|Posted by birdbeards2010 on February 2, 2013 at 2:10 PM|
With time ticking away in the year of our Beard 2013, the 2013 THIRTEEN list was looking worryingly untouched or unticked. So, in order to try to stamp our authority on some of these elusive avian beauties, we turned our attention to Breckland and went forth in search of 'ole ladderback' - the aptly named Lesser Spotted Woodpecker.
With a nip in the air and the frost crunchy under our beards the BirdBeard 4 strapped ourselves in to the Laguna of love and hit the A11 hard and steady. Nye & Elsie discussed the advantages of waking in the night in a constantly irrational and erratic fashion, whilst Le Hatt and I queried our chances of hitching a ride on the Ladderback Express.
It's always rather joyous to wander around the arboreal splendour of Lynford and this occasion was no different. It was rather busy with birders and, at least at first, it always seems rather quiet bird-wise. However, once you get your eye in and your ear on the money the birds trickle down until they are almost plentiful. The new feeders, which look right posh, were busily visited by Nuthatches and Tits and we had a close check for anything tasty hanging around. Making our way down to the paddock there were plenty of Goldcrests messing around in the pines. A Marsh Tit gave itself up, which is always nice, but sign of any peckers, and no sign of Kevin Woods either.
The paddocks were dead. A couple of pigeons did good impressions of raptors, but no sign of Haws or Crossbills. Still the air was freshy and sappy the conversation scintillating and the BirdBeard Jrs seemed to be having a whale of a time sleeping, munching and making more sense than either of the seniors.
This was a surprise.
We were also lucky that we had got out of the Fine City that day...
We continued to strain our eyes and our ears, desperate to pick out a drumming Lesser Spot, but to no avail. Making our way round the lake and through the alders we added some Redwing, a Songthrush, Greenfinches and some very nice looking Siskins and a bonus Redpoll or two. The 2013 THIRTEEN list remained untouched, but our souls had been soothed, arsing around looking for the near impossible.
(in between times a wicked Fieldfare was the highlight of my RSPB Big Garden Watch - gorging itself on m stewed apple.)
Hot on the heels of our first failure, we headed back out Thetford way to, for us, a new and exciting venue. With the Welsh Girl off doing the rugby thang in Cardiff, I had been left in charge of BirdBeard Jr for the weekend and was delighted that he decided to wake up at 2.15am and proceed to run me ragged around the house for the next 3 hours. It was with a weary head and only vaguely open eyes that I greeted Le Hatt at the appointed hour of 7.30am.
It turned out to be easy enough to find and first impressions were very favourable indeed, the Little Ouse gurgling its way through the heathy forest type landscape, making us want to get our Chubbing gear out and flick a bit of bread flake into an eddy.
It's a shame we didn't put Scarlet Macaw on the list...
(BirdBeard Jr's 1st birthday cake, made by my immensely talented wife Nyegella Llanfairpwlchlllli.)
The birds lived up to the scenery with a female Bullfinch the first one of note to cross our sightlines. A pair of Nuthatches down near the river plus large numbers of Redwings got our blood pumping. We checked the mature trees along the river and meandered ultimately unsuccessfully along the narrow unpramfriendly riverside path, where Le Hatt was lucky enough to get a view of a Kingfisher, while I was digging the pram out of the mud.
Turning back the other way we joined a more solid path and I picked out 2 Little Grebes - the first I remember seeing on a river - before setting my eyes on something far more interesting. Pottering around on a raft of weed and reeds was a stunning Waterail, only my 3rd ever. We managed to creep nearer, getting great views, until Nye spooked it with some grunt-squealing. However, it soon reappeared and we drank in its beautiful colouration and markings. Absolutely lush. High fives all round.
As the rail made its way off into a hole in the bank, a pair of very pale Siskin joined the party, making our beards prickle with satisfaction.
We continued along the river untiil the path took us back into a mixture of breckland heath and stout pine forest. A pit stop for a nibble and some strong, sweet coffee turned up a load of Coal Tits, a male Bullfinch, a couple of Marsh Tits plus bonus Treecreepers.
We pushed on through the tree-lined path, which was reminiscent of Scotland and came back round to the mature little plantation by the road bridge. Here we scanned dutifully for 'ole ladderback' and had a chat and got some nice, friendly gen from a goatee-bearded birding dude.
Jr was asleep and had thrown a glove into the woods and then he was awake and bawling. A female Kestrel and a pair of Egyptian Geese, lost in search of a Sphinx, were added to the day's tally before we hurried back to the warmth of the car. Again no 2013 THIRTEEN listers, but a thoroughly enjoyable sesh and food for thoought for return trip to ambush Pecker.