Breckland Birder

Breckland Birder
Water Rail at Thompson Water, Norfolk Photo by Paul Newport

Sunday, 3 April 2016

East Wretham and Croxton Heaths, Norfolk (with Ray and Pam Perry and Ian Smith)

It is always about this time of year that I invite friends to join me in a search for Adders on both Croxton and East Wretham Heaths.  Today, my very good friends Ray and Pam Perry, and Ian Smith, all joined me for a search of good Adder habitats.  Although initially cool, overnight cloud was slowly moving away to eventually give sunny and warm conditions.
I met my friends at the East Wretham Heath car park at 0730, and the plan was to walk over the heath to meet up with Harling Drove, and then on to Croxton Heath.
Once on Harling Drove we walked west towards Croxton Heath.  With the sun behind us we had a good opportunity to overview Langmere.  Firstly, Lapwings reacted angrily, and gave chase to Crows which entered their territories.  A pair of Lapwings were seen closely one of which, the male bird, appeared to be involved in courtship. 
Chiffchaff on Croxton Heath 02/04/16 (many heard and seen)
Langmere is fed by aquifers, the water levels are therefore subject to fluctuation and at the current time there is plenty of water supporting a variety of species, although the high water marks indicated levels have been higher.  This morning Tufted Duck, a few Shoveler, several Teal, and a pair of Egyptian Geese were seen. 
Leaving Langmere behind us we continued along Harling Drove.  A large recently cleared area of forestry held a pair of Woodlarks.  The dominant species along the Harling Drove was Chiffchaff, with many singing males present, especially in areas of scrub and Birch habitat.
By the time we reached one of the
Common Lizard on Croxton Heath 02/04/16
forest rides which is reliable for Reptiles, the cloud which was slow to move, eventually gave way to Sunny, and quite warm conditions, especially in areas out of the wind. It was along the forest rides that we spaced ourselves and walked back and forth searching woodland edge for Adders, the first good sign was a sunning Common Lizard on dead wood, this surely was a sign that our main quarry wouldn't be too far behind.  With careful searching I eventually found an Adder sunning itself beside a Silver Birch on Bracken.  I managed to call Ray, Pam, and Ian t me and we all
A well concealed Adder at Croxton Heath 02/04/16 (found by Ray Perry)
enjoyed quite brief views of this Adder before it retreated into thick bracken habitat.  A short while later I found a second Adder, slightly bigger than the first, and again, sunning itself on woodland edge.
We then moved from this site to a known hibernaculum for Adders, and although not initially seen I was sure they would show sometime soon.  I was looking elsewhere when Ray summoned me to say he had seen an Adder around the base of a dead tree stump.  We watched this Adder for some time as it remained still before making slight movements within cover.
I must say that I breathed a sigh of relief at seeing 3 Adders this morning as I don't like to disappoint people if I aim to show them a target species, this was especially so with Pam Perry as she had not seen an Adder until today.
Walking back along Harling Drove, Chiffchaffs continued to dominate, however, no other summer migrants were seen or heard.  As we walked past Langmere a Curlew dropped in calling.
Leaving the woodland behind us the final part of the walk took us over open, exposed heathland, it was at this time that we discovered that despite the warm conditions in the sheltered woodland, the wind was quite cool.
Finally, I wish to thank my good friends Ray and Pam Perry and Ian Smith for joining me on this walk.  We all thoroughly enjoyed the morning, especially so as Adders were seen.

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