The recently reformed Breckland Group of the Norfolk Wildlife Trust enjoyed another event today with a visit to Thompson Common. 21+ visitors arrived for this walk which was led by the Breckland Reserves Manager, Matt Blissett, with myself as co-leader. Matt provided the introduction of how the site was acquired, an overview of the route to be taken, what we will be looking for, and a talk on how the famous Pingo's at this site were formed. My role was to assist with finding and identifying birds. Matt described so many plant and insect species, more than I could take in, I therefore apologise for not showing here those identified by Matt.
Our walk started from the car park and through sun-dappled woodland where a variety of insect species were seen. Leaving the woodland, we entered open country and was confronted by one of the larger Pingo's on the common. A Swallow was seen flying low around this site and the soft piping call of Bullfinch was given from the cover of woodland.
Matt described a variety of plant species to the group, also he found a wonderful Roesel's Bush Cricket, a beautifully marked insect and a new species for me.
Whilst walking over open grassland I heard what I thought was a calling Spotted Flycatcher, a check of a patch of woodland soon revealed 4, possibly 5 Spotted Flycatchers together, obviously a family party. Often, the birds were seen silhouetted due to the angle of the light, however, as we moved around the woodland we were eventually treated to some lovely views of both adult and juvenile birds. These delightful birds typically sat on exposed branches in an upright carriage and would often launch into a fly-catching sally before returning to its perch. A wonderful sighting of an ever decreasing species.
We stopped by sunlit woodland edge and was treated to a spectacular variety of insect life, many of which I could not identify correctly and was helped with by members of the group. Dragonfly species seen included Common Darter, Ruddy Darter, Emperor, and Banded Demoiselle.
As our walk continued, Matt described a variety of plants and insects to the group, including a plant which I thought was particularly attractive, Purple Loosestrife, a small colony of which grew alongside a Pingo.
With ever-increasing warmth and wind, I decided to keep an eye skyward for Raptor species. Soon, as we walked along woodland edge I saw 3 high raptors, I initially focussed on a Buzzard, but immediately saw a large Goshawk closing in on the Buzzard and perform a mock attack. I was keen for the group to see this spectacular species and despite the height of the birds, many thankfully were able to see these birds, however, one or two of the group missed out as they had walked slightly ahead. It actually transpired that we had 2 Goshawks and a single Buzzard in view. The Goshawk performing a mock attack on the Buzzard was clearly either female or a large juvenile bird as it appeared as large, or larger than the Buzzard. It was easy to notice the difference in the structure of the two raptor species, even at height. We walked ahead a little to watch more open sky, however, all three raptors had moved on, but we were treated to a single Hobby diving steeply before going out of sight behind woodland.
As the walk neared its end, one of the group identified a new insect species for me, which the group also enjoyed, a Migrant Hawker Dragonfly, also seen was a Small Skipper Butterfly.
We passed some stables and were treated to the wonderful sight of several Swallows flying in and out to their nest sites.
Just as we were to end the walk, a final view of the large Pingo produced nice views of a hunting Emperor Dragonfly.
Back at the car park it was pleasing to see that our group enjoyed their visit to Thompson Common. I will end thanking Matt Blissett for his enthusiasm and vast knowledge he imparted to the group, and to the impressive numbers of visitors who joined this walk.