Norfolk Photo by Paul Newport

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

East Wretham and Croxton Heaths, Norfolk

I arrived at East Wretham Heath at 0615 in bright, sunny conditions with a temperature of 6 degrees.  The rising sun brought some warmth in sheltered spots, however, the WNW wind always had a cool edge to it.
My intention today for visiting this special site was three-fold, to locate Redstarts, check for Wader passage, and to find Adders, I failed on all three counts, although I did find a nice basking Grass Snake.  This reserve is well known for its Redstarts, however, a careful check of Waterloo Plantation did not produce any site or sound of this stunning Chat species.  Later, back at the car park, a couple of visiting birders from Durham also stated they did not find Redstart.
Oak and Hawthorn at East Wretham Heath 27/05/15
As always, the first birds to greet me at East Wretham was the ever present and very noisy gatherings of Rooks in the Scots Pine woodland on the edge of the heath.  It was from this point on that I would start listening and looking for Redstarts in the very large Pines, however, a careful search around Waterloo Plantation failed to produce.   It was evident that the most abundant Warbler species was Blackcap with many birds seen and in song both on Wretham and Croxton Heath.  Several Garden Warblers were also present.

Lapwing at East Wretham Heath (Langmere) 27/05/15
I spent some time at Langmere to check for wader passage but I could see no evidence of this.  Little Grebes were calling their 'whinnying' checkle and a pair of Coots had a nest apparently in open water.
Lapwings were seen around the fringes of Langmere, including the bird photographed here.
Back to the woodland habitat at Waterloo Plantation, and my slow walk around these magnificent old Scots Pines produced lots of Great and Blue Tits very busily flying through trees to attend to their new families.  Coal Tits were as expected heard and seen at a number of sites.

I then joined Harling Drove to walk onto Croxton Heath where habitat changed from very tall Scots Pines to younger commercial compartments of Pine forest and Birch woodland.  This change of habitat, especially the Birch woodland, brought a change in dominant species with Willow Warblers being the most abundant singing birds, although Blackcaps and Garden Warbler were heard.  Willow Warblers were making use of several habitat types from Birch woodland, young conifer plantations, and edge of woodland scrub.  It was whilst at woodland edge that I was mindful of Adders, another target species for the day, however, all I could find was a single basking Grass Snake.  A distant calling Cuckoo was heard.
Walking back along Harling Drove I took a break with a nice hot cup of Tomato soup on the edge of a recently harvested area of pines, this large clearing produced a single singing male Woodlark.
Finally, back at the car park, it was encouraging to see good numbers of House Martins around the wardens house. 

Waterloo Plantation with its magnificent Scots Pines is 200 years old this year.  It was planted in 1815 to celebrate Wellingtons victory over Napolean at the Battle of Waterloo.

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