Lynford Arboretum

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Male Two-barred Crossbill – Lynford Arboretum

Spent this morning at Lynford Arboretum, a well deserved birding break from relentless digging on the allotment! As I pulled into the car park a group of birders had their cameras and scopes pointing skyward – up to five Two-barred Crossbills were apparently feeding in the nearby pines. Two-barred Crossbill breed in Russia and rarely occur in Britain, except following an eruption – as occurred last autumn ( see posts for 20 & 22 July, 2013 ), when they usually over-winter..  Although reasonably close, the small flock which also contained several regular Common Crossbill, were buried deep inside the tops of the trees, only appearing periodically on the outer edge of the canopy. I watched the birds, several males and a female, for half an hour or so before deciding to look for some of the other Lynford specialities. I crossed the entrance track and by the visitors hut I heard and then saw two more Crossbills – one was definitely a male Two-barred. At the feeding station there was no sign of the elusive Hawfinches so I strolled down to the lake to view the paddock – no sign of any here either. A brief diversion along the stream trail produced nothing of particular interest so I headed back towards the car park. By the monument a singing Firecrest eventually gave acceptable views then it was back to the feeding station to stake out Hawfinch – apparently a female had been seen just a few minutes after I’d left. Another half hour or so wait and a small flock arrived in the Hornbeams nearby the feeders – what looked like at least one male with three or four females. Other birds of interest around the feeding station included Redwing, Brambling – a fine spring male, Siskin, Marsh Tit and a Treecreeper feeding on the fat balls!

A couple more grab-shots of two different male Two-barred Crossbills

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..and a male Common Crossbill for handy comparison

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One of a group of four or five Hawfinch in Hornbeams, near the feeding station

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A nice array of late winter birds, together with a fly-over Wood Lark, making a truly excellent mornings Breckland birding

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Titchwell and a touch of Spring

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Common Crane over Titchwell

Spent the afternoon at Titchwell – lovely weather and some great birding. The whole experience evoking more than a touch of Spring.

As I pulled into the RSPB access track I nearly knocked down a knot of birders staring up the road towards the village. I got out of the car, only to learn that I’d just missed a Crane flying over, apparently the bird was still just visible.. but not to me! Having already seen Crane in Norfolk this year I shrugged it off, parked up and started to walk down the track.  I’d barely got 200 yards and the Crane did another fly-past, over the Fresh Marsh!

I strolled down to the sea to scrutinise the Scoter flock – distant and distorted by heat haze, I just managed to make out half a dozen or more Velvet’s, as they made their short-hop flights. Also on the sea were Red-breasted Merganser and Goldeneye. Next I spent an hour in Parrinder hide looking over the Fresh Marsh. The light was terrific and even ordinary species looked extra ordinary. There were plenty of Black-headed Gulls loafing about but only a handful of large gulls. On closer inspection one of these appeared to be a yellow-legged variety. Although the bird was resting on the water, the bright white head, set off by a small black beady eye, long sloping forehead and a long shallow bill – giving the bird a rather gentle expression, strongly suggested cachinnans. Once on land, the whole drawn-out structure of the bird and the detail of the wing pattern confirmed that it was indeed a 3rd winter Caspian Gull. I returned to the centre, having missed out on Water Pipit, but seeing Bearded Tit, Spotted Redshank, Ruff and hearing Cetti’s Warbler, I was more than satisfied with my afternoon. 

Driving back along the coast road I added Barn Owl at Burnham Overy Mill to my afternoon tally – for some reason they’ve been very scarce in Norfolk so far this year. As I was passing Gun Hill there was still enough day light to have a quick scan of Overy Marshes. A few Pink-feet, Shelduck, Curlew and there, in the distance, the unmistakeable form of a quartering Short-eared Owl. Buzzard and Marsh Harrier were soon added to the list, along with Grey Partridge in the field by the road. Finally the distant outline of another Buzzard, chunkier though, with a complete dark breast band, sitting atop a fence post. As it swooped down to the ground and back, the noticeable white and dark under tail pattern confirming that this was the juvenile Rough-legged Buzzard I’d seen a few weeks ago.

Even the common species, like Northern Shoveler, looked terrific in the afternoon sun!

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and Common Snipe..

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Careful scrutiny of the large gulls produced this 3rd winter Caspian Gull

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A great afternoon’s birding with a real touch of spring – bring on the migrants!