Breckland Birder

Breckland Birder
Crossbill in Breckland, Norfolk Photo by Paul Newport

Monday, 29 May 2017

Thetford Forest (with Chris Sharpe) 0315-0700

There is nothing like being out in late Spring in the early hours to enjoy what many people miss, the sounds of bird-song, and the experience of watching how the day unfolds as dawn approaches.
I duly met Chris Sharpe at 0315 for a walk through part of the local patch to experience species which otherwise go unnoticed due to their nocturnal behaviour.
At least 40 species were counted during this visit, however, I will present here the highlights of this superb morning.
And the morning couldn't have started off better when at 0320 a male Woodcock was seen performing its strange 'roding' display-flight.  What was particularly magical was seeing this enigmatic bird over woodland and silhouetted against the subdued pre-dawn sky.  We were lucky enough to have this Woodcock pass directly above us whilst displaying, it is when the bird is close that the very strange call can be heard, this is given as "tizzick" followed by a low grunting "kworr - kworr - kworr".  This grunting call is generally only heard at close range.
As expected at this early hour, Tawny Owls were heard within the forest, all appeared to be male birds.
Upon reaching an area of open habitat it was clear that Cuckoos were present in good numbers, and in fact, we were in agreement by the end of the morning that 4 birds were present, these comprised 3 calling males and one female.  The female Cuckoo was occasionally heard to give its not too often heard 'bubbling' call.  Cuckoos were often seen flying between trees and over habitat where potential foster species were singing and holding territory.
Despite the darkness of the early hours several species were in song, these included Reed Warblers, Sedge Warblers, and Reed Buntings.  All three of these species are potential foster parents for young Cuckoos.
One of the first diurnal passerine species to be heard this morning was Bullfinch which gave its simple 'piping call from typical breeding habitat.
Little Egrets were active long before dawn and by the time it was light a count of 15 birds together was impressive.
Many Water Rails were calling at one locality, in fact it was a challenge trying to assess the true numbers of birds present.
Species of conservation concern included a single Snipe, the date hopefully indicating local breeding, an overflying Lapwing, and two species seeing successes in recent years, namely a female Marsh Harrier which appeared at 0420, and a single Hobby sitting in trees where it possibly roosted overnight.
A pair of Stock Doves flew over, these are neat, compact, and well proportioned Pigeon species and are readily identified in flight by their lead grey plumage and contrasting black fringes on the wings.
Towards the end of our walk, it was evident that passerine species were now active with singing Blackcap, Chiffchaff, and Goldcrests.
I will finish this account by thanking Chris for joining me on this lovely early morning walk.  We departed at 0700, and for me it was home to bed for a couple of hours.

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