Thursday, 3 May 2012

A Day in the Brecks

I love the Brecks. Not a place for building up a long day list, but unbeatable for speciality species such as Goshawk, Stone Curlew, Hawfinch, Crossbill, Tree Pipit and Woodlark. First stop today was Lynford Arboretum where I was hoping to connect with Crossbill, Hawfinch and possibly Firecrest.

The top priority was breakfast and as I tucked into a BLT I noticed movement in the nearby wood. Closer inspection revealed a buck Muntjac with it's short antlers and fangs. Unfortunately, a lot of the time it was hidden in Bracken but did show itself just once before noticing me and bounding off.

Breakfast over I made my way into the arboretum and was immediately treated to the "chupping" of a flyover Crossbill which conveniently circled and landed in about the tallest nearby conifer. It was possible to get quite close but there was no escaping the fact that the tree was about 80 feet high and therefore the bird was a little distant. The bird was obviously a male but not the brightest I have ever seen.

A look for the Hawfinches in the traditional spot drew a blank and so I decided to try my luck by the Western Hemlocks for the resident Firecrest. This was quite tricky as there were a lot of crests calling and singing, making it difficult to determine which direction the call was coming from and locate the bird. In the event, all the calls heard and birds seen were Goldcrests and so it may be that the female Firecrest was now sitting on eggs and the male had stopped singing as is often the case. However, as I was continuing my search I did come across a pair of Tree Creepers exploring one of the wooden scuptures.

There was still no sign of the Hawfinches so time to move on to an area of nearby clear-fell and try for Tree Pipit and Wood Lark. As I parked the car next to the busy A134 and started walking through the Beech wood towards the clearing I could already hear the song of a Tree Pipit wafting across the heath. When I eventually emerged from the wood I quickly spotted the pipit singing from the top of a small tree along the southeastern border. I hugged the edge of the neighbouring plantation to remain reasonably hidden and to get the sun behind me and eventually was able to approach within about 25 yards. I wish all birds were that accommodating.

And now for the biggest challenge of all - Wood Lark. Earlier in the season, when they are in full song, Wood Larks are easy to find. However, they are early breeders and are now feeding young and so are mostly silent, at least they were when I was there. I scanned all the tree stumps and wood piles with no success but then my luck changed. I spotted a bird flying low towards me over the clear-fell which landed on a tree stump 50 yards away. I did manage to edge a little closer but it was nowhere near as confiding as the Tree Pipit. I did, however, get a few shots before it flew back to the other end. On the third photo notice how the eyestripes meet at the back of the head

Well, mission accomplished and I still have a couple of hours left. So now for somewhere completely different, but that's another story.

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