Two Cetti’s took up residence by the River Derwent last spring and it looks like they have managed to survive the harsh winter we’ve had here. Both birds have been heard singing over the past couple of weeks and on Monday I was lucky enough to hear one of them. Maybe if I had had the time the bird would have shown itself but, for now, I’m happy to have species 83 on the “10-Mile List”, even if it is a “heard only” .
The day started off at 7:30am when the coach left Derby. By the time we were on the outskirts of Nottingham I was already dozing off to sleep! The trip to Thetford, by coach, is not the quickest of journeys so it gives you plenty of time to catch up on the shut-eye. I did managed to be awake in time for the breakfast stop on the A17 - a sausage & bacon sandwich - and also to see a group of around 40 Golden Plover fly alongside the coach at one point. Two zebras and two camels, outside of a circus tent, completed the excitement for the journey.
Santon Downham, as usual, was the first venue we visited and although I recorded just 30 species it was a very rewarding couple of hours of birding. Just a matter of yards from the coach and we were watching a group of 8 Crossbill. Whilst admiring these stunning birds we were interrupted by 3 Marsh Tit as they flew around above us and then landed in a small bush by the roadside. A little further down the path and we came across 3 Yellowhammer, a Great Spotted Woodpecker and the first of many Long-tailed Tit, Coal Tit, Great Tit and Blue Tit.
As we continued on towards the open heath area my thoughts started to turn to finding Woodlark, one of the target species of this trip. It was at this point that I was mugged! That’s right, mugged! By a group of sheep! They had decided that they were hungry and that my beef and onion pie was going to be on their menu for lunch. What they didn’t realise is that I’m rather well know on the RSPB trips for my love of food and that I do not share it! They stood no chance.
The ring leader!
Once past the sheep we soon heard a Woodlark singing. That was the easy part, we then had to try and see it. After at least ten minutes of scanning the ground around the area we thought the birds were we finally spotted a Woodlark. It was flying around above us! What Lynda and I thought were two birds singing from the floor turned out to be just one bird in song flight. I was so used to seeing these elusive little brown jobs on the ground that I never even thought about looking up! As we moved on from the Woodlark we also added Jay to our day list as a single bird flew from the cover of a small wood by the railway line.
Brambling was the next species we located with around half a dozen birds feeding on the railway embankment and also showing well from the lower branches of a group of beech trees. As we started to head back to the coach we paused for a short while in a small wooded area by the church and located Wren, Treecreeper, Siskin and Goldfinch. The walk along the river was rather quiet but did turn up Mallard, Pheasant and Green Woodpecker. Lynda and I also managed distant views of a Goshawk that would have taken bird-of-the-day award if it had been just a little closer. As it was, the views were just too distant, and too brief.
The second part of the day was spent at Lynford Arboretum and the, now, rather grandly named Lynford Water. For years we have visited the arboretum and also checked the gravel pits at the rear of the car park. Now that the gravel extraction has finished we are able to visit Lynford Water... the same gravel pits but without the machinery and with some information boards! Actually, that is a little unfair. They have done a lot of work to landscape the area and have also put in a number of gravel paths and a hide. It was from the hide that we came across possibly the most unexpected bird of the day, a Mediterranean Gull. Ten Common Gull, 4 Lesser Black-backed Gull and around 200 Black-headed Gull were also present. Other birds on the lakes included Great Crested Grebe, Mute Swan, Greylag Goose, Gadwall, Tufted Duck and a female Goldeneye.
In the arboretum we located Coal Tit, Nuthatch, Greenfinch, Siskin, Goldfinch, Lesser Redpoll and another group of 8 Crossbill. At least 3 Hawfinch were in the usual trees at the back of the arboretum and they showed well despite the light not being too good. Two Redwing were also in the trees here and a small group of Pheasant were feeding in the field, one of which was one of the pure white ones that we have seen here in previous years. The walk back to the car park turned up a Moorhen, Wren, Robin, a couple of Song Thrush, a single Goldcrest and also another Marsh Tit.
In total, 41 species were seen at Lynford. When including birds seen from the coach, from Santon Downham and also Lynford we recorded 51 species in all. It may not be a huge total but it did include some great birds.