Friday 17 February 2023

Brecks guided walk, 16 February 2023

Talk as we travelled was about the weather, but happily the drizzle petered out and wasn’t a nuisance, though it remained grey all day. 

There was lots of bird song at the Forestry Commission’s car park at Santon Downham – we heard song thrushes and robins for much of the day, plus coal tit here. We crossed the bridge over the river Little Ouse, returning to Norfolk by doing so; nearby there was a nuthatch on a tree top. On the river were mute swans, mallards and moorhen, and two little grebes became three, then four.

Little Ouse. We liked the sculpture-like upturned branches in the river.
An old tree stump had many large plates of southern bracket. Other fungi today included turkeytail, an old oyster fungus of some type and three hoof fungi on a tall birch stump.

Southern bracket and digiscoped hoof fungus.
Everywhere there was dead wood: stumps, fallen trees – including some in or over the river – and a lot of standing dead wood. Cheryl found a treecreeper, though it was no surprise that we didn’t see or hear the lesser spotted woodpeckers known from here: typically they show on a bright late winter’s day. The only woodpecker was a distant drumming, out of sight, which was probably a great spotted woodpecker. We found some tree top siskins, one twisting its tail making it seem like a bigger bird then we’d expect.

Ann has trained us well, and many of us found cigar galls on reeds.

Parsley piert.
We took a return route along the edge of a reedbed, under the railway and onto the heath. A sandy, disturbed patch here had emerging leaves of parsley piert, easy to overlook even when in flower, which this wasn’t. We then overlooked the heath on the other side of road where a mistle thrush on the ground flew to a bare tree and soon there were four, with some jostling going on within the mistle thrush hierarchy. Our first buzzard of the day appeared. Ann and went to look at a stump that was covered with fungi. From the top they looked like turkeytail but the gills on the underside meant a rethink: oak mazegill.

Oak mazegill.
We enjoyed the sight of highland cattle and, in a rushy field, a pair of stonechats.

Stonechat, male, digiscoped.
We had our picnics in the car park and it was dry enough for four of us to share a bench. From here there were glimpses of stock dove and woodpigeon display flights, plus collared doves.

We drove to Lynford Arboretum for the rest of the afternoon. We paused where the Forestry Commission puts out food. For moment it seemed like it was mostly blue and great tits feeding, though soon yellowhammers appeared.

Yellowhammer, digiscoped in the gloom. Still, you can see what it is.
Farther on, over the river, we scanned the row of trees known to attract hawfinches. Instead, the main attraction here was redwings, perching mostly high in the trees. A great spotted woodpecker joined them.

Joining other birdwatchers a little farther along, one of them was alert to small birds arriving to perch high on distant conifers: hawfinches. There were four – two and two – that stayed for a good while. They were distant, though their distinctive profile was clear through telescopes.

Possibly the worst photo ever included in a blog: very distant, digiscoped hawfinches on a gloomy day.

Retuning towards the bridge, several small birds were moving around the empty bird feeders here, including a marsh tit that landed on one of the low pillars on the bridge. At the feeders the yellowhammers were there again, and a siskin came to drink.

Through this guided walk, and the previous week's walk at Hickling, Honeyguide donated £175 to Norfolk Wildlife Trust.

Chris Durdin


  1. still they were hawfinches, which you saw but I did not; well done for braving the forecast!

  2. Hope to see you on another occasion.


Valencia: bird ringing sheds light on wetland warbler survival

For many Honeyguiders, one of the highlights of our March Valencia trip is to attend a bird ringing session at Pego Marshes Natural Park. Ou...